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
  14.4-18.4.08, No. 213  
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Table of contents

Avian flu

Mongolia

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Foreign Policy

China, Chile sign free trade service trade pact (People's Daily)
2008-04-14
China and Chile on Sunday signed a service trade pact supplementary to their free trade agreement (FTA), the first of its kind with a Latin American country. According to the pact, the two nations will further open their service sectors to each other's market on the basis of their commitments to the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Ministry of Commerce said in a statement on its website on Sunday. Altogether, 23 industries in China, including computer, management consulting, mining, sports, environment and air transport, and 37 in Chile such as law, architectural design, engineering and real estate, among others, were involved. The two governments also agreed to hold talks on investment under the FTA at an appropriate time, the statement quoted an unnamed ministry spokesman as saying. A work team will be set up to make it more convenient for business people to obtain visas when traveling across the two countries' borders. Under the pact, the two countries could complement each other and sharpen their competitive edges in global service trade. It would help them improve their investment environment, create business opportunities and lower trade costs, said the ministry. "The service trade pact is a great chance for most Chinese enterprises to further tap the Chilean and Latin American markets," said the ministry spokesman. "It also means heavier pressure from foreign competitors as well as the introduction of more advanced technologies and management." China and Chile signed a FTA in 2005 and put it in effect in October 2006. Their bilateral trade soared 65 percent year on yearto 14.7 billion U.S. dollars in 2007, up from the 23.9 annual growth of 2006. […]. ^ top ^

80 million may be living in poverty under new standards (SCMP)
2008-04-14
The number of people officially living in poverty could double to 80 million if the government adopts proposed standards for measuring the problem, Xinhua said. Beijing may raise the amount that must be earned each year to escape poverty, from 1,067 yuan to 1,300 yuan, a 20 per cent jump, which would roughly double the number of the officially poor. The move would bring China closer in line with international standards. ^ top ^

UN chief warns of food crisis worldwide (China Daily)
2008-04-15
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned yesterday that the rapidly escalating global food crisis has reached emergency proportions and threatens to wipe out seven years of progress in the fight against global poverty. He called for short-term emergency measures in many regions to meet urgent food needs and avoid starvation and longer-term efforts to significantly increase production of food grains. The "international community will also need to take urgent and concerted action in order to avoid the larger political and security implications of this growing crisis," Ban told international finance and trade officials. ^ top ^

Japanese PM asks Hu to find resolution through dialogue (SCMP)
2008-04-15
Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda sent a message to President Hu Jintao asking him to resolve the Tibet issue through dialogue, a Japanese minister was quoted as saying. Environment Minister Ichiro Kamoshita told Japanese reporters in Beijing he delivered the message when he met Mr Hu on Saturday on the sidelines of the Boao Forum for Asia in Hainan". ^ top ^

China, UK conclude first economic, financial dialogue with broad consensus (People's Daily)
2008-04-16
China and the United Kingdom (UK) convened their first-ever economic and financial dialogue in Beijing Tuesday, in which they reached consensus on facilitating bilateral investment and cementing joint efforts to solve international problems including climate change. Wang Qishan, Chinese vice premier and special representative of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, and Alistair Darling, British Chancellor of the Exchequer and special representative of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, co-chaired the deputy-prime-minister level dialogue. […]The countries are in favor of market openness, trade and investment liberalization, and against protectionism, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. They agreed to expand investment and civil high technologies trade, promote an all-round and balanced development of goods and service trade, and push forward progress of the Doha Round negotiations. […]Both sides were concerned about the violent turbulence of the international financial market triggered by the fall of the dollar, the lowering of interest rates and the subprime mortgage crisis in the United States. They agreed to enhance cooperation among financial supervision departments and jointly promote the improvement of international finance supervision system. Meanwhile, the two countries also reached consensus on cementing cooperation in combating climate change, expanding technical transfer and pragmatic cooperation in the areas of energy and environmental protection. […]. ^ top ^

Dalai Lama to visit Swiss capital (SCMP)
2008-04-16
The Dalai Lama will visit the Swiss capital Berne on October 13, where he is scheduled to take part in an inter-faith festival, the city authorities said. Switzerland is home to a 3,500-strong exiled Tibetan community, the largest in Europe, and the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader has visited the country several times. ^ top ^

China, Japan ties set for faster boost (China Daily)
2008-04-17
President Hu Jintao said he is hoping his forthcoming visit to Japan will develop bilateral ties. Hu made the remarks yesterday during a meeting with a Japanese delegation headed by Bunmei Ibuki, secretary-general of the Japanese Liberal Democratic Party, and Kitagawa Kazuo, secretary-general of the Komei Party. Hu, expected to visit Japan early next month - the first by a Chinese president in a decade - is likely to attend the opening ceremony of the China-Japan Friendly Exchange Year of Youth. Hu took part in the opening ceremony by the Chinese side last month in Beijing. According to Japanese media, Hu will play a game of table tennis with Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda on May 8 at Waseda University, Tokyo. Ping-pong diplomacy is no stranger to the Chinese. The exchange of table tennis players helped improve ties between China and the United States and made it possible for then US President Richard Nixon to visit the country in 1972. […]Hu said the Chinese government attaches great importance to the bilateral ties. He said to develop long-lasting, stable and friendly relations with Japan is China's unswerving policy. As this year marks the 30th anniversary of the China-Japan Peace and Friendship Treaty, Hu said the two sides must seize the opportunity to cement mutual, beneficial cooperation and boost mutual trust. Ibuki handed a letter to Hu from Fukuda that said the Japanese people were looking forward to Hu's visit, which he believed would inject more vigor to the bilateral ties, better benefit the two peoples, and boost regional and global stability and development. […]. ^ top ^

Expert: Unfair to blame China for Africa's problems (Xinhua)
2008-04-18
It is unfair to blame China for the situation in Darfur and other African issues as China does not have as much influence there as some people believe, Kenyan scholar Firoze Manji said here Wednesday. Manji was speaking at a seminar titled "China in the World: Implications for Development," sponsored by the Canadian Council for International Cooperation at the University of Ottawa. It is unfortunate that China is blamed for situations such as that in Sudan, with the international community saying China can play a role in stopping the violence in Darfur by scaling back trade with the Sudanese government, said Manji, who is a visiting fellow in International Human Rights at Kellogg College, University of Oxford. China ... has no history of colonization, no sponsorship of coup d'etats or assassinations; it doesn't use aid as a political tool," he said. In Manji's opinion, some people simply exaggerate China's influence in Africa. But how many of you realize that India has more oil interests in Sudan than China? Surprised, I bet," he said. "Portugal has much more (at stake) in Angola than China. Yet the world seems to think China has much more influence." China is Africa's third largest trading partner, but it is well behind the United States, so the blame for Africa's poverty "can hardly be placed entirely at China's door." Manji said it was Washington that "opened the doors" to Africa, and there is little space left for newcomers such as China, given the current international rules in place. ^ top ^

Groundswell of support fuels tough line (SCMP)
2008-04-18
Even for those familiar with Beijing's rhetoric against western media reports on the Olympics and Tibetan unrest, the intensity of criticism mainland authorities have levelled at CNN has raised eyebrows worldwide. While debate continues on whether remarks by CNN commentator Jack Cafferty amounted to an insult to the Chinese people, analysts say Beijing's reaction is the result of increasing displeasure at a succession of western reports on the ensuing crackdown in Tibet and the torch-relay protests. Liu Jiangyong, from Tsinghua University's Institute of International Studies, said the leadership drew support for its attack against CNN from the huge number of Chinese people - whether internet users, mainland residents or even overseas Chinese - who had voiced their own protest against what they deem biased western reports. Beijing's reaction "was also due to all the anti-China attacks launched against China", Professor Liu said. He said all these incidents made the Chinese people "more united in counteracting the anti-China forces", referring to the violence that has beset the torch relay on several of its stops and the Tibetan protests. For three straight days, the Foreign Ministry has demanded an apology from CNN for Cafferty's remarks. Last week Cafferty, answering a question from a CNN talk-show host on the difference between China's regime today and that of 20 or 30 years ago, said: "I think they're basically the same bunch of goons and thugs they've been for the last 50 years." Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao "summoned" the network's bureau chief in Beijing, Jaime FlorCruz, on Wednesday night to convey the ministry's discontent with a CNN statement issued on Tuesday, saying it was not an apology at all. Jean-Pierre Cabestan, head of Hong Kong Baptist University's department of government and international studies, said Beijing and the west were engaged in a propaganda war. "China didn't want to be defeated in this war, so every time they responded to the western media they became more aggressive," Professor Cabestan said, adding that such a tactic would certainly backfire. He said that from Beijing's "extreme reaction" it obviously saw CNN as a representative of the US government. He said people should be reminded that CNN was a private business. "If the network can attract more viewers by having a more critical view of China, then of course it would do so," Professor Cabestan said. He said he believed Beijing's response was an attempt to divert attention from the Tibetan unrest by trying to show that "even when it's CNN, it can be very biased". Mainland chat rooms and blogs are replete with angry comments about Cafferty's remarks, although few mainlanders have heard the comments directly. Only those who stay in hotels for foreign tourists can watch overseas media outlets. But many bloggers have passed on various versions of excerpts or translated texts of Cafferty's remarks over the past few days. ^ top ^

New curbs on travel to the mainland - Travel agents report fresh China visa hurdles; businesses worried (SCMP)
2008-04-18
New visa restrictions have been imposed without warning on travel to the mainland by the central government - causing fresh consternation among business leaders and travel agents in Hong Kong. Travel agents say all travellers - including those taking trips to Shenzhen - must show return travel tickets and hotel vouchers to get a visa; that visitors from 33 countries can no longer get visas in Hong Kong but must apply in their home countries; and that a new visa has replaced the short-stop visa for Shenzhen. At least one business traveller has been stranded in Hong Kong by the restrictions, which were disclosed on Monday to travel agency couriers and came into effect on Tuesday. The rules have been issued by the Commissioner's Office of the Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong. Among the 33 countries whose nationals, travel agents say, can no longer get visas in Hong Kong are Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Nigeria and Turkey. The ban does not apply to people from these countries living in Hong Kong. The changes come days after travel agents said they had been told on March 27 that no new multiple-entry visas would be issued until October. In addition, immigration offices at the border stopped issuing short-stay visas to Shenzhen on April 1, when the commissioner's office took over the issuing of all visas. The office said yesterday multiple-entry visas could still be issued. The moves have provoked acute concern from chambers of commerce, who fear the interests of Hong Kong companies will be damaged. Daryl Bending, senior travel consultant with Concorde Travel, said: "We were told late on Monday with pretty much immediate effect that anyone wishing to travel to any mainland destination was required to have a copy of the airline ticket and the hotel voucher before they apply for a visa. "We were also told about a new visa for entering Shenzhen, which will effectively replace the on-the-spot Shenzhen visa that used to be issued at the border. "Previously, if you went up to the border you could get a visa there, which was for approximately five days. We were told on Tuesday that the hotel voucher and proof-of-travel requirement would also apply to Shenzhen whether the passenger goes by boat, train or car." Mr Bending said: "I think the restrictions will deter some foreign tourists from travelling to China at all and ... put an end to much of the casual traffic from Hong Kong to Shenzhen for shopping and recreation." The Commissioner's Office yesterday released a statement confirming that a return ticket and a hotel voucher was required for a tourist visa and an additional "visa notification form" for a business visa. It said the measure was "to spare applicants unnecessary trouble". It did not respond to queries about a new Shenzhen visa or new requirements for 33 nationalities. A Hong Kong government spokesman said: "The government has reflected the views and concerns of the Hong Kong business community to the mainland authorities." Rob Schlipper, of Outpac Designs, which makes travel security products with a Shenzhen firm, said the changes were "a devastating blow". Malaysian consul general Cheong Loon Lai said the consulate had received a request for help from a Malaysian businessman who made a day trip to Hong Kong during a business trip to the mainland and was not allowed back over the border. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Rice subsidy raised as official warns of drop in farmland (SCMP)
2008-04-15
Rice farmers are to be given more subsidies to encourage farming as the mainland's top grain official warns of the increasing difficulty in balancing grain supply and demand amid the global food shortage crisis. State television quoted Wang Shoucong , a deputy department head in the Ministry of Agriculture, last night as saying that subsidies of paddy rice would be raised from 255 yuan (HK$283) to 375 yuan per hectare to ensure rice acreage would not shrink further this year. […]. ^ top ^

Death penalty defended after figures show 470 executions (SCMP)
2008-04-16
Beijing yesterday defended its use of the death penalty after Amnesty International said it was the world's most prolific executioner last year. The human rights group said it had established that at least 470 people were executed - an average of nine a week - and 1,860, or 35 a week, were sentenced to death on the mainland last year. On a per capita basis, however, the mainland trailed Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan in the number of executions last year. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said Beijing had no plans to scrap the death penalty. "The conditions are not right in China to abolish the death penalty, and it would not be supported by the majority of the people. But we strictly control it and use it cautiously to ensure that it is used in only a small minority of the most serious cases." She did not comment on the accuracy of Amnesty's figures. The mainland has been slowly reforming the death-penalty system after several high-profile wrongful convictions raised public anger. Last year the Supreme People's Court took back its power of final approval on death penalties, relinquished to provincial high courts in a crime-fighting campaign in the 1980s. At least 1,252 people were executed in 24 countries last year, the Amnesty report said. ^ top ^

Activist denied final chance to appeal: lawyer - Hu Jia 'unavailable' on last day (SCMP)
2008-04-18
Prominent activist Hu Jia appears to have lost his final chance to overturn his internationally condemned jail term for subversion after the authorities barred his lawyer from meeting him on Monday, the last day to lodge an appeal. Hu was sentenced on April 3 to 3-1/2 years in prison for "subverting the state" after a one-day trial in March. According to the law, Hu had 10 days to appeal. But Hu's defence lawyer, Li Fangping, said that when he arrived on Monday at the Beijing No1 Municipal Detention Centre asking to see his client, he was told Hu was away for a medical check, a step normally taken before a convict is transferred to jail. Mr Li waited until closing time and asked to be allowed to wait until Hu returned, but the request was denied. He came back the next day and was told the deadline for appeal had already expired. Neither he nor Hu's wife, Zeng Jinyan, or mother, Feng Yuan, have been allowed to see Hu since then. Without access to his client, Mr Li did not know if Hu had lodged an appeal himself during those 10 days. The activist's conviction has once again drawn the world's attention to China's human rights record and highlighted a tightening grip on dissidents in the run-up to the Olympic Games. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has criticised the verdict against Hu as "deeply disturbing" while the European Union called for his release. Hu was convicted of spreading malicious rumours and committing libel to subvert the nation by speaking to overseas journalists and circulating online articles on China's politics. Legal experts say Hu should not have been charged as he was only exercising his freedom of expression - a right enshrined in the mainland constitution but one that has repeatedly proved to be little more than ornamental. Hong Kong journalist Ching Cheong, detained on April 2005 and originally sentenced to five years in prison on charges of spying for Taiwan, was released on parole shortly before the Lunar New Year. Mr Li said that he sought to see Hu only on the last day because he wanted to give Hu the maximum amount of time to think about whether to appeal. "There is no law forbidding lawyers or family seeing a prisoner during the 10-day period, but that's what the detention is doing," Mr Li said. "This is very inhumane." Ms Zeng, Hu's wife, who is still under tight police surveillance as she struggles to care for their five-month-old girl, said she was most worried about his health. Hu, originally a hepatitis-B carrier, developed cirrhosis after being locked up by police for 41 days in 2006 without access to medication - a claim the police denied. Hu has also been a vegetarian for 18 years, and Ms Zeng said she was worried that he would not be getting the appropriate diet in detention. "Judicial injustice cannot be mended in a day or two," she said. "All we care about now is Hu's health and life. If we lose him, what else can we hope for?" Mr Li said defence lawyers were preparing papers to apply for medical parole on Hu's behalf. But since the detention centre refused to accept any documents, they could only submit the application and hope that the centre would pass it on to the appropriate department. ^ top ^

 

Beijing

Measures to improve air quality (China Daily)
2008-04-15
Work at Beijing construction sites will be suspended in the run-up to, and during, the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the municipal government announced Monday. The suspension - along with a slew of other initiatives - to be effective from July 20 to September 20, aims to ensure better air quality during the Games, said Du Shaozhong, deputy director of the Beijing environment protection bureau. Other measures announced yesterday include: 19 heavy-polluting industries have been asked to cut emissions by a further 30 percent.

Gas stations, tanker trucks and oil depots will be closed if they haven't completed "oil vapor recovery" technical upgrades. Outdoor spray-painting is forbidden throughout the city. Quarrying operations will be stopped. The measures will help "fulfill Beijing's commitment to improving air quality during the Beijing Olympics", Du said. "Enterprises that shut down or reduce production during the period will be exempted from pollution emission charges," he added. Last month, Beijing announced plans to take as many as half of its 3.3 million vehicles off the roads during the Games period to help cut emissions. Automobiles, excluding taxis, buses and emergency vehicles, are to stay off roads every other day in accordance with the even and odd numbers on the license plates, it was announced. Five provinces and municipalities surrounding Beijing - Tianjin, Hebei, Shanxi and Shandong provinces and the Inner Mongolia autonomous region - will join the efforts to ensure good air quality in the capital. They will announce detailed plans soon. Du is confident of fulfilling the promise Beijing has made to the world on air pollution prevention. […] An IOC study released last month said that competition conditions would "not necessarily (be) ideal at every moment," but said Beijing's air quality was better than expected. Beijing, which is sometimes shrouded in smog, has spent more than $15 billion over the last decade to clean its air and the improvement is obvious. […]. ^ top ^

Massive cultural festival planned (SCMP)
2008-04-16
Beijing is planning the biggest cultural festival in the history of the Olympics, Games' organiser Bocog said yesterday. The three-month festival - starting on June 23 - will feature an all-encompassing celebration of the "big Chinese family", said Zhao Dongming, director of the Cultural Activities Department of the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games. Members of ethnic minorities will figure highly in the all-singing, dancing and mostly live extravaganza, and will include participation from Tibetans and Xinjiang's Uygurs - the two ethnic minorities recently at the centre of civil unrest. "I want to emphasise ... there are no limitations. We're going to [celebrate our culture] like a big family," Mr Zhao said. "This Olympic Cultural Festival will be the longest in Olympic history ... and will be the biggest. It will involve the largest number of performers and enjoy the highest standard of any cultural activity we've organised." […]. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Hu: Straits ties face historic opportunity (China Daily)
2008-04-14
Economic and trade exchanges between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan face a historic opportunity, Hu Jintao, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, said at the Boao Forum for Asia. Hu made the remarks on Saturday while meeting with Vincent Siew, chairman of the Taiwan-based Cross-Straits Common Market Foundation, a non-profit group that works to improve economic collaboration between Taiwan and the mainland. Hu said the mainland would continue promoting cross-Straits economic and cultural exchanges; make efforts to push forward negotiations on weekend charter flights and mainland tourists' travel to Taiwan; and step up efforts to restore cross-Straits negotiations.He said cross-Straits economic exchanges and cooperation had achieved great progress after 20 years of development but pointed out that in the last eight years, relations "suffered twists and turns for reasons known to all", and people on both sides were not willing to see that. He stressed that the peaceful development of cross-Straits relations was the shared will and common interests of compatriots on both sides. Hu said the fact that the forum attracted so many participants from both home and abroad reflects Asian countries' and regions' strong desire to reinforce communication and cooperation and seek win-win solutions." The fact also inspired us to think deep about cross-Straits economic exchanges and cooperation under the new circumstances," Hu said. Siew said the economies of the mainland and Taiwan are closely related, and the development of trade and economic relations had contributed to cross-Straits stability. […].^ top ^

 

Tibet

Party secretary pledges to erect 'Great Wall of steel' (SCMP)
2008-04-15
Tibet's Communist Party boss has praised the security forces' handling of anti-government unrest in the region, an official newspaper said yesterday. Party and government officials, the military and police would form a "Great Wall of steel" against security threats, Zhang Qingli was quoted saying by the Tibet Daily. "We can definitely achieve total victory in this struggle against separatism," Mr Zhang said in a Sunday meeting with the deputy commander and deputy political commissar of the People's Armed Police. ^ top ^

Police detain 120 Tibetan monks and supporters in northwest (SCMP)
2008-04-18
Police in the northwest detained about 20 ethnic Tibetan Buddhist monks yesterday following anti-Chinese protests in February, according to a source in Beijing with wide contacts among Tibetans. Another 100 people who tried to prevent the police from detaining the monks were also taken away, the source said. The monks in Tongren, in remote Qinghai province , had protested against police disruption of a Buddhist ceremony in a local monastery, shouting slogans calling for religious freedom and wishing the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled leader, a long life, the source said. The source did not know the reason for the detentions. ^ top ^

International gateway to Tibet sealed (SCMP)
2008-04-18
Three Chinese security men shift silently into position so they are anchored abreast midway across Friendship Bridge, high above a Himalayan river gorge. It is the only international gateway into Tibet. As a small group of foreigners approaches, the guards' unspoken message is clear: the region is off-limits. After anti-government riots erupted on March 14, Beijing closed off Tibet to foreign and domestic tourists and cracked down on Tibetans staging protests. But the mainland's security apparatus does not stop at the border. Security police can be seen lounging in tea shops and strolling on the only street in the border town of Liping. They shadow three journalists from the moment they arrive, ordering them not to take photographs - on Nepali territory. And in the capital, Kathmandu, Tibetan exiles say Beijing is pressuring the government to crush protests by the world's second-largest Tibetan exile community. "The Chinese asked us unofficially to co-operate on securing the border. They are far stricter now," one Nepali immigration official said. Before the current unrest, about 1,500 foreigners a month made the rough four-hour car journey on a Chinese-built road from Kathmandu to the border and on to Lhasa. Chinese authorities had reversed an earlier decision to reopen Tibet to tourism on May 1, tour operators in Beijing said last week. There has been no official indication when the border will reopen. The International Campaign for Tibet, a US-based activist group, claims to have information the region may remain sealed until after the Beijing Olympics end on August 24. "This is the high season, so we should be getting a full house, but we have very few guests," said Pabitra Mager, a manager at Liping's Lhasa Guest House. Nepali frontier officials say there has been a significant increase in border patrols, and a woman who answered the telephone at the Public Security Bureau in Zhangmu, the Tibetan town opposite Liping, also said more police and troops had been sent to the region. The build-up also means no exit from Tibet. No refugees have registered at the UN-run Tibetan Reception Centre in Kathmandu since March 18. Refugees avoid the well-guarded Friendship Bridge zone, braving instead some of the world's most treacherous terrain - mountain passes as high as 5,000 metres along the 1,414km border that are often swept by sudden snowstorms. In the past, some have been gunned down by Chinese guards or sentenced to long jail terms after capture. A few have been forcibly repatriated by the Nepali authorities despite a 1989 "gentlemen's agreement" with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Kate Saunders, communications director for the International Campaign for Tibet, said Chinese security officials even had a presence in Kathmandu, claiming they sometimes stood behind Nepali riot police and had directed the suppression of protests. "China has been given a free rein in Kathmandu," she said. Nepali Home Ministry spokesman Modraj Dotel denied Chinese security gave the orders, saying the protests violated Nepali laws. "We have a one-China policy and won't allow any protests or activities against China in Nepal," he said. Nepalis, meanwhile, have been partially exempt from the border clampdown. Visas for businessmen going to Lhasa are still granted, and cross-border business continues. Traders cross the bridge on foot or in trucks, hauling in apples, Lhasa beer, perfumed laundry powder, wool blankets, rice cookers and - one of the hottest items - mobile telephones. ^ top ^

Tibet unlikely to reopen on May 1 (SCMP)
2008-04-18
Beijing gave the clearest indication yet yesterday that Tibet would not be opened to tourists next month as promised. The Himalayan region has been off-limits to tourists, especially foreigners, since deadly riots rocked Lhasa on March 14 and 15. But this month, Tibet's tourism authority announced that the region would reopen on May 1, traditionally one of the peak travel seasons on the mainland. But some travel agents have reportedly said they have received official orders to stop arranging tours to the autonomous region to ensure the Olympic torch's safe passage to Mount Everest next month. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said the "temporary measure was made under the current special circumstances". "The government of the [Tibet] autonomous region has evaluated the local situation and made a decision on the ground based on maintaining stability. We hope the reporters can understand.". ^ top ^

Two monks surrender to police after riot (SCMP)
2008-04-18
Two Tibetan monks who took part in a riot last month in which government buildings were ransacked and vandalised have surrendered to police, Xinhua reported yesterday. About 200 monks broke down the gates and walls of the government building and police station in Daogao township in Gansu province, Xinhua said. The crowd smashed offices, computers and televisions, then raised the banned Tibetan flag in a school yard, it said. State broadcaster China Central Television showed two red-robed monks being led through a building by police. One was shown putting his fingerprint on a document while a police officer watched. CCTV videos of the March 18 riots showed dozens of monks pushing over a stone wall outside a government building. Papers fluttered through the smoke-filled air as the monks pulled down the sign over the police station door and overturned a car. The monks who surrendered, Garzang Samdain and Garzang Samzhou, were from Goinba Monastery in Zhonyin county, Xinhua said. The reports did not say when they turned themselves in or what kind of punishment they would face. Anti-government protests sprang up throughout Tibetan areas in western parts of the country after demonstrations in Lhasa turned violent on March 14. Hundreds of shops were torched, and mobs attacked members of the mainland's majority Han ethnic group. ^ top ^

 

Economy

Better IPR protection 'takes time' (China Daily)
2008-04-18
Top officials Thursday called on Western countries to be patient and allow China more time to develop a mature system for protecting intellectual property rights (IPR)."In merely 20-odd years it is impossible for China to establish IPR protection awareness similar to that of Western countries," Yin Xintian, spokesman with the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO), said at a press conference. "As the country's economy expands, so does the production scale of each product," Yin said. "Taking all the factors into consideration, it is natural that there will be some piracy." Yin said IPR infringement, especially piracy and counterfeiting, was a global issue facing all countries, including the developed ones. Last week, guidelines on a national IPR strategy were approved at an executive meeting of the State Council presided by Premier Wen Jiabao. The strategy includes greater efforts to crack down on IPR infringement, safeguard market order and the legal rights of the public, strengthen international cooperation, adherence to international practice, and efforts to raise public awareness. "China is a large, responsible, developing country. We are resolute on IPR protection issues and have taken concrete steps," Yin said. […]. ^ top ^

Oil and rice prices hit record high (China Daily)
2008-04-18
Oil prices hit an all-time high above $115 a barrel Thursday as Asian rice prices soared to record levels to heighten fears of mass hunger in poor nations. Oil peaked yesterday amid concerns about sagging US gasoline supplies ahead of the peak demand of the Northern Hemisphere summer. The US Energy Department said on Wednesday that inventories of gasoline fell 5.5 million barrels last week, a much bigger decline than forecast by analysts surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires. Crude inventories fell 2.3 million barrels last week, the department's Energy Information Administration (EIA) also reported, compared to the gain analysts expected. "The market has focused on the substantial draw in gasoline in the US and also the large crude oil draw," said Victor Shum, an energy analyst with Purvin & Gertz in Singapore. "The report has provided a knee-jerk reaction for the market and has driven oil to a new high. " Light, sweet crude for May delivery rose as high as $115.21 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It eased back to $114.75 a barrel, mid-afternoon in Singapore. That is 18 cents lower than the overnight settlement record of $114.93 a barrel. During Wednesday's floor session, oil futures made their first move past the $115 mark. The surge in oil prices reflected concerns about how much gasoline will be available during America's driving season. The EIA report also said inventories of distillates, which include heating oil and diesel, unexpectedly rose last week by about 100,000 barrels. Analysts had expected a sharp decline. Oil prices were also boosted by the falling dollar, which declined to a new low against the euro on Wednesday. Many investors buy commodities such as oil as a hedge against inflation and a falling greenback. A weaker dollar also makes oil cheaper to investors overseas. ^ top ^

 

Avian flu

Bird flu human mutation ruled out (China Daily)
2008-04-15
The bird flu virus that spread from a son to his father showed no signs of human mutation, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health, Mao Qun'an, said yesterday. It showed no biological features for human-to-human transmission, he said. […]A 52-year-old man contracted the virus from close contact with his infected son, who died despite treatment. Both men had not come into contact with sick or dead poultry. The World Health Organization defined the Nanjing case as "limited, non-sustained, person-to-person transmission", and dismissed speculation that the virus had mutated into a form easily transmitted between humans. "Laboratory tests showed the virus detected in the body of the father and son was an animal-borne one that affects only birds, and not humans," Mao told China Daily. […]. ^ top ^

 

Beijing Olympics

Carrefour denies Net claims of meddling in politics - French retail chain hits back at online calls for boycott (SCMP)
2008-04-17
French retail giant Carrefour yesterday rejected an onslaught of internet criticism that it had meddled in Chinese politics and supported Tibetan independence, amid growing online calls for a boycott of it. "The rumours that the Carrefour Group supports illegal political organisations are completely fabricated and groundless," it said on its Chinese website. "Carrefour has never done and will never do anything to hurt the Chinese people's feelings." In Paris, Carrefour made the same statement on Tuesday, saying the information about its role in domestic politics or China's international relations was false and unfounded. Chat room and mobile phone messages have called on Chinese people to boycott French products and organisations over the past week in response to the Olympic torch relay protests in Paris and French President Nicolas Sarkozy's suggestion that he would not attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics unless China reopened dialogue with the Dalai Lama. Furious netizens also accused Carrefour, one of the most popular supermarket chains on the mainland, of supporting groups that supported independence for Tibet and urged a boycott, particularly on the May 1 public holiday. Mobile phone messages spread quickly saying: "Carrefour's major shareholder, Louis Vuitton, has made huge donations to the Dalai Lama, so please tell all your friends and relatives not to go there." The firm denied the charge and "reserved the right to take legal action against individuals and organisations that make up and spread the vicious slander". It also insisted that it supported the Olympics and was preparing for the event. The company has 122 stores on the mainland, employing more than 40,000 people. French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Pascale Andreani played down the threat of boycotts and criticism. "We listen to the voice of the Chinese people, which is a friendly people, but the calls for a boycott are being made by a very small minority, and we have no knowledge of any effect of these initiatives on our economic relations," she said. Ms Andreani appeared to be responding to her Chinese counterpart, Jiang Yu, who said on Tuesday that "we hope the French side can listen to the Chinese people's voices concerning the recent problems and adopt an objective position". But it was unclear whether the voices for a boycott would fade. […]. ^ top ^

Chinese torch guards a 'mistake' (SCMP)
2008-04-17
London Mayor Ken Livingstone said on Tuesday it was a mistake to allow Chinese police to guard the Olympic torch when it was paraded through the British capital earlier this month. "It was wrong and should not have happened," Mr Livingstone told a BBC Radio London debate. Mr Livingstone was asked if he knew in advance that the Olympic torch guards were members of China's paramilitary People's Armed Police, and he said he did not. "Had I known, I would have said it was unacceptable," he said. ^ top ^

Volunteers guard the sacred flame (China Daily)
2008-04-18
Chinese Olympic torch escorts who put their lives on the line to protect the sacred flame should be commended, the Foreign Ministry said Thursday. "They protect the world's holy fire with their bodies to prevent disruption and sabotage by Tibetan independence forces. Such spirit should be praised and understood," Jiang Yu said in a regular press briefing." (Instead) The mobs which disrupt the relay should be universally condemned."She made the remarks when asked to comment on reports that Japanese Olympic officials have said the role of the Chinese torch guards in blue-and-white track suits would not be to provide security. Australian officials reportedly voiced the same objection to the guards' participation in the Canberra leg of the relay. Jiang stressed that the escorts are not law enforcement personnel but volunteers with a clear and sacred mission of protecting the safety, sanctity and dignity of the Olympic torch, and urged countries involved in the relay to aid their mission. She pointed out that the convention of having torch guards in the relay was approved by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). "The practice has always been the same in past Games and the IOC has given it 100 percent support," Jiang said. […]. ^ top ^

Beijing Olympic torch relay in New Delhi a "success" (People's Daily)
2008-04-18
The President of the Indian Olympic Association, Suresh Kalmadi, said Thursday's Olympic torch relay in the capital New Delhi was a success. "The spirit of the Olympics is universal and should be upheld by the whole world," said Kalmadi, who ran the first leg of the relay between Rashtrapati Bhavan, the presidential palace, and India Gate. India's sports minister M. S. Gill expressed his heartfelt wishes for the Beijing Olympic Games and said he will attend the grand sports event in August. During the torch relay, more than 400 expatriate Chinese from the eastern Indian city of Calcutta performed a traditional Chinese lion dance to celebrate the occasion. Some 15,000 security guards were deployed along the 2.3-km relay route to guarantee the success of the torch relay, in which 70 torchbearers participated. Police said some "pro-Tibet independence" activists had tried to sabotage the relay and about 180 people were arrested near the relay route. New Delhi was the 11th stop on the Olympic flame's global journey. The next leg will be held in Thailand's capital Bangkok on Saturday. The torch is set to leave for Bangkok Thursday evening. ^ top ^

Paralympian ignorant of the Tibetan movement (SCMP)
2008-04-18
Jin Jing, the young woman in a wheelchair who clung to the Olympic torch while a protester tried to wrestle it away in Paris, said she had no idea why the incident happened. Before then, she had never heard of the Tibetan independence movement. As the 28-year-old paralympic fencer faced reporters in her first news conference at home in Shanghai, she was asked why the protesters were so angry. "I hope you in the media can answer that for me. I don't pay attention to politics.". ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

PM's visit to Russia (Mongol Messenger)
2008-04-16
Mongolian Prime Minister, S. Bayar paid an official visit to Russia from April 10 to 12.

The Prime Minister met with the Russian PM B.A.Zubkov in second day of the official visit. The two Ministers briefly touched on the prospects of bilateral relations between two countries in the near future, new directions in cooperation and other pressing issues.

After the meeting the two Ministers held enlarged talks including two sides' officials. During the talks, the sides stressed the successful development of the traditional friendly relations under the Moscow Declaration signed by the Presidents of RF and Mongolian in 2006 and confirmed their desire to further extend, preserve and develop these relations, as well as to develop active cooperation in the South-East Asian Region.

On the same day, a total of eleven official papers were signed in relation to cooperation on veterinary services, civil flights, the standardization of measurements, education, cultural and art sectors.

Later in the afternoon the Prime Minister called on President V. Putin. He expressed the hope that President Putin would support the ideas discussed during the current visit, namely the issue of technical innovation of the UB Railways, petroleum supply, cooperation in uranium extraction, processing and production, the transfer of the Russian-owned apartment houses to Mongolia etc.,

After the official visit to Russia, Mongolian Prime Minister S. Bayar left for Vienna, Austria. ^ top ^

Increased the number of international flights through Mongolian airspace (Mongol Messenger)
2008-04-16
Mongolia got has increased the number of international flights over the country, bringing a significant increase in the country's hard currency earnings. Today, three new “gates” were opened via Niksal in the south and Bumak and Wamol in the north, and currently 26 companies have applied to use the 13 new routes.

It is hoped this year to increase the annual number of transit flights through Mongolian airspace to 70-75.000, earning fees of MNT 75 billion. ^ top ^

Agreement of operation of the Oyu Tolgoi may be finalized (Mongol Messenger)
2008-04-16
Mongolian officials say they expect that an agreement of operation of the Oyu Tolgoi gold and copper mine may be finalized within weeks.

With election scheduled for June, parliament members may reach consensus on key changes to the previous agreement with Ivanhoe Mines and Rio Tinto. One key revision will give Mongolia a 51 percent share rather than the 34 percent previously agreed on.

In March the estimated expected revenue from Oyu Tolgoi was increased by 44 percent; the deposit is now estimated to contain 45.2 million ounces and 79 billion pounds of copper. ^ 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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