Wednesday May 22, 2019
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China Places Petitioners Under Surveillance, City-Wide Security

"The government knows as soon as you try to buy a ticket, and they come to stop you petitioning."

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China
Workers put finishing touches to flower decorations promoting the upcoming Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, April 23, 2019. RFA

Authorities in the Chinese capital have placed a number of high-profile dissidents under police guard and stepped up city-wide security ahead of a high-profile conference showcasing President Xi Jinping’s “Belt and Road” global infrastructure plan.

The Belt and Road Forum will see 37 heads of state and government converging on Beijing from Thursday through Saturday, including leaders of Austria, Hungary, Italy, and Russia.

International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde, and U.N. secretary-general Antonio Guterres are also expected to attend, according to China’s foreign minister Wang Yi.

Residents of Beijing said police are now routinely stopping people on the streets and checking their ID.

“They are checking ID in Beijing right now, asking passersby where they are going, and where they came from,” a resident surnamed Liu told RFA. “Around the Southern Railway Station, they have drafted in a bunch of young police officers from I don’t know where, with dogs.”

“They are also running security checks and checking ID at the metro stations,” Liu said. “It’s really tight, as if we’re on high alert,” she said.

China
“They have been on duty watching me since April 22, and limiting my freedom,” Qi said. “They are watching me because the Belt and Road Forum is about to open.” RFA

She said the security measures at the Southern Railway Station began on April 18.

“Things are so strict in Beijing right now,” housing rights activist Ni Yulan told RFA on Wednesday. “Basically, nobody from out of town is allowed into Beijing, and they have placed sensitive figures, such as dissidents and petitioners, under control and surveillance, so they can’t move around freely.”

“They are now paying close attention to people they didn’t particularly care about before,” she said. “The family members of anyone pursuing a complaint [against the government] are now really affected.”

Close surveillance

Beijing resident Qi Zhiyong, who was maimed when a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) tank ran over his legs on the night of June 3, 1989, during the bloody crackdown on the student-led pro-democracy movement, said he has been under close surveillance since Monday.

“They have been on duty watching me since April 22, and limiting my freedom,” Qi said. “They are watching me because the Belt and Road Forum is about to open.”

Qi said his movements will likely be restricted until April 29, and that he isn’t the only one being targeted.

“[Democracy activists] He Depu, Gao Hongming, and Zha Jianguo, also Hu Jia, Zhang Baocheng, and Li Wei were all placed under surveillance from April 23,” he said. “Also, they’re detaining petitioners now. If they find them during an ID check on the streets, they’ll detain them.”

China
A migrant worker sits next to his belonging against a wall displaying a Chinese government propaganda message at the Beijing railway station in Beijing, Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. China’s economic growth hit a three-decade low in 2018, adding to pressure on Beijing to beef up stimulus measures and settle a tariff war with Washington. (AP Photo/Andy Wong) RFA

Wu Shuyun, a petitioner from the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu, said many petitioners had been refused train tickets to Beijing when they tried to buy them ahead of the forum.

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“There is a huge stability maintenance operation in Chengdu at the moment,” Wu said. “The government knows as soon as you try to buy a ticket, and they come to stop you petitioning.”

“People are getting stopped at the railway station when they try to travel to Beijing to complain, and beaten up and their phones confiscated.” (RFA)

Next Story

Amid Intensifying US China Trade Dispute, Indian Exporters Eye Gains

Orient Craft’s new unit in Jharkhand, one of India’s least developed states, will employ about eight thousand workers

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US, China, Trade Dispute, Indian Exporters
Orient Craft, one of India's largest apparel exporters, says it could benefit from increased business as the US-China trade war intensifies. This building in Gurgaon on the outskirts of Delhi houses its office and one of its garment units. VOA

As work on establishing a massive garment-manufacturing unit by one of India’s leading apparel exporters enters the final stages, the company is optimistic about keeping the machines humming. Slated to begin production in August, Orient Craft’s new unit in Jharkhand, one of India’s least developed states, will employ about eight thousand workers.

Inquiries from buyers in the United States, its biggest market, have increased in recent months as a trade dispute with China intensifies, according to A.K. Jain, who heads the Commercial department at Orient Craft. That is why he is upbeat about generating new business. “This is an unbelievable blessing in disguise,” he says. “It will give us an edge.”

Exporters in India are reaping the benefits of the trade war between the world’s two biggest economies as business with both countries jumps, according to Ajai Sahai, who heads the Federation of Indian Export Organizations.

“While overall exports have gone up by nine percent, exports to the U.S. have gone up by 13 percent and to China by 32 percent,” he says. And as the confrontation escalated last week after the two countries failed to reach a deal, his optimism increased. “Since the tariff hike is now substantial from 10 to 25 percent we feel we will have more advantage in market access.”

US, China, Trade Dispute, Indian Exporters
A slowdown in the Indian economy is being attributed to a drop in consumption by an affluent middle class. VOA

India is among a handful of countries set to benefit from the U.S.-China trade dispute, a report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development stated in February. “The saying ‘it’s good to fish in troubled waters’ could apply to some bystander nations,” the report said, pointing out that most of the Chinese exports subject to U.S. tariffs will be captured by firms in third countries.

While China has opened its doors wider to a range of agricultural products from India such as rice and sugar, exports to the United States have increased in areas such as chemicals, pharmaceuticals, jewelry, auto components and apparel.

“In various products we were losing out to China with a very narrow margin. With the hike, we are able to offset that,” says Sahai. “That is why the tariff war has presented us an opportunity to enter markets in the U.S. in some areas we were hardly penetrating.”

But even as Indian exports benefit, trade experts warn that clouds are also gathering over New Delhi’s trade relationship with Washington. In recent months, U.S. President Donald Trump has slammed Indian duties on some U.S. goods, saying that India is not providing “equitable and reasonable access” to its markets.

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Economists also warn that an eventual slowdown in global trade due to the U.S.-China trade spat will hit all countries including India, which is already staring at an economic slowdown

Growth in the world’s fastest growing major economy flagged to 6.6 percent in the last quarter of 2018 – it’s lowest in more than a year. It is not expected to fare much better this year.

The slump is blamed on slackening domestic consumption, which powers the Indian economy. Unlike East Asian countries, which have raced ahead on the back of exports, growth momentum in India is largely based on an affluent middle class snapping up goods such as cars, refrigerators, air conditioners and other consumer goods.

But there are concerns as automobile sales, the barometer of consumption, plunged to the lowest in nearly eight years in recent months.

US, China, Trade Dispute, Indian Exporters
Like other carmakers, the Hyundai showroom in Gurgaon has witnessed a decline in sales of cars in recent months. VOA

At the Hyundai car showroom in the upscale business hub of Gurgaon, near Delhi, a range of swanky models beckon customers, but there are few to be seen. This is in marked contrast to the last three years when buoyant automobile sales helped India overtake Germany to become the world’s fourth largest automobile market. That prompted car makers such as Hyundai, Honda and Toyota to expand their presence in the country.

“In recent years, March and April used to be good months. But now 20 to 30 percent drop is there in these months also,” says Gagan Arora, business head at the Hyundai showroom. “There is a slowdown in the whole industry. New buyers are not being added so frequently.”

Economists say while rising exports to the United States and China present a silver lining, the first challenge facing India’s new government due to take office after vote counting in elections is completed this week, will be how to restore overall momentum to the economy and see why consumers are not so willing to open their wallets. (VOA)