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
  19.5-23.5.08, No. 218  
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Table of contents

Mongolia

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Foreign Policy

China to donate $1.92 million to WHO (China Daily)
2008-05-19
The Chinese government will donate $1.92 million to the World Health Organization (WHO) to support its work in disease prevention and health services, according to an agreement signed on Sunday. The agreement was signed by Chinese Health Minister Chen Zhu and WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan at the Chinese Mission to the UN Office in Geneva. The voluntary donation will be used to support WHO's activities in epidemic and chronic disease prevention, nutrition and food safety, health services and the development of medical products and technologies, the agreement said. In the past two years, the Chinese government has donated more than 9 million dollars to WHO to support its work in various fields, according to the Chinese Mission to the UN Office in Geneva. ^ top ^

Myanmar designates 3-day mourning for cyclone victims (China Daily)
2008-05-20
Myanmar designated on Monday three days of mourning for cyclone disaster starting from Tuesday to Thursday, according to an announcement of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) aired by the state radio in the evening. The announcement, signed by First Secretary of the SPDC Lieutenant-General Thiha Thura Tin Aung Myint Oo, sets the mourning activities to start on Tuesday at 9:00 a.m. (local time) with the state flag to fly half-mast. A deadly tropical cyclone Nargis, which occurred over the Bay of Bengal, hit five divisions and states -- Ayeyawaddy, Yangon, Bago, Mon and Kayin on May 2 and 3, of which Ayeyawaddy and Yangon inflicted the heaviest casualties and massive infrastructural damage including religious buildings, schools, hospitals, vessels, animals, crops cultivation, forest and ration. According to an updated official death toll, as many as 77,738 people have been killed with 55,917 still missing totaling 133,655 in the disaster. The number of the injured went to 19,359. ^ top ^

International relief flotilla paralysed as mediation drags on (SCMP)
2008-05-21
Almost within sight of Myanmar's cyclone-devastated shore are the USS Essex, USS Juneau, USS Harpers Ferry and USS Mustin. They hold 14 helicopters, two landing craft vessels, two hi-tech amphibious hovercraft and about 1,000 marines. Nothing is moving. But an odd deal may be in the works to allow the US flotilla - and French and British ships in the same situation - to finally join in the relief effort after Cyclone Nargis. Though extremely reluctant to allow foreign militaries access into the devastated Irrawaddy delta, the junta appears to be considering a proposal that would put Asian intermediaries in charge of ferrying the aid from the ships to the shore. At an emergency meeting in Singapore on Monday, Southeast Asia's regional bloc Asean announced it would set up a taskforce to handle distribution of foreign aid for the cyclone victims. But suggestions that the foreign ships carrying aid make a forced entry into Myanmar were rejected. "We are currently not providing any aid from the ships," said Lieutenant Denver Applehans, a public affairs officer aboard the Essex, an aircraft carrier-like ship which for the past week has been waiting in international waters just 100km from the Myanmar coast. The Bush Administration has been highly critical of the junta's handling of the disaster, but has tried to couple its outrage with more reserved diplomatic efforts out of concern that too much pressure could prompt the junta to become even more defensive and shut off what little aid it is already allowing in. In the meantime, the flotilla waits. Britain's Ministry of Defence said it had dispatched a Royal Navy frigate, the HMS Westminster, to the area "as a contingency". Britain's Department for International Development said the ship was stationed 19km off Myanmar's coast "and will remain there as part of the UK's humanitarian contingency plans". The spokesman said HMS Westminster carried a crew of 98 and was equipped with a communications facility, a Merlin helicopter, two sea boats, a doctor and a paramedic. The spokesman added that the crew were all trained in disaster relief. France has an amphibious assault ship, Le Mistral, nearby. French Defence Minister Herve Morin said French officials were still negotiating with Myanmar on delivering Mistral's cargo. French officials have said they are prepared to wait for days or even weeks until they get the green light to start relief operations. ^ top ^

UN head in Bangkok before visit to cyclone-hit Myanmar (Xinhua)
2008-05-22
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived here Wednesday before heading for Myanmar to visit cyclone-affected areas and meet Myanmar leaders, in a bid to urge them to open further for international relief staff and to source more "non-politicized" assistance. Upon his arrival at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport Wednesday afternoon, Ban told journalists that he will fly to Myanmar Thursday morning "to see for myself the affected areas and to meet the people crying in need and demonstrate my sympathy and support for all those people who suffered from this Cyclone Nargis." He will also meet senior officials of the Myanmar government, including the top leader Senior General Than Shwe, he said. On Friday evening, Ban will be back in Bangkok to meet with Thai PM Samak Sundarvej and Foreign Minister Noppadon on the next day. On Sunday, he will fly back to Yangon, the former capital of Myanmar, to attend the International Pledging Conference co-organized by the United Nations (UN) and the association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to talk with Myanmar officials, leaders of ASEAN countries and international donors to source international assistance for relief and rehabilitation work in Myanmar. This is a critical moment for Myanmar. The government itself accepted that they have never been devastated to this stage in the history. We have a functioning relief program in place, but so far we have been able to reach only about 25 percent of the people in need," the UN head said. The UN has received permission of Myanmar government to have nine World Food Program (WFP) helicopters to carry emergency supplies to Myanmar, Ban noted, while urging the Myanmar side to "gallop" cooperation. […]. ^ top ^

Medvedev in first foreign trip (SCMP)
2008-05-22
Russia's new president, Dmitry Medvedev, travels to China this week in the centrepiece of his first trip abroad since taking office. The 42-year-old, who took over from Vladimir Putin on May 7, will visit the energy-rich former Soviet state of Kazakhstan today before travelling to Beijing tomorrow, the Kremlin said. Analysts doubt China and Russia will hammer out specific deals during Mr Medvedev's symbolic maiden voyage as president, although China has, for example, long wanted a Russian commitment to extend a far eastern oil pipeline to its territory. But the visit underscores that today Russia takes account of its populous and resource-hungry neighbour in numerous spheres - a major change for a country used to measuring itself against the west. "This is a signal that Russia has other friends, not only the west," said analyst Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of the journal Russia in Global Affairs. Another analyst, Yevgeny Volk, of the US Heritage Foundation's Moscow office, said: "These destinations reflect the new priorities of Russia's foreign policy, while relations with the United States and the European Union are cooling." With its huge population and appetite for natural resources, China looms large for Russia, both as a friend and - though they tend not to admit it - as a rival. China is a welcome consumer of Russian resources such as metals and oil, but is also vying for influence in energy-rich Central Asian states like Kazakhstan, which were Moscow's exclusive preserve in Soviet times. While most Russian energy exports still go to Europe, China has been pursuing its own pipeline projects in Central Asia and an oil pipeline already runs from Kazakhstan, symbolising a loss of control for Moscow. […]. ^ top ^

China, Russia to hash out 3-year plan (China Daily)
2008-05-23
China is one of Russia's most important partners in the world arena, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said in a recent interview with major Chinese media in Moscow. "Russia regards China as one of its foremost partners in its foreign policy," Medvedev said on the eve of his first visit to China after taking office on May 7. The president expressed sincere condolences to the leaders and people of China over the devastating earthquake that shook the country's southwestern province of Sichuan on May 12. "Our thoughts are with you at the moment, and we believe that China is capable of emerging from the aftermath of the disaster," he said. Medvedev added that Russia, which has already sent several batches of humanitarian aid as well as rescue and medical teams to China, is willing to offer more help in the future […] Sino-Russian relations have strengthened steadily since the signing of the bilateral Good-neighborly Friendship and Cooperation Treaty in 2001, Medvedev said, adding that mutual coordination is making progress in every field. "The three-year plan inked by the leaders of the two countries has completed its term. We are now going to make a new plan, which will further enhance bilateral relations," he said. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Fatal explosion linked to gambling dispute in east China (Xinhua)
2008-05-19
An explosion that killed 17 people in what was originally thought to be a traffic accident was in fact caused by a disgruntled gambler plotting revenge with an apparent bomb attack, police in east China said on Sunday. Investigators had found fuses and other explosive-making materials in the home of a tractor driver who was killed in the blast in Longwan Village, Wenzhou City in Zhejiang Province, said police. The explosion occurred outside a small building alleged to have been a local gambling den when the tractor was involved in a collision with a car and a minibus, said police. […]. ^ top ^

Tsang names eight deputy ministers (SCMP)
2008-05-21
Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen yesterday named eight new deputy ministers as part of his drive to improve governance through the expansion of political appointments. But despite Mr Tsang's confidence that the new team - drawn from political, academic, business and media circles - would improve governance, critics said some appointees lacked the experience and expertise for such senior posts. Announcing the appointments, Mr Tsang said it marked "a key milestone" in the development of the accountability system. "I am impressed by their commitment and passion in serving Hong Kong. They will certainly bolster the strength and capacity of our team of political appointees," he said. The appointments were part of Mr Tsang's plan to add two additional layers of appointees under the existing three policy secretaries and 12 ministers. A total of 24 non-civil-service positions were created under the political appointment system which comprises 11 undersecretaries, who will be paid HK$193,773 to HK$223,586 a month, and 13 political assistants earning HK$104,340 to HK$163,963. Those appointed yesterday would assume office within the next three months, with the earliest reporting to work in June. The rest of the appointments will be made in groups soon. There have been concerns that the undersecretaries - who would have the tasks of defending policies in public, facing the legislature and directing the civil service - would be in conflict with the civil service led by permanent secretaries in individual bureaus. Mr Tsang said the system would take time to work. […]. ^ top ^

 

Beijing

Plastic bag regulation finalized (Xinhua)
2008-05-19
The final version of a regulation on the compulsory sale of plastic shopping bags at retail outlets was released in Beijing on Friday. The Commerce Ministry, National Development and Reform Commission and the State Administration for Industry and Commerce jointly released the regulation. From June 1, retailers could be fined up to 10,000 yuan ($1,400) for providing free plastic bags to shoppers. Under the new law, retailers will be free to set their own prices for the bags, as long as they are above the cost price. […]. ^ top ^

Beijing pledges 95b yuan for quake zone relief (SCMP)
2008-05-22
Beijing has pledged to spend at least 95 billion yuan (HK$106 billion) on reconstruction and relief operations after the Sichuan earthquake as the nation ended its three days of public mourning yesterday. The State Council, at a meeting chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao , earmarked 25 billion yuan for disaster prevention and relief work in the quake-affected area. A further 70 billion yuan will be spent on reconstruction this year, with more money promised to come in the next two years. To pay for the reconstruction, the premier ordered a 5 per cent cut in the central government's budget. […]. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Ma likely to face four tough years even if he improves cross-strait ties (SCMP)
2008-05-20
Ma Ying-jeou will be inaugurated as Taiwan's president today with a pledge to engage the mainland and end the eight years of confrontational policies towards Beijing of his predecessor. But analysts said that even with improved ties with the mainland, the next four years would be rough for Mr Ma internally and externally. He was expected to make a 20-minute speech during his inauguration, and Kuomintang sources said he would offer an olive branch to the mainland. "Ma will extend a high degree of goodwill towards the mainland during his inaugural speech, hoping the two sides can swiftly resume talks and improve ties," a senior KMT official said. The official said that unlike with Mr Ma's predecessor, Chen Shui-bian, who had to show his inaugural speech to the US before his swearing-in, Washington did not ask for a preview of Mr Ma's speech. Mr Chen, of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, revealed that he had sent the text of his speech to the US before his inauguration in 2000. Washington reportedly asked that Mr Chen refrain from making any pro-independence statement that could escalate cross-strait tension. This resulted in Mr Chen making a "four-no's" pledge of not declaring Taiwan's independence, altering Taiwan's official title, instituting a new constitution or changing the cross-strait status quo, in order to reassure Beijing as long as the latter did not use force against Taiwan. US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte said in Washington on Friday that Mr Ma had no such restrictions in his speech. Compared with Mr Chen, whose confrontational rhetoric and moves in promoting Taiwan's self-rule kept Washington on its guard, the US has more trust in Mr Ma, a 57-year-old Harvard graduate, because of his more moderate stance towards the mainland. Throughout the presidential campaign, Mr Ma had vowed to seek cross-strait economic prosperity and to sign a peace pact with Beijing. He has also pledged to launch weekend charter flights and open the island to mainland tourists as soon as July 4, as the first stage in normalising economic relations across the strait. […]. ^ top ^

We can work out truce across strait, says Ma (SCMP)
2008-05-22
Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou said a diplomatic truce across the strait was feasible, brushing off criticism that it was wishful thinking. "Given the fact that the two sides observe the same ethnic Chinese traditions, we are very confident that we can work out a modus vivendi for mutual existence," said Mr Ma in his first news conference since taking office on Tuesday. Mr Ma, who has introduced the modus vivendi - arrangement to co-exist - idea as a way for the two sides to temporarily set aside disputes, stressed such a strategy could achieve a truce "not only in the cross-strait context, but also in the international arena". The Kuomintang politician has vowed to engage the mainland to mend relations that were damaged by his predecessor Chen Shui-bian, of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party. But critics said that while the mainland would agree to give the island more economic sweeteners, Beijing would not concede on the political sovereignty issue. They cited evidence of Beijing's latest opposition to Taiwan joining the World Health Assembly as an observer. […] But asked whether he wanted to visit the mainland and meet President Hu Jintao for cross-strait talks, Mr Ma said it was more important for the two sides to restore formal communications and swiftly resume talks. "There is no haste for the leaders of the two sides to meet," he said, adding he did not have a plan to visit Hong Kong, which barred the Hong Kong-born politician from visiting in 2005 during his time as the mayor of Taipei. Unlike his predecessor, who restricted mainland investments in Taiwan, Mr Ma said the new government welcomed mainland enterprises to invest in the island's infrastructure and real estate market. […] Asked if he had any plan to invite the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, Mr Ma said: "We don't have any specific plan to meet with the Dalai Lama ... but if he wants to come for visit, as a religious leader, he will be very welcome by Taiwan people." He also said that Taiwan would continue to buy arms from the United States to defend itself but added that "we will not engage in an arms race with the mainland", nor will "we build or acquire nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction". ^ top ^

 

Tibet

Tibetans open wallets to help quake victims (People's Daily)
2008-05-20
Many Tibetans, including lamas, have opened their wallets to donate cash and relief materials since the 8.0-magnitude earthquake jolted southwest China's Sichuan Provinceon Monday. Donations from the three leading monasteries in Lhasa alone are valued at more than 100,000 yuan (14,285 U.S. dollars), the regional government of Tibet Autonomous Region said on Sunday. […]. ^ top ^

Dalai Lama puts protests on hold (SCMP)
2008-05-22
The Dalai Lama's Tibetan government-in-exile yesterday called for a temporary halt to protests against China as a mark of respect for the Sichuan earthquake victims. "In order to express our solidarity with the great natural disaster that befell China, Tibetans across the world should shun staging demonstrations in front of Chinese embassies in the respective host countries they live in," spokesman Thubten Samphel said, quoting from a statement issued by the exiled government, based in India. The statement said protests should be put off "at least until about the end of May". It also urged Tibetans to "write a letter, or send messages to the concerned, that they are doing so in solidarity with the quake victims". "Since it is very important for Tibetan exiles, or Tibetans living in the free world, also to join in this [relief] effort, we should initiate solidarity actions by organising prayer meetings and raising donations," the statement said. It also called on "Tibetans living in other parts of the world to initiate ... and explore possibilities of establishing Sino-Tibetan friendship associations". Thubten Samphel said the Dalai Lama had expressed solidarity with the quake victims. "His holiness has expressed his deep sorrow for those who have died and prays for those who are going through this tragedy to have the strength to recover," the spokesman said. ^ top ^

Beijing cool on Dalai Lama Games invitation (SCMP)
2008-05-23
Beijing reacted coolly yesterday to a suggestion from the Dalai Lama that he would be happy to attend the Olympics, and suggested talks with envoys of the Tibet's exiled spiritual leader may be delayed by the Sichuan earthquake. The Dalai Lama said during a visit to London he would like to go if invited to the August 8-24 Games, but would attend only if talks with Beijing helped improve the situation in Tibet. Envoys of the Dalai Lama met Chinese officials in Shenzhen on May 4 to discuss the recent unrest in Tibet. The Dalai Lama said the next formal round of talks would be in the second week of June - the seventh round of dialogue between the two sides since 2002. But Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said the Dalai Lama still needed to show sincerity. "I have heard what the Dalai said," Mr Qin told a regular news conference in Beijing. "But as far as we are concerned, if the Dalai really wants to do something positive for the motherland and for the Olympics, he must take concrete actions, really stop activities to split the motherland, stop plotting and whipping up violence, and stop activities to damage the Olympics. "As for the next round of talks, the date is still being worked out. As you know, under the present conditions, every department is working as hard as possible on earthquake relief." Envoys for the Dalai Lama visited the Chinese embassy in London on Wednesday to express their condolences for victims of the Sichuan earthquake. "On May 21, the Dalai Lama's private representatives went to the Chinese embassy in Britain to offer their condolences for the victims of the Wenchuan earthquake," the embassy said in its website. ^ top ^

 

Earthquake

Nation in grief as quake toll hits 32,476 (China Daily)
2008-05-19
China on Monday began a three-day national mourning for the tens of thousands of people killed in a powerful earthquake which struck the country's southwest on May 12. At 4:58 a.m., the national flag at the Tian'anmen Square in downtown Beijing flew at half-mast after a complete flag-raising ceremony. All public amusements will be suspended for three days from Monday. The State Council, the Cabinet, on Sunday ordered a nationwide display of respect for the dead. China's missions abroad were also ordered to observe the order, and condolence books are to be opened in the Foreign Ministry and Chinese embassies and consulates around the world. The public are asked to stand in silence for three minutes from 2:28 pm on Monday, the time the deadly quake hit, while automobiles, trains, and ships would sound their air sirens. The confirmed death toll from the disaster has risen to 32,476 by 2:00 pm Sunday, and the toll would possibly rise to more than 50,000 as many, still buried in rubbles, are feared dead. During the mourning days, the torch relay for the Beijing Olympic Games will be suspended to mourn the quake victims. Beijing Olympic organizers said in a statement that the suspension starts Monday "to express our deep mourning to the victims of the earthquake." And on Sunday, China Seismological Bureau Sunday revised the magnitude of the earthquake from 7.8 to 8.0 on the Richter scale. The number of injured in magnitude 8.0 earthquake reached 220,109, it said. In Sichuan alone, a total of 31,978 people were killed since Monday's deadly 7.8-magnitude earthquake, with 209,905 others injured. Statistics from the emergency response office show that the death toll in Deyang and Mianyang cities of the province hit 10,341 and 11,874 respectively. The office also gave a breakdown of the death toll in other areas as 4,156 in Chengdu, 2,586 in Guangyuan, 2,871 in Aba and 23 in Ya'an. Outside Sichuan, the death toll was 364 in Gansu Province, 113 in Shaanxi Province, 16 in Chongqing Municipality, two in Henan Province, one in Yunnan Province, one in Hubei Province, and one in Hunan Province. ^ top ^

Int'l community offers more condolences, aid over China's deadly quake (People's Daily)
2008-05-19
More countries and international organizations have, by various means, offered their condolences and aid over a deadly earthquake in southwestern China. […] The Malaysian government decided to offer 1.5 million U.S. dollars in aid. The Australian government has offered 1 million Australian dollars (about 950,000 dollars) through the International Red Cross. The Italian government has offered to China material assistance worth 500,000 euros (about 778,750 dollars). The Finnish government decided to donate 500,000 euros (about 778,750 .dollars) in aid. The Dutch government has provided 500,000 euros (778,750 dollars) through the International Red Cross. The Croatian government has presented a donation of 200,000 euros (311,500 dollars) through the Croatian Red Cross. Luxemburg's government decided to contribute 50,000 euros (77,875 dollars) in aid. The Spanish government has provided six tons of relief materials to the Chinese side. […]. ^ top ^

Aftershock of magnitude 6 to 7 likely to hit China quake area (Xinhua)
2008-05-20
An aftershock of six to seven on the Richter scale was likely to happen in the Wenchuan earthquake area in southwest China's Sichuan Province, said local seismological bureau. The Sichuan Seismological Bureau said there was a bigger possibility of the aftershock between Monday and Tuesday, warning local government and people to be prepared for emergencies. ^ top ^

Biggest mourning since Mao died (SCMP)
2008-05-20
It was a national display of public grief unmatched since the death of Mao Zedong in 1976. Then, the government declared a week of mourning. At 3pm on September 18, the nation stood to attention for three minutes while sirens sounded to mark his death. Yesterday, pedestrians stopped, drivers stopped their vehicles, trains were halted and workers bowed their heads in front of factories and office buildings as air-raid sirens wailed and vehicle horns sounded. Some people flew black kites, lit candles or burned incense and "ghost money" to honour the dead, state media said. Major newspapers and websites switched to black and white, while television anchors wore the colours of mourning. Some popular video-sharing websites were only accepting content related to the earthquake. Trading on the stock and futures exchanges ceased for three minutes. Some traders said investors had offered to buy stock of Sichuan-based listed companies to show their support. "This is the first time in China's history of diplomacy we have such large-scale mourning activities. Our friends in every country are coming to our embassies to pay their respects," Fan Jian, an official with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told CCTV. Television channels that typically show films were instructed to switch to programming related to the earthquake. Major cities ordered places of entertainment, including cinemas, to shut for three days. […]. ^ top ^

Ambassadors express support, sympathy (China Daily)
2008-05-20
The Foreign Ministry on Monday opened a book of condolences for foreign diplomats to express their sympathies for the victims of the Sichuan earthquake. It will remain open for three days, until the conclusion of the national mourning. Ambassadors and diplomats from more than 150 countries and international organizations on Monday lined up to sign the book and bowed their heads at a mourning board. The diplomats also expressed their support for the Chinese government, the PLA and the Chinese people in dealing with the disaster. Coffie Alain N. Papatchi, the Ivory Coast's ambassador to China, was the first to sign the Book of Condolences, while Jorge Eugenio Guajardo Gonzalez, the Mexican ambassador, led embassy staff in paying their respects. Nirupama Rao, the Indian ambassador, who arrived back in Beijing on Sunday after visiting quake-hit areas, was also present. Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi received the visitors and expressed his gratitude for their friendship and support. The foreign ministry's overseas missions also opened books of condolence and flew the Chinese flag at half-mast on Monday. Some foreign diplomatic missions in Beijing also flew their national flags at half-mast on Monday. As of Sunday, the leaders of 166 countries and heads of more than 30 international organizations had offered their condolences to China. As well as sending relief teams to the country, the international community has so far donated $246 million. ^ top ^

Toll passes 40,000, over 32,000 still missing (Xinhua)
2008-05-21
The death toll from last week's quake in Sichuan rose to 40,075 nationwide as of 6 pm on Tuesday, with 247,645 injured, the Information Office of the State Council said on Tuesday. The office also said that 32,361 people were missing. Military sources said that as of Monday midnight, 6,375 people were pulled out from debris. […]. ^ top ^

Lakes formed by landslides still on verge of bursting (SCMP)
2008-05-21
Several lakes formed by earthquake-induced landslides in Qingchuan county are still on the verge of bursting, threatening the lives of thousands of people living in the nearby mountains and lowlands as well as those downstream. Water resources and dam experts said on Saturday there was no immediate danger of the lakes being breached because the natural dam walls were very thick and water levels were unlikely to put enough pressure on them. The conclusion followed a mass evacuation of Beichuan , where thousands of people were urgently forced to leave the area or climb to higher ground in case a lake broke its banks. But Su Peicheng, former Qingchuan water resources director and now deputy chairman of Qingchuan's Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said at a disaster relief centre in Guanzhuang township that the earlier estimation was heavily qualified. "We have to have continued clear weather and no major aftershocks to keep those lakes from breaching. Heavy rainfall or strong aftershocks could trigger a burst at anytime," Mr Su said. At least 10 lakes were formed upstream of the Qingzhu River when landslides sent huge amounts of rocks into the waterway, forming natural reservoirs. The three biggest in Hongguang held about 20 million cubic metres of water, equivalent in capacity to a medium-sized reservoir." […]. ^ top ^

Experts warn of epidemic (China Daily)
2008-05-22
Prevention and the preparation to fight any outbreak of a disease should be uppermost on the country's agenda in the quake-hit areas, academics said on Monday. Rotting corpses and carcasses under the debris can cause an epidemic outbreak, Chen Huanchun, of the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE), said. Such a thing is not uncommon after a natural disaster. "We must pay the greatest attention to it and be prepared to deal with any eventuality." […] Ninety of the 200 or so diseases that can be usually passed on from animals to human beings, and vice versa, have already been reported in the country," said the professor of animal genetics with China Agricultural University.Some of them that can strike the quake-hit areas include anthrax, tetanus, cholera, colon bacillus, hepatitis A, flu, encephalitis B and rabies. Adequate vaccine and other emergency medicines have to be stocked, Li said. As the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development has begun setting up 1 million temporary shelters, experts have suggested prevention of infectious diseases be integrated both in temporary and permanent rebuilding and relocation programs. […]. ^ top ^

Gov't: 3 mln tents needed for homeless (China Daily)
2008-05-23
The government on Thursday again called on the international community to provide tents to quake-hit Sichuan province, saying about 3.3 million are needed. About 400,000 tents have been sent to quake-hit areas but they are far from enough, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said at a regular press conference. […] The quake death toll reached 51,151 on Thursday, with 288,431 injured, the Information Office of the State Council said, adding that 29,328 were missing. Hospitals have taken in 68,608 injured people since the quake; and by noon on Thursday, 28,497 had been discharged, the Ministry of Health said. […]. ^ top ^

Why aren't China's schools as strong as Japan's, critics ask (SCMP)
2008-05-23
As bereaved parents in Sichuan question the shoddily built schools where so many children were killed, critics have started to contrast the situation with that in Japan. People question why, in Japan - one of the most earthquake-prone zones in the world - schools are often still standing after major tremors. Online critics have urged Beijing to look at Japan and other regions frequently hit by quakes for inspiration on how to better protect and prepare people for possible tremors. The public and engineers on the mainland have highlighted the sharp contrast between school buildings in Japan and those in Sichuan. "Tell me how I should not be angry," one netizen wrote, comparing the different priority placed on schools in the two countries. Sichuan's education authority has said nearly 7,000 school buildings collapsed during the magnitude-8 quake and the number is set to rise dramatically if data from Wenchuan , Beichuan and other hard-hit areas are included. People are questioning if corruption led to the shoddy construction of school buildings, particularly in rural areas. Housing and Urban-Rural Development Minister Jiang Weixin pledged last week to carry out investigations. […]. ^ top ^

Relief operation bares army weaknesses (SCMP)
2008-05-23
The People's Liberation Army's relief operation in Sichuan has exposed weaknesses in the world's largest fighting force, experts say. The military played the most critical role in the rescue mission - with most roads and bridges in the area destroyed, many of the hardest-hit areas could only be reached by soldiers. More than 140,000 military personnel have been mobilised, taken from all sectors of the force - from paratroopers to the strategic-missile divisions. The disaster put the PLA, which has not fought a war for almost three decades, to a severe and highly visible test. Initially, the PLA tried twice - and failed - to land a helicopter at the epicentre. An attempt to drop paratroopers into the epicentre was also abandoned, so the first batch of rescue troops had to enter on foot. The PLA then air-dropped equipment, food and water to soldiers and refugees in the disaster zone. While the scale of the airlift operations was hailed by Xinhua as "unprecedented", it was nowhere close to the capability demonstrated by the US military in other parts of the world. Mainland media said about 100 military and civilian helicopters were deployed. But many ground troops criticised the airlift missions as ineffective. "I did not see any helicopter in this area. I only know it's our soldiers who carried food and water to people in remote villages," said Commander Liu Pu, the PLA co-ordinator in Qingchuan county. The commander also said many relief goods were air-dropped in the wrong places, such as unpopulated mountain areas. Soldiers had to spend hours retrieving them. Other supplies were dropped in areas that were simply out of reach. A Shanghai-based military source said the arms embargo imposed on China, combined with an inadequate budget, meant the force was poorly equipped. "We still have no capability to produce advanced military helicopters and had to rely on imports," he said. "The most advanced helicopters we deployed [in the rescue operation] are US-made Black Hawks," which were developed in the early 1970s. He also blamed poor training of PLA pilots. "Because of an insufficient budget, many pilots can only fly once a year," he said. "The mountainous terrain in Sichuan made an air-drop operation very difficult. Inexperienced pilots dared not fly too low. That is why they had to drop material from higher up, and that explains why the landings were not accurate." Another problem was poor communication among the different units. PLA soldiers are supposed to use special military telephone lines for security purposes, but the communication devices given to the various units were not compatible. "It is very difficult to co-ordinate with different troops in areas where there are no civilian landlines or cellphone signals," the commander said. The troops found that even in areas with landlines, they could not get through. The commander had a satellite phone to allow him to contact the command centre in an emergency. But on many occasions civilian disaster-relief officials borrowed it to make calls. The communication problem extended to contacting civilian officials. […]. ^ top ^

 

Economy

Swiss insurance donation (China Daily)
2008-05-19
Zurich Financial donated $3.5 million yuan early this month to set up a China Center for Insurance & Risk Management at Tsinghua University, the largest research project Zurich has ever made in China. The center is going to provide an all-round training on insurance and risk management for enterprises, government departments and universities. Besides the cooperation with Tsinghua, Zurich Financial also joined hands with Tianjin Nankai University in April on developing micro-insurance products to better protect low-income families. ^ top ^

Economic losses expected to hit 67b yuan (SCMP)
2008-05-20
The Sichuan earthquake had caused 67 billion yuan (HK$74.86 billion) in economic losses in the province, the central government said. It would reduce the mainland's economic growth by at least 0.2 of a percentage point this year, the China Securities Journal reported, citing domestic economists. A week after the 8-magnitude quake rocked the northern part of the province, the catastrophe had killed more than 34,000 people - with the final death toll expected to exceed 50,000 - and left 220,000 injured. It had also disrupted the operations of about 14,200 companies, Industry and Information Vice-Minister Xi Guohua said yesterday. […] "Although the quake disaster will have a negative impact on growth in the economy and on corporate earnings in the second quarter, the impact will be a short-term one," said Zhu Jianfang, of Citic Securities. Among the firms hit hardest were State Grid Corp, telecommunications service providers, and industrial and mining companies. Although the 67 billion yuan in economic losses represents only about 0.25 per cent of the nation's 24.66 trillion yuan gross domestic product last year, other economists agreed with the predicted effect of the quake on second-quarter growth. And it would worsen inflation because Sichuan was a key production base for agricultural and meat products, they said. "The loss should be larger than the 150 billion yuan in losses arising from the snowstorm earlier this year," JP Morgan economist Wang Qian said. "As a result of the quake, the high consumer price index situation will persist longer because Sichuan is a key supplier of pork." […]. ^ top ^

Oil prices soar above $135 (Xinhua)
2008-05-23
Crude futures retreated Thursday after topping 135 U.S. dollars a barrel for the first time. Light, sweet crude for July delivery was down 2.36 dollars to 130.81 dollars a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London, July Brent crude futures fell 2.19 dollars to 130.51 dollars a barrel on the ICE Futures Exchange. Oil prices rose to 135.09 dollars a barrel in overnight electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange as the U.S. government reported that crude stockpiles declined by 5.3 million barrels last week. Analysts said the pullback reflected profit-taking after four days of record gains. […]. ^ top ^

 

Beijing Olympics

Torch relay suspended (SCMP)
2008-05-19
The Olympic torch relay will be suspended for three days, from Monday to Wednesday, China Central Television has reported. CCTV said the suspension, announced on Sunday evening, was decided by the State Council, China's cabinet, out of respect for the victims of last Monday's devastating earthquake in Sichuan province, and was part of three days of national mourning. […]. ^ top ^

Torch relay to resume as quake mourning ends (SCMP)
2008-05-22
The Olympic torch relay resumes today after three days of mourning for the earthquake victims, amid simmering controversy over whether it should be shortened or scrapped due to the disaster. The relay is scheduled to resume in the eastern port city of Ningbo, with runners carrying the torch over the newly opened Hangzhou Bay Bridge, the world's longest sea bridge. […]. ^ top ^

Sichuan torch relay now set for August - Route rescheduled to respect quake victims (SCMP)
2008-05-23
The Sichuan leg of the Olympic torch relay will be postponed until just before the Beijing Games in August, organisers announced yesterday. The change means the iconic Olympic flame - traditionally lauded as a beacon of hope, unity and the enduring human spirit - will enter the "Bird's Nest" stadium in the capital for the August 8 opening ceremony after honouring the millions affected by the earthquake with a three-day and final procession through Sichuan from August 3 to 5. The alteration will also seek to appease mounting calls for the longest torch relay in history to be cancelled out of respect for the dead after many critics said the jubilant scenes were not in keeping with the continued mourning. "The relay leg will be closely tied to the earthquake disaster and relief work and will emphasise the theme of `Torch Relay: Love and Care'," the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games said. The change was welcomed by the International Olympic Committee. "This is an excellent decision that shows great empathy," said Kevan Gosper, the IOC's vice-chairman of the 2008 Beijing co-ordination commission. The relay was to visit several cities in Sichuan from June 15-18, including badly hit Mianyang and the provincial capital, Chengdu. Others included Yibin, Zigong, Guanghan and Guangan - hometown of late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping. Many are demanding that Wenchuan, one of the hardest-hit cities, be included on the relay route and that quake survivors, soldiers, medics and volunteers be among the torch-bearers. Bocog confirmed that the relay schedule in other provinces and cities would be adjusted to allow for the changes, which included a three-day postponement during the national mourning period, which ended on Wednesday. […]. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Mongolian Peacekeepers in Sierra Leone Awarded (Mongol Messenger)
2008-05-21
The Force Commander of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) Lt.General Chikadibia Isaak Obiakor has awarded UN peacekeeping medals to 250 officers of UNMIL's Mongolian Guard Force stationed at the Special Court for Sierra Leone in FreeTown, Sierra Leone. Commending the Mongolian officers for their hard work and sacrifice, Lt. General urged them to continue discharging their duties with great professionalism and dedication. Mongolian soldiers were deployed in Sierra Leone as a result of Security Council Resolution 1626 of December 2005 which tasked UNMIL to provide a military guard force at the Special Court. The Mongolians provide secuirty for the premises of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, and convoy protection for detainees when they are moved outside the Special Court's compound. The contingent is also responsible for evacuating officials and detainees of the Court in cooperation with the UNMIL's Quick Reaction Force. As part of activities marking the medal award celebration, the Mongolian peacekeepers donated exercise books, school bags and soccer balls to the Wilberforce Army Barrack Municipal School children in Freetown. The peacekeepers also put up an excellent display of martial arts skills, indicating their combat and physical readiness. ^ top ^

EV-71 Virus Continues Dramatic Rise (Mongol Messenger)
2008-05-22
The number of infants and children infected with hand-foot-mouth disease (HFMD) outbreak has continued to increase dramatically, with the Health Ministry revealing 1,000 cases have been reported. All kindergartens, primary schools and fourth and fifth grades have been closed because of HFMD, which is also known as Enterovirus-71 (EV71). Most of the infected are children aged between one and two years old, who are particularly vulnerable to it. Adults' immune systems are usually capable of fending off the virus. As of last Monday, 910 infections were reported in 11 provinces and the capital city, with over 200 people hospitalized and the remainder being treated at home. While local hospitals have had extra beds put in place, there has been crowding into hospital corridors to accommodate the influx of patients attribute to the disease. ^ 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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