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Tension: a Japanese coast guard vessel shadowing a Chinese surveillance ship last year near the disputed islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. Photo: AP

Tokyo: Islands at the centre of a row between Tokyo and Beijing are covered by the US-Japan defence alliance, Barack Obama told a newspaper ahead of his arrival in Tokyo.

Mr Obama, on a tour of Asia that will also take in South Korea, the Philippines and Malaysia, is the first sitting US president to explicitly affirm that hostile action against the island chain would spark an American reaction.

“The policy of the United States is clear – the Senkaku Islands are administered by Japan and therefore fall within the scope of Article 5 of the US-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security,” Mr Obama said in a written interview with Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper.

“We oppose any unilateral attempts to undermine Japan’s administration of these islands,” he said.

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Several senior US figures, including former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, have made similar statements, which Tokyo covets as a way to warn China away from territories it claims as the Diaoyu islands.

Mr Obama’s week-long tour of Asia is being dubbed a “rebalancing” eastward of US foreign policy by the White House.

Although China is not on his itinerary, its presence will be felt on every leg at a time of complex regional disputes and questions about US strategy.

On Wednesday, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency published a comment piece criticising US policy in the region as “a carefully calculated scheme to cage the rapidly developing Asian giant”.

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Disputed islands part of US-Japan alliance: Obama



Hagel, Chang Air Differences Over Disputed Islands
The defense chiefs of China and the U.S. faced off over Beijing's escalating territorial disputes in the region, with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel telling his Chinese counterparts they…

By: WochitGeneralNews

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Hagel, Chang Air Differences Over Disputed Islands – Video

The Chinese government has extended its freedom of information rules to cover all public interest information, including state-owned enterprises, universities and how public servants spend state money.

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Sinosphere Blog: Chinese Government Expands Freedom of Information

A group of activists are hoping to appeal a U.S. judges ruling that treated the censorship on Chinese search engine Baidu as free speech.

In making the ruling, District Judge Jesse Furman equated the censorship to a newspaper exercising its editorial right to publish what it wants. But Stephen Preziosi, lawyer for the eight pro-democracy activists, said in an email Saturday that the comparison was wrong, and that the court had a fundamental misunderstanding of how search engines work.

The appeal is planned to be filed later this week, Preziosi wrote.

In 2011, the eight activists filed a lawsuit, claiming that Baidu violates U.S. free speech laws by censoring pro-democracy works on its search engine for users in New York.

But last Thursday, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed the lawsuit, and ruled that Baidu had the right to create a search engine that favors certain political speech over another.

Newspapers have to manage costs and spacing on the paper in selecting what they publish, but search engines operate by indexing all content on the Web, Preziosi said. In Baidus case, the company worked to proactively exclude the pro-democracy works from its search engine, he added.

This constitutes the denial of the right to freedom of speech, Preziosi said.

Baidu has declined to comment. But as a company operating in China, Baidu must follow the nations strict rules on censorship, including the blocking of content deemed inflammatory or anti-government.

As Baidu can also be accessed outside its home country, Preziosi said the search engine is helping to bring Chinese censorship to the U.S. Those anti-democratic policies are being foisted upon people within the United States, he added.

But lawyers representing Baidu have called Thursdays ruling a victory for free speech rights.

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Activists to appeal US judge's ruling on Baidu's censorship



Tension Fresh Disputed Islands Over China-Japan
March 29 – A Chinese ship attempts to block a civilian vessel from the Philippines in the disputed South China Sea — to no avail. Gavino Garay reports. Subs…

By: HOTNEWS

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Tension Fresh Disputed Islands Over China-Japan – Video

Baidu, Chinas most popular Internet search engine, has a First Amendment right to block searches for articles and videos on the countrys pro-democracy movement, a federal judge in New York says.

Eight New York writers and video producers claimed in a lawsuit that the censorshipat the behest of the Chinese government violated their First Amendment rights. But U.S. District Court Judge Jesse Furman said the censorship itself was protected free speech.

“The First Amendment protects Baidu’s right to advocate for systems of government other than democracy (in China or elsewhere) just as surely as it protects plaintiffs’ rights to advocate for democracy,” the judge wrote in a decision Thursday dismissing the lawsuit, according to Reuters.

– U.S. District Court Judge Jesse Furman

Furman likened a search engine’s “editorial judgment” to that of a newspaper editor who decides which stories to publish, Reuters said.

The plaintiffs claimed Baidus censorship kept them from seeing their work, unlike users of other search engines such as Google and Microsoft’s Bing. They sought $16 million in damages for violations of their civil and equal protection rights.

The right for a media company to publish what it wants protects Chinese media as much as American media,Baidus lawyer, Carey Ramos of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, toldThe Wall Street Journal’s Alex Frangos.

Stephen Preziosi, a lawyer for the activists, expressed disappointment.

“The court has laid out a perfect paradox: that it will allow the suppression of free speech, in the name of free speech,” he told Reuters.

He said his clients will appeal.

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Judge: Chinese search engine can block pro-democracy queries

Billionaire William Han perches at the stern of Silver Fox II, his 20-meter powerboat, as it weaves through the kaleidoscopic coral wonderland that is Australias Great Barrier Reef.

In these pristine tropical waters in 1954, then-27-year-old Queen Elizabeth II and her consort, Prince Philip, escaped official duties to swim and spearfish during a six-month post-coronation world tour. Sixty years on, the secluded headland off which Their Highnesses frolicked is part of Hans kingdom, Bloomberg Pursuits will report in its Spring 2014 issue. Welcome to my island! he says, leaping onto a wooden jetty leading to a sandy, palm-fringed shore.

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After paying A$12 million ($10.9 million) for lovely Lindeman in 2012, the Chinese-Australian entrepreneur plans to spend more than A$200 million building a luxury resort on the 8-square-kilometer (3-square-mile) island, while keeping a prime secluded site for his own vacation retreat. When you first see the Great Barrier Reef, it blows your breath, he says in cheerfully fractured English. Buying Lindeman was a bargain. It took me 10 minutes to make up my mind.

How much of a bargain is a source of debate within the cloistered world of private-island sales. Although the Great Barrier Reef is renowned as one of the planets most beautiful and precious places, it has a perilous history. Over the past 80 years, investors have poured billions into resorts here, only to discover that the reef can be as treacherous for them as it was in 1770 for British explorer James Cook, whose HMS Endeavour ran aground near a spot he aptly named Cape Tribulation.

In the past three years alone, four of the most iconic Great Barrier Reef islands, including Lindeman, have been sold for a total of A$25 million — a fraction of their former valuations. Today, the most prominent property agents specializing in private islands are divided over whether the Great Barrier Reef market has finally bottomed out.

These properties sold for pennies on the dollar, and we will see an upswing, says Chris Krolow, chief executive officer of Toronto-based Private Islands Inc. Thats not a view shared by Farhad Vladi, the Hamburg-based founder of Vladi Private Islands GmbH, who says Great Barrier Reef sales reflect a global trend downward, as evidenced by Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allens December sale of his Washington state island for $8 million — a third of its original asking price. In the past, the market was artificially inflated by greedy real estate agents and overly romantic buyers, Vladi says. Only now, when were seeing forced sales, is the true value revealed. I think prices will continue to go down.

If ever a smart entrepreneur could make money while pursuing the idyllic island dream, it should be here, on Australias foremost natural wonder. Stretching 2,300 kilometers (1,430 miles) down the countrys northeast coast, this labyrinth of 3,500 shoals, atolls, cays and coral-fringed continental islands is often described as the largest living structure on Earth.

Apart from the dazzling coral formations built from the skeletons of tiny sea creatures called coral polyps, the reef supports some 5,000 other species, from majestic, 40-ton humpback whales to the colorful, comical clown fish that inspired the 2003 Walt Disney blockbuster Finding Nemo.

Each year, 2 million visitors, from billionaires to backpackers, flock here. (In 2011, Oprah Winfrey even showed up with 100 members of her studio audience in tow.) They dive its depths and snorkel its shallows. They ogle it from the air in light planes and skim its surface aboard sailboats and megayachts. The game fishers among them engage in titanic, Hemingway-esque struggles with black marlin that can weigh 450 kilograms (990 pounds). And some decide that the reef is just so special they must own a piece of it.

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Billionaires Buying Islands Off Australia Find Perilous Paradise

Michelle Obama backed on free speech

BY LILY ABROMEIT | MARCH 26, 2014 5:00 AM

Before coming to the United States, Shen Xingyu heard the rumors that it was a place of unfettered free speech where he could speak his mind and not be punished.

However for the University of Iowa freshman, it didnt seem much different from his native China. In China, he said, free-speech rights are getting better and better.

As first lady Michelle Obama wraps up her weeklong tour of China this week, many are discussing her trip focused on education as well as the remarks she made earlier in the week about free speech. During a stop on the tour, Obama focused on the importance of free speech, saying it is necessary for understanding everything from communities to countries to the world. She also said it allows for debates and discussion, which provides for opportunities for people to decide their own ideas and opinions.

Brian Lai, a UI associate professor of political science, said her comments were right in line with the current U.S. approach to handling Chinese censorship of the media and Internet.

The general U.S. policy [is] we would like China to have more openness in terms of journalism and more openness in terms of Internet freedom, Lai said.

The openness is exactly what UI junior Liqi Wang, who is also from China, hopes to see as well.

In our laws, its declared that Chinese people have the rights to have free speech, but in actuality [they do] not; it should change, he said. Since I have been [in the United States] for three years, I dont see Americans complaining that they dont have any free speech rights, but in China people are very careful about talking about some politics or something else.

Wang said some changes are visible in the Chinese society, but more information and knowledge is necessary for the system to grow.

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Michelle Obama backed on free speech

Illustration: michaelmucci.com

Thanks to ABC1′s Q&A last Monday, we’re in an even more confused state about the government’s free speech program. There was Attorney-General George Brandis appropriating an inordinate amount of time to tell viewers that section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act was throttling free speech and that it should be repealed ”in its current form”.

Brandis said: ”In a free country, people should have the right to say things that other people find insulting or offensive or wounding” – and that applies to making nasty remarks based on someone’s race or ethnicity.

So that seemed fairly clear, until the Q&A panel got onto the topic of Chinese buyers snapping up all the best housing. Brandis said: ”I’m always uncomfortable with the idea of picking on one racial group and saying, well, they’re the problem.”

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He may well be uncomfortable, but that didn’t mean he wants the law to get involved.

Yet if the man who is engineering this legislative change feels unsettled about people picking on particular racial groups, maybe that should be a tiny warning.

Two days after Q&A the Attorney-General gave a doorstop interview in Melbourne where he complained about an ALP leaflet circulating in the South Australian election that attacked a Liberal candidate, Carolyn Habib.

He said the flyer showed Habib in silhouette against a bullet-riddled wall with the caption ”don’t trust Habib”. This, he thundered, was ”a thinly veiled racist slur”.

The slurs may not be so thinly veiled once s.18C ”in its current form” is ditched. Be careful what you wish for, George.

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The free speech tongue-twister

World Aviation Women are silhouetted as they watch a Malaysia Airlines jet taxi on the tarmac at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, March 11, 2014, in Sepang, Malaysia. Wong Maye-EAP

The reason why a Malaysia Airlines flight carrying 239 people disappeared on Saturday is still as mysterious as when the plane first lost radar contact. While fears of terrorism began to fade when it was revealed Tuesday that one of the infamous stolen passports was held by a 19-year-old Iranian asylum seeker with no terrorist ties, search teams now have even fewer explanations for what might have happened. When asked where the plane could be, air traffic controller Izhar Bahari at Malaysias Department of Civil Aviation told TIME, Weve made no progress, we dont have a clue.

In the absence of any definitive answer, conspiracy theorists have emerged with explanations of their own, however implausible. While theres no credible evidence to support these theories, here are the ones getting the most attention:

1. Eerie cell phones rings could mean passengers phones are still onor inhabited by ghosts. Relatives and friends of the planes passengers said they were able to find their loved ones on a Chinese instant messenger service called QQ, reports the Washington Post. Others tried calling the vanished passengers phones and heard ringtones even though the calls were not picked up. Many thought the phones might still be on, and more than 100 of them signed a petition to the Malaysian government to hurriedly investigate.

That led more suspicious observers to fire off rounds of irrational theories. Did the mysterious ringing indicate the passengers had been kidnapped and are still alive somewhere? Or was it the supernatural at work?

2. An otherworldly portal could have sucked up the flight.If we never find the debris, it means some entirely new, mysterious and powerful force is at work on our planet which can pluck airplanes out of the sky without leaving behind even a shred of evidence, said one blogger. Was it an alien abduction? others ask.

3. The flights disappearance was predetermined and perhaps written into the very fabric of the universe. Reddit is rife with commenters fixated on the numerical coincidences of the flights disappearance. Interesting numerology, said one Reddit user, RedditB. Flight 370 disappears on 3/7 while reportedly traveling 3,700 km. Flight 370 flew at an altitude of 37,000 feet when it was last reported using flight tracking software. Luigi Maraldi, age 37, was one of the individuals whose passport was stolen. Malaysia Airlines is one of Asias largest, flying nearly 37,000 passengers daily. As of today, we are beginning the 37th month since the Fukushima tragedy, which is located on the 37th degree and initially caused 37 injuries at the plant.

4. The North Koreans hijacked the jet. Others have argued the jet was hijacked by North Koreans and flown to Pyongyang. One Reddit user, Nickryane, claims the plane had enough fuel to fly to North Korea and remain within cell phone range. The dictatorship hijacked a jet in 1969, so Kim Jong-un would be pulling an old card out of the deck.

5. The Illuminati did it. One guess points to the supposed vortex energy points on the earths surface that Illuminati and/or ancient aliens who can control the energy grid. Commenters and bloggers emerged to point to occultists and nefarious shadowy figures who helped down the plane.

While the absence of a distress signal has helped such conspiracy theories abound, it does not rule out the very real possibility that the jet exploded at a high altitude and disintegrated. Its a terrifying prospect because it would mean no trace of the jet will be found, and that the search for the plane is in vain.

Continued here:
The Missing Malaysian Plane: 5 Conspiracy Theories



The TEFLCast – EP23 – Temples Beaches and Snake Blood
The TEFLCast. The world's #1 podcast channel for English teachers (TEFL/TESOL/TESL) Joshua Saurez (U.S) took full advantage of his Chinese New Year Holiday a…

By: TEFLExpress

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The TEFLCast – EP23 – Temples Beaches and Snake Blood – Video



Japan and China Volleyball Game on Senkaku Islands
http://unhatenews.com On February 17th, a group of Japanese and Chinese girls and guys snuck onto the disputed Senkaku Islands. They choose to play a peacefu…

By: UNHATE NEWS

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Japan and China Volleyball Game on Senkaku Islands – Video

HONG KONGThousands of protesters joined the Free Speech, Free Hong Kong march held by the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) to challenge the unprecedented suppression of Hong Kongs freedom of press.

About 6000 people showed up for the march and rally outside the Chief Executive Office on Feb. 23. Well-known journalists gave speeches about the importance of Hong Kongs freedom of press, which is increasingly violated by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in mainland China.

Some journalists said they have received phone calls from the HK government, consortium bosses, and mainland Chinas liaison office in Hong Kong, who exert pressure on the media to report the way they want.

Former radio host Li Wei-ling, who was recently fired without warning from her job at Commercial Radio Hong Kong, said this rally was not the end, but the beginning.

Many people have come here today, but we are only representing the first batch of awakened people, Li said. In reality many Hongkongers still have not woken up.

The protesters tied blue ribbons representing freedom of speech on the fence outside the office of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to express their demands. Li said she hopes the blue ribbons can blossom everywhere, awakening more people to stand up for freedom.

If we remain silent, we will be forced into silence, said Li. Therefore I hope everyone can join me in fighting this battle.

Senior journalist Ching Cheong, a representative of the newly founded Independent Commentators Association, challenged the idea that Lis dismissal and the recent replacement of the chief editor of the Ming Pao newspaper were purely commercial decisions.

If those were regular personnel changes, why did it only affect the outspoken journalists? Ching asked.

Another sacked Commercial Radio Hong Kong host, Albert Cheng Jing-han, was on stage with Li.

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6,000 Rally for Hong Kongs Press Freedom

Feb 212014

By BOB TEOH

Press freedom in Malaysia has taken an unprecedented plunge according to the latest ranking by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) released last week. But the government doesn’t think so. The Prime Minister’s Office responded immediately, insisting that the press in Malaysia is freer than it ever has been. So who is right?

To begin with the index tabulated by RSF is flawed in its methodology so we need to take its ranking with caution. The government’s claim, on the other hand, is mere rhetoric so we need to be equally cautious.

Out of the 180- countries ranked in the 2014 RSF press freedom index, Malaysia stood at 147 out of 180 countries surveyed, dropping 23 spots from the previous year. Compared to the 2006 index, Malaysia was in the 92nd spot, or a drop of 55 places over eight years!

The RSF index measures the level of press freedom using six criteria pluralism, media independence, environment and self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency and (news production) infrastructure. But it also include another criterion for measuring violence against journalists which is given a weight of 20 percent. This might have skewed the overall tabulation. The index also lacks what is known as inter-coder reliability, a device for double checking data normally used in content analyses.

For instance the Philippines, which is among the freest press in the region, is ranked three spots below Malaysia, possibly due the violence against journalists in some remote provinces which are controlled by warlords. In Brunei, where violence against journalists is largely unheard of, the country is given a higher ranking of 117, or 32 spots higher than Philippines in terms of press freedom.

It is also incredulous that the US is ranked 46, or just one spot above Haiti, Japan at 59, is just two spots above Hong Kong and Britain at 33 is six spots below Ghana!

So how free is the press in Malaysia then? We can measure it against the government’s declared intentions. Within six days of Najib Razak taking office Prime Minister on 3 April 2009, he called a closed door meeting of top editors. Najib told the top editors, “I will give latitude to the media” and went on to say “I’d rather be criticised by the media than be rejected by the people.”

Najib even took the initiative to visit Sin Chew Daily, the country’s largest newspaper just days before he became PM. Some months later, he made another visit, this time officially, making him probably the first Prime Minister to visit a Chinese newspaper. This contrasted with former PM, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who shut down Sin Chew Daily together with The Star and Watan for six months in a massive clampdown on civil liberties known as Ops Lalang in Oct 1987 which resulted in the arrest of over 100 dissidents.

Najib went on to reform press laws, in particular the amendments to the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 on 20 April 2012. The amendments removed the need for annual renewal of press licences. The absolute power of the minister in revoking or imposing arbitrary conditions was also removed. But anyone wishing to start a newspaper is still required to get a licence from the Home Ministry.

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Sizing up press freedom

TOKYO, Jan. 25 (UPI) — China and South Korea both chastised Japan Friday after Tokyo reiterated its claims on a string of contested islands.

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said in a speech to the parliament that Japan was maintaining its claim on the so-called Dokdo islands in the East China Sea, which prompted a stiff response from the South Koreans and Chinese, who also claim jurisdiction over the tiny islands.

“Such groundless claims and useless attempts repeated over time only show the world that Japan is still under the spell of imperialism,” the South Korean foreign ministry said in a written statement.The ministry said the hard-line attitude of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government was needlessly belligerent, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency said.

China currently maintains control of the islands and recently announced the formation of an air-defense identification zone over the region that barred other nations from flying through without permission.

“It is just and legitimate for China to set up the ADIZ, about which Japan is not entitled to criticize,” a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman told Japan’s Kyodo News.

Continued here:
Seoul, Beijing push back on Japan over disputed islands

Updated January 24, 2014 08:20:34

An investigative journalism organisation has revealed secretive offshore tax havens used by China’s well-connected elite to hide their wealth.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has unearthed companies owned by relatives of top Chinese leaders, with information culled from 2.5 million leaked documents.

Director of the consortium, Gerard Ryle, has told Radio Australia’s Asia Pacific program the use of secret offshore holdings opens up the potential for corrupt practices.

“What we have revealed is a secret offshore holdings of families of the leaders of China,” he said.

“They’re extensively using secrecy havens, and when you have secrecy you have the potential for wrongdoing.

“One of the reasons people use offshore tax havens is to hide their wealth and to do things that they don’t want people to know about.”

The ICIJ cited nearly 22,000 offshore clients from mainland China and Hong Kong, including relatives of president Xi Jinping, former president Hu Jintao, former premiers Wen Jiabao and Li Peng, as well as late leader Deng Xiaoping, the man credited with opening up China’s economy in the 1980s.

Members of China’s National People’s Congress, heads of state-owned enterprises and some of the country’s wealthiest men and women were also included in the report, including real estate mogul Zhang Xin, co-founders of Chinese Internet giant Tencent, Pony Ma and Zhang Zhidong, and China’s richest woman, Yang Huiyan.

In addition, the confidential files leaked to ICIJ include the names of 16,000 clients from Taiwan.

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Investigative organisation reveals offshore tax havens …

Chinas elite, including the brother-in-law of President Xi Jinping, have used secretive offshore companies that helped hide wealth in tax havens, including the British Virgin Islands and Samoa.

Thats according to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in Washington, D.C. The group, whose website is now blocked in China, worked with reporters from Europe, North America, and Asia, sifting through leaked files from two offshore funds, Singapore-based Portcullis TrustNet and Commonwealth Trust Limited in the British Virgin Islands.

The documents, which are part of a larger cache of 2.5 million files obtained by ICIJ and analyzed with its media partners, provide information on nearly 22,000 offshore clients with addresses in Hong Kong and mainland China. Another 16,000 or so come from Taiwan, with the remainder from countries around the world.

By some estimates, between $1 trillion and $4 trillion in untraced assets have left [China] since 2000, says a story on the leaked files published on the groups website.

The records in ICIJs possession include details on a BVI-registered real estate company half-owned by Deng Jiagui, the husband of President Xis older sister, and a multimillionaire property developer, whose wealth was first revealed in a Bloomberg News investigation in 2012.

The wealth of Chinas rich, including that secreted offshore, may not be strictly illegal but often is connected to conflict of interest and covert use of government power, said Minxin Pei, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College in California, quoted in the story on the leaked files. If there is real transparency, then the Chinese people will have a much better idea of how corrupt the system is [and] how much wealth has been amassed by government officials through illegal means.

President Xi, who has warned that out-of-control graft could bring down the Communist Party he heads, is presiding over a sweeping anticorruption campaign. In 2004 he admonished Chinese officials to rein in your spouses, children, relatives, friends, and staff and vow not to use power for personal gain.

The files also include information on the offshore holdings of Wen Yunsong, the son of former Premier Wen Jiabao. With assistance from the Hong Kong office of Credit Suisse (CS), the younger Wen set up a BVI-registered company called Trend Gold Consultants in 2006, while his father served as premier. The company appears to have been dissolved in 2008, ICIJ says.

Relatives of retired top officials, including former President Hu Jintao, former Premier Li Peng, and deceased paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, have possessed offshore holdings, according to the investigative consortium. All told, relatives of at least five current or past members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo, Chinas top elite leadership body, have incorporated companies in BVI or the Cook Islands.

Who along with Credit Suisse has been helping hide the wealth? The audit firm now known as PricewaterhouseCoopers helped incorporate more than 400 offshore entities for clients from mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, while UBS (UBS) did so for more than a 1,000 customers from the same three markets, according to ICIJ. Western banks and accounting firms play a key role as middlemen in helping Chinese clients set up trusts and companies in the British Virgin Islands, Samoa and other offshore centers usually associated with hidden wealth, the story says.

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China’s Elite Wealth Goes to Offshore Tax Havens

By Gil Aegerter Staff Writer, NBC News

Chinas top leaders are hiding vast wealth through offshore companies set up by relatives and close associates in tax havens, according to a report by an investigative journalism group based on a huge leak of financial documents.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists report, released Tuesday, said the documents show almost 22,000 clients of offshore companies and banks have addresses in mainland China and Hong Kong, including at least 15 of Chinas richest men and women, members of the National Peoples Congress and executives of state-owned companies.

The consortium said the files on Chinas offshore clients came from Singapore-based Portcullis TrustNet and Commonwealth Trust Limited, based in the British Virgin Islands. It said the files were part of a leak of 2.5 million documents that the consortium has been using in a yearlong global examination of how offshore tax havens are used to hide corruption, money laundering and large-scale fraud.

The report said Chinese officials arent required to publicly disclose their assets and the consortium has said that there are legitimate uses of offshore companies. But the report said such offshore tax havens keep Chinese citizens from finding out where government officials wealth came from and protect the elite from taxes. The report says between $1 trillion and $4 trillion in untraced assets have been taken out of China since 2000.

Efforts to get comment from Chinese leaders and business people whose dealings were detailed were for the most part unsuccessful, the report said.But Reuters reported that the Chinese government condemned the report on Wednesday and blocked websites and censored mention of the story.

The consortium said in an email that on Thursday it would name more than 37,000 offshore clients from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan in a database, published last June, that already includes 70,000 names from elsewhere in the world.

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Chinese leaders’ riches cloaked in offshore havens, report says

A series of leaked documents obtained by the ICIJ found nearly 22,000 offshore clients had addresses in China and Hong Kong, including Chinas current President Xi Jinpings brother-in-laws real estate company, and former Premier Wen Jiabaos son and son-in-law. The ICIJ report gives an unprecedented look into the hidden finances of the nations top leaders and the countrys wealthiest citizens. Here are some major takeaways: 1. By some estimates, between $1 trillion and $4 trillion in untraced assets have left the country since 2000. Chinese officials are not required to publicly declare all of their assets, and while holding offshore accounts and having wealth as a leader is not necessarily illegal, such quantities of money are easy to associate with corruption, particularly abuse of power and tax evasion. 2. Portcullis Trustnet was among the offshore services firms that were making an all-out drive to sign up clients in China, doing marketing meetings at the Shanghai offices of what were then known as the Big 5 accounting firms: KPMG, Ernst & Young, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte & Touche and Arthur Andersen. The report found that PwC helped set up more than 400 offshore accounts through TrustNet for various clients in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The Swiss financial giant UBS had a hand in coordinating more than 1,000 offshore entities with the help of TrustNet in the same three markets. 3. Today 40 percent of the British Virgin Islands offshore business comes from China and other Asian nations, according to BVI authorities. Members of the government and their families and business associates from China, Azerbaijan, Russia, Canada, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand and Mongolia have all reportedly opened up offshore bank accounts with the help of covert companies. 4. Every corner of Chinas economy, from oil to green energy and from mining to arms trading, appears in the ICIJ data. Essentially, there’s no industry with clean hands. In particular, Chinas corruption-laden oil industry is a big player in offshore banking. The report concluded that data from the leaked documents found Chinas three major oil companies, all state-owned, are linked to dozens of firms in the British Virgin Islands. Though some of the accounts are actually disclosed in the corporations’ annual filings, other accounts associated with individuals like Zhang Bowen, head of PetroChinas natural gas distribution subsidiary, Kunlun Energy, are not mentioned. 5. Big loopholes in tax laws have allowed Chinese individuals to operate with relative freedom offshore. They werent required to report their foreign holdings. The government responded swiftlyto foreign media, such as the New York Times or Bloomberg News, reports on the onshore assets of the princelings of former Chinese leader Wen Jiabao. Accusations were rejected and immediately censored from the Chinese Internet. Though mainland authorities announced new rules that went into effect Jan. 1 requiring Chinese to report their overseas assets, with so many accounts held by the nations movers and shakers, it remains to be seen how aggressively such laws will be enforced. Chatter on the report locally has been quiet. Though a Chinese version of the report has also been published, local Chinese news, all of which is technically state-run, have yet to pick up the story. On Weibo, where online conversation is often robust, search returns for keywords of the report or the ICIJ came back blocked, with a message that says, According to relevant laws, regulations and policies, the search-term search results are not displayed. — (Note: Beijing photo by Shutterstock.com.)

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ICIJ Reveals China’s Elite’s Offshore Trillion-Dollar Offshore Holdings: Five Takeaways



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