Regional News • Asia • China
Beijing critic and Hong Kong activist Jimmy Lai to be jailed for a year
Jimmy Lai
Jimmy Lai Credit: Studio Incendo (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

Hong Kong media entrepreneur Jimmy Lai has been sentenced to one year in prison. The sentence was handed down on Friday. The reason is the media entrepreneur's role in the mass protests in the Chinese special administrative region, in which an estimated 1.7 million people took part in the summer of 2019. It is the first time Lai has been sentenced to prison.

Regional News • Asia • China
China's economy grows at a record 18.3 percent
Shenwumen Gate of Forbidden City, Beijing
Shenwumen Gate of Forbidden City, Beijing Credit: kallgan (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0)

China's economy has largely overcome the Covid-19 crisis and started the new year with record growth. According to the Beijing statistics office, the second-largest economy grew by 18.3 percent in the first three months compared to the first quarter of last year. This is the biggest jump since quarterly evaluations began a good 30 years ago.

The unusually strong growth can be explained by the fact that the Chinese economy slumped sharply last spring due to the Covid-19 pandemic. At that time, the world's most populous country came to an almost complete standstill for several weeks.

Regional News • Asia • India
India blocked bank accounts of China's ByteDance
India blocked bank accounts of China's ByteDance
Credit: Illustration: Pendect, Ashley Winkler – Logo via TikTok (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

ByteDance in January cut its Indian workforce after New Delhi decided to retain a ban on its popular video app TikTok, first prohibited last year following a border clash between India and China. The authorities also directed Citibank and HSBC to prevent ByteDance India from withdrawing funds from any other bank accounts linked to its tax identification number, the first source said.

The move was widely linked to India's broader pushback against Chinese businesses after clashes at a disputed Himalayan border site left 20 Indian soldiers dead.

Regional News • Asia • China
China's leadership adopts electoral reform for Hong Kong
China's leadership adopts electoral reform for Hong Kong
Credit: / Ruslan Bardash

China continues to expand its influence over Hong Kong. An electoral law reform gives Beijing control over candidate selection in the Special Administrative Region's parliamentary elections, allowing it to exclude candidates who are not considered loyal.

President Xi Jinping ordered the publication of the electoral law change on Tuesday, the Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported. The changes to the Special Administrative Region's electoral system were approved by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, Tam Yiu-chung, Hong Kong's sole delegate, told the AFP news agency.

China's People's Congress had launched the amendment to the Special Administrative Region's electoral law in mid-March. It is intended to ensure that Hong Kong can only be run by "patriots". In this way, Beijing wants to gain control over the selection of candidates. Among other things, the Chinese leadership is to be given veto rights to be able to exclude certain candidates.

Regional News • Americas • Brazil
Brazilian Foreign Policy Ministry Ernesto Araújo resigns
Ernesto Araújo (left) with Jair Bolsonaro
Ernesto Araújo (left) with Jair Bolsonaro Credit: Palácio do Planalto (Public Domain)

The polemic Brazilian Foreign Policy Ministry Ernesto Araújo presented his resignation Monday to the President Jair Bolsonaro.

In the Brazilian Congress, the assessment is that the minister's performance isolated Brazil in the international scenario and hindered the obtaining of vaccine doses against Covid-19.

Mr. Araújo adopted in his administration the same principles as the foreign policy of former US President Donald Trump. This stance generated friction with important trading partners, such as China, the main destination for Brazilian exports, as well as the largest producer of vaccine supplies in the world.

Business • Economy
Stranded ship suspends circulation in the Suez Canal
Container ship stranded on the Suez Canal
Container ship stranded on the Suez Canal

Oil prices jumped about 6% on Wednesday after a ship ran aground in the Suez Canal, and worries that the incident could tie up crude shipments gave prices a boost after a slide over the last week. The situation is affecting the connections of other ships that carry oil and may now have to look for alternative routes, reveals "Bloomberg" this Wednesday, March 24th.

The Evergreen container with 400 meters in length and 220 thousand tons was stranded when making the connection between China and the port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands, worthless the several attempts to get it afloat again.

Regional News • Asia • China
Chinese military restricts use of Tesla cars among personnel
Tesla Model S-1
Tesla Model S-1 Credit: Steve Jurvetson (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

China's government is restricting the use of Tesla Inc.'s vehicles by military staff and employees of key state-owned companies, citing concerns that the data collected by the cars could be a source of national security leaks, according to people familiar with the effort.

Fears over how data is handled by tech manufacturers also underscore how the rising popularity of highly digitalized cars-loaded with cameras and sensors and with built-in connectivity that allows carmakers to amass data-is stoking concerns over privacy and even national security. They were told by their agencies that among the government's concerns is that Tesla vehicles can be constantly in record mode, using cameras and other sensors to log various details, including short videos.

Regional News • Asia • China
Beijing flights cancelled after China's worst sandstorm in a decade
Beijing during the sandstorm
Beijing during the sandstorm Credit: Twitter Reproduction

More than 400 flights out of Beijing's two main airports were cancelled amid high winds and low visibility. The National Meteorological Center said Monday's storm had developed in the Gobi Desert in the Inner Mongolia Region.

With its mix of desert and grassy steppe, Inner Mongolia is particularly prone to extreme weather resulting from resource exploitation.

The National Meteorological Center forecasted the sand and dust would affect 12 provinces and regions from Xinjiang in the far northwest to Heilongjiang in the northeast and Tianjin's eastern coastal port city.

Regional News • Asia • China
Electoral reform: China's People's Congress votes to change Hong Kong's electoral law
Hong Kong skyline
Hong Kong skyline Credit: Mark Huguet

According to the decision of the People's Congress, which was published by the state news agency Xinhua, the committee to elect the Hong Kong chief executive should be enlarged from 1,200 to 1,500 members. "This is the latest move by Beijing to erode space for democratic debate in Hong Kong, contrary to promises made by China," British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said, according to a statement. Following the enactment of the controversial security law last year, the election reform is another blow to Hong Kong's liberal system.

Technology • Internet & Web
LinkedIn suspends new sign-ups in China
LinkedIn suspends new sign-ups in China
Credit: inlytics | LinkedIn Analytics Tool

Microsoft owned professional network service LinkedIn has suspended new sign-ups in China to remain in "compliance with local law". The announcement comes a week after a cyberattack on Microsoft by a group that was "assessed to be state-sponsored and operating out of China."

"While we remain focused on our goal of creating economic opportunity for our members in China, we're temporarily pausing new member sign-ups for LinkedIn China as we work to ensure we remain in compliance with local law. We’re a global platform with an obligation to respect the laws that apply to us, including adhering to Chinese government regulations for our localized version of LinkedIn in China," the company said in a statement Tuesday.

Science • Space
China and Russia to build lunar space station
China and Russia to build lunar space station
Credit: William Andrus (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

Russian space agency Roscosmos says it has signed an agreement with China's National Space Administration to develop research facilities on the moon's surface, in orbit or both. Both countries' space agencies say the facilities will be available for use by other nations.

The news comes as Russia prepares to celebrate the 60th anniversary of its first-ever crewed space flight.

Regional News • Americas • South America
China cut state loans for Latin America countries during 2020
China Development Bank logo
China Development Bank logo Credit: China Development Bank

For the first time since 2006, China’s two biggest policy banks — the China Development Bank (CDB) and the Export-Import Bank of China — made no new loans to countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

According to analysts, the pandemic and the deterioration of financial conditions in the countries contributed to this, which made China more cautious and less willing to finance governments and risky projects.

Sports • Soccer
Chinese football champions Jiangsu FC cease operations
Jiangsu FC crest
Jiangsu FC crest

The champion of the Chinese Football League, Jiangsu FC, ceases playing with immediate effect. This was announced by the retail giant Suning, which owns the club. Jiangsu had won the Chinese Super League title for the first time only about three months ago.

According to the group, they want to focus on the retail business in the future. Other business areas not related to the core business would be closed and scaled back. At the beginning of the month, the Group announced that it was in a difficult situation due to the Covid-19 crisis. Jiangsu has allegedly amassed around $90 million in debt.

Regional News • Asia • China
Non-binding motion in Dutch parliament says that China commits genocide of Uyghurs
Non-binding motion in Dutch parliament says that China commits genocide of Uyghurs
Credit: © Hubertl / Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

As the first European country, the Dutch parliament has passed a non-binding motion declaring the treatment of the Uyghur Muslim minority by China genocide.

The Dutch motion said that actions by the Chinese government such as "measures intended to prevent births" and "having punishment camps" fell under United Nations Resolution 260, generally known as the genocide convention.

Climate & Environment
BNP Paribas will no longer finance companies that exploit deforested land in the Amazon
BNP Paribas logo
BNP Paribas logo Credit: BNP Paribas

France's biggest bank, BNP Paribas on Monday promised to stop financing companies that buy cattle or soya produced on Amazon land deforested or converted after 2008. The bank also said it will encourage clients not to buy or produce beef or soy from the Cerrado, which occupies 20 per cent of Brazil, only financing those who adopt a zero deforestation strategy by 2025.

Population growth and rapidly expanding middle classes in countries like China are stimulating an explosion of demand for soybeans and increasing consumption of meat and dairy products.

Regional News • Asia
India and China agree to withdraw troops from Himalayan lake

After months of tension, China and India have agreed to withdraw troops from their border dispute in the Himalayas. After several talks, an agreement had been reached, Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh told parliament. He said an agreement had been reached to withdraw troops from the disputed border on the northern and southern shores of Lake Pangong Tso.

China had already said Wednesday that both sides had begun withdrawing their border troops there. Clashes had last occurred near the lake in May.

Climate & Environment
Atmospheric ozone layer recovery is back on track
Atmospheric ozone layer recovery is back on track
Credit: / Clyde RS

Studies published in the Nature journal report that harmful emissions of CFC-11 chemicals to the atmosphere dropped significantly. Unlawful emissions from eastern China factories are no longer found. The ozone layer is expected to be fully recovered by 2060.

Regional News • Asia • China
China bans BBC World News over alleged "illegal content"
China bans BBC World News over alleged "illegal content"
Credit: / K. Mitch Hodge

Diplomatic tensions between China and the United Kingdom continue to rise. After the expulsion of three Chinese diplomats and the revocation of the broadcasting license for the news station CGTN, China is now reacting in turn by banning the international service of the British BBC, the station BBC World News.

The station was banned for "illegal content" because it violated reporting guidelines in the country, the China Broadcasting Regulatory Commission announced. BBC World News will no longer be allowed to broadcast in mainland China, according to the statement. It said it "does not accept the new annual broadcasting application."

WHO team in Wuhan says 'extremely unlikely' virus leaked from a lab in China
WHO press conference in Wuhan
WHO press conference in Wuhan Credit: WHO (YouTube Capture)

After visiting the Wuhan Institute of Virology, World Health Organization experts have closed the lid on a controversial theory that coronavirus came from a lab leak or was made by scientists.

Peter Ben Embarek, WHO lead investigator, said the next step would be to "look at the possible pathways of introduction of the virus into the human population," and for any evidence that it might have made that jump into humans earlier than currently known.

Technology • Internet & Web
Clubhouse is now blocked in China
Clubhouse is now blocked in China
Credit: William Krause

Thousands of Chinese users suddenly found themselves unable to access Clubhouse on early Monday evening as the country prepared to start the week-long Lunar New Year holiday.

Over the weekend, several large Chinese-language chat rooms were set up on the invite-only audio app, where guests talked about politically-charged topics such as the ongoing crackdown against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, democracy in Hong Kong and the sovereignty of Taiwan.

Clubhouse has faced criticism at home in the U.S. for its lack of effective moderation and abuse-prevention practices, so it's hardly a surprise that it has fallen afoul of China's rather more strict enforcement of measures designed to stifle the spread of information the government deems inappropriate for discussion.