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WELLINGTON, August 16, 2018 (Reuters) - Pacific island nations are holding talks which could lead to a coordinated request that China forgive mounting debts in the region amid concerns Beijing may start seizing strategic assets, Tonga's Prime Minister 'Akilisi Pohiva said on Thursday.

Tonga, one of eight island nations in the South Pacific carrying significant debt to China, is due to start repaying loans next month after borrowing heavily in the aftermath of deadly riots in 2006 that destroyed large parts of its capital.

China's possession of a Sri Lankan port as Colombo struggled with a spiralling debt crisis meant asset seizures could not be ruled out, Pohiva told Reuters in a phone interview from Tonga.

"If it happens in Sri Lanka, it can happen in the Pacific - so it is entirely an option for China to consider," said Pohiva, who did not identify any specific assets at risk of being seized.

"If we fail to meet the requirements and conditions set out in the agreement ... we have to pay the cost for our failure to meet the conditions."

China's Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday. It has previously said there was no evidence China was responsible for creating unsustainable debt and that it retained good relations with Tonga.

In April, media reports suggested China wanted to establish a military base in the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu after funding a wharf big enough to handle warships. Both China and Vanuatu denied the reports.

Pohiva, who came to power after the bulk of Tonga's $115 million debt to China was accumulated, said the region should negotiate as one.

"It is no longer an issue for individual countries because there are small countries who borrowed from China and we have problems with that and the option is to collectively work together to find a way out."

Regional leaders are due to gather at a Pacific Islands Forum early next month in the island nation of Nauru where Pohiva said they will progress plans to ask for their debt to be forgiven.

China, which has a status as a 'dialogue partner' in the grouping, has sent an envoy to the event since 2007.

BEIJING, August 14, 2018 (AP) — China blamed “anti-China forces” on Tuesday for the growing criticism of Beijing’s policies in a far western region where large groups of ethnic Uighurs are being detained in internment camps.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said anti-China forces had made “false accusations against China for political purposes” after a U.N. human rights committee raised concern over reported mass detentions of ethnic Uighurs. He also said a few foreign media outlets misrepresented the committee’s discussions and were smearing China’s anti-terror and crime-fighting measures in Xinjiang.

In Xinjiang, authorities responding to sporadic violent attacks by Muslim separatists have imposed a heavy security crackdown and detained an estimated hundreds of thousands of members of the Uighur and Kazakh Muslim minorities in indoctrination camps. Former detainees have provided The Associated Press among the first accounts of life inside these camps in which they were forced to denounce Islam and profess loyalty to the party .

In recent weeks, China has come under pressure from some Western governments and rights groups to release people held in such centres or account for the whereabouts of people whose overseas relatives say have gone missing.

A U.N. committee member last week cited estimates that over 1 million people in China from the country’s Uighur and other Muslim minorities are being held in “counter-extremism centres” and another 2 million have been forced into “re-education camps.”

China’s delegation told the U.N. panel on Monday that “there is no arbitrary detention … there are no such things as re-education centres.” It said authorities in Xinjiang have cracked down on “violent terrorist activities,” while convicted criminals are provided with skills to reintegrate themselves into society at “vocational education and employment training centres.”

“The argument that 1 million Uighurs are detained in re-education centres is completely untrue,” Chinese delegate Hu Lianhe said through an interpreter. It was a rare public comment by a Chinese official about the camps.

He added “there is no suppression of ethnic minorities or violations of their freedom of religious belief in the name of counter-terrorism.” But he also said “those who are deceived by religious extremism … shall be assisted through resettlement and education.”

Xinjiang has been enveloped in a suffocating blanket of security for years, especially since a deadly anti-government riot broke out in the regional capital of Urumqi in 2009.

Gay McDougall, the committee vice-chairwoman who raised the detentions last week, said she wasn’t convinced by China’s “flat denial” of the detention figures. She said China “didn’t quite deny” that re-education programs are taking place.

“You said that was false, the 1 million. Well, how many were there? Please tell me,” she said. “And what were the laws on which they were detained, the specific provisions?”

There was no direct response to that in Monday’s session, which addressed a broad range of issues that went well beyond the Uighurs.

But delegation leader Yu Jianhua said some panel members had treated “some of the unsubstantiated materials as credible information.” He contended that some of that information came from groups which “seek to split China” and have links to terrorist organizations.

BEIJING, August 11, 2018 (News Wires) - China’s business and energy ties with Iran do not harm the interests of any other country, the country’s Foreign Ministry said, after US President Donald Trump said companies doing business with Iran would be barred from the United States.

China has already defended its commercial relations with Iran as open and transparent as US sanctions on Iran took effect despite pleas from Washington’s allies.

In a statement released late Friday, China’s foreign ministry reiterated its opposition to unilateral sanctions and “long-armed jurisdiction”.

“For a long time, China and Iran have had open, transparent and normal commercial cooperation in the fields of business, trade and energy, which is reasonable, fair and lawful,” it said.

“This does not violate United Nations Security Council resolutions or China’s promised international obligations, nor does it harm the interests of any other country, and should be respected and protected,” the ministry added.

Using sanctions at the slightest pretext or to threaten anyone won’t resolve the problem, it said.

“Only dialogue and negotiations are the true path to resolving the issue,” the ministry added.

China, Iran’s top oil customer, buys roughly 650,000 barrels a day of crude oil from Tehran, or 7 per cent of China’s total crude oil imports. At current market rates, the imports are worth some $15 billion a year.

State energy firms CNPC and Sinopec have invested billions of dollars in key Iranian oil fields such as Yadavaran and North Azadegan and have been sending oil to China.

European countries, hoping to persuade Tehran to continue to respect the nuclear deal, have promised to try to lessen the blow of sanctions and to urge their firms not to pull out.

But that has proven difficult, and European companies have quit Iran, arguing that they cannot risk their US business.

Few American companies do much business in Iran so the impact of sanctions mainly stems from Washington’s ability to block European and Asian firms from trading there.

SHANGHAI, August 11, 2018 (News Wires) - The internationalization of the renminbi has made progress, Zhou Xiaochuan, former governor of China's central bank, said on Saturday.

"The internationalization of the renminbi is not a linear progress. It will move faster when there are opportunities to do so. Sometimes, it will move more slowly. But in the longer view, the internationalization of the renminbi is still promising," Zhou said at a financial forum in Shanghai.

Zhou said that the development of financial sanctions would have some impact on the US dollar's use as an international reserve currency and as an international means of payment. Diversification was important for reserve currencies, and the renminbi and other currencies would begin to be considered internationally, he said.

Zhou stepped down in March after 15 years at the helm of the People's Bank of China.

BEIJING, August 11, 2018 (MENA) - The Badaling section of the Great Wall in Beijing's Yanqing District temporarily closed starting Saturday afternoon, as a heavy rainstorm is expected to hit the area, the Chinese news agency Xinhua reported.

The reopening time will be subject to further notice, said a circular issued by the Beijing municipal tourism commission on Weibo, a microblogging website.

All tourist resorts in the district are required to close on Saturday and Sunday, according to the commission.

Beijing municipal land resources and weather departments on Saturday issued yellow alerts for a thunderstorm during the weekend and potential geological disasters over the next three days.

The national observatory renewed a blue alert for heavy rain on Saturday and Sunday, with some areas in Beijing and its neighboring provinces to see up to 300 mm of rainfall within 24 hours.

 

BEIJING/KAMPALA, August 10, 2018 (MENA) - China delivered medical aid to the Chinese-Ugandan friendship hospital in Uganda's capital, Kampala, Chinese media reported on Friday.

Chinese Ambassador to Uganda Zheng Zhu Qiang gave the aid worth of $70,000 to Ugandan Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng.

Cooperation in the field of public health is a major part of the 10 African-Chinese cooperation plans, announced at a forum on cooperation between China and Africa in Johannesburg in 2015, the Chinese ambassador said.

The aid will effectively contribute to end pharmaceutical shortage at the Ugandan hospital, he added.

 

 

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