China. The Communist Party continued its hard line against regime critics and human rights activists as well as the lawyers defending them. At the end of January, a Swedish man was released after a time in prison. The man had, through the organization he leads, assisted vulnerable groups with legal aid. In January, lawyer Wang Yu, who defended many activists, was also arrested. Like a number of human rights lawyers who disappeared without a trace in the summer of 2015, she was charged with community outrage. One of the lawyers was sentenced in August to seven years in prison, while Wang Yu was released after pleading guilty to conspiracy against the regime.
In Hong Kong, Swedish citizen Gui Minhai was one of five booksellers who disappeared. Gui disappeared in October 2015 from his apartment in Thailand. Like the others, he has links to a bookstore that has regime-critical literature in the assortment. Gui later appeared in the Chinese state television where he stated that he self-reported to the Chinese police. Three of the other bookstores also appeared on television and acknowledged that they helped Gui send books to China.
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In March, the National People’s Congress, China’s Legislative Assembly, approved a new five-year plan for economic development. The target for annual growth until 2020 was set at between 6.5 and 7%. In April, China imposed a ban on imports of gold and other minerals from North Korea, among others. At the same time, exports of oil related to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program were banned. Trade restrictions were in line with new UN sanctions introduced in March. In July, China strongly objected to the announcement that a US missile defense system would be used in South Korea. The following month, Beijing therefore chose to block a UN resolution against North Korea in the UN Security Council, which would condemn the latest North Korean missile launch in early August.
As noted on Digopaul, the current population of China is 1,439,323,787. The South China Sea continued to be a hot foreign policy issue. In April, the foreign ministers of the G7 countries (France, Italy, Japan, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States) wrote a joint statement expressing their concern about the situation in the East and South China Seas. The exact boundaries between the territorial waters of the various countries in the areas are disputed. According to thereligionfaqs, China’s large claims are rejected by several other countries and this has led to tensions in the region. The statement did not mention China but criticized the Chinese regime despite its content. In May, an American surveillance plane was clashing with two Chinese fighter jets over the South China Sea, but saved the situation by a quick maneuver. According to the US Department of Defense, the plane was in international airspace.
In July, the Permanent Arbitration Tribunal in The Hague (PCA) published its ruling in the Philippines-China conflict concerning the Chinese claims of 85% of the territorial waters of the South China Sea. According to countryaah, the Court ruled that China’s claim lacked legal grounds and thus went on the Philippines’ line. Chinese President Xi Jinping stated that China neither accepted the verdict nor intended to accept documents based on it. China said that the country would now begin monitoring the airspace over the disputed sea area and that it was considered to have the right to set up an air defense zone there.
In July, three of the leaders of the so-called umbrella movement were convicted who, in the fall of 2014, conducted manifestations in Hong Kong in a trial. The three were accused of illegally gathering people for demonstrations and in August, two were sentenced to approximately 100 hours of community service while the third received a three-week prison sentence.
In September, elections to the Hong Kong Legislative Assembly LegCo were held. Although democracy advocates gained three seats more than before, the majority of members, as before, consisted of politicians loyal to the Communist Party. Some of the newly elected members belonged to two new parties, Demosisto and Youngspiration, both of which have their roots in the so-called Occupy Central movement, whose student leaders played a central role in the 2014 demonstrations. When they were sworn in as members of LegCo, they were prevented from taking their seats. After several weeks of arguing, the Beijing government intervened by reinterpreting the law so that LegCo’s members were forced to take the prescribed oath properly. The decision was met with a silent protest march along Hong Kong’s streets, in which around 2,000 black-clad lawyers and activists participated. A few days later, tens of thousands of people gathered in a manifesto in support of Hong Kong’s view of China. The issue of Youngspiration politicians’ right to their seats in LegCo was decided in mid-November by the Hong Kong Supreme Court, which ruled that the government was right to disqualify them.
President Xi Jinping seemed to be strengthening his grip on power, at least judging by the new titles he was honored during the year. In April he was appointed commander-in-chief of the military command center for joint operations and in October he was called “the core of the Central Committee”. Of the former senior leaders in China, Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin, but not Xi’s representative Hu Jintao, have received this honorable mention.
In July, Guo Boxiong, Deputy Chairman of the Central Military Commission 2003-13 and former Politburo member, was sentenced to life in prison for corruption. On the other hand, the news was censored that relatives of several high-ranking politicians were designated as taxpayers in the so-called Panama Papers. According to the disclosures, relatives of, among others, President Xi Jinping, former Prime Minister Li Peng and the corruption-convicted former party secretary in Chongqing, Bo Xilai, have transferred money to foreign bank accounts. Like many other designated taxpayers around the world, these individuals should have been assisted by Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca.
China protested in December that US President Donald Trump answered a phone call from Taiwan’s President Tsai Ingwen. However, the White House assured that the country’s China policy was firm. In 1979, the United States officially broke with Taiwan and established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China.