In a sign of the continuing decline in relations between North Korea and China, Pyongyang moved a number of tanks and armored vehicles away from South Korea to the Chinese border, according to The Chosun Ilbo, citing an anonymous source.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has announced that his national anticorruption campaign will now extend beyond people and begin investigating state firms.
This directive, says state media organization Xinhua News, is a new priority in 2015. President Xi announced the change through a party communique on Wednesday, after the fifth plenary session of the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI).
It’s impossible to overstate what this anticorruption drive has done in China. It has claimed one of the highest government officials to go down since the days of Mao.
It has changed the entire business landscape and changed the social structure of the world’s biggest gambling center, Macau. And it has rich Chinese people worried about being flashy with their money.
It has uncovered millions of dollars held by corrupt officials.
But the question remains whether this is totally about wiping out corruption. Some believe it’s about Xi consolidating power not merely under the party but under him.
Here’s what the CCDI will be focusing on, according to Xinhua:
- The top task for 2015 will be the tightening up of internal management and ensuring central leadership policies are implemented. The CCDI demanded that senior officials “toe the line” and that cronyism, fakery and sycophancy would not be tolerated.
- All state-owned enterprises (SOEs) under the care of the central government will be subject to inspections and supervision will be tightened on SOEs across the board.
- The heads of Party and government departments, and state-owned enterprises will be held accountable for any serious corruption cases that happen under their charge.
- The rooting out of harmful working practices, including abuse of public money and bureaucracy, will continue.
- Officials in key positions who use their influence in infrastructure projects and public land deals, embezzle state-owned assets, or buy and sell government posts will face serious penalties.
- Disciplinary inspection organs will strengthen international cooperation in the hunt for fugitive officials and asset recovery.
- The CCDI will build a loyal, clean, responsible discipline inspection team. Incompetent inspectors will be replaced and those who look the other way would be punished.
This will get interesting.
Ex-security chief Zhou Yongkang, the most senior Chinese official to be investigated for corruption, has been arrested and expelled from the Communist Party, state media report.
The Supreme People’s Procuratorate, China’s top prosecuting body, said it had opened a formal probe against him.
Before he retired two years ago, Mr Zhou was the head of China’s vast internal security apparatus.
Many of his former associates and relatives also face corruption probes.
Since coming to power, Chinese President Xi Jinping has launched a high-profile campaign to weed out corruption among party and government officials.
Mr Zhou was accused of several crimes, including “serious violations of party discipline”, “accepting large sums of bribes”, “disclosing party and state secrets” and “committing adultery with several women” as part of corrupt transactions, Xinhua news agency reported (in Chinese).
Mr Zhou’s arrest was announced in a statement by the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, released late on Friday night.
Mr Zhou, who is in his 70s, has not been seen in public for more than a year.
Analysts say the investigation against Mr Zhou allows Xi Jinping to consolidate his power base, remove people opposed to his reforms, and improve the image of the Communist Party.
Mr Zhou was previously also a member of China’s top decision-making body, the Politburo Standing Committee.
Analysis: Zhuang Chen, BBC Chinese
Zhou Yongkang was allegedly the most feared and powerful senior official before he retired two years ago from the pinnacle of China’s decision-making body. He is also the biggest “tiger” – the highest ranking official – caged by Xi Jinping in his anti-corruption drive.
Dubbed “Master Kang”, Mr Zhou put many of his followers in powerful positions in the oil and security sectors during his heyday in office. Many of his loyalists have since been either sentenced or indicted on corruption charges.
It has taken over a year to investigate his case, which suggests the authorities are mindful of its sensitivity. Some suspect the party would rather deal with his case in secrecy, given how much Mr Zhou knows.
The fact that he is to be investigated by state prosecutors means the authorities have gathered sufficient evidence.
It also shows an ever-more confident Xi Jinping making Mr Zhou a case in point to further consolidate his power.
The suspense now is over whether Mr Zhou will be charged and tried in public, in the fashion of his disgraced former ally Bo Xilai.
A Chinese minister has previously said that the investigation against Mr Zhou would take a long time to complete.
Mr Zhou had enjoyed a close working relationship with former Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai, who was sentenced to life imprisonment last year on bribery charges.
Bo’s wife Gu Kailai was given a suspended death sentence in 2012 for the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood.
Bo’s downfall was seen as the biggest political shake-up to hit China’s ruling elite in decades, and revealed divisions at the top of the party over how the scandal should be handled.
Mr Zhou’s arrest was welcomed by many social media users on Sina Weibo, a Twitter-like platform in China.
“We have zero-tolerance against corruption!” one user wrote.
“No position is off-limits when it comes to removing malignant tumours, winning the applause and cheers of the people,” another user, Zhang Jinyang, wrote.
Many users highlighted the allegations that Mr Zhou had leaked state secrets and committed adultery.
However, some comments about the charges against Mr Zhou appear to have been censored.
Searching for “Zhou Yongkang” on Sina Weibo brings up a number of microblog posts, but also the following message: “Under the relevant laws, regulations and policies, some of the search results cannot be displayed.”
Timeline: Zhou Yongkang
1942: Born in Wu Xi city in eastern Jiangsu province
1964: Joins the Communist Party and spends the next 32 years in the oil sector
1998: Becomes party secretary of China National Petroleum Corporation
1999: Appointed party secretary of Sichuan
2002: Appointed member of the Politburo at the 16th Party Congress; becomes minister of public security later that year
2007: Further promoted to member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo – China’s highest state organ
2012: His lieutenants begin to get sacked and investigated; he appears with Bo Xilai at Chinese National People’s Congress session
December 2013: His son Zhou Bin is arrested on corruption charges
December 2014: Arrested, expelled from party
President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping have signed a memorandum of understanding on the so-called “western” gas supplies route to China. The agreement paves the way for a contract that would make China the biggest consumer of Russian gas.
Russia’s so-called “western” or “Altay” route would supply 30 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas a year to China.
The new supply line comes in addition to the “eastern” route, through the “Power of Siberia” pipeline, which will annually deliver 38 bcm of gas to China. Work on that pipeline route has already begun after a $400 billion deal was clinched in May.
“After we have launched supplies via the “western route,” the volume of gas deliveries to China can exceed the current volumes of export to Europe,” Gazprom CEO Aleksey Miller told reporters, commenting on the deal.
Speaking to journalists on the eve of his visit to Beijing, Putin was optimistic about prospects for the new gas deal with China.
“We have reached an understanding in principle concerning the opening of the western route,” Putin said. “We have already agreed on many technical and commercial aspects of this project, laying a good basis for reaching final arrangements.”
The “western” route deal is one of the 17 agreements signed at the Sunday meeting between Putin and Xi.
They also included a framework agreement between Gazprom and China’s CNPC on gas deliveries and a memorandum of understanding between Gazprom and another Chinese energy giant, CNOOC.
Gazprom and CNPC have also signed a preliminary agreement for China National Oil and Gas Exploration and Development to take a 10 percent stake in Russia’s Vancorneft.
Among the business issues discussed by Putin and Xi at their fifth meeting this year was the possibility of payment in Chinese yuan, including for defense deals military, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov was cited as saying by RIA Novosti.
Joshua Wong looks like any other university student in Hong Kong. Wearing a black T-shirt and jeans, the young man worries about the dying battery on his Samsung phone while sipping a cappuccino in a Kowloon café.
The 17-year-old freshman badly needs his phone to stay on. As activists have challenged Beijing over its controversial plan for political reform in Hong Kong, he has become one of the leading voices of his generation advocating democratic reform.
Since founding a student movement called Scholarism in 2011 when he was 14, he has published a book called I am not a Hero, hosts a radio programme, writes a column, and does interviews – all of which drain his time and his phone power.
Even though critics agree that China will not reverse course by allowing critics of Beijing to run for chief executive of Hong Kong, Mr Wong says students in the former British colony should continue to fight for greater rights.
“Political reform is the core problem for every issue,” says Mr Wong. “Everyone knows that under the Chinese Communist party, there is a lack of possibility to fight [for] true universal suffrage in the end . . . but students should stand on the front line in every century,” he says.
Students across Hong Kong on Monday launched a weeklong civil disobedience campaign to draw more attention to the democracy battle. China last month agreed to introduce universal suffrage – one person, one vote – for the election of chief executive, the top political job in the territory.
But the plan includes conditions that essentially make it impossible for a pro-democracy campaigner to get on the ballot.
Mr Wong does not expect Beijing to change its mind and allow ordinary people to pick candidates for chief executive, saying Chinese president Xi Jinping “will not give universal suffrage to Hong Kong citizens”. But he urges his peers to continue the cause.
“We fight for our goal without analysing the possibility of success,” says Mr Wong. “If . . . you have to consider the possibility to reach the goal, you should not involve [yourself] in the social movement or student movement.”
Fighting the Chinese government and the pro-Beijing government in Hong Kong is a Sisyphean struggle but Mr Wong has won before – in a high-profile protest that catapulted the young man to fame.
In 2012 he became the public face of a mass campaign against a Hong Kong government plan to introduce “national education”, a patriotic curriculum that critics said was an effort to brainwash local people about the Communist party. The movement forced CY Leung, Hong Kong’s chief executive, to back down.
“It is not common for a 15-year-old student to lead the movement of civil disobedience,” says Mr Wong confidently, before adding that he has just met a 12-year-old who wants to join his group. “Only in Hong Kong . . . can such a situation occur. In America or England, no one expects a 12-year-old to join a strike.”
We fight for our goal without analysing the possibility of success. If . . . you have to consider the possibility to reach the goal, you should not involve [yourself] in the social movement or student movement
His 2012 campaign rallied more than 100,000 people to demonstrate on the streets of Hong Kong and staged an occupation outside government headquarters that included some hunger protests.
During the height of the stand-off, Mr Wong had a widely publicised debate with Mr Leung, where the media-savvy student refused to shake his hand to avoid the impression that he had been co-opted.
“He sounds like a sound recorder and always responds with the same wording,” Mr Wong says of Mr Leung, adding that he has no interest in meeting Xi Jinping to discuss the current political battle.
Castigated by Chinese media with sobriquets such as “buffoon”, he says his idol is Wang Dan, one of the student leaders during the Tiananmen Square protests. But Mr Wong says Scholarism, now a group of 300 high-school and university students, does not want the kind of violent outcome that occurred in Beijing in 1989.
“If the soldiers come, we would all go back home . . . we don’t want to see blood,” says Mr Wong.
While he vows to continue his fight, he rues the pressures of his role. He describes himself as a normal kid who grew up playing Gameboy and watching television. In between yawns, he says he spends 18 hours a day on his studies and political activities. Asked how he spends his leisure time, he half jokes, “sleep and sleep”.
“Only students can bear such a burden. It’s really tiring,” he says, before picking up his now-charged phone to arrange his political meetings for later in the day.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may visit one of his country’s closest remaining allies, China, in the near future, a top Chinese diplomat has said.
Beijing’s ambassador to South Korea, Qiu Guohong, was speaking during a conference when he said a visit by North’s leader may be on the cards.
“I think that a visit by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to China is likely to be made down the road,” South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported Qiu as saying.
The 30-something Kim took over as North’s leader following his father Kim Jong-Il’s death in 2011. The new leader has not made any foreign trip since then just like his father Kim, who made his overseas tour to China only after six years of consolidating his control in the country.
“China and North Korea have maintained a normal relationship and there have been normal exchanges of visits between the leaders of both countries. I don’t think that should be closely tied to the question of whether China-North Korea relations are good or bad,” added Qiu in his address.
China remains a staunch ally of North Korea despite efforts by western nations to further isolate the country over Pyongyang’s contentious nuclear programme.
China’s border with North Korea is relatively unguarded compared to its other borders with South Korea and Russia.
However, relations between the two countries have been turning sour at times, especially after Xi Jinping became the Chinese president. Xi visited South, North’s arch-rival, but failed to visit Pyongyang recently.
Xi’s South visit was widely interpreted as a direct snub to North in China’s attempt to distance itself from its troublesome neighbour.