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Corruption in China’s chamber of justice

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The CCP’s former justice minister Fu Zhenghua is now under probe for serious disciplinary violations - he had previously launched a politically motivated prosecution against prominent dissident Guo Wengui AKA Miles Kwok, writes Louis Auge.

In recent days the Chinese Communist Party has signalled its intention to pursue its anti-corruption efforts even amidst the higher echelons of the ruling party’s legal and judicial spheres. The campaign, launched by President Xi Jinping in 2018 with the slogan "Saohei chu'e," meaning "sweep away black and eliminate evil", has targeted a staggering number of purportedly corrupt state actors over the course of the past three years.

China's legislature has hailed the campaign as a huge success – having exposed almost 40,000 alleged criminal cells and corrupt companies, and more than 50,000 Communist Party and government officials having been punished for allegedly abetting them, according to official statistics. And Beijing is showing no signs of slowing down its pursuit of individuals they perceive to have fallen foul of the system – even at the top.

In what is being perceived as the latest show of China's iron fist against corruption in the political and legal system, over the weekend it was announced that Fu Zhenghua, the deputy director of the social and legal affairs committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) - China's top political advisory body - is under disciplinary and supervisory investigation for suspected violations of CCP protocol.

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Before taking up his post at the CPPCC, Mr. Fu had served as justice minister and deputy police chief for the Beijing municipal police department, where he was praised by the CCP hierarchy for cracking down on the city's sex industry, earning himself a promotion to executive vice minister for public security.

He was also known for cracking down on prominent and successful families. In 2014, Mr. Fu a conducted what many critics perceived to be politically motivated prosecution against Guo Wengui AKA Miles Kwok, a high profile CCP dissident now living in exile in the United States. Mr. Kwok subsequently revealed that Mr. Fu had ordered an investigation into the family finances of Wang Qishan, the country’s current Vice President, causing rumours to swirl about Mr. Fu’s political future.

The allegations against him failed to stick however – with Mr. Fu going on to be promoted to the position of Minister of Justice – but his path up the CCP power ranks now appears to have run out of road. He is not the only high ranking official to feel the wrath of Beijing recently. News of the investigation came just days after the CCP announced it was expelling former vice minister of public security Sun Lijun, having accusing him of "forming cliques and cabals to take over a key department," and of keeping a private collection of confidential documents.

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Regarding Mr. Fu, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) - the ruling Communist Party's anti-corruption watchdog - announced simply that he is under investigation for "serious violations of party discipline and law." The one-sentence statement did not offer any further details into the indictment.

According to CNN, the announcement was welcomed by a wide range of figures online, from rank-and-file police officers and prison guards to investigative journalists, human rights lawyers and intellectuals. No doubt outspoken CCP critics such as Mr. Kwok will also have felt vindicated by the development, to say the least.

In recent months President Xi has stepped up his party’s clamp down on rising political stars and overly powerful officials. However what is unusual about the fate of Mr. Fu's is how loudly and widely – in other words, unanimously – it is being celebrated, both by people working for the regime, and by those who have been subject to its repression.

Following news of his downfall, several veteran investigative journalists said on social media they had been targeted by Mr. Fu for their hard-hitting reports, on topics ranging from illegal detention of petitioners to local government corruption.

"The targets of Fu Zhenghua's crackdown are people at the core of China's civil society. Therefore, the country's whole intellectual sector and the wider public are all thrilled by (his fall from grace)," said Wu Qiang, a political analyst in Beijing. "His rise to power represented the aggressive iron-fist approach that has shaped China's governance over the past decade."

Mr. Fu's aggressive approach was also applied to police officers and prison guards, many of whom have been celebrating his downfall on social media. Comments make reference to Mr. Fu’s imposition of draconian working conditions for entry-level officers, such as not allowing prison guards to take breaks during night shifts.

Some analysts have suggested that this series of recent purges demonstrate declining trust from the Chinese leadership in the country's domestic security agencies. In the words of Wu Qiang, “It is very difficult for Beijing to have political trust. This is the biggest crisis in its governance". For critics such as Miles Kwok, it is also a sign of that the fractures within the centre of the ruling party are beginning to widen. Whether it is chasm that can be bridged is anyone’s guess.

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US invites Taiwan to its democracy summit - China angered

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The Biden administration has invited Taiwan to its "Summit for Democracy" next month, according to a list of participants published on Tuesday, a move that infuriated China, which views the democratically governed island as its territory, write Ben Blanchard in Taipei and Yew Lun Tian in Beijing and Humeyra Pamuk.

The first-of-its-kind gathering is a test of President Joe Biden's assertion, announced in his first foreign policy address in office in February, that he would return the United States to global leadership to face down authoritarian forces led by China and Russia.

There are 110 participants on the State Department's invitation list for the virtual event on 9 and 10 December, which aims to help stop democratic backsliding and the erosion of rights and freedoms worldwide. The list does not include China or Russia. Read more.

Taiwan's Foreign Ministry said the government would be represented by Digital Minister Audrey Tang and Hsiao Bi-khim, Taiwan's de facto ambassador in Washington.

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"Our country's invitation to participate in the 'Summit for Democracy' is an affirmation of Taiwan's efforts to promote the values of democracy and human rights over the years," the ministry added.

China's Foreign Ministry said it was "firmly opposed" to the invite.

"U.S. actions only go to show democracy is just a cover and a tool for it to advance its geopolitical objectives, oppress other countries, divide the world and serve its own interests," ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters in Beijing.

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The invite for Taiwan comes as China has stepped up pressure on countries to downgrade or sever relations with the island, which is considered by Beijing to have no right to the trappings of a state. Read more.

Self-governed Taiwan says Beijing has no right to speak for it.

Sharp differences over Taiwan persisted during a virtual meeting earlier this month between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

While Biden reiterated long-standing US support for the 'One China' policy under which it officially recognizes Beijing rather than Taipei, he also said he "strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait," the White House said.

Xi said that those in Taiwan who seek independence, and their supporters in the United States, were "playing with fire", according to state news agency Xinhua.

Rights groups question if Biden's Summit for Democracy can push those world leaders who are invited, some accused of harboring authoritarian tendencies, to take meaningful action.

The State Department list shows the event will bring together mature democracies such as France and Sweden but also countries such as the Philippines, India and Poland, where activists say democracy is under threat.

In Asia, some US allies such as Japan and South Korea were invited, while others like Thailand and Vietnam were not. Other notable absentees were US allies Egypt and NATO member Turkey. Representation from the Middle East will be slim, with Israel and Iraq the only two countries invited.

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Xi tells south-east Asian leaders China does not seek 'hegemony'

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Chinese President Xi Jinping (pictured) told leaders of the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at a summit on Monday (22 November) that Beijing would not "bully" its smaller regional neighbours, amid rising tension over the South China Sea, write Gabriel Crossley, Rozanna Latiff and Martin Petty, Reuters.

Beijing's territorial claims over the sea clash with those of several Southeast Asian nations and have raised alarm from Washington to Tokyo.

But Xi said China would never seek hegemony nor take advantage of its size to coerce smaller countries, and would work with ASEAN to eliminate "interference".

"China was, is, and will always be a good neighbour, good friend, and good partner of ASEAN," Chinse state media quoted Xi as saying.

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China’s assertion of sovereignty over the South China Sea has set it against ASEAN members Vietnam and the Philippines, while Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia also lay claim to parts.

The Philippines on Thursday (18 November) condemned the actions of three Chinese coast guard vessels that it said blocked and used water cannon on resupply boats headed towards a Philippine-occupied atoll in the sea.

The United States on Friday called the Chinese actions "dangerous, provocative, and unjustified", and warned that an armed attack on Philippine vessels would invoke U.S. mutual defence commitments.

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte told the summit hosted by Xi that he "abhors" the altercation and said the rule of law was the only way out of the dispute. He referred to a 2016 international arbitration ruling which found China's maritime claim to the sea had no legal basis.

"This does not speak well of the relations between our nations," said Duterte, who will leave office next year and has been criticised in the past for failing to condemn China's conduct in the disputed waters.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Xi told the summit that China and ASEAN had "cast off the gloom of the Cold War" - when the region was wracked by superpower competition and conflicts such as the Vietnam War - and had jointly maintained regional stability.

China frequently criticises the United States for "Cold War thinking" when Washington engages its regional allies to push back against Beijing's growing military and economic influence.

U.S. President Joe Biden joined ASEAN leaders for a virtual summit in October and pledged greater engagement with the region.

The summit was held without a representative from Myanmar, Malaysia's Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said on Monday. The reason for the non-attendance was not immediately clear, and a spokesperson for Myanmar's military government did not answer calls seeking comment.

ASEAN sidelined Myanmar junta leader Min Aung Hlaing, who has led a bloody crackdown on dissent since seizing power on 1 February, from virtual summits last month over his failure to make inroads in implementing an agreed peace plan, in an unprecedented exclusion for the bloc.

Myanmar refused to send junior representation and blamed ASEAN for departing from its non-interference principle and caving to Western pressure.

China lobbied for Min to attend the summit, according to diplomatic sources.

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Taiwan says China can blockade its key harbours, warns of 'grave' threat

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Taiwanese domestically built Indigenous Defense Fighters (IDF) take part in the live-fire, anti-landing Han Kuang military exercise, which simulates an enemy invasion, in Taichung, Taiwan July 16, 2020. REUTERS/Ann Wang

China's armed forces are capable of blockading Taiwan's key harbours and airports, the island's defence ministry said on Tuesday, offering its latest assessment of what it describes as a "grave" military threat posed by its giant neighbour, write Yew Lun Tian and Yimou Lee.

China has never renounced the use of force to bring democratic Taiwan under its control and has been ramping up military activity around the island, including repeatedly flying war planes into Taiwan's air defence zone.

Taiwan's defence ministry, in a report it issues every two years, said China had launched what it called "gray zone" warfare, citing 554 "intrusions" by Chinese war planes into its southwestern theatre of air defence identification zone between September last year and the end of August.

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Military analysts say the tactic is aimed at subduing Taiwan through exhaustion, Reuters reported last year.

At the same time, China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) is aiming to complete the modernisation of its forces by 2035 to "obtain superiority in possible operations against Taiwan and viable capabilities to deny foreign forces, posing a grave challenge to our national security", the Taiwan ministry said.

"At present, the PLA is capable of performing local joint blockade against our critical harbours, airports, and outbound flight routes, to cut off our air and sea lines of communication and impact the flow of our military supplies and logistic resources," the ministry said.

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China views Taiwan as Chinese territory. Its defence ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen says Taiwan is already an independent country and vows to defend its freedom and democracy.

Tsai has made bolstering Taiwan's defences a priority, pledging to produce more domestically developed weapons, including submarines, and buying more equipment from the United States, the island's most important arms supplier and international backer.

In October, Taiwan reported 148 Chinese air force planes in the southern and southwestern theatre of the zone over a four-day period, marking a dramatic escalation of tension between Taipei and Beijing. Read more.

The recent increase in China's military exercises in Taiwan's air defence identification zone is part of what Taipei views as a carefully planned strategy of harassment.

"Its intimidating behavior does not only consume our combat power and shake our faith and morale, but also attempts to alter or challenge the status quo in the Taiwan Strait to ultimately achieve its goal of 'seizing Taiwan without a fight'," the ministry said.

To counter China's attempt to "seize Taiwan swiftly whilst denying foreign interventions", the ministry vowed to deepen its efforts on "asymmetric warfare" to make any attack as painful and as difficult for China as possible.

That includes precision strikes by long-range missiles on targets in China, deployment of coastal minefields as well as boosting reserve training. Read more.

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