China improves child protection in poor areas

Kang Yu (left), a graduate of Renmin University of China, teaches students to write poetry at a middle school in Mangshui township, Baoshan city, Yunnan province. [Photo provided to China Daily]

BEIJING – The Chinese government has strengthened protection of children left behind by parents who have migrated to work in cities, or those in poor areas, amid the country’s battle against poverty, a senior official said Monday.

In 2019, the Ministry of Civil Affairs for the first time set aside 400 million yuan ($58 million) for children’s protection from the central assistance fund for people with financial difficulties, said Ni Chunxia, deputy director of the ministry’s child welfare department, at a press conference.

The fund can be used to collect evidence on those in need of rescue, evaluate guardianship, and conduct follow-up studies and visits for needy children, especially those in impoverished areas, according to Ni.

The department has also directed 70 percent of assistance programs provided by children’s social organizations to poor regions over the past two years.

In addition, the ministry will offer more than 1.4 million yuan to enable training of personnel in charge of children’s work in 22 provincial-level areas in the less-developed central and western regions, Ni said.

SCO’s judicial cooperation to be deepened

President Xi Jinping said he expects deepened judicial cooperation within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to fight crime and resolve disputes more effectively.

He made the remarks in a congratulatory letter sent to the 13th conference of presidents of supreme courts of SCO member countries, held in Beijing on Friday.

Xi said he hopes all sides will cooperate to fight crime and resolve disputes more effectively, and create a sound legal environment to facilitate construction of Belt and Road Initiative-related projects and promote regional development.

As an important judicial cooperation mechanism of the SCO, the conference plays a significant role in boosting exchanges on the idea and system of the rule of law and in deepening program cooperation in various fields among SCO member countries, he said.

Xi stressed in the letter that China is establishing a system of socialist rule of law with Chinese characteristics, comprehensively advancing law-based governance and pursuing coordinated progress in law-based governance, the exercise of State power and government administration.

The country is committed to promoting the integrated development of rule of law for the nation, the government and society, while comprehensively advancing sound lawmaking, strict law enforcement, impartial administration of justice and the observance of law by everyone, he said.

China is creating a law-based, international and accommodating business environment and building a country of socialist rule of law, he added.

At the end of the conference,?the SCO member countries released a joint declaration, stipulating that they will share experience on technology application in courts, increase communication on fighting forced confessions, avoid evidence that is obtained illegally and improve training of judges.

Arjan Kumar Sikri, justice of the Supreme Court of India, applauded Xi’s letter, calling it a “good signal and positive message” to all the participating countries, and he said it shows that the Chinese leadership highlights judicial cooperation.

Although laws are different among the countries, common strategies and cooperation on some issues, including fighting terrorism and money laundering, should be developed and intensified, he added.

Vyacheslav M. Lebedev, chief justice of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, noted that the top courts of China and Russia have undertaken much judicial cooperation in the past decades, which has been “both constructive and innovative”.

Zhou Qiang, president of the Supreme People’s Court of China, suggested that the SCO member countries expand cooperation to more aspects while reinforcing the current achievements.

He cited the Hangzhou Court of the Internet in Zhejiang province as an example.

Xinhua contributed to this story.

Pyramid scheme founder gets 17 years in jail

[Photo/Official Weibo account of People’s Daily]

Zhang Tianming, the mastermind behind Shanxinhui, a company that had led a pyramid scheme involving more than 100 billion yuan ($14.5 billion), was sentenced to 17 years in prison with a fine of 100 million yuan at a local court in Yongzhou, Hunan province, on Friday.

The other nine convicts received jail terms ranging from six months to 10 years with fines for organizing and leading pyramid activities, and their illegal gains were confiscated, according to the verdict from the Shuangpai County People’s Court.

More than 5.98 million people nationwide participated in the scheme activities, with a total of 104.6 billion yuan involved, the verdict said.

Zhang, 42, founded Shenzhen Shanxinhui Culture Communication Co in the southern metropolis of Shenzhen, Guangdong province, in May 2013. He hired several people to set up a network on the internet for pyramid activities.

The convicts intentionally distorted the country’s targeted policy to eradicate poverty under the guise of helping the poor and building a so-called “new economic ecological model”. They enticed people to take part in pyramid sales by promising high returns and cheated them out of huge amounts of property, according to previous reports by the Xinhua News Agency.

While police were probing the case, Zhang incited more than 600 scheme members to protest in public places by pulling banners and shouting slogans on June 9 and 10, 2017, the court verdict said.

The company’s pyramid activities had seriously disrupted the social and economic order, and Zhang’s instigation behind the protests constitutes the crime of organizing people to disturb order at public places, according to the verdict.

Xi stresses centralized, unified leadership of CPC Central Committee over foreign affairs

BEIJING — Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), on Tuesday called for enhancing the centralized and unified leadership of the CPC Central Committee over foreign affairs and opening up new prospects of major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics.

Xi, also Chinese president, chairman of the Central Military Commission, and head of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee, made the remarks when presiding over the first meeting of the Foreign Affairs Commission.

The meeting was attended by Premier Li Keqiang, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and deputy head of the commission, and Vice President Wang Qishan, also member of the commission.

Wang Huning, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and member of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee, and Vice Premier Han Zheng, also member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, were present.

In his speech, Xi called for correct understanding and dealing with the changes of the current international situation and forging ahead to open up new prospects of major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics so as to make greater contribution to the realization of the two centenary goals and the Chinese dream of great national renewal.

He said China had actively advanced innovations in diplomatic theories and practices, improved multi-faceted diplomacy, promoted the Belt and Road construction and been deeply involved in reforming and building the global governance system since the 18th National Congress of the CPC held in 2012.

It had also firmly safeguarded national sovereignty, security and development interests, blazed a new trail of major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics and scored historic achievements, he said.

In today’s world of increased factors of uncertainty and instability, China’s development faces both opportunities and challenges, Xi said.

He ordered the precise grasping of the law of changes in the international situation, thinking ahead and properly handling risks.

Xi called for further improvement of diplomatic planning, implementation of plans for major diplomatic activities, enhanced awareness of risks and firm safeguarding of national sovereignty, security and development interests for now and the years to come.

On the Belt and Road Initiative, Xi said the initiative was an important platform for promoting the building of a community with a shared future for humanity.

Hailing the achievements on the Belt and Road Initiative in the past years, Xi called for the effective implementation of the results of the first Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held last May, gaining consensus of all sides, planning a vision of cooperation, expanding opening up and enhancing communication, coordination and cooperation with other countries so as to promote the initiative to make more progress and benefit more people.

On local foreign affairs, Xi said they were important components of the foreign affairs of the Party and the country, and of great significance to advancing exchanges and cooperation with foreign countries and promoting local reform and development.

He ordered effective arrangements for local foreign affairs under the centralized and unified leadership of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee, as well as the centralized and rational allocation of resources.

Xi stressed that the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee should play a role in policy-making, discussion and coordination, advance the innovation of diplomatic theories and practices and provide strong guidance for foreign affairs to make new achievements.

He also ordered enhanced top-down planning and coordination, an increase in the abilities of setting directions, controlling the overall situation and making policies, promoting reforms to the foreign affairs working mechanism and strengthening the building of foreign affairs talent teams to ensure the implementation of CPC Central Committee policies.

The meeting also approved documents including the working rules of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee.

China selects peony as national flower

The peony [Photo by Zhang Chunyan/chinadaily.com.cn]

China, at long last, has its own floral symbol — and to no one’s surprise, it’s the “king of the flowers”.

The peony has won overwhelming public support in an online poll over which flower should be China’s national bloom, the China Flower Association announced on Tuesday.

Those who took part in the nationwide polling, which ended on Monday, could choose from 10 nominees: peony, wintersweet, chrysanthemum, orchid, camellia, lotus, sweet-scented osmanthus, Chinese rose, azalea and narcissus.

Out of 362,264 votes cast, 79 percent went to the peony, followed by 12 percent for wintersweet and 2 percent for orchid. About 1.9 percent voted lotus, while the rest cumulatively received less than 1 percent.

Panda found in wild over two years after release

CHENGDU — A female giant panda released into the wild more than two years ago was spotted in Southwest China’s Sichuan province, sources with a local nature reserve said on Tuesday.

The giant panda was spotted by a villager in Shimian county in the city of Ya’an. Researchers in Liziping Nature Reserve identified it as the giant panda named Zhang Meng they released in Oct 2016 and found her to be in good physical condition through examining her feces.

According to Shi Xu, a staff with the reserve, the collar that they put on Zhang Meng when she was released fell off in May 2017. Researchers have only been able to track her by searching for panda feces since then.

The panda ran away after she saw humans approaching her, according to the villager who spotted her.

“It is a good thing that she ran away from humans. It indicates that she became wilder,” said Shi. “She was not so afraid of people when we found her last time in Shimian county in 2017.”

The panda was born on July 7, 2014. She was released into the wild in the Liziping Nature Reserve on Oct 20, 2016 following two years of wilderness training.

Exotic pets a rage despite concerns

Lizards are on display at the 7th China Pet Fair in Wuhan, Hubei province, in September.YU HUOYAN/FOR CHINA DAILY

Beijing resident Tan Jingcheng shows photos of what he believes to be a lesser chameleon on his smartphone and smiles.

“I think it’s beautiful, certainly more interesting than a common cat or dog,” the 33-year-old computer analyst said.

Tan said he bought the reptile, listed as an endangered species, via an online vendor for a “substantial” part of his salary.

“Many of my friends think these types of animals are cool. They are really not so difficult to get hold of and more people are raising them,” he said.

Tan is one of a growing number of increasingly affluent Chinese pet owners who are helping to fuel a global exotic animals trend, despite repeated warnings about biodiversity loss and potential health risks.

Exotic pets include animals taken from the wild or those that are produced from breeding wild species ranging from amphibians and reptiles to birds and fish, according to a statement from global nonprofit animal welfare group World Animal Protection. The exotic pets trade has “flourished”, with more than 500 bird species and 500 reptile species traded worldwide, it said.

The international wildlife trade is worth up to $42 billion a year, with illegal trading practices estimated at $20 billion, the group said. Endangered and protected animals trading as exotic pets make up a substantial segment of the industry.

“The rise and popularity of the exotic pets trade pose a huge threat to wildlife conservation efforts around the world,” World Animal Protection CEO Steve McIvor said.

“Airlines and internet platforms play an extremely important role in this trade chain… e-commerce platforms have also placed greater requirements on regulating and enforcing the wildlife trade.”

China’s wild animal protection laws prohibit the hunting and killing of wildlife, with improved mechanisms for reining in trafficking and other illegal wildlife trading practices. The country also signed the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora in 1981, aimed at protecting endangered plants and animals and ensuring that any international trade in them does not threaten their survival.

Chinese customs authorities have been stepping up efforts to target the illegal exotic pets trade. In January, customs officers intercepted a consignment of nearly 30 spiders in the Luohu area of Shenzhen, Guangdong province, bordering Hong Kong. A few months earlier, joint customs and security forces reported foiling a major smuggling attempt by a crime syndicate involving more than 10,000 endangered parrots in Xiamen, Fujian province.

More measures to tighten supervision of online transactions that involve exotic pets are being rolled out, amid the rising number of plants and animals being confiscated at the country’s entry-exit points, according to Chinese quarantine authorities.

Li Feng, co-owner of the Yongle pet store and animal clinic in Beijing, said there has been a marked increase in interest among young urbanites for more “non-traditional pets”.

“These animals may require specialized food and care that can obviously be difficult for us to provide. Many queries can be plugged online but owners can still find it more and more challenging to care for such pets later,” said Li, 48.

“Every day, thousands of wild animals are captured from the wild or farmed and sold … Whether or not such trading is legal, there are serious animal welfare issues in the process,” World Animal Protection said in its report on the global exotic pets trade.

The report showed that at least one-third of wildlife species being traded die during transportation every year due to confined spaces and harsh environments. Similarly, at least three-quarters of pet snakes, lizards, tortoises and turtles die within a year of domestic breeding due to inadequate food and other living conditions, it said.

Keeping exotic pets may also pose risks to public health as wild animals can carry bacteria and parasites that are linked to infectious diseases, according to the group.

Changing people’s perceptions and raising awareness on the need to protect the animals are crucial in reducing the need for the exotic pet trade, according to its report. Nearly half of first-time buyers “hardly take the time” to learn more about the animals they buy, so they do not know the issues involved in wildlife protection and the trade in exotic animals.

Potential pet owners who learn about the harms associated with the exotic pet trade also significantly reconsider their purchases, it said.

Gansu’s Sanweishan scene spot perfect for meditation

The temple complex under star-studded sky at Sanweishan scenic spot in Dunhuang, Gansu province. [Photo by Wang Binyin for chinadaily.com.cn]

Located 25 kilometers away from Dunhuang city, Sanweishan scene spot in Gansu province boasts a grand architectural complex of ancient temples. When the dark falls, the commanding architecture and star-studded night skies form a perfect backdrop for meditation.

Over 53-day road trip culminates for German cultural envoys

People of the 2019 Hamburg-Shanghai New Silk Road Bus Tour arrives at Shanghai Tower on July 5. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Fifty-five German cultural ambassadors arrived in Shanghai on July 5, the final stop in their 53-day road trip from Hamburg, Germany. The average age of them is 70 years old and the eldest person is over 80.

While in Shanghai, they visited the Dunhuang cultural exhibition held at Shanghai Tower. Journalists and scholars from Germany also attended the road trip.