• US regulator says oversight of Chinese companies remains futile as authorities refuse American ‘principles and practice’
    Business
    South China Morning Post

    US regulator says oversight of Chinese companies remains futile as authorities refuse American ‘principles and practice’

    A US regulator said on Thursday talks with China about improving oversight of US-listed Chinese companies will be futile until Chinese authorities accept fundamental US principles.Over the past decade, “there have been near constant discussions with Chinese authorities,” said William Duhnke III, chairman of Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), the group that inspects the audits of the listed foreign companies.“These efforts have failed to result in a viable model for cooperation because the Chinese authorities refused our principles and practice,” said Duhnke at a virtual round table organised by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Thursday to review risks posed by lack of oversight on foreign companies in emerging markets, including China.Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.“From our perspective, any further discussions about access are unlikely to be productive unless and until the Chinese authorities are willing to embrace certain principles that ensure our fundamental ability to accomplish our mission,” Duhnke added. The round table, announced in May, was designed to hear the views of investors, market participants, regulators and industry experts about the risks of investing in emerging markets particularly China.US securities laws require all companies – domestic and foreign – that are listed on the capital markets to provide audits for inspections by the PCAOB.But regulators have been unable to inspect for compliance and enforce these rules and regulations on listed Chinese companies. US regulators have been struggling to work out a plan to allow audit inspections of its companies with Beijing. As US-China trade war turns two, superpower relations hit ‘alarming’ pointIn 2018, US regulators said that it faced “obstacles in inspecting the principal auditors’ work” on 224 listed companies, 213 of which were Chinese.American investors face larger risks as US markets in the past decades have increased exposure to companies with significant operations in China as its economy grew to be the world’s second largest after the US. The total market capitalisation of Chinese companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq has reached US$1.7 trillion.Passive US investors in mutual funds, index funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are bearing the brunt of the risks, US regulators and market participants warned. Unlike large active managers that can investigate a company’s financials with their own research firms, such investors do not have resources or access to do so.“With the retail investors, you’ll see this glaring disparity between the fund managers of BlackRock and Vanguard of Wall Street and the retail investors who are investing in indices and ETFs. And they have no clue as to what’s in their portfolios,” said Roger Robinson, president and chief executive of RWR Advisory Group, a Washington-based business consultancy.Robinson pointed to US ETFs with exposure to China that are in public pension systems for 48 states and university endowments.“When you talk to American retail investors the way I’ve had the opportunity to do state by state, they are out of their minds over the fact that they're building [China’s] newest aircraft carrier and other advanced weapon systems that are fuelling the human rights abuses of the surveillance state,” said Robinson, referring to Chinese firms that have been accused of being complicit in human rights abuse.Luckin Coffee was the latest China-based company headed to the Wall Street graveyard. Less than a year after the Chinese rival to Starbucks went public on the Nasdaq, an employee was found to have fabricated as much as US$310 million in sales.In April, SEC, together with PCAOB, issued a statement warning about outsize risks associated with such stocks.“Our ability to promote and enforce these standards in emerging markets is limited and is significantly dependent on the actions of local authorities – which, in turn, are constrained by national policy considerations in those countries,” said the regulators, led by SEC Chairman Jay Clayton.“As a result, in many emerging markets, including China, there is substantially greater risk that disclosures will be incomplete or misleading.” US sanctions Chinese officials over treatment of Uygurs in XinjiangIn May, US lawmakers introduced sweeping legislation that could put US-listed Chinese firms at risk of losing access to the world’s largest capital markets. The bill – the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act – passed the US Senate by unanimous consent on May 20 and awaits a vote in the House of Representatives.If both chambers approve the bill and President Donald Trump signs it into law, Chinese companies will be required to hand over company audits to be inspected. Under the bill, failure to provide information for three straight years would lead to trading bans of the shares.The Chinese securities regulator said the US politicised securities regulations to direct certain provisions in the bill at China rather than based them on professional consideration of security laws.“The bill ignored completely the fact that regulators of China and the US have been working hard to improve audit inspection,” said China Securities Regulatory Commission in a statement in May.“China assisted PCAOB on an investigation of a Chinese accounting firm in 2017. China has also in multiple occasions suggested detailed plans to PCAOB on how to jointly inspect audits since 2019. We hope US regulators could respond to these suggestions.”In a rebuttal to that statement, Duhnke said on Thursday that “the fact remains that [Chinese authorities] reject our principles and application. It made it clear in both their negotiations and failed attempts and cooperation”.And those principles ensure “our ability to conduct inspections and investigations consistent with our mandate, the ability to select an audit work and potential violations be examined and access to firm personnel audit work papers and other information or documents, being relevant by our team,” said Duhnke.“To date, the Chinese authorities refused to allow us to conduct our oversight in terms consistent with the rest of the world,” he added.Purchase the 100+ page China Internet Report 2020 Pro Edition, brought to you by SCMP Research, and enjoy a 30% discount (original price US$400). The report includes deep-dive analysis, trends, and case studies on the 10 most important internet sectors. Now in its 3rd year, this go-to source for understanding China tech also comes with exclusive access to 6 webinars with C-level executives. Offer valid until 31 August 2020. To purchase, please click here.More from South China Morning Post: * China Securities Regulatory Commission warns investors about illegally financed margin trading amid run-up in markets * China’s home security chief attends Hong Kong national security office opening * Hong Kong stock bulls keep market rally alive on IPO allure amid resurgence in Covid-19 cases, sanction threats * How Hong Kong’s national security law compares to Macau’s: different reasons, eras for legislationThis article US regulator says oversight of Chinese companies remains futile as authorities refuse American ‘principles and practice’ first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.

  • US sanctions Chinese government officials over treatment of Uygurs in Xinjiang
    News
    South China Morning Post

    US sanctions Chinese government officials over treatment of Uygurs in Xinjiang

    The US government has announced sanctions on Chinese officials it deems responsible for human rights abuses against ethnic minorities in the country’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region (XUAR), pressuring Beijing further on one of many issues that have roiled the bilateral relationship.The sanctions specifically name XUAR party secretary Chen Quanguo and three other top officials of the region’s leadership, as well as other unidentified people “believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, the unjust detention or abuse of Uygurs, ethnic Kazakhs and members of other minority groups in Xinjiang”, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday.“The United States will not stand idly by as the [Chinese Communist Party] carries out human rights abuses targeting” these groups, he added, citing “forced labour, arbitrary mass detention and forced population control, and attempts to erase their culture and Muslim faith”.Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.Pompeo said the sanctions were authorised by a 2017 executive order signed by US President Donald Trump called “Blocking the Property of Persons Involved in Serious Human Rights Abuse or Corruption”, and were in line with the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which was signed into law by then-president Barack Obama in 2012.Chen is the highest ranking Chinese official to be sanctioned by the US government, a sign that Pompeo is matching his sharp rhetoric against China with action. Chen is a member of the 25-member Politburo, the peak of the Communist Party’s leadership. His rank is higher than Pompeo’s Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.“The US govt has crossed another ‘red line’ by sanctioning top Chinese … officials. I think leading CCP figures will be calling their (foreign) lawyers to make sure their assets (if they have any) are going to be outside the US, just in case,” Julian Ku, a law professor at Hofstra University in New York, said in a Twitter post. “Few foreign leaders have their personal assets in China, so it is hard for China to retaliate.”> The US govt has crossed another "red line" by sanctioning top Chinese govt officials. I think leading CCP figures will be calling their (foreign) lawyers to make sure their assets (if they have any) are going to be outside the US, just in case.> > — Julian Ku 古舉倫 (@julianku) July 9, 2020Before his role in Xinjiang attracted Washington’s attention, Chen was the party chief in Tibet, another region with a history of violence and uprisings against Beijing’s rule.The only previous Chinese target of US sanctions under the Magnitsky act was Gao Yan, a Beijing public security bureau branch director alleged to have been responsible for the death of the human rights activist Cao Shunli in 2014.Pressure has been building for Trump’s administration to take action on Xinjiang.On June 17, Trump signed the Uygur Human Rights Policy Act, which requires greater US scrutiny of suspected human rights abuses in Xinjiang and demands that Chinese officials considered responsible be subject to economic sanctions and barred from entering the US. Pompeo demands China end ‘Uygur sterilisations in Xinjiang’The legislation was passed in response to the Chinese government’s establishment of mass internment facilities in Xinjiang for what Beijing claims to be voluntary “vocational” education aimed at countering religious extremism.Leaks of internal government documents in recent months have challenged that narrative, presenting evidence of a network of locked-down facilities and directives from party leaders to “round up everyone who should be rounded up”.Congress pushed for follow-through when, last week, 75 US senators and House members urged Trump to make a formal determination whether China’s treatment of Uygurs and other groups constituted an atrocity, possibly even genocide.“It is time for action,” members of the Senate and House of Representatives, led by Republican Senator Marco Rubio, wrote in a letter to Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, asking them to sanction the Chinese officials responsible for the mistreatment of Uygurs.“These human rights abuses demand a response from the United States as well as the international community because evidence strongly indicates that the Chinese government is intentionally working to destroy and essentially wipe out Uygur families, culture, and religious adherence and encouraging violence against women,” the letter stated.Beijing will consider Pompeo’s sanctioning of Chen and the other Xinjiang officials “a highly provocative act”, said Michael Hirson, China and Northeast Asia practice director at political risk consultancy Eurasia Group, said in a research note. “Beijing has long resented the US’ use of unilateral sanctions and its claims to ‘long-arm jurisdiction’ all over the world.”“Chen was likely already subject to a travel ban to the US imposed last October (the names are kept confidential) and has long known that he was a potential target,” Hirson said.China’s embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.The State Department’s latest move against China follows threats of US sanctions against Chinese officials for suspected abuses in Hong Kong and Tibet, two other regions of China ostensibly granted degrees of autonomy from Beijing.Pompeo said on Monday that the United States would restrict visas for officials who were found to be obstructing travel to Tibet by US diplomats, journalists and tourists. US imposes sanctions over Tibet, urges Beijing to release Chinese professorHe also accused Beijing of human rights abuses and said the US remained committed to “meaningful autonomy” for Tibetans and the preservation of their unique religious, cultural and linguistic identity.As for Hong Kong, Pompeo said on June 26 that he had imposed visa restrictions against Chinese officials in retaliation for Beijing’s policies in Hong Kong, including the national security law for the city that was instituted last week. Opposition politicians and critics say the law could be used to suppress dissent and erode freedom in Hong Kong.The other officials identified by Pompeo in relation to Xinjiang on Thursday were Zhu Hailun, party secretary of the Xinjiang Political and Legal Committee, and Wang Mingshan, party secretary of Xinjiang’s public security bureau.Those identified by name and their immediate family members are barred from entering the United States. Family members of the other Chinese government officials not yet identified “may also be subject to these restrictions”, the announcement said.Purchase the 100+ page China Internet Report 2020 Pro Edition, brought to you by SCMP Research, and enjoy a 30% discount (original price US$400). The report includes deep-dive analysis, trends, and case studies on the 10 most important internet sectors. Now in its 3rd year, this go-to source for understanding China tech also comes with exclusive access to 6 webinars with C-level executives. Offer valid until 31 August 2020. To purchase, please click here.More from South China Morning Post: * China vows to ban US officials who ‘act abominably’ over Tibet * Chinese academics claim US has started cold war as tensions simmer over South China Sea, Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong * Donald Trump signs Uygur human rights bill into US law, authorising sanctions against Chinese officialsThis article US sanctions Chinese government officials over treatment of Uygurs in Xinjiang first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.

  • Digging in on rare earth, the next front in the US supply chain war with China
    News
    South China Morning Post

    Digging in on rare earth, the next front in the US supply chain war with China

    As US-China relations hit new lows, Washington is redoubling efforts to address a major Achilles’ heel: its dependence on Beijing for rare earth elements – essential materials in various hi-tech products from smartphones and electric car batteries to Javelin missiles and F-35 fighter aircraft.China hawk Ted Cruz, a Republican senator from Texas, recently introduced a bill to spur US production of critical minerals, among the latest of several before Congress amid rising concern that China could leverage its dominance in economic and political negotiations.“It’s making people in Washington wake up and say this is not sustainable,” said Martijn Rasser, a fellow at the Centre for a New American Security. “If China really is willing to restrict exports, we’re in for a rough ride over the next few years.”Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.But China’s strategic-metals grip is so strong and the challenges in competing against its state-led model so great that some estimate it could take over a decade to create a relatively secure US supply chain. The US has also made some significant missteps that haven’t helped, critics say.Strategic concerns over rare earths mirror larger calls to reduce US dependence on China – spurred on by critical Covid-19 shortages of personal protective equipment – as President Donald Trump threatens to “completely decouple” the two massive economies.“The rare metals issue is a microcosm of the broader trend,” said Paul Haenle, chair at the Carnegie – Tsinghua Centre and a former China affairs director at the National Security Council. “The issue of rare earth exports is particularly important because it also represents national security concerns.”While many in Washington agree on the importance of reducing reliance on China, debate rages over how to get there.Legislation, reports and proposals – including those laid out in a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing late last month on critical minerals – range from subsidising production, strengthening alliances and increasing research to forging industry co-operatives, boosting recycling and mining in national parks, the Arctic and even outer space. US Army’s urgent plan to secure rare earths for weaponsMost legislation faces a tough near-term slog as Congress grapples with Covid-19, economic meltdown and protests over police shootings of African Americans in an election year.But rare earth provisions are included in both the House and Senate versions of the massive annual defence budget bill, a crucial law all but assured to pass, amid heightened suspicion of Beijing’s objectives and Trump’s “America first” policies.“We have to find an economic message to counter the Chinese state,” said a Republican senate staffer who was not authorised to speak publicly. “And rare earth is a big part of that.”The Pentagon, wary of its dependence on Chinese supplies for its weapons systems, has outlined a four-phase plan to bolster US mineral supply chains, even as powerful senators push the military for “US sources and at US facilities”.The issue also taps into two of Trump’s pet themes – reviving extractive industries in the US and “reshoring” American jobs. Analysts believe that Trump’s bizarre proposal last year to buy Greenland was tied to its large rare earth reserves.“The fact that he can show up with a hard hat and a bulldozer, it’s a great photo op,” said Rasser. Covid-19 outbreak slows US push to produce rare earth elementsRare earths – 17 elements with nearly unpronounceable names like gadolinium and praseodymium – are not particularly rare nor universally valuable, but they are difficult and expensive to refine.And critics say that the US has badly misplayed its hand.Among the largest and most promising US mining operations is California’s Mountain Pass, the global leader until China started dominating in the late 1980s. After its 2015 bankruptcy, Washington rather inexplicably opened the door to Chinese investors. In 2017, the US government committee that reviews national security deals approved a US$20.5 million sale to MP Materials, an investment consortium including the co-chairman James Litinsky, a financier; some New York investors; and the Chinese state-controlled Shenghe Rare Earth Shareholding Company, which holds a 9.9 per cent stake.“All alarm bells should have been ringing in Washington,” said Thomas Kruemmer, director of Singapore-based Ginger International Trade & Investment, which specialises in strategic metals. “The Trump administration messed up.”In an interview, Litinsky said that attention on MP’s Chinese shareholders is misguided. “It's impossible to lift a US$1.7 billion chemical plant and mine and send it over to Beijing,” he noted.“Our mission as a company is to return the full rare earth supply chain to the United States of America.” Have scientists discovered why China is so rich in rare earth elements?The MP Materials website touts a contract the Pentagon awarded it in April, although that award faces resistance after several senators strongly objected to the company’s ties with China.Even without the Chinese stake in MP Materials, the US relies on China for some 78 per cent of the rare earth elements it uses. The Asian giant is also the global leader in processing – including Mountain Top’s output, which is currently sold to China for refining.“[Chinese] ownership is maybe 9.9 per cent. But in terms of MP’s revenue, 100 per cent of their revenues are coming from the Chinese side,” said Daniel McGroarty, an advisory board member with USA Rare Earth, which controls the Round Top Mountain mine in far west Texas.Kruemmer put it more colourfully: “If China doesn’t buy Litinsky’s stuff, he can stir it into his morning coffee.”China’s dominance in processing – which tends to create cancer-causing material and often radioactive waste as by-products – is bolstered by a reported 23,000 US patents pending or realised.“People were more than happy to have China do all the dirty work,” Rasser said. “But now China has control of the market.”The global market for rare earth elements – including their use in permanent magnets found in MRI scanners, batteries and missile wings – is expected to grow rapidly as demand increases for renewable energy products like electric vehicles.Driving US policy and subsidies is concern that, if pushed, Beijing could block rare earth exports. Politicians and military strategists tend to see a greater risk of that happening, industry executives somewhat less so.But Beijing has flexed its rare earth muscle before. A decade ago, China halted exports to Japan for several weeks after a territorial dispute. Beijing subsequently claimed that those rare earth exports were restricted to help market stability and the environment.Last year, as the trade war accelerated, Chinese state media blared “Don’t say we didn’t warn you,” amid threats to cut off rare earth exports, adding “United States, don’t underestimate China’s ability to strike back.” About the same time, President Xi Jinping visited a rare earth processing factory in Jiangxi province.“China tends to play this game far better than the United States does, but I think that was a misstep,” said Pini Althaus, chief executive at USA Rare Earth. “All that was achieved by that visit by President Xi was to light a fire under the United States to say we have to do something … It backfired.”Even if Beijing doesn’t play hardball, foreign customers face shortages as demand for rare earth expands in China, which already uses more than half the global annual output. And the nation’s ambitious “Made in China 2025” blueprint is built on industries using rare earths and permanent magnets.Washington’s sudden, belated response over an industry it once dominated underscores a US bias toward short-term profits and reactive fixes, analysts said, while China can take a more strategic approach befitting a state-directed economy overseen by a potential president for life. China’s move to raise rare earth production deals blow to projects in US“The Middle East has its oil, China has rare earths,” paramount leader Deng Xiaoping noted in 1987 when visiting production facilities in Inner Mongolia.After China’s 2010 strong-arm tactics against Japan, some in the West raised warnings but were soon drowned out by economics, a supply glut engineered by China and limited political will. “The Pentagon has built its entire advanced weapons on Chinese quicksand,” military consultant James Kennedy wrote in a Defence One commentary in 2016.Mining groups, attracted by growing political tailwinds and the lure of Pentagon largesse, are struggling to build more “secure” rare earth supply chains, even as they acknowledge that US autonomy is a long way off. Althaus, of USA Rare Earth, said it will take the US “decades to get even close to where China is today”.USA Rare Earth announced last month that it had secured permit approval for a pilot processing plant in Colorado. Meanwhile, Mountain Pass plans to restart processing facilities that had been shuttered for financial reasons years ago.A US-Australia venture with ties to Malaysia has proposed a processing plant in Texas. And mining interests in Alaska and Wyoming are plugging their potential.But the sums in direct and indirect government subsidies required to build a full and viable US supply chain from ore to oxide are daunting, analysts say. Explainer: Why Beijing cut the tax rate on rare earthsLegislation backed by the Pentagon, which only consumes a small percentage of US rare earth elements, could see US$1.75 billion allocated for strategic minerals that are needed for munitions and missiles; US$350 million for microelectronics; and no ceiling for hypersonic weapons.“No sane private investor will get into this, unless there are all kinds of government guarantees,” Kruemmer, of Ginger International, added. “There is no market economy-based solution to this.”Analysts also underscore the commercial challenges, which include the need for massive amounts of private capital and years without cash flow.Other obstacles include the economics of separating and refining rare earths, which tend to throw off massive amounts of low value by-products, some of which are toxic. Moreover, output in some US mines is of low concentration and many “proprietary” processing technologies face resistance from community groups and hi-tech customers.“Western large-scale end users diligently nod their heads if some US senator condemns China’s stranglehold on rare earths,” although in truth they prefer to buy Chinese rare earths given its quality and competitive price, Kruemmer said. “They don’t want to be forced to use untested domestic stuff.”Even the idea of securing more rare earth material underscores the weak US hand. “What’s the point of having a stockpile … if you know you’re going to have to send it to China?” the senate staffer asked. “China is the game.”Purchase the 100+ page China Internet Report 2020 Pro Edition, brought to you by SCMP Research, and enjoy a 30% discount (original price US$400). The report includes deep-dive analysis, trends, and case studies on the 10 most important internet sectors. Now in its 3rd year, this go-to source for understanding China tech also comes with exclusive access to 6 webinars with C-level executives. Offer valid until 31 August 2020. To purchase, please click here.More from South China Morning Post: * China’s war chest of rare earth patents give an insight into total domination of the industry * China’s rare earth producers say they are ready to weaponise their supply stranglehold, pass any tariff as cost to US customers * Trump’s military rare earths drive opens doors for new US mines amid threats of China supply cutThis article Digging in on rare earth, the next front in the US supply chain war with China first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.

  • DILG brings back motorcycle backriding but only for couples
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    Sunstar

    DILG brings back motorcycle backriding but only for couples

    BEGINNING Friday, July 10, 2020, motorcycle back riding will be allowed, but only for couples living in the same house in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ) and modified GCQ, Department of

  • City Hall constructs cemetery amid increasing Covid-19 deaths
    News
    Sunstar

    City Hall constructs cemetery amid increasing Covid-19 deaths

    AS CEBU City’s deaths linked to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) keep on piling up, the City Goverment has started developing a five-hectare lot in Sitio Katives in Barangay Guba where the Cebu

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    Health
    Sunstar

    Jail warden of Argao succumbed to Covid-19, BJMP 7 official confirms

    THE warden of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) 7 facility in the southern town of Argao, Cebu was killed by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).This was confirmed by Jail Senior Insp.

  • LGUs asked to prep for rise in dengue cases
    Health
    Sunstar

    LGUs asked to prep for rise in dengue cases

    WHILE authorities and the public focus on the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, the Department of Health (DOH) 7 is concerned about the return of a deadly seasonal disease.On Wednesday, July

  • ‘Unknown pneumonia’ deadlier than coronavirus sweeping Kazakhstan, Chinese embassy warns
    News
    South China Morning Post

    ‘Unknown pneumonia’ deadlier than coronavirus sweeping Kazakhstan, Chinese embassy warns

    The Chinese embassy in Kazakhstan has warned of a deadly “unknown pneumonia” after the former Soviet republic reported a spike in pneumonia cases since June.“The death rate of this disease is much higher than the novel coronavirus. The country’s health departments are conducting comparative research into the pneumonia virus, but have yet to identify the virus,” the embassy said in a warning to Chinese citizens in the country.Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.While the Chinese embassy described the illness as an “unknown pneumonia”, Kazakhstani officials and media have only said it is pneumonia.It was not clear why the Chinese embassy had described the illness as “unknown” or what information it had about the pneumonia.The embassy’s website, citing local media reports, said the provinces of Atyrau and Aktobe and the city of Shymkent have reported significant spikes in pneumonia cases since the middle of June.Shymkent and the capital city of Atyrau are 1,500km (930 miles) apart, while the distance between the capital cities of Atyrau and Aktobe is 330km (205 miles).The Chinese embassy said that so far there have been nearly 500 pneumonia cases in the three places, with over 30 people in a critical condition.The country as a whole saw 1,772 pneumonia deaths in the first part of the year, 628 of which happened in June, including some Chinese nationals, the embassy continued. Tuberculosis vaccine may play role in reducing Covid-19 death rate, study says“The Chinese embassy in Kazakhstan reminds Chinese nationals here to be aware of the situation and step up prevention to lower the infection risks,” the embassy statement said.Saule Kisikova, the health care department chief in the capital Nur-Sultan, told the news agency Kazinform: “Some 300 people diagnosed with pneumonia are being hospitalised every day.”The agency also said there had been 1,700 pneumonia cases nationwide in June – more than two times the number in the same month last year.Kazakhstan announced a state of emergency on March 16 to tackle the spread of Covid-19. The lockdown was lifted on May 11, but restrictions and quarantine measures have been reimposed in some areas following the surge in pneumonia cases.Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said in a televised address on Wednesday that the situation was still serious and it was too early to relax restrictions.He added the country was “in fact facing the second coronavirus wave coupled with a huge uptick in pneumonia cases”, according to the Russian news agency Tass. Worldwide coronavirus cases top 12 millionThe Chinese embassy said on Tuesday that the number of Covid-19 cases in Kazakhstan had reached 49,683, including 264 deaths.Late last month officials warned about the rise in pneumonia cases. Kisikova said that doctors were finding 600 people a day with pneumonia symptoms, compared with 80 a day before the start of the Covid-19 outbreak, the Singapore-based website CNA reported.“Every day, 350 to 400 patients are hospitalised in the city with either Covid-19 or pneumonia,” she said.Purchase the 100+ page China Internet Report 2020 Pro Edition, brought to you by SCMP Research, and enjoy a 30% discount (original price US$400). The report includes deep-dive analysis, trends, and case studies on the 10 most important internet sectors. Now in its 3rd year, this go-to source for understanding China tech also comes with exclusive access to 6 webinars with C-level executives. Offer valid until 31 August 2020. To purchase, please click here.More from South China Morning Post: * Tuberculosis vaccine may play role in reducing Covid-19 death rate, study says * Worldwide coronavirus cases top 12 million * Tokyo reports 224 new coronavirus infections, a daily record for Japanese capital * Coronavirus: foreign aircrew refusing to fly to Hong Kong over mandatory Covid-19 testing concerns, sources say * US surges past 3 million coronavirus cases as Trump lashes own health agencyThis article ‘Unknown pneumonia’ deadlier than coronavirus sweeping Kazakhstan, Chinese embassy warns first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.

  • Editorial: A welcome palliative
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    Sunstar

    Editorial: A welcome palliative

    SOUSED at the frontlines of this pandemic, our nurses finally get a bit of consolation. Four difficult months pass, and government eventually walks the talk after bare trumpeting of the frontliners’

  • Carvajal: More fundamental
    Lifestyle
    Sunstar

    Carvajal: More fundamental

    IT IS admittedly urgent that educators come up with a system of holding classes online. Thus they can hardly be blamed for fussing about nothing else these days. Still, I wish they would take the time

  • Wenceslao: Not really a defense
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    Sunstar

    Wenceslao: Not really a defense

    FIRST off, I must admit I campaigned for then mayoral bet Edgardo Labella in the 2019 elections. I personally visited the then vice mayor’s office and offered my services. I believed then that despite

  • Malilong: Three is better than none at all
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    Sunstar

    Malilong: Three is better than none at all

    I LIVED near the old Cebu City Hospital, an undistinguished building standing on the Mabini-Colon junction, when I came to Cebu in 1967, fresh from high school. I slept and woke up to the sound of a wailing

  • Gaballo faces toughest test
    Sports
    Sunstar

    Gaballo faces toughest test

    REYMART Gaballo is in for the toughest fight of his young career as he takes on former world champion Juan Carlos Payano in August.According to Sanman Promotions chief executive officer JC Manangquil,

  • Tuberculosis vaccine may play role in reducing Covid-19 death rate, study says
    Health
    South China Morning Post

    Tuberculosis vaccine may play role in reducing Covid-19 death rate, study says

    A century-old tuberculosis vaccine could be playing a role in reducing the death rate from Covid-19 in countries where it is widely used, according to a preliminary US study.Researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health made the link to Bacille Calmette-Guerin, or BCG, after comparing data on Covid-19 mortality rates across the globe.They found that some Latin American regions – including Pernambuco, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo in Brazil and Mexico City in Mexico – had considerably lower death rates than states in the US such as New York, Illinois, Louisiana and Florida.Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.“This is remarkable, considering that [these parts of] Latin America have much higher population densities than the North American states analysed, including New York,” co-author Carolina Barillas-Mury wrote in a peer-reviewed paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America on Tuesday.In Europe, Germany also had surprising results – the death rate from Covid-19 was 2.9 times higher among people from the former West Germany than those in the former East Germany. And the mortality rate was four times higher in Italy than in Finland.According to the study, the places where death rates were lower varied in terms of age distribution, incomes, and health care access, but they all had one thing in common: a TB vaccination programme.In Germany, for example, the BCG immunisation plans were different before the country was unified in 1990. The former East Germany began inoculating children against TB a decade earlier than in the West, meaning more older Germans in the eastern parts of the country were likely to have been given the vaccine. Older people are believed to be at increased risk from Covid-19.Based on the data, the researchers estimated that a 10 per cent increase in TB vaccine coverage could lead to a 10 per cent reduction in deaths from Covid-19.The researchers also challenged the World Health Organisation’s position on the TB vaccine that “there is no evidence” it is effective – it is not the first study into the potential for BCG to protect against Covid-19.The WHO said in April: “Such ecological studies are prone to significant bias from many confounders, including differences in national demographics and disease burden, testing rates for Covid-19 virus infections, and the stage of the pandemic in each country.” Can China win Covid-19 vaccine race with old school technology?Luis Escobar, a co-author of the latest study, said the research had taken the WHO’s concerns into account. “All countries are different: Guatemala has a younger population than, say, Italy, so we had to make adjustments to the data to accommodate those differences,” he said.The researchers said the positive effect of the vaccine was found to be significant, but they had no definitive answer as to why.BCG, named after French microbiologists Albert Calmette and Camille Guerin who developed it, contains a live strain of Mycobaterium bovis, which is related to the bacteria that causes TB. The disease, which caused one in seven deaths in America and Europe at the turn of the 20th century, became preventable after the vaccine was introduced in 1921.Previous studies have found that the vaccine could also give children broad protection against other diseases such as respiratory infections not related to tuberculosis. This phenomenon has been reported in countries including Guinea-Bissau and Spain.Barillas-Mury said the researchers suspected the vaccine could “train” a child’s innate immune response.She also noted in a statement on Wednesday that if the vaccine was found to be protective against Covid-19, “production would have to increase to meet the sudden spike in vaccine demand in order to prevent a delay in distribution to countries that very much need it to fight tuberculosis”.But the researchers cautioned that their results were preliminary and should not be used to guide government policy at this stage.Purchase the 100+ page China Internet Report 2020 Pro Edition, brought to you by SCMP Research, and enjoy a 30% discount (original price US$400). The report includes deep-dive analysis, trends, and case studies on the 10 most important internet sectors. Now in its 3rd year, this go-to source for understanding China tech also comes with exclusive access to 6 webinars with C-level executives. Offer valid until 31 August 2020. To purchase, please click here.More from South China Morning Post: * Refusing to wear a face mask amid pandemic as bad as drink driving, leading scientist says * WHO team heading to China as politics weigh on search for Covid-19 originThis article Tuberculosis vaccine may play role in reducing Covid-19 death rate, study says first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.

  • US upgrades defensive ‘buffer’ in Pacific as China’s military capabilities increase
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    South China Morning Post

    US upgrades defensive ‘buffer’ in Pacific as China’s military capabilities increase

    The United States is planning to upgrade its facilities on a remote outpost in the western Pacific as a military fallback, satellite images suggest.The images taken by US-based Planet Labs show how existing infrastructure on Wake Island – an incorporated territory between Guam and Hawaii that is run by the US Air Force – is being improved and new facilities are being built.The island could also host vital anti-missile defences in the event of conflict with China or North Korea, which now have missiles capable of striking the continental United States.Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.The American website The Drive, which published the photos on its War Zone blog, reported that the Pentagon has been pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the stronghold in recent years, with the near 3km (1.9 mile)-long runway and other airfield infrastructure being upgraded, and a large solar plant and other facilities being built.The website said the base can be used as a “fallback” for the US military if bases further west are attacked.Wake Island was the scene of intense fighting between US forces and the Japanese following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 but its strategic importance faded after the war.Lu Li-shih, a former instructor at the naval academy in Taiwan, said Pearl Harbor, on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, remains an important naval base, and the work to upgrade the facilities on Wake Island would help defend US territory from an attack by Chinese missiles.Guam, another key US base, is equipped with a Terminal High Altitude Area Defence System (THAAD) missile battery to defend against missile attacks from North Korea. Indian missile system order ‘could raise border risk for China’But last year China unveiled its DF-26 ballistic missile, dubbed the “Guam killer”, and the DF-41 ICBM – which would enable strikes on the strategically vital island and the US mainland.“Wake Island is the buffer before Hawaii, which is the first target of [the PLA’s missiles], before its next stop: hitting the continental United States,” Lu said.The US strategy is to create a multilayered defensive system in the Pacific, stretching from bases in Japan and the Philippines to Hawaii, with Guam playing a key role in the second line of defence.Lu said this strategy was designed to deter Chinese naval attacks.Collin Koh, a research fellow from the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, said the Wake Island upgrade could be seen as part of the Pentagon’s preparations for future conflict with China, given the PLA’s increasing missile capabilities.He also said it would play an important defensive role if Chinese submarines were able to break through the first island chain of defences and “hurl missiles at Guam”. Satellite images show Chinese troop withdrawal from front line with India“Wake Island does not present a panacea to the operational challenges the US military faces right now from the PLA. But at least it’ll provide an alternative staging ground for US forward deployed forces, in the event Guam is rendered inoperable,” Koh added.Hong Kong-based military commentator Song Zhongping said the island’s geostrategic importance had been fading since the second world war.“Both Guam and Wake Island are within the PLA’s missile range. Wake Island would become another PLA target,” Song said.“Of course, the US has many military bases in the Pacific, and the reactivation of Wake Island will provide its navy and air force an extra option if they need it.”Purchase the 100+ page China Internet Report 2020 Pro Edition, brought to you by SCMP Research, and enjoy a 30% discount (original price US$400). The report includes deep-dive analysis, trends, and case studies on the 10 most important internet sectors. Now in its 3rd year, this go-to source for understanding China tech also comes with exclusive access to 6 webinars with C-level executives. Offer valid until 31 August 2020. To purchase, please click here.More from South China Morning Post: * US military bill with an eye on China passes House panel unanimously * US aims for space superiority over China and Russia in new defence strategy * Risk of military conflict between US and China higher than ever, experts say * Plans for trimmer, faster US Marines in Pacific ‘a threat’ to China * US plans to counter Chinese influence in Asia with new Pacific missile, cyber task forceThis article US upgrades defensive ‘buffer’ in Pacific as China’s military capabilities increase first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.

  • Will Bitcoin Peak Again in 2020?
    Business
    Sunstar

    Will Bitcoin Peak Again in 2020?

    SINCE its inception in 2008, Bitcoin has been one of the most groundbreaking inventions that humanity has ever had. It represents a new payment method designed to favor the people rather than the banks.Everyone

  • Mandaue City logs 33 new Covid-19 cases; total count at 1,169
    Health
    Sunstar

    Mandaue City logs 33 new Covid-19 cases; total count at 1,169

    A TOTAL OF 33 new coronavirus disease (Covid-19) and seven recoveries recorded in Mandaue City on Thursday, July 9, 2020.In the facebook post of the Mandaue City Public Information Office, all the new

  • Hong Kong’s top court upholds ruling that ‘smoke cakes’ used in photography, theatre effects can be classified as explosives
    News
    South China Morning Post

    Hong Kong’s top court upholds ruling that ‘smoke cakes’ used in photography, theatre effects can be classified as explosives

    Hong Kong’s top court has maintained a ruling that “smoke cakes” used to create effects for photo shoots and theatrical productions can be considered explosives under a criminal offence punishable by 14 years in prison.Appellant Kwan Ka-hei had challenged the definition after becoming the first person in the city to be found guilty of possessing an explosive substance under Section 55 of the Crimes Ordinance over a pyrotechnic item.But the Court of Final Appeal on Thursday dismissed the bid to clear his name, with five judges unanimously finding two lower courts were correct in borrowing the definition of “explosive” from the Dangerous Goods Ordinance.Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.The case arose from a stop and search police conducted at Admiralty Centre on December 16, 2015, when lawmakers at the nearby Legislative Council were debating a controversial copyright bill some believed would affect online freedoms, dubbed “Internet Article 23”.Kwan was jailed for three months in December 2016 over the 16 smoke cakes found in his backpack.These smoke cakes – made of potassium chlorate and ammonium chloride in equal proportions – emit a large volume of fumes when ignited.While there was no evidence the pyrotechnic item could explode, a government expert noted that severe overexposure could cause lung damage, unconsciousness and even death. Student caught with ‘smoke cakes’ near Legco protest given three-month jail termDefence counsel Charlotte Draycott SC had argued it would be “quite wrong” for the court to apply the definition from the Dangerous Goods Ordinance, which classified substances with pyrotechnic effect as explosives, to the Crimes Ordinance, as the two pieces of legislation were not equal.The former was enacted to provide a regulatory licensing regime that could punish offenders with up to six months in jail, while the latter was penal legislation designed to protect against dangerous explosions, with prison terms of up to 14 years.But Mr Justice Andrew Cheung Kui-nung observed that this only meant the two ordinances “form different parts of a complete code covering, regulating and controlling the manufacture, possession, custody or use of explosive substances in Hong Kong”.“The subject matters … obviously overlap,” he explained in a 22-page judgment backed by Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li and justices Robert Ribeiro, Joseph Fok and Murray Gleeson.“It is reasonable to assume that there is continuity of legislative approach and uniformity in the use of language so that the same word ‘explosive’ bears the same meaning under the two ordinances.”Cheung also observed that the legislature had obviously intended to give the term “explosive substance” an “expansive meaning” under the Crimes Ordinance, and that the word “explosion” was not used at all in Section 55, which punishes possession unless it is shown to be for a lawful purpose.“One simply cannot use a narrow, layman’s concept of what an ‘explosive substance’ is to understand what is covered by the provisions,” Cheung said.This article Hong Kong’s top court upholds ruling that ‘smoke cakes’ used in photography, theatre effects can be classified as explosives first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.

  • Self care: Coping with quarantine
    Health
    Sunstar

    Self care: Coping with quarantine

    EVEN the most optimistic of us have had some hard days lately. Many have had family members and close friends who have gotten sick from, or unfortunately even succumbed to, the health pandemic. Things

  • Utzurrum: How does your garden grow, Nellie?
    Lifestyle
    Sunstar

    Utzurrum: How does your garden grow, Nellie?

    AS THE nursery rhyme goes, “...like pretty maids all in a row.” And that’s exactly what we discovered at the lush, verdant flowering terrain, where Nellie and husband Antonio—businessman and Honorary

  • HRRAC: Mount more int'l flights, house OFWs in accredited hotels
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    Sunstar

    HRRAC: Mount more int'l flights, house OFWs in accredited hotels

    THE Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu (HRRAC) has called for the mounting of more international flights for repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to help the ailing hospitality sector.Specifically,

  • Hong Kong protests: man set on fire says he was standing up for justice when confronting black-clad mob
    News
    South China Morning Post

    Hong Kong protests: man set on fire says he was standing up for justice when confronting black-clad mob

    A construction worker set on fire during Hong Kong’s anti-government unrest last year told a court on Thursday that he was standing up for justice when confronting radical protesters who were vandalising a railway station, but said he was foolish to intervene rather than call police.The middle-aged man recalled the November 11 attack, which left him with burns covering 40 per cent of his body, at the Eastern Court trial of two people accused of disorderly conduct in the lead-up to that incident.Unidentified radical protesters set the man ablaze in the New Territories in one of the most notorious episodes of last year’s anti-government demonstrations, after he challenged their behaviour.Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.The father of three told the court on Thursday that he was hit over the head when he tried to stop black-clad protesters from smashing glass windows and damaging facilities at Ma On Shan MTR station on November 11.He said he started to chase them but became involved in a scuffle with passers-by on a footbridge outside Ma On Shan Plaza, who he accused of blocking his path.The court heard the row took a turn for the worse when hardcore protesters suddenly appeared from behind the residents to pour flammable liquid on the man and then set him alight.He spent three months in hospital and relied on his wife and children for a living because he was unable to work, magistrate Arthur Lam Hei-wei was told.The man, who was granted anonymity over doxxing fears, said he was angry at the people who were in his way on the bridge and pointing their fingers at him, so he stayed there to argue with them.He said he also believed it was safer to stay in a crowded place in case someone wanted to assault him. But the subsequent attack proved the decision to challenge the radical protesters himself instead of calling police was unwise, he added.“You can say I was standing up for justice, or you can say I was foolish. In retrospect, I was foolish indeed,” the man said.The November attack came amid one of the worst months for protest-related violence last year, when activists staged citywide strikes, repeatedly paralysed the transport network and clashed with police at university campuses and elsewhere.Sparked initially in June last year by the now-withdrawn extradition bill, the protests developed into a wider anti-government movement.While police have yet to identify the culprits behind the fire attack, they arrested Kwong Yiu-man, 39, and Chan Hoi-wan, 34, seven days after the incident over the verbal confrontation beforehand.Kwong and Chan, who are husband and wife, have denied one joint count of behaving disorderly in a public place.Video footage played in court saw a gathering crowd directing profanities at the man in a green T-shirt, while a female voice was heard saying: “Get lost. Go back to the Greater Bay Area.”In reply, the man said: “So you are all helping the black-clad people. You all should die. You all are not Chinese.”Despite the defence confirming their clients’ presence at the scene, the man said in cross-examination that he was unable to identify the specific acts of the couple because he was surrounded by so many people at the time.He said he was unable to tell whether the female voice belonged to Chan either, but said he recognised it as the same one telling protesters to run when he was at the railway station.The trial continues on Friday, when the defendants will decide whether to testify in court.Rebel City: Hong Kong’s Year of Water and Fire is a new book of essays that chronicles the political confrontation that has gripped the city since June 2019. Edited by the South China Morning Post's Zuraidah Ibrahim and Jeffie Lam, the book draws on work from the Post's newsrooms across Hong Kong, Beijing, Washington and Singapore, with unmatched insights into all sides of the conflict. Buy directly from SCMP today and get a 15% discount (regular price HKD$198). It is available at major bookshops worldwide or online through Amazon, Kobo, Google Books, and eBooks.com.This article Hong Kong protests: man set on fire says he was standing up for justice when confronting black-clad mob first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.

  • EXPLAINER: Cebu City cemetery site is part of watershed area, a complication. Guba folk won't protest but project far way behind Covid.
    News
    Sunstar

    EXPLAINER: Cebu City cemetery site is part of watershed area, a complication. Guba folk won't protest but project far way behind Covid.

    THE SITUATION. [1] Last June 30, Cebu City Councilor Dave Tumulak raised the problem of paying the bills of families of Covid-19 patients and where to bury their dead. Tumulak cited the surge in the city's

  • Fatal garage blast in Hong Kong caused by mechanic unqualified for fuel tank repair, High Court jury told
    News
    South China Morning Post

    Fatal garage blast in Hong Kong caused by mechanic unqualified for fuel tank repair, High Court jury told

    A mechanic on trial for manslaughter over a garage blast that claimed three lives in Hong Kong five years ago has been accused of causing the explosion while repairing a taxi’s fuel tank despite being unqualified for the job.Lai Chun-ho, 37, allegedly used unsafe methods contrary to the manufacturers’ requirements when he attempted to replace the pump of the vehicle’s liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) tank at a garage on Wan Fung Street in Wong Tai Sin on April 26, 2015.His handling was said to have caused the leakage of 48 litres of LPG – filling the service pit “like a reservoir” – which experts believed was sparked when an operating electric fan fell to the ground and prompted the explosion that killed three people and injured eight others, including himself.Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.These details finally emerged in the High Court on Thursday as prosecutors opened their case against Lai, who has pleaded not guilty to three counts of manslaughter, punishable by life imprisonment, over the deaths of Wu Hon-wai, 47, Chan Kam-por, 61, and Ng Oi-ha, 65.A jury of four men and three women has been empanelled to hear the 15-day trial before Madam Justice Judianna Barnes.Court documents showed Lai was accused of unlawful killing by gross negligence, through breaching a duty of care he owed to the deceased when he failed to ensure there would be no leakage or accumulation of LPG, and to prevent its ignition, while he was repairing the taxi.Prosecutor Susanna Ku Pui-fong said the incident began when Chan, a taxi driver, found the vehicle did not run smoothly while he was driving his wife around earlier in the day to deliver invites to their daughter’s wedding, so he brought it to Wu’s garage for repairs.Chan's wife, Ko Siu-yin, recalled: “He said he needed to fix the car in time for the night-shift driver, and told me to go home first.”Security footage obtained from shops around the garage showed Chan driving the vehicle into the vicinity at about 2.33pm.Lai was then seen moving the car into the garage at about 2.58pm, before going out for a smoke at 3.22pm and returning at 3.24pm. He finally emerged at 3.40pm, joining Chan and Wu who were standing on the street.Ku said there was no direct evidence showing what Lai did during those 15 minutes in the garage, but circumstantial evidence suggested that he had removed the vehicle’s fuel tank, placed it upside down in the boot and opened it slightly – just enough that its safety valve was not activated to limit the gas flow.“It was the only irresistible inference to be drawn,” Ku told the jury. “Lai was the only mechanic on site who knew how to change parts for LPG fuel tanks.”Undisputed evidence showed Lai had attended the LPG vehicle servicing programme provided by the Vocational Training Council but failed the practical test to qualify as a competent person permitted to maintain, repair and replace LPG vehicle fuel systems or associated components in Hong Kong.Lai also admitted that the garage in question was not an LPG fuel tank workshop approved by the Engineering and Mechanical Services Department.The court heard the garage exploded at 3.41pm, shattering all the glass windows of a care home opposite and causing a fire that spread to multiple nearby shops.Firefighters arrived to find Ng’s husband trying to return to the shop next door where she was resting in the attic, but none of them could get through the thick smoke to rescue her as the fire escalated.It was not until 5.25pm that they managed to enter the scene and find her burnt body.Wu also lost his life at the scene, while Chan was certified dead in hospital. Autopsies found both men had died of multiple injuries and extensive burns.Lai was sent to hospital in a critical condition, with inhalation burns and serious burns to 35 per cent of his body surface. He underwent surgery four times and received treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and hallucinations before he was finally discharged on June 18.The fire was put out at 6.45pm.Experts for the prosecution concluded there was no leakage from the fuel tank until someone meddled with it in the garage, using procedures that were considered unsafe and contrary to the manufacturers’ requirements.And because the garage’s gate was half rolled down and that LPG is heavier than air, the gas was allowed to accumulate in the service pit, to the point that it became “like a reservoir”, the prosecutor said.Though these experts could not be entirely sure about the source of ignition, Ku said they believed it could be attributed to a fan that dropped into the service pit.The case continues on Friday.This article Fatal garage blast in Hong Kong caused by mechanic unqualified for fuel tank repair, High Court jury told first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.

  • Biz groups seek financial aid for Cebu MSMEs
    News
    Sunstar

    Biz groups seek financial aid for Cebu MSMEs

    THE business community in Cebu is asking the government to provide more financial support to the workers of businesses affected as well as to the ailing micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) disrupted