Missing students and tiger bones

Access Archive

Dear Access member,

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For today, we’ve got five things for you at the top.

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief

1. Ban on tiger and rhino trade back in force, for now

Reuters reports:

China has postponed the lifting of a ban on the trade of rhino horn and tiger parts for medicine and other uses, the government said on Monday, after a storm of protest from conservation groups over a plan to water down the decades-old prohibition.

In October, the State Council issued a circular replacing a 1993 ban on the trade of tiger bones and rhinoceros horn, opening up exceptions under “special circumstances,” including medical “research”…

…The “detailed regulations for implementation” of the October change had been “postponed after study… The ‘three strict bans’ will continue to be enforced: strictly ban the import and export of rhinos, tigers and their byproducts; strictly ban the sale, purchase, transport, carrying and mailing of rhinos, tigers and their byproducts; and strictly ban the use of rhino horns and tiger bones in medicine.”

Note that the lifting of the ban is postponed, not canceled.

2. And then they came, again, for the student Marxists

“Labor activists missing in China after suspected coordinated raids,” says Reuters. Background:

  • In August this year, 50 students from across China, including young idealists from the prestigious Nanjing, Peking, and Renmin universities, went to Huizhou in southern China in August to protest against the treatment of factory workers. Some of them were detained extra-legally.

  • In September, the Financial Times reported (paywall) that the prestigious Peking University was threatening to close down its student Marxism society because the students were practicing Marxism by connecting with workers and organizing.

  • On November 2, Reuters reported that two students at Nanjing University were assaulted and hauled away, “according to a witness and video footage, after they led protests against their university on Thursday for refusing to recognize an on-campus Marxist student society.”

  • The crackdown is intensifying: The most recent Reuters report says that at least 12 student labor activists have “gone missing”:

Authorities took away at least nine activists in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen late on Friday, and three more activists were taken away on Sunday in the city of Wuhan, the sources said.

At least five graduates of Peking University, one of the country’s top universities, were among those picked up on Friday, student activists said.

  • One of the graduates was “kidnapped” on the Peking University campus, according to Agence France-Presse: “An eyewitness and Peking University student claimed that more than ten people in dark-colored clothing beat Zhang before dragging him into a black car.”

  • Professor Eli Friedman of Cornell University — who was involved in cooperative projects with Renmin University and their October 20 suspension after Renmin students affiliated with its Marxist society were punished — tweeted: “Info is still sketchy, but it looks like China’s preeminent institution of higher ed is implicated in the physical assault and kidnapping of its own student. Where’s Zhang Shengye?”

  • “Not a coincidence — Peking University’s new Party secretary, the real head of the university, has a long history in the politics and law system, including a brief stint as party secretary of the Beijing state security bureau,” tweeted China-watcher Bill Bishop. (See our previous note on this: The death of Peking University.)

  • See also: Young activists go missing in China, raising fears of crackdown / NYT (porous paywall).

—Jeremy Goldkorn

3. Trade war, day 130: Vice presidents speechify as World Bank gives China a ‘quiet endorsement’

Chinese Vice President Lǐ Kèqiáng 李克强 and his American counterpart, Mike Pence, are in a flurry of meetings with Asian leaders this week amid ongoing trade sparring in print. Li will visit Singapore for five days, during which the annual ASEAN summit will take place, while Pence’s weeklong trip — his third to the Indo-Pacific since taking office — will take him to Japan, Australia, Papua New Guinea, and Singapore.

  • In an opinion piece in the Washington Post (paywall) on Friday, Pence wrote, without directly referring to China, that while “some nations now seek to undermine this foundation, the United States is taking decisive action to protect our interests and promote the Indo-Pacific’s shared success.”

  • Li took to Singapore’s Straits Times (paywall) to restate Beijing’s promises of maintaining openness: “Faced with the challenges of rising protectionism and unilateralism, we need to join hands to send a positive message of upholding the World Trade Organization-centered multilateral trading system and advancing trade and investment liberalization and facilitation.”

  • Trump does not seem to be interested in joining hands, however. The Wall Street Journal reports (paywall), “The Trump administration is broadening its China trade battle beyond tariffs with a plan to use export controls, indictments and other tools to counter the theft of intellectual property.”

The World Bank, meanwhile, “last week quietly provided endorsement of China’s claim of steadily opening up,” says the South China Morning Post. “In its annual Doing Business study — perhaps the world’s most comprehensive and rigorous assessment of the barriers that block access to the world’s markets — it reported that China now ranks 46th out of 190 economies worldwide.”

But not everyone seems convinced. “Why so tepid?” is the question Bloomberg poses (porous paywall) about the low interest from global financial players to invest in some of the newer sectors open to foreign investment:  

Many companies are taking a wait-and-see approach. The trade war continues to stoke fears that market access may be revoked. Previous joint ventures involving minority stakes that didn’t work out are still fresh in many memories.

Other trade war news — farms and automobiles

—Sky Canaves

4. Making the rent is stressing out young people in China

Over the summer, a rental crisis began unfolding in Beijing, as the average payment for an apartment in the city soared 21 percent higher than in 2017. It’s not just the capital: A new survey (in Chinese) of 2,002 people aged 18 to 35 by the China Youth Daily reveals that young people nationwide are having trouble making the rent.

  • “Renting is a large financial burden” on 82.1 percent of the respondents. More than 20 percent fork over more than half their income on rent.

  • Three major vexations for young people are:

    • Unreasonable rent increases and additional fees by housing agents and landlords.

    • The difficulty of getting timely and high-quality maintenance work done.

    • Fake and fraudulent rental information on the internet.

  • 93.3 percent of the respondents said that they hoped the government would make affordable housing more accessible to young people. 57.9 percent want the government to establish online rental platforms that are more reliable and inexpensive.

A version of this story on SupChina includes a few translated comments from survey respondents.

—Jiayun Feng

5. State media today: Listen up, Hong Kong and Macao!

All central state media today are highlighting this story (English, Chinese):

Xinhua President Xi Jinping on Monday voiced the hope that Hong Kong and Macao will further develop themselves by embracing the nation’s cause of reform and opening-up.

Compatriots in Hong Kong and Macao are expected to continue participating in the country’s reform and opening-up with sincere patriotism and pioneering spirit, attain the greater development of the two special administrative regions (SARs) by promoting the development of the country, and jointly work for the national rejuvenation, Xi said when meeting with a delegation from the two SARs.

The delegations are in Beijing to celebrate the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening up, but Xi’s message seems intended to warn the ostensibly autonomous regions to toe the Party line.  

Our whole team really appreciates your support as Access members. Please chat with us on our Slack channel or contact me anytime at jeremy@supchina.com.

—Jeremy Goldkorn



Charming and gregarious, Sheri Yan [严瑞雪 Yán Ruìxuě] was once known for hosting soirees around the world where diplomats mingled with millionaire business executives and socialites. But her life changed forever in October 2015, when she was arrested by FBI agents in New York and accused of bribing the former president of the United Nations General Assembly, John Ashe.



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Drainage tubes

In this 1991 photo, workers weld giant drainage tubes for the Manwan Dam, a large hydroelectric dam built on the Mekong (Lancang) River.

Jia Guo