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
  21.5-25.5.07, No. 166  
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Foreign Policy

Cooperation with Africa cornerstone of China's foreign policy
2007-05-22 People's Daily Online
Visiting China's top legislator Wu Bangguo said in Cairo Monday that China-Africa political relations are growing from strength to strength, and that strengthening unity and cooperation with Africa is cornerstone of China's independent foreign policy of peace. Wu, Chairman of the Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress, made the remarks when addressing the China- Africa Business Cooperation Conference opened here earlier Monday. […] The cooperation between China and the Africa are mainly in the fields of human resources, agriculture, public health, social development and education. He said the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, which was initiated in October 2000, has become an effective mechanism for collective dialogue and an important platform for promoting comprehensive cooperation between China and Africa. […] Moreover, cultural exchanges are flourishing with 65 cultural exchange and cooperation agreements having been signed between the two sides, he added. China-Africa economic cooperation is growing rapidly with the China-Africa trade volume reaching 55.5 billion U.S. dollars in 2006, a nearly 40 percent increase year-on-year, higher than that of China's trade with any other continent. […] Egypt is the first leg of Wu's three-nation tour to Africa and Europe, which will also take him to Hungary and Poland.

EU urges improved consumer safety
2007-05-22 SCMP
The European Union's consumer safety chief urged the mainland yesterday to work more closely with international counterparts to defuse worries about its goods, but said European consumers had no reason for alarm despite recent US scares. United States consumers have been worried by a spate of pet deaths blamed on tainted wheat gluten and rice protein exported from China. Checks of pet food in European shops had not found the tainted ingredient, European Commission director general for health and consumer protection Robert Madelin said, adding that Brussels and Beijing had a "good record of co-operation" in consumer safety. […] EU and Chinese officials have been negotiating rules to test for ingredients processed from genetically modified rice or other cereals in Chinese exports. But the rules have not been finalised, and Beijing has still to share a full set of samples so inspectors can identify the presence of genetically modified crops.

China refutes criticism on Africa policy
2007-05-23 People's Daily Online
China on Tuesday defended its consistent Africa policy, refuting claims that China has ignored local sustainable development while providing assistance to African continent. "The criticism from some organizations on China's Africa policy is totally unacceptable," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu. Some non-governmental organizations claimed that China ignores problems like corruption, human rights and environmental protection while helping the poor African nations build dams or other infrastructure. Jiang said China's assistance to the Africa countries is aimed at improving their self-development ability instead of imposing its own development mode and ideology. […] On preferable loans to Africa, Jiang said China has offered loans with no strings attached, which are mainly used for infrastructure in a just, open and transparent manner. […] "The international community, especially the developed nations, should also cut down on Africa's debts by a large margin so that the developing nations can shake off vicious cycle of debts," Jiang added.

Chinese, French presidents hold telephone talks
2007-05-24 People's Daily Online
Chinese President Hu Jintao late on Wednesday talked with his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy in a previously arranged telephone call. In the telephone conversation, President Hu applauded the consistent efforts President Sarkozy has made to develop China-France relations. The Chinese and French peoples have maintained long-standing, friendly contacts, and France was the first Western power to establish diplomatic ties with the People's Republic of China, Hu said. […]

Chinese top legislator meets Hungarian president
2007-05-24 People's Daily Online
Chinese top legislator Wu Bangguo met Wednesday in Budapest with Hungarian President Laszlo Solyom. The two sides reaffirmed their commitment to further the friendly and cooperative partnership. Wu, chairman of the Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress (NPC), highlighted the rapid growth of the bilateral relations, noting that the mutual respect and support the two countries provide for each other are the "valuable treasure" which needs to be very much cherished. China will make joint efforts with the Hungarian side to step up the bilateral partnership to a higher level, Wu stressed. […] Solyom, expressing his appreciation to the achievement made by China during its economic and social construction process, pledged that Hungary will continue to boost its ties with China in fields such as science and technology, education, environment and tourism. Hungary welcomes more Chinese businessmen to expand investment in the country, the Hungarian president said, expressing the hope the two sides could consolidate exchange and cooperation through various approaches in an aim to increase mutual understanding. As a guest of Hungary's House Speaker Szili Katalin, Wu arrived in Budapest on Tuesday afternoon. It is the first time for a Chinese top legislator to visit the East European nation. […]

Special envoy visits Darfur
2007-05-24 People's Daily Online
The newly-appointed Chinese special envoy to Africa said the Darfur peace process should be two-pronged - persuade those who have not signed the peace agreement to return to the negotiating table and strengthen the joint peacekeeping operation of the African Union and the United Nations. "The two tracks can run parallel and be mutually complementary," Liu Guijin said, stressing the importance of respecting Sudan's unity, sovereignty and independence. […] But the final solution to the Darfur issue lies in removing or reducing the mistrust between the Sudanese government and some Western countries, especially the United States, Wang said. […] "That is why the Sudanese government demands that the hybrid (African and UN) peacekeeping forces be commanded by an African.[…] The fact that the Sudanese government has accepted the second phase of former UN chief Kofi Annan's peace plan reflects that progress can only be achieved by sincere negotiations and compromises from all sides, she said.

Chinese, German presidents hold talks in Beijing
2007-05-25 People's Daily Online
Chinese President Hu Jintao held talks with visiting German President Horst Koehler in Beijing on Thursday, exchanging views on bilateral relations and international issues. Hu hailed the rapid growth of China-German relations since the establishment of diplomatic ties 35 years ago, citing frequent high-level visits, the smooth launch of China-German strategic dialogue mechanism and strong growth of bilateral economic and trade cooperation. He noted that China and Germany have continued to be the largest trade partners of each other in their respective regions, reached a unprecedented high level for culture, education, science and technology, environmental protection and justice cooperation, and strengthened contacts and coordination in international and regional issues. He expressed his appreciation for Germany's adherence to the one-China policy. Hu proposed that the two countries enhance their partnership with global responsibility from four aspects, including deepening political ties featuring equality and mutual trust, expanding win-win economic and trade cooperation, strengthening understanding and friendship between the two peoples and promoting international coordination within multilateral framework. […] While reiterating that Germany's adherence to the one-China policy, Koehler said Germany is ready to strengthen dialogue with China to increase mutual trust and maintain the vitality of Germany-China partnership with global responsibility. […] Koehler arrived in Kunming, capital of southwest China's Yunnan Province on Wednesday morning, starting his first-ever state visit to China as German president. He is also scheduled to meet with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference Jia Qinglin in Beijing.

US President Bush meets Chinese Vice-Premier Wu Yi
2007-05-25 People's Daily Online
US President George W. Bush met Thursday morning at the White House with Chinese Vice-Premier Wu Yi, who led a Chinese high-level delegation for the second meeting of China-US Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED). Wu made a briefing about the just-concluded SED, which she described as a major decision made by President Hu Jintao and President Bush. […] China and the United States should continue to enhance their communication and talks, and summarize the experiences so that future meetings of the SED will be better. Bush expressed his congratulations on the progress of the dialogue. […] The US president said the SED is a very good mechanism and that it is very important to the healthy development of US-China relations. He said he paid much attention to the SED and hopes the next round of meetings will yield more results. In addition, Bush said he understands the sensitivity of the Taiwan issue, and that he holds a firm stand on the issue and means what he said. He said he is opposed to any unilateral change of the status quo across the Taiwan Straits.

China, Japan start eighth round of East China Sea talks
2007-05-25 People's Daily Online
China and Japan started the eighth round of talks on the East China Sea issues at Beijing's Diaoyutai State Guesthouse Friday morning. Director of Chinese Foreign Ministry's Department of Asian Affairs Hu Zhengyue attended the talks as top Chinese negotiator. The Japanese delegation is represented by Kenichiro Sasae, head of the Foreign Ministry's Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, and Harufumi Mochizuki, director-general of Japan's Natural Resources and Energy Agency.

ASEAN, China, Japan agree to beef up cooperation in information
2007-05-25 People's Daily Online
ASEAN, China and Japan agreed to deepen and expand cooperation in media and information, a joint statement said in Jakarta Thursday. The statement was issued after separate consultative meetings between the information ministers of ASEAN and China, and ASEAN with Japan during the Ninth Conference of the ASEAN Ministers Responsible for Information (AMRI) here in Jakarta. The two-day conference began Thursday. The statement said that ASEAN and China agreed to deepen their cooperation in the area of information and media according to the 2006-2010 work plan focusing on priority of human resource development, exchange of films and television program and setting up ASEAN and China information and media network. The ministers noted that the on-going consideration of memorandum of understanding between the governments of the ASEAN member countries and the People's Republic of China which aims to enhance ASEAN-China cooperation through the exchange of information and media will be signed at a later date. […]

 

Domestic Policy

Debate on ideology defined Property Law's formation - Drafter says political wrangling slowed down passing of land bill
2007-05-21 SCMP
Ideological struggles dogged the creation of the mainland's first law to protect private property, according to one of the law's main drafters. Although the recently approved Property Law is full of leftist-sounding technicalities, it is a reflection of the Communist Party's determination to press ahead with the reform and liberalisation policies that brought a free-market economy to the country nearly 30 years ago. […] Arguably the most contentious bill in communist China's legal history, the draft law laboured through 13 years of controversy - peppered with more than 100 working meetings and a record seven readings by top legislators - before finally going to a vote before the National People's Congress earlier this year. Resistance came from "old comrades", including conservative party officials and old-school Marxist scholars- generally called leftists. […] However, the reformist drafters were forced to compromise to ensure it was passed. Pressured by leftist concerns, lengthy paragraphs affirming the primacy of the "socialist system" and "state ownership" were included in the law. Also, the law explicitly prohibits the illegal sale of government property to private investors - a concession to leftist critics who oppose private ownership. […] The law also explicitly rejects any change to the system of "collective" ownership of rural land and will not protect farmers on collective land against government seizures. […] How the law works 1 The Property Law was passed on March 16 and will take effect on October 1; 2 It aims to equally protect property of the state, collectives and individuals; 3 It protects lawfully acquired property and bans illegal seizures, looting or destruction; 4 Urban homeowners can buy and sell properties under leases of 50 to 70 years; 5 Agricultural land remains collectively owned. Farmers can renew land-use leases.

Poultry infection confirmed in China's Hunan Province
2007-05-21 People's Daily Online
The Ministry of Agriculture confirmed over the weekend an outbreak of the H5N1 bird flu virus among poultry in the central province of Hunan, but said there were no cases of human infection. It said the outbreak, at Shijiping Village in Yiyang, killed more than 11,000 heads of poultry. A further 53,000 poultry were culled as part of an emergency response to prevent any spread of the disease. Scientists attributed the poultry deaths to H5N1, the strain of avian influenza that scientists fear could mutate into a form that jumps easily from human to human, threatening an epidemic. However, local health departments reported no human cases and the ministry said an inspection among poultry in 769 villages near the area hit showed no spread of the disease. "The outbreak has been brought under control," the ministry said. […] To better fight the virus and prepare for the migration of wild birds north in the summer, efforts are underway to vaccinate billions of domestic birds by the end of this month, Xinhua News Agency reported.

China's first lunar probe to be launched in latter 2007
2007-05-21 Xinhua
China was "losing no time" in preparing its first lunar orbiter, Chang'e I, which will most likely be launched in the second half of 2007, a space official said here on Sunday. "The moon probe project is the third milestone in China's space technology after satellite and manned spacecraft projects, and a first step for us in exploring deep space," said Sun Laiyan, chief of the China National Space Administration. Sun, also vice director of the Commission of Science Technology and Industry for National Defence, made the remarks when briefing students at Beijing Jiaotong university on China's space program. [… ] "Space technology reflects a nation's overall power and is an important facet of the modernization of national defense," he said. Sun said China is able to research, produce and shoot ground-to-ground, air defense and coastal defense missiles, and its strategic nuclear deterrent is a key component of China's national defense. […] Modern war relies heavily on information and high-tech, supported by space technologies, Sun said, citing the war in Afghanistan and Iraq where most intelligence gathering, military communications, navigation, positioning and weather reporting activities carried out for American troops have been conducted via satellites.

SEPA publishes Q1 report
2007-05-22 People's Daily Online
The country's top environment watchdog yesterday released its first-quarter report, but its content provided little more than an overview of the nation's environmental health. Pan Yue, vice-minister of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), did not give specifics of where or how the environment had deteriorated, nor did he provide figures on major pollutant emissions such as sulphur dioxide (SO2) and chemical oxygen demand (COD), a water pollution index. Pan did say that inhalable particles were still the major pollutants in air. In many cities, the level of discharged pollutions had already grown close to the environmental limits, he said. Pan said that air quality was vulnerable to weather change. […] Pan said that the quality of potable water in key cities had dropped by 5 percentage points compared with the same period last year, with just 69 percent reaching the standard. Only 66 cities have source water that meets national environmental standards, he said. The report said that the results of noise monitoring efforts sent in by 175 cities, showed that more success had been achieved during the daytime than at night.

Policy set to help landless farmers
2007-05-22 SCMP
The government is calling for a nationwide social security system for landless farmers to be up and running by the end of this year. According to a circular posted on the Ministry of Labour and Social Security website, land resources authorities should not approve land use applications by city or county governments that fail to adopt the social security policy. […] The circular said farmers, village collectives and local governments would have to contribute to a social security fund depending on their financial situations. Governments should map out measures to regulate and supervise the social security funds, and details of the funds should be made public on a regular basis, it said. […] Fast disappearing farmland in the mainland has caused about 40 million farmers to lose their land over the past 10 years. Last year, the government estimated that 3 million more would lose their land every year during the 11th Five-Year Programme (2006-10). Unfair land acquisitions and meagre, or sometimes no, compensation have triggered riots across the mainland. Farmers have protested against collusion between the government and developers, and outbreaks of violence have prompted the government to introduce policies that better protect rural residents. In one recent protest, dozens of farmers from Hexi village in Qingdao, Shandong, barricaded themselves in their homes last week in an attempt to stop the demolition of their neighbourhood. The residents said the amount offered by the government was below the market value.

Three Gorges Dam is retaining silt, causing erosion downstream
2007-05-22 SCMP
Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest hydropower project, is retaining huge amounts of sediment and nutrients and causing significant erosion in the downstream reaches of the Yangtze River, researchers have found. In a paper published in the latest volume of the Geophysical Research Letters, mainland scientists said the dam had retained 151 million tonnes of sediment each year since 2003. The researchers from the East China Normal University in Shanghai calculated supplies of water and sediment at places along the river which had previously not been monitored and combined them with the regular gauging stations. […] Official press reports say the build-up of silt in the Three Gorges reservoir is under control. Huge sluice gates at the bottom of the 185-metre-high dam wall are opened between June and September to lower water levels and flush away sediment collected in the reservoir during floods. Many environmentalists say creation of the dam will have unforeseen ecological effects apart from becoming a cesspool of sewage and industrial pollutants.

China confiscates 49 million illegal publications in first four months
2007-05-23 People's Daily Online
Chinese law enforcement agencies have confiscated 49 million illegal books, periodicals and audio-visual products in the first four months this year during the latest crackdown on pornographic and illegal publications. Nearly 90 percent of the confiscated publications were pirated products, the National Office for Cleaning Up Pornography and Fighting Illegal Publications announced on Tuesday. […] China's top court has stepped up the fight against intellectual piracy by lowering the threshold to prosecute people manufacturing or selling counterfeit intellectual property products. The new interpretation issued by the Supreme People's Court in April states that anyone who manufactures 500 or more counterfeit copies (discs) of computer software, music, movies, TV series and other audio-video products can be prosecuted and imprisoned for up to seven years. […]

Vice premier underscores innovation in nuclear tech
2007-05-23 Xinhua
Chinese Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan called for innovation in nuclear technologies on Tuesday at the launch of the State Nuclear Power Technology Co. in Beijing. The new company is authorized by the State Council, or cabinet, to sign contracts for third-generation nuclear power technologies transfer from other countries. Zeng said the company should speed up the re-innovation of foreign nuclear power technologies to ensure China's energy supply. China is seeking alternatives to coal and oil as its double-digit economic growth faces energy bottlenecks. […] Nuclear energy will play a key role in helping China build a resources saving and environment friendly society, the vice premier said. The State Nuclear Power Technology Co. is co-funded by the State Council and four large state-owned enterprises, including the China National Nuclear Corporation, with registered capital offour billion yuan (519.5 million U.S. dollars). China's present installed capacity of nuclear power plants is less than nine million kilowatts, about one percent of all its power generating capacity. It will be increased to 40 million kilowatts by 2020.

China calls for cooler heads over product safety
2007-05-24 China Daily Online
China called for cooler heads to prevail in a dispute over product safety on Wednesday, accusing critics of exploiting concerns about specific cases to erect barriers to its exports in general. In the latest incident, the Dominican Republic has banned the sale of two brands of Chinese toothpaste for allegedly containing a lethal chemical responsible for dozens of poisoning deaths in Panama last year. A company under investigation for exporting the toothpaste, Danyang Household Chemical Company, defended its product. "Toothpaste is not something you'd swallow, but spit out, and so it's totally different from something you would eat," one company manager, who declined to be identified, said by telephone from the eastern province of Jiangsu. China said on Wednesday it had called on customs officials and directors of its food and quality watchdogs to form an investigative team to probe the toothpaste case. "Investigations in Beijing and Jiangsu province have been launched into the relevant companies and parties," a notice posted on the Web site of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said. Consumers in the United States have been alarmed by a spate of pet deaths blamed on tainted wheat gluten and rice protein exported from China, as well as reports of toxins and disease in other Chinese exports. […]

Hukou system set for change
2007-05-24 People's Daily Online
China's hukou, or household registration system is to be gradually reformed. New policies are under study allowing freer migration between cities and rural areas, the Ministry of Public Security said. Sources with the ministry confirmed that "legal and fixed residences" will become a fundamental condition to empower citizens to change their household registration. […] Gradually the country will abolish the two-tier system, which divides the population into urban and rural residents, the proposal said. China's hukou system was set up in 1958, mainly to control population migration, largely from rural to urban areas. Under the current system rural dwellers have little opportunity to change their registered residence regardless of how long they may have lived or worked in a city. The estimated 120 million plus rural residents working in the cities suffer many restrictions regarding access to public services such as education, medical care, housing and employment. […] Despite little headway by the central government, local governments have taken steps to improve the situation. Twelve provincial-level areas, including Beijing, Shanghai, Shandong and Guangdong, have launched trial reforms that will put an end to the differentiation between rural and urban residents. […]

Bloggers rejoice over retreat on real names
2007-05-24 SCMP
Bloggers yesterday welcomed the central government's apparent backdown on a plan to force online diarists to register their real names with service providers, saying it was a sign that "authorities realised the blog world cannot be controlled through unreasonable measures". Over the past two years, mainland internet censors have been promoting a plan to register bloggers' real names, as a way of "purifying" a booming industry blighted by "unhealthy information". A high-profile, real-name registration proposal from the Ministry of Information Industry in October prompted harsh public criticism about a further possible decline in freedom of speech and the plan's insurmountable technical obstacles. But in a draft Voluntary Blogging Service Code of Conduct released this week by the government-run Internet Society of China, the authorities said they would "encourage" rather than enforce compulsory real-name registration. Yang Junzuo, a society representative on the code's drafting committee, said the draft was "a temporary measure to call for voluntary self-regulation by blog service providers [BSPs] and bloggers, which will be replaced by real-name registration in future as conditions mature". […]

Chinese government decides to subsidize all rural poor
2007-05-24 People's Daily Online
China's State Council, or the cabinet, on Wednesday held an executive meeting on expanding a rural subsistence allowances system that will satisfy the rural poor's minimum requirements for living. The meeting, chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao, decided to cover all needy people in rural areas across the country under the allowance program, including the aged, the disabled and those who are unable to work. […] Twenty-three provinces have already established the system, benefiting 15.93 million people, about 70 percent of the total number of China's rural poor. Local governments are responsible for the operation of the allowance program, and the central budget will allocate subsidies to areas with financial difficulties, according to the meeting. Establishing this subsistence allowance system is an important measure to narrow the gap between rural and urban areas and safeguard social equity, said a document released after the meeting. […] China has 23.65 million rural poor, with annual per capita income lower than 683 yuan (87.6 US dollars), by the end of 2005, 5.62 million less than in 2001, according to data from the State Council Leading Group of the Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development. The meeting also approved in principle the draft of the Regulations on the Implementation of the Administrative Reconsideration Law. […]

Boy is third to die from viral infection in Shandong
2007-05-25 SCMP
An 11-month-old boy has died of hand, foot and mouth disease in Shandong province, the third fatality linked to an outbreak of the viral infection since last month, state media said. The boy was taken to a hospital in Linyi on Monday with a fever and a rash with blisters, Bao Wenhui, deputy director of the provincial health department, told Xinhua. A 14-month-old boy and a two-year-old girl have also died in Linyi since last month, and 1,263 people have fallen sick. Of these, 872 have recovered, the health department said.

Riots show failings of one-child policy
2007-05-25 SCMP
Last week's riots in Guangxi have again put the mainland's controversial birth-control policy under the spotlight, with many asking whether it is time to revise the much-criticised guidelines. Riots broke out in 28 towns in Bobai county last weekend, when thousands of people stormed a local government office, smashing furniture and destroying vehicles. Some tried to set the building alight. The authorities arrested 28 people for "networking, persuading and being involved in damaging properties". But residents said they had been pushed to the limit by brutal enforcement of the one-child policy, with some suggesting more riots could break out. Many families had been hit with arbitrary fines for violating the policy. Those who could not pay had their homes ransacked by officers. The residents also accused the authorities of forcing women to have abortions or agree to birth-control surgery. Quoting a local official, a Xinhua report acknowledged authorities may have "stirred discontent" with "problematic ways of implementing the policy", but denied abortions had been coerced. However, the incident in Bobai was not an isolated case. On the way from Nanning to Shabi, one of the riot towns about 400km from the provincial capital, similar stories could be heard. The immediate cause for the riots was a recent crackdown by Bobai authorities after they were issued a "yellow card" warning for failing to meet birth-control targets. While the one-child policy has been in place for more than three decades, it does not apply uniformly and enforcement has been very lax in many rural areas. Ye Tingfang - a professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and a Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference delegate who has been advocating a revision of the policy - said only about 35 per cent of the population had observed the policy, according to official data. Bobai residents said the authorities had for years been lax in enforcing the unpopular rule. Many families had more than one child; some even had four or five. But this changed suddenly after the Guangxi government introduced an accountability reform this year tying cadres' political careers with a set of policy objectives. Bobai officials were warned they would face demotion unless they could catch up with birth-control targets. The panic-stricken bureaucrats then launched an all-out campaign to save their careers. But their brutal enforcement resulted in widespread rancour and resentment. […] Professor Ye said the government should instead use incentives to promote birth-control. "In the early '70s, when the central government first raised the idea [of the one-child policy], it was a voluntary scheme. The principle was to encourage and educate the public, not to impose a strict order on them." He also believed it was time to rethink the policy, introduced amid fears of runaway population growth. The policy is increasingly questioned by academics as its many social and economic side effects, including the ageing population and gender imbalance, come to light. […]

Drought leaves 1.6 million people short of drinking water in W China
2007-05-25 Xinhua
More than 1.6 million people in western China are facing drinking water shortages due to a severe drought, local government sources said. The worst drought in 60 years has hit the central and eastern areas of the northwestern province of Gansu, leaving nearly 900,000 people short of drinking water and affecting 1.46 million hectares of cropland, according to the Gansu provincial flood control and drought relief office. Qingyang, Pingliang and Tianshui in eastern Gansu have not seen any significant rainfall for the past two months, the office said. Crops are expected to fail on about 80,000 hectares while another 100,000 hectares will not even be planted because of the drought, it said. […]

NGOs have more room to develop
2007-05-25 China Daily Online
China will revise laws and policies to encourage the development of foreign and domestic non-governmental organizations (NG0s), a senior official has been quoted as saying. Among the key changes are a simplified registration procedure for all NGOs and better communication with governments, said Sun Weilin, director of the bureau for NGO administration affiliated to the Ministry of Civil Affairs. A foundation will also be set up to recognize and reward NGOs with good performance. "The ministry is drawing up a detailed draft for revising laws and regulations, with the main objective of giving more room for NGOs to grow," Sun told China Business News. He was speaking at a recent ceremony where the European Union and the United Nations Development Programme signed an agreement to support a large-scale initiative aimed at strengthening the rule of law and enhancing civil society participation in China. The program will be implemented by the National People's Congress, the Supreme People's Court and the Ministry of Civil Affairs. "If the registration procedure is simplified for domestic NGOs and foreign NGOs can register as NGOs, it will make it easier for them to operate and raise funds for their programs," Li Jianghua, the deputy representative of the China branch of Handicap International, told China Business News. Experts said the changes will create a better legal framework for foreign NGOs to have a wider presence in China and provide a platform for better coordination with government agencies. […]

 

Taiwan

New Taiwan cabinet faces difficult times
2007-05-22 SCMP
Taiwan has sworn in a new cabinet amid fears of more diplomatic defections, strained cross-strait relations and unending political bickering on the island. Premier Chang Chun-hsiung led more than 80 Executive Yuan members, including seven new faces, in taking oaths yesterday to serve the island in the remaining year of President Chen Shui-bian's second term. […] Mr Chang said after the changeover ceremony he would focus on the four-point directive issued by Mr Chen. The directive seeks to improve ties with the mainland, as long as the island's sovereignty is not violated; […] Reports yesterday that at least three Central American allies might switch diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing prompted Taiwanese Foreign Minister James Huang Chih-fang to head to Belize to meet counterparts from Central American allies. Local media, quoting unnamed ministry sources, said there could be a possible "wave of diplomatic defection to Beijing" after the seventh anniversary of Mr Chen's inauguration as president, which fell on Sunday. The reports came after seven Taiwanese allies, including Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua, failed to support the island in its bid to enter the World Health Organisation as a full member in the name of Taiwan. Mr Huang, who retained his portfolio, admitted that Taiwan faced tough challenges on the diplomatic front because of Beijing's persistent efforts to try to woo away the island's allies. […]

Chen vows to push ahead with vote on UN membership
2007-05-23 SCMP
Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian vowed to push for a referendum on joining the United Nations under the name "Taiwan" in a move likely to anger Beijing. Taipei lost its UN seat to Beijing in 1971 and has failed in its annual attempts to rejoin the world body under its official name the Republic of China. "The 23 million Taiwanese people's collective human rights to join international organisations should not be deprived and restricted ... We will apply for UN membership this year under the name of Taiwan," Mr Chen told a visiting US academic. "We hope to hold a referendum by the end of the year or early next year in conjunction with the legislative or presidential elections." Taiwan is due to hold parliamentary polls in December and a presidential vote in March.

KMT to push for referendum on corruption as feud continues
2007-05-24 SCMP
The Kuomintang is to push for a referendum on corruption, in what is the latest in a string of politically charged moves that have highlighted longstanding ideological feuds in Taiwan. […] Mr Wu said yesterday the party would also ask KMT-controlled city and county governments to erect "anti-corruption" monuments in support of attempts by the Taipei city government to counter the government's latest name-change efforts. President Chen Shui-bian wants to erase the legacy of the late KMT leader Chiang Kai-shek and weaken the influence of the KMT. Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin, of the KMT, had announced that a section of Kaitakelan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office would be designated Anti-Corruption Democracy Square. The move is an apparent jab at changing the name of a memorial hall named after Chiang. […] The fight over the name changes has been called childish by some critics, but pundits said it reflected longstanding ideological feuds. "Ideological feuds have worsened since Chen Shui-bian came to power," said George Tsai Wei, an analyst at the Institute of International Relations. "By stressing Taiwanese identity and accusing the opposition of betraying Taiwan by siding with the mainland, he has divided the island which only hurts Taiwan."

Overseas Chinese urged to stand against "Taiwan secessionists"
2007-05-25 China Daily Online
China's top political advisor Jia Qinglin on Thursday asked compatriots from home and abroad to stand firmly against "Taiwan independence." Jia, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) made the remarks when he met delegates of the China Overseas Friendship Association. […] Jia said the peace and stability across the Strait are now seriously threatened by the Taiwan regime's conspiracy of seeking "de jure Taiwan independence" through so-called "constitutional reform". The China Overseas Friendship Association should unite compatriots from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan as well as those in other parts of the world to stand firmly against "Taiwan independence" to achieve peaceful development of cross-Strait relations, Jia said. […]

 

Tibet

Party chief pledges to tighten security in Tibet
2007-05-22 SCMP
Tibet's Communist Party secretary has vowed to tighten security in the Himalayan region ahead of a key party meeting this autumn and next year's Beijing Olympics to ensure it remains firmly under communist control. In a speech to about 600 party members in the regional capital, Lhasa, on Friday, Zhang Qingli claimed a "transitional victory" over the influence of Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. […] Khedroob Thondup, a nephew of the Dalai Lama, said Mr Zhang's statements on the exiled spiritual leader and the Tibetan issue "provoke every sense of human dignity". "In the past year, numerous attacks on the Dalai Lama by the leadership in Tibet proves Beijing's continued failure to colonise Tibet and its insecurity to deal with the Tibetan issue," said Khedroob Thondup, a member of the Tibetan parliament-in-exile. "Beijing should allow the Dalai Lama to return to Tibet and allow Tibetans to realise their own destiny."

 

Shanghai

Four officials from Shanghai expelled from CPC
2007-05-22 Xinhua
Four officials from Shanghai, including a former chairman of a football club, have been expelled from the Communist Party of China (CPC) and will now face criminal charges in the latest corruption scandal to be exposed in the city. A document released by the Shanghai Municipal Commission for Discipline Inspection of the CPC announced that Yin Guoyuan, former deputy director of the Shanghai housing, land and resources administration, had abused his position to pursue interests on the behalf of others and had accepted bribes during his tenure. Chen Jinxian, head of Shanghai's Changning District, Ling Baoheng, head of the Shanghai Municipal State Assets Commission and Yu Zhifei, deputy general manager of Shanghai International Circuit Co. Ltd and chairman of Shanghai Shenhua Soccer Club, were the other officials expelled. […]

Shanghai Party congress opens
2007-05-24 Xinhua
The Ninth Shanghai Municipal Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) opened at 9:00 a.m. Thursday, which will elect a new generation of Shanghai's Party leaders. A total of 809 delegates attended the congress that will also produce a name list of delegates to the 17th CPC National Congress, set to open in Beijing in the second half of this year. Delegates to the Shanghai congress would elect a new CPC Shanghai Municipal Committee as well as the Shanghai CPC Commission for Discipline Inspection. The Shanghai Party congress would be a landmark gathering, to be held at a critical stage of Shanghai's reform and modernization drive, the 53-year-old Party secretary Xi Jinping noted earlier. He was appointed Shanghai Party chief in the wake of a corruption scandal of his predecessor Chen Liangyu. […]

 

Economy

Bourses get green light for offices
2007-05-21 People's Daily Online
The securities regulator announced yesterday that it will allow overseas stock exchanges to establish representative offices in the country from July 1 - a move expected to facilitate the listing of more Chinese companies overseas. The overseas bourses will be allowed to promote their organizations and conduct research through the offices, the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) said. "It represents a milestone for overseas stock exchanges in attracting local companies for listing, " said Cheng Weiqing, a senior analyst with CITIC Securities. By setting up representative offices, overseas bourses will have much more access to information and resources related to local companies. It will also help Chinese firms better understand overseas exchanges, Cheng said. The move is seen as fulfilling one of China's commitments in the first round of the Sino-US Strategic Economic Dialogue held in December, when Beijing promised to allow overseas exchanges to set up offices in the country soon. Both the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the Nasdaq Stock Market Inc (NASDAQ) have been preparing for the establishment of their Beijing offices since then. […] China's booming economy and the increase in initial public offerings (IPOs) have created heated competition among overseas exchanges to lure the country's companies. NYSE, NASDAQ, London, Singapore, Toronto, Tokyo and other giant stock exchanges are among the competitors. […] Last year, 86 Chinese firms raised $44 billion from overseas IPOs, accounting for 19 percent of the global total that year, according to Xinhua News Agency. The previous year, 81 Chinese firms raised $20.5 billion from overseas IPOs.

Measures to cool down red-hot economy could be too little, too late
2007-05-21 SCMP
The central bank's unusual three-in-one announcement on Friday looks a lot more important on paper than it is in reality. For the first time, the People's Bank of China announced it would raise interest rates and bank reserve requirements and widen the yuan's daily trading band against the US dollar at the same time. The synchronised move signals that the mainland leadership is becoming increasingly concerned about the risks of an overheating economy, and is meant to show its determination to tame liquidity growth and cool the stock markets. But the measures may be too mild and may have come too late to be very effective. Beijing's decision to widen the trading band, which allows the yuan to rise or fall by 0.5 per cent in daily trading, up from 0.3 per cent, is clearly timed to appease the Americans. Top US and Chinese economic policymakers are now preparing to meet tomorrow and on Wednesday (US time) in Washington to discuss trade and currency issues which have strained bilateral relations. As the cool reaction from Washington indicates, the wider trading band is being seen as merely symbolic and has failed to buy much goodwill. […] The yuan never once tested the old 0.3 per cent limit since the original July 2005 revaluation, according to a UBS report. Admittedly, more Chinese officials have come to embrace the economic arguments for the yuan to rise faster, but they will have to balance the faster appreciation of the yuan with the genuine need to maintain social stability because millions of jobs in urban and rural areas could be threatened if the yuan rises too fast, putting many export-oriented firms out of business. […] While the decision to raise interest rates and bank reserve requirements is aimed at curtailing liquidity - the latest in a series of such moves - the measure is also particularly aimed at cooling soaring share prices in Shanghai and Shenzhen. That could partly explain why the central bank raised deposit rates more than lending rates - by 27 basis points against 18 basis points, bringing the one-year base lending rate to 6.57 per cent and the one-year deposit rate to 3.06 per cent. Some economists have interpreted the different rises as a move to stem the flow of bank savings into the A-share markets. The move also suggests the commercial banks' net interest margin will be narrowed, but this should not seriously dent their profitability as mainland banks' interest margin is still the highest in Asia even after the rises. While the rises could have some psychological impact on the stock markets in the short term, most investors are more likely to shrug off the moves and continue to move the markets higher. That is simply because even with the rise of 27 basis points, real deposit rates are still in negative territory. […] What will happen next? Beijing will probably have no choice but to continue raising interest rates and bank reserve requirements, with the next round estimated in July or August. Meanwhile, retail investors will continue to pour funds into the stock markets as they are betting that mainland leaders will not do anything drastic because of the politically sensitive leadership reshuffles scheduled in October and the Beijing Olympics in August next year. The next time people think of mainland stock markets, they should visualise this: a casino gaming table with the mainland leadership as the banker at one end and nearly 100 million retail investors armed with tens of billions of yuan at the other.

China makes clear positions on WTO's agriculture trade talks
2007-05-22 Xinhua
Chinese Minister of Commerce Bo Xilai and Minister of Agriculture Sun Zhengcai have jointly sent a letter to the World Trade Organization (WTO), making clear China's key positions on the organization's agriculture trade talks, the Chinese Permanent Mission to the WTO revealed on Monday. "Effective cuts in trade-distorting domestic farm support by developed members must be achieved in real terms, " said the letter, which was signed on May 18 and addressed to WTO chief Pascal Lamy, General Council Chairman, Ambassador Muhamad Noor Yacob and Chairman of the Special Session of the Committee on Agriculture, Ambassador Crawford Falconer respectively. Agriculture trade talks are a key part of the WTO's wider Doha Round multilateral trade negotiations, which have gone through five years but still inconclusive. The WTO's developed members, particularly the United States, have been under great pressure to offer further cuts in domestic farm support to move the talks forward. […] But the fundamental problem with the current paper is that the concerns of the developed members and those of developing members are not addressed in a balanced way. Specifically, emphasis on domestic support and market access are not balanced, and concerns of the developing members on the market access are not properly treated, according to the letter. […] The two ministers also stressed that specific concerns of Recently Acceded Members (RAMs) should be effectively addressed in the next paper which Falconer is expected to circulate soon. […]

US union leaders make ice-breaking visit to China
2007-05-23 Xinhua
Labor leaders from the United States have reached agreements with their Chinese counterparts to forge formal cooperative ties in an ice-breaking visit to China, ending a decades-old boycott of China unions by US labor groups. Change to Win, second largest coalition of US unions, and the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) have decided to maintain cooperation to better safeguard workers' rights under the context of globalization, said Anna Burger, who heads the US labor delegation in the first visit to China by a nation-wide US coalition of unions. This is the first and a very important step for broadening cooperation between the two countries' unions, Burger said Tuesday at a news briefing. […] China's top political advisor Jia Qinglin met with the US trade union leaders on Tuesday, saying the government will support cooperation between Chinese and US trade unions and their discussion on the role of trade unions in economic globalization. […]

Economic deals not good enough, say China's critics - 'Vague assurances' of broadened market access for US financial institutions rarely become reality, lawmakers complain
2007-05-25 SCMP
The agreements reached during the Strategic Economic Dialogue talks between the mainland and the US in Washington this week failed to placate critics in the US Senate, who lashed out at the moves as too little too late. Many now advocate legislation to force the Bush administration to impose sanctions on Beijing. "For years we have heard vague assurances of greater market access for American financial institutions, but they rarely seem to become reality from China," Democratic Senator Charles Schumer, a leading critic of Beijing, said in a statement. The two-day economic summit ended on Wednesday. US Secretary Treasury Henry Paulson and Vice-Premier Wu Yi announced new agreements that will lift a ban on new foreign firms and joint-ventures entering the mainland's securities industry and allow overseas banks to offer yuan-denominated credit and debit cards. Beijing will also raise the maximum limit for approved international investors to purchase domestic Chinese stocks from US$10 billion to US$30 billion. However, there was no accord on the appreciation of the yuan, although the People's Bank of China did increase the trading band for the currency last week. Democrat Max Baucus, the chairman of the Senate finance committee, expressed "deep concern" that the currency issue was not addressed. […] The criticism of the financial agreements follows intense negotiations during the dialogue meetings, with Mr Paulson unsuccessfully seeking to persuade Beijing to lift the 25 per cent ceiling on foreign ownership of domestic banks. At a Senate security and international trade and finance subcommittee session, Democratic Senator Evan Bayh said the financial reforms, and particularly the appreciation of the yuan, were symbolic and moving at a "glacial" pace and warned that Washington must take action. "The Chinese don't seem to take us seriously," he said. The senators said they would push legislation seeking to impose sanctions on the mainland over the value of the yuan, which they said was undervalued by as much as 40 per cent. Senator Dodd has asked the US Treasury Department to cite the mainland as a currency manipulator. The designation would allow the US to impose sanctions on imported Chinese goods.

McDonald's workers in Guangdong get unions
2007-05-25 SCMP
A trade union has been set up for McDonald's restaurants in Guangdong, Xinhua reported yesterday. The report said the union was set up on Sunday and McDonald's had agreed to set up unions in all its outlets in the province with more than 25 employees. Xinhua said another US fast food chain, KFC, had agreed with Guangdong labour authorities that it would allow its restaurants to set up unions as early next month.

China, US to gain from concrete energy pact
2007-05-25 People's Daily Online
Both the United States and China will gain from the concrete energy deals on coal and environment technology collaboration, analysts say. "The agreements reached between US and China on energy cooperation are supposed to address specific issues, including clean coal technologies, coalbed methane utilization and environmental technology development. […] Concluding the China-US Strategic Economic Dialogue, the two countries agreed to develop up to 15 large-scale coal mine methane capture and utilization projects in China over the next five years. The two countries will also create policy incentives to promote the commercialization of advanced coal technologies while facilitating the commercial application of carbon capture and storage technologies, according to a Reuters report. […] "It will be a win-win situation for both the US and China to cooperate in this area. China needs advanced coal technology to enhance energy efficiency, while the US wants to sell this kind of technology. More importantly, the joint effort is supposed to ease China's dependence on oil and to reduce the country's greenhouse emission from burning conventional coal products," Niu said. […]

China's securities industry to open up
2007-05-25 China Daily Online
China's commitment to further open up its securities industry may benefit both international companies and the country's capital market, analysts and top international managers said yesterday. Vice-Premier Wu Yi and US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson agreed to a series of opening up measures during the China-US Strategic Economic Dialogue, held in Washington. China has agreed to resume allowing overseas market players to set up joint venture securities firms. It will also allow international firms to expand from investment banking to brokerage, principal investment and asset management businesses later this year. "Opening up the securities industry will prompt more major players to get involved, besides UBS and Goldman Sachs," Cheng Weiqing, an analyst with CITIC securities, said. […] China had banned international companies from investing in local securities firms since September, out of concern that it would threaten local brokerages as they recover from a four-year slump. Before the ban, UBS and Goldman Sachs Group Inc were the only foreign firms with brokerages in the country. A high-ranking official from the UBS Asia office said yesterday that the agreement means brokerages can form securities firms in China. "It is a good move for China's market. But we need more details," the unnamed official said. Analysts said that due to lack of details, it is hard to tell how far China will open up the industry. […]

 

Switzerland

Swiss president's musical debut strikes popular chord
2007-05-22 China Daily
Having ventured into the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the Iranian nuclear debate, Switzerland's president seems to have taken on an even bigger challenge - rescuing her country's wounded musical pride. Less than two weeks after Swiss hopes of glory in Europe's biggest musical showcase died again in an embarrassing qualifying-round elimination, Micheline Calmy-Rey took the stage on Saturday to sing for her country. To the horror of Swiss intellectuals and politicians, the outspoken foreign minister who currently holds Switzerland's rotating presidency appeared on national television Saturday night to sing a sentimental song about life and death in a small village. Les Trois Cloches by Swiss composer Jean Villard was popularized by Edith Piaf. The Three Bells, the English version, launched The Browns to the top of the US Billboard charts in 1959 and was later covered by Ray Charles and Roy Orbison. The choice baffled political commentators, who said the mournful tune doesn't fit the lively Calmy-Rey, who has shaken up Switzerland's political establishment with her active approach to Swiss neutrality - by seeking to encourage Middle East peace rather than sitting on the sidelines. But the song appears to have struck a chord with the Swiss public, which frequently names her the country's most popular politician in national surveys. She received enthusiastic endorsements in postings on the popular online video community YouTube.com, where the performance was posted. "I love to sing. The Swiss also like to sing a lot," Calmy-Rey said after receiving a standing ovation from a large auditorium audience. "I sang in school, but they always told me, 'Be quiet. You're singing too loudly!"'

Huge fire destroys Geneva synagogue
2007-05-25 China Daily
Police said an early morning fire that destroyed Geneva's largest synagogue yesterday, a Jewish holiday, may have been arson but they did not rule out an accidental blaze. The 1970s building was empty at the time, though it had hosted an event attended by 200 people the previous evening. No one was injured, police said in a statement. "We are not ruling anything out, a possible simple technical problem or a deliberate act," spokesman Eric Grandjean said. Earlier, another police spokesman, Philippe Cosandey, said a "deliberate act" was suspected as the fire spread extensively within minutes. The building's entrance was blackened with soot and windows were shattered by the force of the blaze, which was extinguished around 0615 local time (0415 GMT) after some 40 firefighters waged a two-hour battle, the statement said. The prayer-room part of the synagogue was damaged by smoke and water. Some regular worshippers, who are mainly Sephardic, gathered near the building to sing prayers. Nessim Gaon, chairman of the Jewish center for culture and religion in Geneva, said he believed the act was deliberate. "The destruction to the interior is huge," Gaon, one of the founders of the Hekhal Haness synagogue and founder of a Geneva-based commodity trading empire, said at the scene. "The origins of this must be deliberate." The fire took place during the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, which marks the giving of the Torah, the Jewish holy book, by God to Moses on Mount Sinai over 3,000 years ago. Police said it was too early to determine whether the attack could have been racially motivated but that they had reinforced surveillance around other synagogues in the lakeside city. Wealthy Switzerland is known for public order and tolerance but has become increasingly the focus of religious tension, particularly targeting its Muslim minority. Anti-Semitic acts that become public are rare, but in June 2001 an Israeli rabbi was shot dead on the streets of Zurich.

 

Irene Frei
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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