Hong Kong activists landed on the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands sparking China-Japan diplomatic row over the islands. Fugitive gunman was shot dead by Chongqing police. Beijing signed new economic agreements with Pyongyang and host Syrian President¡¯s special envoy. Top stories for the week of August 13, 2012 for the People¡¯s Republic of China
Hong Kong activists landed on the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, 14 arrested by Japan
14 activists from Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Macao were arrested by police of Japanese Okinawa Prefecture on August 15 after seven of them successfully landed on the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands located in the East China Sea, intensifying the diplomatic row over the islands between China and Japan. The Kai Fung 2 fishing boat filled with activities determined to proclaim China¡¯s sovereignty over the contested Diaoyu islands departed from Hong Kong on August 12, and sailed to the islands alone after two other activist groups from Taiwan and the Mainland cancelled a plan to join the Hong Kong boat due to the lack of government support. After seven activists landed on the islands at 5:31pm, holding China¡¯s national flags, five of them were arrested on suspicion of ¡°illegal entry¡± by some 30 Japanese police, guardsmen, and immigration authorities who arrived beforehand. In a few hours all the other activists on the boat, including Hong Kong journalists, were arrested on the same charge. In response, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang reiterated that China¡¯s position on the islands is ¡°clear and resolute,¡± and Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying summoned the Japanese ambassador and urged Japan to ¡°refrain from taking any action that could endanger the safety of the lives and property of Chinese citizens going to the Diaoyu islands.¡± Since the activists landing and the arrest happened on August 15, the 67th anniversary of Japan¡¯s surrender to the Allied Forces in the World War II, several activist groups in the Mainland, Hong Kong, and Taiwan protested in front of Japanese embassy and consulates to claim sovereignty over the islands.
On August 16, Chinese embassy officials and Hong Kong immigration officials met the detainees on the island of Okinawa. The Taiwanese ¡°Foreign Ministry¡± also urged for the quick release of Hong Kong activists. Japanese officials stated that they would decide whether to pursue criminal investigation or repatriate them by the evening of August 17. Reportedly to avoid a full-fledged standoff with China, Japan has deported seven of the 14 activities on August 17, and the rest will take the boat with them back to Hong Kong. While showing their respect and support to the arrested activists, many Chinese netizens expressed their dissatisfaction with Beijing¡¯s ¡°soft¡± stance.
Fugitive gunman who kills nine shot dead in Chongqing
Zhou Kehua, the 42-year-old armed robber who has allegedly killed at least nine people in three provinces since 2004 with stolen or illegally purchased guns, was shot dead by Chongqing police on August 14 after a massive manhunt. Zhou was described as ¡°ruthless and highly dangerous¡± by the authorities, who identified him as a ¡°class-A¡± wanted suspect and offered a 5.4 million RMB ($850,000 USD) reward for his capture after he killed a woman and then a policeman pursuing him in the suburbs of Chongqing on August 10. Since private citizens are not allowed to possess guns according to Chinese laws, Zhou¡¯s crimes involving firearms attracted wide attention from Chinese public. Immediately after Zhou was shot, Chinese Public Security Minister Meng Jianzhu delivered his praises to the Chongqing Municipal Public Security Bureau. Many local residents were reportedly standing along nearby streets to watch Zhou¡¯s dead body being moved by the police, and Chinese people also expressed their relief via Sina Weibo (a microblogging site) after hearing Zhou¡¯s death.
New economic deals between Beijing and Pyongyang, future reforms are expected
Jang Song-thaek, the uncle of North Korea¡¯s young leader Kim Jong-un and believed to be the power behind Kim, led a delegation to China on August 13 to discuss China-North Korea joint economic development projects amid signs that the new North Korean leadership might take a reformist move to rescue the country¡¯s broken economy. A joint management committee would be established to oversee the two existing economic zones co-managed by the two countries: Rason on the east coast of North Korea, and Hwanggumphyong, on the North Korean border with China. Beijing and Pyongyang also signed deals on agricultural cooperation and electricity supply. Reportedly, this is the latest signal of Kim Jong-un¡¯s serious interest in solving the North¡¯s economic problems and his willingness to carry on economic reforms. These efforts are framed with the background that Kim Jong-un and Jang purged a conservative senior official and the nominal head of state Kim Yong-nam visited Vietnam and Laos to discuss economic development.
China hosts Syrian President¡¯s special envoy, will meet the opposition later
From August 14 Buthaina Shaaban, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad¡¯s political and media advisor has been visiting China and meeting with Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. The Chinese Foreign Ministry added that China is also considering inviting Syrian opposition representatives to visit. Chinese ministry spokesman Qin Gang stated that China¡¯s Syria policy aims to ¡°promote a political solution¡± to the ongoing civil conflict, and that China ¡°has always actively balanced its work between the Syrian government and the opposition.¡± He also emphasized the efforts China has been making in urging the two sides to implement Kofi Annan¡¯s six-point peace plan. China has maintained long-standing ties with the Syrian government, and has twice vetoed UN Security Council¡¯s resolutions that would sanction Assad¡¯s regime, receiving sharp criticism from the West. Therefore, China¡¯s stance this time is reported to ¡°deflect criticism¡± and to show it is trying to exert positive influence over the situation.
Summaries by Christina Zhao, China Program intern at The Carter Center