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Nepal, China to sign petroleum deal to import fuel from Beijing

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Kathmandu: In a significant departure, Nepal and China have agreed to sign a long-term petroleum deal to import fuel from Beijing. With this, Nepal will end the Indian monopoly over fuel imports.

The foreign ministers of Nepal and China have directed the concerned authorities to seal the deal at the earliest, officials said.

This followed a meeting between Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Kamal Thapa and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Beijing on Friday.

For exploring the possibilities of importing fuel on an urgent basis, a two-member team from the ministry of commerce and supplies and the Nepali Oil Corp has reached Beijing.

Thapa is the senior most Nepali official to visit China after Kathmandu came out with a new constitution, protests against which have virtually sealed the India-Nepal border creating major shortages in Nepal.

“By overcoming the harsh geographical and environmental conditions, for the first time, we have agreed to supply fuel to Nepal that it urgently needs. Foreign Minister Thapa and I had very in-depth talks and reached a broad consensus,” Yang said at a joint press meet in Beijing with Thapa.

Thapa said: “I am very happy to note that China has instructed the petroleum export authority to be in touch and discuss issues related with the long-term trade of petroleum products with Nepal.”

A press statement issued after the meeting by the foreign affairs ministry stated that China had expressed a desire to seriously examine Nepal’s proposals to import petroleum products from Beijing.

The two countries will jointly examine matters relating to price, transportation, and logistics. As a friendly gesture, China will provide additional fuel to Nepal’s northern areas bordering Tibet.

Nepal and China also agreed to upgrade and operationalize the existing border points and develop the other border points to promote connectivity between the two countries.

China has agreed to give priority to the reopening of the Tatopani-Zhangmu border point, which had been disrupted after the April earthquake that killed thousands in Nepal.

The intergovernmental mechanisms have been tasked to advance negotiations on the proposals on a free trade area, transit and Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement (BIPPA).

Thapa and Wang also discussed a transit treaty between the two countries.

Thapa said the treaty would enable Nepalese to access travel and goods from other countries through Chinese ports.

On India-Nepal relations, Thapa said: “Immediately after the promulgation of the constitution, there has been some misunderstanding between Nepal and India.

“Because of this, India imposed unofficial obstruction on transit and supply of fuel and other essential commodities,” he said.

“That caused a severe impact on the Nepalese society. It also had a negative impact on our economic growth. But I am very happy to say at this point of time that things are moving and improving,” said Thapa. (IANS)

(Photo: kathmandupost.ekantipur.com)

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Shanghai Airport Gets Check-In With Facial Recognition Machines

Increased convenience may come at a cost in a country with few rules on how the government can use biometric data.

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Shanghai,
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection facial recognition device is ready to scan another passenger at a United Airlines gate. VOA

It’s now possible to check in automatically at Shanghai Hongqiao airport using facial recognition technology, part of an ambitious rollout of facial recognition systems in China that has raised privacy concerns as Beijing pushes to become a global leader in the field.

Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport unveiled self-service kiosks for flight and baggage check-in, security clearance and boarding powered by facial recognition technology, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

Similar efforts are under way at airports in Beijing and Nanyang city, in central China’s Henan province.

Shanghai,
Face recognition tool was first launched in 2012

Many airports in China already use facial recognition to help speed security checks, but Shanghai’s system, which debuted Monday, is being billed as the first to be fully automated.

“It is the first time in China to achieve self-service for the whole check-in process,” said Zhang Zheng, general manager of the ground services department for Spring Airlines, the first airline to adopt the system at Hongqiao airport. Currently, only Chinese identity card holders can use the technology.

Spring Airlines, Shanghai said Tuesday that passengers had embraced automated check-in, with 87 percent of 5,017 people who took Spring flights on Monday using the self-service kiosks, which can cut down check-in times to less than a minute and a half.

Shanghai,
Rana el Kaliouby, CEO of the Boston-based artificial intelligence firm Affectiva, demonstrates the company’s facial recognition technology, in Boston, April 23, 2018. VOA

Across greater China, facial recognition is finding its way into daily life. Mainland police have used facial recognition systems to identify people of interest in crowds and nab jaywalkers, and are working to develop an integrated national system of surveillance camera data.

Chinese media are filled with reports of ever-expanding applications: A KFC outlet in Hangzhou, near Shanghai, where it’s possible to pay using facial recognition technology; a school that uses facial recognition cameras to monitor students’ reactions in class; and hundreds of ATMs in Macau equipped with facial recognition devices to curb money laundering.

Also Read: Facial Recognition Technology Catches A Person With Fake Passpost At The US Airport 

But increased convenience may come at a cost in a country with few rules on how the government can use biometric data.

“Authorities are using biometric and artificial intelligence to record and track people for social control purposes,” said Maya Wang, senior China researcher for Human Rights Watch. “We are concerned about the increasing integration and use of facial recognition technologies throughout the country because it provides more and more data points for the authorities to track people.” (VOA)