Security tight in Tiananmen 30 years after students ‘died for nothing’

Thousands of people take part in a candlelight vigil to mark the 30th anniversary of the crackdown of pro-democracy movement at Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989, at Victoria Park in Hong Kong, China June 4, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

By Ben Blanchard and Michael Martina

BEIJING (Reuters) – Tourists thronged Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on Tuesday amid tighter-than-usual security, although most visitors approached by Reuters said they were unaware of the bloody crackdown on student-led protests 30 years ago or would not discuss it.

Paramilitary officers keep watch in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China June 4, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

Paramilitary officers keep watch in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China June 4, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

The anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown, when Beijing sent troops and tanks to quell pro-democracy activists, is not spoken of openly in China and will not be formally marked by the government, which has ramped up censorship.

A 67-year-old man surnamed Li, sitting on a bench about a 10-minute walk from the square, said he remembered the events of June 4, 1989, and its aftermath clearly.

“I was on my way back home from work. Changan Avenue was strewn with burned-out vehicles. The People’s Liberation Army killed many people. It was a bloodbath,” he said.

Asked if he thought the government should give a full account of the violence, he said: “What’s the point? These students died for nothing.”

Among the students’ demands in 1989 were a free press and freedom of speech, disclosure of leaders’ assets and freedom to demonstrate. However, exiled former protest leaders say those goals are further away in China than ever before because the government has in the past decade suppressed a civil society nurtured by years of economic development.

Tiananmen also remains a point of contention between China and many Western countries, which have implored Chinese leaders to account for giving the People’s Liberation Army the order to open fire on their own people.

China’s foreign ministry denounced criticism by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who called for China to release all political prisoners and offered his salute to “the heroes of the Chinese people who bravely stood up 30 years ago in Tiananmen Square to demand their rights”.

Thousands of people take part in a candlelight vigil to mark the 30th anniversary of the crackdown of pro-democracy movement at Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989, at Victoria Park in Hong Kong, China June 4, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Thousands of people take part in a candlelight vigil to mark the 30th anniversary of the crackdown of pro-democracy movement at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989, at Victoria Park in Hong Kong, China June 4, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily news briefing in Beijing that Pompeo had “maliciously attacked China’s political system”.

Some people in the United States were so accustomed to wagging their tongues on the pretext of democracy and human rights and interfering in other countries’ internal affairs, that they turned a blind eye to their own problems, he added.

“The Chinese people have seen their hypocrisy and evil motives,” Geng said. “These lunatic ravings and babblings are destined for the garbage heap of history.”

China has never released a final death toll from the events on and around June 4. Estimates from human rights groups and witnesses range from several hundred to thousands.

TIGHT SECURITY

Security was heavy in and around the square itself, with no signs of any protests or memorials.

Hundreds of uniformed and plainclothes police monitored the square and its surroundings, conducting spot ID checks and inspecting car trunks. Thousands of visitors lined up at security checkpoints to enter the square, many carrying tour group flags.

A male tourist in his 30s near the square, who gave his family name as Zhang, said he had no idea about the anniversary.

“Never heard of it,” he said. “I’m not aware of this.”

An older woman applying grout to a building close to the square’s southern entrance said: “That’s today? I’d forgotten.” She quickly waved away a Reuters reporter when security guards approached. Her colleague, a younger man, said he had never heard of the events in the spring and summer of 1989.

Rights groups said authorities had rounded up dissidents in the run-up to the anniversary. Amnesty International said police had detained, put under house arrest, or threatened dozens of activists in recent weeks.

The United Nations had received reports of detentions, threats and increased censorship ahead of the anniversary, U.N. human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said in Geneva.

“We have made our concerns known to the Chinese government and we are working to also verify these reports that we have received,” she said.

While no public events to mark the anniversary will be tolerated in mainland China, demonstrators gathered in Hong Kong, a former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997. There will also be events in self-ruled and democratic Taiwan, which China claims as its own.

One online censor, who worked a shift of more than 12 hours until early morning on Tuesday for Twitter-like social media site Weibo, said content removed included memes, video game references and images including Tuesday’s date.

“Some accounts are totally taken down, but mostly the content is just removed,” said the censor. “People like to play games and see what is possible to post.”

Financial information provider Refinitiv, under pressure from China’s government, has removed from its Eikon terminal Reuters news stories related to the anniversary.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Michael Martina; Additional reporting by Cate Cadell in BEIJING, Yimou Lee in TAIPEI, David Lawder in WASHINGTON and Stephanie Nebehay and Marina Depetris in GENEVA; ; Editing by Paul Tait and Nick Macfie)

Timeline: From reform hopes to brutal crackdown – China’s Tiananmen protests

FILE PHOTO: Hundreds of thousands of people fill Beijing's central Tiananmen Square, China, May 17, 1989 in front of the Monument to the People's Heroes and Mao's mausoleum. REUTERS/Ed Nachtrieb/File Photo

BEIJING (Reuters) – Next Tuesday, June 4, marks 30 years since China bloodily suppressed pro-democracy demonstrations in and around central Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, when Chinese troops opened fire on their own people.

The event remains a taboo topic of discussion in China and will not be officially commemorated by the ruling Communist Party or government.

FILE PHOTO: Student protesters construct a tent to protect them from the elements in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, May 26, 1989. REUTERS/Shunsuke Akatsuka/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: Student protesters construct a tent to protect them from the elements in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, May 26, 1989. REUTERS/Shunsuke Akatsuka/File Photo

Here are some landmark dates leading up to the demonstrations and the crackdown that followed:

1988: China slides into economic chaos with panic buying triggered by rising inflation that neared 30 percent.

April 15, 1989: A leading reformer and former Communist Party chief Hu Yaobang, dies. His death acts as a catalyst for unhappiness with the slow pace of reform, as well as corruption and income inequality.

April 17: Protests begin at Tiananmen Square, with students calling for democracy and reform. Crowds of up to 100,000 gather, despite official warnings.

April 22: Some 50,000 students gather outside the Great Hall of the People as Hu’s memorial service is held. Three students attempt to deliver a petition to the government, outlining their demands, but are ignored. Rioting and looting take place in Xian and Changsha.

April 24: Beijing students begin classroom strike.

April 27: Around 50,000 students defy authorities and march to Tiananmen. Supporting crowds number up to one million.

May 2: In Shanghai, 10,000 protesters march on city government headquarters.

May 4: Further mass protests coinciding with the anniversary of the May 4 Movement of 1919, which was another student and intellectual-led movement for reform. Protests coincide with meeting of Asian Development Bank in Great Hall of the People. Students march in Shanghai and nine other cities.

May 13: Hundreds of students begin a hunger strike on Tiananmen Square.

May 15-18: To China’s embarrassment, protests prevent traditional welcome ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People for the state visit of reformist Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Students welcome Gorbachev as “The Ambassador of Democracy”.

May 19: Party chief Zhao Ziyang visits students on Tiananmen Square, accompanied by the hardline then-premier Li Peng and future premier Wen Jiabao. Zhao pleads with the students protesters to leave, but is ignored. It is the last time Zhao is seen in public. He is later purged.

May 20: Li declares martial law in parts of Beijing. Reviled by many to this day as the “Butcher of Beijing”, Li remained premier until 1998.

May 23: Some 100,000 people march in Beijing demanding Li’s removal.

May 30: Students unveil the 10-metre (33 ft) high “Goddess of Democracy”, modeled on the Statue of Liberty, in Tiananmen Square.

May 31: Government-sponsored counter-demonstration calls students “traitorous bandits”.

June 3: Citizens repel a charge towards Tiananmen by thousands of soldiers. Tear gas and bullets used in running clashes a few hundred meters (yards) from the square. Authorities warn protesters that troops and police have “right to use all methods”.

June 4: In the early hours of the morning tanks and armored personnel carriers begin their attack on the square itself, clearing it by dawn. About four hours later, troops fire on unarmed civilians regrouping at the edge of the square.

June 5: An unidentified Chinese man stands in front of a tank convoy leaving Tiananmen Square. The image spreads around the world as a symbol of defiance against the crackdown.

June 6: Chinese State Council spokesman Yuan Mu says on television that the known death toll was about 300, most of them soldiers with only 23 students confirmed killed. China has never provided a full death toll, but rights groups and witnesses say the figure could run into the thousands.

June 9: Paramount leader Deng Xiaoping praises military officers, and blames the protests on counter-revolutionaries seeking to overthrow the party.

Sources: Reuters, Chinese state media.

(Writing by Ben Blanchard and Michael Martina, and David Cutler, Reuters archive in London; Editing by Neil Fullick)

U.S.-China trade talks continue, Trump not expected to announce summit: official

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping arrive for a state dinner at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, November 9, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House is not expected to announce a date on Thursday for a trade summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, a senior administration official said, as negotiators for the two sides launch another day of talks.

China and the United States are in the middle of intense negotiations to end a months-long trade war that has rattled global markets.

After meetings in Beijing last week, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are holding talks with a Chinese delegation in Washington this week.

Trump is slated to meet with China’s top trade negotiator, Liu He, at 4:30 p.m. (2030 GMT) at the White House. The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times reported that he was expected to announce a date for a summit at that time, but a senior administration official told Reuters that was incorrect.

“The White House is not expected to announce a date for a meeting,” the official said.

Trump administration officials have cited progress in the talks on tricky aspects, including reforming practices that Washington objects to by Beijing such as the intellectual property theft and forced transfer of technology from U.S. companies doing business in China.

Hopes that the talks were moving in a positive direction have cheered investors.

Administration officials initially envisioned a summit between Trump and Xi potentially taking place in March, but that period passed while talks continued.

How to enforce a deal as well as when and whether to lift tariffs on billions of dollars of goods have been sticking points in what appear to be the final stages of the talks.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Susan Thomas)

Rights campaigners seek U.N. probe on China’s Xinjiang camps

FILE PHOTO: Residents at the Kashgar city vocational educational training centre dance for visiting reporters and officials in a classroom during a government organised visit in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, January 4, 2019. REUTERS/Ben Blanchard/File Photo

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) – Rights activists urged European and Muslim nations on Monday to take the lead in establishing a U.N. investigation into China’s detention and what they call its “forced indoctrination” of up to one million Uighurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang province.

Beijing, which faces growing international concern over its “de-radicalisation” program for Muslims in its far western province, said last month it would welcome U.N. officials if they avoided “interfering in domestic matters”.

Groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International appealed to the United Nations Human Rights Council, which opens its main annual session on Feb. 25, to send an international fact-finding mission to Xinjiang.

FILE PHOTO: Islamic studies students attend a class at the Xinjiang Islamic Institute during a government organised trip in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, January 3, 2019. REUTERS/Ben Blanchard/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: Islamic studies students attend a class at the Xinjiang Islamic Institute during a government organised trip in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, January 3, 2019. REUTERS/Ben Blanchard/File Photo

“The abuse in Xinjiang today is so severe that it cries out for international action,” Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, told a briefing at the Geneva Press Club.

“The purpose of this detention is to erase the ethnic and religious identities of Turkic Muslims and ensure their loyalty to only the Chinese government, the Communist Party and the would-be leader for life, (President) Xi Jinping,” he said.

China denies such accusations. In January, Beijing organized a visit to three facilities, which it calls vocational education training centers, for foreign reporters including Reuters. In the centers, Turkic-speaking Uighur students learned in Mandarin about the dangers of Islamist ideas.

“OPEN-AIR PRISON”

Campaigners say one million Uighurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities – nearly 10 percent of Xinjiang’s total population – are being held in mass detention, deprived of any legal rights and subjected to mistreatment.

“Today Xinjiang has become an open-air prison – a place where Orwellian high-tech surveillance, political indoctrination, forced cultural assimilation, arbitrary arrests and disappearances have turned ethnic minorities into strangers in their own land,” Kumi Naidoo, secretary-general of Amnesty International, said by video.

“Member states must not be cowed by China’s economic and political clout,” he said.

China says it protects the religion and culture of its ethnic minorities and that security measures in Xinjiang are needed to counter groups that incite violence there.

China is currently a member of the 47-nation Geneva forum, where it often leads opposition to setting up investigations into allegations of rights abuses in specific countries.

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which acts as the collective voice of the Muslim world, worked with the European Union last September to launch a U.N. body to prepare evidence of crimes in Myanmar against Muslim Rohingya, including possible genocide, for any future prosecution.

“In our view Xinjiang demands a similar response,” Roth said.

Michael Ineichen of the International Service for Human Rights said: “It is really a test of the credibility of the Human Rights Council… We think it is time that membership also comes with scrutiny.”

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Gareth Jones)

U.S. has offered to hold arms control talks with Russia -official

FILE PHOTO: National flags of Russia and the U.S. fly at Vnukovo International Airport in Moscow, Russia April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States has offered to hold talks on arm control issues with Russia on the sidelines of a United Nations meeting in Beijing next week, a senior State Department official said on Thursday.

Under Secretary of State Andrea Thompson told reporters the talks almost certainly would include a dispute over a Cold War-era treaty limiting intermediate-range missiles.

Washington has pledged to withdraw from the pact because of what it charges is the deployment by Moscow of a new cruise missile that violates the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty).

Moscow has denied that the missile in question, the Novator 9M729 (called the SSC-8 by NATO), violates the agreement, which bars either side from stationing short- and intermediate-range, land-based missiles in Europe.

Moscow says the missile’s range keeps it outside of the treaty and has accused the United States of inventing a false pretext to leave an accord it wants to exit anyway to develop its own new missiles.

Thompson said the United States has presented Russia with a proposal for a “verifiable” test of the missile’s range but Moscow has not embraced the plan.

Unless the Russians come back into compliance with the INF Treaty, the United States will make good on its decision to suspend its compliance with the pact at the end of a 60-day period on Feb. 2, Thompson said.

(Reporting by Jonathan Landay; Writing by Makini Brice; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

China has ‘good faith’ to fix trade issues as talks with U.S. resume

FILE PHOTO: Shipping containers are seen at a port in Shanghai, China July 10, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

By Michael Martina

BEIJING (Reuters) – China has the “good faith” to work with the United States to resolve trade frictions, the Foreign Ministry said on Monday as officials of the world’s two largest economies resumed talks in a bid to end their trade dispute.

U.S. officials are meeting their counterparts in Beijing this week for the first face-to-face talks since U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed in December to a 90-day truce in a trade war that has roiled global markets.

Trump said on Sunday that trade talks with China were going very well and that weakness in the Chinese economy gave Beijing a reason to work towards a deal.

On Monday, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told NBC the talks were being held with appropriate-level staff and would help determine how the administration moves forward.

Ross also said he saw “a very good chance that we will get a reasonable settlement that China can live with, that we can live with and that addresses all of the key issues”. He added that it would be easiest to tackle immediate trade but harder to resolve enforcement issues and structural reforms such as intellectual property rights and market access.

The two sides agreed to hold “positive and constructive” dialogue to resolve economic and trade disputes in accordance with the consensus reached by their respective leaders, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular news briefing.

“From the beginning, we have believed that China-U.S. trade friction is not a positive situation for either country or the world economy. China has the good faith, on the basis of mutual respect and equality, to resolve the bilateral trade frictions.”

Trump imposed import tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of Chinese goods last year and has threatened more to pressure Beijing to change its practices on issues ranging from industrial subsidies to intellectual property to hacking. China has retaliated with tariffs of its own.

“As for whether the Chinese economy is good or not, I have already explained this. China’s development has ample tenacity and huge potential,” Lu said. “We have firm confidence in the strong long-term fundamentals of the Chinese economy.”

Lu also said Vice President Wang Qishan would attend the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in late January, but added that he had not yet heard of any arrangements for a meeting with Trump there.

By Monday evening, few details had emerged of the trade talks, which were scheduled to run through Tuesday.

Although the talks were held at a vice-ministerial level, Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, who has led trade negotiations with the United States and is a top economic adviser to Xi, made an unexpected appearance at the meetings on Monday, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

The U.S. delegation, led by Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish, includes undersecretaries from the U.S. departments of agriculture, commerce, energy and treasury, as well as senior officials from the White House.

Tu Xinquan, a Chinese trade expert at Beijing’s University of International Business and Economics, told Reuters before talks began that the meetings would likely focus on technical issues and leave major disagreements to more senior officials.

“China’s economy is significantly slowing down, and the U.S. stock market is declining quickly. I think the two sides need some kind of agreement for now,” Tu said.

Data last week showed manufacturing has slowed in both China and the United States, though the U.S. Labor Department on Friday reported a surge in new jobs in December along with higher wages.

Officials have given scant details on concessions that China might be willing to make to meet U.S. demands, some of which would require structural reforms unpalatable for Chinese leaders.

Even if a trade agreement is reached soon, analysts say it would be no panacea for China’s economy, which is expected to continue decelerating in the coming months.

China’s stridently nationalist Global Times tabloid said in an editorial late on Sunday that statements from both sides that they hoped to reach a deal were cause for optimism, but that Beijing would not cave in to U.S. demands.

“If China was going to raise the white flag, it would have done it already,” the paper said.

(Reporting by Michael Martina; additional reporting by Susan Heavey in Washington; Writing by Ryan Woo; Editing by Kim Coghill/Mark Heinrich)

China confident on U.S. trade pact, Trump cites Xi’s ‘strong signals’

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump takes part in a welcoming ceremony with China's President Xi Jinping in Beijing, China, November 9, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

By John Ruwitch

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China expressed confidence on Wednesday that it can reach a trade deal with the United States, a sentiment echoed by U.S. President Donald Trump a day after he warned of more tariffs if the two sides could not resolve their differences.

The remarks, by the Chinese Commerce Ministry, follow a period of relative quiet from Beijing after Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping reached a temporary truce in their trade war at a meeting over dinner in Argentina on Saturday.

In a brief statement, the ministry said China would try to work quickly to implement specific items already agreed upon, as both sides “actively promote the work of negotiations within 90 days in accordance with a clear timetable and roadmap”.

“We are confident in implementation,” it said, calling the latest bilateral talks “very successful”.

Trump, in a post on Twitter, linked Beijing’s silence to officials’ travels and said he thought Xi had been sincere during their weekend meeting to hammer out progress over trade.

“Very strong signals being sent by China once they returned home from their long trip, including stops, from Argentina. Not to sound naive or anything, but I believe President Xi meant every word of what he said at our long and hopefully historic meeting. ALL subjects discussed!” Trump wrote on Wednesday.

The U.S. president a day earlier had said the ceasefire could be extended but warned tariffs would be back on the table if the talks failed and that he would only accept a “real deal” with China.

China’s Foreign Ministry referred specific questions to the Commerce Ministry, which is due to hold its weekly news briefing on Thursday in Beijing.

“We hope the two working teams from both sides can, based on the consensus reached between the two countries’ leaders, strengthen consultations, and reach a mutually beneficial agreement soon,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters.

The threat of further escalation in the trade war between the world’s two largest economies has loomed large over financial markets and the global economy for much of the year, and investors initially greeted the ceasefire with relief.

The mood has quickly soured, however, on skepticism that the two sides can reach a substantive deal on a host of highly divisive issues within the 90-day negotiating period, and markets continued to slide on Wednesday in part from confusion over the ceasefire’s lack of detail.

Failure would raise the specter of a major escalation in the trade battle, with fresh U.S. tariff action and Chinese retaliation possibly as early as March.

The White House has said China had committed to start buying more American products and lifting tariff and non-tariff barriers immediately while beginning talks on structural changes with respect to forced technology transfers and intellectual property protection.

Sources told Reuters that Chinese oil trader Unipec plans to resume buying U.S. crude by March after the Xi-Trump deal reduced the risk of tariffs on those imports. China’s crude oil imports from the U.S. had ground to a halt.

MARKETS DOWN

Global financial markets sank to one-week lows on Wednesday amid the renewed trade concerns, extending Tuesday’s slide.

U.S. markets were closed on Wednesday to observe former President George H.W. Bush’s death, but the effect of Wall Street’s turmoil the previous day was felt in Europe and Asia with the benchmark Shanghai stock index closing down 0.6 percent.

“Narrow agreements and modest concessions in the ongoing trade dispute will not bridge the wide gulf in their respective economic, political and strategic interests,” Moody’s Investors Service said in a report that predicted U.S.-China relations “will remain contentious”.

Officials from the United States and a number of other major economies have often criticized China for its slow approach to negotiations and not following through on commitments.

China has said comparatively little about the Trump-Xi agreement after senior Chinese officials briefed the media following the meeting, and U.S. and Chinese accounts of what the deal entails have sometimes differed.

“Officials now face the difficult task of fleshing out a deal that is acceptable to the Chinese but also involves significant enough concessions not to be torpedoed by the China hawks in the Trump administration,” Capital Economics said in a note this week, adding that higher tariffs could simply be delayed.

A Chinese official told Reuters that officials were “waiting for the leaders to return” before publicizing details.

President Xi and his most senior officials are due back in China on Thursday, having visited Panama and Portugal since leaving Argentina.

On Wednesday, the Global Times tabloid, which is run by the Chinese Communist Party’s main newspaper, said the Trump administration’s statements about the deal – including the agreement that China would buy $1.2 trillion in additional U.S. goods – were designed to highlight or even exaggerate facets of the deal that benefited the United States.

“It will be a win-win situation if a deal is realized. But if not, more fights and talks will continue alternately for a long while. Chinese society should maintain a calm attitude,” it said.

(Reporting by John Ruwitch and Wang Jing in Shanghai, Philip Wen in Beijing and Makini Brice in Washington; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Kim Coghill and Steve Orlofsky)

China outlaws large underground Protestant church in Beijing

FILE PHOTO: The head pastor of the Zion church in Beijing Jin Mingri poses for picures in the lobby of the unofficial Protestant "house" church in Beijing, China, August 28, 2018. Picture taken August 28, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

By Christian Shepherd

BEIJING (Reuters) – Beijing city authorities have banned one of the largest unofficial Protestant churches in the city and confiscated “illegal promotional materials”, amid a deepening crackdown on China’s “underground” churches.

The Zion church had for years operated with relative freedoms, hosting hundreds of worshippers every weekend in an expansive specially renovated hall in north Beijing.

But since April, after they rejected requests from authorities to install closed-circuit television cameras in the building, the church has faced growing pressure from the authorities and has been threatened with eviction.

On Sunday, the Beijing Chaoyang district civil affairs bureau said that by organizing events without registering, the church was breaking rules forbidding mass gatherings and were now “legally banned” and its “illegal promotional material” had been confiscated, according to images of the notice sent to Reuters late on Sunday and confirmed by churchgoers.

“I fear that there is no way for us to resolve this issue with the authorities,” Zion’s Pastor Jin Mingri told Reuters.

China’s religious affairs and civil affairs bureaux did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

China’s constitution guarantees religious freedom, but since President Xi Jinping took office six years ago the government has tightened restrictions on religions seen as a challenge to the authority of the ruling Communist Party.

Churches across China have faced new waves of harassment and pressure to register since a new set of regulations to govern religious affairs in China came into effect in February and heightened punishments for unofficial churches.

In July, more than 30 of Beijing’s hundreds of underground Protestant churches took the rare step of releasing a joint statement complaining of “unceasing interference” and the “assault and obstruction” of regular activities of believers since the new regulations came into effect.

China’s Christian believers are split between those who attend unofficial “house” or “underground” churches and those who attend government-sanctioned places of worship.

Churchgoers were also given a notice from the district religious affairs bureau saying that the “great masses of believer must respect the rules and regulations and attend events in legally registered places of religious activity”.

Zion’s attendees were also given pamphlets of officially sanctioned churches that they might attend instead.

But for many worshippers and pastors, such as Jin, accepting the oversight and ultimate authority of the Communist Party would be a betrayal of their faith.

“On this land, the only one we can trust in is God,” Jin said.

(Reporting by Christian Shepherd; Editing by Michael Perry)

Xi tells Mattis China won’t give up ‘one inch’ of territory

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, second from left, speaks during a meeting with China's Defense Minister Wei Fenghe at the Bayi Building in Beijing, China, June 27, 2018. Mark Schiefelbein/Pool via REUTERS

By Phil Stewart and Ben Blanchard

BEIJING (Reuters) – China is committed to peace and won’t cause “chaos” in the world, but cannot give up even an inch of territory that the country’s ancestors have left behind, Chinese President Xi Jinping told U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Wednesday.

Mattis, a former Marine general, has been highly critical of China’s muscular military moves in the disputed South China Sea. The U.S. military even withdrew an invitation to China to join a multinational naval exercise that will start during Mattis’ visit, upsetting Beijing.

Mattis is visiting against a backdrop of spiraling tension between Beijing and Washington over trade.

Beijing is also deeply suspicious of U.S. intentions toward self-governing and democratic Taiwan, which is armed by the United States. China views the island as a sacred part of its territory.

Meeting in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, Xi told Mattis that China had only peaceful intentions and would not “cause chaos,” state television reported.

Both countries’ common interests far outweigh their differences, but on territorial issues there can be no concessions, Xi added, without referring to specific areas.

“We cannot lose even one inch of the territory left behind by our ancestors. What is other people’s, we do not want at all,” state television cited Xi as saying.

Mattis, in comments in front of reporters, told Xi his talks had been “very, very” good.

“I am happy to be in China and we are assigning the same high degree of importance to the military relationship,” Mattis said.

Meeting earlier in the day, China’s defense minister told Mattis that only with mutual respect and by avoiding confrontation can China and the United States develop together.

“China upholds peaceful development, and China’s military unswervingly protects the country’s sovereignty, security and development interests,” Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe said, according to his ministry.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, left, and China's Defense Minister Wei Fenghe stand as the American national anthem is played during a welcome ceremony at the Bayi Building in Beijing, Wednesday, June 27, 2018. Mark Schiefelbein/Pool via Reuters

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, left, and China’s Defense Minister Wei Fenghe stand as the American national anthem is played during a welcome ceremony at the Bayi Building in Beijing, Wednesday, June 27, 2018. Mark Schiefelbein/Pool via Reuters

“China and the United States can only develop together if we maintain no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation,” Wei added.

“China and the United States’ two militaries must implement the consensus of the two countries’ leaders, increase mutual trust, strengthen cooperation and manage risks to turn ties between the two militaries into a factor for stability in the bilateral relationship.”

Mattis, the first Pentagon chief to visit China since 2014, told Wei he expected all of his conversations in Beijing would be characterized by an “open and honest” dialogue, like the one he had with Wei.

“The military-to-military relationship is critical to the broader relationship between our two countries,” Mattis added, in comments also in front of reporters.

Mattis invited Wei to visit him at the Pentagon.

Wei was similarly upbeat in his public remarks.

“Your visit to China this time is … a new positive factor to the military-to-military and state-to-state relationship,” said Wei, who only assumed his position in March.

TAIWAN TENSION

The Chinese defense ministry statement made only passing mention of the South China Sea, Taiwan and North Korea, citing Wei as telling Mattis what China’s positions were on those issues.

As Mattis arrived, Chinese state media said a formation of Chinese warships had been holding daily combat drills for more than a week in waters near Taiwan, and there have been frequent Chinese air force exercises near the island.

While China and the United States have tried hard to keep lines of communication between their militaries open, especially at the senior level, they are deeply suspicious of each other.

The United States accuses China of militarizing the South China Sea with its island-building work there, while China has been angered by U.S. naval patrols through the strategic waterway.

In May, the United States withdrew an invitation to China to attend a major U.S.-hosted naval drill, the Rim of the Pacific exercise, known as RIMPAC and previously attended by China, in response to what Washington sees as Beijing’s militarization of the South China Sea.

Still, the two have broad strategic common interests, such as ensuring peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.

China welcomed a historic summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un earlier this month in Singapore, where Kim reaffirmed a commitment to work toward complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, while Trump said he would halt joint U.S.-South Korean “war games.”

(The story is refiled to removes extraneous words paragraphs five and nine, fixes typo paragraph seven.)

(Reporting by Phil Stewart and Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Christian Shepherd and Michael Martina; Editing by Michael Perry, Robert Birsel)

North, South Korea fix April date for first summit in years

South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon is greeted by his North Korean counterpart Ri Son Gwon as he arrives for their meeting at the truce village of Panmunjom, North Korea, March 29, 2018. Korea Pool/Yonhap via REUTERS

By Christine Kim

SEOUL (Reuters) – North and South Korea will hold their first summit in more than a decade on April 27, South Korean officials said on Thursday, after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pledged his commitment to denuclearization as tensions ease between the old foes.

South Korean officials, who announced the date after high-level talks with North Korean counterparts, said the agenda would largely be denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and improving inter-Korean relations.

The two Koreas had agreed to hold the summit at the border truce village of Panmunjom when South Korean President Moon Jae-in sent a delegation to Pyongyang this month to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Thursday’s meeting was the first high-level dialogue between the two Koreas since the delegation returned from the North.

The two sides said in a joint statement they would hold a working-level meeting on April 4 to discuss details of the summit, such as staffing support, security and news releases.

“We still have a fair number of issues to resolve on a working level for preparations over the next month,” said Ri Son Gwon, the chairman of North Korea’s committee for the peaceful reunification of the country in closing remarks to the South Korean delegation.

“But if the two sides deeply understand the historic significance and meaning of this summit and give their all, we will be able to solve all problems swiftly and amicably,” Ri added.

Tension over North Korea’s tests of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile surged last year and raised fears of U.S. military action in response to North Korea’s threat to develop a nuclear weapon capable of hitting the United States.

But tension has eased significantly since North Korea decided to send athletes to the Winter Olympics in South Korea in February. The neighbours are technically still at war after the 1950-53 conflict ended with a ceasefire, not a truce.

China commended both sides for their efforts to improve ties.

“We hope the momentum of dialogue can continue and that the peaceful situation also can last,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a briefing.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was encouraged by the recent developments with North Korea.

“I believe that in this world where unfortunately so many problems seem not to have a solution, I think there is here an opportunity for a peaceful solution to something that a few months ago was haunting us as the biggest danger we were facing,” Guterres told reporters on Thursday.

‘RESOLVE PROBLEMS’

Kim is scheduled to meet U.S. President Donald Trump in May to discuss denuclearization, although a time and place have not been set.

Kim met Chinese President Xi Jinping in a surprise visit to Beijing this week, his first trip outside the isolated North since he came to power in 2011.

Even more surprising was Kim’s pledge to denuclearize the Korean peninsula. That commitment was reported by Chinese state media, although North Korea’s official media made no mention of it, or Kim’s anticipated meeting with Trump.

A senior Chinese official visiting Seoul on Thursday to brief South Korea on Kim’s visit to Beijing said it should help ease tension and lead to the denuclearization of the peninsula.

“We believe his visit will help the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, ensure peace and security of the Korean peninsula and resolve problems regarding the peninsula through political negotiations and discussions,” Yang Jiechi said in opening remarks during a meeting with South Korea’s National Security Office head, Chung Eui-yong.

Yang, a top Chinese diplomat, is scheduled to meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday.

South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myong-gyon told reporters Kim’s visit to China was not discussed with North Korean officials in their Thursday talks.

Trump and Kim had exchanged insults and veiled threats of war in recent months but the U.S. leader made the surprising announcement this month that he was prepared to meet Kim to discuss the crisis over the North’s development of weapons.

The North Korean leader’s engagement with the international community has sparked speculation that he may try to meet other leaders. Japan’s Asahi newspaper said Japan had sounded out the North Korean government about a summit.

Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono left open the possibility that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe might meet Kim at some point. Kono said in an interview with Reuters on Tuesday that Japan was closely watching preparations for the North-South Korean summit and the Trump-Kim meeting.

Xi promised that Beijing would uphold its friendship with North Korea after his meeting with Kim.

Trump wrote on Twitter he had received a message from Xi late on Tuesday that his meeting with Kim “went very well” and that Kim looked forward to meeting the U.S. president.

(Reporting by Christine Kim; Additional reporting by Michael Martina in BEIJING and Michelle Nichols at the UNITED NATIONS; Editing by Robert Birsel and James Dalgleish)