Japanese police are investigating a possible human trafficking operation after arresting 11 Chinese construction workers at a solar power plant over visa violations and finding another 46 have fled. The case comes as Japan faceslabour shortages owing to an ageing population and political discussions are now considering legislation to allow more foreign workers.
Canadian company Catalyst Paper Corp. is selling its US operations, including a pair of paper mills in Maine and Wisconsin, to a Chinese company Nine Dragons Paper. Nine Dragons Paper is paying US$175 million for the mills and an operations centre in Dayton, Ohio. There are no plans for lay-offs at the mills, which employ about 610 workers in Rumford, Maine, and 380 workers in Biron, Wisconsin, a spokeswoman said.
European Commission releases its 2017 report on the Rapid Alert System for dangerous products. In 2017, 'toys' was notified as product with the most risk (29%), followed by 'motor vehicles' (20%), and 'clothing, textiles and fashion items' (12%).
The majority of dangerous products notified in the system came from outside the EU. China is the number one country of origin, but the number of alerts remains stable at 53% (1,155) in 2017, same as the year before. The Commission continues to cooperate closely with Chinese authorities, working together to discuss specific cases and implement actions, such as exchange of good practices. Dangerous products of European origin accounted for 413 notifications (26%).
On January 1, 2018, the Chinese government implemented a new environmental tax policy, effectively ending the pollutant discharge fee that had been in effect for the past 40 years. The Environmental Protection Tax marks the beginning of a slew of new policies aimed at getting China’s pollution under control and will undoubtedly affect businesses, especially manufacturing firms.
the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in the U.S. and the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs (IPE) in China launched the IPE Green Supply Chain Map, the only tool in the world to openly link leading multinational corporations to their suppliers’ environmental performance. Based on publicly available data from the Chinese government, IPE’s database and map provide real-time data and historical trends in air pollution emissions and wastewater discharge for nearly 15,000 major industrial facilities in China and access to environmental supervision records for over half a million more.
China’s National Consumer Product Safety Commission has recently consulted on a draft list of substance restrictions in consumer products. The list combines a number of existing Chinese standards and, where no domestic standard exists, it refers to restrictions based on EU and other foreign legislation. The draft is similar to the consumer restrictions set out in REACH Annex XVII - includes 103 chemicals and proposes limit values for their use in consumer products, such as toys, textiles, coatings, paints, decoration materials and furniture.
Thousands of angered villagers protested in the northern Chinese province of Hebei on 3 May after a leak at a chemical plant called Hebei Xingfei Chemical Co. factory near Xingtai city releases toxic gases into the air. Residents of several villages near the site reported vomiting and fainting, while thousands have gathered outside the factory gates, blocking the road and demanding the plant's relocation for the past few days. Local officials have called on protesters to wait for environmental tests to be completed before they take a decision about how to deal with the factory.
China's food packaging regulations, announced in November 2016, will take effect on 19 October this year. Violations can result in fines of 20 times the commodity value for manufacturers or importers using unapproved materials, and up to ten times the value for food producers or operators using non-compliant products. However, the clearances for food contact materials (FCMs) could be very different from the substances approved in the EU – many substances currently permitted in the US and Europe are not yet cleared under the Chinese system.
Under 16 and working 16 hours a day ... Chinese clothes factories import cheap child labour from across China
Undercover investigation exposed a large portion of the more than 1,000 apparel manufacturers in Changshu, Jiangsu province, have been using cheap labour from Yunnan province with the help of local agents, and some of the workers are under 16. The workers are underpaid and forced to work for long hours. Forced labour practices such as violence and retention of identity documents were found.
According to a newly released report from a non-profit organization called Forest Trends, in the past few years, imports of rosewood, collectively known as hongmu, from Africa surged, which are prized by Chinese furniture manufacturers who use them to make products that are highly coveted status symbols.
Environmental Investigation Agency, London-based, released a report saying that an alarming escalation of timber flowing into China has been there over the last three years. The majority of trees being cut down was driven by very wealthy Chinese people, who consider luxury products as a status symbol. 153 Chinese nationals were arrested for illegal logging in Myanmar, but were released in July after receiving a presidential pardon.
Regions along the porous Myanmar-China border have been a source of smuggled illegal timber to satisfy the growing demand from Chinese industry. Stripping natural resources in this way has prompted some resentment in Myanmar towards its more prosperous neighbour, and China has since protested at the harsh sentence. The border regions, which include Kachin state, have seen higher levels of conflict since 2011 between the Myanmar government and Kachin separatists. This escalation may provide sufficient cover for the illegal logging activity to take place.
China's Heilongjiang province, which borders Russia to its north and east, contains 18.5 million hectares of state forest - more natural forest than any other province in the country. However, since the mid-twentieth century, Heilongjiang has had over 600 million cubic meters of timber extracted from its woodlands. Now, China is trying out a complete ban on commercial logging in the province's state-owned forests. Forestry experts predict that this trial ban will allow forests to regenerate hence, replenishing timber supplies, but will also push the industry to focus on improved forest management. According to the State Forestry Administration, to ensure that the ban is enforced and implemented over its intended time frame, the central Chinese government has allocated 2.35 billion yuan ($375 million) per year to cover forestry workers’ living costs between 2014 and 2020. If the ban succeeds, it could be extended throughout northeastern China and Inner Mongolia.
Dozens of Chinese logging operators have petitioned local authorities in Yunnan to intervene over the arrests of more than 150 logging workers in Myanmar’s Kachin State and the seizure of equipment worth hundreds of million yuan. The petition, sent to authorities in the border county of Tengchong, was signed by 23 owners of logging firms that operate in the region. The owners claimed they had paid for logging licenses from a former member of the Kachin Independence Army who had since defected to the Myanmar government, and that they had declared all their timber to customs officials on both sides of the border.
According to Myanmar military officials 122 foreign national (mainly Chinese) and 20 Myanmar citizens were arrested for illegal logging and other alleged crimes in northern Myanmar. Along with the arrests, authorities seized 436 logging trucks and 14 pickup trucks loaded with logs, stimulant drugs, raw opium and Chinese currency. Locals blame the continuous illegal logging on the lack of enforcement as authorities and rebel officers are commonly bribed in exchanged for permission for illegal logging in the area. Unfortunately the insatiable Chinese appetite for hardwood furniture and a lengthy and porous border enables this illegal activity to continue.
The pattern of overseas investment and cooperation by Chinese timber enterprises is evolving rapidly. Chinese forestry enterprises have invested around US$1.3 billion in some 20 countries mainly for timber harvesting, primary processing as well as a growing interest in wood product manufacturing.
West Africa's biggest rainforest has won a reprieve from destruction with Liberia's government cancelling dozens of illegal logging permits, saving up to 10,000 square miles from being cleared. Earlier in the year the government had granted licences allowing companies to cut down 58 per cent of all the primary rainforest left in the country. The licences were handed out in breach of Liberia’s own law, generally to companies backed by Malaysian and Chinese investors. The case was first highlighted by Global Witness.
Myanmar’s Ministry of Commerce has revealed that US$ 17 million worth of timber was recently found to have been smuggled from Myanmar to China via illegal routes avoiding official checkpoints along the road to Muse, Myanmar's border town with China. Most of Myanmar’s trade is with China and Thailand and with Chinese import restrictions on some agricultural products from Myanmar, local exporters find it difficult to get health recommendations from China for their exports, creating a growing illegal trade.
A report from the UK- and US-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has said that up to 80% of the hardwood harvested in the Russian far east is logged illegally. The EIA say the demand for this material comes from Chinese sawmills and subsequently their western customers. The material that is of most concern is illegally logged Russian oak. US wood flooring retailer, Lumber Liquidators, was named in the report as being heavily reliant on Chinese suppliers who allegedly mainly sell illegally logged material. The EIA say the US and EU regulations on illegal logging are important pressure points where they now have the ability to intervene – before now, and without this pressure, illegal logging in Siberia has seen rapid expansion. Despite industry incentives from the Russian government, incredible demand from China has led to Chinese sawmills establishing just over the China-Russia border. EIA’s investigations suggest that most of these mills rely on a supply of illegally logged timber.
Four Russians have been charged with smuggling timber valued at $3m per month into neighbouring China. The four are accused of using dozens of different companies and fake documents to smuggle 150 freight cars of lumber every month. Police believe the four are part of a much larger smuggling ring. Trade across the border is driven by huge Chinese demand for raw materials, and illegal trade increased dramatically after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Illegal timber trade from Russia to China in 2011 was valued at $1.3 billion, accounting for around 10 million cubic metres of logs and sawn timber.