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
  5.3-9.3.07, No. 156  
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Foreign Policy

Step up financial reforms: Paulson - Visiting US treasury chief calls for markets to be more open
2007-03-09 SCMP
US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson yesterday called on China to further open its financial markets and exhibit more flexibility towards its "rigid" exchange rate regime in its push for economic reforms. "A more effective monetary policy - one less absorbed by managing the exchange rate - could assist efforts to reform the banking system, making it more market driven as well as help assure stable growth," Mr Paulson said in a speech to Chinese financial officials and US business executives in Shanghai. The former investment banker added that the combination of a tightly controlled exchange rate regime and large external surpluses was bringing a flood of liquidity into China, putting pressure on banks. Some US politicians have accused China of deliberately undervaluing its currency. However, Mr Paulson barely touched on the topic in his speech, in what appeared to be an effort to soft-pedal the issue. Analysts had played down expectations of any currency breakthroughs during the trip. Market expectations are for a 5 per cent rise in the yuan against the US dollar this year. [...]Instead of focusing on the value of the yuan, Mr Paulson called on China to step up the pace of financial reforms. "Our policy disagreements are not about the direction of change, but about the pace of change," the former chairman and chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs said. "The risks for China are greater in moving too slowly than in moving too quickly toward transparent, liquid, stable capital markets." A lack of institutional investors and reliance on retail punters could create more speculative and volatile equity markets, he said. An almost 9 per cent tumble in Shanghai stocks last week spooked global markets, although Mr Paulson made no direct reference to that event. He urged China to relax limits which bar foreign investors from holding more than a 25 per cent stake in mainland banks. He also said rules which limit foreign investors to 33 per cent of a joint venture securities firm and 49 per cent in a joint-venture asset-management firm were among the most restrictive in large emerging markets. He said the mainland should also increase quotas for the Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor scheme, which allows foreign companies access to the A-share market. Likewise, he recommended granting more Qualified Domestic Institutional Investor licences to Chinese asset-management firms to invest in overseas equities. Mr Paulson was in Shanghai at the end of an Asian trip which took him to Japan, South Korea and China.

Russia willing to further work with China within SCO framework
2007-03-04 Xinhuanet
Russian Armed Forces are willing to conduct further cooperation with China within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), said visiting Russian Chief of General Staff here on Sunday. Yury Baluyevsky, Chief of General Staff of Russian Armed Forces,as the guest of his Chinese counterpart Liang Guanglie, held talks with Liang on Sunday, discussing the preparation of a joint anti-terror military exercise between the SCO member countries, namely China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, in April in Russia. The SCO, founded in Shanghai on June 15, 2001, aims to promote regional security and fight against terrorism. During a SCO defense ministers' meeting in Beijing in April last year, the six SCO member countries agreed to stage a joint anti-terror military exercise in 2007 in Russia. Russian side highly emphasizes the strategic partnership with China and hopes to work together with China for the joint anti-terror military exercise, Baluyevsky said. The two sides also held in-depth discussion on further exchanges and cooperation. Liang, chief of general staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, said that the Chinese side is ready to promote the friendly and cooperative military ties with Russia.[...] Baluyevsky also met separately with Guo Boxiong, vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), and Cao Gangchuan, the Chinese Defense Minister and also vice-chairman of the CMC.

China urges Japan to face 'comfort women' issue
2007-03-07 SCMP
Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing called on Japan yesterday to properly handle sensitive historical issues, such as the forced use of Asian women as sex slaves for Japanese troops in the Second World War, to ensure the success of Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to Tokyo next month. But he refrained from criticising Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe by name over Mr Abe's recent comments that there was no proof that "comfort women" were forced into sexual slavery by Japanese military during the war. "Conscripting the so-called comfort women was one of the most serious crimes committed by the Japanese imperialists during the Second World War," Mr Li said at a press conference held on the sidelines of the National People's Congress's annual session in Beijing. [...] Mr Li's remarks were Beijing's first reaction to Mr Abe's comment on Thursday, which have sparked international outrage and protests throughout Asia. Beijing has softened its stance towards Tokyo in recent months, with top Chinese diplomats avoiding making harsh comments on contentious historical issues that were stumbling blocks to the recovery of Sino-Japanese relations. [...]

NPC & CPPCC - Growing role tests diplomacy skills - Foreign minister fields questions on Africa, Iran and global warming, a sign of China's rising global influence
2007-03-07 SCMP
China's growing clout on the international stage was in evidence yesterday as Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing fended off questions ranging from China's role in Africa, dealing with nuclear proliferation on the Korean Peninsula and its contribution to global warming. He confirmed an upcoming visit by President Hu Jintao to Russia and called on Tehran to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Amid growing international concern about the impact of China's economic interests in the world's poorest continent, Mr Li denied criticism that China's foreign policy in Africa amounted to "neo-colonialism". He rejected the notion that the rise of a powerful China might adversely affect smaller countries on the continent. [...] Mr Hu had raised the issue of the Darfur genocide with the Sudanese government in his trip to the country last month, Mr Li said, but the UN Charter made it clear no country had the right to interfere in another country's internal affairs. Rather, China's foreign policy doctrine of working towards a "harmonious world" meant it was "committed to promoting a peaceful co-existence between countries". "The United Nations charter clearly states that countries should not interfere in each other's internal domestic affairs," Mr Li said. "If this principle is enshrined in the world's largest inter-governmental body, what can a member state do? China believes mutual respect and non interference is a prerequisite to building a harmonious society." With China now forecast to overtake the US as the world's biggest emitter of carbon dioxide as early as next year, this included taking responsibility for the country's growing impact on global warming - though the world had to understand the facts. "At present, China's per capita carbon dioxide emission from fossil fuel burning is less than one sixth that of some big countries. The emission is partly caused by the relocation of international industries along with the economic globalisation," Mr Li said. China's role in world affairs will again be in evidence later this month as it takes the chair of the working group pressing for the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula under the six-party talks. Mr Li said the group would convene "within nine days". He said an agreement reached in the six-party talks held last month - in which China was credited for playing instrumental role - was an important in resolving the crisis. Asked about China's view on Iran's nuclear enrichment programme, he said the Islamic state should implement UN resolutions on the matter. "We welcome, support and call upon Iran to step up its co-operation with the International Energy Agency," he said.

European Parliament's delegation visits Hong Kong
2007-03-06 Xinhuanet
HONG KONG Members of the European Parliament Delegation for Relations with the People's Republic of China started their visit to Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) here Tuesday to boost the understanding of each other. The delegation, headed by Dirk Sterckx, Chairman of European Parliament Delegation for Relations with China, met a number of branches of the HKSAR government and representatives in the Legislative Council. Sterckx said the delegation will have a one-day visit to Macao on Wednesday, and on Thursday and Friday continue their visit herein Hong Kong. In a media briefing held here Tuesday night, Sterckx told reporters that the aim of their visit is to learn about each other and explained differences of views on certain problems.[...] The European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with China and China's National People's Congress, or the country's top legislature, agreed to have a yearly visit to each other every year. Sterckx said 25 full members of the European Parliament's China delegation are expected to visit China in June this year to discuss issues of bilateral relations.

Beijing-Baghdad prepare for talks on oil contract
2007-03-06 SCMP
Beijing oil officials arrived in Baghdad for negotiations with Iraqi oil officials over a Saddam Hussein-era contract to develop an oilfield, an Iraqi official said. Ministry spokesman Asim Jihad said Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani met the new ambassador to Iraq, Chen Xiaodong, to discuss a planned visit by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and the oil minister to China this month.

Chinese legislator meets Polish party leader
2007-03-07 Xinhuanet
Uyunqimg, vice-chairwoman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, Wednesday met with a delegation headed by Wojciech Olejniczak, leader of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) of Poland. Uyunqimg said SLD is an important party of Poland and the Communist Party of China (CPC) is ready to strengthen cooperation with SLD on the basis of the four principles guiding inter-party exchanges, according to sources of the International Department of the CPC Central Committee. [...] Olejniczak, also deputy speaker of the House of Representatives of Poland, is invited by the CPC on a visit to China from March 2 to 9. [...]

China appoints new ambassadors to ten countries
2007-03-09 Xinhuanet
Chinese President Hu Jintao appointed and dismissed ambassadors to 10 countries, in accordance with a decision made by the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, the top legislature. Liu Zhiming is appointed as ambassador to Lebanon to replace Liu Xianghua (female). Luo Zhaohui replaces Zhang Chunxiang as new ambassador to Pakistan. Yin Hengmin is appointed as ambassador to Mexico to replace RenJingyu. Pan Guangxue is appointed as ambassador to Laos to replace Liu Yongxing. Zhang Shixian replaces Wang Wangsheng as new ambassador to Algeria. Zhang Guoqing replaces Wei Wenhua as new ambassador to Mali. Zhou Li replaces Gao Yusheng as new ambassador to Ukraine. Liu Yuqin (female) replaces Li Changhua as new ambassador to Chile. Yang Houlan replaces Liu Jian as new ambassador to Afghanistan. Tong Xiaoling (female) replaces Yang Yanyi (female) as new ambassador to Brunei.

 

Domestic Policy

NPC & CPPCC - Wen puts wealth gap at top of agenda
2007-03-05 SCMP
The national legislature's annual session began on Monday morning with Premier Wen Jiabao pledging more support for environmental protection, education and social welfare in poorer rural areas. More than 3,000 delegates of the National People's Congress - the country's de facto parliament - convened on the Great Hall of the People to hear Mr Wen's speech. The premier proposed abolishing school tuition fees for all rural children and a co-operative medical insurance scheme intended to offer primary health care to farmers. He also promised to tackle causes of social unrest, such as environmental problems and land seizures in the countryside. The central government acknowledges that a growing gap between China's rich and poor is threatening social stability. Mr Wen has said dealing with this inequality would be a high priority of his administration.

China's parliament starts reading draft laws on property, corporate tax
2007-03-08 People's Daily Online
China's top legislature, the National People's Congress (NPC), on Thursday started examining two draft laws aimed to grant equal protection to state and private properties and introduce a unified income tax for domestic and foreign-funded enterprises. The draft property law and the draft enterprise income tax law were submitted for deliberation to the ongoing annual full session of the Tenth NPC, as the lawmakers started their second plenary meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing at 9 a.m. Thursday. [...]In an apparent refution to certain doubts about the move to equally protect state and private properties, Wang said under the conditions of the socialist market economy, the country's economic pattern stipulated in the Constitution, all players have equal status on the market, enjoy the same rights, observe the same rules and bear the same responsibilities. [...]As part of the draft civil code, the property law was submitted to the NPC Standing Committee for the first review in 2002 after nearly 10 years of preparation. After an unprecedented seven times of reading, NPC Standing Committee decided last December to put it for voting at the Fifth Session of the Tenth NPC, believing that the draft "represented a crystallization of the wisdom of the collective and was about to be mature". [...]"One of the greatest and most fundamental changes brought about by China's reform and opening-up is the gradual establishment of the socialist property system with Chinese characteristics," said Wang, a member of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "The equal protection of the state and private enterprises will greatly boost Chinese people's enthusiasm to create and protect wealth," he said. To prevent fraudulent acquisitions and mergers of state property, the draft strengthens the protection of state-owned property, stipulating that illegal possession, looting, illegal sharing, withholding or destruction of state property is prohibited. Those who cause loss of state property shall bear legal liability, according to a full text of the draft distributed to reporters at the session. Also tabled for deliberation was the draft enterprise income tax law, which suggests a unified income tax rate for domestic and foreign-funded companies at 25 percent. Delivering an explanation to the lawmakers, Finance Minister Jin Renqing said the law was drafted to "establish a scientific and standardized enterprises income tax system uniformly applicable to various type of enterprises and create an environment for fair competition". The income tax rate for enterprises in China is currently set at 33 percent, but tax waivers and incentives are granted to the foreign-funded enterprises. Official estimates show that the average enterprise income tax on foreign-funded enterprises is 15 percent while that on the domestic enterprises is 25 percent, 10 percentage points higher than the former. Many Chinese economists, government officials and business leaders have openly criticized the dual income tax structure as being unfair to domestic businesses, which have to face tougher competition since China's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001. Jin said the proposed 25 percent of tax rate is mainly intended to ease the tax burden on domestic enterprises and keep a rise as little as possible for the foreign-funded enterprises. Transitional preferential measures will be given to allow the old enterprises, which had an income tax rate of 15 percent or 24 percent under the current tax laws, to enjoy a gradually increasing income tax rate within five years after the new tax law takes effect, according to the draft law. If the new tax law is implemented in 2008, China's domestic enterprise income tax will drop by 134 billion yuan while foreign-funded enterprise income tax will increase by 41 billion yuan. China's total fiscal revenues will drop by 93 billion yuan. Given the transitional measures to be applied to old enterprises, the decrease in fiscal revenues will be bigger. "But such decrease is still acceptable to Government finance," Jin said. Experts agreed that the tax change is actually a commitment to the World Trade Organization for equal treatment to enterprises, which can only strengthen China's responsible role and make it more attractive to foreign investment. [...]A research report from the World Bank analyzed that stable political situation, sound economic development, broad market, rich labor sources as well as increasingly upgraded business infrastructure and government service in China are the major factors attracting foreign investment. Tax incentives are considered less important than transparent taxation and indiscriminate government policies, said the report. China adopted preferential tax policies at the end of 1970s when it started the economic reform and opening-up drive to attract foreign investment and boost its economy. By 2006, China has approved 594,000 foreign-funded enterprises, with 691.9 billion U.S. dollars of foreign fund used. In 2006, all the foreign-funded enterprises paid 795 billion U.S. dollars in all types of taxes, accounting for 21.12 percent of the total national tax revenue. The two drafts are scheduled to be voted by the lawmakers on March 16, when the session ends.

NPC & CPPCC - Military spending gets biggest boost in 5 years - Most of funds to be spent on wages for troops, not weapons
2007-03-05 SCMP
The mainland's military spending this year will see its largest increase in the past five years, jumping 17.8 per cent from nearly 298 billion yuan last year, amid growing international concerns over Beijing's military build-up. National People's Congress spokesman Jiang Enzhu yesterday said the defence budget would hit 350.921 billion yuan this year, a 53 billion yuan rise over the actual spending of last year. Mr Jiang's figure is slightly higher than the one of 347.2 billion yuan included in the Ministry of Finance's report to be delivered to the NPC later this week. There was no explanation for the discrepancy. [...] Mr Jiang said China's national defence was aimed at securing national security and unification, and making sure that the country made steady progress towards building a moderately prosperous society. China's defence budget has continued double-digit annual growth for the past two decades, with the only exception in 2003, when the budget's planned increase was 9.6 per cent, but the actual spending rose by nearly 12 per cent. Last year's budget increased 14.7 per cent and in 2005 it had risen 12.6 per cent. Mr Jiang defended the increase as modest, making comparisons with a list of developed countries, including the US, Japan, France and Britain in both absolute terms and as a share of gross domestic product of the total national budget. [...] When asked about the increase, US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, America's second-highest ranking diplomat, said a lack of transparency about China's military intentions rather than the increases in the defence budget was the prime concern for the US government. "[We need] a more extensive dialogue with China about what the military build-up involves, what the doctrine is that underlies it, and what their intentions are," Mr Negroponte said at a press briefing in Beijing yesterday. [...]Jonathan Liu Teh-hsun, spokesman for Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, expressed alarm over the increase in the mainland's military budget. "The figure marks China's rising threat to Taiwan," said Mr Liu, adding that Beijing's arms build-up would also influence the region and not just peace across the Taiwan Straits. Furthermore, Mr Liu warned: "China's real military expenditure is believed to be much higher."

PLA rebuffs criticism of budget
2007-03-06 China Daily
Senior army officers yesterday countered international criticism of the increase in defense spending, pointing out that China's defense budget is far smaller than many other nations. [...] The increase, though the largest for five years, is still at a "moderate pace" and the country's overall military spending is still eclipsed by many other countries, said Tan Naida, lieutenant general and former deputy commissar of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) [...] "How many weapons does China have? How much (is the budget) if converted to US dollars?" Tan said. "A single mechanised division would cost $5-$6 billion," he said. "We don't plan to invade any country, but we're also not afraid of anyone coming to attack us," he added. Most of the money will be used to improve soldier's training and accommodation, including raising wages and the allowance provided for retired personnel. [...]"As the increase of our country's economic strength, a moderate increase in military spending is very normal," said Tan. [...]

China to host global forum on IPR
2007-03-08 Xinhuanet
China will host a global forum this month on intellectual property rights (IPR) which is being co-sponsored by the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. [...] "By holding this forum, we want to tell the world that the government and Chinese companies have been making efforts to protect IPR," he [Zhao Zhenge, deputy director general of CCPIT said]. Zhao also complained that some countries have established technology monopolies and abuse IPR protocols and regulations. IPR protection has remained a major topic in trade discussions between China and the U.S. China has taken a series of measures to improve IPR protection, while the U.S. says China should be doing more. [...] Since China's entry the WTO in 2001, Chinese companies have lost IPR disputes worth more than a billion U.S. dollars. Some of the major disputes involve motion picture copying and makers of televisions, digital cameras, cars, MP3 chips, and motorcycles. The Global Forum on Intellectual Property Rights Protection and Innovation will be held here between March 27 and 28. The forum will be attended by senior corporate experts and high-level government officials from China, the United States, the European Union, Japan, Korea, India and other countries.

China's new bid to cut pollution
2007-03-06 People's Daily Online
China will close down its worst polluting facilities as part of a new plan for sustainable economic growth. In a speech at the opening meeting of the Fifth Session of the 10th National People's Congress (NPC) yesterday Premier Wen Jiabao outlined a new vision for a wealthier, greener China. [...] After earlier failing to meet energy consumption targets, China wants to reduce major pollution by 10 percent and energy consumption for per unit of GDP by 20 percent from 2005 to 2010, Wen said. [...]Wen blamed slow industrial restructuring, growth of heavy industry and backward production facilities for China's excess pollution and energy consumption last year. [...] China plans to take "strong measures" to conserve energy, lower energy consumption and protect the environment this year. Under new plans to reduce pollution, small coal-firing plants with a total capacity of 10 million kilowatts will be shut down, as will outdated production facilities in the cement, electrolytic aluminium, ferrous alloy, coke and calcium carbide industries. [...]"But most of the measures to combat pollution and save energy mentioned by Wen are just effective in the short term. China needs to reform its energy structure to move away from its dependence on coal burning, which provides about 70 percent of the country's energy." [...]

CPPCC chairman stresses role of religious groups in promoting social harmony
2007-03-04 Xinhuanet
China's top political advisor Jia Qinglin here on Sunday called on religious groups to give full play to the positive role of religion to boost social harmony. Religious groups should contribute to the unity between religious and non-religious people, and people of different religious beliefs, said Jia, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), at a panel discussion with the country's political advisors from religious community. China's social and economic development is at a crucial stage and building a harmonious society needs joint efforts of the whole Chinese nation, including religious groups, Jia, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, told the CPPCC members who convened in Beijing for their annual session. Jia said that religious circles should try to interpret religious teachings in a way that conforms to the demand for social progress and make contributions to the building of a harmonious socialist society with their wisdom and strength. [...]

Widening wealth gap challenges family planning efforts
2007-03-07 Xinhuanet
China's widening wealth gap is challenging the country's family planning efforts as its new-rich, seemingly privileged in an era when money talks, disdain the decades-old one-child policy to pay to have as many children as they like. The number of rich people and celebrities having more than one child is on a rapid increase, and nearly 10 percent of them even have three, according to a recent survey by the National Population and Family Planning Commission (NPFPC). When the family planning policy, which limits most urban couples to one child and most rural couples to two, was formulated in the 1970s, policy makers' biggest worry was rural violators, who, usually poor but driven by the traditional concept of "more sons, more blessings", would brave the fine to have more children than permitted. But now the country's nouveau riche who believe they can buy anything as long as they like are policy makers new headache. [...] Since its implementation, the family planning policy has helped reduce the country's population by 400 million and had delayed the present 1.3 billion population mark by four years. Authorities have said on many occasions that the policy won't be changed.

 

Human Rights

China's human rights record has worsened, US report says
2007-03-08 SCMP
China's already poor human rights record has deteriorated further, the United States said, accusing officials of harassing and arresting reporters, activists and defence lawyers seeking to exercise their lawful rights. The US State Department's global human rights report faulted China for endemic corruption, discrimination against women and minorities, government control of courts and judges, and internet censorship. China also failed to protect refugees, the report said, describing the forced repatriation of North Koreans trying to flee into the country as a grave problem. Minorities in Tibet and Xinjiang were said to have endured severe cultural and religious repression. "Former detainees credibly reported that officials used electric shocks, beatings, shackles and other forms of abuse," it said. The Chinese Embassy in Washington said the US should stop interfering with other countries' internal affairs and pay more attention to its own rights violations. The State Council's Information Office said it would release a report on US human rights violations today. Barry Lowenkron, the US assistant secretary of state for human rights, spoke of Chinese wariness with a growing community of non-government groups. "Chinese officials probably still view civil society as part of a problem rather than part of a solution to help in terms of environment and health and so forth," he said after the report's release on Tuesday. China also tightened restrictions on press and speech freedoms, used forced prison labour, maintained closed trials, executed people on the day of their conviction or immediately after an appeal was denied, and restricted people trying to assemble, practise religion and travel, the report said. And the number of Falun Gong practitioners - the spiritual movement that is banned on the mainland - estimated to have died in custody through torture, abuse and neglect since a government crackdown started in 1999 ranged from several hundred to a few thousand. It noted "some criminal and judicial reforms", including new procedures by the Supreme People's Court for death penalty cases. But Mr Lowenkron said some promising ideas on how to change the nature of court proceedings appeared to be "dead in the water".

China rejects U.S. criticism on human rights
2007-03-07 Xinhuanet
China on Wednesday voiced strong dissatisfaction and opposition to the U.S. State Department's 2006 Human Rights Report that criticizes China's human rights conditions. [...]Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said the U.S. annual report "again ignored basic facts," and willfully distorted and groundlessly criticized China's human rights situation. Based on the human rights provisions of the Constitution, the Chinese government at all levels has been making constant efforts to expand democracy and advance judiciary reform so as to realize the comprehensive development of its people, Qin said. China has made remarkable achievements in human rights protection, and the Chinese people enjoy full human rights and freedom according to law, he said. "The U.S. government has no right to depict itself as a human rights watchdog, a view that is generally agreed by public opinion of the international community," Qin said. "We suggest the U.S. should reflect on its own human rights problems, and stop interfering in the internal affairs of other countries on the pretext of human rights," said the spokesman.

US report on human rights 'shows Cold War mentality'
2007-03-09 People's Daily Online
The United States is adopting a "Cold War mentality" by pointing its finger groundlessly at the human rights situations in other countries, according to a report published by the Information Office of the State Council yesterday. The document, The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2006, is Beijing's annual rebuttal eight consecutive years to Washington's assessment of global human rights published on Tuesday, which routinely singles out China as one of the world's worst violators. The 15,000-Chinese-character report uses a lot of evidence to demonstrate the serious rights violations on US soil. The report, in seven sections, covers issues ranging from civilian deaths in Iraq, child poverty, and racial and sexual discrimination to the mistreatment of prisoners. Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said at yesterday's press briefing that the report is like a mirror for America to look at its own human rights record and "to see what qualification it has to make irresponsible remarks and interfere in other countries' internal affairs with the excuse of human rights". The report said it is aimed at helping people understand the human rights situation in the United States when it points the finger at more than 190 countries and regions but avoids touching on its own human rights record. It said the US has used its military power to trespass on the sovereignty of other countries and violate human rights, citing US news stories estimating that more than 655,000 Iraqis have died since the war started in March 2003. It also said the US has "a flagrant record" of violating the Geneva Convention by systematically abusing prisoners in Iraq and in Afghanistan, citing the mistreatment of prisoners in Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison.

Internet police keep tight grip on blogs - Three layers of censorship, numerous agencies ensure Web is free of banned topics
2007-03-08 SCMP
The only explanation Beijing lawyer Pu Zhiqiang received as to why three of his blogs were suddenly removed from the popular internet portal sohu.com was a vague message from a website administrator that "it was ordered by authorities from above". [...] He created his first blog last year to post articles about freedom of speech and publication, as well as to discuss contentious legal topics, but found many of the articles were quickly removed. [...] Mr Pu has had little luck uncovering the identities of the "upper authorities" or what criteria they are applying. The term "upper authorities" describes a secret labyrinthine world of dozens of administrative departments responsible for censoring the internet, particularly blogs. They censor the nation's online writers but offer bloggers no recourse when their works are suppressed. Even with the skyrocketing growth of blogs on the mainland - 17 million and counting by the end of last year - the country's censors maintain one of the harshest grips on content in the world. [...] Content is initially checked by censorship software that looks for key words that are deemed offensive. [...] This layer of vetting is usually apparent when a blogger cannot upload an article. The second layer of restriction is conducted by a special team of censorship editors who read all chat room messages and blog articles and delete any offensive content that the software fails to pick up. [...] Some of these words are gong chan dang (the party), zheng fu (the government or authorities), or Mao Zedong , and must be examined by editors. He said articles containing such words were temporarily transferred to a database for individual checking by censors. [...] Articles with sensitive key words are then subjected to a third layer of censorship, which can be conducted by internet police officers, as well as officials from the Central Publicity Department, the State Council Information Office, the Ministry of Information Technology, or local communications administrations. All are authorised to censor at this level, and, conceivably, all could do it at the same time. [...] If an offensive article reaches this stage, administration officials will tell editors to delete it or remove the entire blog, as was the case with Mr Pu. Websites must also abide by numerous administrative rules and regulations determining what internet service operators and their staff can and cannot do. Censors working at sohu.com constantly receive updates on banned topics via their mobile phones and instant messaging tools, the sohu.com editor said. The blocking process is based on criteria drafted by officials, but in-house website editors are given nothing on which to base decisions except a list of key words. Instructions to delete content are conveyed orally or covertly so there is no paper trail if bloggers complain about the removal of their work. [...]

Judge queries destruction of Falun Gong files - Papers on decision to bar practitioners were shredded within a month, court told
2007-03-09 SCMP
All documents relating to why a group of more than 80 Falun Gong practitioners were prevented from entering Hong Kong four years ago were destroyed within a month of the event, the government admitted yesterday. Daniel Fung Wah-kin SC, for the government, made the admission in the Court of First Instance after Mr Justice Michael Hartmann, who is conducting a judicial review of the affair, observed that it could appear to a bystander that some "hoovering" of evidence had gone on. The judge made clear he was not suggesting the government had in any way attempted to hide evidence regarding why the practitioners were placed on an Immigration Department watch list. But he said it seemed odd that there was not a single document to be found anywhere about the rationale for the decision. The practitioners were stopped on February 22, 2003, as they arrived for a conference. They were told they were being turned away for "security reasons". The review has been brought by four Taiwanese Falun Gong practitioners - Theresa Chu Woan-chyi, Liao Hsiao-lan, Lu Lih-ching and Chang Jenn-yeu. A Falun Gong Hong Kong chapter spokesman, Kan Hung-cheung, and the Hong Kong Association of Falun Dafa are also applicants. They are seeking a declaration that the government acted unlawfully in preventing them and more than 70 others from entering the city and that unreasonable force was used to repatriate them. [...]

 

Tibet

Hu Jintao: harmony, stability prerequisite for Tibet development
2007-03-05 Xinhuanet
Chinese President Hu Jintao said Monday that to maintain a harmonious and stable society is a prerequisite for the development of Tibet and the well-being of all ethnic groups living there. Emphasis should be laid on improving the living and working conditions of farmers and herdsmen, so that they can share the achievements of China's reform and development, said Hu while joining a panel discussion of Tibetan legislators at the ongoing annual session of the Tenth National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature. The work concerning ethnic groups and religions must be done well, said Hu, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission. "Development is the basis and key to tackle all the problems in Tibet," he said. Hu said the Qinghai-Tibet railway that opened to traffic last July provides a historic opportunity for the development of Tibet." Such an opportunity must be seized well and made full use of," he said. [...]

Give up pursuit of 'Tibet independence'
2007-03-09 China Daily
[...] Puncog, government chairman of Tibet, denounced Dalai Lama's staunch "pro-independence" stance, at a news conference on the sidelines of annual NPC session yesterday. "Unless Dalai Lama completely gives up the pursuit of 'Tibet independence' both in idea and deed, the chance for him to return is slim," he said. He said the central government had never shut the door to talks with Dalai Lama through his personal representatives. "But we will never recognize his so-called government-in-exile," he said. "The attitude of the central government is clear-cut. He must completely give up his pursuit of 'Tibet independence'; he must recognize that Tibet is an inalienable part of the Chinese territory since the ancient times, and he must also recognize that Taiwan is a part of China." Dalai Lama fled to India after a failed rebellion in 1959. Tibet was peacefully liberated in 1951. "It's already been 48 years since he fled the country, and in the last 48 years he has never done anything beneficial for the Tibetan people nor the motherland," Qiangba said. Qiangba Puncog also slammed Dalai Lama's recent proclamation that he would give up the pursuit of "Tibet independence" in exchange for a "high-degree autonomy" to form a so-called "greater Tibet". The "greater Tibet" in nature is independence and Dalai Lama made the remark to seek sympathy from people who know little about Chinese history and to internationalize the Tibetan issue, he said. Tibet has witnessed huge economic growth over many years since it established autonomous government in 1965, Qiangba said. "Practice proves that the ethnic autonomous government system is very wise," he said. In another development, he said that the Qinghai-Tibet railway, which began operation last July, has not caused environmental damage to the plateau. [...]The reliability rate of the train is more than 90 percent, which proves its sound operation and high quality, he added. Construction of an extension line of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway linking Lhasa to Xigaze has been approved and will start this year. The 254-kilometer line is expected to be completed in 2010. [...]

 

Taiwan

US stands firm on missiles for Taiwan - Arms deal does not violate one-China policy, says Negroponte
2007-03-05 SCMP
A controversial plan to sell more than 400 missiles to Taiwan would not violate the US' one-China policy, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte said yesterday. In talks with Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing and other leading mainland diplomats, Mr Negroponte said the US maintained the right to sell weapons to Taiwan for "strictly defensive purposes". [...] Mr Negroponte was reacting to Beijing's protests about the plan to sell more than US$400 million worth of missiles to Taiwan. During meetings with deputy foreign ministers Yang Jiechi and Dai Bingguo on Saturday, "the Chinese side expressed that it is firmly opposed to the export and sale of weapons to Taiwan and the US maintaining official relations with Taiwan", said ministry spokesman Qin Gang . Mr Qin said the proposed sale of 218 medium-range air-to-air missiles and a further 235 Maverick missiles would "seriously violate" previous commitments by Washington to reduce arms sales to Taiwan, and represent a "rude interference into China's internal affairs". State Councillor Tang Jiaxuan also stepped in yesterday with a warning to Washington, which supplies Taiwan with 90 per cent of its imported weapons, not to send "mistaken signals" to "separatist forces" on the island. "The activities of Taiwan separatists pose a major threat to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait," Mr Tang told Mr Negroponte, according to Xinhua. Aside from reiterating Washington's support for the one-China principle, Mr Negroponte declined to state what role it would or would not play in any reunification move, saying: "We think this is something for the people of China themselves to resolve by peaceful means." In other talks yesterday, Mr Li and Mr Negroponte discussed several bilateral and strategic issues, including North Korea, regional security, the "war on terrorism", and trade relations.

Secession talk is a dangerous step: Beijing
2007-03-06 People's Daily Online
Beijing yesterday slammed Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian's intensified talk of independence, saying it was another "dangerous step" towards secession. On Sunday, Chen said he wanted independence, a new "constitution" and new names for local firms that don't include the word "China". He also said that choosing between the "left or right course" wasn't a problem for Taiwan, but choosing between "unification or independence" was. [...] Taking office in 2000, Chen pledged to adhere to "four nos" no declaration of independence, no incorporation of "two states" clauses into the "constitution," no change of the province's name and no referendum on "Taiwan independence". Chen's attempt to seek "Taiwan Independence" poses a huge threat to peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits and to Asia and the Pacific, the statement said. It added that the mainland would continue to endeavor to improve cross-Straits relations with the utmost sincerity and effort and would be highly vigilant against any secessionist moves and never allow secessionists to separate Taiwan from China in name or form. [...]The statement said Chen's secessionist attempts are aimed at shoring up his personal gains and shifting public attention away from corruption investigations into members of his family. [...]

Washington slams Chen's remarks
2007-03-07 China Daily
Washington - The United States reiterated on Monday that it "does not support 'independence' for Taiwan" in an official response to secessionist statements by Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian. "President Bush has repeatedly underscored his opposition to unilateral changes to the status quo by either Taipei or Beijing because these threaten regional peace and stability, US national interests and Taiwan's own welfare," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack in a daily press briefing. [...]

 

Economy

Subsidy concerns to be addressed
2007-03-07 China Daily
China will hold consultations with the United States later this month on industrial subsidies that Washington has complained about, according to the Ministry of Commerce. The US government filed a complaint on February 2 with the World Trade Organization against subsidies granted to domestic industries, alleging it harms US manufacturers. It complains that State subsidies for steel, paper, information technology and other industries allow China to export goods on the cheap and prevent US companies from competing on a level ground, both at home and in third markets. "China has accepted the US request for consultation and the two sides will launch talks in Geneva in the last 10 days of this month," the ministry told China Daily yesterday. Mexico, Japan, the European Union and Australia will join the Sino-US consultation as a third party. The ministry said China will also accept the request for separate consultations filed by Mexico. The talks are likely to be held simultaneously with the Sino-US consultations. Chinese experts said that the US had not put forward evidence on China's industrial subsidies, and the United States and other developed countries granted much higher subsidies, such as export tax rebates, to their own industries. According to WTO regulations, the two sides have to settle the issue within 60 days through consultations. If they fail, the United States can appeal to a WTO dispute settlement panel. It is the third time that the United States has taken China to the world trade body since Beijing joined the organization in 2001. US Trade Representative Susan Schwab recently claimed the country might file another case at the WTO against piracy and counterfeiting of American goods in China The US agreed last year to delay filing the case after China indicated its willingness to do more to address American concerns.

China sets 8 percent growth target for 2007
2007-03-05 People's Daily Online
China plans to gear down its economic hike to eight percent, a level lower than the staggering 10.7-percent GDP (gross domestic product) growth rate in 2006, said Premier Wen Jiabao in a government work report on Monday. [...] China's economy has soared to be the fourth largest in the world, becoming "an influential link in the global economy", said Hou Ning, a commentator with China's leading portal website sina.com. An example is the slump hitting China's stock market last Tuesday that triggered a domino effect on global capital markets. The shock wave was felt in Europe and North America as well. However, the country's economic miracle is dogged by worries concerning energy use and environment, as China failed to achieve both goals of energy consumption reduction and pollution control set at the parliament's annual session last year. Experts thus said that the 8-percent target can help ensure a smooth, sustainable growth and avoid big ups and downs. The target was set after taking into consideration all factors, along with goals of employment and increase in consumer prices among others, according to Wen's report. The Chinese government vows to reduce urban unemployment to below 4.6 percent by creating at least nine million new jobs, while the overall increase of consumer prices, an important Internationally-recognized index for inflation, shall be checked under 3 percent, according to the report. [...]

 

Bird Flu

Deadly virus in chicken in Lhasa
2007-03-07 SCMP
Tibet has reported China's latest outbreak of H5N1 in poultry after it was found in a chicken that died at a Lhasa market on Thursday, the Ministry of Agriculture said yesterday. The wet market was closed and all poultry in it killed to avoid the possible spread of the virus. It was the second H5N1 case on the mainland in the past two weeks. A female farmer from Fujian became infected last month.

Guangdong ridicules H5N1 claims - Bird flu official says US findings that province is the source of multiple strains are 'unscientific'
2007-03-07 SCMP
Guangdong's leading official on bird flu prevention yesterday hit out at a US academic study [by a team at the University of California] that says the province is the source of multiple H5N1 strains found around the world. [...] The researchers built up a "family tree" from samples of the virus taken from across China and as far west as Russia. Researchers also looked at the genetic sequences of virus samples placed in GenBank, a public access database of genetic information. The study showed the basic version of the virus was a form seen in Guangdong again and again. [...] The study also indicated that northwest Qinghai province gradually became another source of bird flu's spread. Neighbouring countries such as Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam appeared to absorb strains of the virus but the virus did not spread from those places to anywhere else. Yu Yedong , head of the Guangdong Animal Epidemic Prevention Institute and chief of the team at the Guangdong Bird Flu Prevention Office, said yesterday the US study was "unscientific" and "ridiculous". The mutation and spreading mechanisms of H5N1 strains were complex and difficult scientific issues and most scientists had not reached authoritative conclusions on the questions, he said. [...] Mr Yu said it was difficult to find out where the H5N1 virus first emerged and also questioned sources of the samples in the study. He added that Guangdong had not provided samples and collecting specimens had to be approved by state authorities. The World Health Organisation also said the latest research did not carry "that big of an implication". The mainland origin of bird flu viruses was already known, WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl said. "What is most important for us and for anyone who works in the field of surveillance and trying to contain and combat H5N1 is knowing where the virus is now, what it is doing and which strains are circulating more widely." University of Hong Kong assistant professor of microbiology Leo Poon Lit-man said bird flu scientists had hypothesised that the southern China region had been the source of past flu pandemics because of its rice farming tradition of having ducks in paddies close to chickens and pigs.

 

Mongolia

Mongolia to Get Greater EU Profile
2007-03-08 UB Post
A centre of Mongolia and the European Union has been established. The Centre aims to enhance Mongolia's image and status in member-countries of the EU and those affiliated to the Union and to create a database on Mongolian companies and other such bodies. To accomplish this, it will use the favourable conditions created by the European Union toward Mongolia, such as promoting Mongolian democracy through European Parliament resolutions. In order to achieve its objectives, the Centre is cultivating active cooperation with the Austrian-Mongolian Friendship Society headquartered in Vienna, the Mongolian Peace and Friendship Society as well as with state and non- government organizations of members of the EU. An opening ceremony for the Centre was attended by the German, Turkish and Czech ambassadors to Mongolia and the secretary-general of the Mongolian Peace and Friendship Society.

Land of Rising Sun Illuminates Mongolian-Japanese Relations
2007-03-08 UB Post
Visiting President of Mongolia, N. Enkhbayar, and Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, signed a joint statement between Mongolia and Japan that also commemorates ten years of Mongolian- Japanese cooperation, on February 26, during the former's five-day visit to Japan. They both agreed to step up cooperation on global issues including the North Korean nuclear stand-off and efforts to reform the United Nations. And Enkhbayar had a luncheon hosted by Emperor Akihito in his honor at the Imperial Palace. Ostensibly, the Mongolian leader's visit is to mark the 35th anniversary of the two countries establishing diplomatic relations in February 1972. Signed after the summit talks, the joint statement contained a basic action plan on broadening both nations' top-level political dialogue and strengthening cooperation in the areas of politics, economics, culture and education in the next ten years. Enkhbayar's visit to Japan comes about a month after the Mongolian president phoned Abe to say Mongolia will give up its bid for a non-permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council to let Japan have a clearer run for the post. During their meeting, Abe thanked Enkhbayar for Mongolia.s decision. "I thank the Mongolian president for his leadership and express my appreciation to the Mongolian people. We want to fulfill our responsibilities to live up to Mongolia.s goodwill". In response, the president reaffirmed his country's support for Japan's bid for the two-year term on the council starting in 2009. Abe thanked Enkhbayar again last Monday for Mongolia's decision. In the statement, the two leaders agreed to strengthen their cooperation to maintain the nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation international regime. On the six-nation talks aimed at defusing the North Korean nuclear threat, Abe said the recent agreement in Beijing was a .big step forward and Enkhbayar responded by saying he welcomed the success. The two agreed to continue efforts to press Pyongyang to take concrete actions and realize its promises. Bilaterally, they agreed that Japan will continue its official development assistance to Mongolia and that Japan will increase its trade and investment with Mongolia with an eye to aiming for a bilateral free trade agreement. In the statement, the two leaders agreed to strengthen their cooperation to maintain the nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation international regime. Enkhbayar also expressed deep appreciation for Japan.s plan to invite 100 Mongolian high school students each year, for five years, to study in Japan as part of an Asian youth exchange program. The two agreed to continue reciprocal visits by their nations' top leaders to each others country. Enkhbayar extended his invitation for Abe to visit and the Japanese premier said he will consider the offer. Enkhbayar emphasized in his speech, given at the Diet (Parliament) of Japan, that .Japan has been issuing grants and loans of US$2.3 billion to Mongolia and it possesses more than half of the total percentage of assistance rendered by donor countries and organizations. This assistance made an enormous contribution on establishing the basis of future development and sustaining the economy in passing through the difficulties and obstacles of the transition period of Mongolia. He added, because Japan assisted Mongolia, extending a friend's hand when our country had difficult times and because Japan is an important partner which can help to fasten Mongolia's development and to strengthen our country's position in the international arena, we consider Japan as the third neighbour of our country. The two countries will expand a working group under their trade ministries to include the private sector and discuss development of Mongolia's mineral wealth, as described in the action plan. [...] He said the Mongolian parliament and government are now preparing laws concerning mining development, adding the country will welcome proposals from Japanese companies on the legislation. Future bilateral dialogue will include the key problem of insufficient infrastructure as well as other details hindering Mongolia's development of its natural resources. Abe also asked Mongolia to help Japan's efforts to solve issues related to Japanese nationals abducted by North Korean agents. Mongolia traditionally has maintained relatively strong diplomatic relations with Pyongyang and is believed to have some influence over the reclusive communist state. In response, Enkhbayar said that he understands that the abduction issue carries heavy importance for Japan and that he hopes there will be some progress soon. On Friday, March 2, Enkhbayar expressed his readiness to help the international community defuse the North Korean nuclear crisis by hosting related meetings. If Mongolia is requested, either in the framework of the multilateral talks or to serve as a mediator, we are ready to actively get involved, the president said at the Japan National Press Club on the last day of his five-day visit to Japan. Thanks in part to the popularity of Mongolian- born sumo grand champion Asashoryu, Mongolian people in general have a good impression of Japan. Japan came out top of a recent poll asking which countries Mongolia should maintain friendly relations with.

New Minister of Industry and Trade Essential
2007-03-08 UB Post
The Government urgently needs to have a Minister of Industry and Trade approved by parliament, said Member of Parliament A. Murat (DP) to Onoodor daily newspaper on Wednesday.Legal deadlines to appoint the minister have passed and so international investment agreements and license works are still pending approval. Foreign investors are holding back because of this indefinite situation that the Mongolian government is prolonging, said Murat, who heads a supervisory group on mining legislations. A. Murat met with Arshad M. Sayed, Country Manager and Resident Representative of the World Bank, and John Chomel Doe, Country Director of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development on Tuesday to exchange opinions on the slow work rate of the mining executive authorities. Currently, Minister of Finance, N. Bayartsaikhan, is the acting Minister of Industry and Trade.

 

Mirjam Müller
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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