Another good quarter and an announced acquisition bolster the company's chances at maintaining its lead.
PM Lee Hsien Loong said this on the first day of his defamation suit against The Online Citizen’s chief editor Terry Xu on Monday (30 November).
Hong Kong authorities are warning of an even more severe fourth wave of coronavirus infections after identifying a new group of cases at three restaurants that may be linked to the ever-expanding “super-spreader” dance venue cluster.More than 10 servers, cleaners and patrons at the three restaurants – Stellar House in Wan Chai, 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana in Central, and Chuen Cheung Kui in Sheung Wan – have been confirmed sick, with authorities adding the venues to the mandatory testing list.The city recorded 115 new Covid-19 cases on Sunday, the highest daily increase since August 1, when it saw 125 new infections. Of those, 62 were linked to the dance venue cluster, bringing the city's largest coronavirus outbreak so far to 479 cases.Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.“We have yet to find any epidemiological links between the cases from the three restaurants, but we won’t rule out the possibility that we have not found infected people who visited these places,” said Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the Centre for Health Protection’s communicable disease branch.“We are very concerned, because both staff and customers have been infected,” she added.It was difficult to determine exactly how the virus had spread within the restaurants, but authorities have classified the cases as a cluster because front-of-house servers, chefs, cleaners and patrons had all been infected, indicating an outbreak.It was possible for staff and customers to pass the coronavirus to each other, especially if they had been chatting, Chuang said.Hongkongers face hefty fines for ignoring Covid-19 test note from doctorChuang also did not rule out the possibility that the restaurant infections could be linked to the still-growing dance venue cluster, which is being regarded as a “super-spreader” group.“The dance cluster is so big, it is also likely the [restaurant cases] came from them, but we would still have to wait for the genetic analysis to be sure,” she said.“Looking at the situation now, it seems the fourth wave will be more severe than the previous one.”Chuang noted that people from the dance venue cluster also took part in other activities outside of dancing, such as teaching piano or classes at community centres, meaning they could have spread the virus to a wide range of people in society.Separately, a staff member at the Fong Shu Chuen Day Activity Centre and Hostel, operated by the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals, was also among Sunday’s infections, while a resident also tested preliminarily positive, prompting the evacuation of nearly 50 residents.The centre provides day training for people with intellectual disabilities, and Chuang said the situation sometimes made mask-wearing on the premises difficult. Dance off: the niche Hong Kong social scene behind city’s biggest Covid-19 clusterA staff member at another centre run by the Tung Wah Group in Tai Kok Tsui, the Ho Yuk Ching Willow Lodge, which provides care services to the elderly, has also tested preliminary positive for the coronavirus.Health authorities are still unsure if residents at the homes had left the centres at any time.Several schools will also have to shut down, including Saint Clare’s Primary School in Sai Ying Pun, where all staff and students must undergo testing after a 10-year-old student tested positive.St. Paul’s Co-educational College and Cho Yiu Catholic Primary School will also have to be closed temporarily, as they were attended by close contacts of confirmed infections.Sunday’s confirmed infections also included 24 with unknown origins, among them housewives who did not leave home much, and other individuals who had attended many social gatherings, Chuang said.She urged people to reduce any unnecessary gatherings and cancel dining events to minimise the chances of catching or spreading the virus to more people.More from South China Morning Post: * Hong Kong fourth wave: schools to close until after Christmas holidays as city confirms 115 new Covid-19 cases * Coronavirus: infection fears among Hong Kong’s wealthy as cases emerge in private clubs * Covid-19 patients in Hong Kong spreading infection to more people, expert warns, as new cases surge to 92 amid hospital outbreak fearsThis article Hong Kong’s fourth coronavirus wave ‘will be more severe’ than the last, authorities warn, as new restaurant cluster emerges first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.
The Ministry of Health confirmed six new COVID-19 cases in Singapore on Saturday (28 November), taking the country’s total case count to 58,205.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi toured Japan and South Korea last week in a bid to court the key US allies, but the prospect of a new president in the White House cast a long shadow over his efforts.The trip also offered an opportunity to gauge the countries’ attitudes towards the incoming Biden administration, and Wang wrapped up his four-day trip on Friday with mixed results.He secured agreements to cooperate on Covid-19 and the economic recovery but an ongoing territorial dispute with Japan over the Diaoyu, or Senkaku, Islands was a major stumbling block to efforts to improve relations.Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China. Japan condemns China’s renewed Diaoyu claim days after Wang Yi’s commentsObservers say Wang’s trip is part of Beijing’s efforts to pre-empt the emergence of a stronger anti-China coalition between Washington, Tokyo and Seoul.Beijing fears that relations with the United States will continue to worsen in the final weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency, and expects little or no policy shift in the first months after Joe Biden takes office.Wang’s visit, initially scheduled for before the US election, also comes as both Japan and South Korea face a difficult balancing act between China, their top trading partner, and the US, their key security ally.Trump has caused concern among many US allies by questioning the value of these relationships and complaining about the financial burden they impose on Washington. His complaints about the cost of basing troops in South Korea and overtures to the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have also strained relations with Seoul.“If anything, China’s desire to [win over] US allies at a time when the alliance is challenged by US policy itself has been ongoing for quite some time,” said Yun Sun, a senior fellow at the Stimson Centre, a think tank in Washington.The three countries have been working together to fight Covid-19, something that many in China see as “a great opportunity to advance northeast Asian regional cooperation without US involvement”, she noted.Benoit Hardy-Chartrand, an international affairs expert at Temple University in Tokyo, said it was clear that Beijing wanted to stabilise its relationship with two crucial neighbours and advance its interests before Biden took office in January.“China has a lot to gain from a weaker American footing in East Asia, and attempting to undermine Washington’s alliance system and even to bring American allies and partners into its own geopolitical orbit is a strategic priority it has pursued for a few years,” he said. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi calls for stronger ties with South KoreaCompared with his one-day visit to Tokyo, which was largely overshadowed by the maritime dispute, Wang appeared to have had a rather easier time managing relations with Seoul, which some analysts described as lower-hanging fruit.Despite growing anti-China sentiment in the country, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his foreign minister, Kang Kyung-wha, have managed to steer largely clear of topics such as China’s handling of Hong Kong, Xinjiang and the South China Sea, to avoid offending Beijing.As a result, both sides reached a 10-point consensus, which included upgrading their diplomatic and security dialogue, stepping up coronavirus cooperation and pushing for a political settlement to the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula.While China appeared more upbeat about building ties with Seoul under the Beijing-friendly Moon, “China’s engaging with South Korea is clearly aimed at undermining the US alliance system in Northeast Asia”, Sun said.“It’s just that South Korea is inevitably entrenched in the alliance arrangement, so things such as THAAD cannot be reversed according to China’s aspirations,” she said, referring to a US ballistic missile defence system installed in South Korea in 2016 that triggered a furious response from Beijing and an unofficial economic boycott.Lee Seong-hyon, director of the Centre for Chinese Studies at the Sejong Institute in South Korea, has argued Wang’s visit was more about the United States than his hosts.In an opinion piece in the Korean Times newspaper, he said Wang’s trip to Seoul and Tokyo, was due to fears that the Biden administration would strengthen their trilateral cooperation to increase the pressure on China.China’s ambassador to South Korea Xing Haiming said earlier this month that Seoul would be the first destination President Xi Jinping visited once the coronavirus situation stabilises.But Wang’s visit did not appear to have produced any tangible outcome regarding Xi’s trip, which has already been postponed due to the pandemic.When asked about the issue on Thursday – the day when South Korea reported its biggest daily increase in coronavirus infections – Wang said it could only happen when Covid-19 was under “complete control”. Japan calls on China to take ‘positive action’ on Diaoyu maritime dispute in talks as Wang Yi meets Yoshihide SugaCollin Koh, a research fellow from the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, said that while Beijing might have pulled Seoul closer economically, South Korea’s formal treaty alliance with the US left it with little wiggle room.“The desire would be to maintain close economic ties with China … while maintaining close security links with the US. On the latter aspect, this would fall short of a security coalition against China – or at least, Seoul wishes to convey the assurance that it isn’t part of such a containment scheme,” he said.But Wang’s attempts to woo Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga appeared to have failed to soothe criticism of Beijing’s handling of Hong Kong and renewed tensions over the Diaoyus.Although China wants to keep the territorial dispute separate from other aspects of the two countries’ relations, Japan has refused to budge.Instead, it was brought up at almost every meeting Wang had with Japanese officials, including his counterpart Toshimitsu Motegi.It also overshadowed his first face-to-face meeting with Suga on Wednesday, which lasted about 20 minutes.Citing Japanese government sources, Kyodo reported that Suga had urged China to take “positive action” on the disputed islands, while voicing concern over the situation in Hong Kong following the imposition of a draconian national security law earlier this year.To Beijing’s dismay, Suga also raised both topics during his first phone conversation with Xi soon after he took office in September.Wang told reporters that both sides had agreed to seek better relations, according to the Japan Times, adding: “We will work to ensure that [the dispute] does not affect the development of China-Japan relations going forward.” American troops could be sent to ‘defend the Senkaku Islands’, US commander saysBut Wang’s suggestions that both sides should allow only government ships to sail near the disputed islands were turned down swiftly by Tokyo.Japan’s chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato and Suga’s Liberal Democratic Party both lashed out at Wang’s remarks, dismissing them as part of China’s attempt to advance its own territorial claims.They also accused two Chinese ships of entering the disputed waters on the day Suga met Wang, adding that incursions such as this happened on an almost daily basis this year.Chinese state news agency Xinhua and the Chinese foreign ministry made no mention of Suga’s comments on the dispute or Hong Kong, instead focusing on Wang’s statement that repeated China’s stance.Liu Jiangyong, a Japanese affairs specialist at Tsinghua University, said the maritime dispute – which caused a dramatic downturn in relations and furious anti-Japanese protests in China in 2013 – had once again become the main barrier to better relations.Liu warned that both sides should tread carefully to avoid the situation spiralling out of control, adding: “While it is imperative to discuss crisis management mechanisms around the disputed waters, we’ll have to tackle the problem at its root, which is the historical origins of the dispute.”Liu also said relations between the two countries remained strained despite shared interests over issues such as trade and the environment.“Japan has long pinned hopes on its treaty alliance with the US to confront China over the maritime dispute. And [former prime minister Shinzo] Abe’s attempt in recent years to expand the alliance with other countries, such as Australia and India, to form a quadrilateral security bloc targeting China has inevitably exacerbated tensions in the region,” he said.Niu Zhongjun, an academic at the China Foreign Affairs University, an affiliate of the foreign ministry, said it was worrying that both Abe and Suga had tried to alter the status quo by inviting the US to intervene.During his first telephone call with Suga two weeks ago, Biden told him that the US-Japan security treaty covered the disputed islands – a clear message to China.“Wang Yi’s Japan visit was a good start for China’s relations with Suga’s administration … But it’s not realistic to have high expectations because at the end of the day, Sino-Japanese relations largely hinge on China’s great power rivalry with the US,” he said.Analysts generally expect Suga to continue Abe’s pragmatic foreign policy. “If anything, China’s assertive policies to date, not least over the East China Sea issue, provided strong justification to continue with Abe’s policies. Even if Suga wishes to change track, he would likely encounter resistance from within the Japanese policy circle,” Koh said.“Both countries will talk nicely on economic cooperation, yet manoeuvre against each other on the security front.”According to Koh, Wang’s high-level meetings with key Japanese policy elites generated some agreement on economics, which helps with the “optics” of the visit.“Beijing could boast that it’s something accomplished from Wang’s trip in furthering ties with Suga – and it’s something to brandish to the Trump administration and the incoming Biden administration,” he said.Observers also said Wang’s trip provided few clues about whether Beijing would treat its neighbours differently in a post-Trump era, especially considering the international backlash it has faced over its initial handling of the coronavirus and “Wolf Warrior” diplomacy.“Perhaps that will have to wait till the Biden administration’s policy is out,” Sun from the Stimson Institute said. She argued China would “theoretically” want to show more benevolence to its neighbours, but had “no problem turning benevolence into coercive punishment when its neighbours refuse to side with China”.According to a poll by the Pew Research Centre published last month, negative perceptions of China have hit a historical high in Japan and South Korea. Seventy-five per cent of South Koreans and 86 per cent of Japanese held unfavourable views on China, while 73 per cent of Americans see China negatively.More from South China Morning Post: * China’s place in a post-Trump world order is about relationships and good timing * Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi calls for stronger ties with South Korea * Can China, Japan and South Korea follow RCEP with their own free-trade deal? * Japan calls on China to take ‘positive action’ on Diaoyu maritime dispute in talks as Wang Yi meets Yoshihide SugaThis article China makes final effort to court Japan and South Korea as Donald Trump heads for the exit first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.
The officer in charge of the Canadian police detachment at Vancouver’s airport when Huawei Technologies executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested almost two years ago has defended his advice that Meng should not be taken into custody until she had disembarked from her flight.Testifying in the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Vancouver on Friday, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sergeant Ross Lundie said there were “well-documented” risks involved with arresting someone in the confines of a plane.Meng was arrested on December 1, 2018, but only after she had exited the Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong and had been questioned for almost three hours by border officers.Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.Meng’s lawyers have presented the decision to delay the arrest until after the inspection – during which she was questioned and her electronic devices seized – as a covert evidence-gathering exercise orchestrated by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation in violation of Meng’s rights. They say the decision also flouted the arrest warrant’s directive that Meng should be arrested “immediately”.The US extradition request should be thrown out as a result, they say. Canadian officer denies ‘cover up’ about Meng’s Wanzhou’s phones and FBIOn Friday, Meng’s lawyer, Richard Peck, asked Lundie about his advice to the arresting officer, Constable Winston Yep, and his partner, Constable Gurvinder Dhaliwal, that Meng should only be arrested on the plane if there was “a safety or security issue” that made it necessary.“It’s a very tight space … Definitely not on a plane unless you cannot avoid it,” Lundie said.Lundie was on the stand on the final day of two weeks of witness testimony in the extradition case. The court has heard from a series of Canada Border Services Agency officers and police who played various roles in the border exam and subsequent arrest of Meng on an American warrant, which upended China’s relations with Canada and the United States.However one key officer, retired staff sergeant Ben Chang, has refused to testify. In a court filing in June, Canadian government lawyers representing US interests in the case said they held “witness safety” concerns for Chang, who now lives in the Chinese territory of Macau, and works as a security executive at the Galaxy casino resort. Canada feared for safety of Meng witness in Macau who refuses to testifyThe US seeks to put Meng on trial in New York on charges that she defrauded HSBC by lying about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran, putting the bank at risk of breaching US sanctions.Meng, who denies the charges, is living under partial house arrest in one of the two houses she owns in Vancouver while she fights the extradition bid.The treatment of Meng, Huawei’s chief financial officer and the daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei, has infuriated China. Soon after her detention, Beijing arrested Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, and accused them of spying. Ottawa considers the arrests retaliatory and both men to be victims of hostage-taking.The hearing was adjourned by Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes, who bound Meng over until December 7, when another week of witness testimony will begin.More from South China Morning Post: * Canadian border officer denies trying to help FBI by questioning Meng Wanzhou about Iran * Retired Canadian police officer refuses to testify at Meng Wanzhou’s extradition hearing * Canadian Mountie ‘concluded FBI never got Meng Wanzhou’s phone information’, but her notes say otherwise * Meng Wanzhou: Canada border agent ‘falsified account of questioning’, defence lawyer claims in court * Canadian officer who arrested Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou said she might have put up fight, but boss said there were ‘no safety concerns’This article Meng Wanzhou case: arresting Huawei exec on plane would have been too risky, Canadian officer tells court first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.
A mysterious metal monolith found in the remote desert of the western United States, sparking a national guessing game over how it got there, has apparently disappeared, officials said Saturday.
Hong Kong’s leader has again voiced her concerns about the limitations and even adverse consequences of carrying out a citywide mandatory coronavirus screening, amid mounting calls from the pro-establishment camp and mainland public health experts for such a scheme.Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor reiterated her reservations about such a move – seen by pro-establishment politicians as the ultimate step to resume cross-border travel – during a radio show on Saturday, citing differences in the political landscape of the city and mainland China.She also said she had conveyed to mainland authorities why she thought the strategy would not work for Hong Kong.Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.“I don’t have the advantage of your system and I don’t have the relative obedience of your citizens,” she recalled telling Beijing officials.“If we have to forcefully adopt the approach deployed on the mainland, not only will we not achieve the result we want to see, it may even result in an adverse effect,” she told the radio show.The idea of universal Covid-19 screening of Hong Kong’s 7.5 million population has been increasingly politicised with critics fearing it would lead to an invasion of privacy.The chief executive has been under growing pressure from key pro-establishment figures and experts from Beijing, who want Hong Kong to get rid of its 14-day quarantine arrangements to facilitate cross-border movement.She was pressed repeatedly by pro-establishment lawmakers on when the border could be reopened during a question-and-answer session on Thursday following her policy address the previous day.The pro-Beijing Federation of Trade Unions published an online survey on Friday, saying out of 18,740 people it had interviewed over the past week, 97 per cent of respondents supported the mass screening initiative. Though the sample was not randomly selected, the group said its previous surveys attracted hardly 1,000 people, meaning that at least the desire among the group’s supporters to get tested was exceptionally high this time.On the same day, veteran Chinese infectious disease expert Zhong Nanshan also said Hong Kong should conduct citywide testing of all residents, following a voluntary screening scheme that drew about 1.78 million people in September. Covid-19 cases scuppered Carrie Lam’s hopes of restarting cross-border travelFormer chief executive Leung Chun-ying, also recently wrote on his Facebook page that another round of mass testing was a matter of “do or die” for the city.But Lam, who has spoken against the idea multiple times, reiterated on Saturday that such a tactic would only work if accompanied by a lockdown, lasting up to four to five weeks.“Hong Kong will have to pay a very heavy price,” she said, adding that the suggestion lacked a scientific basis.“At the World Health Organization level and even in our country, not all 1.4 billion people took the test. It was done in a precise and rapid way,” she said.She also said the past year of social unrest, triggered by the now-withdrawn extradition bill, had made her work to combat the pandemic even more difficult as some people had lost trust in the government.But pro-establishment lawmaker Alice Mak Mei-kuen, from the Federation of Trade Unions, accused Lam of being unscientific. She said Lam had rejected the idea of universal testing outright, without even studying the possibilities.She also said lockdown arrangements could be discussed further to minimise their impact.Pro-establishment heavyweight Tam Yiu-chung, the city’s sole delegate to the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, China’s top legislative body, said Beijing was treating the matter with care. But he said he had not been involved in discussions in which the mainland authorities gave their views on mandatory testing in Hong Kong. A government source said testing was all about efficiency, and the administration currently found targeted compulsory testing more effective. Fears over untraceable Covid-19 infections as Hong Kong confirms 84 new casesLam’s current approach is to test high-risk groups, including a recent dance club cluster, after the Executive Council granted health authorities the legal power to commence mandatory testing earlier this month. “If the city goes for universal testing, the yield will be much lower, but the cost – not just in terms of money but also in terms of lockdown and other intangible measures – will be much higher,” the source said.Another source close to the matter said contractors engaged by the government had not been told about any need to increase their testing measures drastically.More from South China Morning Post: * Coronavirus: debate erupts over how Hong Kong can achieve target of ‘zero infection’ as fourth wave rages with 81 new cases confirmed * Coronavirus: Hong Kong’s fourth wave has arrived, health minister says, as more than 60 new confirmed and preliminary cases emerge * Hong Kong third wave: city’s top officials unite behind universal Covid-19 testing scheme even as some in opposition camp hope to derail itThis article Coronavirus fourth wave: Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam raises concerns over limitations of mandatory universal screening first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.
US President-elect Joe Biden on Sunday announced an all-female senior White House communications team, in what his office called a first in the country's history.
China’s Operation Fox Hunt, a state-sanctioned chase around the world for fugitive suspects, relies as much on goodwill between international law enforcement agencies as legalities.As there is currently little love between Beijing and Washington, China is now having a frustrating time trying to get its hands on citizens that fled the country, often under clouds of corruption charges.China and the United States had a standing Agreement on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters, said Professor Wang Jiangyu, director of the Centre for Chinese and Comparative Law at City University in Hong Kong. But it largely depended on good relations between both sides to work, he said.Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.“When the Sino-US relations were normal, such cooperation had been carried out quite effectively before 2018,” he said. “But now, there is no such goodwill to carry out such soft international obligations, given the unprecedented tension.”Wang said both China and the US lost out as a result.According to China, the US is the favoured destination of high-profile fugitives, along with other countries in the “Five Eyes” security alliance – Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Britain.Many of those fleeing criminal charges in China chose those countries because they had better protection of human rights, said associate professor Alfred Wu from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore. How the elite 'fox hunt' police task force scours the world for fugitives who have fled overseas“Many trials in the Chinese courts still remain opaque and its human rights protection record also needs improvement,” Wu said. “That made extradition from these countries to China more difficult as many will claim that they will not receive a fair and transparent trial in China.”An example is a Swedish court that last year refused China’s request to extradite former government official Qiao Jianjun on charges of embezzling US$11 million. The court ruled he could face persecution because of his political activities.Qiao was then extradited to the US in June this year to face charges there of money laundering and visa fraud.It has become evident that some fugitives discover a political conscience when they arrive in the West, suggesting criminal suspects are using the human rights card to try to avoid prosecution.While China’s deteriorating ties with Five Eyes nations may undermine present and future law enforcement cooperation, overall, Operation Fox Hunt has already arrested thousands of fugitives.The country reported the repatriation of 2,041 suspects last year and the recovery of 5.4 billion yuan (US$820 million), both an increase of more than 50 per cent from 2018. Why is the Five Eyes intelligence alliance in China’s cross hairs?Fox Hunt was set up in 2014 under the Chinese Ministry of Public Security to chase down officials who fled the country amid allegations of wrongdoing. The operations are part of President Xi Jinping’s crackdown on corruption among bureaucrats and Communist Party officials that has resulted in the arrest and imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of people.Xi’s critics have said the anti-corruption campaign was also a means to remove any political rivals as he cemented control on power. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation has also weighed in, saying Fox Hunt is as much a means to silence dissidents overseas as it is to capture criminals.Law enforcement relations got more frosty on October 29 after comments by John Demers, assistant attorney general for national security at the US Department of Justice.He said Fox Hunt repatriation squads operated in the country “without coordination with the US government” and targeted critics of the Communist Party. Fox Hunt employed illegal, unauthorised and often covert techniques outside the bounds of the law, he said.The US comments were “nothing but slander,” according to a response from the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), the party’s top anti-corruption watchdog, on November 18.The CCDI raised the case of Xu Jin, the former director of the Wuhan Development and Reform Commission, to make its argument.The statement said Xu fled to the US in 2011 with his wife Liu Fang and there was “sufficient evidence” to prove that between 2006 and 2009, they embezzled 198 million yuan through a state-owned land transfer and accepted bribes.In 2012, Interpol issued a “red notice” against the couple, a worldwide alert to police agencies that an individual was a criminal suspect.The attempted repatriation of China’s top 100 fugitives with such red notices appears to have slowed. In 2016, 19 of those on the list were extradited, followed by 13 the next year, and dropping to four in 2018 and six last year.The last reported case was on September 11 last year – the extradition of Huang Ping, former general manager of state-owned Guanghong Huaqiao Aluminium Processing Co.However, the decline in high-profile extraditions might also be a sign of the success of Operation Fox Hunt, or that China has repatriated most of the fugitives in countries it has better relations with, such as Asean nations. Now it must go after those in the West.According to the CCDI, of the 40 people remaining on the 100 most wanted list drawn up in 2015, 35 are suspected to be living in Five Eyes countries.The US has the most at 19. Canada and New Zealand both ranked second, each with six suspects. Australia has three and one is in Britain.If China wants extradition cooperation from those countries, the overall diplomatic language has not helped.The countries in the Five Eyes alliance recently protested against a Beijing decision to oust opposition lawmakers in Hong Kong. Such countries risk “having their eyes poked out” was the response from Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on November 19.Meantime, Wang at City University in Hong Kong said identifying genuine dissidents and corruption suspects could be difficult and unscrupulous lawyers added to the problem through “asylum mills”.US federal immigration officials have investigated immigration lawyers on charges of helping mostly Chinese immigrants to fraudulently obtain asylum, with one probe in 2012 called “Operation Fiction Writer” resulting in the arrest and conviction of lawyers. Thirty-somethings leading China’s fox hunt fugitive chaseA New York lawyer who said he had helped prominent Chinese dissidents to obtain asylum in the US agreed this was a problem.“There are so many people from China applying for asylum and many made negative comments about the Chinese Communist Party only after they came to the US,” said the lawyer, who declined to be named, citing the need to protect his clients.“Although most of the dissidents I handled still managed to get asylum, I am still worried that the fake ones will crowd out the genuine ones.“The people in the FBI will have to answer many questions from the Department of Justice in every extradition case, making sure the extradited will face a fair trial is always a top concern.”More from South China Morning Post: * US warns China over undercover 'Fox Hunt' for corrupt Chinese officials * US-China relations: Beijing sees chance for thaw in ties under Biden, but keeps expectations in check * Family of Hong Kong fugitive detained in Shenzhen calls letter signed by him ploy by authorities * China warns US travelling on ‘wrong road’ after fresh round of sanctions targets more Hong Kong, mainland officialsThis article China-US animosity frustrates Beijing’s ‘Fox Hunt’ for overseas fugitives first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.
The series is dedicated to inspirational men and women in Singapore leading healthy and active lifestyles. This week: presenter Jade Seah.
MOH has confirmed the detection of eight new cases of COVID-19 infection in Singapore, including one local transmission, as of noon on Sunday (29 November).
Four Hong Kong lawmakers were disqualified from the Legislative Council this month, immediately after Beijing passed a resolution on November 11 stating that legislators could be removed summarily for flouting a number of prohibited acts, including threatening national security and refusing to endorse China’s sovereignty.Their removal prompted all 15 remaining opposition lawmakers to resign. Among those leaving are three prominent lawmakers who have served between eight and 28 years. The Post spoke to James To Kun-sun, Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung and Ip Kin-yuen about their decision to quit, the state of politics in Hong Kong and what lies ahead for them. ‘Pan-dems have not changed, Beijing has lost its tolerance’: James ToOver 28 years in the Legislative Council, Democratic Party veteran James To Kun-sun made a name for himself as a lawmaker who often spoke up on major incidents and difficult cases.Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.They included the Hong Kong victims of the 2010 Manila hostage crisis which left nine people dead after an armed man seized a tour bus, the Lamma Island ferry collision two years later that took 39 lives, and most recently, the case of 12 Hongkongers captured at sea by the mainland Chinese coastguard while fleeing to Taiwan.“I was also the first person Edward Snowden approached while he was in Hong Kong,” To revealed, referring to the surveillance whistle-blower who was holed up in the city after fleeing Hawaii in 2013 and before eventually landing in Russia.“I guess my 20-something years’ experience in security affairs, legal background and the fact that I have been careful in my words, prompted people to look for me.”To was a 28-year-old lawyer when he was first elected to Legco in 1991. He held the record as the youngest lawmaker to win a seat until 2016, when 23-year-old pro-democracy activist Nathan Law Kwun-chung was victorious at the polls. Law is now in self-imposed exile in Britain, having left Hong Kong because of the national security law imposed on June 30.Among the old documents, books, thank-you cards and souvenirs unearthed as To prepared to vacate his Legco office was his black schedule book from 1992, documenting his first year as a lawmaker.“I never thought I would serve this long. I was supposed to be in line for retirement, but my colleagues thought I should stay,” said To, now 57. “My biggest regret is that there is not only an absence of universal suffrage in Hong Kong, but also an absence of a real ‘one country, two systems’.”China, which has grown stronger, has lost its toleranceJames To, Democratic Party veteranThe guiding principle put forward by the late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping which ensured the freedoms granted to the city would remain unchanged for 50 years after Hong Kong’s handover from Britain to China in 1997 was “dead”, To declared.The longest-serving lawmaker before his resignation, To led the opposition’s efforts last year to delay scrutiny of an extradition bill that would end up triggering months of anti-government protests and violence. The bill was later withdrawn, but the repercussions caused an upheaval across Hong Kong’s political landscape.He insisted the pan-democrats had not changed over the decades but had only remained steadfast in pursuing the goal of real universal suffrage for the city.“But China, which has grown stronger, has lost its tolerance,” he said.To likened himself to a “broken cassette”, trying repeatedly for years to persuade Beijing and those who have asked him to explain what the pan-democrat camp wanted, that granting Hong Kong democracy – and even having a pan-democrat as chief executive – would not be the end of the world.“I will still tell them that now they have gone too far and our freedoms have shrunk. I will continue to say it out loud, but it seems a bit naive for me to believe they will listen,” he said.To, who is married with one son, said that for now, he would continue as a member of Yau Tsim Mong District Council to which he was re-elected last year.“If people are still determined to approach me for help despite knowing I’m no longer a lawmaker, I will surely take up their case,” he said.* * * ‘Our sky has fallen apart’: Fernando CheungEntering Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung’s office, one is greeted by the sight of piles of files on welfare and education and more than a dozen charts on the wall, showing the waiting times at various public services.From advocating for job opportunities for the disabled and improved child protection, to assisting those in asylums and prisons, and seeking more places for the elderly in residential care centres, Cheung is well known for his devotion to the vulnerable over 12 years in the Legislative Council.Lately, however, the opposition Labour Party lawmaker has been in the news mainly for political reasons.He was among eight lawmakers and activists arrested earlier this month on charges relating to a chaotic Legco committee meeting in May which descended into shouting and scuffles.Macau-born Cheung, 63, was educated in Hong Kong and the United States, and obtained American citizenship before he returned in 1996 to teach social work at Polytechnic University.He gave up his US citizenship to run for Legco in 2004 representing the social welfare sector, and defeated his rival Peter Cheung Kwok-che by just 64 votes. Mass resignation of opposition lawmakers after Beijing rules on disqualification“The sky was the limit when I first became a legislator,” he said. “I was soon elected panel chairman for welfare services, and could set agendas and bargain with the government.“At that time, I believed I could do a lot for my sector and the government respected legislators. There were unlimited opportunities.”He lost the 2008 election when he switched to contesting in a geographical constituency. He returned to Legco in 2012, after co-founding the Labour Party with pro-democracy stalwart Lee Cheuk-yan the year before. At its best, the party had four members in the legislature from 2012 to 2016.“Our sky has fallen apart now,” he said. “Things started to change after [former chief executive] Leung Chun-ying got into power, when he targeted and did not respect opposition lawmakers.”Cheung said the situation deteriorated rapidly over the past few months to a year.“Even people like me, regarded as very ‘soft’ protesters, have become Beijing’s target,” he said with a forced smile, recalling how radical protesters during last year’s social unrest criticised him for being too mild and rational.“The way I would describe it is Beijing is purging us.”Cheung announced earlier this year that he would not contest the Legco elections originally scheduled for September.When the polls were postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic and Beijing approved extending Legco’s term by a year, he chose to carry on in order to continue speaking up for the vulnerable in the city, whereas his friends, opposition lawmakers Eddie Chu Hoi-dick and Ray Chan Chi-chuen, decided to quit.I have thought about teaching again but I wonder if any of the tertiary institutions would hire pan-democratsFernando CheungDisagreements over whether to quit or stay in Legco for the extended term approved by Beijing caused a split in the opposition camp. “That is history now,” Cheung said.But when Beijing passed the resolution that led to the immediate removal of the four lawmakers, he knew it was all over.“The insulting resolution delivered by Beijing made me reach my limit,” he said. “I understand that for the coming year, it might be hard to assist those in need, but we have no choice.”Cheung, who is married with three children, said for now, he hoped to spend more time with his family, especially his disabled daughter.“I have thought about teaching again but, well, with the new red lines, I wonder if any of the tertiary institutions would hire pan-democrats,” he said.* * * ‘The safest way to be a teacher now might be to just stick to the books’: Ip Kin-yuenIp Kin-yuen’s resignation from the Legislative Council brings to an end his eight years of representing Hong Kong’s education sector.Still in the thick of various educational issues, Ip said he was yet to make time to clear his office at the legislature with just two weeks remaining before he left.Among other things, Ip, the vice-president of the Professional Teachers’ Union (PTU), has been helping two primary school teachers, who have been deregistered, to appeal against the authorities’ decision.The Education Bureau acted against the teachers after finding that one used teaching materials that touched on independence for Hong Kong, and the other taught a distorted history of the first opium war in the 19th century.Ip said the education sector had come under unprecedented pressure over the past year, with pro-establishment figures and officials targeting educators and teaching materials following last year’s protests.“The education sector has been continuously suffocated by various attacks. What we hope to do is to defend ourselves and protect our sector’s integrity,” he said. Are Hong Kong’s teachers radicalising youth? Ex-leader and lawmaker clash over accusationIp, 58, was a secondary school teacher for eight years, a principal for three years, and also taught at the tertiary level for 11 years.He was elected as a lawmaker for the sector in 2012, and re-elected in 2016, both times beating pro-establishment candidates by a significant margin.He believed the sector became a scapegoat following last year’s protests. As a result, he said, teachers now felt more uneasy in class, and schools had become more cautious, afraid of being caught out any time.“What you say, what teaching materials you write, might easily be targeted,” he said. “The safest way to teach nowadays might be to just stick to the books. If this goes on, some very dedicated teachers might choose to leave the profession.”In recent months, Ip and his union have been pressing authorities for more transparency and to reform the system of investigating complaints against teachers’ professional conduct.What you say, what teaching materials you write, might easily be targetedIp Kin-yuenAt least 247 protest-related complaints were received by the authorities between June 2019 and August this year, but he pointed out that many complaints were anonymously filed.The current system gave the government sole power to decide on penalties, he said, unlike in the medical or legal sectors where representatives of each profession dealt with complaints.“We hope to help teachers get fair treatment under a sound investigative procedure,” Ip said.With his exit, there will be no opposition voice for the sector in Legco and he expected pro-establishment lawmakers to push the authorities for “more extreme” changes.There have been strong calls from the pro-establishment camp to “weed out bad apples” in the sector. Some have demanded that the names and schools of teachers found guilty of misconduct be revealed, and urged the government to mete out the heaviest penalties possible in such cases.Ip’s union, the PTU, has also been targeted by the bureau, pro-Beijing figures and state media. It has been branded a politicised group, with some accusing it of stirring young people to commit violence.Ip has not yet decided whether to contest the Legco elections next September.Despite being out of Legco, he stressed that he intended using his PTU role to continue providing checks and balances on the pro-establishment camp.“No matter what, our work will go on,” he said.More from South China Morning Post: * In wake of Legco disqualifications, Hong Kong’s opposition mulls an uncertain future * After Legco disqualifications, Hong Kong’s opposition district councillors fear they’ll be next in government’s crosshairs * Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam declares ‘return of peace’ to Legco, restored faith in political system after Beijing’s lawmakers ruling * Echo chamber or sound politics: how will Hong Kong’s legislature function without an opposition?This article Three Hong Kong opposition politicians explain why they turned their backs on Legislative Council – and where they go from here first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.
The US state of Pennsylvania's supreme court dismissed another legal challenge to the election by supporters of President Donald Trump on Saturday, further reducing his already near-impossible odds of overturning the results.
Sun Dawu, the 66-year-old founder of a private conglomerate in the northern Chinese province of Hebei, was detained earlier this month by armed police in a new twist in the life of an outspoken figure that many see as a cautionary tale for Chinese entrepreneurs under the watch of a powerful state.Sun, the founder of Dawu Agricultural and Animal Husbandry Group, was among a number of people taken into custody early on November 11 on suspicion of crimes such as “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” and “sabotaging production and operations”, the Gaobeidian public security bureau said in a brief statement that day.The bureau did not specify how many people were detained or why Sun, whose company was not registered in Gaobeidian, was taken away by officers from the county-level city.Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China. Reformist calls for China to reassure the private sector ahead of key Communist Party meetingBeijing-based China News Weekly reported two days later that 28 people had been detained, including Sun, Sun’s wife, his two sons, his two daughters-in-law as well as Dawu executives. Only four were released on bail within 48 hours, the report said.On Wednesday, a social media account run by magazine Business 2.0 published three police detention documents for Sun’s two daughters-in-law and Dawu’s chief financial officer. According to the documents, all three were held on suspicion of “illegally appropriating public deposits”.In addition, a bail request for Sun’s wife, Liu Huiru, was rejected by the police, according to the report.There were no details about others taken into custody.Provincial authorities have not provided any details about Sun’s case in the last two weeks and the Gaobeidian police declined to comment further when contacted by the Post. The Gaobeidian Communist Party branch also declined to comment, as did a lawyer for Liu.An assistant to Sun, who declined to be named, confirmed the detentions, adding that private businesses in China had to deal with this “misery”. China’s Xi Jinping calls for loyalty from private sector as Beijing readies for battle with USThe dramatic way in which Sun, his family members and the Dawu executives were detained, and the lack of official explanation about the grounds for the swoop, has fanned concerns that local authorities have infringed Sun’s rights for their own purposes.The case is also being widely watched to see whether Beijing’s promises to protect entrepreneurs will be honoured by local authorities.Jia Kang, former head of research at China’s Ministry of Finance and a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, said at a forum on November 17 that Sun’s detention would have a chilling effect on private business owners.“A group of armed police from a neighbouring region, with automatic machine guns and police dogs, smashed in doors at one o’clock in the morning to arrest 28 people,” Jia said, describing the police action. “The central government has always emphasised a rule-of-law business environment, and many people are concerned about this case. If Sun is really a criminal suspect who must be arrested, at least there has to be a clear explanation.”The transcript of Jia’s speech was published on his social media but was later censored. European firms seek Chinese private sector allies in push to reform state sectorIn a post that was also later removed, Wu Danhong, a professor at China University of Political Science and Law, wrote in a blog on November 20 that Sun’s case was just one of many, with “such things happening across the country every single day”.Hu Xingdou, a Beijing-based independent economist who knows Sun, wrote on his social media account on November 17 that Sun could be the victim of China’s unreasonable land control system and had become a target for local authorities for being uncooperative.It is not the first time that Sun has been in trouble with local authorities – he was arrested in 2003 for “illegally appropriating public deposits” and he was later sentenced to three years in prison. The sentence was suspended for four years and Sun was set free after the trial.The reasons for Sun’s detention now are not known. According to a report by the China Times newspaper, the arrest could be related to a land dispute between Dawu and a state-owned farm. Dawu employees had a violent clash with workers at a state farm in August, resulting in the detention of 39 Dawu employees. Neither the police nor Dawu have confirmed any link between Sun’s detention and the land dispute.However, Sun has made speeches and public comments embarrassing local officials in the past. In 2019, for instance, he accused Hebei authorities of covering up the real damage to the region’s pig population caused by African swine fever.And in Beijing in October last year, Sun said many Chinese entrepreneurs were “on the road to jail” because China’s legal and bureaucratic system favoured state enterprises and local governments in conflicts between the state and private sectors.“Is the legal system fair? No government department will be charged with wrongdoing, no state-owned enterprise will be charged with a crime, but we private companies can be the criminals,” Sun said.More from South China Morning Post: * Chinese pig farmer, managers of agricultural firm ‘detained over land dispute’ * Reformist calls for China to reassure the private sector ahead of key Communist Party meetingThis article Sun Dawu vs the state: a cautionary tale for China’s private sector? first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.
Your domestic helper also needs protection as she holds down the fort at home. Here are the top maid insurance promos and discounts in Singapore. If you are planning to hire a foreign domestic helper in Singapore, understand that it is compulsory for you to […]The post Best Maid Insurance Promotions and Discounts appeared first on SingSaver Blog - We Compare, You Save.
Following years of public outcry and campaigning by American pop star Cher, the "world's loneliest elephant" embarked Sunday on a mammoth move from Pakistan to retirement in a Cambodian sanctuary.
Every winter, Lorina Sthapit and her cousins would warm their feet in woollen socks freshly knitted by their grandmother.
Iran's president on Saturday accused arch-foe Israel of acting as a US "mercenary" and seeking to create chaos, vowing Tehran would avenge the assassination of a top Iranian nuclear scientist.
The World Health Organization is looking into controversial research suggesting the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 was circulating in Italy months before it was first detected in China, the health body said on Friday, while cautioning against using such data to speculate about the disease’s origins.The WHO plans to run tests with the Italian researchers who made waves earlier this month for their peer-reviewed findings based on tests of blood samples from a cancer screening carried out starting before the pathogen was detected in China.The team found antibodies specific to the coronavirus in over 11 per cent of the 959 subjects. Positive samples dated back to September last year, several months before the world’s first recorded case from early December in China.Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.“We’ve reached out to these researchers and they have generously offered to work with us and to collaborate with us on some further studies looking at those samples,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead for Covid-19. Where did Coronavirus originate? These virus sleuths are assessing every theoryBut while the WHO was working with scientists around the world to track and examine any detection or “unusual” published results, the investigation it was leading into the origins of the virus would start in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the first cases were detected.“We need to be careful with our speculation here,” Mike Ryan, WHO health emergencies programme executive director, said when asked whether signs that the virus was in Europe earlier than previously known could mean it was circulating in humans outside China before it was found in Wuhan.“It’s highly speculative for us to say that the disease did not emerge in China. But we do know that the first clusters of human cases that were detected were in Wuhan.”He said that to understand the origins of the virus, it was crucial to start the investigation in the city where it was first identified.“After that, the evidence should take us where we need to go, but to speculate on where the virus emerged precisely, without starting where the human disease emerged for us doesn’t represent the best way forward,” he said.The comments come as Chinese officials and state media have ramped up rhetoric, saying that just because the virus was first identified in China did not mean it came from the country.Though scientists generally agree that the virus originated in a bat, before passing into humans, perhaps via an intermediary species, where and how this happened is unknown. The novel virus’s closest known relative was detected in southwestern China.Last month, without providing specific evidence, Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist for the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suggested that the pathogen could have originally arrived in China via imported seafood.Chinese health officials linked subsequent sporadic Covid-19 outbreaks in major Chinese cities to refrigerated imported food, though other specialists question whether this could be a significant driver of infection. Officials have yet to release comprehensive information about investigations into the early spread of the virus in Wuhan.Zeng Guang, former Chinese CDC chief epidemiologist, cited the Italian research in a speech at a recent academic conference, saying Wuhan was where the coronavirus was first detected, but it might not be where it originated. WHO names line-up for international team looking into coronavirus originsBut researchers have raised concerns about conclusions drawn from the Italian study. For one, serological testing, which detects antibodies in the blood that indicate if a person has already been infected, is less precise than DNA-based tests that can be done on fresh or frozen samples.Hong Kong University virologist Malik Peiris, who was a key figure in identifying the Sars virus during that outbreak nearly two decades ago, said the data from the Italian study “still needs further clarification”.Due to limitations in how the team extrapolated data from their samples, we “cannot say with confidence this is a genuine result”, he said.The tests could also be picking up other coronaviruses, even an unknown but related virus, according to Gavin Smith, a professor in the emerging infectious diseases programme at Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore.“It’s really difficult to tell. It is possible that it could be this Sars-CoV-2 virus, specifically, that they are picking up,” he said, referring to the formal name for the new coronavirus.However, Smith said, if that were the case, “the fact that it is picked up in Italy doesn’t necessarily mean that it started in Italy”.“Based on the weight of historical evidence, it’s likely that it emerged in Asia, but it’s impossible to say anything definite about this [at this time],” he said.Infectious diseases specialist Sanjaya Senanayake from the Australian National University said it would be “very interesting to see if things went that far back”.“This would suggest that [the virus] flew under the radar for a long time,” he said, noting there should be “no stone left unturned” when it came to gathering information on Covid-19.He pointed to other signs of an earlier spread, such as the retrospective discovery of a Covid-19 patient in France in late December, nearly a month before the country confirmed its first cases. Scientists in Italy have also found traces of the new coronavirus in wastewater collected that month.The WHO’s Van Kerkhove said on Friday that global efforts were continuing to understand the spread of the virus, including testing of retrospective wastewater samples and analysis of genome sequences.“There are a lot of sources of information, but ... the [origin] studies need to begin where the first cases were detected in Wuhan,” she said. “Then we follow the science.”More from South China Morning Post: * Coronavirus was on many continents before Wuhan outbreak, Chinese team says * Coronavirus: more heat than light in quest for origin of Covid-19 * China’s ‘bat woman’ virologist rules out Covid-19 virus in fresh tests on old cave samples * Coronavirus: WHO and Chinese experts launch origins mission – onlineThis article Coronavirus: WHO to look at controversial Italian samples in search for origins first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.
While the world is becoming increasingly optimistic about the chances of an effective coronavirus vaccine becoming available soon, developing countries cannot breathe a sigh of relief just yet.Advanced economies such as the United States, Canada, Britain and the European Union have prepared more than enough doses to vaccinate their entire populations through pre-order agreements.But most low or lower-income countries are relying on the Covax Facility, a global initiative designed to ensure fair and equitable access to vaccines funded by richer countries.Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.It has so far secured 700 million doses of vaccines and aims to distribute 2 billion next year, mainly for frontline health care and social workers, as well as high-risk and vulnerable groups.It also faces the challenge of delivering vaccines to those developing countries, a mammoth project even for Unicef, the world’s largest vaccine buyer. Will China move Africa up from the end of coronavirus vaccine queue?The agency, which procures more than 2 billion doses of vaccines annually, will be responsible for supplying Covid-19 vaccines for most low to middle-income Covax members.“It is a big challenge. It doubles the volume that we’re currently handling, but Unicef has all hands on deck preparing to supply approved vaccines around the world,” Pablo Panadero, the chief of transport at Unicef’s supply division, said.The UN agency is responsible for procuring and delivering Covid-19 vaccines for 82 low and middle-income countries that will receive financial support through the Covax advance market commitment, while the Pan American Health Organisation will procure the vaccine for 10 of its member states.The two organisations launched a tender on behalf of the Covax Facility earlier this month, inviting all Covid-19 vaccine developers to submit supply bids for next year. US coronavirus vaccine trials raise hopes Chinese drugs will also prove effective, says pharma chiefThe challenges potentially include countries’ storage capacity and air cargo capacity, which has dropped by about 20 per cent compared with pre-pandemic levels, according to Panadero.As the coronavirus continues to ravage much of the world and with Covid-19 cases passing the 60 million mark globally on Thursday, Unicef is also studying how lockdowns or other travel restrictions may further affect its operations.Between March and May this year, the number of vaccines the agency shipped to children in the developing world was nearly half the number delivered in a typical year – a fall that was exacerbated by the pandemic’s impact on global freight operations.Panadero said the agency was “mindful” of the risk and was therefore working with the air freight industry to ensure it could “react in a flexible manner” by making more capacity available.The impact of the most recent restrictions on air freight capacity also appears to be “much smaller” than during the first wave.To reach all countries, even those affected by lockdowns, one option would be for the agency to charter its own planes, Panadero said. It already did something similar to supply vaccines for routine immunisation, personal protection equipment and drugs earlier this year.Last week Unicef, the Pan American Health Organisation and the International Air Transport Association briefed major global airlines on their expected capacity requirements and discussed ways to transport close to 2 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines in 2021.Unicef is also assessing the existing transport capacity to identify gaps and its future requirements.In recent weeks the announcement by drug companies that trials had shown their vaccine had around 95 per cent efficacy focused attention on the question of how these drugs should be delivered.Some of the most promising vaccines need strict temperature controls, including one made by Moderna that must be stored at temperatures of minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus 4 Fahrenheit) and another made by Pfizer and BioNTech, which must be kept at minus 70 degrees.Panadero said cold chain requirements were being mapped out, and added: “I think the advantage is that Unicef has the experience, the network, and the presence to deal with that. We have experience in handling the polio vaccine, which requires transport at minus 20 degrees, so we have experience with, let’s say, extreme cold chains.” Pfizer applies for US emergency approval of coronavirus vaccineWhile there are many factors for procuring an affordable and distributable vaccine – such as pricing, cold chain requirements and availability – Unicef plans to primarily rely on existing distribution systems, built mainly around vaccines that can be stored in a normal fridge.“We’ve been working for decades with ministries of health, with governments to build resilient cold supply chain systems for immunisation, and the best strategy is to work with these systems,” he added.But effective vaccine distribution will also depend on the preparations made by the recipients.A report released on Thursday assessing 10 key areas, found that African countries had an average readiness of 33 per cent – far below the benchmark of 80 per cent.Last month, Unicef started stockpiling more than one billion syringes to ensure they can be delivered to countries before the vaccine arrives.“Our national teams are working on country preparedness and working with partners in countries to map the cold chain requirements and any potential gaps. These exercises are ongoing and will determine where the gaps may be and where the strengthening and the investment is required,” Panadero said.More from South China Morning Post: * China joins WHO-led Covax scheme to share coronavirus vaccines fairly * Covax: China’s in, America’s out, but what is it all about? * UK appoints a vaccines minister to oversee millions of coronavirus inoculations * Will China move Africa up from the end of coronavirus vaccine queue? * Coronavirus: AstraZeneca to run fresh vaccine trial after issues with current testThis article How Unicef is preparing for challenge of getting Covid-19 vaccines to poorer countries first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.