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
  7.4-11.4.08, No. 212  
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Table of contents

Avian flu

Mongolia

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Foreign Policy

Sino-Swiss ties boosted (China Daily)
2008-04-07
A senior Communist Party of China (CPC) official yesterday hailed a China-Switzerland joint project to train government officials. Li Yuanchao, who is a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, made the remarks while meeting with Walter Fust, director-general of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. Li told Fust, who is here to renew a five-year cooperation program with China on training government officials, that such cooperation serves the interests of both sides and helps cement bilateral friendship. ^ top ^

Short-stay visas no longer available at border checkpoints (SCMP)
2008-04-08
Foreign passport holders will not be issued short-stop visas at border checkpoints as part of a series of entry restrictions imposed by mainland authorities last week. The move, in addition to a ban on multiple-entry visas, was revealed by local travel agents as security tightens ahead of the Beijing Olympics. Travellers are now restricted to single- or double-entry visas valid for a month and three months respectively. Multiple-entry visas that have not expired are still valid. Travel agents say they have been told the ban will last until mid-October. […]. ^ top ^

Historic free trade pact inked (China Daily)
2008-04-08
China and New Zealand yesterday signed a free trade agreement (FTA) covering trade in goods and services as well as investment. […]The signing of the agreement not only means that we have met the goal set two years ago for our economic relations, but also makes New Zealand the first developed country to reach the FTA with China," Wen said ahead of the signing ceremony. […] The pact was inked after 15 rounds of negotiations over three years; and New Zealand is also the first developed country to recognize China's full market economy status. China has FTAs with countries such as Chile and Pakistan and is in talks with nations such as Australia and Iceland. ^ top ^

Japan plants corals at disputed islets to boost territorial claim (SCMP)
2008-04-09
Japan is mounting a US$7 million coral transplanting operation in the Pacific aimed at bolstering its side of a territorial dispute with China - and cementing Tokyo's right to exploit a wide expanse of ocean. Over the next year, scientists will plant more than 50,000 fast-growing Acropora coral fragments on Okinotorishima, two uninhabited rocky outcroppings about 1,700km southwest of Tokyo, project officials say. The aim is to protect the islets - now circled by concrete sea walls - from further erosion and maintain Japan's claim that they are bona fide islands that can be used to map its exclusive economic zone in the Pacific. In a sometimes heated dispute, Beijing has challenged Tokyo's claim, arguing that the outcroppings are too small to be defined as islands under international law, meaning the waters around them are open to use by other nations. […]. ^ top ^

Beijing touts new military hotline with Moscow (SCMP)
2008-04-09
China has hailed a new military hotline with Russia as a sign of strengthened co-operation, in sharp contrast with sluggish efforts to set up a similar link with Washington. The new hotline "reflects the level of political trust and strategic co-ordination between the two countries", state media quoted Defence Minister Liang Guanglie as telling the visiting chairman of the Russian parliament's defence committee on Monday. The link, which opened on March 14, would be "helpful for our two nations to co-ordinate on important issues so as to promote military ties", General Liang told Victor Zavarzin, chairman of the State Duma defence committee. ^ top ^

Swedish PM to start official visit to China (China Daily)
2008-04-11
Sweden's Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt left here on Thursday for China for an official visit. During his stay in China from April 11 to 15, Reinfeldt will make a speech at "Boao Forum for Aisa" on the island province of Hainan, and will meet the Chinese President Hu Jintao. Reinfeldt will also hold talks with his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao in Beijing, according to the program. The main topics on his agenda will be climate change and sustainable development, the Swedish Prime Minister said in an interview with Xinhua. "I will have discussions with Chinese leaders on the threat of climate change and how to create a more sustainable society concerning the environment, social and cultural factors," Reinfeldt said, adding that China has a key role in the negotiations on a new international climate agreement. Sweden's Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren and Trade Minister Ewa Bjoerling will take part in the visit, as will a large business delegation. ^ top ^

Rudd again raises Tibet issue with state leaders (SCMP)
2008-04-11
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd pressed state leaders again yesterday to open talks with the Dalai Lama and confirmed he would not allow Beijing to use its regular security arrangements for the Olympic torch when it arrived in Australia. Mr Rudd, who will meet President Hu Jintao tomorrow in Sanya, Hainan province, raised the sensitive topic of Tibet in his meeting with Premier Wen Jiabao in the Great Hall of the People. "The question of dialogue [with the Dalai Lama], of course, was raised," Mr Rudd said after 2-1/2 hours of talks with Mr Wen. "The position of the Australian government is that there are significant human rights problems in Tibet which require resolution through, number one, non-violent approaches and, two, through dialogue. " […] At the press conference, Mr Rudd said security agents Beijing sent to escort the Olympic flame would have to travel in a bus when the relay was run on April 24 in Canberra. […] Although Tibet was raised, the meeting between Mr Wen and Mr Rudd appeared to have focused on trade and environmental issues. Mr Rudd said they had agreed to "kick-start" talks on a free-trade deal. "We are both committed to this being a broadly based, comprehensive and substantive free-trade agreement," he said. He cited a free-trade deal announced by China and New Zealand this week as part of his efforts to bring "fresh political momentum" to the Sino-Australian talks, which he hoped to end as soon as possible. Australia began negotiating a deal with China in May 2005, but officials said late last year that although differences had narrowed on some issues, overall progress was slow. Yesterday, the two sides issued a joint statement on closer co-operation on climate change, vowing to enhance their collaboration to promote policy dialogue, expand the Australia-China Climate Change Partnership and develop clean energy. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Harsher sentence for activist (SCMP)
2008-04-11
A network of overseas activists says democracy campaigner Zhu Yufu has been given a stricter sentence after being retried for a fight with police in which he and his son were beaten. The decision upholds his two-year prison sentence, but also deprives him of his political rights for two years, four months and 26 days, according to China Human Rights Defenders. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Company ready for bridge bid (People's Daily)
2008-04-10
Infrastructure builder China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) will bid for the multibillion-dollar contract for the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao bridge. Releasing the company's 2007 results, CCCC Chairman Zhou Jichang said preliminary work had been completed for the bid. But whether CCCC will shoulder the mega project all by itself or establish a joint venture is yet to be decided. Upon completion, the 29.6 km bridge will link Hong Kong, Zhuhai and Macao to further integrate the main economies of the Pearl River Delta region by slashing travel time. Zhou estimated that CCCC would invest 60 to 70 billion yuan in the project. "Our group will actively participate in the project no matter whether it is a joint effort or not. "Asked if CCCC's two major competitors China Railway Construction and China Railway Group will enter the bidding process, Zhou said he does not know but "will pay very close attention". […]. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Taiwanese deputy coy on focus of Hu meeting (SCMP)
2008-04-08
Taiwanese vice-president-elect Vincent Siew Wan-chang said yesterday he expected to meet mainland President Hu Jintao this week but would not say whether they would hold political discussions. Speaking in Taipei, Mr Siew sidestepped concern he would erode the island's status when he met Mr Hu at the Boao Forum, in Hainan. Mr Siew is attending in a private capacity as chairman of the Cross-Strait Common Market Foundation, a think-tank he set up to forge closer ties with the mainland. When asked whether he would talk to Mr Hu directly on cross-strait rapprochement, he said: "It is up to the arrangements of the forum organiser. Basically, we respect any arrangements they make. So far we have yet to hear anything from their side. "But our delegation was able to meet the most senior mainland official present at forums in the past several years, and I expect we should be able to do so this time." […].^ top ^

 

Tibet

Fresh Tibetan riots erupt in Sichuan - Activists say 8 killed in violence; state media reports 1 official hurt (SCMP)
2008-04-07
Renewed rioting broke out in a Tibetan populated area of Sichuan on Thursday night, Xinhua reported yesterday. It said police had to fire "warning shots" to put down the rioting. An overseas Tibetan activist group said eight Tibetans had been killed in the incident, including a monk. Xinhua said one official was seriously wounded by rioters. The London-based Free Tibet Campaign said the incident originated at the Tonkhor monastery in Garze and was triggered by government attempts to enforce a new "patriotic education campaign" that demanded monks denounce the Dalai Lama. The powerful organisation department of the Communist Party last night urged "loyalty among party members in Tibetan regions". Xinhua reported that the party had released a circular to its organs in the Tibet Autonomous Region and other Tibetan-populated prefectures and counties. It asked the organs to step up "anti- secession education among party members and officials at the grass-roots level". It also called on the party organs in the regions to "intensify the patriotism and legal awareness of party members and officials", saying it was "essential to maintain their loyalty when fighting against secessionists". Xinhua said rioters attacked the township government offices in Donggu, Garze county, at about 8pm on Thursday. A local legislative official on an inspection tour of the town was wounded during the attack. "Police were forced to fire warning shots and put down the violence, since local officials and people were in great danger and the rioters would not be persuaded to stop," a local official was quoted as saying. "Local officials exercised restraint during the riot and repeatedly told the rioters to abide by the law." Free Tibet Campaign spokesman Matt Whitticase, citing a source among Tibetan exiles in India, said the violence was triggered by local government provocation. He said the head monk at the Tonkhor monastery, Lobsang Jamyang, refused to allow a government team to enter on Wednesday, but they returned on Thursday with a force of about 3,000 paramilitary police. Two monks, Geshi Sonam Tenzing and Tsultrim Phuntsog, were detained after photos of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, were found among their belongings. Soon afterwards, the monastery's 370 monks, joined by about 400 lay people, marched on the local government headquarters to demand the release of the two monks, Mr Whitticase said. He said the group left after being told the monks would be freed at 8pm, but returned after officials reneged. Along the way, they were confronted by troops at a road block, who opened fire on the crowd. It was the first reported Tibetan riot on the mainland for more than a week and comes as mainland officials claimed they had brought the restive region under control. Tibetan Party Secretary Zhang Qingli said two days ago the authorities had achieved a "landmark victory" against what he called the separatist uprising organised by the Dalai Lama and his supporters. Beijing also said it would reopen Tibet to foreign visitors on May 1. Garze has experienced intense Tibetan protests and riots since unrest broke out in Lhasa in the middle of last month. One policeman was killed and several others injured in the earlier riots in Garze. ^ top ^

Tibetan death toll claim 'totally fake' (SCMP)
2008-04-08
Beijing has sought to discredit Tibetan exiles' claims that the security forces killed protesters in the recent unrest, saying a list of 40 people supposedly dead was "totally fake". State-controlled media referred to a list of victims it said the Tibetan government-in-exile distributed two weeks ago, saying at least one person had been found alive and the identities of 35 others were impossible to confirm. "The list is totally fake and meant to conceal the violence masterminded by the Dalai [Lama] clique," Lhasa police told Xinhua. The report said there were no records of four people listed. The Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamsala, India, says at least 150 people have been killed in the anti-China demonstrations in Tibet. Beijing says 20 people were killed in the riots - 18 civilians and two policemen. Four days of peaceful protests erupted into rioting in Lhasa on March 14, spreading to other areas of western China with Tibetan populations, including the southwestern province of Sichuan. The latest clash occurred in Sichuan's Garze county on Thursday, during which police fired warning shots, Xinhua reported. ^ top ^

China FM: Tibet's development "better than ever" (Xinhua)
2008-04-09
China Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu on Tuesday introduced policies adopted by the central government on Tibet, saying the autonomous region's development was "better than ever". The central government practices a regional ethnic autonomy system in Tibet, and guarantees the democratic rights of Tibetans. As an ethnic minority, Tibetans also enjoy preferential treatment in laws and policies, Jiang told a regular press conference. She said the government also exercised a preferential policy of mobilizing the whole nation to help the development of Tibet. The central and local governments and institutions at all levels have given great financial, material and personnel support to Tibet. The gross local production maintains a consecutive growth rate of over 12 percent for many years with the per capita GNP amounting to 12,000 yuan (1,714 U.S. dollars), higher than the average national level, Jiang said. The central government has not collected tax from Tibet for years, yet each year it invested billions of yuan in the construction and development of Tibet. With regard to the religious freedom enjoyed by Tibetans, Jiang said freedom of religious belief is respected by the government and protected under the law. All regular religious activities are practiced in a normal way. Moreover, the central government attaches great importance to preserving and growing the Tibetan culture. Tibetan Buddhism has been well protected in China, said Jiang. The central government has invested huge funds in the preservation and maintenance of monasteries and religious sites, including the Potala Palace and other temples. It had also set up more than 50 institutes on Tibetan studies nationwide. The central government had also made efforts on the collection and publication of Tibetan Buddhism classics, including the Tibetan Tripitaka. Concerning the Tibetan language, Jiang said both Tibetan and Chinese were taught and used in Tibet, with the Tibetan language the primary language. The Tibetan language had become the first language used by an ethnic minority group in China for which an international standard had been set up, she added. […]. ^ top ^

Tibet backtracks on opening to tourists (SCMP)
2008-04-11
Tibet has ordered travel agencies to stop arranging trips for foreigners, citing the need to secure passage of the Olympic torch relay to Mount Everest early next month, tour operators said yesterday. The decision is a reversal of the notice tourism officials gave last week that Tibet would reopen to foreign tourist groups on May 1. The Himalayan region has been closed to outsiders since anti-government riots in Lhasa in mid-March. Several tour operators said they received verbal notices this week from the regional tourism body telling them to stop arranging trips, citing the security of the Olympic torch and safety concerns in Lhasa. An employee at the China Youth Travel Service in Lhasa said: "We received the emergency notice from the tourism bureau that, considering the safety of the torch, which will go to Mount Everest in May, agencies are not allowed to receive tourist groups and foreign tourists." He said the decision would hurt Tibet's expanding tourism industry. Last May his firm arranged trips for 3,000 to 4,000 tourists. The Xinxin Tourism Agency based in Sichuan province's Chengdu , a gateway to Tibet, said it received notification on Wednesday. "They told us to wait until further notice," an employee said. "There are still criminals at large so it's not safe. I heard people throw rocks at vehicles in Tibet." A man at the Tibetan Tourism Bureau confirmed that changes had been made to the original decision to reopen Tibet on May 1. On Wednesday, Tibet Governor Qiangba Puncog said he expected independence activists to create trouble when the Olympic torch passed through the region. "For these separatist forces, the Olympics in Beijing will be a rare opportunity," he said. "I don't doubt they will create trouble during the torch relay in Tibet." He said special security preparations were being made. The Olympic torch will return to the mainland at the beginning of next month and continue through dozens of cities, including Lhasa in mid-June. A side relay is to take a second torch up Mount Everest in early May. China had banned mountaineering groups from getting permits to climb its side of Everest between March and June. It also persuaded Nepal to enact a similar ban on its side of the mountain. ^ top ^

US wants to set up consulate in Lhasa (SCMP)
2008-04-11
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United States was looking at the possibility of setting up a consulate in Tibet. She said Washington had called on Beijing to allow more US diplomats into the region, saying access China granted so far was insufficient. "We are looking at the possibility of a consulate in Tibet," Dr Rice told American lawmakers at a hearing on Wednesday. "We got some limited access, but frankly it wasn't good enough." Her statement was in response to the lawmakers' demand that the US government should seek greater access to the Himalaya region. The congressmen passed a resolution criticising China for its handling of the unrest in Tibet and urging Beijing to hold direct talks with the Dalai Lama. The House resolution also demanded that China release Tibetans jailed for taking part in peaceful demonstrations and allow international monitors and journalists unfettered access to the Tibet Autonomous Region and other Tibetan-populated areas. A similar resolution has been introduced in the Senate. Both say the opening of further Chinese diplomatic missions in the US should be contingent on Beijing allowing the United States to establish an office in Lhasa. Meanwhile, US President George W. Bush urged China to open a dialogue with the Dalai Lama, saying Beijing would find the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader to be a "fine man". ^ top ^

UN group expresses concern (SCMP)
2008-04-11
A group of UN rights experts expressed concern at the crackdown in Tibet and called for journalists and independent observers to be given full access to the region. The experts "urge restraint and non-violence by all parties, greater and unfettered access to the regions concerned for journalists and independent observers, and full implementation of international standards in regard to the treatment of protesters". ^ top ^

UN barred from Tibet (SCMP)
2008-04-11
Beijing has turned down a request by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour to visit Tibet this month to look into violent protests in which at least 19 people died, her spokesman said. "The Chinese authorities came back to her and said it wouldn't be convenient at this time," he said. "However, they said she would be welcome to make a visit at a later date that would be mutually convenient." Ms Arbour made the request two weeks ago. ^ top ^

 

Economy

Pledge to hunt down organisers of pilot protest (SCMP)
2008-04-07
The aviation regulator is leaving no stone unturned in its search for the ringleaders of a pilots' protest in Yunnan that stranded more than 1,000 passengers last week, an industry source has said. Eighteen flights returned to Kunming airport without landing at destinations that included the tourist cities of Lijiang and Dali last Monday, after action staged by pilots angry about wage levels and income tax rates, the source said. […]" The strike has been planned in chat rooms for some time. At first, no one took it seriously. But when the first flight returned, others just followed suit without conferring. There was no evidence of organisation: it was spontaneous," the source said. The administration has sent a team to Yunnan to collect information on weather conditions, flight details and to talk to staff about the return flights. It said it would punish those responsible if there was proof of a violation of professional ethics. A Yunnan branch official told Xinhua yesterday passengers could receive compensation for the delays. "But the compensation is unwarranted if the delays were caused by bad weather - as the carrier has announced," said Beijing aviation lawyer Zhang Qihuai . Airlines need not compensate for weather or industrial strikes. The premise in this case is that the carrier violated its service agreement with passengers, which could entitle them to compensation based on their ticket prices, Mr Zhang said. "The escalation of disputes between carriers and their employees made the pilots go to extremes with this radical action. Behind that is a weak protection of pilots' interests in the law, which should be corrected." Last month, 11 captains of East Star Airlines asked for leave over wage disputes, leading to cancellations of flights from Wuhan , Hubei province. China Yunnan Airlines merged into China Eastern in 2002. The mainland needs at least 500 more captains for its air services. An extra 4,840 pilots will be needed by 2010. ^ top ^

Biggest city bank posts 57% profit growth (People's Daily)
2008-04-08
Bank of Beijing Co, China's biggest city bank, said profit rose 57 percent in 2007 as the nation's fastest economic growth in 13 years boosted demand for corporate loans and mortgages. Net income climbed to 3.3 billion yuan, or 0.63 yuan a share, from 2.1 billion yuan, or 0.43 yuan per share, in 2006, the Beijing-based company said in a statement.City banks, barred from expanding outside their hometowns until 2006, raised funds last year to compete with larger, better-capitalized rivals that have no geographic limits. China's three publicly traded city banks averaged 53 percent profit growth last year compared with 75 percent for peers operating nationwide. […]Bank of Beijing also said yesterday it plans to pay 127.5 million yuan for 19.99 percent of Langfang City Commercial Bank in the northern Chinese province of Hebei. The transaction needs approval from shareholders and regulators, it said. Langfang City Commercial Bank was founded in 2000, and the deal, if approved, is expected to result in an annual return on investment ratio of more than 20 percent in the next three years. Bank of Beijing is the third of China's 113 city-commercial banks to go public, selling 15 billion yuan of shares in an initial public offering in Shanghai in September. Smaller rivals Bank of Nanjing Co and Bank of Ningbo Co raised a combined 11.1 billion yuan in domestic public offerings in July.
Bank of Beijing's lending grew 21 percent to 157 billion yuan last year and deposits increased 11 percent to 260 billion yuan. The bank aims to boost profit by 40 percent this year and loans will rise 15 percent, it said in the statement. […]. ^ top ^

Jiang briefs Beijing on energy paper (SCMP)
2008-04-10
Top energy officials are scrambling to study an academic paper on the subject written by former president Jiang Zemin , and there are reports the retired top leader plans to make a public appearance soon to talk about national energy strategy. The National Energy Bureau, an executive arm of the new Energy Commission, organised a seminar on Tuesday in Shanghai to discuss Mr Jiang's paper on conservation. A mainland science journal recently published the paper. Among those present were bureau director Zhang Guobao , Shanghai vice-mayor Yang Xiong , top energy scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Engineering, and senior executives of state-run oil companies. Hours after the seminar, Mr Zhang and a group of experts flew to Beijing, China Business News reported. They were summoned to brief the leadership on the seminar. In the 16-page dissertation, published by the Journal of Shanghai Jiaotong University last month, Mr Jiang argues energy conservation should be the government's top long-term priority. The university is Mr Jiang's alma mater, and one of the mainland's top institutes for technology and engineering. The paper is his first public statement since his 2004 retirement. "The paper and the seminar have made Shanghai Jiaotong University an important place overnight," the China Business News report said, suggesting that the retired leader still wields huge political influence. "It is now where China's future energy policy will be formulated." Another newspaper, the 21st Century Economic Herald, said Mr Jiang's paper had triggered a nationwide debate about energy strategy. "Jiang Zemin will attend a seminar on China's energy strategy to be held in Beijing in the near future," said the Guangzhou newspaper. Since paramount leader Deng Xiaoping died in 1997, retired leaders have rarely made public comments about state affairs. China-watchers believe Mr Jiang's public statement could undermine the authority of President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao as the leadership faces its worst diplomatic crisis since 1989 amid worldwide protests over Beijing's handling of riots in Tibet. A Beijing-based scholar said: "His public statement might send the political message that the former leader still wants some say on policy." David Zweig, director of the Centre on China's Transnational Relations at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said Mr Jiang's move was unusual and might suggest he wants to express his support for the energy bureaucrats. ^ top ^

China's yuan breaks 7 mark against USD (People's Daily)
2008-04-11
China's currency, the yuan, was set to trade at 6.9920 yuan against the U.S. dollar on Thursday, breaching the 7-yuan mark for the first time since the government unpegged it from the dollar in 2005. Following an overnight fall of the dollar, the central parity rate of the yuan, or Renminbi (RMB), gained 105 basis points to 6.9920 yuan against the dollar on Thursday, according to the China Foreign Exchange Trading System. Shen Minggao, an economist at Citigroup in Beijing, said that like many economists, he was not surprised to see the yuan to break the 7-yuan mark. "It was quite natural," he said, citing the dollar's fall against other major currencies, especially the euro, since the second half of last year along with an unfolding U.S. credit crisis plaguing the U.S. economy. […]. ^ top ^

 

Avian flu

Human-to-human bird flu transmission confirmed in Jiangsu (SCMP)
2008-04-08
Mainland health officials have confirmed that a father caught bird flu from his son in December, according to a report released on Tuesday. Human-to-human transmission of bird flu has happened about a dozen times in the past, in countries including Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia. In nearly every case, transmission has occurred among blood relatives who have been in close contact, and the virus has not spread into the wider community. In the case in China, a 52-year-old man and his 24-year-old son in Jiangsu province were diagnosed with H5N1 bird flu within a week of each other in December. At the time, officials from the World Health Organisation said they could not rule out the possibility of human-to-human transmission. After the son died, his father was treated with anti-virals and participated in an H5N1 vaccine trial. He survived. The son's only exposure to bird flu was at a poultry market, while the father apparently had no direct exposure to sick birds. His only known exposure to bird flu was close contact with his ill son. The H5N1 viruses from the father and son were almost genetically identical. Experts also tested 91 friends, colleagues, and family members of the father and son – all of whom tested negative for H5N1, proving that the virus is not casually transmitted. “Limited, non-sustained person to person transmission of H5N1 virus probably occurred in this family cluster,” wrote researchers at Beijing's Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in the medical journal, The Lancet. “There is no indication from this data that we are any nearer to a pandemic,” said Ian Jones, a professor of virology at the University of Reading. Bird flu remains difficult for humans to catch, and experts think most cases are linked to close contact with infected birds. Health officials monitor every potential case of human to human transmission with particular concern to see if the virus might have mutated into a form that is more easily spread. So far, that has not happened. “An air of tension still surrounds this disease,” wrote Dr. Jeremy Farrar of the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and colleagues. “Given that the species barrier can be breached, the intriguing question is why the transmissibility of H5N1 among people remains so low?” Many flu experts worry that H5N1 will spark a pandemic, potentially killing millions worldwide. But despite circulating widely in Asia and beyond since late 2003, the virus only rarely infects humans. As of April 3, WHO reported 378 cases and 238 deaths worldwide. Last week, the agency confirmed another instance of human-to-human transmission in Pakistan from last December. ^ top ^

Father-son infection of bird flu 'not a concern' (SCMP)
2008-04-09
The World Health Organisation yesterday said the likely human-to-human bird flu transmission between a father and his son in Jiangsu province was no reason for concern. The statement came after mainland researchers said in the medical journal The Lancet that a 24-year-old man, who died of H5N1 bird flu in December, had passed the virus on to his father. In the article, mainland health authorities said a rare instance of human-to-human bird flu transmission had likely taken place. Genetic sequencing and other checks confirmed it was likely that the young man had infected his 52-year-old father, who survived. "In this family cluster of confirmed cases of infection with highly pathogenic avian influenza A [H5N1] virus in mainland China, we believe the index case transmitted H5N1 virus to his father while his father cared for him in the hospital," the report said. Hans Troedsson, the WHO representative in China, yesterday said the Jiangsu case involved limited human-to-human transmission and the virus had not mutated. "It is a thorough and well- conducted epidemiological study by the authorities in Jiangsu and China's [Centre for Disease Control and Prevention], and they shared all their information with us, the WHO," Dr Troedsson said. "Our assessment is based on that investigation... it is likely it was a limited human-to- human transmission. […]. ^ top ^

 

Beijing Olympics

Rogge hopes relay proceeds smoothly (China Daily)
2008-04-10
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge Wednesday expressed the hope that the progress of the Olympic torch relay is safe and smooth. In a meeting with Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing, their first since 2006, Rogge said excellent work had been done by the Games organizers. The IOC chief reiterated that it was the right decision in 2001 to award the Games to Beijing. On Tuesday, Rogge expressed "deep concern" over the violent nature of the protests in London and Paris during the torch relay. " We recognize the right of people to protest and express their views, but it should be non-violent. We are very sad for all the athletes and the people who expected so much from the run " Rogge said. […]Wen said the Beijing Games would be a great event for people from all over the world. He added that the Olympic flame is a symbol of peace, friendship and progress, representing the common pursuits and wishes of mankind for a bright future. " We believe that the Olympic flame, which belongs to all mankind, should never be extinguished." Wen said that the Chinese government and the 1.3 billion Chinese people would work hard to prepare for the Games, and make sure that a memorable Games is staged. ^ top ^

Olympic torch relay concludes in San Francisco, closing ceremony relocated (People's Daily)
2008-04-10
The closing ceremony for the Olympic torch relay in San Francisco was relocated on Wednesday while the relay was concluded in the U.S. western coastal city. The closing ceremony has been moved to an undisclosed location. […] San Francisco police announced the route had been changed, according to local TV KRON4. At one point, Tibetan separatists tried to disrupt the torch relay. They tried to grab the torch, but were pushed back by police escorting the torch relay, a Xinhua correspondent witnessed. Thousands of people gathered along the route of the relay under a sunny sky to show their support for the torch run in the U.S. city, which is the sixth leg of the torch's global journey. Supporters of China's role as host of the Games were upholding Chinese national flags and displaying the Beijing Olympic mascot Fuwa on the city's waterfront. […]. ^ top ^

Police foil terrorist attempts to derail Games (China Daily)
2008-04-11
A senior police officer Thursday revealed attempts by two terrorist groups in Xinjiang to kidnap foreigners and carry out suicide attacks in the run-up to, and during, the Beijing Olympic Games. The groups were plotting attacks on hotels, government buildings and military installations in Beijing and Shanghai, Public Security Ministry spokesman Wu Heping told a press conference in Beijing. A total of 45 terrorists have been detained, and a large quantity of explosives seized." These terrorists were attempting sabotage to undermine the upcoming Games. They were also plotting to kidnap athletes, foreign journalists and other visitors," Wu said. "We face a real terrorist threat." In the first case, Wu said, police in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region netted, between January 4 and 11, a 10-member terrorist group led by Aji Muhammat. Police also seized 18 explosive devices, 4 kg of explosives, seven detonators, 100 kg of raw material for making explosives and massive text materials on starting a "holy war", Wu said. The group was sent by East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) separatists from abroad to carry out terrorist attacks, according to police. Aji Muhammat and his gang members also confessed to their crimes, Wu said. […] The second terrorist group, based in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang, was uncovered between March 26 and April 6, according to the ministry. Wu said the group planned to launch human bombs in Urumqi and other big cities, and to kidnap foreign athletes at the Games and reporters covering the Olympics." These facts show that terrorists, led by the ETIM, are actively plotting attacks to undermine the Games," Wu said. "However, the arrests of the two groups show that Chinese police are well prepared and capable of foiling any sabotage.". ^ top ^

Relay runners play cat and mouse - Protesters and supporters clash as San Francisco leg changes course at last minute (SCMP)
2008-04-11
The Olympic torch played hide-and-seek with thousands of spectators and demonstrators crowding the San Francisco waterfront before it was whisked to the airport in a heavily guarded motorcade. The parade was rerouted and shortened to avoid a repeat of the disruptions that reduced the relay legs in Paris and London to chaos. A closing ceremony planned for the city's waterfront was cancelled. The flame was taken to San Francisco International Airport and put directly on a plane. The last-minute changes to the route and the site of the closing ceremony disappointed the many who had waited hours to see the parade or to stage anti-China protests while the torch passed. […] There were signs of tension even before the torch relay began, because pro-Tibet and pro-Beijing groups were given permits to demonstrate at adjoining sites. In some places, representatives of the two camps spilled out from their allotted zones and shouted at each other. […] At least one torch-bearer decided to show her support for Tibet. After being passed the Olympic flame, Majora Carter pulled out a small Tibetan flag that she had hidden up her shirt sleeve. "They pulled me out of the race, and then San Francisco police officers pushed me back into the crowd on the side of the street," she said. The torch relay - the longest in Olympic history - has come under intense scrutiny as it is targeted by pro-Tibet and human rights activists as a means to express their frustration over Beijing's human rights record and the recent crackdown in Tibet. As news that the flame was travelling towards the airport spread along the waterfront, the crowds of spectators and protesters - who numbered more than 10,000 - showed their discontent. Some said they felt cheated. […] China's ambassador to the United States, Zhou Wenzhong , described the torch relay in San Francisco as successful, and hit out at "a handful of forces" bent on disrupting the Olympic Games and undermining Sino-US relations. In Beijing yesterday, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said: "During the torch relay there, we have seen lots of patriotic overseas Chinese and local people who warmly welcomed the torch relay, which left many moving moments in our hearts. […]. ^ top ^

IOC denies rift with Beijing on torch relay (SCMP)
2008-04-11
The International Olympic Committee denied it was at odds with Beijing over the torch relay last night. The central government said IOC president Jacques Rogge had "exaggerated" his assessment of the flame's journey, which he said had left the 2008 Olympic Games in "crisis" because of the protests dogging the torch relay. At the IOC's ongoing and tense executive board meeting in the capital, he urged Beijing to honour pledges to improve human rights. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu later said Dr Rogge's view of a "crisis" might have been "exaggerated" - and then made it clear Beijing would not engage in a discussion over its human rights policies. " I believe IOC officials support the Beijing Olympics and adherence to the Olympic Charter of not bringing in any irrelevant political factors," she said. "I hope IOC officials continue to adhere to the principles of the Olympic Charter." IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies said last night the "partnership" remained strong despite evidence of strain after a tumultuous week in which the Olympics' image had been battered. "It's a matter of opinion [whether the Olympics is in crisis], and the Foreign Ministry is entitled to its own view," she told the South China Morning Post (SEHK: 0583, announcements, news) . "Mr Rogge used that word this morning but also said the challenges should not be compared with those faced by the Olympics in the past." She said relations were very good between the IOC and Beijing, adding: "We keep the relationship direct, and we are comfortable with this." Earlier yesterday, after hundreds of baton-wielding police shielded the Olympic torch through San Francisco to avoid the chaos of earlier legs in London and Paris, Dr Rogge said he was still confident Beijing would host a successful Olympics in August. He said he was saddened by the violent protests in London and Paris but believed the San Francisco leg had been an improvement and that the relay would not be cut short. "It was, however, not the joyous party that we had wished it to be," he said at a joint meeting of the Association of National Olympic Committees and the IOC's executive board. He said sports leaders should seek to reassure athletes - and warn them of abusing the Olympic Charter by confusing freedom of expression with propaganda." Tell them that whatever they have seen and heard, the Games will be very well organised. Tell them that we will rebound from this current crisis." Dr Rogge also recalled how more than seven years ago Beijing officials had promised to "advance the social agenda of China, including human rights" if it was awarded the 2008 Olympics. "This is what I would call a moral engagement rather than a juridical one... we definitely ask China to respect this moral engagement.". ^ top ^

Detours possible in HK to avoid torch chaos - Henry Tang says a balance must be struck between security and public access (SCMP)
2008-04-11
The Olympic torch could make last-minute detours in Hong Kong to avoid possible disruptions to the torch relay, although drastic changes are not expected, according to Chief Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen. Mr Tang said yesterday the Hong Kong government would continue to assess the risks and alter the route as needed. […] Activists in Hong Kong have said they will be out in force during the relay. […]. ^ top ^

European Parliament urges nations to consider boycott (SCMP)
2008-04-11
The European Parliament yesterday urged EU governments to consider a 27-nation boycott of the Olympics opening ceremony if Beijing does not resume talks with the Dalai Lama. It approved a resolution calling on the European Union governments to explore "the option of non-attendance in the event there is no resumption of dialogue" with the Tibetan side. The Parliament also urged Beijing "not to misuse the 2008 Olympic Games by arresting dissidents, journalists and human rights activists in order to prevent demonstrations and reports which the authorities view as embarrassing". ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Russia and Mongolia Discuss Rail Upgrade (Mongol Messenger)
2008-04-10
Mongolia has long-term plans to have three northsouth, and one east-west horizontal railway lines across the nation, according to a development policy document discussed by the Government of Mongolia last Monday. Prime Minister S.Bayar will discuss the plans on an upcoming official visit to Russia on April 10-12 at the invitation of Russian Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov. The Mongolian and Russian governments each own 50 percent of stock in the Ulaanbaatar Railway Joint Stock Company, the main transportation backbone of the Mongolian economy. ^ top ^

Thousands of Americans Demand Aid to Mongolia End (Mongol Messenger)
2008-04-10
Nearly 35,000 American taxpayers this week sent letters to the Bush administration demanding it stop sending aid to Mongolia. The Center for Individual Freedom, a free markets advocacy group, prompted the protest over what it said is increased corruption and the infringement of American property rights in Mongolia. The group pointed at the Mongolian government's controversial decision to seize control of a major coalmine and place it under public ownership. In his inaugural address in December, Prime Minister S.Bayar surprised foreign investors by announcing the government would take control of the $2 billion coal mine at Tavan Tolgoi because the asset “has become an issue of national security and public interests.” Various mining groups including BHP Billiton, Peabody Energy and China Shenhua Energy have spent the last three years discussing the site, which is estimated to have almost 4 billion metric tons of thermal and choking coal in reserve and would therefore be Mongolia's second biggest mine. The takeover means the mining companies will have to big for the project through the government. Mongolia, which had a GDP of US$880 per capita in 2006, depends on aid from foreign countries for its development. The Bush administration has not commented on the protest. ^ top ^

Spate of Mercury Poisoning Continues (Mongol Messenger)
2008-04-10
The Metropolitan Emergency Agency responded to another two cases of dangerous mercury levels in Ulaanbaatar during the past week. Officials took air and water samples from the site and later revealed that mercury in the air contained mercury five times more than the normal standard. The spill resulted in several illegal citizens being arrested. The MEA said that no one has been poisoned by the mercury spills. ^ top ^

 

Patricia Straessle
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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