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China’s Two-Child Policy Shift May Be Too Little, Too Late

China saw a smaller than expected uptick in the number of births following its landmark decision to end the country’s controversial one-child policy

In 2016, the number of births in China increased following its landmark decision to end the country’s controversial one-child policy and allow all parents to have two children. 

 

Officials were quick to claim success, arguing that the increase of around 1.4 million new births (compared with an average from 2010-2015) was a sign the new policy was working.

Nearly half of the 17.86 million births last year were second children, but the increase was much smaller than officials and experts expected.

For many families, it is not the statistics that are worrisome, but the financial demands parents face in raising a second child.

 

Not cheap

Liu, a government employee spending the day with his family at Houhai Lake in the central part of Beijing, said after the policy was rolled out a year ago, he and his wife considered having another. In the end however, they felt the burden was too much to bear.

“[I] wish we could have a second child. One child on his own, is too lonely,” Liu said. “It would be better to have two children.”

Many parents noted the extreme costs of living in China, in particular larger cities such as Beijing.

More than just food and clothing expenses, parents said they spend as much as $1,000 to $2,000 (some even more) each month on extracurricular classes for everything from art to dancing and skating lessons.

In many cases, parents said they are taking a wide range of courses to see where their children’s interests are and to give them an edge in a highly competitive country.

Education and extracurricular activities are not the only expenses, added James King.

“Of course, there’s also travel overseas, which is very expensive,” King said. “We try to travel abroad at least once a year.”

Shared burden

James and his wife Lucy, who have a second child, said that they feel the benefits outweigh the costs, but added each family’s situation is different.

“In the future, [a] child must deal with four elderly parents, but having a brother or sister can make it easier to divide up those responsibilities.”

What is clear is the two-child policy is really more a question that those with residence in China’s major coastal cities, such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, are struggling with. For those from other provinces, bigger families are more common, despite the restrictions. 

 

But that doesn’t mean their children see things differently.

Life’s pressures

Bai, a young hotel management worker from neighboring Hebei province, said his family, like many others where he is from, ignored fines in the past, to have more children. Especially until a boy was born.

Although Bai has two older sisters and comes from a big family by China standards, he was cautious when asked about his eventual plans for having children.

“Life is very stressful, but if I was to have a child, one would be enough,” Bai said. “Either a boy or girl would be fine.” 

Demographic juggernaut

Traditional Chinese culture puts more emphasis on giving birth to boys as they carry on the family name. And according to tradition, girls are expected to take care of the family they join through marriage.

The over-emphasis on boys has led to a massive gender gap in China, and for critics it is one of the tragedies of the one-child policy. And that’s not the only demographic challenge China faces despite its massive population.

China’s working population is shrinking as the number of pensioners increases rapidly.

Starting next year, there is likely to be a persistent decrease in the number of children being born, experts say, as the number of women eligible to have a second child will begin to shrink as more fill their quota.

Like many of its Asian neighbors, China has a low fertility rate and so far the government has offered little in the form of incentives to encourage more births  aside from ending its one child policy. And because of that, some critics say, the policy shift may be too little too late.

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South Korea’s Samsung Mulls Building US Appliance Factory

South Korea South Korea’s Samsung Electronics said Friday it’s considering building a factory to make household appliances in the United States as various industries brace for potential protectionist trade policies under the administration of President Donald Trump.

A spokeswoman for Samsung said the plans were “purely in the evaluation stage” and no decisions have been made. She didn’t want to be named, citing office rules.

Samsung also said in an emailed statement on Friday that it continues to assess “new investment needs in the United States. The news drew the attention of Trump, who tweeted “Thank you, [at]Samsung! We would love to have you!”

Most Samsung televisions, refrigerators and other household appliances sold in the United States are made in Mexico.

The spokeswoman refused to say whether Samsung was worried about the possibility of the United States moving to impose tariffs on products imported from Mexico.

A spokesman from LG Electronics, another South Korean technology company, said it is also considering building a manufacturing plant in the United States and will decide on the matter within the first half of the year. He also didn’t want to be named, saying that the matter was sensitive.

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China’s 2 Child Policy Shift May Be Too Little, Too Late

In 2016, the number of births in China increased following its landmark decision to end the country’s controversial one-child policy and allow all parents to have two children. And while nearly half of the 17.86 million births last year were second children, the increase was much smaller than officials and experts expected. VOA’s Bill Ide went out on the streets of Beijing to learn more about the policy’s impact.

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Kazakhstan Works to Quash Extremism

Kazakhstan hosted January’s Syrian peace talks that saw agreement on reinforcing a ceasefire. Those talks, however, did not include Islamist militant groups. Hosting the talks is about more than just prestige for Kazakhstan, as the country looks to prevent the spreading influence of Islamist extremism at home. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Astana.

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Report: Thousands of Rohingya Are Victims of Unbearable Acts of Cruelty

A U.N. report released Friday charges that thousands of Rohingya children, women, and men have suffered gang rapes, killings, beatings, disappearances and other acts of cruelty at the hands of Myanmar’s police and security forces.

The report, issued by the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, documents testimony from 204 women and men who are among 66,000 Rohingya who have fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State since Oct. 9.

“For me personally, I have not ever encountered a situation in which you have interviewed so many people in such a short period of time, who have undergone such serious violations,” said Linnea Arvidsson, mission leader of a four-member team of U.N. human rights investigators.

Arvidsson told VOA that she was “on the verge of breaking down” on the first day after having interviewed an endless stream of women who recounted horrific tales.

“Mothers who would say, ‘I was raped and my baby was crying and they slit the throat of my baby while I was being raped.’ I mean, it was horrendous.

“Frankly, it was absolutely unbearable to do the interviews,” Arvidsson said. “I cannot imagine what they have gone through when they lived through that.”

Of the 101 women interviewed, more than half reported they had been raped or suffered other forms of sexual violence.

In commenting on the report, High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said, “The devastating cruelty to which these Rohingya children have been subjected is unbearable.

“What kind of hatred could make a man stab a baby crying out for his mother’s milk?” he asked.

The investigators have concluded that Myanmar may be guilty of crimes against humanity.

Myanmar’s response

A spokesman for the Myanmar government, which was provided an advance copy of the report, told VOA it will conduct its own investigation into the charges.

“We found out that what they have written in the report is quite harsh,” said Zaw Htay, spokesman for Myanmar President Htin Kyaw. “We are deeply concerned about it. Vice President U Myint Swe will lead a commission investigating these allegations as soon as possible. If the investigation finds and receives firm evidence on the allegations, we will take necessary actions.”

The Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic group, have been denied citizenship by subsequent governments despite having lived in Myanmar for generations. The United Nations has referred to them as one of the world’s most persecuted minorities.

The investigators conducted their interviews between Jan. 8 and 23 in the Bangladeshi city of Cox’s Bazar, near the border of Myanmar. Many had fled across the border in response to a security sweep in Myanmar’s neighboring Rakhine State following a series of deadly attacks on police stations, presumably by Rohingya extremists.

All the witnesses said the abuses were committed by members of the Myanmar army, border guards and part of the regular police forces.

Many also said that the security forces were accompanied by villagers they knew, who had taken part in the raids and in the reported violations committed against the Rohingya inhabitants of Rakhine State.

‘Unprecedented’ abuse

Arvidsson called the level of abuse meted out to the Rohingya “unprecedented.” She said one of the most striking features of the document was the number of violations that were reported to the investigators.

“I must say we did not meet a single person out of the 204 that had not experienced some type of violation, ” she said. “Either their house had been burned or looted or a family member had disappeared or a family member had been killed.

“Basically, we did not encounter anyone that had not suffered any type of violation, which is extremely rare,” she said.

The report cites cases of hundreds of houses, schools, markets, shops, madrasas and mosques that had been burned by the army.

Stories were collected from people from villages in Rakhine State of houses being set alight while the inhabitants were inside, including elderly and disabled people; of indiscriminate killings, and of people being denied access to emergency medical care.

Many witnesses and victims described “being taunted while they were being beaten, raped or rounded up.”

High Commissioner Zeid said the perpetrators of the violations, and those who ordered them, must be held accountable.

“The government of Myanmar must immediately halt these grave human rights violations against its own people … and ensure that victims have access to justice, reparations and safety,” Zeid said.

Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman for the high commissioner, said “the government of Myanmar has been denying that these violations have been taking place so, we said, OK, give us access, we will go, independently assess for ourselves what has happened to them.”

She said access was denied, so her office deployed a team to the border to do its own investigation.

“The results are even more terrible than we had expected.”

Shamdasani said Zeid may call upon the Security Council or the Human Rights Council to take follow-up action based on the report.

“What is clear is that something needs to be done and the government of Myanmar has the primary responsibility to halt these military operations.”

Emergency aid

Also on Friday, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak sent a ship carrying 2,200 tonnes (2,425 tons) of food and emergency supplies to Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims, according to Reuters.

The shipment, bound for Myanmar’s biggest city and port of Yangon, has been organized by Malaysian Muslim groups, as well as domestic and foreign aid groups. The ship is expected to arrive on Feb. 9 in Yangon, where it will unload 500 tonnes of supplies, organizers said, before heading to Teknaf, in Bangladesh across the border from Myanmar, where many Rohingya refugees are camped.

Myanmar has not allowed the ship to sail to Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State, as organizers had hoped. Myanmar has also insisted that the aid be distributed equally to both Buddhist and Muslim communities.

“We will receive the aid [from Malaysia] at Yangon Port,” said Dr. Win Myay Aye, Myanmar’s minister for social welfare, relief and resettlement told VOA. “Then under our Ministry’s arrangement, we will send them to Rakhine State and the state government will take responsibility for distributing them to various communities mainly in Maung Taw Tsp.”

VOA Burmese Service reporters Htet Aung Khant and Nyan Win Aug contributed to this report.

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Trump Defense Chief Assures Japan, S. Korea of US Commitment to Asia

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said in Tokyo Friday the U.S. stands “firmly, 100 percent, shoulder to shoulder” with Japan.

Mattis, on his first trip since becoming the Pentagon chief, made the comment during a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

WATCH: Mattis remarks during Japan stop

Earlier Friday in South Korea, Mattis said any nuclear attack by North Korea on the U.S. or any of its allies would be met with an “effective and overwhelming” response.

His trip to South Korea and Japan is to reassure the two Asian allies of Washington’s enduring alliance with them.

U.S. President Donald Trump threatened during his campaign to withdraw American forces from South Korea and Japan if they did not pay more for the military support they received from the U.S. South Korea has 28,500 U.S. troops stationed there, while 47,000 U.S. troops are based in Japan.

Mattis also visited Seoul’s National Cemetery Friday where he and his South Korean counterpart Han Minkoo participated in a wreath-laying ceremony to pay tribute to the soldiers who died in the Korean War.

On Thursday, Mattis said the Trump administration is committed to strengthening relations with South Korea in the face of what he called the “provocations” Seoul faces from North Korea.

“Right now we have to address the reality of the threat that your country and my country faces, and we intend to be shoulder-to-shoulder with you as we face this together,” he said.

Mattis spoke alongside South Korean Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn at the start of Mattis’ first overseas trip as Pentagon chief.

Hwang said he looks forward to further consultations on the U.S.-South Korea alliance and “responding to North Korea’s nuclear issue.”

Before landing in South Korea, Mattis told reporters traveling with him that one topic of conversation during his visit will be the THAAD missile defense system, which the U.S. and South Korea want to deploy this year over the objections of China.

“Were it not for the provocative behavior of North Korea, we would have no need for THAAD out here,” Mattis said. “There is no other nation that needs to be concerned about THAAD other than North Korea if they are engaged in something that is offensive.”

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Refugees Face Uncertain Future in Indonesia After Trump Suspends Resettlement

U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to block entry to the U.S. for citizens of seven Muslim majority nations has sparked a huge popular backlash, but the policy that stands to affect even more people is his 120-day suspension of all refugee resettlement in the United States. 

The presidential executive order, issued last week, calls for the suspension of visas and other immigration benefits to citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. Those countries were named in a 2016 law concerning immigration visas as “countries of concern.” It also suspends the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program  for 120 days, while officials reevaluate  its procedures, and limits the number of refugees that may be admitted to the United States to 50,000 within the 2017 fiscal year, the 12-month period that ends on September 30.

One group that is particularly distressed by the suspension is the 14,000 refugees and asylum seekers in Indonesia. The United States was the biggest recipient of Indonesia’s displaced peoples, the vast majority of whom are Muslims.

“In 2016 alone there were 790 people resettled to the United States,” said Febi Yonesta, chairman of SUAKA, the Indonesian Civil Society Network for Refugee Rights Protection. “If Trump’s policy continues, Indonesia’s displaced population will get seriously backed up.”

Aggravating that phenomenon is the Indonesian president’s recent decree recognizing refugees and asylum seekers, which some feel will increase the flow of refugees and migrants to the island nation. Indonesia is not a signatory to the 1951 U.N. Convention on refugees, so it functions as a point of transit until they are resettled by the UNHCR in a third country, which can take up to ten years. 

The American promise

“For decades, the United States has been a global leader in refugee protection, a tradition rooted in the tolerance and generosity of the American people,” said Mitra Salima Suryono of UNHCR Indonesia. “We hope that this suspension is temporary and that the U.S. will continue its strong leadership role in protecting those who are fleeing conflict and persecution.”

She said resettlement is a sign of “tangible solidarity” with major refugee-hosting countries like Indonesia, which shoulder the brunt of the displacement crisis despite having far less resources and GDP than developed countries. 

“In Indonesia, refugees of various nationalities who are fleeing for their lives and in need of protection are affected by the suspension….some of their cases have been accepted while others are going through vetting and other clearances,” said Suryono. “Many have been making plans to rebuild their lives in the U.S. after years of waiting in refugee camps or precarious urban situations.” They are worried, shocked, and afraid, she said. 

The top three countries of origin for refugees and asylum seekers in Indonesia are Afghanistan, Myanmar, and Somalia, with Afghans accounting for roughly half. Nearly all of them are Muslim, and those from Myanmar tend to be Rohingya fleeing genocide in Myanmar, who have been described as the “most persecuted minority in the world.”

U.S. Homeland Security chief John Kelly has downplayed the impact of the travel restrictions, insisting the move does not represent a travel ban, but a “temporary pause that allows us to review the existing refugee and vetting system.” 

Devastating one-two punch

For Mohamed Rasool Bagherian, an Iranian refugee who has been in Jakarta for six years, Trump’s orders are a devastating one-two punch. Iran is one of seven Muslim countries from where travel has been restricted under the pretext of curbing terrorism. Ironically, he, his wife, and eight-year-old son are all Christian.

“Three years ago, Australia closed its doors on our family when they stopped accepting maritime refugees,” Bagherian told VOA. “This year, America has done the same.” Bagherian said that his family was on the UNHCR’s list of people to be resettled in the United States as of last year.

“We left Iran when my son was just a baby; he was the only thing we could take with us,” said Bagherian, speaking near his temporary home in North Jakarta. “He’s not allowed to even attend school in Indonesia. We just want a better life for him.” 

The new U.S. policies make ostensible concessions for Christians like the Bagherians, but it is quite difficult to prove such affiliations. “Look, my name is Mohamed,” he cracked. “It’s an uphill battle.”

Mixed messages from the government 

Indonesia’s official reaction to Trump’s actions have focused more on terrorism and the travel ban than on refugees. 

“We are not affected by the policy. Why fret?” said President Joko Widodo in a radio address on Monday, referring to the fact that Indonesia is not one of the seven countries targeted by the travel restrictions.

Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry expressed concern about the ban, but focused on how it may hurt global efforts to fight terrorism.

Human rights experts were more concerned. “Word of mouth spreads pretty fast among these persecuted people,” said Andreas Harsono, a researcher with Human Rights Watch in Jakarta. Now that there is a “legal framework” for refugees and asylum seekers in Indonesia, more refugees will try and come here, he said, and Trump’s ban on resettlement has particularly bad timing. 

Refugees in Indonesia retained hope that they would eventually make their way to the United States.

“In my country, girls can’t even work, but in America you can do anything,” said an Afghan Hazara teen who lives West Java. She didn’t want to be identified for fear it could hurt the transit process for her family of five, which was on track for UNHCR resettlement to the United States this year. But now she says their status is unclear. 

“I still think the American people are the best in the world,” said Bagherian. “This is not the citizens’ fault. It is the president. I hope he will realize his mistake and change this.”

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Українцям, які накопичили борги, будуть загрожувати серйозні проблеми

Українцям, які не дуже акуратні в комунальних платежах, можуть загрожувати серйозні проблеми. Мін’юст запустив онлайн-реєстр боржників – відкритий ресурс, яким може користуватися практично кожен.

Щоб дізнатися, чи “висить” на людині борг, досить лише ввести в реєстр її ім’я і прізвище.

Очікується, що потенційними користувачами реєстру стануть ті, хто приймає рішення щодо співпраці з приватними громадянами або юридичними особами – банки, інші кредитні компанії, забудовники (при продажу квартири в розстрочку), страхові компанії, будь-які контрагенти по бізнесу і навіть власники квартир, що здаються в оренду.

Інформація може використовуватися, припустімо, HR відділами як додаткове джерело даних, що дозволяють судити про якість потенційного претендента на посаду.

“Ще одна типова ситуація, працівник шукає роботу. Заходить до реєстру боржників роботодавців і дивиться. Якщо роботодавець часто затримував виплати зарплати, або взагалі не заплатив. Чи буде такий працівник відправляти в цю компанію своє резюме? Не думаю”, – зазначив юридичний радник В’ячеслав Гончаров.

Ще одна категорія активних користувачів нового реєстру – нотаріуси та реєстратори. Людина не зможе провести перереєстрацію нерухомості, якщо по ній є комунальні борги.

“У разі наявності інформації про боржника в реєстрі, нотаріус повинен відмовити в проведенні відповідної дії (посвідчення продажу нерухомого майна, або ж частини в статутному капіталі компанії). При цьому, правда, детального порядку здійснення дій нотаріусами немає, як і сформованої практики застосування норм закону”, – розповів адвокат Володимир Єніч.

Як зазначив керуючий партнер юридичної фірми Гліб Сегіда, даний реєстр стане хорошим відкритим інструментом для перевірки платоспроможності приватної або юридичної особи, її можливостей і бажання виконувати взяті на себе фінансові зобов’язання.

Важливо відзначити, що дані будуть вноситися до реєстру виконавцем після винесення постанови про відкриття виконавчого провадження за рішенням суду або інших органів. А це, як мінімум, за 3 місяці несплати по боргу.

“До реєстру потраплять боржники, які мають заборгованості за виконавчим документом про стягнення періодичних платежів більше трьох місяців. Як правило, банк подає до суду через 3-6 місяців після зупинки платежів”, – зазначив Сегіда.

Тому в зону ризику потрапляють ті, хто вже тривалий час не сплачує борги.

Реєстр комунальних боржників також допоможе убезпечити людину, яка хоче здати/зняти житлову або комерційну нерухомість. Наприклад, якщо з’ясується, що на приватній особі або фірмі значиться борг, зрозуміло, що потрібно добре подумати, чи варто з ними зв’язуватися.

“Даний реєстр боржників буде корисний при укладанні угод, оренді квартири і т.д. Адже якщо, припустімо, людина заборгувала величезну суму грошей, де гарантія, що при укладанні угоди з вами вона і вам виплатить”, – зауважив В’ячеслав Гончаров.

Тепер власнику квартири буде складно “повісити” борги по тій самій комуналці на орендаря, якщо той з якоїсь причини забув перевірити перед орендою житла старі платіжки.

Та й перед підписанням договору оренди можна буде перевірити, чи є у власника нерухомості заборгованість, адже часто саме орендар платить комуналку.

“В принципі, і до запуску реєстру можна було перевірити нерухомість на наявність боргів, подивившись рахунки за ту саму квартиру. Як правило, заборгованості не приховують, а навпаки, якщо такі є, власник може домовитися з орендарем, щоб той погасив борг, наприклад, в рахунок майбутньої знижки за оренду. Але якщо цей факт все ж приховають, то ріелтори можуть за допомогою реєстру це з’ясувати і порадити тій чи іншій стороні добре обміркувати, чи укладати угоду”, – зазначив київський ріелтор Олександр Гришко.

Щодо комерційної нерухомості ситуація зміниться не настільки радикально. Адже у тих же торгових центрах є юристи, які і так мають можливість перевірити потенційних орендарів.

Але є один нюанс – в реєстрі комунальних боргів будуть дані тільки за провадженнями, розпочатими після його запуску.

“Тобто, за старими боргами інформації в ньому ви не знайдете”, – зазначив Гліб Сегіда. Реєстр знаходиться в стадії наповнення та точно не буде містити повну і вичерпну інформацію про боржників, і не зможе бути “останньою інстанцією” при зборі даних про наявність боргів.

“Даний ресурс має чимало недоліків, проте саме починання виглядає цілком здоровим, якщо говорити про роботу на перспективу у сфері забезпечення виконання зобов’язань боржниками”, – зазначив Володимир Єніч.

Правда України