Chinese police take away HNA chairman, CEO on suspicion of crimes
Chinese police take away HNA chairman, CEO on suspicion of crimes
·3 min read
SHANGHAI (Reuters) -China’s HNA Group, once one of the country’s most acquisitive conglomerates, said on Friday that its chairman and its chief executive had been taken away by police due to suspected criminal offences.
The company, placed in bankruptcy administration in February, said in a statement on its official WeChat account it had been notified by police in its home province of Hainan, southern China, that Chairman Chen Feng and CEO Tan Xiangdong had been taken.
“The operations of HNA Group and its member companies are stable and orderly, and the bankruptcy and restructuring work is progressing smoothly according to the law,” the company said.
A separate HNA statement on Friday said the company’s Communist Party members were informed in a meeting that police had taken away Chen and Tan. Attendees were urged to strengthen the party’s leadership in HNA.
In the 2010s HNA Group, whose flagship business is carrier Hainan Airlines, used a $50 billion global acquisition spree, mainly fuelled by debt, to build an empire with stakes in businesses from Deutsche Bank to Hilton Worldwide.
But its spending drew scrutiny from the Chinese government and overseas regulators. As concerns grew over its mounting debts, it sold assets such as airport services company Swissport and electronics distributors Ingram Micro to focus on its airline and tourism businesses.
In early 2020, after the COVID-19 pandemic paralysed travel demand, the Hainan government sent in a work group to HNA to help resolve its liquidity problems.
Last week HNA said it would be reorganised into four independently operated sections, including ones for aviation and financial, and that all equity held by its old shareholders would be wiped out after the reorganisation.
54-year-old Tan Xiangdong, also known as Adam Tan, became HNA Group’s CEO in 2016. He stepped down as chairman of Dublin-based aircraft leasing giant Avolon, in which HNA affiliate Bohai Leasing owns a majority stake, in February this year.
A filing to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for Park Hotels & Resorts Inc., dated March 15, 2017, indicates that Tan is a U.S. citizen.
Hainan Airlines said in a filing to the Shanghai Stock Exchange earlier on Friday that trading in its shares would be halted on Monday, as participants in its restructuring meet for discussions, and would resume on Tuesday.
The stock is up 48% year-to-date.
Chinese stocks have been rattled in recent weeks by concerns over the financial health of property developer China Evergrande Group, a collapse of which could send shockwaves through China’s economy and beyond.
(Reporting by Brenda Goh; Additional reporting by Twinnie Siu and Min Zhang; Writing by Tom Daly; Editing by Philippa Fletcher, Jan Harvey and William Mallard)
On Friday, the leaders of those three countries dealing with tensions with China convened at the White House for a meeting with President Joe Biden. China’s growing economic and military prowess wasn’t officially on the agenda, but Beijing was the elephant in the room.
Friday’s meeting of “the Quad” – the diplomatic moniker for this increasingly important alliance among the U.S., India, Japan and Australia – was intended to send a clear signal to Beijing that the U.S. and its allies in the Indo-Pacific are serious about countering China’s global ambitions.
“We stand here together, in the Indo-Pacific region, a region that we wish to be always free from coercion, where the sovereign rights of all nations are respected and where disputes are settled peacefully and accordance with international law,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said at the beginning of the meeting.
The president welcomed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Morrison, whom Biden met earlier this week, for the first in-person meeting of the Quad partnership. Biden separately met with Modi, who met with Vice President Kamala Harris Thursday, and will later hold a meeting on the sidelines with Suga.
“We’re four major democracies with a long history of cooperation,” Biden told his foreign counterparts. “We know how to get things done and we are up to the challenge.”
David Shullman, an expert on China with the Atlantic Council think tank and a former U.S. intelligence official, said China’s recent aggressions against India, Japan and Australia – as well as its threats against Taiwan and its crackdown on Hong Kong – have given leaders in the region a new sense of urgency and common purpose.
“China really gets the lion’s share of the credit for making this happen,” he said during an Atlantic Council briefing ahead of Friday’s meeting.
Biden and his foreign counterparts are expected to discuss the pandemic, climate change and the steps each country is taking to bolster critical infrastructure resilience against cyber threats, according to senior administration officials who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity in order to preview the meeting.
It’s not clear if Friday’s session will result in any new agreements, but experts hope the four leaders can cooperate on everything from supply chain problems to the COVID-19 pandemic – arenas where China is already exercising its economic and diplomatic power.
The president also announced a joint fellowship that will bring students from all four countries to elite U.S. universities to study science and technology over the next year.
Biden said the partnering countries are on track to produce an additional 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines in India to boost global supply, a promise that was delayed after India banned international exports of vaccines amid at outbreak in April.
India, the world’s largest vaccine producer, announced earlier this week it would resume exports in October and prioritize the United Nations-backed global vaccine sharing alliance known as COVAX. The Quad pledged to deliver 1 billion doses throughout Asia by the end of 2022.
Modi is among some global leaders who’ve pressed the World Trade Organization to waive a patent provision that would enable drug companies to share their COVID-19 formulas with other manufacturers, opening up access to poorer nations in desperate need of shots.
Friday’s meeting comes on the heels of a high-profile defense agreement under which the U.S. and the United Kingdom agreed to help Australia develop a fleet of nuclear powered submarines. China’s navy recently surpassed the U.S. Navy in terms of battle force ships, and the new pact with Australia could serve as a counterweight to Beijing’s military might.
A new Cold War?
Chinese officials denounced the deal as “extremely irresponsible” and said it was part of an “outdated, Cold War, zero-sum mentality.” They are equally irked by the rise of the Quad, which one foreign ministry spokesperson has described as an “exclusive clique” designed to sow discord between China and its neighbors.
But Shullman says China is to blame for the Quad’s “staying power.” He pointed to China’s military aggression on the disputed border with India and Beijing’s decision to slap tariffs on Australian products after the country’s leaders called for further investigation into the origins of the coronavirus.
“It points up the fallacy of China’s argument that this Quad gathering is somehow a provocation to a stability-loving China in the region,” he said. “It’s China’s coercion and military aggression that has ultimately caused these countries to overcome differences and together deal with what is the manifest threats posed to them by China’s growing power.”
Some defense experts fear the confrontation could mushroom into a new Cold War, particularly as China continues to threaten the sovereignty of Taiwan, moved to expand its control of the South China Sea and deployed vessels into the waters around the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands.
Biden has framed U.S. policy toward China as an ideological battle between democracy and authoritarianism but insisted he’s not interested in seeking a new Cold War in remarks to the United Nations General Assembly earlier this week.
“Our approach to China is one of competition, and not one of conflicts,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Friday.
She emphasized the summit was not a security meeting but a chance for the group to discuss cooperation on COVID, climate change, emerging technology and infrastructure.
Daniel DePetris, a fellow at Defense Priorities, a Washington-based think tank that advocates for military restraint, warned against any move to transform the Quad into a military alliance. He said doing so could be counterproductive for Japan, India and Australia and leave Washington with a new security burden as the countries would depend almost entirely on U.S. military power to balance China.
“If they go down that route, it’s the exact opposite of the what the administration is publicly warning against, which is a new Cold War,” DePetris said. “I fear that if it does kind of cement itself into a military alliance exclusively against the Chinese military, it could kind of divide the region into democratic and authoritarian blocs, which would make cooperation with the Chinese on issues like COVID and climate change much harder.”
But Paula Dobriansky, a retired diplomat and national security official, said the Quad can keep the confrontation with China from escalating further.
“I see this as a deterrent to not just a Cold War but actually to an outbreak of conflict,” she said during the Atlantic Council briefing.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A former World Bank official who prepared reports at the center of a data-rigging scandal that aided China defended IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva on Thursday as the Economist magazine called for her to resign over her alleged role in the controversy.
Shanta Devarajan, who helped oversee the World Bank’s “Doing Business” report in 2017, said that an outside investigation report alleging that Georgieva, during her time as World Bank CEO, applied “undue pressure” on staff to boost China’s ratings was “beyond credulity.”
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Devarajan, now a Georgetown University professor of development policy, said in a series of tweets that he never felt any pressure to change China’s scores and said that WilmerHale lawyers used only half of his statements from an hours-long interview.
Georgieva’s “direction was to verify the China numbers, making sure that China received credit for the reforms they undertook, without compromising the integrity of Doing Business. The Bank’s lawyers left out the latter phrase,” he said, adding that a rush to judgment on Georgieva’s prior role as World Bank CEO “is misguided.”
Some of the changes were correcting coding errors “or judgment calls on questions where judgment was required,” said Devarajan, who was a senior director in the World Bank’s Development Economics group until 2019.
His tweets came after a scathing editorial from the Economist, an influential magazine in policy circles, saying Georgieva should resign because the incident has undermined the IMF’s credibility as custodian for the world’s macroeconomic data and intermediary between economic powers.
“The head of the IMF must hold the ring while two of its biggest shareholders, America and China, confront each other in a new era of geopolitical rivalry,” the Economist said, adding that critics of multilateralism are already citing the findings as evidence that international bodies cannot stand up to China.
“The next time the IMF tries to referee a currency dispute, or helps reschedule the debt of a country that has borrowed from China, the fund’s critics are sure to cite this investigation to undermine the institution’s credibility. That is why Ms Georgieva, an esteemed servant of several international institutions, should resign,” the editorial said.
The World Bank’s “Doing Business” reports, now canceled, ranked countries based on their regulatory and legal environments, ease of business startups, financing, infrastructure and other business climate measures.
Georgieva, a Bulgarian who is a former World Bank economist and European Commission official, has denied the accusations in the WilmerHale report, saying last week they are “not true” and she has never pressured staff to manipulate data.
Georgieva has personally retained a public relations firm, SKDK, to push back against the allegations.
Joseph Stiglitz, a former World Bank chief economist, also called the WilmerHale report “a hatchet job” and said that he has also been told by Doing Business staff that they did not feel pressure from Georgieva in 2017.
“The fingerprints aren’t there. The report does not accurately reflect what happened,” said Stiglitz, who also questioned why it did not mention current president David Malpass when data irregularities involving Saudi Arabia’s rating occurred under his leadership.
The report found “no evidence suggesting that the Office of the President or any members of the board” were involved in changes that boosted Saudi Arabia’s ratings.
The IMF’s executive board is conducting its own review of the allegations.
An IMF spokesman declined comment on the Economist’s editorial. A U.S. Treasury spokeswoman also declined comment beyond the Treasury’s earlier statement that it is analyzing “serious findings” in the WilmerHale report.
A World Bank spokesman declined comment on the Devarajan tweets.
LAWMAKERS SEEK ANSWERS
Republicans in the U.S. Congress who have been critical of Georgieva’s work at the IMF have stopped short of calling for her to be ousted.
Three Republican House of Representatives members sent a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen requesting that she report the Treasury review to Congress, including information on Georgieva’s interactions with Chinese IMF officials in the decision making process for August’s $650 billion allocation of IMF monetary reserves known as Special Drawing Rights. China received about $42 billion worth of new SDRs.
(Reporting by David Lawder and Andrea Shalal in Washington; Editing by Will Dunham and Matthew Lewis)
China tells local governments to brace for 'possible storm' of Evergrande collapse
China tells local governments to brace for ‘possible storm’ of Evergrande collapse
·3 min read
China is warning local governments to prepare for “a possible storm” if property giant Evergrande defaults.
Evergrande, the second-largest property developer in China, is on the brink of collapse and struggling under the weight of $300 billion in debt. China is signaling reluctance to bail out the company, which some economists fear could present a threat to the global economy.
Chinese authorities are now asking local governments to prepare for Evergrande’s failure, officials familiar with the discussions told the Wall Street Journal. The officials described the actions as “getting ready for the possible storm.” Chinese-owned enterprises and local governments have been directed to step in only at the last minute should Evergrande be unable to handle its obligations.
The news comes just days after Evergrande, which holds 6.5% of China’s total property sector debt, warned investors that if it can’t raise capital quickly, it may default on its obligations. Evergrande was supposed to repay interest on some loans Monday. Officials in China have told the major banks they won’t be paid.
Chinese officials have directed local governments to prepare groups of lawyers and accountants to wade through Evergrande’s operations in their regions. Local governments have also been tasked with setting up law enforcement teams in the event of protests sparked by public outrage and been told to tell property developers to be ready to take control of real estate projects.
The fallout from Evergrande’s looming failure could affect the entire economy given how large the company is. Evergrande owes money to more than 170 Chinese banks and 121 other financial firms.
Some experts believe that a wholesale bailout by Beijing is not expected, as it would undermine China’s goal of getting the property sector to act with greater financial discipline, although analysts think the government will try to assist the company through guidance with debt restructuring or bankruptcy.
China is expected to help facilitate funding and negotiations to ensure home buyers and small investors are insulated from the fallout of Evergrande’s downfall “as much as possible,” S&P Global Ratings analysts said in a report this week.
While some economists have feared a Lehman Brothers-like collapse that could send global markets into a tailspin, analysts think that if other large property developers start collapsing in the wake of Evergrande’s failure, the Chinese government would intervene directly, rendering global fallout “manageable.”
In a positive sign, Evergrande’s stock, which has plunged about 80% over the past six months, was up on Thursday after the firm reached an agreement with bondholders to pay interest on yuan bonds due. The company is also set to pay $83.5 billion in interest this week, although it is unclear if it will follow through on that commitment.
Still, there are concerns that if Evergrande falls, it could result in a credit crunch, as banks may be forced to lend less.
“The repercussions from Evergrande’s prospective collapse will likely contribute to China’s ongoing economic deceleration, which in turn anchors global growth and inflation and casts a pall over commodity prices,” said Phoenix Kalen, a strategist at Societe Generale in London.
While the Dow had one of its worst days this year and shed more than 600 points on Monday, partially due to Evergrande jitters, U.S. markets, fueled by optimism with the Federal Reserve, rebounded this week and were in the green on Thursday.
Uyghur population policies could lead to 4.5 million lives lost by 2040, according to study.
A new study out today provides the most compelling evidence to-date that China is deliberately reducing its population of Uyghurs – a Muslim minority ethnic group – through enforced birth control, forced displacement of citizens, and internment in sinister ‘re-education camps.’
World-leading expert on the topic and lead author of the new paper, Dr. Adrian Zenz, suggests this campaign to destroy an ethnic minority population could class as genocide under the 1948 U.N. Genocide Convention.
His findings, published in the peer-reviewed journalCentral Asian Survey, also show it could also cost a potential 2.6 to 4.5 million lives by the year 2040.
There are more than 10 million Uyghurs living in Xinjiang, an autonomous territory in northwest China. Predominantly Muslim, they speak a Turkic language and more closely resemble the peoples of Central Asia than they do China’s majority population, the Han Chinese.
In 2018, research by Dr. Zenz, Senior Fellow in China Studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, uncovered compelling evidence that up to one million Uyghur people were detained in what the Chinese state defines as “re-education” camps.
China initially denied the existence of the camps, before defending them as a necessary measure against terrorism following separatist violence in the Xinjiang region.
However, a series of leaked official documents make clear that many of those detained are accused only of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas.
In 2020, Dr. Zenz published a further study revealing that Xinjiang authorities are administering unknown drugs and injections to Uyghur women in detention, forcibly implanting them with intrauterine contraceptive devices (IUDs), coercing women to accept surgical sterilization, and using detention as punishment for birth control violations.
Now in this new study, Dr. Zenz provides further evidence of a sustained, organized campaign to reduce population growth amongst Muslim Uyghurs, using birth control as well as other measures.
His findings provide the strongest evidence yet that Beijing’s policies in Xinjiang meet the criteria for genocide, as cited in the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
In the study, Zenz systematically analyses a trove of publicly available documents in Xinjiang, alongside articles written by prominent academics in the region. Throughout, he finds a common narrative revealing a wish to “optimize” the ethnic population structure in Xinjiang.
This instruction comes right from the top, with the central government in Beijing “attaching great importance to the problem of Xinjiang’s population structure and population security.”
In most cases, the need to ‘optimize’ the Uyghur people is seen as key response to a perceived terrorism threat in the region. Zenz cites prominent academics and public officials in Southern Xinjiang who have publicly argued that to reduce terrorism, changes in the population structure need to be made so that the Uyghur are no longer the dominant ethnic group.
As well as rhetoric, the study reveals the presence of a state-run scheme to forcibly uproot, assimilate, and reduce the population density of Uyghur people. A string of extremely draconian measures have been introduced by the Chinese government since 2017, ranging from mass internment of Uyghurs for political re-education, to systematic birth prevention, mass sterilization, and forced displacement.
The expressed goal of these measures is to ‘optimize’ southern Xinjiang’s population structure by increasing the number of Han Chinese and decreasing the number of Uyghurs in the region.
As a consequence, natural population growth in Xinjiang has declined dramatically in recent years, with growth rates falling by 84% in the two largest Uyghur prefectures between 2015 and 2018, and declining further in 2019, according to the paper. In comparison, the birth rate in Han majority counties declined by only 19.7 percent.
Zenz argues that in order to ‘optimize’ the ethnic population, Beijing will increase southern Xinjiang’s Han population share to 25 percent. In doing so, he estimates that birth prevention could result in a potential loss of between 2.6 and 4.5 million lives by the year 2040.
“My study reveals the presence of a long-term strategy by Beijing to solve the Xinjiang “problem” through “optimization” of the ethnic population structure,” says Dr. Adrian Zenz.
“The most realistic method to achieve this involves a drastic suppression of ethnic minority birth rates for the coming decades, resulting in a potential loss of several million lives. A smaller ethnic minority population will also be easier to police, control, and assimilate.”
“The most concerning aspect of this strategy is that ethnic minority citizens are framed as a “problem”. This language is akin to purported statements by Xinjiang officials that problem populations are like “weeds hidden among the crops” where the state will “need to spray chemicals to kill them all. Such a framing of an entire ethnic group is highly concerning.”
Reference: “End the dominance of the Uyghur ethnic group’: an analysis of Beijing’s population optimization strategy in southern Xinjiang” by Adrian Zenz 25 August 2021, Central Asian Survey. DOI: 10.1080/02634937.2021.1946483
SUZHOU/SHENZHEN, China (Reuters) – At an eerily quiet construction site in eastern China’s Suzhou, worker Li Hongjun says property developer Evergrande’s debt crisis means he will soon run out of food. Christina Xie, who works in export in the bustling southern city of Shenzhen, fears Evergrande has swallowed her life savings.
The pair, united like legions of others by their connections to the vast China Evergrande Group, show the scale of the challenge facing the Chinese government in managing its financial woes, although economists downplay the risk of a “Lehman moment” style collapse.
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Evergrande, with outstanding debts of $305 billion, recently stopped repaying some investors and suppliers and halted building work at projects across the country, setting off global alarm bells over upcoming interest payments.
Li, who says he has not been paid since August, is doing minimal maintenance among half finished apartment blocs whose outer shells hide rubble-filled interiors. Sand and concrete slabs cover a just-finished marble floor in one future home.
“In the past two days I’ve been planning to go to the government,” he said. “What can I do? Soon I’ll have no food to eat. If I have no food to eat I’ll have to go to the government to eat.”
Xie put 380,000 yuan ($58,770) of savings into a wealth management product sold by Evergrande and says she did not receive a payout of 30,000 yuan due to her earlier this month.
“It’s all my savings. I was planning to use it for me and my partner’s old age. I worked day and night saving, now it’s game over,” said Xie, who was told that the wealth management product that she bought would yield 7.5% a year.
“Evergrande is one of China’s biggest real estate companies … my consultant told me the product was guaranteed.”
Evergrande did not immediately reply to a request for comment, but chairman Hui Ka Yan told a late-night meeting on Wednesday that the top priority is to help investors redeem their products and that home deliveries should be ensured.
Angry homebuyers and retail investors launched protests in several cities in recent weeks – anathema to China’s stability-obsessed ruling Communist Party.
Property accounts for 40% of assets owned by Chinese households, according to Macquarie, which means contagion from a potentially messy Evergrande collapse could reverberate beyond households and investors to suppliers and construction workers.
A crackdown on debt in the sector has ended a freewheeling era of building with borrowed money which became infamous for ghost cities and roads to nowhere. [L4N2QP0VF]
“It is important from a social stability standpoint to make sure that Chinese retail investors get their money back and that homebuyers get their homes delivered,” said Carlos Casanova, senior economist for Asia at Union Bancaire Privee.
Analysts at Capital Economics estimated that as of end-June, Evergrande still had to complete around 1.4 million properties, around 1.3 trillion yuan ($202 billion) in pre-sale liabilities.
One woman who bought an Evergrande property in the northeastern city of Shenyang and asked not to be identified has been waiting since April 2020.
She said she is spending 3,000 yuan a month on mortgage repayments on the 600,000 yuan she has already put down but that the building site is now closed and she doubts Evergrande will make its latest delivery deadline of Dec. 30.
Meanwhile, roughly 40 billion yuan of the group’s WMPs are outstanding, a sales manager at Evergrande Wealth told Reuters previously.
More than 80,000 people – including employees, their families and friends as well as owners of Evergrande properties – bought WMPs that raised more than 100 billion yuan in the past five years, the sales manager told Reuters, lured by the promise of yields approaching 12%.
Regulators summoned Evergrande’s executives last month and issued a rare warning that the company needs to reduce its debt risks and prioritise stability.
($1 = 6.4659 Chinese yuan renminbi)
(This story refiles to fix typo in first paragraph)
(Additional reporting by Clare Jim, Tom Westbrook, and Andrew Galbraith; writing by Gabriel Crossley; editing by Tony Munroe and Philippa Fletcher)
Lithuania urges people to throw away Chinese phones
Lithuania urges people to throw away Chinese phones
Consumers should throw away their Chinese phones and avoid buying new ones, Lithuania’s Defence Ministry has warned.
A report by its National Cyber Security Centre tested 5G mobiles from Chinese manufacturers.
It claimed that one Xiaomi phone had built-in censorship tools while another Huawei model had security flaws.
Huawei said no user data is sent externally and Xiaomi said it does not censor communications.
“Our recommendation is to not buy new Chinese phones, and to get rid of those already purchased as fast as reasonably possible,” said Defence Deputy Minister Margiris Abukevicius.
Xiaomi’s flagship Mi 10T 5G phone was found to have software that could detect and censor terms including “Free Tibet”, “Long live Taiwan independence” or “democracy movement”, the report said.
It highlighted more than 449 terms that could be censored by the Xiaomi phone’s system apps, including the default internet browser.
In Europe, this capability had been switched off on these models, but the report argued it could be remotely activated at any time.
“Xiaomi’s devices do not censor communications to or from its users,” a spokeswoman told the BBC. “Xiaomi has never and will never restrict or block any personal behaviours of our smartphone users, such as searching, calling, web browsing or the use of third-party communication software.”
The firm is fully GDPR compliant, she added.
The research also found the Xiaomi device was transferring encrypted phone usage data to a server in Singapore.
“This is important not only to Lithuania but to all countries which use Xiaomi equipment,” the Centre said.
The smartphone maker has soared in popularity with affordable models, seeing a 64% rise in revenue in its second quarter compared to a year earlier.
The report also highlighted a flaw in Huawei’s P40 5G phone, which put users at risk of cyber-security breaches.
“The official Huawei application store AppGallery directs users to third-party e-stores where some of the applications have been assessed by anti-virus programs as malicious or infected with viruses,” a joint statement by the Lithuanian Ministry of Defence and its National Cyber Security Centre said.
President Joe Biden and his administration are grappling with a new foreign policy dilemma: how to deal with Uyghur separatists seeking to take on the People’s Republic of China and establish an independent Islamic state in the northwestern Xinjiang region at a time when Washington is also increasing pressure on Beijing.
The U.S. stance for the last two decades since the “war on terror” was declared after 9/11 has been to view groups such as Uyghurs factions as enemy actors, due to their reported links to Al-Qaeda. One such organization, a Uyghur separatist group known as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), was added to the Terrorist Exclusion List, a Patriot Act measure designed to disallow suspected militant group members from entering the United States.
Over the course of the past 20 years, however, Washington’s foreign policy priorities have shifted dramatically, a change marked most notably by Biden’s military exit from Afghanistan. That exit was set in motion by Donald Trump, whose focus throughout his tenure in office was on another national foe, China.
In addition to confronting Beijing on trade, political unrest in Hong Kong and tensions over Taiwan, the Trump administration endorsed allegations that China was conducting a “genocide” in Xinjiang, the northwestern province that is home to the Uyghurs. The offenses were said to have occurred as part of China’s extensive counterterrorism measures in the region that included sprawling detainment camps, known officially as vocational education and training centers, in which more than one million people are believed by international critics to have been detained.
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Chinese officials have strongly rejected these allegations, arguing that the facilities are a crucial part of the Communist nation’s national security strategy, Beijing’s own “war on terror.” Xinjiang was the site of a deadly Uyghur insurgency that began in the 1990s in the form of bombings, stabbings and vehicle rammings that killed scores of authorities and civilians alike.
The widening U.S.-China divergence on the narrative took a dramatic turn just days after the U.S. presidential election last November, when the Trump administration removed ETIM from the Terrorist Exclusion List, citing a lack of activity, even as Uyghur fighters set up camp in Afghanistan and Syria.
The Biden administration continues to support that stance.
“ETIM was removed from the list because, for more than a decade, there has been no credible evidence that ETIM continues to exist as the same organization that was conducting terrorist attacks in Syria at the time of their designation,” a State Department spokesperson told Newsweek.
As recently as February 2018, however, the Pentagon was conducting airstrikes against targets said to be linked to ETIM in Afghanistan.
But the State Department now sees it as a separate group altogether, one which is behind the active Uyghur insurgency in two conflict-ridden countries.
“Uyghur terrorists fighting in Syria and Afghanistan are members of the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP),” the State Department spokesperson said, “a separate organization that China and others have incorrectly identified as ETIM.”
Yet the spokesperson noted that the two groups have nearly identical goals.
“TIP is an organization allied with the Taliban in Afghanistan and al-Qa’ida elements operating in Syria, and the group seeks to establish an independent Uyghur state, East Turkistan, in the area of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in northwestern China,” the State Department spokesperson said.
Asked by Newsweek whether the Biden administration planned to brand the still-active Turkistan Islamic Party as a candidate for the Terrorist Exclusion List or the list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, the spokesperson declined to comment as a matter of protocol.
“The United States does not comment on deliberations related to our terrorist designation process,” the State Department spokesperson said.
One Man’s Terrorist, Another Man’s Freedom Fighter
The Turkestan Islamic Party itself has spurned the “terrorist” label that officials in Washington, Beijing and other governments have ascribed to it.
“We, on the part of the group, have not posed any threat to any person, group, state or people,” a spokesperson for the Turkestan Islamic Party’s political office told Newsweek, “and even the Chinese people only see good from us, because we do not oppress the people like the Chinese government.”
The spokesperson said that the group’s activities were limited to the Chinese state itself due to its controversial policies in Xinjiang.
“Even in the future, we do not have any idea for the likes of targeting, kidnapping, threatening or [doing] anything bad against an innocent person or country,” the Turkestan Islamic Party spokesperson said, “and we do not have a problem with any person or country other than the unjust Chinese government.”
The spokesperson argued that any other illicit activities may be carried out by Chinese spy agencies in order to blame the Turkestan Islamic Party.
“Anything that happened or happens, this is not from our side, but will be from the unjust Chinese intelligence,” the Turkestan Islamic Party spokesperson added, “because we are not terrorists who target innocent people like the Chinese government [does].”
At the same time, the group does not rule out waging armed struggle as a means to achieve its political aims.
“The Chinese government should leave the land of East Turkestan by the peaceful path,” the spokesperson said. “If they choose the path of war without leaving peacefully, then we have the right to choose all kinds of paths in order to restore our homeland.”
The region known to Uyghur separatist proponents as East Turkestan comprises around 25 million people living across a span of some 700,000 miles of China’s Xinjiang and parts of neighboring Gansu and Qinghai provinces — roughly the size of France, Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom and Ireland combined.
The area came under the rule of the Chinese Communist Party with the rest of the mainland as Mao Zedong’s victorious People’s Liberation Army drove the nationalist Republic of China forces to exile in Taiwan in 1949.
At the time, the Soviet Union, the world’s top communist power, backed the East Turkestan separatists as a check against Chinese power.
The People’s Republic of China today recognizes some 56 ethnic communities, including the majority Han population, the world’s largest ethnic group, which has increasingly expanded throughout the nation.
This migration is rooted in economic motives as China rapidly developed in recent decades, but those supportive of the separatist East Turkestan cause saw a state-sponsored plot to actively suppress Uyghur culture.
“East Turkestan is the land of the Uyghurs,” the Turkestan Islamic Party spokesperson said. “After the Chinese government occupied our homeland by force, they forced us to leave our homeland because of their oppression against us. The whole world knows that East Turkestan has always been the land of the Uyghurs.”
Blowback Now and Then
In many ways, the Uyghur uprising that first gripped Xinjiang in the 1990s took inspiration from the successful mujahideen resistance that repelled the Soviet Union’s attempt to back a communist government in Afghanistan throughout the previous decade. The U.S. was among the top supporters of the Cold War-era rebel effort, and China also aided the cause as it saw a threat of Soviet encirclement.
The conflict would prove consequential for the intersection of Islam and politics across Asia. The same year the Soviet intervention began, 1979, also marked the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the Grand Mosque Seizure in Saudi Arabia, two other events that left lasting impressions in the region.
The anti-Soviet campaign in Afghanistan gave birth to Al-Qaeda, and its violent aftermath produced the Taliban, which would go on to take over much of the country in an ensuing civil war. After Al-Qaeda orchestrated the 9/11 attacks in 2001, a U.S.-led military campaign dismantled the Islamic Emirate that the Taliban had established across most of Afghanistan.
But as of last month, the Islamic Emirate has officially returned. A resurgent Taliban swiftly retook Afghanistan as the U.S. military withdrew from its longest-ever war.
The Taliban today vows not to repeat its past behavior in allowing transnational militant groups to operate on Afghan soil. This commitment was encoded in the Doha peace accord signed by the group and the Trump administration in February 2020.
“As we signed up to in the agreement, we commit to our promise that the territory of Afghanistan will not be used against anyone, not against China, not against Russia, not against America, not against any country,” Qari Saeed Khosty, who handles social media responsibilities for the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate, told Newsweek.
“On the other hand,” he said, “we also request that the territories of other countries are not used against Afghanistan.”
The U.S. is not alone in calling for the Taliban to rout out any organizations that may pose a threat abroad. Many nearby nations including Russia, India and Afghanistan’s six neighbors, China, Iran, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have all issued similar requests to the newly reformed Islamic Emirate.
A joint statement by the nations bordering Afghanistan, delivered during a historic meeting last month, directly named Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), the separatist Baloch Liberation Army and Jondollah, the Pakistani Taliban, commonly referred to as Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, and ETIM, which most countries in the region consider directly tied to the Turkestan Islamic Party.
Although the U.S. has dropped ETIM from its Terrorist Exclusion List, the group remains designated a terrorist organization by China, the European Union, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Russia, Syria, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom. The United Nations Security Council has also subjected ETIM to sanctions since 2002 due to its suspected association with Al-Qaeda.
For China, any presence of ETIM or its affiliates is considered a top priority threat.
“Some terrorist groups have gathered and developed in Afghanistan over the past two decades, posing a serious threat to international and regional peace and security,” Liu Pengyu, spokesperson for China’s embassy in Washington, told Newsweek. “In particular, as an international terrorist organization listed by the UN Security Council, the ETIM poses an immediate threat to the security of China and its people.”
Beijing has sought specific assurances from the Taliban that ETIM would be crushed or expelled from the self-styled Islamic Emirate. Chinese officials say such a promise was given by Abdul Ghani Baradar, head of the Taliban’s political bureau and now acting deputy prime minister of Afghanistan, during the group’s visit to Tianjin in July.
“The head of the Afghan Taliban made it clear to the Chinese side that the Afghan Taliban will never allow any force to use the Afghan territory to engage in acts that hurt China,” Liu said. “The Afghan Taliban should earnestly honor its commitment, make a clean break with all terrorist organizations, resolutely fight against the ETIM and clear the way for regional security, stability, development and cooperation.”
He said China “following closely” events in Afghanistan as the Taliban formed an acting government and said Beijing hoped for a positive outcome.
“China sincerely hopes all parties of Afghanistan can echo the eager aspiration of the Afghan people and common expectation of the international community, build an open and inclusive political structure, adopt moderate and prudent domestic and foreign policies, make a clear break with terrorist organizations in all forms and live in good terms with all countries, especially neighboring countries,” Liu said.
A Threat and a Promise
The Taliban has not officially acknowledged the presence of ETIM or the Turkestan Islamic Party on Afghan territory.
The Taliban’s Khosty issued a specific denial to Newsweek.
“These people are not present in Afghanistan,” Khosty said. “We do not need to say anything about them because they are not present on our territory.”
During an interview earlier this month with GlobalTimes, an official publication of the Chinese Communist Party, Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen also said ETIM had mostly left Afghanistan. He reiterated his group’s stated obligations per the Doha deal struck with the U.S. to prevent such activity.
“First, we will not allow any training on our territory,” Shaheen said. “Second, we will not allow any fundraising for those who intend to carry out a foreign agenda. Third, we will not allow the establishment of any recruitment center in Afghanistan. These are the main things.”
But the Global Times staff questioned this resolve in a follow-up editorial last week that pressed for answers on the current state of ETIM, which the paper considered an alternative name for the Turkestan Islamic Party. It claimed that ETIM was believed to still be active in Afghanistan, and cited a U.N. Security Council report released in May that referred to the Turkestan Islamic Party as “a widely accepted alias of ETIM.”
“Many Member States assess that it seeks to establish a Uighur state in Xinjiang, China, and towards that goal, facilitates the movement of fighters from Afghanistan to China,” the U.N. report said.
And while the group’s headquarters are currently believed to be in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, the U.N. report voiced another unspecified member state’s concerns that the group was capable of moving fighters between two countries at war.
“Another Member State reported that the group has also established corridors for moving fighters between the Syrian Arab Republic, where the group exists in far larger numbers, and Afghanistan, to reinforce its combat strength,” the report said.
But the State Department continues to insist that China mislabels the groups.
Around the same time this U.N. report was released, a State Department spokesperson told Newsweek that U.S. officials “assess that ETIM is now a broad label China uses to inaccurately paint a variety of Uighur actors, including non-violent activists and advocates for human rights, as terrorist threats.”
“China often labels individuals and groups as terrorists on the basis of their political and religious beliefs, even if they do not advocate violence,” the spokesperson added.
But last week’s Global Times commentary also cited a number of Chinese experts attesting to the lasting strength of Uyghur fighters in Afghanistan, and warned that any ongoing ETIM presence would complicate relations between the Taliban and China, which has already begun to provide desperately needed aid to its neighbor.
What’s In a Name?
The Biden administration has also cast hopes on the Taliban to crack down on outlawed groups, with a focus on ISIS and its so-called Khorasan affiliate, nicknamed ISIS-K. The word Khorasan refers to a historic region that encompasses Afghanistan along with its periphery, and the term is also embraced by ETIM and the Turkestan Islamic Party.
The U.S. has been more opaque on the continued threat of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. In Syria, however, the Pentagon on Monday conducted a drone strike said to have taken out a senior leader of the group.
The strike occurred in Idlib, a crowded space shared by Al-Qaeda, the Turkestan Islamic Party, a slew of other rebel and jihadi factions, Turkish troops and millions of Syrian civilians fleeing a decade-long civil war. In this conflict, Syria is allied with Iran and Russia against a broad insurgency once backed by the U.S. and partnered nations.
Chinese officials have long expressed concerns that the U.S. may once again reinstitute its playbook tactic mobilizing disruptive non-state actors to undermine Beijing’s hold on Xinjiang, the hub of the country’s natural energy reserves. No evidence has yet emerged of such a move, but sanctions against officials in Xinjiang and ETIM’s removal from the Terrorist Exclusion List have only fueled China’s paranoia.
The state of U.S.-China relations have deteriorated to the point that U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres warned Monday that the two leading nations must avoid repeating the Cold War. Chinese President Xi Jinping and his officials have consistently issued similar appeals and Biden too addressed the issue during his U.N. General Assembly remarks on Tuesday, without mentioning China directly.
Though he did mention Xinjiang by name as a region in which he said the U.S. stood with racial, ethnic, and religious minorities facing oppression.
And the Turkestan Islamic Party, still free from any U.S.-specific sanctions, has expressed enthusiasm for further action from Washington against Beijing.
“The United States is a strong country, it has its own strategy, and we see the withdrawal of the American government today from this war in Afghanistan, which is incurring huge economic losses, as a means of confronting China, who are the enemy of all humanity and religions on the face of the Earth,” the Turkestan Islamic Party spokesperson told Newsweek.
“We believe that the opposition of the United States to China will not only benefit the Turkestan Islamic Party and the people of Turkestan,” the spokesperson added, “but also all mankind.”
Those who managed to escape tell the truth about the horror of the camps. The CCP compels their relatives to denounce them, those who don’t end up in jail.
by Ruth Ingram
A catalogue of sadistic brutality is reserved for the families of victims of the CCP’s internment regime who dare to speak out. Elaborate games of cat and mouse, humiliation and mental cruelty have characterized life for the families and dear ones of those taken from them at dead of night or simply vanished after being called in for questioning by police.
Witnesses giving evidence in June at the first session of the Uyghur Tribunal, were mercilessly humiliated and attacked by CCP-orchestrated panels of Xinjiang-based relatives and colleagues on national television, coerced into speaking against them.
The three who testified on behalf of their relatives during the second session, represent the many Uyghurs and Kazakhs among the diaspora who have found it impossible to get to the truth about the fate of their loved ones, and dared to come forward.
A young bride hears that her husband of barely a year will not be coming back for twenty-five years. He begs her to wait for him. A brother studying in Japan is broken during a forced video call seeing the swollen neck and weakened body of an elder brother forced to denounce his so-called anti-China activities. The message was clear, spy for China and inform on his Uyghur colleagues in Japan, or be prepared never to see his brother again. A son, heartbroken by the disappearance of his father, a prominent Uyghur intellectual, silent for four years, is campaigning for the release of hundreds of other Uyghur academics who have also vanished over the past four years. He is crushed by the trickle of news that has confirmed the deaths of 43 of them, either in captivity or shortly after their release. Many of them were in their seventies or eighties.
Exiles who live in the democratic world, live a half life of waiting and hoping. There might be an occasional glimmer of light during a staged telephone call, only to be snatched away and darkness descend once more. They are threatened by the CCP, ridiculed and character-assassinated by loved ones who are forced to parade on state media to discredit their evidence, and live with the daily torture of guilt, self recrimination and doubt wondering how best to help. Very few of them ever manage to move on.
Bahram Sintash’s father was everything the state could have wanted from a Uyghur citizen. He was a fluent Mandarin speaking, prominent Uyghur intellectual, and former editor-in-chief of the Communist Party-controlled Uighur journal “Xinjiang Civilization.” A CCP member, he was known for selecting works by the region’s most influential writers on Uyghur culture, history, politics, and social development for publication. All his work was approved and passed Party censorship with flying colors.
“As a retired 71-year-old who spent decades building a professional career, he is not in need of further ‘vocational training,’” said Sintash, stressing the fact that he had always worked under strict government scrutiny. “To publish important works on Uyghur culture and Uyghur society in the magazine, he always had to know the red line in the eyes of the government at that time. He had to work very close to the red line to publish those important works and sensitive topics from Uyghur authors.” He labored without incident for twenty-five years before retiring in 2011.
Six years later in 2017 the “red line” suddenly moved, and violators were retrospectively sanctioned. Sintash now has no idea whether his father is alive or dead. A constant reminder of the danger his father is daily are the stories of deaths of his colleagues and close friends coming out of the camps.
Mehray Mezensof’s mother found the perfect match for her daughter, whom she gave birth to and raised in Australia. Through a matchmaking site she found Mirzat Taher, three years her senior, living in Urumqi. They met in Turkey where he went to study in 2014, married in Urumqi in 2017, and planned a future together in Australia. Two days before they were about to fly out, he was taken away by police, tortured, and interrogated for six months. A series of false alarms, hope raising telephone and video calls proved to be part of the psychological tactics to break detainees, and they did not see each other again for two years.
Endless memorization of Communist ideology, national songs, and self criticisms, combined with meagre rations, unhygienic and humiliating sanitary arrangements filled his days. “Detainees were told they would never go home, they would never see their loved ones again, and the only way they would get out was in a body bag,” she said. Meals which were passed through a small opening in the door were only given after detainees knelt on the ground and sang a song. “Anyone who couldn’t or wouldn’t sing the song was left to starve.”
Hooded and bent double in shackles, prisoners were transferred between facilities, medical examinations were carried out on arrival, and nights were spent listening to the screams of those undergoing torture in neighboring cells.
Daily reporting to the police characterized his eventual release, combined with harassing phone calls and random summons to their headquarters. When Mehray’s six month visa came to an end, she was forced to return to Australia but in May 2020 their correspondence came to an abrupt end. She later heard he had been released for a month, but taken again by police who had travelled 600 kms especially to arrest him. Since September 2020 there has been complete silence.
Through contacts in Urumqi, she heard this April that he had been sentenced to 25 years. His crime, involvement in separatist activities while in Turkey, which he denies.
Khalmat Rozakhon decided to stay on in Japan after completing a university degree in 2019. In May 2020, he had a surprise call from his brother in Xinjiang. There were obvious sign of his having been beaten on his face and neck, and security officials were lurking in the background. His brother vehemently denied torture and urged Rozakhon not to speak against the CCP. “Don’t go to protest,” he had urged his brother, “the policy of Xi Jinping is good, China’s policy is good.”
One of the officials made it clear that in exchange for information about the activities of the Uyghur Association in Tokyo, his brother’s safety would be secured. He also promised to help expedite his Japanese residency through high level contacts in the embassy. “‘We want to be your friend,’ the official had said, but his tone was intimidating,” said Rozakhon. “The last 30 minutes of that call made me feel like being burned in hell fire,” he said.
He pretended to go along with the police and set up a further interview, but determined to expose the activities and duplicity of the CCP, he arranged for Japanese media to record the video call and broadcast it to the country. He was well aware of the dangers to his family of going public, but he felt he was left with no alternative. “I have no intention to become a hero. The only way of saving my brother is to let the whole word know the truth,” he said. “They are taking my brother hostage and making me do things against my will.”
“The world is realizing the evil nature of China,” he said, quoting the case of Mehray Erkin who returned from Japan at the request of her family and died in detention. “I trust the only way to safeguard the safety of our families in East Turkestan is through letting the world know the real situation.”
President Biden is meeting with United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres in New York Tuesday evening, after Guterres urged the U.S. and China to repair their relationship.
Guterres said earlier that the focus of the summit would be the U.S.’ “cold war” with China. Mr. Biden has been critical of China’s cooperation over COVID-19 and other issues.
But in a brief statement at the beginning of the meeting with Guterres, Mr. Biden spoke only in general terms. “The secretary-general and I share a strong commitment to the principles of human freedom and human dignity on which the U.N. was founded,” he said.
“I’m looking forward to speaking to the assembly tomorrow — what a great honor that will be,” Mr. Biden said.
On Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the U.S. “relationship with China is not one with conflict but competition” and disputed Guterres’ characterization of the relationship.
“We need to avoid at all cost a Cold War that would be different from the past one, and probably more dangerous and more difficult to manage,” Guterres told The Associated Press in an interview.
“The president’s going to lay out the case for why the next decade will determine our future, not just for the United States but for the global community,” Psaki said Monday. “And he will talk, and this will be a central part of his remarks, about the importance of re-establishing our alliances after the last several years.”
The Biden-Guterres meeting also comes as the U.S. faces the fallout from France over a submarine deal the U.S. made with Australia and the United Kingdom, and as the U.S. faces international criticism over the handling of its exit from Afghanistan.
France recalled its ambassador to the U.S. after Australia said in a joint announcement with the U.S. and U.K. that it would replace its aging submarines with nuclear-powered submarines developed by the U.S. and U.K., thereby terminating its previous agreement to buy French diesel electric submarines. Mr. Biden is expected to hold a call with French President Emmanuel Macron in the days ahead.
Macron is not attending the U.N. General Assembly in person, but French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves LeDrian is in New York. Asked about the the submarine deal, LeDrian, speaking through a translator, said at a news conference Monday, “We thought that page of unilateralism, unpredictability, brutality of the announcement, of the lack of respect for a partner — we thought these belonged to the past,” which seemed to be a comparison with the Trump administration.
“Why was all of that hidden and made public without telling us ahead of time,” LeDrian said of the fact that the French had no hint that they were losing the contract until just before it was announced by the U.S., Australia and U.K.
He referred to the incident as a “crisis of trust beyond the fact that the contract is being broken” and referred to the planning of the new contract as an “unexpected, hidden, brutal initiative.”
The French foreign minister said he has no plans to meet with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, though they might encounter one another in the hallway.