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Medical Experts and Elected Officials Condemn Forced Organ Harvesting in China

On Wednesday, February 24, the “International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China” (ETAC) hosted a seminar on the CCP’s live organ harvesting. 117 people including legal experts and elected officials from the U.S., Canada, the UK, the EU, and Australia attended the seminar.

One of the keynote speakers was Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, a prosecutor at the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the Chair of the China Tribunal (Forced Organ Harvesting from Prisoners of Conscience in China.) Nice said that forced organ harvesting is the worst crime since World War II. On June 17, 2019, after a five-day hearing with over 50 witnesses, medical experts, and investigators, the China Tribunal released a 60-page summary and confirmed that crimes against humanity, including forced organ harvesting, have been committed in China.

Sean Lin, former lab director for the viral diseases branch at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, said Falun Gong practitioners have been persecuted by the CCP for many years and they are the primary targets of organ harvesting. Dr. Lin said that, after the CCP started to suppress Falun Gong in 1999, the number of organ transplants in China saw a dramatic increase, from military hospitals to large size hospitals, across the country. The crime still continues today. When investigators contacted hospitals in China, they were told the wait time for organs is very short. Apparently, a large organ donor supply exists in China. For cultural reasons voluntary donations in China hardly exist at all. He said that “as indicated by the China Tribunal, the international community should demand the CCP take immediate actions to stop this atrocity instead of simply conducting more investigations. … Forced organ harvesting is not only a crime against humanity but it is also a form of genocide.”

International human rights lawyer David Matas proposed legal action such as the Magnitsky Act to sanction communist China. Wendy Rogers, a Professor of Clinical Ethics at Macquarie University in Australia proposed that more institutions and scientific organizations could press the CCP and ban doctors involved from attending international conferences or publishing papers. Overseas patients should also be restricted from going on medical trips to China to receive organs harvested from living Falun Gong practitioners.

A number of countries have spoken against the forced organ harvesting. The annual human rights report from the U.S. Department of State quoted the judgment from the China Tribunal and also recorded the deaths of 96 Falun Gong practitioners in China that year, caused by the suppression. On December 16, 2020, U.S. Senator Tom Cotton, together with House representatives Chris Smith and Tom Suozzi, introduced a bill to stop forced organ harvesting in China. Known as the Stop Forced Organ Harvesting Act, this bill aimed to prevent the Chinese Communist Party from harvesting organs from prisoners of conscience. According to Marilou McPhedran, MP from Canada a measure called S-240 had been introduced to amend the Criminal Code and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (trafficking in human organs). On February 22, Canadian MPs voted unanimously to pass a motion from the Conservative Party that designated communist China’s treatment of Uyghurs as genocide.

According to information from the Minghui, over 4,000 Falun Gong practitioners have lost their lives to the persecution in China. At least 84 died in 2020 alone. Due to information censorship, the real number of victims could be much higher. Furthermore, a large number of practitioners have gone missing in the 21-year-long persecution since 1999.

Source: Minghui.org, February 26, 2021
https://en.minghui.org/html/articles/2021/2/26/191136.html

Phoenix Satellite TV to Become a Sister Station of CCTV?

Phoenix Satellite TV, established in Hong Kong in 1996, has always used its status as a media outlet in Hong Kong to cover up its ties with Beijing. However, the latest high-level personnel change at Phoenix TV suggests that CCP party officials are officially directly in charge of Phoenix TV.

China Caixin.com reported that Sun Yusheng, the former deputy director of CCTV, will become the vice president of Phoenix Satellite TV. Prior to this, there was unconfirmed news that the former deputy director of the Shanghai International Communication Office would take over as the chairman of Phoenix Satellite TV. According to the organization announcement, Sun Yusheng will be responsible for Phoenix TV program planning, style, content, production, and coordination among its various channels. Caixin also quoted people familiar with the matter as saying that Sun is expected to become the CEO of Phoenix Satellite TV in the future.

Hu Ping, the Chief Editor of Beijing Spring magazine said that Phoenix played two roles in the past. One was to be an outlet to provide propaganda to overseas audiences. It portrays itself as an unbiased media, but, when needed, it would defend and speak for the CCP. The second was that Beijing does not control it as tightly as other media, although people on the mainland can also watch it. In the past, the CCP could not directly exercise its control in Hong Kong out of the concern for the “one country, two systems” policy but now it no longer needs to do so.
Source: Radio Free Asia, February 25, 2021
https://www.rfa.org/mandarin/yataibaodao/meiti/jt-02252021141314.html

India to Introduce a Stimulus Plan to Reward Domestic Products

Although it does not seem that the tension on the border between China and India will ease up anytime soon, the trade relationship between the two countries is improving. After falling to second place for two consecutive years, in 2020, China once again become India’s largest trading partner and the U.S. became the second largest. However, the Indian government is concerned about China’s huge trade surplus with India.

On Wednesday, February 24, India approved an incentive plan to reward the use of domestic high-tech products. It is expected to spend US$1 billion to encourage domestic companies to increase the production of laptops, tablets and other products. India hopes that this move will diversify its products and reduce its dependence on China. At the same time, it will enable India to be self-sufficient in the electronic field and grow to be a top global supplier in the future.

The Indian Mobile Phone and Electronics Association and Ernst & Young released a research report in November 2020. According to the report, 80 percent of laptops and two-thirds of tablet computers sold in India are imported from China. However, in the mobile phone market, India has achieved a more successful transition. Before 2014, the market share of imported smart phones was 78 percent, but this number has now dropped to 8 percent.

The incentive plan includes the distribution of cash subsidies of up to 4 percent of the company’s revenue for four years starting in April this year.

The Indian government has started discussions with Apple and Hewlett-Packard on stimulus measures. According to media reports, Apple is interested in participating in the incentive program. Apple has not established a production line in India as of yet, but its supplier, Taiwan’s Hon Hai Group, has invested US$100 million to build a factory in southern India. Hewlett-Packard also has a branch in India.

At a press conference on Wednesday, India’s Minister of Electronics and Information, Ravi Shankar Prasad, stated that the focus of this incentive program is to “to bring the world’s top five global champions to India and produce for the world.”

Due to the impact of COVID 19, the Indian economy is in urgent need of recovery. India’s GDP shrank by 15 percent in 2020. For its size, India has the worst economy  in the world.

Source: Deutsche Welle, February 25, 2021
https://p.dw.com/p/3ptGs

ByteDance Agrees to $92 Million Settlement over Privacy Charges

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois published a document on February 25 stating that TikTok’s parent company, Beijing based ByteDance, has agreed to an out-of-court settlement with the application’s U.S. users over a privacy infringement lawsuit and will make a US$92 million settlement payment.

In 2020, 21 separate class-action complaints were filed against the company on behalf of young users in states including California and Illinois.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “The plaintiffs’ attorneys, who represented users as young as 8 years old, argued TikTok surreptitiously collected biometric data to sharpen the app’s targeted advertising and content recommendations” “The plaintiffs’ attorneys also alleged TikTok stores user data in China potentially exposing it to government surveillance.”

On Thursday, TikTok said, “While we disagree with the assertions, rather than go through lengthy litigation, we’d like to focus our efforts on building a safe and joyful experience for the TikTok community.”

In the United States, each state has its own regulations on privacy protection. According to the Biometric Privacy Law of Illinois, collecting user’s biometric data without consent may constitute a violation. Last year, Facebook also reached a $650 million settlement under the statute.

TikTok has more than 100 million users in the United States. TikTok’s Attorney estimate that the process for approving the settlement could take months.

According to Reuters, separately in Washington, the Federal Trade Commission and U.S. Justice Department are looking into allegations that TikTok failed to live up to a 2019 agreement aimed at protecting children’s privacy.

Source: Radio Free Asia, February 26, 2021
https://www.rfa.org/mandarin/yataibaodao/junshiwaijiao/rc-02262021121449.html
Wall Street Journal, February 25, 2021
https://www.wsj.com/articles/bytedance-agrees-to-92-million-privacy-settlement-with-u-s-tiktok-teens-11614287474

Supporting Taiwan’s “Freedom Pineapple” to Stop China’s Economic Intimidation

China’s General Administration of Customs announced on February 26 that it will halt the importation of Taiwan’s pineapples starting on March 1, citing “harmful organisms” detected in the fruit.

Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu responded by starting a “Freedom Pineapple” campaign on Twitter to condemn Beijing’s politically-driven ban on the fruit. “China now bans our pineapples to punish farmers in the south. Remember Australia’s Freedom Wine? I urge like-minded friends around the globe to stand with Taiwan & rally behind the Freedom Pineapple.”

Last year, Australia advocated investigating the source of the COVID-19 disease and angered China. China imposed trade barriers on Australian wine, beef, barley and other products. Democratic countries took action to support Australia and called for drinking Australian wine.

Some Twitter posts used the hashtag that included: “India should show solidarity with Taiwan,” “We would love to buy them in the U.S.,” “Help Taiwan’s farmers counter China’s weaponization of trade,” “Delicious pineapple cakes from Taiwan,” “Taiwan has probably the best pineapple in the world,” and “Democracy pineapples.”

Taiwan’s president also tweeted, “After Australian wine, unfair Chinese trade practices are now targeting Taiwanese pineapple, but that won’t stop us. Whether in a smoothie, a cake, or freshly cut on a plate, our pineapples always hits the spot. Support our farmers & enjoy delicious Taiwanese fruit!”

J. Michael Cole, a researcher at the Canada based Macdonald-Laurier Institute, echoed the campaign on Twitter, “In the latest round of attempts by China to punish Taiwan, Beijing has announced it will cancel all imports of Taiwanese pineapple staring on March 1. I don’t know about you, but I am suddenly craving Taiwanese pineapple.”

Source: Central News Agency, February 27, 2021
https://www.cna.com.tw/news/firstnews/202102270027.aspx

China’s Campaigns against “Illegal Religions”

China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported on February 21 that a document that the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the State Council issued on January 4 stated that the authorities would “step up the crackdown on illegal religions and overseas infiltration activities in rural areas.” The Xinhua report showed that there was an official instruction behind the campaign against “illegal religion” in a number of areas of China over the past two months.

The so-called “illegal religions” refers to Christian house churches, Catholic underground churches, or some Buddhist, Taoist, Islamic or other religious organizations that do not participate in official religious activities.

On February 8, a meeting of the CCP’s branch of the United Front Work Department in Shantou City, Guangdong Province asked that “all towns (neighborhoods) must … keep a close eye on religious and folk festivals” and “focus on investigations of and cracking down on illegal religious activities.”

On February 9, government officials in Duyun City, Guizhou Province carried out activities against “pornography and illegality” and “illegal religions.” Officials visited local communities to “prevent, in a timely manner, obscene and pornographic publications, illegal religious publications, and other cultural rubbish from appearing in the community .” In addition, authorities in Guiyang City, Guizhou Province, published an article on its official WeChat account on February 19, stating that a local neighborhood had organized staff and volunteers to “investigate illegal religions … and to find any illegal teaching of religious knowledge or any organization of religious activities.”

On February 20, a CCP official in Yunnan Province told local government officials to “resolutely combat the spread of illegal religious activities.”

On February 23, the branch of the CCP’s United Front Work Department in Nanchang City, Jiangxi Province established a task force to conduct a “special inspection” of local religious venues, to “focus on inspections for the existence of illegal religious publications,” and to “acquire detailed knowledge about the purchase or donation of religious publications in all venues.”

On February 23, a Christian venue in Liaoyang City, Liaoning Province received a “Notice of Banning Illegal Religious Activity Sites.” The local authorities had issued it and the venue was fined 200,000 yuan (US$ 30,870). Equipment and supplies related to religious activities were confiscated.

On February 24, in Fuyang City, Anhui Province, the police closed down two local religious assembly sites, including one Christian house church venue, in the name of “carrying out an illegal religious private assembly.”

Source: Radio Free Asia, February, 25, 2021
https://www.rfa.org/mandarin/yataibaodao/shehui/sc-02252021074232.html

Lou Jiwei: China Faces Serious Fiscal Challenges

Lou Jiwei, a prominent politician, and currently the director of the 13th CPPCC Foreign Affairs Committee, warned that China’s fiscal situation is facing serious danger and challenges. Lou Jiwei made a speech on December 22, 2020, on the topic at the Fifth Forum on Finance and National Governance (2020) and the 40th Anniversary Seminar of “Financial Research.” The full text was published in “Financial Research” 2021 (Issue No. 1).
 
Lou said, “We (China) are facing major changes unseen in a century. The major changes in the internal and external environment, whether it is changes in the domestic economic and social situation, the global economic downturn, high government debt, and global trade frictions, will make our country’s fiscal sustainability face huge uncertainties and severe challenges.”

“The contradiction between fiscal revenue and expenditures is extremely acute, and fiscal pressure is increasing. Since April 2020, the national fiscal expenditure growth rate has continued to accelerate and has greatly exceeded the growth rate of fiscal revenue. Local fiscal pressure has continued to increase. The fiscal deficits of different regions have maintained an expansion trend. In the medium and long term, due to the impact of the (covid-19) epidemic, the decline in the potential economic growth rate, and the global economic downturn, total national fiscal revenue is expected to remain at a low level over the next five years, while the pressure on fiscal expenditures will remain relatively high. Although the optimization of the fiscal expenditure structure can release part of the financial resources, the expansion of fiscal expenditures has not changed. There is little room for the government to reduce general expenditures. It can be said that financial difficulties are not only near-term and short-term issues, but also very difficult in the medium term.”

“From the perspective of debt, the problem of government debt has increasingly become an important factor affecting future fiscal stability and economic security. From 2009 to 2020, the proactive fiscal policy has been implemented for 11 years, the fiscal deficit has continued to expand, and the debt scale has expanded accordingly. The proportion of debt interest payments in the general public budget expenditures continues to rise. The growth rate far exceeds the growth rate of total expenditures. 2017, 2018 and 2019 exceeded the total expenditure growth rate of the year by 16, 10 and 4.5 percent respectively. From January to November 2020, debt interest payments increased by 16.1 percent over the same period in the previous year, which exceeded the growth rate of total expenditure by 15.4 percent. In 2019, the central government debt interest payment accounted for 13 percent of the central government’s expenditures. It is expected to have risen to about 15 percent for 2020. The problem of local debt is even more prominent, and the accrued local government debt has been increasing rapidly. Although increasing debt in the short term can alleviate the pressure of fiscal shortages, it poses greater challenges to the sustainability of local finances in the future. During the “14th Five-Year Plan” period, the debt sustainability of most provinces and municipalities is worrisome. About a quarter of the provincial fiscal revenues will be used for debt service and interest payments. The local government debt problem not only affects the local government’s public service supply capacity, but also accumulates fiscal and financial risks.”

“Aging will also bring severe challenges to the sustainability of our country’s finances. Statistics show that in 2019, (China) had a population of 253.88 million people aged 60 and above, accounting for 18.1percent of the total population, of which 170.03 million were 65 years old and above, accounting for 12.6 percent of the total population. The aging society is accelerating.”

“At the same time, affected by the global economic downturn and global risks, the external uncertainty of fiscal reform and development has increased. … At present, affected by the impact of the epidemic and the spillovers of major countries’ macroeconomic policies, emerging market countries are facing a double blow from the economy and finance. Economic risks are transformed into fiscal risks and financial risks. The risk of falling into a debt crisis is increasing.”

Source: NETEASE, February, 24, 2021
https://www.163.com/dy/article/G3KU1S9Q0531SRGP.html

Japan Can Shoot at Foreign Official Vessels Landing on Senkaku Islands

At a Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP’s) defense and security panel on February 25, Japan’s government officials said, amid rising concerns about the escalation of the Sino-Japanese rivalry surrounding the Senkaku Islands, that if a foreign official ship were to forcibly land on the Senkaku Islands (called the Diaoyu Islands in China), the Japanese coast guard might consider this as a vicious crime and might use weapons to suppress the opponent’s resistance. Analysts believe that this is a reaction and measure to strengthen deterrence against Chinese coast guard vessels entering Japanese territorial waters.

According to the LDP members at the meeting, this is the first time government officials have referred to the coast guard’s possible firing on foreign official vessels aiming to land on Japanese territory.

The interpretation (of the LDP’s response) is partly based on applying the use of the police power under a police law to the coast guard. Earlier Japan’s coast guard was only allowed to fire weapons directly at foreign vessels in cases of self-defense and emergency escape.

In addition, the government also stated that, when a foreign government ship takes away any Japanese citizens, the Japanese coast guard can board the opponent’s ship and retake the hostages. For small drones flying around territorial waters, the self-defense forces can regard it as a violation of airspace and respond with actions that including shooting them down.

Source: Kyodo News, February 25, 2021
https://china.kyodonews.net/news/2021/02/a1946ad0ab43.html