Torrential rains from Tropical Cyclone Seroja, one of the most destructive storms to hit the region in years, turned small communities into wastelands of mud and uprooted trees
Torrential rains from Tropical Cyclone Seroja, one of the most destructive storms to hit the region in years, turned small communities into wastelands of mud and uprooted trees
Lawrence Wong has been appointed Singapore's new Finance Minister, taking over from former PM-designate Heng Swee Keat, by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a Cabinet reshuffle barely a year since his team took office.
Singapore’s private property prices increased 3.3% in the first three months, higher than the preliminary estimate of 2.9%, the Urban Redevelopment Authority said.
Taiwan has vowed to safeguard its own security as it sought to play down remarks by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga that there was no possibility of committing Japanese forces to help defend the island. “It is an unshirkable duty for us to safeguard our own national security, and Taiwan will shoulder the responsibility by itself to protect its people’s homes and defend the country,” Joanne Ou, spokeswoman for Taiwan’s foreign ministry, said on Thursday. Suga on Tuesday told the Diet, Japan’s legislature, that a reference to Taiwan in a joint statement released after his meeting with US President Joe Biden last Friday “does not presuppose military involvement at all”. Do you have questions about the biggest topics and trends from around the world? Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new platform of curated content with explainers, FAQs, analyses and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team. He was responding to a question from an opposition politician about the possibility of Japan joining the United States in sending forces to help Taiwan in the event of an attack by Beijing, which claims sovereignty over the democratic island and vows to bring it into its fold by force if necessary. In the joint statement, the US and Japan underscored the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and encouraged a peaceful resolution of cross-strait issues. That was the only reference to Taiwan in the statement, which covered a host of regional and global issues as well as mutual defence and bilateral cooperation. The reference was the first since Tokyo switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing from Taipei in 1972, and was reported prominently by the Japanese media as a sign of Japan taking a hawkish stance towards Beijing. It triggered strong protest from Beijing, which warned Japan and the US to stay out of what it considers “internal affairs” involving Taiwan. On Thursday, Taiwan’s foreign ministry said in a separate statement that the US-Japan defence alliance was the cornerstone of peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region, and that the reference in the joint statement reflected the two countries’ strong consensus over security in the Taiwan Strait and Indo-Pacific. Did Japan ignore alternatives to dumping contaminated Fukushima water? It noted that Suga had previously told the Diet that Japan’s position was to have the cross-strait dispute resolved by peaceful means. “We welcome concerns from international society on cross-strait peace and stability … and it is our own responsibility to safeguard our national security,” the statement said. Taiwan would continue to communicate and cooperate closely with the US, Japan and other like-minded countries in upholding cross-strait stability and maintaining security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region, it said. More from South China Morning Post:Can Japan afford Suga’s military spending promise to Biden?Biden, Suga call for ‘peace and stability across Taiwan Strait’‘Uncomfortable signal to China’: Japan’s Suga raises Hong Kong, South China Sea, Xinjiang in phone call with India’s ModiThis article Taiwan vows to defend itself after Yoshihide Suga qualifies Japan’s stance first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2021.
A Singaporean woman who wanted to buy items from outside the barricade of Geylang Serai market during Phase 2 of the COVID-19 reopening was spotted by a safe distancing ambassador (SDA).
Both veteran Marxists who have spent decades campaigning for Hong Kong democracy, Chan Po-ying and Leung Kwok-hung viewed marriage as something of a patriarchal and unnecessary institution.
A Syrian officer was killed and three soldiers wounded Thursday in strikes launched by Israel after a missile was fired towards a secretive nuclear site in the Jewish state, a monitor said.
Indonesia's desperate search for a missing submarine and its 53 crew was focused on a signal from an unidentified object Friday, with just hours to go before the stricken vessel's oxygen reserves ran out.
In a rare public appearance since retiring nearly three years ago, Morris Chang, the 89-year-old founder of the world’s largest contract chip maker, said China is not yet a competitor in chipmaking and that Taiwan should defend its leadership in semiconductor manufacturing. Chang, who established Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) in 1987, is seen as the father of Taiwan’s success in the foundry business. At a forum hosted by Economic Daily in Taipei on Wednesday, Chang spoke about separate efforts by China and the US to build up their own chip-making capabilities. “Mainland China has given out subsidies to the tune of tens of billions of US dollars over the past 20 years but it is still five years behind TSMC,” Chang said. “Its logic chip design capability is still one to two years behind the US and Taiwan. The mainland is still not yet a competitor.”Do you have questions about the biggest topics and trends from around the world? Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new platform of curated content with explainers, FAQs, analyses and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team. China had relied heavily on TSMC in the past as its source for advanced chips but is now grooming homegrown champions such as Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC) as the country seeks to achieve semiconductor self-sufficiency amid tensions with the US. Chang said semiconductor manufacturing is a vital industry for Taiwan, with a profound impact on the daily lives of its people, the island’s economy, and national defence. “It is also the first industry for which Taiwan has earned a competitive position on the global stage,” he said. “I call on the government, society and TSMC to keep hold of it tightly.” As well as the efforts in China and the US, the European Union (EU) is looking to bring core semiconductor manufacturing back to the continent. Even before US President Joe Biden pledged to invest US$50 billion to strengthen chip manufacturing at home, the EU announced a goal of doubling its share of semiconductor production to 20 per cent of the world total by 2030. Taiwan hits back at mainland Chinese firms fishing for its chip makers In his speech, Chang also took a swipe at US chip giant Intel, describing its recent decision to enter the contract chip making market as “very ironic” because it turned down an opportunity to invest in TSMC more than three decades ago. Contract chip makers like TSMC typically take orders from so-called fabless chip makers like Qualcomm, which design their products but outsource the manufacturing. Chang said he was rejected by Intel when he approached it for funding in 1985. “In the past, Intel was the alpha sneering at us and thought that we would never get big,” he said. “They never thought the business of [outsourced] wafer fabrication would become so important today.” Chang said the US is also at a disadvantage compared with Taiwan because it lacks engineers dedicated to the semiconductor manufacturing sector, adding that the “US level of dedication to manufacturing was absolutely no match for that of Taiwan”. “What I need right now are capable and dedicated engineers, technicians and operators. And they have to be willing to throw themselves into manufacturing,” he said. “In the US, doing manufacturing isn’t popular. It hasn’t been popular for decades.” Chang said that Samsung Electronics remains TSMC’s biggest rival in outsourced wafer fabrication, adding that South Korea enjoys many of the same advantages as Taiwan, which include an ability to foster top-notch talent for the industry. More from South China Morning Post:US-China tech war: China becomes world’s top semiconductor equipment market as Beijing pushes local chip industrySemiconductor giant Intel wins patent infringement trial over chips, dodging US$1 billion-plus blowTaiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen taps TSMC’s Morris Chang to represent island at ApecChip maker SMIC’s founder says ‘optimistic’ China can catch up with US in semiconductorsUS-China tech war: semiconductor supply chain risks a worry for both sidesThis article TSMC founder Morris Chang says China’s semiconductor industry still five years behind despite decades of subsidies first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2021.
The Chinese public is crowing on social media after French fashion brand Chanel lost a trademark dispute to telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies this week.The dispute was over an application filed by Huawei to the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) to register a trademark for a brand for computer hardware featuring two vertical interlocking semi-circles, similar to the iconic Chanel logo.After examining the visual, phonetic, and conceptual aspects of the logos, the General Court of the European Union said found that, while they shared some similarities, their “visual differences are significant”, according to a press release issued on Wednesday. On Chinese social media, supporters of Huawei called Chanel “pengci” – a Chinese slang meaning to intentionally pose as a victim to receive compensation. The phrase was coined when people in China deliberately fell in front of moving cars to pretend they were hit to extort medical fees and payment from drivers.“It’s classic pengci. They are not similar at all. You can not look at one logo and think of the other,” said one online user.They also claimed that Chanel was trying to tarnish Huawei’s international reputation.“Chanel’s sign is horizontal, Huawei’s is vertical, that’s such an obvious difference, even my three-year-old niece knows,” someone said on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service. “If you want to pick a fight with Huawei, just say so!”“Does Chanel not want the Chinese market anymore? It’s a piece of cake for us to drive you out. We’ll give you a warning for this time,” another said. In China, public support for Huawei has hinged on nationalistic sentiment and pride in the company being a homegrown brand with global reach.During the saga of Meng Wanzhou, Huawei became a patriotic symbol of China’s unfair treatment on the global stage. Meng is the daughter of founder Ren Zhengfei and chief financial officer of the company. She is under house arrest in Canada and is fighting an extradition request by the US.Huawei also became the most high-profile corporation caught in the US-China trade war after the Trump administration targeted the company with a series of restrictions, including cutting off its ability to access chips made with US technology.These high-profile geopolitical events have, in turn, helped the brand increase its popularity in the domestic market. Huawei’s 2020 revenue grew by 3.8 per cent compared to 2019.Do you have questions about the biggest topics and trends from around the world? Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new platform of curated content with explainers, FAQs, analyses and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team. The trademark dispute with Chanel dates back to September 2017, when Huawei filed the application.In December that year, Chanel filed a notice of opposition claiming Huawei’s mark “bore similarities to its own mark registered for perfumes, cosmetics, costume jewellery, leather goods and clothes”.In 2019, the EUIPO rejected Chanel’s application, declaring Huawei’s mark was not similar to Chanel and that Chanel’s mark had a reputation and the public was not likely to be confused about it.The luxury brand then challenged the ruling at the Luxembourg-based General Court, which upheld the previous decision this week.“In particular, Chanel’s marks have more rounded curves, thicker lines and a horizontal orientation, whereas the orientation of the Huawei mark is vertical,” the court statement said.The ruling can be appealed to the EU Court of Justice. It is unclear at the moment whether Chanel will take a further step. More from South China Morning Post:A new Huawei Mate V foldable phone might be on the wayUS-China tech war: Huawei pushes licensing of 5G mobile technology amid struggles with Washington’s trade sanctionsHSBC takes to WeChat social network to deny ‘framing’ Huawei in US investigations as it comes under attack in Chinese mediaChanel loses EU trademark court fight with Huawei over logoThe real reason Louis Vuitton and Chanel are raising their prices? Brands aren’t just weathering the pandemic – luxury goods only get more desirable when they’re less accessibleThis article Mocking jubilation on Chinese social media as Chanel loses trademark dispute to Huawei first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2021.
An outspoken Hong Kong church leader known for his public criticism of the national security law and the ill-fated extradition bill that triggered the 2019 anti-government protests has resigned from his post and moved to Britain. Reverend Lo Hing-choi, who was reelected president of the city’s 80,000-strong Baptist Convention last year and was due to finish his term at the end of this month, said his abrupt departure on Tuesday was prompted by the erosion of Hong Kong’s unique freedoms. “The biggest – or the only – reason behind it is the changes in Hong Kong and its shrinking freedom. The government policies have deviated from the principles and basis of reasonableness and fairness,” he wrote in a piece published in the Christian Times on Wednesday night.Do you have questions about the biggest topics and trends from around the world? Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new platform of curated content with explainers, FAQs, analyses and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team. “Hong Kong currently is not just being torn apart, but there is a dislocation created by those in power.” Hong Kong churches and the national security law: pastors censor sermons, online posts amid fears The Baptist Convention of Hong Kong under Lo’s leadership had openly urged the government in 2019 to withdraw its extradition bill, which would have allowed the rendition of criminal suspects to mainland China. The legislation was eventually scrapped, but not before it sparked months of often violent protests. Last June, he also published an article slamming the Beijing-imposed national security law, saying it would officially mark the end of the “one country, two systems” framework, deprive Hongkongers of their right to free speech and destroy the city’s judicial system. Lo said his friends and peers had been urging him to get prepared to leave since the imposition of the security law, and especially after he was called out by pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Pao in July and September. “I did not take it seriously at first as I thought I’m just a small potato whom no one cares about,” he wrote. “But then when I saw how the authorities went after moderate figures who have contributed to society one after another and locked them all up, I have a clearer picture of my future.” Lo, who will soon turn 70, admitted it was not easy for him to leave behind Hong Kong and his church for Britain, saying he was grappling with the guilt of being a “deserter”. He said he made up his mind to leave this week after he managed to secure a seat on a flight for his pet, and because he feared that if he did not leave immediately, a rebound of Covid-19 cases would leave him trapped in the city for a long time. In an interview with the Post last year, Lo said he had taken down all his online criticism of the national security law hours before it came into effect, as he did not want his opinions to cause trouble for the Baptist Church. He also said he intended to keep a low profile. Hong Kong union accused of violating security law by screening documentary In a message posted on its website, the Baptist Convention confirmed Lo had resigned on Tuesday for personal reasons and expressed gratitude to the pastor for his contributions since taking charge of the organisation in 2018. He would be temporarily replaced by Reverend Lam Hoi-sing until the end of this month, it said. A number of outspoken church leaders have left the city in the wake of the national security law. Among them were evangelical pastors Wong Siu-yung and Yeung Kin-keung, who signed a joint “Gospel Declaration” calling on followers to point out wrongdoing by the authorities and to resist any totalitarian regime. The pair later announced they were going into self-imposed exile after being accused by pro-Beijing newspapers of inciting secession and subversion under the sweeping security law. More from South China Morning Post:London making it easier for Hongkongers to apply for visas through BN(O) schemeOpposition-leaning Hong Kong union that screened protest documentary accused of violating national security law by pro-Beijing politicianHong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai slapped with extra national security law charge, also accused of perverting course of justice over fugitive’s escape to TaiwanThis article Outspoken Hong Kong pastor and head of Baptist Convention leaves city over national security law fears first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2021.
Japan will hold a joint military drill with US and French troops in the country's southwest next month, the defence minister said Friday, as China's actions in regional waters raise concern.
Tributes poured in Friday for popular Bollywood music composer Shravan Rathod, who died in a Mumbai hospital aged 66 after being diagnosed with Covid-19.
More aid to Africa and Latin America, greater funding for technology industries and a more robust US development bank were among the initiatives added on Wednesday to a landmark bill intended to improve the US’ ability to compete with China. “The issues facing us today in foreign policy, and perhaps for the entire 21st century, is going to be China, China and China,” said Jim Risch of Idaho, the senior Republican on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, in the hearing on the Strategic Competition Act of 2021. “I can’t overstate the significance of this bill.”Do you have questions about the biggest topics and trends from around the world? Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new platform of curated content with explainers, FAQs, analyses and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team. The legislation, which enjoys strong bipartisan support, represents an effort by Congress to strengthen US tools deemed necessary to counter Beijing and to bolster US capabilities as the two economic giants increasingly face off as “strategic competitors”. “China is strategic competition – not because that is what we want or what we have tried to create but because of the choices that Beijing has and is making,” said Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, the committee’s chairman. “China today is challenging the United States and international community across every dimension of power – political, diplomatic, economic, innovation, military, even cultural – and with an alternative and deeply disturbing model for global governance.” US lawmakers prepare a sweeping effort to counter China The legislation is now expected to go to the full senate for debate and a vote. While it has several steps to go before enactment, the hearing underscores its strong support and broad ambitions. Risch predicted that it could end up with as many as 80 votes in the 100-seat Senate, an extraordinary level of support amid an era in Washington of deep partisan division. Even before Wednesday’s amending, the bill was already 281 pages and is almost certain to grow. A Pew Research poll in May 2020 found that nine out of 10 Americans regard China as a competitor or an enemy, rather than as a partner. The bill as written would add new sanctions on Chinese officials accused of human rights violations in Hong Kong and Xinjiang; strengthen US ties with Taiwan; and try to further limit Beijing’s military operations and territorial claims in the South China Sea and beyond. The legislation follows a recent spike in military tensions involving the self-governing island of Taiwan, which China considers a renegade province, and in waters around the Philippines. The bill would also earmark US$10 million to “promote democracy” in Hong Kong and require a State Department report on ways that China uses Hong Kong’s unique status to circumvent US laws and safeguards. Several senators cited Beijing’s policies toward the Uygurs in the far western Xinjiang region as justification for their hardline amendments. Up to 1 million of the mostly Muslim community are detained in camps there, according to civic groups and the United Nations, with some accounts accusing China of using torture, forced labour and sterilisations. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has upheld a Trump administration determination that the abuses constitute genocide, although that wording is not included in this bill. Beijing has characterised the camps as employment and training centres, a claim that has been met with growing scepticism in the US and Europe. In a bid to bolster its case, the Chinese embassy in Washington – just as the hearing was starting on Wednesday morning – announced an online event entitled “Xinjiang is a wonderful land”. The May programme is to include a 20-minute session on “Xinjiang residents on their everyday work and life”. One addition to the bill on Wednesday would include more effective programmes to counter China’s financial aid, lending and persuasion campaigns in Africa and Latin America, with senators bemoaning shortfalls in US efforts in those regions. Ideally, senators said, those would also include attempts to ramp up vaccine distribution to counter Beijing’s “vaccine diplomacy” around the world. The problems facing US companies looking to return home from China Another amendment would add funding to make the US more competitive in countering Beijing’s bid to establish supremacy in key technologies, as outlined in its Made in China 2025 economic blueprint. This is one of dozens of US efforts and proposals to make supply chains less dependent on China, bolster US semiconductor capacity and put more research funds into science and technology. “The best thing we can do is to start by investing in ourselves,” said Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, a close ally of President Joe Biden. But Coons also warned that state and federal funding is limited in the wake of the pandemic and its related economic downturn, which would require “tough choices” on some provisions in the Menendez-Risch legislation. Another new provision strengthens the US International Development Finance Corp as it tries to compete against the China Development Bank, which has played an instrumental role in Beijing’s signature Belt and Road Initiative, a global infrastructure programme. Proposed reforms include treating equity investments as loans and raising the agency’s equity cap to US$100 billion, from US$60 billion. Senators acknowledged, however, that Chinese spending leaves the US in the dust. China’s development bank is more than 10 times the size of its US counterpart, while Beijing’s loans to developing countries totalled US$462 billion from 2008 to 2019, vastly more than Washington’s outlays, they said. “American businesses need more tools to compete with China,” said Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey. “The US is decidedly being left behind.” Several amendments did not make it into the bill, including one by budget hawks to cut financing for the National Science Foundation and the Inter-American Development Bank. Another sought to upgrade the title of Americans working at the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto US embassy on the island, from “director” to “representative”. Some also questioned the effectiveness of some spending in the bill, including a proposed “Countering Chinese Influence Fund”, that has a five-year price tag of US$1.5 billion. Weifeng Zhong, a fellow at the libertarian Mercatus Centre, said he found it “refreshing” that “US policymakers recognise the increasing importance of the US-Taiwan partnership”. However, he added, “many of the proposed uses of the fund are about making Americans aware of China’s malign influence – which they already are – while much-needed details on how policymakers would actually confront it are still lacking.”More from South China Morning Post:US and EU should join forces to check China’s influence in Africa, Indo-Pacific, Republican senator proposesChina’s strategy in Africa ‘isn’t always working’, Biden UN nominee Linda Thomas-Greenfield tells senatorsUS lawmakers urge multilateral approach to counter ChinaThis article US senators propose more programmes to help competition with China first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2021.
A Canadian judge on Wednesday adjourned Chinese Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou's extradition hearing until August, giving her team time to review newly obtained documents from investment bank HSBC they say are key to her defense.
A former pro-independence group member has been jailed for 12 years for his role in Hong Kong’s biggest seizure of explosives in two decades, the heaviest sentence handed down on charges relating to the 2019 civil unrest. During sentencing at the High Court on Friday, Mr Justice Andrew Chan Hing-wai said the deadly materials were intended to create “terror among citizens” in pursuing the city’s separation from mainland China during the anti-government protests. Louis Lo Yat-sun had pleaded guilty to one count of keeping explosives with intent to endanger life or property over 1kg of triacetone triperoxide, also known as TATP, seized in an industrial building in Tsuen Wan in July 2019.Do you have questions about the biggest topics and trends from around the world? Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new platform of curated content with explainers, FAQs, analyses and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team. The 29-year-old appeared calm upon hearing the sentence. He waved goodbye to his family and friends before being taken away by prison officers. Despite a lack of evidence linking Lo to the civil unrest, Chan held the defendant had intended to use the explosives to subvert the government and push for the city’s independence, given the political propaganda found in the industrial flat, his residence and on his mobile phone. “The defendant in this case was going after the HKSAR government, the stability of the region, with the intention of creating fear and terror among citizens within society,” the judge said. Lo, a former human resources manager at a logistics company, was a member of the Hong Kong National Front (HKNF) until the group was dissolved in June 2020, just ahead of the promulgation of the Beijing-imposed national security law. He was the first defendant to plead guilty to charges arising from the 2019 unrest at the High Court, where no sentencing cap applies. His offence is punishable by 20 years’ imprisonment under the Crimes Ordinance. The prosecution said Lo had stored the TATP in multiple batches inside a rented studio in the Lung Shing Factory Building. Police found the explosives during a raid on July 19, 2019. Officers also discovered 10 petrol bombs, materials used to promote Hong Kong independence, and large amounts of equipment used by protesters, including helmets, masks and body shields. Bomb disposal officers detonated the TATP in a controlled explosion on the building’s rooftop after concluding the material was unstable and could cause considerable damage if it went off accidentally. The entire building as well as nearby streets were cordoned off that day. Further investigation found that Lo had rented the premises in February of that year by using the name of a friend as the tenant. Lo had told the friend he would use the space to store material for the HKNF. However, following Lo’s arrest, the front issued a statement denying any knowledge of the explosives seized. While police had earlier suggested links between the seized TATP and an anti-government march on July 21, 2019, prosecutors were unable to ascertain Lo’s motive, as he refused to say how exactly he planned to use the powerful explosives. Initially accusing Lo of producing the explosives, prosecutors agreed to amend the charge to one of keeping explosives given his guilty plea.More from South China Morning Post:Large-scale counterterrorism drill staged at Hong Kong airport to strengthen city’s response to bomb attacks, marauding knifemenHong Kong protests: woman injured during intense clashes loses legal fight over police access of her medical recordsThis article Hong Kong protests: pro-independence group member jailed for 12 years over explosives find wanted to ‘create terror’ in city, judge says first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2021.
The Myanmar military's crackdown on anti-coup protesters has displaced close to a quarter of a million people, a United Nations rights envoy said Wednesday.
Japan announced a new virus state of emergency in Tokyo and three other regions on Friday, as the country battles surging infections just three months before the Olympic opening ceremony.
China has kept up a sustained presence around a disputed South China Sea reef for two years, according to a Washington-based think tank – despite Beijing’s claims that its vessels were only sheltering in the area. The Centre for Strategic and International Studies’ Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), which tracked the vessels’ automatic identification system broadcasts, also identified 14 of the Chinese ships captured in photos and videos taken by Philippine coastguard patrols at Whitsun Reef. Whitsun is a V-shaped reef in a shallow coral region of the resource-rich Spratly Islands and is now at the centre of a deepening maritime row between Beijing and Manila.Do you have questions about the biggest topics and trends from around the world? Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new platform of curated content with explainers, FAQs, analyses and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team. According to AMTI, the 14 ships, all from southern China’s Guangdong province, were first tracked patrolling Union Banks, which includes Whitsun Reef, in early 2019 and nine of them have broadcast AIS from Whitsun several times. “As with other known militia deployments, the behaviour of these vessels defies commercial explanation. Most have remained in the area for weeks, or even months, riding at anchor in clusters without engaging in any fishing activity,” AMTI said in a report on Wednesday. “Many are trawlers which, by definition, must move to fish. And blue skies have debunked the initial excuse from the Chinese embassy in Manila that they were riding out a storm.” Tension between China and the Philippines has intensified in recent months after Manila reported more than 200 Chinese vessels near Whitsun Reef in the disputed South China Sea in early March and 44 ships from the Chinese “maritime militia” were still there despite the good weather earlier this month. Whitsun Reef row: could the Philippines lose another South China Sea feature to Beijing? Beijing insisted that at the time these ships were civilian fishing boats taking shelter from bad weather and that they had “no plans” to stay there permanently, but the Philippine government has asked Beijing to withdraw the boats. Philippine foreign secretary Teodoro Locsin warned that Manila would lodge diplomatic protests every day until “the last one’s gone, like it should be by now if it’s really fishing”. The presence of the Chinese vessels deepens concern over whether Beijing is deploying maritime militia – fishing vessels in paramilitary service as required by Chinese law – to gain control over the contested waters. On Monday, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte broke his silence over the Whitsun dispute and said he was “not so much interested” in fishing but was prepared to send the military to “stake a claim” over oil and mineral resources in the South China Sea, even though “it will be bloody”. In the report, AMTI identified five out of the six Chinese vessels tied together at Whitsun Reef as members of the Yuemaobinyu fleet registered in the Bohe harbour in Maoming, Guangdong province. The Yuemaobinyu fleet caught international attention in 2019 when one of its boats, Yuemaobinyu 42212, rammed and sank a Philippine boat at Reed Bank, another disputed area in the South China Sea. The incident sparked demonstrations in Manila until Beijing gave assurances that the Chinese captain, who later issued an apology, would compensate the Philippines for the loss of the ship. China, Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan all have claims over the entire Union Banks, which includes Whitsun Reef that falls in the Philippine’s exclusive economic zone in the Spratly Islands and is about 320km (200 miles) west of the Philippine province of Palawan. ‘It will be bloody’: Duterte threatens to ‘stake a claim’ over South China Sea energy resources Citing satellite imagery from Planet Labs, AMTI said Chinese vessels appeared to frequently bounce between Whitsun and other parts of Union Banks, such as the unoccupied Kennan Reef next to the Chinese base at Hughes. “The number of vessels at Whitsun has fluctuated over this period, but never entirely disappeared,” the report said, citing an incomplete count between February of last year and April 11, which showed a peak in November when a total of 196 vessels were visible at Union Banks, including 129 at Whitsun Reef. When the Philippine coastguard documented more than 200 vessels at Whitsun in early March, it also included some Chinese and Vietnamese coastguard and navy vessels as well as Vietnamese fishing boats. “But the vast majority are Chinese fishing vessels 50 metres or more in length, which distinguishes them from their smaller Vietnamese counterparts,” it said. More from South China Morning Post:Whitsun Reef: Philippines files new diplomatic protest against ChinaChina-Philippines Whitsun Reef dispute could get worse as US chips inChina, US send warships into disputed waters as tensions rise over Whitsun ReefPhilippine defence officials deny threat to withdraw support from Rodrigo Duterte over South China Sea row with BeijingSouth China Sea: Manila gets tough on Beijing over Whitsun Reef row, earning praise from even Duterte’s criticsThis article South China Sea: Chinese boats keep up steady presence at disputed Whitsun Reef, says US ship tracker first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2021.
After an international mission to China turned up more questions than answers about the pandemic origins, the WHO is evaluating how to move forward through a diplomatic quagmire to solve the mystery.
Cathay Pacific Airways will close its Canadian pilot base, and is considering doing the same to ones in Australia and New Zealand, putting hundreds of jobs at risk, the Post has learned. The moves come as part of a review of the airline’s overseas cockpit crew operations, which will also see it re-evaluate its European and United States pilot bases later this year, according to a memo sent to staff on Thursday. The memo indicated the airline would start to transfer pilots to Hong Kong on a voluntary basis. However, if the carrier were to transfer overseas pilots to Hong Kong, it could prove controversial. Existing expatriate cockpit crew in the city are only receiving short-term work visa approvals, and there is a large pool of unemployed local pilots following the shutdown of Cathay Dragon last year. Hong Kong authorities could block the move.Do you have questions about the biggest topics and trends from around the world? Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new platform of curated content with explainers, FAQs, analyses and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team. Furloughed Europe- and US-based pilots have been receiving half of their salary, while their Canadian colleagues were getting two-thirds. Since April 1, however, Cathay has not been paying its Australian crews. All overseas passenger fleet pilots had been stood down since May last year, the airline said. Deborah McConnochie, Cathay’s general manager for aircrew, said the decision to close the Canada base was “not taken lightly”. She said the airline had also written to Australian and New Zealand pilots to start a consultative process “based on a proposal to close those base areas”. “We have not made any decisions on bases other than Canada at this time nor any general decision on the future of bases – each base area will be considered on its own merits and any decision to close, maintain or restructure that base area will not have a bearing on any subsequent base reviews,” she said in a statement. “Covid-19 continues to have a devastating impact on our industry and our airlines,” she added. “Following the record loss for 2020, all of the company’s cash preservation measures continue unabated. It is clear that we must continue to review all areas of the business to ensure we emerge competitively from this unprecedented global crisis.” Hong Kong’s flag carrier lost a record HK$21.6 billion (US$2.8 billion) last year. In October last year, the airline shut down its regional carrier Cathay Dragon amid a sweeping restructuring that cut 5,900 jobs, mostly in Hong Kong. Hundreds of jobs had also been lost earlier in the year when the airline closed its United States and Vancouver cabin crew centres. ‘Hunger Games-style’ fight for British flights as Hongkongers battle to get home As part of the restructuring, Hong Kong-based pilots agreed to steep pay cuts in exchange for job security. The carrier is still burning as much as HK$1.9 billion a month as the pandemic continues to strangle global travel. A Cathay Pacific spokeswoman confirmed the review of overseas pilot bases had resulted in the closure of the Canadian base and consultations on facilities elsewhere. However, the airline stressed that closing the Australia and New Zealand bases remained a proposal, and a final decision had not been made. “We will consult with our employees in good faith. We will work through this process as quickly as we can,” the spokeswoman said. Cathay’s hoped-for recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic has faltered recently amid low vaccination rates in Hong Kong and a lack of clarity from the government as to when it plans to reopen its borders in a meaningful way. Cathay Pacific’s parent Swire reports first ever annual loss The airline currently employs 19,452 people, according to its 2020 annual report, down 29 per cent from last year. Cathay is still grappling with a surplus of pilots – particularly in its Boeing 777 fleet – as most of its passenger aircraft remain grounded, according to sources. On Wednesday, the airline industry’s global trade body warned a rebound in passenger traffic would be slower this year than previously anticipated. Luya You, transportation analyst at Bocom International, said further workforce “reshuffling” would be necessary in light of the weaker-than-expected recovery. “Global operations for most airlines are still up in the air at this point, with most choosing to shift resources to regional/local markets instead. So this kind of optimisation will be part of an ongoing effort for global airlines like Cathay everywhere,” she said.More from South China Morning Post:Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble: ‘mid-May’ target for long-awaited deal amid coronavirus pandemicWashington warns it could restrict Cathay Pacific Airways flights over Hong Kong quarantine rulesCathay Pacific’s foreign pilots struggle to get Hong Kong work permits after hundreds of locals lost jobs in restructuringHong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways in ‘survival mode’ after posting record loss of HK$21.6 billion for 2020 amid Covid-19 pandemicHong Kong’s Cathay Pacific offers remaining pilots a deal they can’t refuse – major salary and benefit cuts, or terminationThis article Cathay Pacific Airways prepares pilot base closures, leaving hundreds of jobs at risk first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2021.