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Bank of Japan member stresses easy policy despite rising costs | Business and Economy

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Asahi Noguchi says loose policy needed as Japan is not experiencing high rates of inflation seen in other countries.

Bank of Japan (BOJ) board member Asahi Noguchi said on Thursday the central bank must maintain an ultra-easy monetary policy, even as rising commodity costs are expected to accelerate inflation towards its elusive 2 percent target.

The Ukraine crisis has pushed up raw material prices, though companies have struggled to pass on the higher cost to consumers due to weak household spending, Noguchi said.

While Japan’s core consumer inflation may exceed 2 percent from April on rising energy costs and the dissipating effect of past cellphone fee cuts, the increase is clearly driven by external factors rather than a recovery in domestic demand, he added.

“Japan is not experiencing the kind of high inflation seen in many other countries,” Noguchi said in a speech, adding that policymakers must continue to focus on ending deflation rather than curbing inflation.

“In a country still mired in a sticky deflationary mindset, it will take significant time to stably achieve our 2 percent inflation target and justify a withdrawal of stimulus,” he said.

Noguchi’s views echo those of BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda, who has stressed the bank’s resolve to keep monetary policy ultra-loose even as other major central banks eye an exit from crisis-mode stimulus measures.



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Taiwan delays scheme to help Hong Kongers over spying fears | Politics News

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Taiwan has indefinitely delayed a scheme that would have made it easier for professionals from Hong Kong and Macau to become permanent residents or citizens, after concerns from politicians about possible infiltration by Chinese agents.

The scheme by the island’s Mainland Affairs Council would have allowed professionals who had worked for five years in Taiwan and earned an income at double the national minimum wage to apply for more permanent status. They would also not have been required to renounce their Hong Kong or Macau citizenship if they applied to become Taiwanese, unlike ordinary citizens of China.

Most foreign professionals can apply for permanent residency after five years of employment but people from Hong Kong and Macau were required to meet other criteria such as having Taiwanese family, a Taiwanese spouse, or working in specific industries.

Legislator Lo Chih-cheng, who heads the ruling Democratic People’s Party international affairs department, said lawmakers were concerned that it was difficult to determine who was a real “Hong Konger” or “Macanese”.

“Some people in Taiwan tend to see the so-called Hong Kong people as different from the Hong Kong people they used to know,” he said. “There are concerns about China’s infiltration into Hong Kong society and there are also concerns about Hong Kong people working for Beijing.” 

Taiwanese were vocal supporters of Hong Kong’s 2019 democracy protests, which have been credited with giving a boost to President Tsai Ing-wen’s 2020 re-election campaign, which had been struggling in the months before the demonstrations began.

The protests and their aftermath have carried extra significance to Taiwanese as an example of how Beijing’s promises cannot be trusted.

Limits to support

Former European colonies, Hong Kong and Macau were returned to Chinese sovereignty in the late 1990s and until recently enjoyed certain rights and freedoms not found in the mainland under the so-called “one country, two systems” framework that Beijing also offered as a potential governance structure for Taiwan, which it claims as its own territory.

For Hong Kong, “one country, two systems” was supposed to protect the territory’s special position and guarantee that people could continue their “way of life” with all its rights and privileges for at least 50 years.

The imposition of the national security legislation in 2020 has effectively ended those freedoms, while Macau is due to see stronger national security laws this year.

But while some of those involved in the protests have found refuge in Taiwan, the opposition to migration is an indication that even in Taiwan there are limits to how far it wants to go in supporting those fleeing Beijing.

Legislators from Tsai’s DPP and the pro-Taiwan independence New Power Party have been some of the most vocal in their concern about potential security risks.

“There’s a lot of almost unanimous symbolic support for Hong Kongers in the sense where Taiwanese can look at what’s happening in Hong Kong and be like ‘we don’t want that to happen to us, and we feel bad for what’s happening to Hong Kongers,’” said Lev Nachman, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard Fairbank Center.

“But that’s qualitatively different from say, substantive support in terms of policy. We see a lot of variation, meaning that not everyone wants a pro-Hong Kong policy,” he said.

Nachman led a research team in 2021 that surveyed 1,000 Taiwanese people about their feelings about Hong Kong and found that while most were sympathetic that did not translate into a desire for legislative action, according to results published in Foreign Policy.

Ever since their return to Chinese rule and the relaxation of visa requirements, Hong Kong and Macau have emerged as popular destinations for mainland Chinese. Hong Kong’s population has swelled by one million since its 1997 handover while Macau’s population has grown 50 percent from around 418,000 in 1999 to nearly 650,000, according to World Bank data.

Lo said many Taiwanese were also concerned about the potential competition posed by Hong Kong’s highly educated workforce, despite the likely boost for the island’s economy.

“Personally, I think we should take this opportunity to recruit the best talents from Hong Kong given the deterioration of human rights and freedom in Hong Kong, it is the best opportunity for Taiwan to recruit to attract the best talent,” he said.

Generational risk

Taiwanese have aired their scepticism about the new immigration scheme online, particularly from social media accounts associated with pro-Taiwan independence views, said Chen-en Sung, the deputy CEO of the Taiwan New Constitution Foundation, a government-aligned legal group.

 

He told Al Jazeera many of their concerns about Chinese infiltration by people from Hong Kong and Macau were hypocritical because Taiwanese have also worked on behalf of Beijing’s interests.

“Even if [new immigrants] are pro-China originally, I think Taiwan is an open society, and we have the capacity to accommodate those views, not to mention that a lot of our own citizens have pro-China and anti-independence views,” he said.

Eric Tsui Sing-yan, a visiting scholar at Academia Sinica’s Institute of Taiwan History, however, says there is reason for caution, despite having fled the city himself in 2020 for fear he could be investigated for two books he wrote on Hong Kong.

“This question is complicated. People from Hong Kong are not 100 percent safe because Hong Kong is a complex place with all sorts of people,” he told Al Jazeera, citing a decades-long infiltration campaign by the Chinese Communist Party from Hong Kong’s trade unions into the upper echelons of society.

Tsui said the issue largely comes down to demographics: most people under 30 are likely to be low risk due to their well-documented dislike of Beijing and pro-Hong Kong feelings, while older people with potential business ties to the mainland were higher risk.

He said Taiwan’s current policies unintentionally courted the second group by focusing on professionals and people capable of making substantial financial contributions.

“The current policy attracts high-risk groups and drives away the low-risk groups,” Tsui said. “Yes, there is a security risk, but it is not equal among all Hong Kongers. The risk is different in different generations.”

In 2020, Taiwan established an office to help those fleeing political prosecution in Hong Kong after about 200 former protesters fled there, according to activist estimates. Since then, the office has helped some 100 protesters, according to government media, although efforts have been hampered by two years of strict border controls to contain COVID-19.

The government is also not obligated to help any potential refugees as it is not party to any international refugee conventions due to Taiwan’s disputed political status.

Recently, however, measures were loosened to allow students from Hong Kong and Macau to study at Taiwanese high schools and vocational schools, while many already study at Taiwanese universities.

These measures do not directly apply to professionals from Hong Kong and Macau who are already working in Taiwan and would like to remain permanently.

About 11,000 people from Hong Kong moved to Taiwan last year, according to government data, a fraction of the 89,000 who left the city between June 2020 and June 2021.

The vast majority have instead chosen to move to the United Kingdom, the territory’s former colonial ruler, where anyone born before the 1997 handover – about 5.4 million people – is eligible for a special immigration scheme. The UK Home office says more than 100,000 people have applied for the scheme since January 2021.





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Voters head to polls open in close-run Australian election | Elections News

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Sydney, Australia – Polls have opened in the Australian election, with a tight contest expected between the incumbent Liberal-National coalition of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the opposition Labor party under Anthony Albanese.

Labor have led opinion polls throughout the campaign, but the gap has narrowed with Morrison’s coalition making up ground ahead of election day.

Morrison is aiming to become the first Prime Minister to win two elections in a row since John Howard in 2004.

Voting is compulsory in Australia and just over 17.2 million people have enrolled to vote according to the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC).

Record numbers of voters have already cast their ballots at early voting centres or via postal votes, and more than half of the total votes had been cast by Friday evening, according to the commission. Polls close across the country at 6pm, which is 08:00 GMT in Sydney and 10:00 GMT on the west coast.  The result could be known as soon as Saturday evening.

Narrowing polls and the emergence of independent candidates has raised the possibility of a hung parliament.

Labor or the Liberal-National coalition require 76 seats in the lower house to form a government, anything less and they would need to negotiate with smaller parties and independents in order to try and form a minority government.

A man in a wetsuit and surf board joins the queue to vote at a Bondi Beach polling station
A strong showing for independents could lead to a hung parliament, amid disatisfaction over the major parties’ positions on climate change [Mark Baker/AP Photo]

The campaign has focused heavily on the rising cost of living, with Australia experiencing its highest inflation rate in 21 years, and the central bank raising interest rates.

Morrison has argued that his handling of the economy is a major reason for voters to back him again, pointing to record low unemployment rates.

He is also proposing a scheme to allow young people early access to their superannuation funds to buy property and get a foot on the housing ladder.

Concerned for future

Labor, meanwhile, has attacked the government’s economic record, highlighting how wages are not growing fast enough to meet the increased cost of living.

“As a recent grandfather I am concerned about the future generations and the economic policies of the major parties aren’t addressing that,” Brian Silver, a teacher voting in Sydney told Al Jazeera.

The rising cost of living is filtering into all areas of life, with voters concerned about the impacts on their everyday expenditure.

“Childcare is a key issue for me. I really need it, I need to know it is available but it is just so expensive”, said Lauren, who preferred only to share her first name, outside a polling station in North Sydney.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese cuddles a dog and laughs as he meets supporters outside a polling station in Melbourne in M
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese (centre) is hoping voters will back Labor to form the government for the first time since 2013 [Wendell Teodoro/AFP]

Australians have also expressed increasing concern about climate change.

The country has seen its effects first-hand, with Morrison’s time in charge dominated by extreme bushfires in 2019-20 and recent major flooding in Queensland and New South Wales.

Many of the independent candidates in the election have campaigned solely on the basis of climate change, offering different solutions to the problem compared with the two major parties.

“Climate change is something we really need to look at, especially getting electric cars into Australia. We need a fast uptake of them and we need charging stations to be created. That is something the government can do,” Tim, who preferred only to share his first name, told Al Jazeera ahead of voting in North Sydney.

A high number of independent candidates are running in traditionally Liberal seats, with high profile and well funded campaigns raising their profiles.

“I’m voting for the independent here, Kylea Tink”, explained Katie Archer, a voter in North Sydney.

“I really like her policies when it comes to climate change, I think she is really progressive. Whereas Scott Morrison, it just always feels like he is caring for himself and his own back and not putting the population first.”

Attitudes and policies towards Indigenous peoples are also on the agenda at this election, with Aboriginal groups continuing to demand land rights and recognition as the nation’s first people in the constitution.

It is an issue which could also add to the drift away from the two main parties.

“Whilst both Liberal and Labor point fingers at one another over who is doing the least for First Nations people, the minor parties such as The Greens and the newly formed Indigenous Party of Australia are offering more tangible-practical policies and solutions to effect change to our most marginalised and oppressed communities around the country,” said Indigenous activist Lynda-June Coe.

On the eve of election day, a number of high profile Australian newspapers endorsed either Morrison or Albanese.

There was support in the more right-wing and business press for Morrison and his Liberal-National coalition, with both The Australian and The Australian Financial Review calling for the Prime Minister to be re-elected, with the latter describing him as ‘Australia’s best bet’.

Meanwhile, The Age newspaper, based in the second biggest city of Melbourne, gave its backing to Labor in an editorial titled; ‘For integrity’s sake, Australia needs a change of government’.

The Sydney Morning Herald, its sister publication, also backed Albanese, saying that ​​’on balance, the nation needs a change’.



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US judge blocks Biden’s plan to end Title 42 border expulsions | Migration News

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A judge in the United States has blocked the Biden administration’s plan to end a contentious immigration policy that allows US authorities to turn away most asylum seekers arriving at the country’s southern border with Mexico.

US District Judge Robert Summerhays issued a nationwide injunction on Friday barring US President Joe Biden’s administration from lifting the policy known as Title 42. It was expected to be rescinded on May 23.

“That means Title 42 will not end anytime soon,” tweeted Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, senior policy counsel at the American Immigration Council, about the federal judge’s decision.

The ruling comes after two dozen US states sued the Biden administration over its plan, arguing that Title 42 should remain in place because proper consideration was not given to likely increases in border crossings and other issues.

The Justice Department said in a brief statement on Friday evening that it plans to appeal.

Former US President Donald Trump’s administration first invoked Title 42 in March 2020 as COVID-19 swept through the country, arguing it aimed to help prevent the spread of the virus.

But last month, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the measure was “no longer necessary”, and the Department of Homeland Security said it would end its use at the border.

“CDC has now determined, in its expert opinion, that continued reliance on this authority [Title 42] is no longer warranted in light of the current public-health circumstances. That decision was a lawful exercise of CDC’s authority,” the Justice Department said in Friday’s statement.

More than 1.9 million Title 42 expulsions have been carried out since the restriction was put in place, with the vast majority of asylum seekers quickly expelled back to Mexico or their countries of origin without the chance of applying for asylum in the US.

Rights advocates and immigration experts have been calling on the Biden administration to end the use of Title 42, which they say violates US and international law and puts already vulnerable asylum seekers at risk of kidnapping, torture, rape and other violence in Mexico.

‘Seeking asylum is a legal right’

Human rights groups denounced Friday’s ruling as an affront to the right to seek asylum.

“This lawsuit only serves to prevent vulnerable families and children facing unspeakable violence, persecution, and exploitation from exercising their legal right to seek asylum,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), a resettlement agency.

“Beyond the devastating humanitarian impact of Title 42, the ruling also fails to recognize well-established domestic and international law. Seeking asylum is a legal right, and yet this bedrock of the American legal system is quickly eroding at a time of unprecedented need,” Vignarajah said in a statement.

Asylum seekers hug near the US-Mexico border wall
Rights groups have denounced Title 42 as a violation of US and international law [File: Go Nakamura/Reuters]

Al Otro Lado, a migrant support and advocacy group that works in the southern US and Mexico, also denounced the decision as extending suffering at the border.

“Parents are sending their children across the border alone to save their lives. This is #Title42 + its extension only means indefinite suffering,” the group said on Twitter.

“Title 42 has caused enormous harm to people seeking safety. Continuing to manipulate this public health law is beyond cruel,” the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) also said.

For their part, several Republican officials hailed the ruling, painting it as a setback for Biden’s immigration plans, which they said aim to weaken border security.

Senator Bill Cassidy, who represents Louisiana, invoked his support for Judge Summerhays’s nomination under former President Trump in welcoming the decision.

“A Louisiana judge just halted Biden’s disastrous plan to make the border crisis worse by repealing Title 42. We need to give Border Patrol the tools they need to secure the border, not take them away,” he wrote on Twitter. “Proud to say I supported Judge Summerhays’ nomination.”

“Our request to stop the Biden Administration from revoking Title 42 was just granted by a federal judge,” tweeted Jason Miyares, Virginia’s attorney general, adding that it was “a HUGE win for securing our border”.

Political pressure

Biden has faced growing political pressure from Republicans and even some members of his Democratic Party over Title 42, especially as the country prepares for critical midterm elections in November.

Al Jazeera’s Manuel Rapalo, reporting from Mexico City, said that political debate in Washington over immigration “is very much on the minds” of the thousands of migrants and asylum seekers waiting on the Mexican side of the border.

“Just this week there were demonstrations outside of the US consulate in Tijuana [in northern Mexico] by migrants who were pleading to US officials to lift Title 42,” Rapalo said on Friday.

“One thing that is of concern here in Mexico is that … Title 42 has been used as a pretext to interrupt the traditional asylum process in the United States, and while that asylum process remains slowed down … those numbers of migrants and asylum seekers continue to pile up here in Mexico, putting more pressure on the resources available to the Mexican government.”

Meanwhile, rights advocates also have criticised the US president and his Democratic party for failing to overturn some of his predecessor’s hardline, anti-immigration policies – despite holding a slim majority in Congress.

“President Biden could have ended Title 42 and all of Trump’s inhumane and immoral policies as soon as he took office in January 2021,” Tami Goodlette, director of litigation at RAICES, an immigration legal services organisation in Texas, said in a statement shared by the group on Twitter.

“Instead, he surrounded himself with centrist advisors who coddled his fears on immigration reform and embraced deterrence as their central priority on immigration.”





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