camps

Philippines protests new China law as `verbal threat of war’

Philippines protests new China law as `verbal threat of war’

 
JIM GOMEZ
 
 

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippines has protested a new Chinese law that authorizes its coast guard to fire on foreign vessels and destroy other countries’ structures on islands it claims, Manila’s top diplomat said Wednesday.

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said in a tweet that the new Chinese law “is a verbal threat of war to any country that defies” it. Failure to challenge the law “is submission to it,” he said.

“While enacting law is a sovereign prerogative, this one — given the area involved, or for that matter the open South China Sea — is a verbal threat of war to any country that defies the law,” Locsin said.

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China’s Coast Guard Law, which was passed on Friday, empowers the force to “take all necessary measures, including the use of weapons, when national sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction are being illegally infringed upon by foreign organizations or individuals at sea.”

The law also authorizes the coast guard to demolish other countries’ structures built on reefs and islands claimed by China and to seize or order foreign vessels illegally entering China’s territorial waters to leave.

The Chinese law raises the stakes and the possibility of clashes with regional maritime rivals.

The Philippine protest is the latest strongly worded public criticism by Manila of China’s increasingly assertive actions in the disputed waters, despite cozier ties nurtured by President Rodrigo Duterte with Beijing. Last July, Locsin warned China of “the severest response” if military exercises being staged by China’s People’s Liberation Army in the South China Sea spilled over into Philippine territory.

China and the Philippines, along with Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei, have been locked in territorial rivalries in the South China Sea in tense decades-long standoffs. Indonesian forces also have had confrontations with the Chinese coast guard and fishing flotillas in what Indonesian officials say are their territorial waters near the South China Sea.

The United States has no claims in the strategic waterway but its naval forces have challenged China’s territorial claims over virtually the entire sea. China has warned the U.S. to stay away from what it says is a purely Asian dispute but Washington has said it would continue to deploy its warships to the disputed region.

A U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, sailed into the South China Sea on Saturday to conduct “routine operations,” promote freedom of the seas and reassure America’s allies, Rear Admiral Doug Verissimo said in a statement.

Tensions flared in recent years after China transformed seven disputed reefs in the Spratlys, the most hotly contested region in the South China Sea, into missile-protected island bases, including three with military-grade runways. China and Southeast Asian nations have been negotiating a regional “code of conduct” to discourage aggression in the disputed waters but the talks have been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

China’s coast guard is also active in the vicinity of uninhabited East China Sea islands controlled by Japan but claimed by Beijing.

China seeks details about Chinese crew after tankers seized by Indonesia

China seeks details about Chinese crew after tankers seized by Indonesia

Panamanian-flagged MT Freya tanker is escorted to Batam, Riau Islands
 
Yew Lun Tian and Fathin Ungku
 
 

By Yew Lun Tian and Fathin Ungku

BEIJING (Reuters) – China said on Wednesday it was seeking details about 25 of its nationals who were among 61 crew on two supertankers seized by Indonesia on suspicion of illegally transferring oil.

Indonesia said on Sunday it had seized the vessels after they were detected making the transfer from Iranian-flagged MT Horse to Panamanian-flagged MT Freya, causing an oil spill.

The Indonesian authorities said the seizure was not related to U.S. sanctions, which Washington imposed in a bid to shut off Iran’s oil exports in a dispute over Tehran’s nuclear programme.

The MT Horse, owned by the National Iranian Tanker Company, and MT Freya, managed by Shanghai Future Ship Management Co, were detected off Indonesia’s Kalimantan island.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said 25 of the crew members were Chinese, without saying whether the crew were all on one vessel or split between both.

“Our embassy has expressed concern to Indonesia,” Zhao said. “We urged them to verify the situation about the Chinese seamen as soon as possible and inform us formally.”

He said China called on Indonesia to conduct an investigation “fairly and in accordance with the law”.

Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah, told Reuters there had been “initial communication” with China and Iran, and said further discussion would depend on results from the investigation.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday the seizure of its tanker was over a technical issue and that it had asked Indonesia to provide more details.

Iran has been accused of seeking to conceal the destination of its oil sales by disabling tracking systems on its tankers.

The Indonesian authorities said the ships concealed their identity by not showing national flags, turning off automatic identification systems and failing to respond to a radio call.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) requires ships to use transponders for safety and transparency. Crews can turn off devices if there is a danger of piracy or similar hazards.

“We welcome the Indonesian Coast Guard efforts to counter illicit maritime activity,” a U.S. embassy spokesman in Jakarta told Reuters, saying Washington supported efforts to ensure IMO standards for safety and environmental compliance were upheld.

(Reporting by Fathin Ungku in Singapore, Yew Lun Tian in Beijing and Agustinus Beo Da Costa in Jakarta; Editing by Florence Tan and Edmund Blair)

Biden’s pick for UN post says US will counter China’s agenda

Biden's pick for UN post says the US will counter China's agenda

 
EDITH M. LEDERER
 
 

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Linda Thomas-Greenfield says that if confirmed by the U.S. Senate as America’s ambassador to the United Nations she will vigorously counter China’s authoritarian agenda and engage in “people-to-people diplomacy.”

The veteran foreign service officer, in prepared remarks, speaks of China’s diplomatic inroads during the Trump administration, which pursued an “America First” policy that weakened international alliances. And she makes clear there will be a change under President Joe Biden to reengaging internationally and promoting American values, according to excerpts of her Wednesday testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee obtained by The Associated Press.

“When America shows up — when we are consistent and persistent — when we exert our influence in accordance with our values — the United Nations can be an indispensable institution for advancing peace, security, and our collective well-being,” she says.

 

Alluding to the absence of U.S. global leadership during Donald Trump’s four-year presidency, Thomas-Greenfield says: “If instead we walk away from the table, and allow others to fill the void, the global community suffers — and so do American interests.”

She then turns to China, which has become a major player on the global stage in recent years and much more outspoken on a range of global issues at the United Nations and elsewhere. Beijing also has come under sharp criticism from the U.S. and many other nations for its treatment of more than 1 million Uighurs and members of other Chinese Muslim minority groups and for its delayed announcement of COVID-19, which was first diagnosed Wuhan.

“We know China is working across the U.N. system to drive an authoritarian agenda that stands in opposition to the founding values of the institution — American values,” Thomas-Greenfield says. “Their success depends on our continued withdrawal. That will not happen on my watch.”

If confirmed by the Senate, Thomas-Greenfield would be neither the first African American nor the first woman, nor even the first African American woman, to serve as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. But she is a groundbreaking diplomat nonetheless.

She joined the State Department more than three decades ago, when Black women were even more of a rarity in the U.S. diplomatic corps than they are today, and she is the most experienced diplomat of the six people named by Biden for top national security positions.

“Throughout my career, from Jamaica to Nigeria, Pakistan to Switzerland, I’ve learned that effective diplomacy means more than shaking hands and staging photo ops,” Thomas-Greenfield says in her prepared remarks.

“It means developing real, robust relationships,” she says. “It means finding common ground and managing points of differentiation. It means doing genuine, old-fashioned, people-to-people diplomacy.”

Thomas-Greenfield stresses that American leadership must be rooted in the country’s core values — “support for democracy, respect for universal human rights, and the promotion of peace and security.” She says she also will back reforms that make the U.N. “efficient and effective” and promises to develop “a strong partnership” with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Joe Biden’s commerce secretary pick backs tariffs and export limits against Chinese firms

Joe Biden's commerce secretary pick backs tariffs and export limits against Chinese firms

Robert Delaney

·3 min read
 
 

US President Joe Biden’s nominee to head the country’s Commerce Department told senators on Tuesday that she would use punitive tariffs and export restrictions against China, but stopped short of a specific commitment to keep existing sanctions against Huawei Technologies in place.

“China’s actions have been anticompetitive, hurtful to American workers and businesses, coercive and … culpable for atrocious human rights abuses, so whether it’s the ‘entity list’ or tariffs or countervailing duties, I intend to use all those tools to the fullest extent possible,” Gina Raimondo, currently the governor of Rhode Island, testified remotely during her confirmation hearing in the Senate.

Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary during the Trump administration, put Huawei on an “entity list” in May 2019, citing national security concerns, a move that prevented US suppliers from selling goods and technology to the company without a special licence.

 

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Other Chinese companies on the list include Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC) and the drone maker DJI Technology.

US Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, is seen during the confirmation hearing Tuesday by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on Raimondo’s nomination. Photo: EPA-EFE alt=US Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, is seen during the confirmation hearing Tuesday by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on Raimondo’s nomination. Photo: EPA-EFE

The response prompted an outcry from Senator Ben Sasse, a Republican representing Nebraska, who issued a statement questioning Raimondo’s stance.

“This is ridiculous,” Sasse said. “Huawei didn’t change because America has a new President. Huawei is still the Chinese Communist Party’s tech puppet and a serious threat to national security.

“Tough talk on China is empty if you let Huawei out of the box,” he added.

However, Raimondo repeatedly emphasised to Cruz and other senators questioning her a commitment to safeguarding against possible national security threats posed by the use of Chinese telecommunications equipment.

“There’s an opportunity to move forward in 5G and create great innovation and jobs, but we can’t have the Chinese or really anyone having a back door into our network and compromising in any way our national or economic security,” she said.

“I will use the full toolkit at my disposal to the fullest extent possible to protect Americans and our network from Chinese interference or any kind of back door influence into our network, and that’s Huawei, ZTE, or any other company.”

Comments by numerous Biden administration officials less than a week into his tenure have suggested that the new president will not diverge substantially from the view that Beijing presents a threat to US national security requiring more vigilance than when Biden was vice-president during the administration of Barack Obama from 2009 to 2017.

Antony Blinken, who was confirmed by the Senate as the new US Secretary of State on Tuesday shortly after Raimondo’s hearing, suggested during his testimony last week that he agreed with former president Donald Trump’s “tougher approach to China”.

“I disagree very much with the way that he went about it in a number of areas, but the basic principle was the right one, and I think that’s actually helpful to our foreign policy,” he said.

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said on Monday that Biden “will take a multilateral approach to engaging with China, and that includes evaluating the tariffs currently in place, and he wants to ensure that we take any steps in coordination with our allies and partners, and with Democrats and Republicans in Congress”.

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2021 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2021. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

“Made in China” Book Spotlights Uighur Forced Labor in Supply Chain

“Made in China” Book Spotlights Uighur Forced Labor in Supply Chain

Tiffany Ap

·12 min read
 
 

SHANGHAI–While troubling reports of forced Uighur labor in China have abounded for years, 2021 looks to be shaping up as the tipping point on the issue.

Both the U.S. and U.K. governments have moved this month to tighten up scrutiny of forced Uighur labor in goods coming into their countries, and on the last full day of the Trump administration, former secretary of state Mike Pompeo declared China’s practices in Xinjiang and its Muslim minority Uighur population to constitute “a genocide”.

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While multinational companies across many sectors have been implicated in these troubling reports, these developments hold particular weight for the apparel and fashion industry as Xinjiang produces approximately 20 percent of the world’s cotton.

Investigations by the media and activists over the years have indicated the establishment of large-scale detainment camps housing over a million minorities as well as Uighur forced labor transfer programs. An ASPI report last year estimated that over 80,000 Uighurs have been forcibly transferred to other parts of the country to work for little to no wages between 2017 and 2019 alone.

The Chinese government has always denied these claims, describing the camps as vocational training centers and labor programs as voluntary.

Author Amelia Pang, in her forthcoming book “Made in China: A Prisoner, an SOS, and the Hidden Cost of America’s Cheap Goods” disputes that Chinese government narrative, the latest voice to do so. Pang herself tracked down some of these forced labor sites– a problem that has spread from within Xinjiang to across China–and spoke to WWD regarding what measures foreign governments and individuals can take to help stamp out this practice.

WWD: What was the most surprising finding for you in researching this book?

A.P.: Just actually how easy it is to find forced labor in certain companies’ supply chains. I went to these labor camps and I talked to the guards. I posed as a business person who wanted to source from them. I said I was from an overseas company and they all readily agreed to export products to me. The guard would openly agree and admit that the people inside are prisoners and are not working via free will. I would follow the trucks from the camps to the official exporters. It wasn’t that hard to document. If people want to find out they can, certainly more than what I was able to as an individual.

WWD: What are the most problematic product categories with forced Uighur labor?

A.P.: It’s hard to say because it seems like they are making everything. Clothing is a big one because Xinjiang supplies a lot of cotton but they are making everything from human hair extensions to PPE equipment. To some extent, you do have less exports going to some industries since the outbreak of COVID-19 [because of a drop in demand], but in others, such as PPE equipment, a lot of it is made in China. We’ve been learning that Uighur forced labor has been making them and it has gotten a lot worse as the years go by.

WWD: Whenever the topic of supply chain accountability comes up, the brands say that they think they’re working with this company but that it is subcontracted–sometimes several times over–without their knowledge. What do you make of a response like that and is that good enough?

A.P.: I don’t think so. If you talk to the factory owners, it’s [the brands’] sourcing practices that force the businesses to subcontract–not paying them enough to make the products or on an unrealistically short deadline. They can’t make the products or changes that fast. If they’re late on the deadline, they’re often charged a very high fee. These are all policies and factors that the brands can change and control.

WWD: If it’s a cost issue, how do you square that with the fact that many countries around the world have experienced a big rise in unemployment due to the pandemic? More than ever, consumers have tightened their purse-strings and many companies are struggling to stay afloat.

A.P.: It’s definitely a socioeconomic issue in the U.S. and there are a lot of people who simply cannot afford to pay higher prices but the issue doesn’t always come down to price. Even a lot of not inexpensive brands have been implicated in this like Abercrombie & Fitch or Nike.

I think it would need a cultural shift on the consumers part to be okay with buying less stuff. You might be paying more for one thing that you really love and you cherish and use over and over again, instead of buying 30 things in different colors.

WWD: Let’s say the new policies from the U.S. and U.K. do help stamp out the issue with exports using forced labor. However, China’s domestic economy is growing strongly. Do you not anticipate that these forced labor programs will just pivot for products that are going to stay within China then?

A.P.: I don’t think Uighurs are going to have a very nice life in China one way or the other. But this situation can improve a lot because I think trade actually is a big driver. Xinjiang happens to be the center of China’s Belt and Road initiative, which is a trillion dollar investment. It’s a big trade route that connects China 60-some odd countries. The Chinese Communist Party is very afraid of a Uighur uprising messing with that potentially, although I don’t think there’s a real reason to be afraid of it. The Uighurs very much just want to live a quiet life and not get in trouble.But that’s the ultimate reason why they started cracking down the Uighurs in the first place in recent years, to protect the Belt and Road initiative.

WWD: What about companies that claim they operate in Xinjiang completely ethically? For instance, Esquel claimed that they can provide proof of it with independent audits and said they were very upset that their facilities were included in a U.S. government list of bad actors. So, what about the impact on operators that insist they are doing right by their workers? And do you have a sense of how prevalent forced labor is within Xinjiang versus legitimate and ethically-operated business?

A.P.: I’d say the issue is pretty prevalent. Maybe there was at one point in time Esquel could have auditors provide proof that these products are not made by forced laborers, but I read an article in the Wall Street Journal that said auditors very recently have had difficulty going to independently auditing the factories. The situation is changing rapidly, and it’s really hard. I would question whether Esquel could still get their auditors to go and independently audit their factories.

WWD: What about potential unintended effects? Some would say that by shutting this industry, you could inadvertently end up damaging the livelihoods of people you are trying to help. For example on the issue of child labor, we can all agree that in an ideal world, no 12-year-old should be working in sewing workshop. At the same time, if that child is breadwinning for their family and brands suddenly move away, what unintended impact on the local communities could there be and how can we mitigate that?

A.P.:That’s true. That’s a very good point. I think that with every legislation that gets passed regarding what’s happening in another country there’s different cultural nuances and effects that we don’t expect. There’s going to be good manufacturers with actual, real workers who are paid properly in Xinjiang and it’s very unfortunate that they would also get dragged into this and get hurt. But I don’t see any other solution since a lot of Chinese policy advocates and human rights advocates truly believe that it’s trade that caused the crackdown–change on the Belt and Road initiative primarily–that it’s going to take trade to push a rethinking of policies. In the short term, it could hurt a lot of workers that are being paid properly, and that’s very unfortunate. But when you have millions that are undergoing a genocide, unfortunately, you do have to take heavy actions.

WWD: You say you were unhappy with the recent U.S. legislation banning Xinjiang cotton in that it was not exactly what you’re hoping for.

A.P.: A lot of activists were hoping to see the Uighur Forced Labor Prevention Act passed, which would have banned pretty much all products from Xinjiang from entering the U.S., but only cotton and tomatoes and several other products individually were banned. The U.S. government has a lot of red tape. It takes a long time for them to really gather enough hard evidence to legitimize the ban. And for an issue like Xinjiang where there’s very little access, its really hard to collect hard evidence and you’re relying on things like survivor accounts.

WWD: What are you hoping for next?

A.P.: Well, I would hope for the Biden administration and with the Democrats taking over the U.S. Senate that the Uighur Forced Labor Prevention Act could be seriously considered in the Senate as it was passed unanimously in the House already. Some believe the reason why it didn’t go through the Senate yet is because companies like Apple and Nike were lobbying to heavily revise it.

WWD: How about on a more individual level?

A.P.: I would say the next time you go shopping online at your favorite store, go look at their sustainability page or their corporate social responsibility page. Most companies these days either have one or both of those pages and see what information it reveals. See how little information those pages sometimes reveal. It’s actually not saying much to just list the factories or list an audit score but not actually specify what they are auditing. That’s not enough. And as consumers start asking companies on Facebook or Twitter to reveal more and they start a movement like that, then companies will be forced to respond.

WWD: Can you elaborate what you mean on audits?

A.P.: You know, a lot of times when news comes out that the factory committed some kind of egregious human rights violation, the company will say ‘oh, we did an audit, and we found no evidence of that.’ But that statement actually doesn’t mean much because there’s many different kinds of kinds of audits.

For example, the average audit might cost a couple $100 and be a check for simple things like cleanliness of the factory, the quality of the merchandise, the quality of equipment, things like that. That kind of audit really can’t tell if forced labor is happening, they often don’t even interview the workers about their working conditions. Then you have some more comprehensive social compliance audits that might cost $1,000 or more. In those audits, the auditor will look at wage documents, employee timesheets and things like that. Those are still hard to tell if they are subcontracting to labor camps.

And then you have another audit level that cost $5,000 and take five days to do. The auditor cross analyzes the wage documents, and they look at the working timesheets of all the departments and analyze all the documents. So that kind of audit might be able to detect unauthorized subcontracting or forced labor. But how many companies are doing that kind of audits? Consumers can ask businesses to show what kind of audits are conducted. Ask them what do you actually look for and what follow-up actions you took to prevent forced labor in your supply chain.

WWD: How has working on this book and researching this issue personally impacted you, particularly since you have some Uighur heritage?

A.P.: Yes. My family is Chinese and Uighur and most of them only identify as Chinese. When I was growing up in the U.S., I’ve always been told I’m just Chinese American. I never thought otherwise even though I actually look quite different from my Chinese American counterparts. You know, I’ve got the Uighur nose, darker skin–I get tan really easily. I have big, wavy hair and it’s really different texture from, you know, Chinese people. I always felt like an outsider.

Technically, I am only one-eighth Uighur so I figured that’s why it’s not a big part of my family’s culture and our day-to-day lives. But it was only, sadly, in very recent years that I realized it’s not just the fact that we are one-eighth Uighur that we know nothing about Uighur culture and heritage and religion. It’s because of the policies in China that has made it difficult for people to celebrate Uighur culture without raising suspicions and getting in trouble and having a potentially difficult time getting jobs and things like that.

That’s one of the reasons why pretty much nobody in my family is in contact with any of our relatives that might be full-blooded Uighur. [Editor’s note: NGOs have reported that contact with people overseas is punishable in Uighur camps.] That is something I think about a lot, because there’s not much I can do to help them and my relatives may be in camps. So that’s a regret I will always have.

Biden Administration Points to Continued Hard Line on China

Biden Administration Points to Continued Hard Line on China

Jan.26 — Just a few days into the Biden era and already key figures in the administration indicate the tough line on China may continue. Bloomberg’s Laura Davison reports on “Bloomberg Daybreak: Asia.”