SCHWEIZER BOTSCHAFT IN BEIJING
EMBASSY OF SWITZERLAND IN BEIJING
AMBASSADE DE SUISSE EN CHINE

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
  20.2-24.2.06, No. 103  
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Foreign Policy

Pakistan mulls building trade, energy corridor for China
2006-02-22 Xinhuanet
Pakistan wants to act as a transit facility giving China access to Central Asian markets and energy sources, said visiting President Pervez Musharraf. "We are interested in setting up a trade and energy corridor for China," he told China Daily in an exclusive interview. He was referring to Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea coast in the Pakistani province of Balochistan through which crude oil imports from Iran and Africa can be transported to Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region by land. Musharraf said the route on which a feasibility study is being conducted is a shortcut compared with the one via the Straits of Malacca. The port is strategically located as it is quite near the Strait of Hormuz, through which 40 per cent of the world's oil passes, he noted. China contributed about US$200 million for the construction of the port's first phase, which was completed last April when Premier Wen Jiabao visited Pakistan. It is reported that China will also finance the second phase, which will have nine more berths, an approach channel and storage terminals. Musharraf said he is looking forward to the result of the feasibility study on transporting crude oil via mountainous regions in Pakistan; and suggested that building a railway was an option. "We should look at the issue with strategic vision," he said. Although the proposed pipeline is not a project that can be launched soon, it could work well in the long run, said Sun Shihai, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "It will help maintain peace and stability in the region when the commercial interests of China, Pakistan and a third country are involved," he said. Musharraf, who arrived in Beijing on Sunday for a five-day visit, is also seeking Chinese help in developing nuclear energy. China helped its traditional friend set up the Chashma Nuclear Power Plant Phase I; and building on the 300-megawatt Phase II started recently. Pakistan, whose nuclear-power capacity is 437 megawatts, plans to increase the figure to 8,500 megawatts by 2030. On bilateral relations, Musharraf said his latest visit to China has brought him closer to the Chinese leadership. Talks with his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao were extended by half an hour on Monday, following which 13 bilateral agreements were signed on military, trade and agricultural co-operation. Apart from Hu, Musharraf also held talks with top legislator Wu Bangguo and Premier Wen Jiabao. During his tour to Southwest China's Sichuan Province, Musharraf will visit some national defence industries apart from seeing giant pandas. The two countries are jointly building JF-17 Thunder fighter jets. On the launch of his Chinese-language biography in Beijing on Monday, Musharraf said he felt "greatly honoured and flattered to have a Chinese author write about my life."

China: Putin likely to visit in March
2006-02-21 China Daily
Russia's President Vladimir Putin will likely visit China in March for talks with top leaders on bilateral and international issues, Beijing said Tuesday. During the visit, Putin will help open a cultural festival dubbed "Russian State Year in China," and hold talks with Chinese leaders on "bilateral relations, as well as the views and opinions of the two countries on international issues," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao. The visit will be early in the year, likely in March, said Liu at a regular media briefing. Putin and his Chinese counterparts "will also discuss how to maintain world peace and promote world development," he said. Putin has been expected to visit China twice this year _ first to unveil the festival, then in June for an international summit. After decades of rivalry, Moscow and Beijing have developed what they call a strategic partnership since the 1991 Soviet collapse, pledging their adherence to a "multipolar world." In July last year, Putin and China's President Hu Jintao signed a declaration warning other nations against attempts to dominate global affairs and interfere in sovereign nations' domestic matters _ a veiled expression of their irritation with U.S. policy and domination of global affairs. The declaration was followed by a newly assertive stance that Moscow and Beijing took on regional security issues. In August, the two countries held their first-ever joint military maneuvers involving heavy bombers, navy ships and other weaponry. China has purchased billions of dollars (euros) worth of fighters, missiles, submarines and destroyers after the Soviet collapse, becoming the top customer for struggling Russian defense industries. Beijing is also eager to tap into Russian oil and gas to fuel its booming economy, and has lobbied hard for priority access over Japan to an oil pipeline carrying Siberian crude to Asian markets. The Russian Cabinet last year endorsed the Japanese-backed route to the Pacific coast, but then decided the destination for its first stage would be near the Chinese border. Putin has said the two countries' annual trade volume is expected to double by 2010 to US$60 billion.

Kazakh Foreign Minister to visit China
2006-02-22 Xinhuanet
Kasymzhomart Tokayev, minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan, will pay an official visit to China from Feb. 26 to March 1 at the invitation of Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said at a press conference on Tuesday that Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan will meet with Tokayev respectively and the two foreign ministers will hold talks. He said the two sides will exchange views on the development of bilateral relations, and the strengthening of cooperation between members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will be an important topic as the SCO summit is to be held in Shanghai this year. "The Chinese side attaches great importance to Tokayev's forthcoming visit and hopes it will further promote bilateral friendship and cooperation." said the spokesman. He said Kazakhstan is one of China's very important neighbors and the two countries enjoy sound cooperation in various fields such as politics, economy, trade, anti-terrorism, and fighting against "three forces", namely, separatism, extremism and terrorism. The two countries have also enjoyed good relations within the framework of the SCO, said Liu, and have strengthened links in the economic and trade fields.

China-Japan relations fail to improve despite politicians' visits
2006-02-24 People's Daily
The strained relations between China and its neighbor Japan due mainly to the Yasukuni Shrine row see little sign of improvement despite a wave of recent visits by Japanese politicians. Japanese Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Toshihiro Nikai, a heavyweight in the Japanese cabinet, ended his China visit on Thursday, seeking to ease the current situation by maintaining prosperous trade ties. Yet Chinese Commerce Minister Bo Xilai underlined the Yasukuni Shrine issue, which he said was closely linked with trade cooperation. "The bilateral political relations will certainly affect economic ones, which have already seen a slower growth in 2005," said Bo in a meeting with Nikai. "The crux of the strained political relations lies in the Japanese leaders' repeated visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, which has severely hurt the feelings of the Chinese people," Bo said. The shrine honors over two million Japanese war dead including 14 top war criminals responsible for Japan's aggression against its Asian neighbors in World War II. During Nikai's stay in Beijing, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao held a meeting with him, the highest-level dialogue between the two sides in the past two years. Chinese State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan also met with him. The Chinese and Japanese ruling parties also launched their first ever meeting under the China-Japan Ruling Parties Exchange Mechanism in Beijing from Tuesday to Wednesday, aimed at repairing the soured ties. The Mechanism was adopted in 2004 by the Communist Party of China (CPC) and Japan's ruling coalition, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Komei Party. The LDP's No. 3 leader Hidenao Nakagawa headed the eight-member delegation of the Japanese ruling coalition for the meeting. The participants from the Japanese ruling coalition expressed anxiety over the current situation. They pledged to continue communication with the CPC to explore practical and concrete measures of breaking the deadlock. "The recent China-Japan exchanges indicate that the Japanese side intends to mend ties and wants to keep the communication channel open so as to prevent relations from further deteriorating," said Yao Wenli, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "On the one hand, Japan realizes that the Japan-China relations should not proceed in their current state; on the other hand, some Japanese choose not to give up their incorrect view of history," said Liu Jiangyong, a professor with elite Qinghua University. Just ahead of Nikai's scheduled meeting later on Wednesday with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Wednesday rejected the latest call from China to stop visiting the Yasukuni Shrine, Kyodo News reported. "Yasukuni won't be a diplomatic card," Koizumi was quoted as telling reporters at his official residence. Because the Japanese leaders insist on paying homage to the war shrine, the recent visits by the Japanese politicians "could hardly play a decisive role in improving China-Japan relations," Liu said. Koizumi's shrine visit not only angers China, but also causes disagreement among Japanese politicians who call for a halt to the visits and the improvement of Japan-China relations. Yoshihisa Inoue, policy chief of the Komei Party, said his party has always opposed the visits because they are an important factor which damages mutual trust between Japan and China. At present, strong voices can be heard in Japan for the improvement of China-Japan relations, but the Japanese leaders need to resolve key issues that stand in the way of the development of bilateral relations, according to analysts. The Chinese side has no room for concessions or compromise on the historical issue, said Wang Yingfan, vice president of the Foreign Affairs Committee under China's legislature National People's Congress.

Chinese, German FMs hold talks on bilateral relations
2006-02-22 Xinhuanet
Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing held talks with visiting German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Beijing on Wednesday. Li said China and Germany have a good political relationship and bilateral cooperation in fields such as culture, education andscience and technology is fruitful. The Chinese side is satisfied with the close consultations and cooperation between the two foreign ministries, he said. China attaches great importance to the relationship with Germany and is willing to further develop the Sino-German strategic partnership to deepen economic ties, said Li. Li expressed his hope that both sides will keep conducting high-level visits, saying China welcomes German Chancellor Angela Merkel to China early this year. Steinmeier said Germany takes an active attitude towards the establishment of strategic dialogue between the two countries. He also praised the active role China has played in international and regional affairs. Steinmeier stressed that the new German government will continue to stick to the one-China policy which Germany has always followed. Both sides also exchanged views on international issues such as the Iran nuclear issue, the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue and the reform of the United Nations. Steinmeier arrived here on Wednesday for a two-day official visit to China.

China to host Davos-style annual meets
2006-02-21 People's Daily
The annual summits of the World Economic Forum (WEF) have long been synonymous with Davos. But from next year, the glamorous Swiss ski resort will have to share the spotlight with a Chinese city when the WEF's summer summit series start. Zhang Xiaoqiang, vice-minister of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and a key member of the Chinese delegation to the 2006 Davos meeting in January, disclosed this to China Daily in an exclusive interview. According to the agreement signed with Dr Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of WEF, China will host the Global Industry Summit annually but it was not announced which city would be given the honour. Zhang also said that the government had approved the WEF's plan to set up a representative office in Beijing, the first of its kind globally, by June this year. The Beijing office will liaise with "emerging global companies," to pave way for the "Summer Davos" and the Chinese Government shares with the WEF the determination "to make the summer summit an annual gathering as famous as its annual Davos summit," Zhang said. Incorporated in 1971 as a foundation in Geneva, Switzerland, the WEF is an independent organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging leaders in partnerships to shape global, regional and industry agendas. The China summits, however, will have targets different from the Davos gathering, Zhang explained. In addition to politicians, high-profile think-tanks and non-governmental organizations, Davos is a meeting place for the world's top 1,000 multinationals each with no less than US$4 billion in annual sales. The summer summit in China will be a destination for emerging global companies, or those with annual sales ranging between US$250 million and US$4 billion, and no less than 15 per cent year-on-year growth. Zhang said the WEF aims to attract up to 1,000 such global companies in five years and help them grow into the world's next-generation business leaders. The opening of the WEF office in Beijing is significant because "the time is ripe" for both China and the rest of the world. "China is yearning for a greater global presence as the rest of the world eagerly looks east, to China, to India, and to all of Asia." The representative office will benefit co-operation between China and the WEF, and between Chinese and international companies, he said. When signing the agreement, Schwab said WEF had chosen China for its Global Industry Summit because it believed "China is well positioned to serve as a global hub for working with the next generation of corporate champions." The WEF first engaged with China 26 years ago, and now, he said, the opening of its office in China would underline its commitment to the country and reinforce its effort to work with the companies that would shape the 21st century. He said he expects the Global Industry Summit to be a "flagship event" and a "primary community-building activity" for the global growth companies. It would help bring along WEF's existing resources to Asia, "to emphasize the needs and aspirations of companies that are operating globally, developing recognized global brands and managing extremely rapid expansion." The WEF's plan, according to Zhang, is that about one quarter of the global growth company community membership will comprise international companies based in China; another quarter, the rest of Asia; and the remaining distributed around the world. By facilitating Chinese companies expand their global reach, the WEF programme also coincides with China's national development blueprint, he added. The Chinese Ministry of Commerce announced last year that the country is to nurture 50 enterprises reach the top 500 in the world by 2015. At the moment, there are only about 20 companies among the world's top 500.

Beijing seeks co-op with London in holding Olympics
2006-02-22 Xinhuanet
Beijing hopes to enhance exchanges and cooperation with Britain, London in particular, in holding the Olympic Games and other fields, Liu Qi, president of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2008 Olympic Games, said here Wednesday. Liu made the remarks in his meeting with visiting British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, who started his eight-day China tour Sunday at the invitation of the Chinese government. London's winning of the bid for the 2012 Olympic Games offers new opportunities for the two cities to cement bilateral exchanges and cooperation, said Liu, who is also secretary of the Beijing Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC). "Having successfully held the Olympic Games twice, London has rich experience in this field." Liu said, adding Beijing is ready to enhance cooperation with London in holding the Olympic Games. He said Beijing's preparation for the 2008 Olympic Games is well under way. The stadiums and gymnasiums for the Olympic Games are expected to be completed by 2007. Liu told Prescott Beijing launched the Olympic slogan "One World, One Dream" and mascots named the Friendlies last year. Prescott expressed appreciation for Beijing's urban development and its preparation for the 2008 Olympic Games. He said Britain iswilling to share experience with Beijing and enhance cooperation with China in other fields. Besides Beijing, Prescott will visit Ningbo, a booming city in east China's Zhejiang Province, Shanghai, China's largest metropolis, and Chengdu, capital of southwest China's Sichuan Province.

Rights woes may stain Games: John Kamm
2006-02-22 SCMP
China's human rights record could undermine its foreign policy goals and its hosting of the 2008 Olympics, a rights monitor warned. John Kamm, executive director of the US-based Dui Hua Foundation, yesterday said international polls indicated the country's image had suffered last year. "What has gone wrong? The answer, I'm afraid, is simple and obvious. Over the past 12 months, there has been a steady drumbeat of negative stories about human rights in China," Mr Kamm said yesterday. "China's deteriorating international image is impacting the country's ability to achieve its foreign policy goals, and could well affect its ability to stage a successful Olympics in 2008." He said the goals at risk included China's hope of lifting the European Union arms embargo and avoiding US trade sanctions. He also said the US State Department would release a damning report - "the worst in years" - on human rights in China in about two weeks. Unless the central government reversed the perception, journalists going to Beijing would be reporting the problems. "It's a nightmare for the government," he said. The mainland has tightened its grip on the media ahead of President Hu Jintao's upcoming visit to the US in April, which has raised hopes political prisoners will be released as a goodwill gesture. The most recent incident covered by the international media was the shutdown of the China Youth Daily's outspoken Bingdian Weekly supplement on January 24 over a commentary questioning the official interpretation of the Boxer Rebellion. The Publicity Department said the commentary "reversed the crimes of imperialist countries invading China". Former senior officials and intellectuals petitioned to resurrect the supplement, and it will resume publication on March 1, but without its two senior editors, who have been sacked. To restore China's international image, Mr Kamm called on President Hu to demand the resignation of party and state leaders in charge of propaganda work, especially overseas propaganda assignments, because they had "presided over the biggest drop in China's international image since the Tiananmen [Square crackdown]". He also urged Mr Hu to release Hong Kong journalist Ching Cheong of Singapore's The Straits Times and researcher Zhao Yan of The New York Times, and halt the persecution of journalists. "If you want to restore China's international image to what it was 12 months ago, treating journalists better is a good place to start," he said. He also urged China to resume granting sentence reductions and early releases of political prisoners, a process he said had been frozen for the past year. Mr Kamm was in Beijing last week and in Guangzhou on Monday, observing a court hearing in each city. He was the first foreign human rights monitor allowed to do so.

 

Domestic Policy

China to expand use of nuclear power
2006-02-21 China Daily
China's reliance on nuclear energy is bound to grow, with new atomic power plants likely even in inland areas, industry experts said Tuesday, stressing Beijing's keenness to develop competitive technologies of its own. China has announced plans to add 40 new nuclear generators by 2020, raising the share of electricity generated by atomic power to 6 percent of the total from the current 2 percent. The aim is to reduce reliance on heavily polluting coal, which is used to generate two-thirds of China's electricity. Most of the nuclear facilities planned so far are expansions of existing facilities or new projects in eastern and southern coastal areas, where coal is relatively expensive. But northern and inland provinces are also eager to develop nuclear power, Shen Wenquan, deputy chief of the science and technology committee of China National Nuclear Power Corp., told a conference in Shanghai. "Nuclear power development is a must for China, especially in coastal areas," Shen said. "In the hinterland, Sichuan has also proposed a project and we have rendered our full support to that," he added. "I think there will be a necessary transition of plants from the coasts to the inland areas of China." Possible projects have been announced for Fujian, in the southeast, and Shandong, to the north of Shanghai. In the northeastern province of Liaoning, planners expect to build up to six nuclear generators, Shen said. Work on an extension of the Qinshan nuclear power plant, near Shanghai, is due to begin next month, while construction of a new project at its Ling'ao nuclear plant, in southern China's Guangdong province, is scheduled to start by the end of this year, he said. ()

28,000 without water after spill
2006-02-21 SCMP
Toxic waste water was flushed untreated into a river in Sichuan last week, prompting the government to cut water supplies to 28,000 people for at least four days. The China Daily said a power plant on the upper reaches of the Yuexi River in Sichuan was to blame for the pollution, which prompted environmental officials to suspend water supplies to the town of Guanyin. A town leader said 28,000 people had been without water since last Tuesday night. He blamed the pollution on the power plant in nearby Xinqiao county, which had discharged untreated waste water directly into the Yuexi. Fire engines were being used to bring clean water to residents but supplies were short, he said. There were no reports of people sickened by the pollution, he added. A spokesman for the Xinqiao power plant said poor quality coal might have been partly to blame for the pollution and that an investigation was under way. The plant had temporarily shut down, he said. An employee with a local water supply company noticed the river had turned yellow last Tuesday, the China Daily said. Tests showed it was polluted with high levels of fluoride, nitrogen and phenol. The incident follows a spate of spills in recent months, the most serious being an explosion at a chemical plant in Jilin province in November that dumped chemicals into the Songhua River, the source of drinking water for tens of millions living in northeastern China and Russia. Local authorities were criticised for reacting too slowly to the explosion and delaying disclosure to the public. Under new regulations enacted earlier this month, serious accidents must be reported directly to the State Environmental Protection Administration or the State Council within an hour.

Funding for health care dire, says minister
2006-02-20 SCMP
Lack of funding for public health care is behind the country's beleaguered medical system, the health minister says. Gao Qiang said the health system was failing due to the accumulation of chronic problems and it would not be possible to solve them in one stroke, the China Youth Daily reported yesterday. He told a public lecture organised by the China Hospitals' Association on Saturday that government funding of the health sector had dropped from 6 per cent of total expenditure in the 1980s and 1990s to 4 per cent in 2002. Of this year's budget of more than 3 trillion yuan, only 120 billion yuan was earmarked for health care. "This percentage is not only much lower than in developed countries, it's lower than a lot of developing countries," Mr Gao was quoted as saying. The sector has been under constant criticism over soaring costs and inaccessibility, which along with education was a main public grievance. Critics say the lack of funding has forced hospitals and medical institutes to come up with other ways to cover their expenses. The cost of medicines can be marked up as much as 10 times the wholesale price. The result, Mr Gao said, was people were forced to fork out more for health care. "We shouldn't marketise everything, and shouldn't [ask the public] to pay for themselves," he said. Another concern was the skewed funding between cities and rural areas, he said. Only 20 per cent of health-care resources were allocated to rural areas, while the most advanced technology and equipment, and human resources went to large hospitals in big cities. "Outpatient clinics at large hospitals in big cities are therefore flooded by a sea [of patients], because people who fail to receive proper treatment or don't trust their local medical institutes have been running to these major hospitals," he said. During last year's meetings of the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, Mr Gao - then vice-minister - pledged to increase supervision of medical institutions and reform the drug pricing system to improve access to health services for the poor. In his annual work reported submitted to last year's NPC session, Premier Wen Jiabao also mentioned the need to solve the health sector problems, but little improvement has been seen in the past year. A joint study by the World Health Organisation and the Development Research Centre last year ranked China the fourth-worst in equitable distribution of medical resources. ()

Cancer diagnosis may force leader off Politburo
2006-02-22 SCMP
Executive Vice-Premier Huang Ju, the sixth-highest-ranking Chinese leader, is expected soon to quit politics after being diagnosed with cancer, sources said. Mr Huang, 68, has remained absent from important public functions since late last month, triggering intense speculation about his health. Sources said he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer during a routine medical check-up before the Lunar New Year and has been in hospital since. Although not immediately life-threatening, his medical condition is believed to be serious, making it almost impossible for him to resume his hectic work schedule in the near future. His illness could add uncertainty to the party congress in autumn next year, at which President Hu Jintao is expected to reshuffle the leadership and promote his supporters to the highest echelons of power when current standing committee members retire. Mr Huang's admission to hospital means that supporters of former president Jiang Zemin could lose a powerful voice in the intense jockeying ahead of the congress. Mr Huang, who was the party secretary of Shanghai from 1995 to 2002, has long been considered as one of the political leaders closest to Mr Jiang and as his strongest ally on the Standing Committee of the Politburo - the country's highest decision-making body. The disease, though very common, is very difficult to detect and also extremely difficult to treat - meaning Mr Huang is very likely to be forced out of politics. It remains unclear whether Mr Huang, who ranks sixth on the nine-member standing committee, will be replaced. According to the party constitution, election of a standing committee member would have to be decided by a full plenary session of the party's Central Committee. As the executive vice-premier, Mr Huang is in charge of financial and economic policymaking. In the near future, his portfolio is expected to be shared among the other three vice-premiers, Wu Yi, Zeng Peiyan and Hui Liangyu . Analysts said Mr Huang's admission to hospital was unlikely to have any immediate impact on the direction and thrust of China's economic development because the standing committee's major decisions were reached through consensus.

Police warned against prisoner abuse
2006-02-20 Xinhuanet
In an effort to ban abuse of prisoners, China's justice authority is warning police and prison guards that they can be fired for torturing inmates or taking bribes. New regulations governing police conduct issued by the Ministry of Justice, focus on inmate torture, irregular use of weapons and police vans, accepting bribes from inmates or their families, on-duty drinking, and gambling. Fan Fangping, Vice Justice Minister, said the regulations are aimed at improving law enforcement and raising the standards of Chinese police and prison guards. Fan said that while the overall performance of police and guards is good, there are some cops who "feel superior to inmates and act rudely". He said the regulations have been distributed to all of the country's prisons and hopes they will be observed by all law enforcement personnel. "Anyone who violates the ban on abuse will be disciplined," Fansaid, adding that sever violations will lead to firing and warns that superiors who cover up abuses will also face discipline. China has two laws to regulate police behavior -- the Prison Law, enacted in 1994, and the Law on People's Police, enacted in 1995. They prohibit abuse of inmates and extorting a confession through torture.

Hunger strikers `disappear' in Shanghai
2006-02-20 SCMP
In the past couple of days, several petitioners against land grabs and other injustices from Shanghai who announced their intention to take part in a hunger strike had disappeared or been detained, said lawyer Gao Zhisheng and a human rights group. At least 450 ordinary people and rights activists in 15 provinces had joined the rolling 24-hour hunger strike, Mr Gao said. The campaign started after prominent activist Yang Maodong was beaten early this month by thugs outside a police station in Guangdong as police looked on.

Villagers attacked in row over coal mine
2006-02-23 SCMP
More than 100 armed thugs attacked about a dozen residents of the Anhui village of Luji on Monday during a dispute with a coal mine over land. The violence started when some assailants stormed a house where villager Li Shumao, 76, was watching television and beat him up, according to photobase.cn, a Shanghai-based website. It said Mr Li was had been monitoring activity on Dalao mountain and working to prevent the Jianshan Coal Mine Co from using village land to gain access to the coal-rich site. More than 10 villagers went to Mr Li's aid but were beaten up by stick-wielding attackers. Seventeen people were sent to the Chaohu No 2 Hospital for treatment. An official from the Miaogang town government, which oversees the village, confirmed that the attacks had taken place but refused to disclose any further information, saying only that "the related government department is looking into the matter". The website quoted village official Lu Yinsheng as saying that a branch of the Jianshan company had signed a contract with the neighbouring village of Dali to extract coal from the mountain. The company agreed to pay the Dali villagers 90,000 to 120,000 yuan per hectare mined within the village's territory, but failed to come to an agreement with Luji over its part of the mountain, the report said. Luji villagers were asking 3 million yuan for the rights to mine their land. The website said the company started building roads through Luji last month without the village's approval, prompting residents to stop construction vehicles and bring the project to a halt. It also quoted a Chaohu Land and Resources Bureau official as saying the Jianshan company had acquired a mining licence, but that it was not clear whether the company was exploiting areas beyond the permitted limits.

Mao portrait attacker held over subversion
2006-02-24 SCMP
A former Tiananmen dissident previously jailed for defacing the portrait of Mao Zedong on Tiananmen Gate has been detained on suspicion of subversion after joining a hunger strike. Police took former high school teacher Yu Zhijian, 43, from his home in Liuyang, Hunan province , on Saturday night after he started a hunger strike in support of dissident lawyer Gao Zhisheng's call for an end to persecution of activists, sources said. State security police delivered a formal detention notice to his family on Monday, saying he had been "detained on suspicion of incitement to subvert state power". "He was taken away from home before he finished his one-day hunger strike," said a source. "State security police said he had been doing politically incorrect things in the past year." Yu Zhijian's childhood friend and co-accused Yu Dongyue 39, was released on Wednesday after 16 years in jail. The two Yus, who are not blood related, and another co-accused, Lu Decheng , 43, threw paint-filled eggs at the Tiananmen Square portrait of Mao on May 23, 1989. Yu Zhijian was sentenced to life in prison but released in 2000, while Yu Dongyue, who was reportedly tortured and suffered a mental breakdown in prison, was given 20 years. Mr Lu was given 16 years and was released in early 1998. In the days before Yu Zhijian's protest on Saturday - which nine other Hunan residents also took part in - he posted two articles on the internet. One explained why he joined the hunger strike campaign and the other called for the release of Yang Tianshui , a freelance writer arrested for "incitement to subvert state power". Mr Lu, who is being held in Bangkok pending the outcome of an application for political asylum after fleeing China in late 2004, said the Chinese authorities were "foolish" to detain Yu Zhijian. "It was unfortunate that now Yu Dongyue is out, Yu Zhijian has been detained. It is not a very sensible move on the part of the Chinese Communist Party because all overseas attention will be on Yu Zhijian," he said yesterday.

Trial looms for New York Times researcher
2006-02-23 SCMP
A Chinese researcher for The New York Times who is facing the death penalty on charges of leaking state secrets and fraud will likely go on trial within a month, his lawyer said yesterday. Lawyer Mo Shaoping said a verdict on Zhao Yan was likely be delivered before March 20. "For state secret charges, the maximum penalty is the death sentence ... the minimum is 10 years," he said. "I hope there will be a fair judgment." Mr Mo said the trial had been delayed by one month after he made an application to the court to re-examine police evidence and summon witnesses, including The New York Times' bureau chief in Beijing. Zhao was detained on September 17, 2004; days after the Times reported former president Jiang Zemin would resign from his top military post at a secretive meeting of the Communist Party. Mr Mo and two colleagues said 200 to 500 Chinese lawyers had been jailed over the past decade under a controversial law that has intimidated many others into giving up sensitive cases.

Beijing warns of bird flu outbreaks this spring
2006-02-22 SCMP
Beijing has warned of fresh outbreaks of bird flu this spring and has banned imports of pet and wild birds from 10 countries recently hit by the disease, media reports said. Authorities have reported more than 30 outbreaks of the H5N1 strain of bird flu in both poultry and wild birds in a dozen provinces in the past year, along with 11 human cases in recent months, eight of whom have died. "There is still the possibility of bird flu epidemics across a large area this spring," Minister of Agriculture Du Qinglin was yesterday quoted by the China Youth Daily as telling a conference. Mr Du said significant factors were the increased movement of migratory birds after the winter and more shipping of poultry as the new breeding season started. "The protection given to inoculated birds last autumn is waning and vaccination work for family-raised poultry in remote rural areas is difficult," Mr Du said. "The situation is still very grave." Some scientists published a paper in 2004 saying the H5N1 virus had been circulating in China since 2001, with winter the peak season. Bird flu is endemic among China's estimated 14 billion poultry, many of which are raised in family backyards close to people. China's top quarantine office issued an urgent notice on Monday to ban the import of pet birds, wild birds and their products from 10 countries that have reported outbreaks recently, including Germany, France, Italy, Egypt and Kuwait. Poultry and poultry products from these countries could only clear customs after tests, and officials would screen people from the same countries for fever symptoms, the China Youth Daily said.

 

Taiwan

KMT chairman's U.S. visit set on March 19
2006-02-24 People's Daily
Ma Ying-jeou, chairman of the Taiwan-based Kuomintang (KMT) party, is scheduled to pay a visit to the United States on March 19-27. It is said his tour will cover Los Angeles, Washington D.C., New York and Boston. As commented by Taiwan media, the visit will be of "great political significance" as it will be Ma's first visit since his election as KMT chairman. According to Taiwan media, Ma will visit Hoover Institution in Stanford University, which is working on the archives of KMT's party history and diaries of Chiang Kai-shek and Chiang Ching-kuo. However, possibility is not ruled out for Ma to "come cross" U.S. officials in Washington D.C. and to visit U.S. think tank. Ma will also give a speech at his Alma Mater Harvard University. Since Ma has announced that KMT arms proposal will be officially issued at the turn of the month, till then KMT will have a clear-cut attitude towards Taiwan's arms purchase and its relations with the United States will "relatively relax", hence Ma's schedule set in mid-March. Reports say considering the timetable of Chen Shui-bian's attempt to abolish Taiwan's "National Unification Council" and "National Unification Guideline", Ma's visit to the United States might coincide with Chen's announcement of the move, therefore the KMT chairman's upcoming visit will surely arouse intense attention.

Taiwan leader's pro-independence remarks selfish
2006-02-20 Xinhuanet
The Taiwan leader's latest call for abolishing Taiwan's decades-old Unification Council and its unification guidelines is a selfish move designed to only benefit his party and himself, said Xu Shiquan, vice president of the National Society on Taiwan Studies on Monday. The Taiwan leader's motive is to create confrontation between the two sides of the Taiwan Straits in the hope of staying in power, said Xu. Trying to damage cross-strait relations, peace and stability is not in the best interest of Taiwan, said the well-known expert on Taiwan issues, in an exclusive interview with Xinhua. Xu said, the general public opinion in Taiwan favors ending fierce political struggles and approves of more harmonious and stable cross-strait ties. People want to develop their local economies through joint efforts. The policies and deeds of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) have opposed this progress eversince it took power, said Xu, adding this is why the DPP lost local elections last year. The Taiwan leader has put forward radical pro-independence proposals, such as abolishing long-established unification policies and attempting to join the United Nations under the name of Taiwan, as a tactic to woo pro-independence fundamentalists in Taiwan, said the mainland scholar. In the interview, Xu recalled the efforts made by the two sides since the mainland's National People's Congress issued its open letter to Taiwan compatriots in 1979. This was followed by the mainland's offer to resolve the issue under policies of "peaceful reunification" and "One country, two systems". At that time the positive responses by Taiwan authorities to these mainland initiatives included establishment of Taiwan's Unification Council and the Straits Exchange Foundation. Xu believes the Taiwan leader's continued radical pro-independence remarks will ruin his credibility.

 

Tibet

Dalai Lama's envoys wind up meeting in Beijing
2006-02-23 SCMP
Envoys of the Dalai Lama headed home yesterday after closed-door talks in Beijing that they hope will lead to more autonomy for Tibet. "They will arrive in Dharamsala today," said Thubten Samphel, spokesman for the government-in-exile located in the Indian hill station. He declined to comment on the progress or content of the talks. The week-long talks were the fifth time that Beijing and Tibetan representatives have met since dialogue between the two restarted in 2002.

 

Economy

Iron ore price negotiations still in lockup
2006-02-24 People's Daily
China still insisted on stability of iron ore prices in 2006, after the latest round of exclusive talks on a long-term contract failed to yield any progress. China largest steel maker Shanghai Baosteel Group Corp failed recently to reach an agreement in 2006 iron ore prices with major overseas miners, such as Australia's BHP Billiton Ltd, Rio Tinto Group and Brazil's Companhia Vale do Rio Doce, according to an unnamed source close to the subject. The negotiation broke down due to the two sides insisting on vast differences in prices. "Miners insisted on raising prices further while we insisted on cutting (prices) ... We didn't get any chance to (go over) detailed figures because both parties are expecting opposite price directions," a Baosteel official said. The Chinese side said since domestic steel manufacturers are in oversupply and overseas suppliers are so diversified, a price increase for iron ore is not justified. This year, Baosteel is the only representative of Chinese enterprises in talks with miners. The prices Baosteel agrees upon will be accepted by all domestic mills and iron ore traders. The China Iron & Steel Industry Association said all the other steel makers and iron ore trading companies have been banned from holding individual iron ore price negotiations for 2006 term contracts with international miners. It said Chinese mills and trading firms must follow related regulations, without talking with the three iron ore miners or signing long-term agreements with miners for cash prices. The association predicted that the country's crude steel production growth would slow to 10 per cent this year, compared with the 24.56 per cent in last year. Meanwhile, China is also developing new sources of iron ore imports. China's iron ore import from India increased by over 36 per cent last year over 2004. The spot price for iron ore also declined late last year to US$66 per ton from US$83 last April, statistics from the association said. Long-term iron ore prices between major suppliers and buyers are generally settled before April, when delivery begins. Global miner BHP Billiton Ltd was quoted by Reuters as predicting negotiations could be extended beyond April. "The contract year has at least another month to run ... sometimes it is settled before Christmas and sometimes it's not settled until after the contract year," said Graeme Hunt, president of BHP Billiton's iron ore division. If an agreement cannot be reached till April 1, the two sides could trade iron ore at last year's price for another six months before they reach a final agreement. However, the on-the-rocks negotiation has already caused a price rise in steel products at home. Baosteel has raised its key steel products by about 10 per cent for the second quarter this year from this quarter, according to the company's salespeople. The prices for hot-rolled and cold-rolled steel products may see a rise between 150 to 700 yuan (US$18.5-86.4) per ton. In fact, China is showing an increasing role in the long-term price negotiations this year. Japan's Nippon Steel, a major iron ore buyer that used to play a major role in negotiation, has not yet reached 2006 agreement with suppliers, awaiting China's outcome. Experts predict that China's say in negotiation is likely to keep this year's price increase small. Last year, Chinese mills and iron ore traders accepted a 71.5 per cent rise in iron ore prices, which was set by Japanese companies. Figures from the customs show that in 2005, China imported iron ore of 275 million tons, up 32.3 percent year-on-year and accounting for 43 per cent of the world's total ore shipment.

 

Mongolia

Cash support for vulnerable households under subsistence level
2006-02-23 UB Post
On February 21, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) launched its forth consecutive cash project in Mongolia, this time for vulnerable and poor households in Khovd aimag. A total of 1,371 households with extremely low income per person in Khovd were given a donation of Tg200,000 each. According to data from the National Statistical Office, Khovd aimag is rated as one of the aimags with the highest poverty rate. More than 12,000 families in Khovd live below the subsistence level (63 percent). Poor people can barely afford their basic needs such as food, fire-wood, clothing and medicine. Most of them have no other income unless they receive social allowance for needy children (monthly Tg3000 per child). Many families are trying to make their living by selling scrap wood for fires, scrap metal and vodka bottles, which they collect from garbage. SDC's main activities are geared toward the development of western regions in Mongolia. As that this is an effort to continue excellent relations between Mongolia and the former Czechoslovakia, which have slightly cooled in recent years. Jargalsaikhan is a graduate of the very university that is planning the expedition. Apart from dinosaurs, the expedition will explore minerals in which dinosaur fossils are found. One of the goals of the Czech scientists is to acquire a full dinosaur skeleton for the History of the Earth Museum which is being created. It is not yet clear whether a skeleton will be bought or whether it will be a gift from the Mongolian government, the agency reported. The expedition will be funded from private sources, Kostak said, adding that a dinosaur skeleton would be a great addition to the museum and has stimulated donors to fund the project. Mongolian, Czech scientists preparing joint expedition outlined in its Medium Term Concept paper, its humanitarian aid is given where the need is greatest, providing support for disaster prevention and preparedness. SDC responded to the desperate humanitarian situation in Khovd with its cash program. The aim of the cash assistance was to prevent vulnerable households from falling into deeper poverty by providing the means to cover their urgent humanitarian needs during the harsh winter and spring. Among the beneficiaries, are many ex-herders who were severely affected by the subsequent zud disasters in 2000-2003. Many were left in extreme poverty without any animals and were forced to migrate into urban centers. In implementing the project, SDC partnered with JCS International, who has a valuable experience in relief projects. As with previous interventions, the project was honored to have the Khan Bank of Mongolia as a reliable and efficient partner to deliver the funds to the beneficiaries through its branches in all soums. SDC highly appreciates the generous contribution of the Khan Bank who is delivering the funds to the saving accounts of the recipients free of charge. A team of five staff from SDC and JCS was dispatched to implement the project in all 17 soums of Khovd amiag. The team set up a committee consisting of soum and bagh governors and representatives from local citizens in order to select the right beneficiaries. According to the set criteria, households earning less than Tg3000 per member per month were eligible beneficiaries. These families were selected from the official list of poor and extremely poor people complied by the soum government. Local people were informed of the project goals and criteria through open meetings held for the public. Through the cash program, the Swiss Government again expressed its trust in the beneficiaries. This high level of trust encourages the poor who are trying their best to overcome poverty. "We have full confidence that they will be able to spend the cash wisely", notes Mr. Markus Dubach, the Swiss Consul and SDC Country Director in Mongolia, "The cash boost not only profits our beneficiaries, but everyone living in Khovd can benefit because it brings a large amount of cash to the local market." In addition to the cash donation to the extremely poor in Khovd, SDC is also benefiting the herders and ex-herders with entrepreneurial ideas and vocational skills, but lacking start-up money. For this purpose, SDC will set up a development fund of Tg55 million to support small entrepreneurs with soft loans and business training. The cash is being transferred to the accounts of the beneficiaries this week. On February 21, 2006, an opening ceremony was held in Jargalant soum, Khovd aimag. The delegates, including Mr. Markus Dubach, the Swiss Consul and SDC Country Director and Parliament Members elected from Khovd, Mr. D.Demberel, Mr. L.Purevdorj and Mr. Ts.Damiran, handed the saving account books to some of the beneficiaries.

Group discounts on tourism visas announced
2006-02-23 UB Post
On February 17, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Roads, Transportation and Tourism held a joint meeting to discuss easing the process of granting visas. Tourism is expected to increase this year as people come to Mongolia to participate in celebrations of the anniversary of the founding of the nation. The ministers agreed to begin offering group discounts for visas. A group of 5-10 tourists will receive a 25 percent discount and groups with over 10 people will get a 50 percent discount. The change follows other actions by the two ministries to support group tourism in Mongolia. Last year Mongolia signed a memorandum with the Chinese government to offer discount group visas for Chinese nationals. Under the new rules, group visas can be issued cheaper and easier but individual Chinese tourists cannot be issued visas. Since that decision, 14 Mongolian tourism companies have received permission to arrange the group visas with Chinese counterparts.

 

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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