SCHWEIZER BOTSCHAFT IN BEIJING
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Der wöchentliche Presserückblick der Schweizer Botschaft in der VR China
The Weekly Press Review of the Swiss Embassy in the People's Republic of China
La revue de presse hebdomadaire de l'Ambassade de Suisse en RP de Chine
  30.1-3.2.06, No. 100  
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Foreign Policy

Chinese, Iranian FMs meet on Iran's nuclear issue
2006-01-31 People's Daily
Visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing met in London Tuesday with his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki on Iran's nuclear issue. Li, who is in London to attend a two-day international conference on Afghanistan, said while Iran's right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy should be respected, the country should also meet its obligations. China holds that the Iranian nuclear issue should be settled within the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and hopes that Iran and the Europe Union will continue to work out a long-term solution through diplomatic negotiations, he said. For his part, Mottaki said it is quite helpful for Iran and China to keep consultations on Iran's nuclear issue. Iran has no intention to seek nuclear weapons, but it has the right to possess nuclear technology, said Mottaki. Nuclear issues are becoming increasingly sensitive, the Iranian foreign minister said, adding that Iran opposes attempts to refer the Iranian issue to the United Nations Security Council. Iran is willing to allay the world's worries over Iran's nuclear activity and figure out a comprehensive solution through negotiations, he noted. Li also held talks with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on Tuesday on issues ranging from Afghanistan, Iran, the Middle East to the UN reform.

China pledges 80 million RMB in aid to Afghanistan in 2006
2006-02-02 Xinhuanet
Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said in London on Tuesday that China will provide 80 million RMB (nearly 10 million US dollars) in aid to Afghanistan in 2006. China will offer long-term assistance and engage in long-term cooperation with Afghanistan in the win-win spirit of mutual benefit and common development, Li said at the international conference on Afghan reconstruction hosted by British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Besides the provision of 80 million RMB, China will also levy zero tariff on most Afghan export products in 2006, said the Chinese minister. China will continue to support the Afghan government's anti-terror efforts and help train more Afghan defense and police officers, Li said. China will furthermore work with the international community and other Afghan neighbors to tackle the booming drug production in Afghanistan, which is said to be the source of nearly 90 percent of the world's opium and heroin, Li said. The top Chinese diplomat said Chinese industries have been encouraged to participate in the reconstruction projects in Afghanistan, and also to make investments in such fields as infrastructure, electricity, mineral resources, and transportation. Li also emphasized that regional cooperation is an effective way for international community and neighboring countries to help Afghanistan move toward a stable and prosperous country. He suggested that building a regional transportation network be a priority in cooperation with Afghanistan. China will make full use of the existing regional cooperative mechanism to promote practical cooperation with Afghanistan in the fields of fighting drugs-trafficking, anti-terrorism and border management, Li added. Envoys from nearly 70 nations and international bodies, including Afghan President Hamid Karzai and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, attended the conference and signed a five-year blueprint for helping the war-shattered Central Asian country along the road to peace and self-sufficiency. The plan, known as the "Afghanistan Compact", sets out specific targets for boosting economic and social development, bolstering security, enhancing governance, strengthening the rule of law and improving human rights conditions.

Report: Japanese government does not regard China as threat
2006-02-01 China Daily
The government indicated Tuesday that it does not regard China as a threat, after Japan's foreign minister voiced concerns about its giant neighbor's rapid military expansion, a news report said. According to a government position paper issued Tuesday, Japan "does not think China has the intention to invade Japan," Kyodo news agency reported. The government submitted the position paper in response to a written question from opposition Social Democratic Party lawmaker Kantoku Teruya, who asked the government to clarify its policy on China. The Cabinet-approved paper says a threat becomes real only if a country's capability to invade another is combined with an intention to do so, Kyodo said. Officials from the Cabinet Office and Foreign Ministry were not available to comment on the position paper late Tuesday. Last month, Foreign Minister Taro Aso warned that China's growing military budget represented a danger that was arousing suspicion among other nations. "It's a neighboring country with nuclear bombs, and its military expenditure has been on the rise for 12 years. It's beginning to pose a considerable threat," Aso told a news conference in Tokyo on December 22. In the position paper, the government called on China to be more "transparent" about its military spending, which has increased for 17 consecutive years, Kyodo said. Japan has long listed China's military expansion as a top security concern in the region but Aso's remarks were unusually blunt and echoed U.S. concerns on the issue. ()

 

Domestic Policy

Central govt orders help to HK tourists
2006-02-02 Xinhuanet
The Chinese central government has ordered immediate help to the Hong Kong tourists injured in Egypt, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said here Tuesday. Kong said the State Council was very much concerned about the bus accident, which killed 14 and injured 30 other tourists from Hong Kong in Egypt, and ordered the Foreign Ministry to take immediate actions and "spare no efforts" to rescue the injured. The bus, carrying the tourists from the Red Sea resort of Hurghada to the southern Nile city of Luxor, was going over speed when it dashed out from the road. Kong said the Foreign Ministry has asked the Chinese embassy and consulate in Egypt to start up an emergency response system, contact relevant Egyptian departments and take immediate actions to rescue the injured and preserve the bodies of the dead. "Key officials of the Chinese embassy and consulate in Egypt are now rushing to the accident spot to direct and coordinate rescue efforts," Kong said. Senior officials of the Foreign Ministry have also called the Egyptian ambassador in China to urge the Egyptian side to offer timely help and properly handle the aftermath, Kong said. After the accident, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region(HKSAR) government immediately contacted the Chinese embassy in Egypt, consulate in Alexandria, the Foreign Ministry and the Office of the Commissioner of the Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong, asking for emergent help. The tourists left Hong Kong on Friday for a 10-day tour in Egypt. The 30 wounded in the crash had already been taken to hospitals in Hurghada, one of Egypt's most popular holiday destinations.

Guidelines set out for punishment of minors
2006-02-03 SCMP
Mainland courts have received clearer guidelines on cases involving minors based on a recent interpretation of related laws by the Supreme People's Court. Placing an emphasis on education over punishment, the mainland's highest court outlined a list of acts that should not be considered a crime when committed by minors. They include consensual intercourse between minors if there are no serious consequences. The guidelines also spelled out the conditions that would spare people under 18 a jail term for acts normally punished by a maximum three-year sentence. The interpretation, relating to crimes involving those who are between 14 and 17, came into effect on January 23, Xinhua reported yesterday. Ong Yew Kim, a research fellow of the Chinese University's Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies who specialises in mainland law, welcomed the guidelines. "They are appropriate because minors do not have high education and intellectual levels. If they break the law, they might have not done it on purpose," he said. Mr Ong added that courts did not have concrete guidelines to follow before this interpretation and often handed down arbitrary rulings. More interpretations might be needed in the future as more specific cases arose, he said. Minors aged 14 and 15 can avoid criminal responsibility for forcibly taking another minor's property if the amount taken is not large and there is only low-level violence involved. Those who are 16 or 17 and have stolen their relatives' property would have not committed a crime if their relatives decide not to have the person arrested, according to the interpretation. It also says teenagers aged 14 and 15 should not be sentenced to life imprisonment unless they have committed very serious offences. Minors can avoid jail terms of three years or less if they fit one of six conditions. The guidelines say these are minors who are blind, deaf or mute; those who turn themselves in or display good behaviour; and those who act in self-defence. Courts should consider other forms of punishments in place of imprisonment, such as apologies, monetary compensation and administrative demerits by supervising departments, Xinhua quoted the top court as saying. When considering financial penalties, the document said the courts should consider minors' financial ability, but the amount should be set at a minimum of 500 yuan.

4,000 PLA officers set for audit by end of 2010
2006-02-01 China Daily
China will audit more than 4,000 military officers during the 11th Five-Year Programme (2006-10) to ensure the efficient use of military expenses, a senior military officer said. Among these officers, more than 100 will be army commanders or above, said Liao Xilong, a member of the Central Military Commission of the Communist Party of China. "We will make it our priority to audit those taking charge of military expenses, officers whom people complain about, those likely to be promoted and those set to retire," said Liao, who is also the director of the General Logistics Department of the People's Liberation Army (PLA). "We will apply the audit results to the evaluation of the military officers." China will strengthen its auditing of projects relating to armaments and military expenditures to improve its management of the army and the anti-corruption and Party building drives, Liao said. Starting from last year, China began to audit all military officers with the rank of lieutenant colonel or higher who are in charge of army finance work, according to a regulation issued by the PLA in 2004. The rule requires senior military officers be audited when they have held a post for two years, are a candidate to leave the post or are being evaluated. The audits will cover annual budgets, accounting work, revenue, expenses, assets and debts. The audit work has succeeded in standardizing and raising the efficiency of military expenditures, the PLA said. During the 10th Five-Year Plan (2001-05) period, the country audited 77,000 military institutions and projects and 7,890 military officers, bringing about direct economic benefits worth 6.8 billion yuan (US$840 million). ()

Firecrackers bring joy, sorrow to Spring Festival
2006-02-01 China Daily
The return of fireworks to traditional Lunar New Year celebrations brought much joy to revelers, but also sorrow to some parts of the nation. In Beijing, where a 12-year ban on fireworks had just been lifted, explosions injured 112 people, said the State Administration of Work Safety, quoted by Wednesday's China Daily. Seventeen people suffered serious eye injuries, and another 26 were admitted to hospital with various types of wounds. According to the Beijing News Daily, the city's environmental protection bureau collected 458 tons of waste fireworks on Jan. 29, the first day of the Lunar New Year. In Chongqing Municipality, southwest China, firefighters rushed to extinguish 191 fires caused by fireworks on the Lunar New Year's Eve. About 3,000 firefighters gave up the chance to spend the holiday with their families to remain on duty. Experts said the lifting of the ban would help preserve traditional Chinese culture. But others said the return of fireworks would lead to more serious pollution, fires, injuries and deaths. On Sunday, an explosion in Linzhou, a city in Henan Province, central China, killed 36 people and injured 48 others. The explosion occurred when firecrackers in a storehouse were accidentally ignited, the State Administration of Work Safety said in a statement. Although there were disagreements, the governments in more than100 Chinese cities lifted the ban on fireworks last year. Beijing also lifted the ban after a survey found that 70 percent of residents felt fireworks made the holiday period more festive. The new rules allow Beijing residents to explore fireworks all day and all night on Jan. 28, and from 7 a.m. to midnight every day from Jan. 29 to Feb. 12. With the aim of ensuring safety, about 3,000 police and community officers have been sent to patrol off-limits areas such as schools, retirement homes and sites of historic relics.

Coal mine blast kills 23 in north China
2006-02-02 China Daily
A gas explosion has killed 23 workers in a state-owned coal mine in northern China and more than 50 miners suffered carbon monoxide poisoning. The powerful blast ripped through the Sihe Coal Mine in Shanxi province at about 7:00 pm (1100 GMT) Wednesday, the Xinhua news agency reported, citing local coal mine authorities. "Twenty-three were killed," Fan Yongming, an official at state-run Jincheng Mining Group, which runs the mine, told AFP. At the time of the blast, nearly 700 miners were working underground, and 53 of them were hospitalized with carbon monoxide poisoning, according to Xinhua, which said one was in serious condition. Eight remained hospitalized Thursday, Xue Junzheng, an official at the mine, told AFP. Search and rescue efforts in the mine were completed by early Thursday morning, Xinhua reported. Coal mining production continues to surge and goes on even as the rest of the nation celebrates the week-long traditional Lunar New Year, with the country reliant on coal for 70 percent of its energy needs. "The miners had had four days off for the Lunar New Year," said Xue. "Wednesday was their first day back at work." He said the coal mine's ventilation system had been operating throughout the holiday period, and that gas density and equipment had been checked before the miners returned with no problems discovered. China's national safety administration reported last month that 5,986 workers died in the nation's coal mines in 2005.

Bankers indicted in US$485m fraud scheme
2006-02-02 China Daily
Washington: A US grand jury indicted two former Bank of China (BOC) managers and their wives on Tuesday concerning a complex scheme that authorities say defrauded the bank of US$485 million, the Justice Department said. The two couples and the fugitive brother of one of the wives were charged with 15 counts of racketeering, money laundering and fraud, the department said in a statement announcing the indictment by a federal grand jury in Las Vegas. Xu Guojun and Xu Chaofan were managers of BOC's Kaiping Branch in Guangdong Province in the 1990s. The bank is one of the country's four biggest lenders. They laundered the stolen money through Hong Kong, Canada, the United States and other countries and regions in a scheme that began in 1991 and ran until 2004, when the couples were arrested, the statement said. The two men created shell corporations in Hong Kong and funnelled the BOC's money into the fake firms and into numerous personal bank and investment accounts. The two bankers then emigrated to the United States from China with their wives, Kuang Wanfang and Yu Yingyi, by obtaining false identities and entering into sham marriages with naturalized US citizens, it said. Kuang and Yu were accused of helping their husbands launder the proceeds, including through Las Vegas casino accounts. They also violated immigration laws by entering the country illegally and then securing US passports through fraudulent means, the Department of Justice said. The indictment alleges that Kuang's brother, who remains a fugitive, helped the couples launder the money. A third former manager of the BOC Kaiping Branch pleaded guilty to playing a role in the scheme and co-operated with investigators, the statement said. He returned voluntarily to China to face prosecution for bribery and bank theft, it added.

 

Taiwan

Chen's scrap hint 'goes against people's will'
2006-02-01 China Daily
Taiwan "president" Chen Shui-bian's latest remark that he might scrap a key policy body on China's reunification "is against the will of the people across the Taiwan Straits," a renowned mainland expert said in Beijing yesterday. "It shows Chen is taking an important move towards implementing the policy he delivered on his New Year's Day speech, which features nothing but active guidelines towards Taiwan 'independence'," said Yu Keli, director of the Institute of Taiwan Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. He said such a move runs against the people's wishes on promoting cross-Straits relations and safeguarding peace and stability. Given the profound change in the political geography on the island since last year, "Chen's attempt to seek Taiwan 'independence' would never win support from the people on the island, nor would he succeed," Yu said. On Sunday, also the first day of the Lunar New Year, Chen told a rally it was time to consider scrapping the island's National Unification Council and its guidelines on reunification. The two other goals he listed include drafting a new constitution and entering the United Nations with the name of Taiwan. Set up in 1991, the council was formerly the island's top policy-making body on crucial questions of reunification. It adopted the council guidelines the same year to pursue reunification with the mainland. By trying to scrap the council and the guidelines, Chen is actually seeking to reverse the trend of history and has violated his earlier "four-nos-plus-one-without" commitments, Yu said. In his 2000 inauguration speech, Chen pledged "he would not declare 'independence,' not change the name of the island, not constitutionalize the description of Taiwan's relationship with the mainland as 'state-to-state,' and not push for a referendum on 'independence'. "The "one without" was Chen's pledge without question not to abolish the National Unification Council or the National Unification Guidelines."The mainland will oppose strongly Chen's move, which tries to reverse historical trend. The international community would not support him because he is creating tension in cross-Straits relations," Yu said. Chen's Lunar New Year speech also drew strong criticism on the island. The chairman of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT), Ma Ying-jeou, said that Chen's credibility would be questioned now that he decided to scrap the council and guidelines. KMT spokesman Chang Yung-kung also said Chen's move signals a start towards Taiwan "independence." In response to Chen's remarks, the United States reiterated on Monday that its policy on Taiwan had not changed. "The United States does not support Taiwan 'independence' and opposes unilateral changes to the status quo by either Taiwan or Beijing," the US State Department said in a statement.

 

Economy

China's oil consumption, imports decrease in 2005
2006-02-03 Xinhuanet
China's oil consumption and dependence on imports decreased last year as a result of the government's energy-saving efforts. The National Development and Reform Commission said recently that China's dependence on oil imports was 42.9 per cent in 2005, 2.2 percentage points lower than in 2004. It also said China consumed 318 million tons of oil last year, 1.08 million tons less than in 2004. "The government's effort at building a resource- and energy-saving society has paid off," a commission spokesman said. Lin Yueqin, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, attributed the decreased oil consumption and imports to soaring prices. "High oil prices forced users to consider saving measures, causing less imported oil." Prices soared to a high of more than US$70 a barrel last year. The State Council Development Research Centre, the highest think tank of the central government, forecast that domestic oil output would reach 184 million tons this year, which means that 44 per cent of China's oil demand will come from importation. Pan Derun, deputy president of China Oil and Chemical Industry Association, said China would try to double its oil supply to meet its goal of quadrupling its economy by 2020. Zhang Guobao, vice-minister of the National Development and Reform Commission, said China satisfies 94 per cent of its energy needs. "Most people are not aware that China is also a big energy exporter," Zhang said. Besides coal, China is also the top coke exporter in the world, supplying 56 per cent of the world's total demand in 2004. Nearly 67 per cent of China's energy need is met by coal. The ratio of oil in its energy consumption structure is about 24 per cent. In addition, statistics indicated that the oil import volume of China, with a population of 1.3 billion, was 117 million tons in 2004. By comparison, that of the United States was 500 million tons, Japan 200 million tons and Europe 500 million tons.

 

North Korea

UN option seen for Pyongyang too
2006-02-03 SCMP
North Korea's reluctance to return to the negotiating table over its nuclear weapons programme has fuelled speculation the United States may seek to refer Pyongyang, like it has Iran, to the UN Security Council. Christopher Hill, the chief US negotiator to the six-party nuclear talks, has indicated that Washington might consider other options if North Korea continued to boycott negotiations. "We want a diplomatic solution to this problem ... we believe it's the best solution, absolutely the best solution (but) it's probably not the only solution," Mr Hill said in Washington on Wednesday. He did not discuss other initiatives, and insisted on North Korea's unconditional return to the Beijing talks. Pyongyang has said it will not return to the talks, which include host China, South Korea, Japan and Russia, unless Washington withdraws financial sanctions it has imposed for alleged counterfeiting and money laundering activities. Some interpret Mr Hill's remarks as a signal to North Korea that it could face the same international pressure as Iran if it refused to honour its pledge to dismantle its nuclear weapons network. World powers including Russia agreed on Wednesday on a draft resolution asking the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency, to report Iran to the Security Council over nuclear work that could be weapons-related. Ralph Cossa, of the US Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said: "If there is a productive result coming out of the security council with Iran, I think that will increase the attractiveness of looking to the security council as a potential solution for North Korea and, at least, it will hopefully remove some of the Korean and Chinese objections to it." Charles Pritchard, a negotiator with North Korea for the Clinton administration, said any such plan would have to be endorsed by South Korea.

 

Julie Kong
Embassy of Switzerland
 

The Press review is a random selection of political and social related news gathered from various media and news services located in the PRC, edited or translated by the Embassy of Switzerland in Beijing and distributed among Swiss Government Offices. The Embassy does not accept responsibility for accuracy of quotes or truthfulness of content. Additionally the contents of the selected news mustn't correspond to the opinion of the Embassy.
 
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