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
  14.7-18.7.08, No. 226  
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Table of contents

Avian flu

DPRK and South Korea

Mongolia

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Foreign Policy

BBC film on Darfur 'strongly biased' - Chinese envoy (China Daily)
2008-07-15
A BBC documentary alleging China has violated the UN arms embargo in Darfur is biased and made with ulterior motives, China's special envoy for Darfur said Monday. The investigative documentary, telecast last night, shows Chinese Dongfeng trucks in western Darfur, and alleges that their markings indicate they were exported to Sudan in 2005 after the UN arms embargo had been imposed. The documentary, China Fueling War in Darfur, cites unnamed sources as having said that China was training pilots for jet fighters exported to Sudan. "The program is strongly biased," Liu Guijin, China's special envoy for Darfur, said. China has never violated the UN embargo, he said. "China's arms sales were very small in scale and never made to non-sovereign entities. We have strict end-user certificates." China is not a major arms supplier to Sudan, a fact the Western media always tends to forget. In fact, a Stockholm International Peace Research Institute report, issued in March, said China accounted for only 8 percent of Sudan's arms imports from 2003 to 2007. "Some Western countries have traditionally been supplying arms to African countries, and they far outweigh China's in terms of both quantity and quality," Dai Yan, a former Chinese diplomat posted in Ghana, said. The Global Times has quoted military experts as saying it is "not objective" to single out Chinese trucks as "military equipment" when several brands of trucks and other vehicles are used by the Sudanese military, police and even rebels. "Some people in the West have been trying to play up the Darfur issue... and are trying to stir new trouble," the newspaper has quoted Ma Zhengang, president of the China Institute of International Studies, as saying. […]. ^ top ^

China "seriously concerned" over ICC call to arrest Sudanese leader (People's Daily)
2008-07-16
China on Tuesday expressed "serious concern" and "worry" over the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor's call to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao called on parties concerned to take a prudent attitude, and properly settle divergences through consultation. Earlier on Monday, ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo formally requested an arrest warrant against al-Bashir for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. It was the first time the Hague-based ICC was asked to charge asitting head of state. "ICC's relevant move should help the stability of Sudan and the proper settlement of the Darfur issue, instead of the other way round," Liu said. […] China always strictly abided by the relevant resolutions made by the UN Security Council and never exported weapons to any country or region under the UN arms embargo, he added. Criticizing the BBC report as "unfair" and "incorrect," Liu said China had never violated any UN Security Council resolution, and had been actively engaged in the international efforts in settling the Darfur crisis. ^ top ^

UN asks for $33.5m for relief work (China Daily)
2008-07-17
The United Nations (UN) yesterday appealed to the international community to contribute $33.5 million to boost aid for victims of the devastating earthquake that hit Sichuan province on May 12. The money will be used in areas of disaster relief such as shelter, health, nutrition and sanitation, the UN said. "It is the hope of the United Nations and the international community that China will quickly recover from this enormous tragedy," Khalid Malik, the UN Resident Coordinator in China, said at the launch of the appeal. […] In the following months, 14 UN agencies will work on the targeted areas of reconstruction with their Chinese counterparts to address the needs of survivors who have received basic assistance but require more comprehensive aid, as the help gets under way and before winter sets in. "The UN will focus on knowledge accessibility and technical assistance to help carry out reconstruction better and faster," Malik said. The UN has already provided more than $17 million in assistance, of which $8 million came from its Central Emergency Response Fund for humanitarian relief immediately after the earthquake, he said. It used the experience it gathered from aid for major disasters such as the Pakistan quake in 2005 and the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 to assist China in its recovery from the May 12 tremor. On Tuesday, the UN also concluded a two-day international workshop in Beijing on post-disaster reconstruction practices. The meeting brought together leading experts from across the world, who shared their own experiences and lessons learned in disaster reconstruction in their respective countries. Following its latest appeal, the UN said it is also planning for a longer-term reconstruction program with the authorities. ^ top ^

Chinese quake-affected children arrive in Russia for rehabilitation (Xinhua)
2008-07-18
More than 450 children from China's earthquake-hit provinces arrived in Russia on Thursday for a three-week rehabilitation visit to the country. A group of 364 students flew to the far eastern city of Vladivostok on charter flights from Beijing and Chengdu, the provincial capital of Sichuan. Another group of 100 children arrived in the central region of Kemerovo, where regional governor Aman Tuleyev met them at the airport. We will do our utmost to ease the pain of the Chinese children and will help them maintain bright impressions from their visit" to the region, Tuleyev said, according to the Itar-Tass news agency. The children traveled to Russia at the invitation of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who, during his visit to China last month, offered to host children from the quake-affected areas for rehabilitation in Russia. A total of 1,000 Chinese children will go to Russia this year, to be followed by another 570 next year. They will stay in children's recreational centers in different parts of Russia and offered psychological therapy, soothing sightseeing trips and amusement programs. ^ top ^

Greens list political prisoners they want Sarkozy to help free (SCMP)
2008-07-18
European Union Greens leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit has named seven political prisoners in China who French President Nicolas Sarkozy should seek to have released, the group said. Mr Sarkozy asked for the names after Mr Cohn-Bendit criticised him on July 10 in the assembly for his decision to take part in the opening ceremony of the Beijing Games. France holds the EU's rotating presidency. The seven include Hu Jia, 34, who was sentenced in April to 3-1/2 years in jail for attempted subversion after publishing critical articles on the internet and giving interviews to foreign media. The others are Huang Qi, known for his human rights website; rights lawyers Chen Guangcheng and Yang Maodong ; Tibetan monk Tenzin Delek; Falun Gong member Bu Dongwei; and activist Yang Chunlin. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Torrential rain kills one, affects 360,000 in S China (China Daily)
2008-07-14
Torrential rain has been slamming south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region since Friday, leaving a three-year-old girl dead and more than 364,700 people affected.The rain demolished 500 rooms and destroyed crops on 18,812 hectares in the cities of Beihai, Hechi and Laibin, causing a direct economic loss of 85.86 million yuan (US$12.3 million), said a spokesman for the regional flood control headquarters.The rain may also lead to a crop failure of about 14,170 tonnes of grain, the spokesman said.In addition, three industrial and mining enterprises suspended operation and three highways were damaged because of the rain.Meteorological experts in Guangxi predicted the torrential rain would continue for the coming two days. ^ top ^

9 Chinese missing off northeastern Madagascar (Xinhua)
2008-07-14
Nine Chinese, including eight Taiwan businessmen and one person from the Chinese mainland, had been missing in the sea off northeastern Madagascar since Thursday, the Chinese embassy said Sunday. A ship carrying the nine Chinese and six Madagascan crew members left Sainte Marie island off northeastern Madagascar at around noon on Thursday, an embassy official told Xinhua. The Chinese and the crew reported an engine failure at about 6 p.m. local time (1500 GMT), and seawater began flooding into the ship late in the evening after they failed to fix the engine, a source told Xinhua. The source said he lost contact with the Chinese aboard at around midnight on Thursday. […]. ^ top ^

Migrants riot after beating by police - Attack on worker sparks violent clash (SCMP)
2008-07-15
About 1,000 migrant workers broke windows at a police station and threw stones at officers during three days of protests in the eastern province of Zhejiang after a migrant was hurt in a dispute with authorities last week, Xinhua and a human rights group said yesterday. The incident in Yuhuan county marks the second time in less than a month that protests against the government have turned violent - at a time when the central government wants to preserve its image for the Olympics. Last Wednesday, a migrant worker from Sichuan province named Zhang Zhongfu sought to apply for a temporary resident permit, but an argument broke out and he was beaten by police, the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said. Xinhua also reported the incident last night. Under the headline "Hundreds of migrant workers attack police office in E. China", Xinhua said the riot lasted for three days and left three officers injured. Xinhua did not say whether anyone was arrested, but it confirmed the human rights group's report as to why the riot had broken out. Sichuan is a major source of migrant labour to the rest of the country, and Zhejiang is a centre of private enterprise, which has made the province wealthy. The main industries in Yuhuan county, south of Taizhou, are fish farming and manufacturing. On Thursday night, Mr Zhang returned with several others to demand justice. The group threw stones at police officers, damaged police vehicles and obstructed officers from duties, the Yuhuan government said. Protesters damaged six police motorcycles, causing fuel to leak out. Three officers were injured. Authorities detained 23 people. On Friday night, more workers came, surrounded the station and demanded that the people be released, but police dispersed them. On Saturday, the number of protesting workers started in the dozens but swelled to more than 1,000. They surrounded the police station, throwing rocks to smash windows and damage other property. Once again authorities cleared the crowd. More than 300 People's Armed Police, a paramilitary force, were patrolling the area. Local officials said only one person had been arrested and the rest had been released on bail, but the human rights group disputed that claim. The government defended its handling of the incident, saying it was necessary to "maintain social stability". It said the situation was now calm. Local officials took a tough stance at a news conference on Sunday. They acknowledged migrant workers had made contributions to the economy but said the new residents - estimated in the thousands or even tens of thousands - had put pressure on societal management. "We will investigate to the end, will strike severely and will not be soft-hearted," said Weng Zhengui, the county's deputy police chief. Officials denied rumours that people had been killed in the clashes. On June 28, tens of thousands of residents of Wengan in Guizhou province stormed government and police offices over what they believed to be a cover-up of the rape and murder of a teenage girl, allegedly by the son of a local official. The government said the girl committed suicide and blamed the protests on public dissatisfaction caused by crime and corruption. ^ top ^

Two missing Chinese found dead off Madagascan NE coast (Xinhua)
2008-07-15
Two missing Chinese were found dead on Monday near Tanjona Masoala, some 600 km northeast of the capital, reliable sources told Xinhua. The deceased Chinese, Li Bo from mainland China and Liu Shouzhi from Taiwan, were found dead by the Madagascan rescue team around lunch time on Monday, a senior Chinese Embassy official said. […]. ^ top ^

Ministry refuses to comment on alleged execution of Uygurs (SCMP)
2008-07-16
The Foreign Ministry refused to comment on reports that China had executed two Uygur Muslims convicted of terrorist and separatist activities a month before the Games. "I don't know the specific information, but I'd like to stress that China is a country with the rule of law and in any place in China, they will handle cases in accordance with the law," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said. US-based Radio Free Asia reported at the weekend that the pair were sentenced and paraded before locals ahead of their execution in the oasis city of Kashgar in Xinjiang on July 9. Mukhtar Setiwaldi and Abduweli Imin were convicted in a trial in November and executed immediately after the sentencing rally, the report said, citing local officials and witnesses. On Thursday, the central government said it faced a serious terrorist threat from Muslim-majority Xinjiang ahead of the Olympics, as it announced 82 "suspected terrorists" had been detained in the region this year. ^ top ^

Put quality first when rebuilding' (SCMP)
2008-07-17
The central government should allow residents more say in the long-term reconstruction of earthquake-hit areas and give priority to the quality of the rebuilding process rather than its speed, international experts said yesterday. A group of UN, US, Japanese and European experts said Beijing should learn from major disasters across the world in order to avoid making similar mistakes in its reconstruction in Sichuan and neighbouring provinces. The highly centralised, top-down approach appeared to have been effective in the wake of the earthquake in the short term, but it might not be a good option in the long term, they said. The remarks were made at a forum at Tsinghua University organised by the China Planning Network, a group sponsored by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). "The government should resist the temptation to do everything and think they know all the answers," said Robert Olshansky of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. "They should listen to what people are saying and try to bring as many voices into the rebuilding process." Professor Olshansky, who was involved in the post-Katrina planning process in New Orleans in 2005, said the central government must take a core leadership role in the process, become "a central point of information" and provide assistance to businesses and organisations. […]. ^ top ^

China promulgates safety statute for its army (Xinhua)
2008-07-18
Hu Jintao, chairman of China's Central Military Commission, has approved a statute on the safety governance of the country's People's Liberation Army. The statute aims to strengthen military management and ensure the army's stability, fighting prowess and comprehensive army building. The regulations, with 100 articles in 12 chapters, cover every aspect of the army's safety management, including the system on preventing and dealing with emergencies. The regulations also specify the time, contents and methods for safety education and safety trainings. The regulations give priority to precautions, and provide a system for safety analyse forecast, danger evaluation and safety inspection. Danger evaluation is written in army rules for the first time. ^ top ^

65m teens victims of second-hand smoke - Tobacco-related diseases kill 1m every year (SCMP)
2008-07-18
More than 65 million mainland teenagers have been affected by second-hand smoke, and about 1 million people die from smoking-related diseases every year, the Ministry of Health said yesterday. Because of the 350 million smokers in the mainland - one-third of the global total - at least 540 million people have become ill because of second-hand smoke, ministry spokesman Mao Qunan said as part of a promotion for tobacco and smoking control. […]. ^ top ^

Authorities order bars not to serve black people (SCMP)
2008-07-18
In our series looking at preparations for the Games, Tom Miller reports on plans to crack down on "undesirables" in the bars of Beijing. Beijing authorities are secretly planning to ban black people and others it considers social undesirables from entering the city's bars during the Olympic Games, a move that would contradict the official slogan, "One World, One Dream". Bar owners near the Workers' Stadium in central Beijing say they have been forced by Public Security Bureau officials to sign pledges agreeing not to let black people enter their premises. "Uniformed Public Security Bureau officers came into the bar recently and told me not to serve black people or Mongolians," said the co-owner of a western-style bar, who asked not to be named. The local authorities have been cracking down on blacks and Mongolians in an attempt to stamp out drug dealing and prostitution ahead of the Games, the proprietors said. A few months ago, police launched a violent sting on black men drinking in the Sanlitun bar district, and a notorious nightclub largely populated by Mongolian prostitutes was also shut down. Security officials are targeting Sanlitun, which Olympic organisers expect to be a key destination for foreign tourists looking for a party during the Games. The pledges that Sanlitun bar owners had been instructed to sign agreed to stop a variety of activities in their establishments, including dancing and serving customers with black skin, they said. They have been allowed to keep copies of all the pledges except those relating to blacks, implying that the authorities are wary of charges of racism. "I am appalled," said a black British national who works in Beijing. "I understand that the government is trying to stop certain illegal activities, but I don't think blanket discrimination is going about it the right way. "Chinese people are prejudiced, but I would have hoped that the government would set a better example as it debuts on the world stage." […] David Mitchell, a Beijing-based jazz musician, said it had become increasingly difficult for his band to find anywhere to play. "It appears the local government is trying to control every aspect of the experience that foreigners get when they come here," he said. "Everything is aimed at creating stability, but they don't understand that is precisely the unfounded prejudice that foreigners have of Chinese society - that it is a highly controlled and not a very cultural place. It seems completely self-defeating.". ^ top ^

 

Beijing

Man jumps from Beijing's Tian'anmen Rostrum (China Daily)
2008-07-14
A man jumped from the Tian'anmen Rostrum in central Beijing at about 3:50 p.m. Sunday and injured himself, local police sources said.Witnesses said he jumped from a northwestern terrace of the rostrum and dropped on the stairway to the west of the gate.The man was rushed to hospital and was under police investigation. But he remained silent about his identity and motivation. […]. ^ top ^

Exhibition extended (China Daily)
2008-07-18
An exhibition featuring Tibet's past and present, which was scheduled to end next Friday, will be extended indefinitely. The exhibition, titled Tibet Today and Yesterday, opened on April 30 and has attracted more than 110,000 visitors. About 160 objects, more than 400 pictures and audio-visual materials are on display telling of the vicissitudes of Tibet over the past 700 years, and in particular, the past 50 years. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Hong Kong frenzy for Olympics banknotes (China Daily)
2008-07-16
Thousands formed long queues outside Bank of China branches across Hong Kong on July 15, 2008, in a feverish bid to snap up special-edition HK$20 Olympic banknotes more than a day before their official release. Residents including young children and pensioners flocked to the city's main Bank of China branch in the financial hub of Central at the crack of dawn, some hunkering down inside tents for a lengthy wait behind metal barricades. […]. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Ma on defensive again over sell-out claims (SCMP)
2008-07-15
Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou has repeated his "three nos" pledge - no unification, no independence and no use of force - in a move to counter accusations that he was in favour of cross-strait unification. In the latest political snag for Mr Ma, who took office barely two months ago, the opposition accused the president from the mainland-friendly Kuomintang yesterday of trying to sell out to the mainland. […] Since becoming president, Mr Ma and some of his cabinet have been accused of disloyalty to Taiwan because of their American-resident status - although all have insisted that the status was no longer valid. The failure of his government to keep inflation in check has also caused a sharp drop in Mr Ma's popularity from a high of about 70 per cent in April to less than 40 per cent this month. ^ top ^

Taipei not told of US arms freeze - Island vows to use all channels to secure US weapons for its defence (SCMP)
2008-07-18
Taipei and Beijing have reacted cautiously to comments by a top US military commander that the Bush administration has frozen arms sales to the island. Taiwanese military spokeswoman Liza Chi Yu-lan said yesterday that the defence ministry had not received any official notice from the US about the freeze. In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao asked the US to observe the three joint communiques signed by Beijing and Washington on American commitments to the mainland. Chiang Pin-kung - chairman of Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation, which represents the island in dealing with Beijing - declined to comment when he attended a forum in Hong Kong. Admiral Timothy Keating, commander of the Hawaii-based US Pacific Command, said on Wednesday that the US had imposed a freeze on arms sales to Taiwan and that that was a policy of the administration of George W. Bush. Admiral Keating acknowledged that there had been no significant arms sales by the US to Taiwan in relatively recent times. US policymakers "have reconciled Taiwan's current military posture, China's current military posture and strategy that indicates there is no pressing, compelling need at this moment for arms sales to Taiwan of the systems that we're talking about", he told a forum of the Washington-based Heritage Foundation. Cross-strait tensions had "palpably decreased" since Ma Ying-jeou of the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang became president in May, he said. In Taipei, Ms Chi said the military would continue to buy defensive weapons from the US and would use every possible channel, including annual arms talks with the mainland, to pursue that goal in order to meet the defence needs of the island. She said the military would continue to honour ongoing arms deals whose budgets had already been approved by the legislature in line with budget procedures. She was referring to a 2001 deal in which the US agreed to sell submarines, anti-submarine aircraft and Patriot anti-missile systems to Taiwan. Wang Yu-chi, spokesman for the Presidential Office, rejected accusations by the opposition Democratic Progressive Party that the Ma government had no intention of buying arms from the US because of warming cross-strait relations. "The passage of the arms budgets by [KMT legislators] represents the determination of the president to defend Taiwan," Mr Wang said. He also said the government would honour any arms deals with the US. In Beijing, Mr Liu reminded Washington to honour its communiques with China, especially the August 17 one, in which the US committed to phasing out arms sales for Taiwan gradually. "Do not violate your commitment," Mr Liu said, adding that Beijing had closely monitored US arms sales to Taiwan. ^ top ^

 

Tibet

Dalai Lama envoy says talks with Beijing 'not useful' (SCMP)
2008-07-17
A special envoy of the Dalai Lama said he did not see any useful purpose in a dialogue with central government authorities and accused Beijing of not being serious about the talks. "We do not see any useful purpose in continuing the dialogue, since there is obviously a lack of political will from the Chinese leadership to seriously address the issue of Tibet," the envoy, Kelsang Gyaltsen, said. "However, [our] Chinese counterparts felt the dialogue we began in 2002 has been useful for both sides to understand each other better," he said at the European Parliament in Brussels. Beijing had said it would not be realistic to think a 50-year-old issue could be resolved in a few years of meetings, the envoy said. The two sides had agreed to meet again in October. ^ top ^

Officials to be sacked for sending children to 'Dalai Lama schools' (SCMP)
2008-07-18
Civil servants in Tibet will be sacked and face disciplinary action for sending their children to overseas schools opened by the Dalai Lama, the autonomous region's government has announced. These are part of a new set of regulations issued by the Tibetan government earlier this month in response to attempts by the Dalai Lama to "lure" the young people, according to a report carried by the Tibet Daily and the government's website. "[The regulations] are to target the Dalai clique's use of the temptations of free schooling, free food and accommodation to lure the young people to cross the border," the report dated Tuesday said. In the government's latest effort to eradicate the Dalai Lama's influence in the Himalayan region since pro-independence protests in March ran out of control and evolved into bloody unrest, the government said party members sending their children to the Dalai Lama's schools would also lose their memberships. The regulations apply to party members and civil servants in the autonomous region. Those whose children are already in such schools should "persuade" their children to return within two months. When they return, the punishment of the official would be reduced or waived depending on the situation, the report said. But if their children do not return in time or if they do not report to the government, the sacking and membership penalties would apply. Cadres will have to come clean if their children have been to such schools; otherwise, they will face the same fate. […]. ^ top ^

 

Economy

Regions warned to keep a grip on price rises despite inflation (SCMP)
2008-07-15
The mainland's top planning body has urged local governments to make an all-out effort to keep prices at acceptable levels despite persistent inflationary pressure. The National Development and Reform Commission stressed the need for local authorities to control prices of daily necessities, post-quake relief materials, oil and electricity, as inflation remained a threat to stability. […]. ^ top ^

Environment watchdog: source of NE oil spill not from China (People's Daily)
2008-07-16
The Ministry of Environmental Protection rules out Tuesday the possibility that the source of a fuel oil spill in Amur, or Heilongjiang, River, came from China. The local environmental department of northeast China's Heilongjiang Province said, no oil and chemical plants were located on the upper reaches of the contaminated area within the country, and it also found no spilling ship or land pollution sources in the nearby area. After Russia informed China of pollution in the Amur River On July 8, the Ministry of Environmental Protection immediately sent an expert team to Heilongjiang Province to assist local environmental department in investigation. On July 10, an official with the Ministry of Environmental Protection met Russian diplomats in China and told them the investigation results and advised Russia to continue its investigation on the pollution sources. China would strengthen its cooperation with Russia in monitoring the water quality in the river and reducing the pollutants' effect on local residents. ^ top ^

Declining dollar lifts yuan to record high (China Daily)
2008-07-17
The central bank Wednesday set the yuan's mid-point against the US dollar at 6.8128, with the Chinese currency hitting a new post-revaluation high for a fifth straight day. The gloomy prospect of the US economy has weakened the greenback. In contrast, the yuan has risen about 7 percent this year, more than the margin for the whole of last year. Exporters and manufacturers, especially the smaller ones, are groaning under pressure created by the rising yuan, with many of them being forced to shut shop. "We are probably facing the toughest time," said Xue Kun, manager of Beijing Hengtai Yuansheng International Trade, a small food and machinery exporter. Analysts, however, said the pressure on exporters is mainly because of the weakening dollar and that the yuan's rise is set to slow down in the second half of the year. US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has warned that the world's largest economy is facing "numerous difficulties" despite the Fed's aggressive interest rate reductions and other fortifying steps. […] The Ministry of Commerce has reportedly suggested slowing down the rise of the yuan to allow traders more time to adjust. "The ministry's proposal is set to influence the decision-making of the top leadership," said Wei Weixian, an economist with the University of International Business and Economics. This, and repeated appeals by economists and government officials, is expected to slow down the yuan's revaluation. "The yuan may not break the 6.5 mark against the dollar this year," Wei said. "Traders will be dealt a fatal blow if it does." "The pace of the yuan's rise could slow down to allow more time to the export sector to adjust," Ken Peng, an economist with the Citigroup in Shanghai, said in a research note. "But uncertainties over the US economy could pose a problem in curbing its rise.". ^ top ^

Economy grows 10.4%, inflation eases (China Daily)
2008-07-18
China's economy slowed down for a fourth straight quarter as inflation eased in June, official figures showed on Thursday, giving more ammunition to advocates for a looser monetary policy. Related readings: China's economic growth cools to slowest since 2005. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew 10.1 percent in the second quarter after rising 10.6 percent in the first three months, said Li Xiaochao, spokesman for the National Bureau of Statistics at a press conference in Beijing. China's economic growth has been on a steady decline since peaking in the second quarter of 2007. NBS chief economist Yao Jingyuan said the double-digit GDP growth indicated China's economy was still growing at a steady and relatively fast pace. "The cooling of GDP growth indicated the government's macro-economic policy to prevent the economy from going overheated has paid off," said Yao. The slowing world economy and weaker demand on international markets also adversely affected the Chinese economy. Another widely watched indicator, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) -- an important measure of inflation, moderated to 7.1 percent in June after rising 7.7 percent in the previous month thanks to easing food prices. The combination of economic slowdown and easing inflation may give rise to louder calls for an ease in the monetary policy. Analysts said that the tight monetary policy put in place at the end of last year has brought about great difficulties for many firms, especially private ones. Thousands of small and medium enterprises have gone bankrupt in the coastal areas as they could hardly get loans from banks, reports said. Fast appreciating yuan value, rising cost of labor and raw materials are also key reasons for the situation. As the world's largest developing country, China needs fast economic development to maximize employment. However, any ease in monetary policy will be a tough call, in face of inflation pressure. "In spite of falls in the consumer prices in the last two months, the prices are still running at a relatively high level," Li Xiaochao said. "We will continue to prevent prices from rising too fast and curb inflation." […] However, watchers sensed a softening of words in its description of the fight against inflation. The committee said curbing price pressures would be a "prominent task" in the months ahead, instead of "top priority," phrasing that economic leaders repeated in the early months of 2008. Analysts believe policy makers are trying to find a balance between inflation and economy growth and are gradually shifting towards preventing a major economic slowdown. ^ top ^

 

Avian flu

Vaccine for bird flu 'working' (China Daily)
2008-07-18
A DNA-based vaccine against avian influenza can safely stimulate the immune system to levels expected to protect against flu, San Diego-based Vical Inc reported yesterday. It said tests on 100 volunteers showed 67 had immune responses that could protect against infection with the H5N1 avian flu virus, with no serious adverse reactions after two injections. […] The H5N1 avian flu virus has become entrenched among birds in much of Asia and parts of Europe, Africa and the Middle East. It rarely infects people but it has killed 243 people out of 385 infected in 15 countries, according to the World Health Organization. ^ top ^

 

Beijing Olympics

Working hours changed for better, cleaner traffic (China Daily)
2008-07-14
The working hours in Beijing will change from July 20 for the next two months to ease traffic pressure on the roads in the run up to and during the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Public institutions will open an hour later, at 9:30 am, and close at 5:30 pm, while working hours for companies will be between 9 am and 5 pm, says a Beijing municipal government notice, released on Saturday. Shopping malls will open at 10 am and close at 10 pm or even later. Schools, administrative bodies and essential service sectors are exempt from the changes. The Beijing government encourages people to work online from home, if possible, to avoid commuting and adapt to flexible working hours for government bodies and companies. […] Home to more than 3 million vehicles, Beijing has urged people to use more public transport during the Olympics. ^ top ^

Visa restrictions a great wall for foreign visitors (SCMP)
2008-07-14
In our ongoing series on preparations for next month's Games, Bill Savadove looks at how Beijing is creating difficulties for Olympics fans from abroad. Judy Wise attended her first Olympics at Munich in 1972, and her husband did so even earlier, in Mexico City in 1968. The American couple have travelled to nearly every Summer Games of the past four decades. "It's really an international happening," she said. But something about Beijing is different from Los Angeles, Seoul and Barcelona. The couple and their two grown children are still waiting for their Chinese visas, three weeks after they applied. "It's definitely much more difficult to manoeuvre around it all. By this time in previous years we were set. We had all our travel plans in these other places," she said. The uncertainty has delayed their planning for travel within China. Finding it "next to impossible" to book a hotel, they plan to rent another family's flat in Beijing. Tighter visa restrictions for foreign nationals are keeping many away from the Olympics, and the government has warned that holding tickets does not guarantee entrance to the country. The requirements for a tourist visa now include advance hotel reservations and return flight bookings. "China's intention is clearly to know who is entering the country in an effort to keep protests at a minimum and away from all Olympic venues, especially during the opening and closing ceremonies," said Pete Troilo, director of business intelligence for business risk consultancy Pacific Strategies and Assessments. Beijing is still expecting about half a million foreign visitors over the course of the Olympics, according to state media. Last year, the capital had 4.4 million overseas visitors - including those from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan - and 140 million domestic tourists. Despite reports that Beijing hotels are fully booked, industry officials said cancellations of block bookings meant rooms were available. Still, the tourism bonanza expected from the Olympics in other parts of China has failed to materialise due to visa restrictions, a slowdown in the US economy and the impact of Tibetan protests and the Sichuan earthquake. […]. ^ top ^

Foreign journalists still unhappy with reporting restrictions (SCMP)
2008-07-15
With less than a month until the Beijing Olympics begin, foreign correspondents in the capital are still dissatisfied with the extent to which the central government has realised its commitment to "free and full access to the media". Jon Watts, president of the Foreign Correspondents Club of China, said: "There is still not complete access for foreign journalists. "What we have at the moment in the system of rules is an improvement of that of two years ago, but it is temporary, and the implementation is patchy," said Mr Watts, the Beijing correspondent for British newspaper The Guardian. The FCCC has documented 260 cases of interference with foreign reporters since the new rules were introduced, and the complaints relate to many parts of the mainland, including Tibet and some earthquake-hit areas. Last week, politburo member in charge of the media Li Changchun again promised the media could report everything during the Games, but foreign journalists were still not sure how free they could be in their reporting in times of an emergency. "The problem seems that there was a step forward at the top level, but at lower levels, in particular, many local officials still have a way of thinking of interrupting journalists from doing the stories they don't like," Mr Watts said. "We hope the government will be serious about the openness by making a promise the improvements could be permanent, not just a temporary show for the Olympics.". ^ top ^

North Korean workers asked to leave (SCMP)
2008-07-16
China has asked some North Korean work units to leave the country or move their business operations during the Olympic Games. Citing security issues, China asked most North Koreans to leave by July 31 and not return until the end of September, a document from the North Korean embassy sent on Friday says. Trade representatives and government-despatched personnel are exempt. Those who delayed leaving would be fined or would not be allowed to re-enter China, according to the document. Workers due to go to China from July 1 should wait until September 25, it said. ^ top ^

Amnesty wants statement from Bush on human rights (SCMP)
2008-07-17
Amnesty International asked US President George W. Bush to make a "strong public statement" on Beijing's need to respect human rights when he attends the opening of the Olympics. "We propose that President Bush make a strong public statement while in Beijing on Chinese rights concerns, including political prisoners, torture and religious and media freedom," said T. Kumar, Amnesty's Asia-Pacific director for advocacy in Washington. He said Amnesty would be among a dozen human rights groups scheduled to meet Mr Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, on July 28 ahead of the president's trip to attend the opening ceremony. ^ top ^

Drivers beware (China Daily)
2008-07-18
Drivers can be detained or fined if found driving in the special Olympic lanes which come into use on Sunday. "A 200 yuan ($30) penalty will be imposed if vehicles are found in the Olympic lane without permission," Beijing traffic management bureau said on Wednesday. "A penalty of 1,800 yuan and detention will be imposed on drivers who force their way on to the lanes, ignoring traffic policemen, it said. Beijing has set aside 285.7 km of Olympic lanes on major roads within the fifth ring road. They will be in use until Sept 20. ^ top ^

Promise of full access for foreign media to be honoured (SCMP)
2008-07-18
Beijing will abide by its commitments to provide unfettered access for foreign reporters during the Olympic Games, a government spokesman said yesterday, countering criticism it is breaking a promise to give media full access. State Council Information Office spokesman Guo Weimin said authorities had been working to ensure foreign media could cover the Games, including allowing television broadcasters to transmit live from Tiananmen Square and take satellite trucks into the capital. ^ top ^

 

DPRK and South Korea

DPRK snubs ROK, says no to talks offer (China Daily)
2008-07-14
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea's (DPRK) has agreed to dismantle its Yongbyon nuclear facility by October in exchange for international aid but rejected the proposal of the Republic of Korea (ROK) to resume their stalled reconciliation talks. The DPRK yesterday said the ROK president's offer is a "deceitful" tactic to avoid taking responsibility for the deterioration in bilateral ties. The DPRK's main state newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, said in a commentary that Lee Myung-bak's proposal was not even worth considering. In a speech on Friday, Lee had offered to resume government-level talks with Pyongyang, which were suspended after his conservative government took office in February. Lee said his administration was willing to discuss how to implement the previous accords with Pyongyang, which his liberal predecessors had reached with DPRK leader Kim Jong-il at the 2000 and 2007 summits. "Why are more talks necessary?" the DPRK newspaper said. "Lee's anti-unification, confrontational charter was clearly revealed" in his speech, it said. Of late, Lee has softened his stance on the DPRK amid concern that the ROK could be left with little say in international issues at a time when progress in the Six-Party Talks is bringing Pyongyang and Washington closer. On Saturday, the six countries attending the talks in Beijing agreed to help the DPRK with economic aid, including heavy fuel oil (HFO), if it disables its Yongbyon nuclear facility completely. The DPRK will allow international experts to visit its nuclear facilities, review its documents and interview technical personnel, says a communiqu issued by China's chief negotiator Wu Dawei at the end of the three-day talks. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is also welcomed to provide consultations and assistance for verification if and when necessary. The meeting drew a timetable for economic and energy aid to the DPRK. But the aid and nuclear disablement have to run concurrently, said Wu, who is also the vice-foreign minister. The US and Russia will provide the HFO by October, while China and the ROK will sign binding agreements with the DPRK by August for non-HFO aid. ^ top ^

S Korea to recall its ambassador to Japan over islands dispute (Xinhua)
2008-07-15
South Korea will recall its ambassador to Japan after Japan intensified its claim to the ownership of a group of islands controlled by Seoul, the South Korean Foreign Ministry said Monday. South Korean Ambassador to Japan Kwon Chul-hyun will return to Seoul soon on a temporary basis, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Moon Tae-young at a news conference. Moon said in a statement that Japan's claim over the sovereignty to the disputed islands of Dokdo, which is called Takeshima in Japan, in its new educational guidelines is " unacceptable and intolerable." […] South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan also plans to summon Japanese Ambassador to South Korea Toshinori Shigeie later in the day to deliver a protest message, the spokesman said. The South Korean government can never tolerate this and strongly urges the Japanese government to immediately stop the attempt," Moon said at the nationally-televised statement. The spokesman said Dokdo clearly belongs to South Korea " historically, geographically, and by international law." The government makes it clear again that it will deal sternly with any attempt to undermine its sovereignty over Dokdo," he said. Following Moon's statement, South Korea's Presidential Office said that South Korea has reinforced the defense of the islets of Dokdo and will take measures to strengthen its sovereign control of the disputed islets in response to Japan's sovereign claim. Local media said that the South Korean government is determined to take strong countermeasures, including diplomatic, academic and administrative actions to consolidate South Korea's sovereign control of Dokdo. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak expressed "deep disappointment" with Japan. […]. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

GEC Confirms MPRP Wins Majority in Parliament (Mongol Messenger)
2008-07-17
In Chairman of the General Election Committee B.Battulga's report to President N.Enkhbayar on July 14, he noted that final election results were unavailable for the few voting areas. “So far, Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party took 39 seats, the Democratic Party took 25 seats, the Civil Will Party took one seat, and the Independent candidate took one seat,” said Battulga. According to the election authority, 356 candidates ran in 26 different electorates, divided into 20 provinces, and six metropolitan districts of Ulaanbaatar which include three satellite district towns. 10 of the 76 cabinet seats remain unfilled while allegations of election fraud are investigated. The president is now expected to call a new parliamentary session by July 29, after consultations with the political parties involved. By law, a new parliament can form if at least 57 out of 76 candidates' names are submitted and approved. This event may prove impossible, however, if the Democratic Party follows through on its threat to boycott a new parliament, following what some of their ranks suspect was a stolen election. ^ top ^

Prices of oil products to go up (Mongol Messenger)
2008-07-17
The Mongolian Oil and Gas Association informs that oil products importing companies are inevitably required to increase prices of their products. The statement by the association reads,''The price of a barrel of oil has reached USD 140 at the world market. The oil price has been going up day by day. Prices of oil products that are imported by Mongolia from Russia have been growing monthly depending on a permanent increase of the export tax of oil products of Russia. The government of Mongolia has taken necessary measures on each occasion by granting compensations to oil products importing companies for their losses and rendering a tax relief with the intention of not causing a price pressure to the total customers. The government made decisions to reduce the customs tax of oil products to zero from April 11 to June 15, 2008, to decline the value added tax to five percent, event to reduce to zero the special, customs and value added taxes starting from July 15, 2008. The tax regulation has been conducted under the above situation, but the oil products importing companies got more losses, for the prices of oil products at the domestic market have been held down since March 2008. For these reasons, there is no way to grow the prices of oil products.". ^ 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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