March 2023

India’s Russia links help balance risk from China

Richard Gregson provided an admirably detailed analysis of India’s international trade partnerships. (‘India’s Look-West diplomacy gets a boost’, Feb. 2023). He noted that Russia and India are committed to increasing bilateral trade by $5 billion annually over the coming four years. India is also working on a free trade agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union, whose members include Belarus and Russia. This helps to explain why India has refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Another motivation is to mitigate the risk of allowing Russia to become the junior partner in an alliance with China. For India, it is China, not Russia, which presents the most significant threat to national security, as the countries share a long and disputed border.

In fact, the US may regard India’s continued ties with Putin as useful, although officials may not choose to express such an opinion in public. However, if Modi can prevent Putin from falling too deeply into Xi’s embrace, that would be a win for Washington.


Nasir Ghosh

New Delhi

Laos longs to welcome back its Chinese friends

Yuwen Wu wrote movingly of the plight facing her family in China during the era of Covid. (‘Challenging start for China’, Feb. 2023). She explained that when she saw a picture of her relatives, she did not see the usual hearty smiles or animated conversations. Instead, she noticed the ‘struggles they have been through, the take-one-day-at-a-time resignation, and the glad-we-are-here stoicism’.

One hopes that the spirits of the Chinese – who have bravely endured long lockdowns – will be lifted by vacations. The end of China’s pandemic-era travel restrictions provide an opportunity for Asia’s beleaguered hospitality industry to show its potential. In 2019, Chinese travellers made 155 million trips overseas, spending $277 billion – one fifth of the global total outlay by international tourists.

However, here in Laos, on China’s southwestern frontier, the uptick in arrivals from China has so far been slow. Tourist numbers remain way below pre-pandemic levels. Yet the China-Laos Railway, which runs from Kunming, capital of southwest China’s Yunnan province, to Vientiane is now operational.

Chinese tourists say that they find the country charming and appreciate the culture. Laos has been recommended as one of the world’s top travel destinations for 2023 by international media organizations, including CNN. The government is also working with the industry to improve the standard of hotel services in Laos, as well as partnering with the private sector to develop tourist attractions. We would of course be pleased to see more Chinese tourists, and indeed we would welcome visitors from all over the world to Laos.


Derek McCoughlan

Vientiane, Laos


British govt must stand up for jailed HK newspaper founder Jimmy Lai

We, the undersigned, representing the people of Hong Kong who have settled in the UK and elsewhere, have written to the British Prime Minister following the sentencing of British citizen Jimmy Lai to five years and nine months in prison, on trumped up charges, for ‘violating’ a lease contract for the headquarters of his newspaper, Apple Daily. This is just part of the Chinese Communist Party’s acts of ‘lawfare’ against the Apple Daily and Next Digital founder.

In addition to this sentence, Mr Lai faces further charges under Hong Kong’s National Security Law, carrying a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and sedition charges for his peaceful pro-democracy activities.

We call on the UK government to impose political and economic consequences for China’s failure to respect Hong Kong’s freedoms which were enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration. As a signatory to this international legal treaty, we expect the UK to defend it.

We ask that the UK immediately sanction Hong Kong’s Chief Executive John Lee and all those involved in the execution and implementation of the National Security Law, including members of the committee for safeguarding national security, members of Beijing liaison office in Hong Kong, and the Executive Council. They should not have the privilege of visiting the UK or  investing their money while denying Hong Kongers basic freedoms.


Mark Clifford, President, Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation

Benedict Rogers, Chief Executive, Hong Kong Watch

Finn Lau, Founder, Hong Kong Liberty

Simon Cheng, Founder, Hong Kongers in Britain

Daniel Tsz Kin Kwok, Co-Founder, Scottish Hong Kongers