BEIJING

Brazil's Vice President Hamilton Mourao delivers a speech during the opening of LAAD, the biggest military industry expo in Latin America, in Rio de Janeiro
Brazil’s Vice President Hamilton Mourao delivers a speech during the opening of LAAD, the biggest military industry expo in Latin America, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil April 2, 2019. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

April 24, 2019

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil’s Vice President Hamilton Mourao said on Wednesday he will travel to China on May 16, staying for 10 days with stops in Beijing and Shanghai.

Mourao, a former general who is seen as a moderate in the far-right government of Jair Bolsonaro, has recently become embroiled in a nasty war-of-words with the president’s sons, who are both influential lawmakers.

In comparison with Bolsonaro, who often criticized China’s large role in Brazil’s economy during his presidential campaign, Mourao has taken a more pragmatic approach toward his country’s top trading partner, seeking to maintain commercial ties.

Mourao’s visit to the world’s second-largest economy should mark the reactivation of the Sino-Brazilian Bilateral Cooperation Commission. Additionally, there is also hope that new meat export permits may be announced during the visit, according to Chinese Ambassador to Brazil Yang Wanming.

(Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu; Editing by Tom Brown)

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U.S. President Trump makes brief remarks to the press on Special Counsel Mueller's investigation as he arrives on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump makes brief remarks to the press as he arrives on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., after returning from a weekend at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, March 24, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Theiler

April 24, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday said ongoing trade talks between the United States and China were going well, as the world’s two largest economies continue to try to hammer out a final deal.

“We’re doing well on trade, we’re doing well with China,” Trump told reporters at the White House as he departed for an event in Florida.

The next round of talks are slated to begin April 30 in Beijing, followed by further discussions starting May 8 in Washington.

U.S. administration officials in recent weeks have said that negotiations are progressing but few details have emerged.

Trump had earlier set a March 1 deadline for an agreement, but later extended the timeline and said he would delay an increase in tariffs on Chinese goods, citing productive talks.

(Reporting by Steve Holland and Tim Ahmann; Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)

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A cargo train loaded with coal dust, moves past the port area near City Station in Karachi
A cargo train loaded with coal dust, moves past the port area near City Station in Karachi, Pakistan September 24, 2018. Picture taken September 24, 2018. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

April 24, 2019

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – People living in countries along China’s new “Silk Road” favor investment in renewable energy over the construction of coal-fired power plants, according to a poll released on Wednesday ahead of a major summit in Beijing.

Environmental group E3G, which commissioned the poll, said the results showed there was little support for investment in coal, despite China’s role as a major funder of new plants.

“China should now work with governments, business and investors at the upcoming forum to make sure these demands are met,” said Nick Mabey, chief executive of E3G.

The survey was released ahead of China’s second international forum on its 2013 Belt and Road initiative, which is designed to build infrastructure and encourage trade and economic cooperation along the old Silk Road route connecting China to Europe and elsewhere.

According to a draft communique seen by Reuters, world leaders attending the summit will call for sustainable financing that promotes green growth.

But concerns have been raised that China is using the program to export substandard polluting technologies, even as it boosts the share of renewable power at home in a bid to cut smog and climate-warming greenhouse gases.

The YouGov poll of more than 6,000 people covered Indonesia, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa, Turkey and Vietnam, which are among the top 10 locations for the construction of new coal-fired power plants, with many backed by Chinese developers.

Over 85 percent of those surveyed said they favored investment by foreign governments, banks and companies in renewable projects, while less than a third said they favored investments in coal.

More than 90 percent said solar power should be a priority. Coal-fired power was less popular than nuclear in four of the six countries.

In a separate announcement on Wednesday, a coalition of Chinese environmental groups urged Beijing to draw up green guiding principles for investment in Belt and Road countries.

“The host country’s climate objectives and the long-term impact of investment activities on the local environment must be taken into consideration,” said Yang Fuqiang, a senior climate advisor with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

(Reporting by David Stanway; editing by Richard Pullin)

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Occupy Central pro-democracy movement founder Chu Yiu-ming cries as he speaks to the media after getting his suspended sentence on his involvement in the Occupy Central, also known as
Occupy Central pro-democracy movement founder Chu Yiu-ming cries as he speaks to the media after getting his suspended sentence on his involvement in the Occupy Central, also known as “Umbrella Movement”, in Hong Kong, China April 24, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

April 24, 2019

By James Pomfret and Jessie Pang

HONG KONG (Reuters) – A Hong Kong court jailed four leaders of 2014 pro-democracy protests on Wednesday amid heightened concerns over the decline of freedoms in the China-ruled city nearly five years after activists took to the streets in mass protests.

The sentencing of the nine activists followed a near month-long trial that was closely watched as China’s Communist Party leaders have put Hong Kong’s autonomy under increasing strain, stoking concern among foreign governments, rights groups and business people.

Law professor Benny Tai, 54, and retired sociologist Chan Kin-man, 60, were both jailed for 16 months for conspiracy to commit public nuisance tied to the protests that paralyzed parts of the Asian financial center for 79 days in late 2014 and became known as the Umbrella Movement.

Their sentence had been reduced by two months given their clean criminal record and positive character, Justice Johnny Chan said.

Pro-democracy lawmaker Shiu Ka-chun and activist Raphael Wong were both jailed for eight months for inciting public nuisance.

“We maintain our determination to achieve universal suffrage … this won’t change,” Wong shouted out in court as he was taken away.

Since the city returned to Chinese rule in 1997, critics say Beijing has reneged on a commitment to maintain Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and freedoms under a “one country, two systems” arrangement.

The protesters had demanded that China’s Communist Party leaders allow genuine universal suffrage in Hong Kong to select its leader. Police cleared the demonstrators in December 2014, and authorities granted no democratic concessions.

Chan, in passing sentence, acknowledged the right to civil disobedience and the right to assembly and free speech, but said the protracted road blockages had caused suffering to the public and that some restrictions on freedoms were necessary in a democratic society.

Retired pastor Chu Yiu-ming, 75, received a suspended sentence, as did veteran democrat Lee Wing-tat and former student leader Eason Chung, with the judge taking into account their ages, public service and clean records.

Another former student leader, Tommy Cheung, was ordered to carry out 200 hours of community service.

Tanya Chan, a lawmaker, had her sentencing postponed until June 10 on medical grounds.

Several hundred supporters, many wearing yellow bands and holding yellow umbrellas, a symbol of the protests, gathered outside the West Kowloon Law Courts. Some sobbed after the sentences were announced while others chanted demands for genuine democracy.

The trial of the activists was considered the most significant legal maneuver by authorities to punish those involved in the 2014 protests, called Occupy Central, in reference to the city’s central business district.

The demonstrations were Hong Kong’s biggest and most protracted in recent decades and one of the boldest challenges to China’s leaders since pro-democracy protests in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Organisers estimated that more than one million people took part in the protests over nearly three months.

EXTRADITION LAWS

Authorities have clamped down on opposition forces, disqualified democratic legislators, jailed activists and banned a pro-independence political party.

Before the sentencing, rival political groups outside the court had taunted each other, with pro-democracy activists calling for Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam to step down, while Beijing loyalists chanted: “Go away. Go occupy London.”

The activist leaders earlier urged supporters to take to the streets this Sunday to protest against proposed extradition laws that would allow people to be sent from Hong Kong to mainland China for trial.

Critics fear the laws, which are expected to be passed this year, could further erode legal protections.

All nine had argued the protests were intended as peaceful, non-violent civil disobedience, only to benefit society and make positive democratic progress.

But Justice Chan said their “martyrdom … was a concocted one”, noting that the price the defendants were prepared to pay had also to be borne by an inconvenienced public.

A court found the nine guilty of public nuisance charges on April 9.

Amid growing international concern about the erosion of Hong Kong’s freedoms, the U.S. government said it was concerned by the sentence, which might stifle fundamental rights.

“It is important for Hong Kong to respect its residents’ rights of freedom of speech and peaceful assembly. Societies are best served when diverse political views are respected and can be freely expressed,” a spokesman for the U.S. consulate in the city said.

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council said in a statement that it “deeply regretted” the court’s decision, which it said showed the failure of “one country, two systems” to protect political rights.

(Additional reporting from Greg Torode in Hong Kong and Yimou Lee in Taipei; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore, Robert Birsel)

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U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will travel to Beijing for trade talks beginning on April 30, the White House said in a statement on Tuesday.

It said Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, who will lead the Beijing talks for China, will travel to Washington for more discussions starting on May 8.

“The subjects of next week’s discussions will cover trade issues including intellectual property, forced technology transfer, non-tariff barriers, agriculture, services, purchases, and enforcement,” the White House said.

Source: NewsMax Politics

FILE PHOTO: U.S and China trade talks in Beijing
FILE PHOTO: Chinese staffers adjust U.S. and Chinese flags before the opening session of trade negotiations between U.S. and Chinese trade representatives at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019. Mark Schiefelbein/Pool via REUTERS

April 24, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A top White House economic adviser said on Tuesday the United States and China were making progress in trade negotiations and he was “cautiously optimistic” about the prospects for striking a deal.

Speaking at a luncheon at the National Press Club, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said the two nations still had issues to address and were discussing a “visitation exchange” as part of their ongoing talks.

“We’re not there yet, but we’ve made a heck of a lot of progress,” Kudlow said in response to questions from reporters. “We’ve come further and deeper, broader, larger-scale than anything in the history of U.S.-China trade.”

“We’ve gotten closer and we’re still working on the issues, so-called structural issues, technology transfers,” Kudlow added. “Ownership enforcement is absolutely crucial. Lowering barriers to buy and sell agriculture and industrial commodities. It’s all on the table.”

Washington and Beijing have engaged in a tit-for-tat trade war that has seen both countries imposing tariffs on billions of dollars’ worth of each others’ imports.

The United States is seeking structural changes in China’s economy, from reducing industrial subsidies to halting forced technology transfers by U.S. companies seeking to enter the Chinese market.

(Reporting by Alexandra Alper and David Alexander; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Bernadette Baum)

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Chinese President Xi Jinping reviews the honor guards of the Chinese People’s Liberation Navy before boarding the destroyer Xining for the naval parade celebrating the 70th founding anniversary of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy in Qin
Chinese President Xi Jinping reviews the honor guards of the Chinese People’s Liberation (PLA) Navy before boarding the destroyer Xining for the naval parade celebrating the 70th founding anniversary of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy in Qingdao, Shandong province, China April 23, 2019. Xinhua via REUTERS

April 23, 2019

By Ben Blanchard

QINGDAO, China (Reuters) – China showed off the first of its new generation of guided missile destroyers on Tuesday as President Xi Jinping reviewed a major naval parade through mist and rain to mark 70 years since the founding of China’s navy.

Xi is overseeing a sweeping plan to refurbish the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) by developing everything from stealth jets to aircraft carriers as China ramps up its presence in the disputed South China Sea and around self-ruled Taiwan, which has rattled nerves around the region and in Washington.

The navy has been a major beneficiary of the modernization, with China looking to project power far from its shores and protect its trading routes and citizens overseas.

After boarding the destroyer the Xining, which was only commissioned two years ago, Xi watched as a flotilla of Chinese and foreign ships sailed past, in waters off the eastern port city of Qingdao.

“Salute to you, comrades. Comrades, thanks for your hard work,” Xi called out to the officers standing on deck as the ships sailed past, in images carried on state television.

“Hail to you, chairman,” they replied. “Serve the people.”

China’s first domestically produced aircraft carrier, which is still unnamed and undergoing sea trials, was not present, though the carrier the Liaoning was, the report said.

The Liaoning, the country’s first carrier, was bought second-hand from Ukraine in 1998 and refitted in China.

State television also showed pictures of the Nanchang at the review, the first of a new fleet of 10,000-tonne destroyers, though details of that and other ships were hard to determine from the footage, due to the intermittent thick mist and rain.

China had said it would also show new nuclear submarines, and state television did show submarines taking part in the display.

Singapore-based regional security expert Collin Koh said that based on the available evidence, the larger submarine on show was a modified version of China’s existing Jin-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines – a key part of its nuclear deterrent.

The navy has four Jin-class submarines, which are based in Hainan island in the south, and the Pentagon says it believes construction on a new generation of ballistic missile submarines will start in the 2020s.

“It does appear that this is a modified version rather than an entirely new submarine, something which would have been a more significant development,” said Koh, of Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

“Outside analysts still don’t have a complete picture of the precise modifications.”

China’s last major naval parade was last year in the South China Sea, also overseen by Xi.

Tuesday’s parade featured 32 Chinese vessels and 39 aircraft, as well as warships from 13 foreign countries including India, Japan, Vietnam and Australia.

A total of 61 countries have sent delegations to the event, which includes a naval symposium on Wednesday and Thursday.

‘LONG FOR PEACE’

Earlier, meeting foreign naval officers at Qingdao’s Olympic sailing center, Xi said the navies of the world should work together to protect maritime peace and order.

“The Chinese people love and long for peace, and will unswervingly follow the path of peaceful development,” Xi said, in remarks carried by the official Xinhua news agency.

“Everyone should respect each other, treat each other as equals, enhance mutual trust, strengthen maritime dialogue and exchanges, and deepen pragmatic cooperation between navies,” he added.

“There cannot be resorts to force or threats of force at the slightest pretext,” Xi said.

“All countries should adhere to equal consultations, improve crisis communication mechanisms, strengthen regional security cooperation, and promote the proper settlement of maritime-related disputes.”

China has frequently had to rebuff concerns about its military intentions, especially as its defense spending reaches new heights.

Beijing says it has nothing to hide, and invited a small number of foreign media onboard a naval ship to watch the parade, including from Reuters.

China’s last naval battles were with Vietnam in the South China Sea in 1974 and 1988, though these were relatively minor skirmishes. Chinese ships have also participated in international anti-piracy patrols off Somalia since late 2008.

The United States has sent a low-level delegation to Qingdao, led by the naval attache at its Beijing embassy, and no ships.

However, the USS Blue Ridge, the command ship of the Japan-based U.S. Seventh Fleet, is visiting Hong Kong, having arrived in the city on Saturday.

A senior U.S. naval official aboard the ship said the Seventh Fleet would continue its extensive operations in the region, including so-called freedom of navigation operations to challenge excessive maritime claims.

China objects to such patrols close to the Chinese-held features in the Paracels and Spratlys archipelago in the South China Sea, where U.S. warships are routinely shadowed by Chinese vessels.

The U.S. official said he believed an incident last September, when a Chinese destroyer sailed within 45 meters of the American destroyer USS Decatur, was an isolated event and other routine interactions with the PLA navy had proved more professional.

(This story has been refiled to fix grammar in paragraph two.)

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Greg Torode in HONG HONG; Editing by Michael Perry, Robert Birsel)

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Director General of the World Anti-Doping Agency Howman talks to reporters at the WADA symposium in Lausanne
FILE PHOTO: Director General of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) David Howman talks to reporters at the WADA symposium in Lausanne, Switzerland, March 14, 2016. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

April 23, 2019

By Alan Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) – The director of a top Belgian laboratory has criticized former World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) head David Howman for suggesting drug testing was stuck in the 1970s and needed to be more innovative.

Howman, in an address to an anti-doping conference in London last week, had said urine analysis had not advanced much over the decades and that testing was not catching the real cheats.

“We’re still in a position where we’re getting the same number of positive cases each year, and many of them are in the category of what I call the ‘dopey dopers’ – the inadvertent dopers, or the ones who are just darned stupid,” he said.

Professor Peter van Eenoo, director of the WADA-accredited laboratory at the University of Ghent, said Howman had got it wrong.

“It’s incredible that somebody said this,” he told Reuters in a telephone interview. “What he says is the percentage of positive samples hasn’t changed much over the years. And therefore science has not made any progress.

“What he completely forgets is that for every step of progress we made, of course, the others adapt.”

Howman, who left the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in 2016, is now chairman of the Athletics Integrity Unit board and has previously criticized his former employers for failing to support clean athletes and for allowing the reinstatement of Russia’s anti-doping agency.

Van Eenoo said the substances being used, the doses and how they were being used by drugs cheats had changed over the decades.

Data from re-testing, using urine samples from the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympics, had also demonstrated the advances of science.

“There were about 10,000 samples, 25 positives. What they’ve done is stored all those samples and re-tested 1,000 of these negative samples,” he said.

“Out of those 1,000 samples, 100 at re-testing later turned out to be positive. That is only through scientific progress, because nothing has changed. It’s the same urine.

“And because they know we can now detect substances for a longer period, they (athletes) switch to other substances or take them in smaller doses. So they adapt everything and that is only pushed by scientific progress.”

‘GOLD STANDARD’

Van Eenoo said urine testing, first introduced at an Olympics in 1968, had its limitations but would remain the ‘gold standard’ for some time to come.

He accepted that some substances, such as growth hormone, were hard to detect in urine and that blood was a better indicator of the effectiveness of drugs.

“That’s why we are now investing in looking into blood concentration — dried blood spots, those kind of things — to complement urine,” he said.

“If we are looking at a zero tolerance policy which is important for most of the substances and especially those which are most performance-enhancing — steroids, EPO — then urine is the gold standard and will remain for quite a long time to come.”

Van Eenoo said it was difficult to look for 400 or 500 substances in a drop of blood.

“So that’s why I’m saying urine as a first and then for some of these substances where you have issues… you can re-analyze that drop of blood only for one or two substances,” he added.

“This makes absolute sense and we need to progress in that direction. That’s additional scientific progress, it doesn’t mean that the scientific progress we’ve made so far doesn’t exist.”

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Christian Radnedge)

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FILE PHOTO: A gas flare on an oil production platform in the Soroush oil fields is seen alongside an Iranian flag in the Persian Gulf
FILE PHOTO: A gas flare on an oil production platform in the Soroush oil fields is seen alongside an Iranian flag in the Persian Gulf, Iran, July 25, 2005. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi

April 23, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Tuesday it has lodged representations with the United States over its decision to end waivers on sanctions on Iranian oil imports.

China is Iran’s largest crude oil customer, with total imports last year of 29.27 million tonnes, or about 585,400 barrels a day, roughly 6 percent of China’s total oil imports, according to customs data.

“The decision from the U.S. will contribute to volatility in the Middle East and in the international energy market,” Geng Shuang, a ministry spokesman, told a news briefing.

Washington has announced that all Iran sanction waivers will end by May, causing crude oil prices to rise and pressuring importers to cut their Iranian imports to zero.

China was one of eight global buyers that won exemptions to import crude oil last November.

Some of China’s key refineries are configured to process the Iranian crude and refinery officials say Iranian oil typically yields better margins compared similar grades from rival suppliers such as Saudi Arabia.

State-owned Sinopec Group and China National Petroleum Corp both produce oil in Iran, having spent billions of dollars on oil fields such as Yadavaran and North Azadegan. They have been sending the oil from the fields to China.

(Reporting by Martin Pollard and Beijing Monitoring Desk; additional reporting by Chen Aizhu in SINGAPORE; editing by Darren Schuettler and Christian Schmollinger)

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FILE PHOTO: The logo of TikTok application is seen in this picture illustration
FILE PHOTO: The logo of TikTok application is seen on a screen in this picture illustration taken February 21, 2019. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/Illustration

April 23, 2019

By Aditya Kalra and Munsif Vengattil

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s ban on popular Chinese video app TikTok is resulting in “financial losses” of up to $500,000 a day for its developer, Beijing Bytedance Technology Co, and has put more than 250 jobs at risk, the company said in a court filing seen by Reuters.

TikTok allows users to create and share short videos with special effects and is one of the world’s most popular apps. It has been downloaded by nearly 300 million users so far in India, out of more than 1 billion downloads globally, according to analytics firm Sensor Tower.

Earlier this month, an Indian state court ordered the federal government to prohibit its downloads, saying the app was encouraging pornography. Acting upon instructions from the federal IT ministry, Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google last week removed TikTok from their India app stores.

The developments have dealt a blow to the India growth plans of Bytedance, which is backed by Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp and by private equity. Bytedance, one of the world’s most valuable startups potentially worth around $75 billion, was considering a public listing in Hong Kong this year, sources told Reuters in August.

The ban has also worried the social media industry in India as it sees legal worries mounting if courts increasingly regulate content on their platforms.

In the filing made to India’s Supreme Court on Saturday, Bytedance urged the court to quash the ban and direct the federal IT ministry to tell companies such as Google and Apple to make the app available again on their platforms.

The court filing is not publicly available and its contents have not been previously reported.

Bytedance pegged financial losses at $500,000 each day, which it said includes destruction in the value of its investments and loss of commercial revenue. It added the ban would result in its reputation and goodwill taking a hit with both advertisers and investors.

“Banning has had adverse impact on the user base of this app, losing close to 1 million new users per day … It is estimated that approximately six million requests for downloads could not be effected since the ban came into effect,” the company said in the filing.

A spokesman for TikTok and the federal IT ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

COURT BATTLE, CONTENT WOES

The Supreme Court has so far not provided any interim relief on repeated pleas by Bytedance and referred the case back to the court in southern Tamil Nadu state, where the case will next be heard on Wednesday.

Memes and music videos thrive on TikTok, although some clips show youngsters, some scantily clad, lip-syncing and dancing to popular tunes.

Its growing popularity has drawn criticism from some Indian politicians and parents who say its content is inappropriate. The Tamil Nadu court, which ruled against TikTok after an individual filed a public interest litigation, has said the app could also expose children to sexual predators.

The Supreme Court filing included a table in which Bytedance compared TikTok to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter by listing 13 of its implemented safety features, including parental controls.

A “very minuscule” proportion of TikTok’s videos were considered inappropriate or obscene, the company has said.

“The constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights of free speech and expression … of numerous Indian citizens have been severely impacted,” the company said in its latest filing.

(Reporting by Aditya Kalra; Editing by Martin Howell and Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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