Lekima is one of two typhoons in the western Pacific at the moment. Further
east, Typhoon Krosa is spreading heavy rain across the Northern Mariana Islands
and Guam. According to forecaster, it is moving north-west and could strike
Japan sometime next week.
On August 9, Lekima was passing the north of Taiwan, causing flight cancelations
and the closures of schools and offices.
According to local media, power was cut to more than 40,000 homes and the
island’s high speed rail service was suspended north of the city of Taichung
The huge storm came a day after eastern Taiwan was rattled by a 6.0
magnitude earthquake. Experts said the risks of landslides triggered by the
tremor were made more likely by the typhoon dumping up to 35 inches of rain on
Taiwan’s northern mountains.
On August 9, Lekima also brought heavy rain and high winds to south-west
Japan, cutting power to about 14,000 homes, broadcaster NHK reported.
China’s weather bureau said typhoon Lekima was expected to have weakened further by the time it made landfall. The country has a four-stage color-coded warning system, with red representing the most severe weather.
So high-profile is the case that President Donald Trump said he could intervene if it helped to avoid a further decline in relations between the US and Canada, which are locked in a trade war.
However, President Trump’s own officials frowned on the idea, with US Assistant Attorney General John Demers remarking: “What we do at the Justice Department is law enforcement. We don’t do trade.”
Michael Spavor is a businessman based in Dandong, near the Chinese border with North Korea. He has ties to the North Korean government and has met Kim Jong-un many times.
Ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig currently works for a think tank, the International Crisis Group (ICG), which has said it is concerned for his health and safety.
He is being held officially “on suspicion of engaging in activities that harm China’s state security”.
However, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Lu Kang, suggested another reason, saying the ICG had not been registered as a non-governmental organization (NGO) in China and therefore it was unlawful for its staff to work there.
Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has said Michael Kovrig’s case was raised directly with Chinese officials.
Canadian foreign ministry spokesman Guillaume Bérubé confirmed that Michael Spavor had contacted them earlier in the week because “he was being asked questions by Chinese authorities”.
A US trade official, who spoke to reporters as part of a briefing, said the US has evidence that China requires companies to create local partnerships to enter the Chinese market, as a way of pressuring them into technology transfer.
The US also found evidence that China steers investments in the US to strategic industries, and conducts and supports cyber attacks.
The findings come from a review of China’s practices that President Donald Trump ordered in August, called a 301 investigation.
According to section 301 of the trade act, the US government has given itself the power to unilaterally impose sanctions against countries which it decides are not trading fairly.
President Trump has repeatedly railed against the massive US trade deficit with China.
There is growing concern in the US that China is seeking technology that could be deployed for military purposes.
Congress is also weighing legislation that would boost the government’s power to review foreign business deals, citing the threat posed by state-backed acquisition of US companies.
China has said there would be no winner from any trade war.
On March 20, the last day of the annual sitting of the National People’s Congress, China’s Premier Le Keqiang said he hoped both sides could remain “calm”.
The Chinese prime minister also said he hoped the US would ease restrictions on exports of high-tech goods to China.
China’s foreign ministry says it has lodged a complaint with the US after Donald Trump spoke to Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen in a phone call.
China sees Taiwan as a breakaway province. US policy set in 1979 cut all formal relations with Taiwan.
However, Donald Trump’s transition team said he and Tsai Ing-wen noted “close economic, political, and security ties” in a phone call.
China said it had lodged a “solemn representation” with Washington.
According to Chinese state news agency Xinhua, China urged the US “to cautiously, properly handle Taiwan issue to avoid unnecessary disturbance to Sino-US relations”.
Earlier, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi dismissed the call as a “petty trick” by Taiwan, Chinese state media said.
Donald Trump tweeted on December 2 that Tsai Ing-wen had called Donald Trump to congratulate him on winning the US election.
His team said that the US president-elect had also congratulated Tsai Ing-wen on becoming the president of Taiwan last January.
It is highly unusual for a US president or president-elect to speak to a Taiwanese leader directly.
Following media reports pointing out the risks of angering China, Donald Trump tweeted: “Interesting how the US sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but I should not accept a congratulatory call.”
The White House has said Donald Trump’s conversation does not signal any change in US policy. And according to media reports, the White House learned of the call only after it had happened.
Donald Trump’s spokeswoman said he was “well aware” of US policy towards Taiwan.
The split between China and Taiwan goes back to 1949, when the Republic of China (ROC) government fled the mainland to Taiwan. After 1945, it held China’s seat on the UN Security Council and was, for a while, recognized by many Western nations as the only Chinese government.
In 1971, the UN switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing and the ROC government was forced out. Only a handful of countries now recognize Taiwan’s government.
The US cut formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1979, expressing its support for Beijing’s “One China” concept, which states that Taiwan is part of China.
China has hundreds of missiles pointing towards Taiwan, and has threatened to use force if it seeks independence.
President Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s first female leader, led the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to a landslide victory in the January 2016 election.
The DPP has traditionally leaned towards independence from China. President Tsai Ing-wen’s administration does not accept the One China policy.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it opposed any official interaction or military contact between the US and Taiwan, according to the People’s Daily, a Communist Party mouthpiece.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the conversation between Donald Trump and Tsai Ing-wen was “just a petty trick by Taiwan” that he believed would not change US policy toward China, state media reported.
“The One China policy is the cornerstone of the healthy development of China-US relations and we hope this political foundation will not be interfered with or damaged,” he was quoted as saying.
The comment was repeated in a formal statement by the Foreign Ministry reported by Xinhua.
Despite the cut in formal ties nearly four decades ago, the US has still maintained friendly non-official relations with Taiwan.
Following Donald Trump’s phone call, the White House said the US remained firmly committed to its “One China” policy.
New finds suggest that China and the West were in contact more than 1,500 years before Marco Polo arrived in Asia.
Archaeologists say inspiration for the Terracotta Warriors, found at the Tomb of the First Emperor near today’s Xian, may have come from Ancient Greece.
Researchers also say ancient Greek artisans could have been training locals there in the Third Century BC.
Marco Polo’s 13th Century travel to China had been thought the first by a European.
Senior Archaeologist Li Xiuzhen, from the Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s Mausoleum Site Museum said: “We now have evidence that close contact existed between the First Emperor’s China and the West before the formal opening of the Silk Road. This is far earlier than we formerly thought.”
A separate study shows European-specific mitochondrial DNA has been found at sites in China’s westernmost Xinjiang Province, suggesting that Westerners may have settled, lived and died there before and during the time of the First Emperor.
Image source Wikimedia
Farmers first discovered the 8,000 terracotta figures buried less than a mile from the tomb of China’s first emperor Qin Shi Huang in 1974.
But there was no tradition of building life-sized human statues in China before the tomb was created. Earlier statues were simple figurines about 7.9ins in height.
To explain how such an enormous change in skill and style could have happened, Dr. Li Xiuzhen believes that influences must have come from outside China.
“We now think the Terracotta Army, the Acrobats and the bronze sculptures found on site have been inspired by ancient Greek sculptures and art,” she said.
According to Prof. Lukas Nickel from the University of Vienna, statues of circus acrobats recently found at the First Emperor’s tomb support this theory.
Lukas Nickel believes the First Emperor was influenced by the arrival of Greek statues in Central Asia in the century following Alexander the Great, who died in 323BC.
“I imagine that a Greek sculptor may have been at the site to train the locals,” he said.
Other discoveries include new evidence that the First Emperor’s tomb complex is much bigger than first thought and 200 times bigger than Egypt’s Valley of the Kings.
They also include the mutilated remains of women, believed to have been high-ranking concubines of the First Emperor, and the skull of a man with a crossbow bolt embedded in it.
The skull is believed to have belonged to the First Emperor’s eldest son, thought to have been killed along with others during a power struggle after the emperor’s death.
China has ratified the Paris global climate agreement, state news agency Xinhua reports.
China is the world’s largest emitter of harmful CO2 emissions, which cause climate change.
In December 2015, countries agreed to cut emissions enough to keep the global average rise in temperatures below 2C.
China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee adopted “the proposal to review and ratify the Paris Agreement” on September 3 at the end of a week-long session.
The Paris deal is the world’s first comprehensive climate agreement. The deal will only come into force legally after it is ratified by at least 55 countries, which between them produce 55% of global carbon emissions.
When the United States – the world’s second-largest emitter – follows China’s lead, it will bump the tally up to 40%.
Before China’s announcement, the 23 nations that had ratified the agreement accounted for just over 1% of emissions.
Analysts warn that the target of keeping temperature rises below 2C is already in danger of being breached.
For 14 consecutive months meteorologists have recorded the hottest month on record.
Average temperatures worldwide are likely to increase more in the coming years as the effect of previous carbon emissions makes itself felt.
The G20 summit in Hangzhou, starting on September 4, is a meeting of leaders from 20 countries.
President Barack Obama has now arrived in China on what is expected to be his last trip to Asia as the US president.
Barack Obama is set to announce on September 3 that the US is formally joining the Paris Agreement.
It is thought that he and China’s President Xi Jinping will make a joint announcement at a bilateral meeting.
Residents of Chinese city of Nanning, in the Guangxi autonomous region, are covering their cars with things like bamboo mats in order to prevent rats from entering their cars.
They came up with the unusual solution after rodents were found to be clambering inside the vehicles and gnawing through the wiring. Parked cars have been spotted around Nanning sporting the makeshift, wraparound shields – dubbed “car maxi skirts” in the Chinese media – some fashioned from fabric and chicken wire, others using bamboo.
“There are many rats in this area,” a local man tells Nanning TV, adding that it’s a particular problem during cold spells when rats like to snuggle down in warm places, like car bonnets.
“Putting these around the cars is a good thing, and it can also prevent small children from scratching them,” he says.
Many social media users are amused by the curious sight.
Regional differences are also evident in many comments. Guangxi has a reputation for using both cats and dogs for meat, and is home to the infamous Yulin dog-eating festival, widely frowned upon elsewhere in China.
“Guangxi people have eaten all the dogs and cats, that’s why there’s a rodent disaster,” reads one comment.
Papers leaked from Mossack Fonseca have revealed close relatives of seven current or former Chinese leaders have links to offshore companies.
The Panama documents name family members of the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, and two other members of China’s elite Standing Committee, Zhang Gaoli and Liu Yunshan.
Relatives of the three men are listed as directors or shareholders in companies located in known tax havens.
The names appeared in a mass leak of files from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.
Chinese state media are blocking reports of the families’ offshore dealings, and the news is being censored on Chinese social media outlets.
It is not illegal for Chinese citizens to set up offshore companies. However, China’s Communist officials are discouraged from profiting from their ruling positions and their family members are not supposed to profit from their ties, according to the party’s constitution.
More than 300,000 party officials were punished last year under an ongoing anti-corruption campaign, orchestrated by President Xi Jinping.
All three leaders have in-laws who are listed as directors or shareholders in companies located in known tax havens, including the British Virgin Islands.
It is widely known that many of China’s elite families have succeeded in the business world and their wealth is well documented.
However, the leaked files from Mossack Fonseca divulge how much of that wealth is managed overseas, in opaque corporate structures that until now remained hidden from public view.
Samsung’s mobile wallet service has been launched in China, in co-operation with local vendor UnionPay.
Instead of using cards, Samsung Pay allows shoppers to use their smartphones to pay for in-store purchases.
Last month, Apple launched its own Apple Pay system in China, also in partnership with UnionPay.
China’s smartphone market, the largest in the world, presents a huge business opportunity for mobile-payment systems.
Apple Pay and Samsung Pay will now compete with Alibaba’s Alipay, which currently dominates China’s electronic payments market.
However, analysts say that mobile payment services provided by Alipay and WeChat were so dominant in China that international newcomers such as Apple and Samsung would face an uphill battle to win market share.
Tencent’s WeChat also has a payment system which is popular in China, and telecommunications giant Huawei launched its own service earlier this month.
Samsung Pay was now available in China on a range of smartphones including the Samsung Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 edge, Galaxy S6 edge+ and Galaxy Note5, the South Korean electronics giant said.
Samsung said it would have “the opportunity to support additional mid-range models in the future”.
In announcing its official launch, which has been expected since late last year, Samsung said that Samsung Pay currently supports select credit and debit cards of nine major banks in China including China CITIC Bank, China Construction Bank and China Everbright Bank.
The company has previously said it has one critical fact that will in its favor – its technology works with a much larger number of existing payment terminals.
There has been a rapid take-up of smartphones in China, with an estimated 68% of the population now owning one. And digital wallets are becoming a more popular way to pay for goods and services.
Samsung said on March 29 that its payment system was “simple, safe and easy to use” and that it worked “virtually anywhere you can swipe or tap your card in China”.
Unlike Google Wallet and several other earlier payment apps, Samsung says there is no need to unlock its phones to launch a special app to get started.
Like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay will use near field communication technology (NFC), which needs a separate transaction device, but it will also support magnetic secure transmission technology which works on regular credit card machines.
Samsung Pay is currently available in South Korea and the US.
The United States and China say a new UN resolution against North Korea is needed, following Pyongyang’s claim that it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb earlier this month.
Secretary of State John Kerry, who is in Beijing for talks, called North Korea’s nuclear ambitions a “threat to the world” and urged new sanctions.
However, his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi suggested China would not support any sanctions.
China is North Korea’s main ally, but has condemned Pyongyang’s nuclear test.
On January 6, a 5.1 magnitude tremor was detected in North Korea – which said it had successfully conducted an underground hydrogen bomb test.
However, nuclear experts questioned North Korea’s claim, saying the size of the blast was not large enough to have been from an H-bomb.
Speaking on January 27 after talks with Wang Yi, John Kerry said that both sides agreed on the need for a “strong” resolution against North Korea, and said that limiting the trade of goods and services across China’s border with North Korea was one potential measure.
However, Wang Yi said that while China supported the need for a new resolution, it “should not provoke new tension in the situation, still less destabilize the Korean peninsula”.
“Sanctions are not an end in themselves,” he added.
China is Pyongyang’s biggest trading partner, and major ally – although relations have cooled since Kim Jong-un succeeded his father.
Nonetheless, experts say China is wary of destabilizing North Korea, fearing that millions of North Korean refugees could pour across China’s borders if the regime collapsed.
The two sides also discussed the disputed South China Sea, where China has multiple competing territorial claims with other countries.
China has angered several neighbors by constructing artificial islands on claimed reefs, and building runways and other facilities on them.
John Kerry called on China to stop construction and land reclamation in disputed areas.
However, Beijing said such activity was within its legal rights to protect its territorial sovereignty.
John Kerry, who will also meet China’s State Councilor Yang Jiechi and President Xi Jinping, is on an Asia tour that has included Laos and Cambodia.
Swedish activist Peter Dahlin, who was detained in China on charges of damaging national security, has been released and deported.
The 35-year-old has been held since early January amid a crackdown on human rights lawyers and activists.
Last week Peter Dahlin appeared on state media apparently confessing to breaking the law through his organization’s support of local Chinese rights lawyers.
The Swedish embassy confirmed Peter Dahlin had left China but gave no further details.
Sweden’s foreign minister welcomed Peter Dahlin’s release, but expressed concern about another Swede in Chinese detention.
More than 280 lawyers, legal assistants and associates were detained in a seemingly orchestrated government campaign last year – most have since been freed, but others now face trial while the whereabouts of others are still unknown.
Such moves contradict China’s implementation of reforms explicitly aimed at strengthening the rule of law, say correspondents.
Peter Dahlin is the founder of Chinese Urgent Action Working Group (China Action), which describes itself as a legal aid organization.
It provides assistance to uncertified “barefoot” lawyers who provide legal aid in rural areas, and provides direct help to disadvantaged groups and individuals who have experienced rights violations.
The group had said Peter Dahlin was detained on 4 January while en route to the airport for a flight to Thailand.
Last week, in a report on state television, Peter Dahlin appeared to confess to helping the Beijing law firm Fengrui – a number of the company’s lawyers have recently been charged with subversion.
Peter Dahlin said he had violated Chinese law, caused harm to the Chinese government and hurt the Chinese public.
China Action called the report “absurd” and said the confession appeared to be forced.
The group’s US-based co-founder Michael Caster tweeted that Peter Dahlin’s Chinese girlfriend, Pan Jinling, was also no longer in detention “but, contrary to some assertions, has not left the country”.
Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said she remained “greatly concerned” about the status of detained Swedish national Gui Minhai.
Gui Minhai is one of five people linked to a Hong Kong publishing house to disappear in recent months. He vanished while on holiday from Hong Kong in Thailand in October 2015.
He also appeared on Chinese TV earlier this month, saying he had voluntarily handed himself over to the authorities over a drink-driving fatality years ago.
The case has sparked protests in Hong Kong from those who believe they were kidnapped by China and are being held because of allegations in a book they were working on, critical of the mainland.
Margot Wallstrom said Sweden’s “efforts to get a clear picture of his situation and the possibility to visit him continue with undiminished force”.
China is accused by Vietnam of violating its sovereignty by landing a plane on an artificial island built in a contested part of the South China Sea.
According to the Vietnamese foreign ministry, the airfield was built illegally on a part of the Spratly archipelago that lies within its territory.
China said it has complete sovereignty over Fiery Cross Reef and had used a civilian plane to test the airstrip.
Several nations dispute China’s territorial claims in the area.
China claims almost the whole of the South China Sea, resulting in overlapping claims with several other Asian nations including Vietnam and the Philippines.
They accuse China of illegally reclaiming land in contested areas to create artificial islands with facilities that could potentially be for military use.
The US has said it was concerned that January 3 flight had exacerbated tensions.
Pooja Jhunjhunwala, a spokeswoman for the US State Department, said there was “a pressing need for claimants to publicly commit to a reciprocal halt to further land reclamation, construction of new facilities, and militarization of disputed features”.
“We encourage all claimants to actively reduce tensions from unilateral actions that undermine regional stability, and taking steps to create space for meaningful diplomatic solutions to emerge,” Pooja Jhunjhunwala said.
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China conducted the flight to test whether the airfield facilities met the standards for civil aviation.
“China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and their adjacent waters. China will not accept the unfounded accusation from the Vietnamese side,” Hua Chunying said, referring to the Spratly Islands by their Chinese name.
Hanoi’s foreign ministry said Vietnam handed a protest note to China’s embassy and asked China not to repeat the action, Reuters reported.
It called the flight “a serious infringement of the sovereignty of Vietnam on the Spratly archipelago”.
Satellite images published in April 2015 showed China making progress with building the airstrip on reclaimed land on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands.
The landmass could accommodate a runway about 3,000m long.
It also showed dredging to the south of the reef, in apparent work to improve the reef’s port facilities.
China says its work is legal and needed to safeguard its sovereignty.
China has expelled French journalist Ursula Gauthier over an article she wrote that was critical of Beijing’s policy towards Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.
Beijing confirmed it would not renew press credentials for Ursula Gauthier, of the French news magazine L’Obs.
It said an article Ursula Gauthier wrote about the unrest in Xinjiang supported “terrorism and cruel acts” that had killed people.
Ursula Gauthier called the claims “absurd” and said Beijing was trying to deter foreign reporters in the country.
If her press card is not renewed, Ursula Gauthier cannot apply for a new visa, and will have to leave China by December 31.
Ursula Gauthier would be the first foreign journalist to be expelled since al-Jazeera correspondent Melissa Chan in 2012.
China blames the long-running unrest in western autonomous Xinjiang region on Islamist separatists, many of whom it says have foreign ties.
However, Xinjiang’s ethnic Uighurs, most of whom are Muslim, say Beijing’s repression of their religious and cultural customs is provoking the violence.
Ursula Gauthier published her article after the attacks in Paris in November, suggesting China’s solidarity with France might have an ulterior motive – to justify its own crackdowns in Xinjiang.
The article triggered condemnation from the Chinese government and state media, which demanded an apology and retraction from her.
China’s foreign ministry confirmed on December 26 it would not renew Ursula Gauthier’s press card, saying she had failed to make a “serious apology” to the Chinese people and was no longer “suitable” to continue working in the country.
“China will never support the freedom to champion terrorism,” the ministry said.
The foreign ministry complained of what bit termed a double standard, whereby tough action in the West was called anti-terrorism but in China was described as the repression of ethnic minorities.
China’s foreign ministry has summoned the US charge d’affaires Kaye Lee in protest after Washington announced it would sell two warships to Taiwan.
Vice-Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang made “solemn representations” with Kaye Lee, the US charge d’affaires, the ministry said.
The arms deal, worth $1.83 billion, comes as tensions rise over China’s island-building in the South China Sea.
Taiwan expressed gratitude to Washington for helping with its defense needs.
China views Taiwan as a breakaway province which will one day be reunited with the mainland, though relations have warmed in recent weeks.
Leaders from both countries met last month for the first time since the 1949 civil war.
China maintains a right to use force if Taiwan attempts to gain independence.
The Chinese statement said Zheng Zenguang had told Kaye Lee at the December 16 meeting that Taiwan “is an inalienable part of China’s territory” and that it “strongly opposes the US arms sale”.
It added that the deal had “severely damaged China’s sovereignty and security interest”, and pledged to sanction the US companies involved in it.
The US said the deal, the first in four years, was consistent with its “long-standing policy on arms sales to Taiwan”.
Relations between the US and China are frayed over China’s construction of artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea.
Two decommissioned US Navy frigates, anti-tank missiles, amphibious assault vehicles, as well as surface-to-air missiles and other equipment are all included in the deal.
It will be approved in 30 days, unless Congress objects. That is thought unlikely, as there has been growing concern in the US about Taiwan’s ability to defend itself from China’s military might.
State department spokesman John Kirby said the sale was consistent with the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, which requires the US to provide Taiwan with sufficient weaponry to defend itself, even though the US does not recognize Taiwan as a state independent of China.
The move did not need to have a negative effect on US-Chinese relations, John Kirby said, adding: “We still want to work to establish a better, more transparent, more effective relationship with China in the region.”
A Beijing court has commuted the suspended death sentence of Bo Xilai’s wife, Gu Kailai, to life in prison.
The court said Gu Kailai showed repentance and “did not commit any crimes” in jail.
Gu Kailai was sentenced in 2012 for murdering British businessman Neil Heywood.
Disgraced former Politburo member Bo Xilai was jailed for life in 2013 for corruption and abuse of power. The cases were China’s biggest political scandal in years.
“The aforementioned criminal has recently certainly shown repentance,” the court said, adding that Gu Kailai had practiced “thought, culture and technical study.”
The statement was dated December 11 but released only on December 14.
The document also said that Gu Kailai had “obeyed discipline”, and “completed labor tasks in a timely manner”. As a result she was “eligible for the legal conditions for a commutation”.
Correspondents say with good behavior suspended death sentences are usually commuted to life in prison in China.
Gu Kailai’s case was one among several public notices soliciting public objections to reduced sentences.
The other two were former electronics tycoon Huang Guangyu, who was convicted of bribery; and Liu Zhijun, former railways minister who was previously given a suspended death sentence for taking bribes and was partly blamed for a fatal bullet train crash in 2011.
Public consultation for Huang Guangyu closes on December 15.
The notices for both Gu Kailai and Liu Zhijun were published on the Supreme People’s Court website last month, but were only reported by local media on December 14, several weeks after the end of the consultation period.
The cases were reported shortly after the trial opened of one of China’s leading human rights lawyers, Pu Zhiqiang, in Beijing. That trial attracted considerable international attention, particularly after plainclothes security officials aggressively manhandled journalists, diplomats and protesters gathered outside the court.
Gu Kailai’s case sparked the series of events which brought down her high-flying husband.
Bo Xilai was removed as Communist Party boss of the important metropolis of Chongqing in south-western China, and from the Politburo, which makes key party decisions, in 2012.
During his trial, Bo Xilai claimed that Gu Kailai – who testified against him – had gone insane.
North Korean pop group Moranbong has halted its goodwill tour of China – before it even began.
The all-female band unexpectedly turned up at Beijing’s main airport just hours before their first concert and flew back to Pyongyang.
Moranbong were due to play three shows to help improve ties between China and North Korea.
It is not yet clear why the performances were canceled.
Moranbong is one of North Korea’s most popular bands. Its members were reportedly handpicked by the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, himself.
The band plays a mixture of Western and traditional Korean tunes, and has been happy to perform the theme from the movie Rocky alongside patriot songs praising North Korea’s communist rulers.
Photo Getty Images
Moranbong members play a range of instruments, including electronic violins.
In North Korea, the Moranbong musicians are also known for wearing revealing outfits and sporting fashionable hairstyles.
The women were waved off for their first-ever foreign tour from Pyongyang railway station on December 9 by senior leaders.
Dressed in military uniforms, they smiled and waved to fans when they came and went from their hotel after arriving in China.
There was no hint of trouble when they practiced in Beijing’s National Center for Performing Arts on December 11.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman confirmed the performances were aimed at improving ties between China and North Korea. She also joked that she did not know where to get hold of a ticket for the concerts.
However, on December 12, the band unexpectedly arrived at Beijing airport and boarded a plane back home – a scheduled flight whose departure was delayed for several hours.
Moranbong’s stage set was dismantled and its concerts were canceled. Neither China nor North Korea has given an official reason for the abrupt end of the tour.
China and North Korea are allies. China’s Chairman Mao once said they were as close as lips and teeth.
However, they have not always seen eye-to-eye over recent years. China has been particularly angry at three nuclear tests carried out by North Korea, the last in 2013.
Miss World Canada, Chinese-born Anastasia Lin, has said she was barred from boarding a plane from Hong Kong to the Chinese city hosting this year’s pageant.
Anastasia Lin, 25, says she did not receive an invitation to attend the event, which meant she could not apply for a visa.
However, she attempted to travel to Sanya, via Hong Kong, as Canadian tourists are eligible for visas on arrival.
Anastasia Lin has blamed the apparent ban on her human rights campaigning.
She has criticized the “repressions and censorship” in China and is a practitioner of Falun Gong, a spiritual movement which China deems a cult and has banned.
The Miss World tournament is due to happen in the seaside resort of Sanya on December 19.
Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail quoted a statement from the Chinese embassy in Ottawa that “China does not allow any persona non grata to come to China”, in response to a query on Anastasia Lin’s status.
“My denial was unfortunate, but not entirely unexpected. The Chinese government has barred me from the competition for political reasons,” Anastasia Lin said in a statement.
“They are trying to punish me for my beliefs and prevent me from speaking out about human rights issues.”
Anastasia Lin said she was barred from flying after trying to check in at the Dragonair counter at Hong Kong airport.
Canadians usually need a visa to enter China, but Anastasia Lin was trying to enter Sanya on a special landing visa that Sanya, as a tourist destination, grants on arrival to citizens of certain countries, including Canada.
Anastasia Lin moved from China to Canada in 2003 as a teenager. She has performed in films about the abuse of Falun Gong members, and spoken about the subject to a US Congressional committee in July.
She has also claims her father, who still resides in China, has been harassed by officials because of her activism.
Falun Gong, considered a cult by Chinese authorities, first began as a spiritual movement that quickly amassed thousands of followers.
After a demonstration by Falun Gong practitioners demanding recognition in 1999, Chinese authorities outlawed it and launched a crackdown.
The movement’s followers have accused authorities of persecution and often hold protests outside of China to draw attention to their treatment.