China Brief: 12-18 March 2019

A2 Global's China Brief contains assessments of events and policies that may impact commercial interests, personnel, and assets throughout Greater China. This edition includes the Chinese cabinet's defence of policies relating to Uyghur detention camps, a collision incident on Hong Kong's Mass Transit Railway system, and protests over food safety in Chengdu. 

China-  Political risk: Medium - Chinese cabinet defends Uyghur detention camps 

Hong Kong -Travel risk: Low -  City's mass transit rail system disrupted following overnight collision

China - Health risk: Elevated - School food-poisoning in Chengdu causes protests

China – Chinese cabinet defends Uyghur detention camps

CHINA – Political risk: Medium

18 March: On 18 March, the Chinese cabinet released a white paper defending policies relating to Uyghur detention camps in the western Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Among other claims made in the paper, it was said that around 13,000 ‘terrorists’ have been held there since 2014.

Why it matters: International concern regarding China’s camps in Xinjiang has been increasing, with Turkey calling on China to close the camps and some U.S.-based companies halting their operations in the region. A2 Global reiterates its advice reminding foreign businesses operating in Xinjiang to be aware of the potential reputational damage of working with the local government, partners, and third-party vendors.  Hong Kong – City’s mass transit rail system disrupted following overnight collision

HONG KONG – Travel risk: Low

18 March: Two trains operated by Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway (MTR Corp. Ltd) collided overnight on 18 March when the system was closed to the public, forcing the closure of a section of the busy Tsuen Wan line between Central and Admiralty stations in the city’s main business district. Services over this section of the line are expected to be cancelled for the rest of 18 March, resulting in widespread congestion in the Central business district and parts of Kowloon.

Why it matters: A2 Global notes the incident is the second in the past six months involving signalling on the MTR system, which is used by hundreds of thousands each day. In October 2018 four lines were affected by an unexplained failure of the signalling system, leading to widespread disruption for more than six hours. The incident on 18 March involved two empty trains colliding at what imagery indicates at considerable speed. An MTR official reportedly said the company had no idea how such an event could occur, but it presumably involved a failure for the points to be correctly aligned. A2 Global warns the incident can be expected to raise concerns over the system’s safety, resulting in greater use of other transport links – notably buses and other vehicles – adding to the city’s already heavily congested road network. A2 Global advises companies involved in logistics and tourism to factor this into their operational planning.

China – School food-poisoning in Chengdu causes protests

CHINA – Health risk: Elevated

15 March: On 13 March, parents of children attending a private high school in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, protested at the school after it emerged that expired food served in the school canteen had led to numerous instances of students suffering from food poisoning. The protest led to localised travel disruption and was met with police violence. The food supplier of the school has catered to over 100,000 students from over 20 schools, with several comparable incidents having allegedly occurred. Authorities are investigating eight people responsible for the school’s food safety.

Why it matters: Food safety issues pose a considerable health risk in China. Beijing authorities on 13 March reprimanded several online food delivery companies for allowing more than 35,000 unlicensed restaurants to sell to customers on their platforms, in a bid to improve food safety.

A2 Global advises business travellers in Sichuan Province to monitor ongoing developments around the issue, in the event of further protests that may occur near schools. Businesses operating in China are advised to inform staff of potential food safety issues, especially in schools and on online food delivery platforms, and ensure that their food suppliers are compliant with food safety regulations.