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
  14.12-18.12.09, No. 299  
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Table of contents

H1N1 flu

DPRK and South Korea

Mongolia

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Foreign Policy

Wen in late push for climate accord (SCMP)
2009-12-18
Premier Wen Jiabao yesterday began a last-minute push for a climate accord in Copenhagen while minimising economic pain for developing countries, with the stalled UN talks falling far behind schedule to seal an operational deal. Just hours before Wen's speech, scheduled for this morning Copenhagen time at one of the largest gatherings of world leaders in history, China - the world's largest carbon emitter - intensified its climate diplomacy in the Danish capital. In what analysts described as an effort to showcase the country's commitment to the global effort to combat climate change, Wen met Danish Prime Minister Lars Rasmussen, United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva yesterday, and is expected to meet at least another dozen world leaders during his two-day visit, Xinhua reported. The list not only includes China's key allies in the talks, Brazil and India, but also rich nations such as Britain and Germany. A meeting between Wen and US President Barack Obama, who is due to arrive today, has yet to be finalised. In a group meeting yesterday, Wen also met leaders from small island states and poor African nations, including the Maldives, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Sudan and Grenada. Earlier, mainland analysts and environmentalists suggested that China, as a leader of the bloc of developing nations, should reach out to poorer nations, which have provided formidable political backing for Beijing's wrangling with rich nations over the years. Despite glaring gaps between rich and poor nations, Wen pledged China would move forward the agenda of climate negotiations with the "utmost sincerity and determination" […] He said the negotiations had reached a make-or-break point and all parties should step up efforts to meet global expectations to cut a deal in tackling climate change. He promised China would deliver on its commitment to cut carbon emissions compared with economic growth by 40 to 45 per cent by 2020 from 2005 levels, irrespective of the results in Copenhagen. China said yesterday it was willing to provide details about its actions to control carbon emissions, moving to meet a key US demand for verification of Beijing's promises to fight global warming. Vice-Foreign Minister He Yafei said China was ready for dialogue and co-operation that was not intrusive and did not infringe on China's sovereignty. His remarks came after US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the US would join others in raising US$100 billion a year to help developing countries fight climate change. The financing of climate aid for poor nations and the verification of Beijing's voluntary actions to reduce the growth of its emissions address two key issues blocking an agreement in Copenhagen […]. ^ top ^

Chinese vice president, South Korean prime minister meet on relations (Xinhua)
2009-12-18
Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping put forward a four-point plan to cement China-South Korea ties when he met South Korean Prime Minister Chung Un Chan in Seoul on Thursday. Xi said China and the South Korea were neighbors and the relationship had been promoted since they established diplomatic ties in 1992. The exchanges of the visits by the two heads of states last year upgraded the relations to strategic and cooperative partnership, which benefited both countries and helped promote regional peace, stability and prosperity. Xi's proposal to foster the Sino-ROK relationship was: - To enhance high-level contact and political trust: The two countries should also increase exchanges between the governments, parliaments and parties [...]

- To expand trade and economic cooperation: The two countries should explore new ways on high-tech, energy-saving, and environmental protection cooperation. Xi called on the two sides to complete joint research and initiate free trade agreement negotiation. - To increase personnel exchanges: The two sides should further improve exchanges on education, culture and tourism and properly handle the issues concerning the sentiments of the two peoples. - And, to strengthen coordination in multilateral frameworks, including the meeting mechanism of China, South Korea and Japan: On the situation on the Korean Peninsula, Xi said all relevant sides should take the chance to show flexibility to resume the six-party talks at an early date […] Un Chan pledged to complete the joint research on free trade agreement as soon as possible, and advance coordination with China under the G20 and the framework of China, Japan and South Korea. Xi arrived here Wednesday night after a visit in Japan. He will also visit Myanmar and Cambodia. ^ top ^

Police hold US engineer for a year over trade secrets dispute (SCMP)
2009-12-18
Mainland police have detained an American automotive engineer for more than a year over accusations he misused trade secrets - the latest case of Beijing's vague secrecy laws being used against an American. Hu Zhicheng, a prize-winning designer of industrial catalysts to control auto emissions, has had letters from his family censored and has been denied reading materials during his detention in the port city of Tianjin, the US embassy in Beijing said. Last week, police rejected an Old Testament that he asked US consular officers to bring. The stern treatment is being meted out in a business dispute over automobile technology. Hu told US officials that investigators had threatened him with multimillion-dollar fines unless he gives the rights to his US-registered patent to a former business partner in Tianjin. Hu's wife - both are Chinese-born naturalised Americans - said Tianjin authorities' real target was a mainland-based company she managed and whose cutting-edge products competed with those of the former business partner, Hysci (Tianjin) Specialty Materials. Hysci, she said, complained that her start-up was developing products unusually fast, prompting the trade-secrets investigation. "You don't sue someone just because you think their [research and development] is too fast," said Li Hong, who lives in the Los Angeles area. "This case is being conducted illegally." Police had travelled from Tianjin to raid her company, seizing computer hard drives and production materials, Li said, declining to name the location of the company. The US embassy said prosecutors had twice sent the case back to police for further investigation - often a sign the evidence is insufficient for an indictment […] Yet Hu's predicament shows how powerful vested interests can get law-enforcement agencies to pressure foreign business executives - especially those who, like Hu, were once Chinese citizens but now hold foreign passports. Hu's detention comes amid other similar prosecutions of China-born foreign nationals. In recent months, Australian national Stern Hu - an executive with the global mining giant Rio Tinto, which was involved in big-money and politically touchy iron-ore negotiations - was detained on state-secrets charges that were later reduced to infringing trade secrets. Another Chinese-born naturalised American, geologist Feng Xue, disappeared into custody two years ago and has been put on trial for passing state secrets - for arranging the purchase of a detailed commercial database on the Chinese oil and gas industry […]. ^ top ^

Vietnam buys submarines to counter China (SCMP)
2009-12-17
China faces the prospect of a new, rival submarine power in the disputed South China Sea, with neighbouring Vietnam yesterday completing a major arms deal with Russia - the latest sign of regional concern at Beijing's naval build-up. The deal for submarines and jet fighters - Hanoi's biggest since the end of the Vietnam war 35 years ago - also reflects a widening view in the region that Beijing's vaunted show of soft power in the past decade is taking on a harder edge. It comes as Australia, Indonesia and Malaysia seek to expand submarine programmes amid concerns that the US will gradually see its traditional naval dominance and influence across East Asia eroded by China's naval expansion. In buying six Russian-made Kilo submarines for US$2 billion, Vietnam is also effectively cementing a new military relationship with Moscow, its major cold war benefactor following the collapse in ties with one-time ally Beijing. With Moscow committing to deliver one submarine a year for the next six years, Russian specialists are expected to be involved in training, outfitting and maintenance programmes […] India, China's neighbour and rival power, also possesses Russian Kilos and has been quietly advising Hanoi on the challenges of building a submarine-capable force. Vietnam is also forging a military relationship with its former enemy, the US, whose navy has upped its presence in the South China Sea. The diesel-electric Kilo submarines are considered to be among the quietest available - exceptionally stealthy vessels that can be used for spying as well as hunting and attacking rival ships and submarines. Building a working submarine programme will be a major challenge for Vietnam's military, a traditionally land-based force. Professor Carl Thayer, a veteran specialist on the Vietnamese military at Australia's Defence Force Academy, said just as China was seeking to create a naval deterrent against the larger US forces, Vietnam was seeking a credible deterrent against China, hoping to defend its own claims to the South China Sea […] "Hanoi knows it could never hope to match the Chinese navy, but it can at least make them think very hard before any attempt to, for example, drive Vietnam off some of their Spratly Islands holdings. Even a few Kilos makes that a very complicated business, indeed ... you suddenly have to factor in losing ships." […] Long-simmering tensions over rival claims by China and Vietnam in the South China Sea have worsened in the past two years, with China completing an underground submarine base on Hainan Island and legally formalising its so-called historic claim to nearly the entire sea. Both sides repeatedly insist on the need for a peaceful, negotiated settlement, but there is little expectation of a diplomatic breakthrough soon […]. ^ top ^

China protests Danish chair's draft climate texts (Xinhua)
2009-12-17
China on Wednesday protested the draft outcome texts of the Copenhagen climate change conference that the Danish presidency put forward without consulting the parties to the conference. "This is a party-driven process. You can't just put forward some texts from the sky," China's chief negotiator Su Wei said at the morning session of the conference after an announcement by the Danish presidency on the draft texts. It has been agreed that the only legitimate basis for discussion on the outcome of the Copenhagen talks will be the outcome of the work by the two major working groups of the conference, Su said. The move by the conference presidency "would very much endanger the successful outcome in Copenhagen." India, Brazil and some other developing nations also protested the move by the presidency. Many countries are demanding a legally binding climate treaty to be reached in Copenhagen, but divisions between developed and developing nations, mainly over emissions reduction and financing, were eroding chances of such a deal. World leaders are arriving in Copenhagen to endorse efforts to reach a deal as the conference moved into the final segment. ^ top ^

Clean-up of pollution a focus of Xi's Japan tour (SCMP)
2009-12-17
Vice-President Xi Jinping ended a three-day visit to Japan yesterday with a trip to a former heavy-industry centre that has cut down on pollution and developed a cleaner robotics sector.
Xi, who is expected to succeed Hu Jintao as president in 2013, visited the southwestern city of Kitakyushu before travelling to South Korea on a regional tour that will also take him to Cambodia and Myanmar. In a morning meeting, Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada told Xi: "Kitakyushu was once called 'the city of iron', but it has overcome the problem of pollution and is a good model case." China, expected soon to overtake Japan as the world's second-largest economy, struggles with pollution from its heavy industry, coal plants and cars, and is now the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases […] A city official told Xi that Kitakyushu's air and water were heavily polluted during the 1960s, when a bay was called the "sea of death". Now the city has confirmed the return of more than 100 marine species once thought to have died out, and has cut down on waste by recycling items from plastic bottles to computers and cars, the official said. Xi said that "what Kitakyushu experienced, and its advanced measures, are useful references for us", another official said. The Kyushu trip in which Japan showcased its environmentally friendly technologies came at the end of Xi's three-day visit, during which both sides stressed desire to boost relations. But controversy erupted over a meeting between Xi and Emperor Akihito and the sensitive matter of palace protocol. The Prime Minister's Office asked the Imperial Household Agency to skip a usual rule that requires such meetings to be requested a month in advance, leading conservative opposition politicians to accuse the centre-left government of bending the rules to kowtow to rising giant China. Ichiro Ozawa, a heavyweight in the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, who reportedly pushed for the meeting with the emperor, has openly feuded with a palace official who complained about heavy government pressure. Xi's four-day visit to South Korea, amid heightened diplomatic efforts to bring North Korea back to international disarmament negotiations, kicked off later yesterday. The nuclear stand-off with North Korea will be discussed when Xi meets South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, according to the South's Ministry of Foreign Affairs […] Xi arrives in Myanmar on Saturday for two days and is expected to meet the regime's reclusive leader. China has invested more than US$1 billion in Myanmar, primarily in the mining sector, and is the country's fourth-largest foreign investor, according to state media. Bilateral trade grew more than 25 per cent last year to about US$2.63 billion. Mainland firms are also heavily involved in logging in Myanmar. ^ top ^

Audience with emperor 'set to boost ties' (China Daily)
2009-12-16
Vice-President Xi Jinping sat down yesterday with Japanese Emperor Akihito, thanks largely to the efforts of the Tokyo government. The meeting attracted controversy because it broke a decade-old palace rule that said audiences with foreign dignitaries must be scheduled at least a month in advance. After the government in Tokyo lobbied the palace, the meeting was finally arranged, but it did not pass off without controversy - protesters gathered outside the palace to complain about the abandoning of protocol. Chinese experts said the efforts of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) will have been noted in Beijing and closer ties between the nations are likely. China's Central Television last night showed the meeting between Xi and Akihito during its prime time news slot, carrying images of the men shaking hands inside the moated Imperial Palace prior to their 20-minute conversation. Japan's Jiji Press quoted Xi as telling the emperor: "I am deeply grateful you have given me the opportunity to meet you, despite your tight schedule." […] Emperor Akihito was quoted as saying: "I hope your visit this time will further enhance the relationship of understanding and friendship between the two countries." The Imperial Household Agency initially turned down the request but Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama reportedly called on the palace to think again. Several influential figures from the opposition Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (LDP) attacked the DPJ for "political use of the emperor". Hatoyama said Xi deserved special treatment because of the importance of the relationship with China. The Japanese prime minister yesterday questioned the value of the one-month limit, saying it was not beneficial to block proposed meetings because of bureaucratic rules […] Hatoyama, who took office in September, has said he wants closer ties with China and other Asian neighbors. His stance earned a warm response from Beijing yesterday, where Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu said China had noticed that "Japan prepared a lot for the visit". Su Hao, an expert in East Asian affairs at the Beijing-based China Foreign Affairs University, said Hatoyama went out on a limb to support China. "Though Japan's opposition party is using the chance to criticize the ruling party and the rising role of Beijing in Japan's foreign policies, the resolute stance the DPJ adhered to in the process will greatly benefit their future cooperation with Beijing.” […] Xi is making official visits to Japan, the Republic of Korea, Cambodia and Myanmar. The tour began on Monday and will end on Tuesday. He became the first high-ranking Chinese politician to meet the Japanese emperor since President Hu Jintao did in May 2008. ^ top ^

China warns West over backing activist on trial (SCMP)
2009-12-16
Beijing yesterday warned Western countries against taking up the case of a prominent dissident, Liu Xiaobo, who is facing trial for subversion, after the United States and European Union called for his release. Liu's lawyer said last week prosecutors had decided to try him on charges of "inciting subversion of state power" for publishing essays critical of the ruling Communist Party and helping to organise a petition demanding democratic change. Liu has been among the country's best-known critics of restrictions on citizens' rights, and was detained late last year while helping oversee the launch of the "Charter 08" petition for political change. The European Union urged China on Monday to release him unconditionally, while the United States pressed Beijing to respect the rights of all citizens who peacefully express their desire for "internationally recognised freedoms". […] In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said such calls amounted to interfering in the country's judiciary. "These accusations are unacceptable. China is a country of rule of law. The fundamental rights of Chinese citizens are guaranteed by the law," she told a regular news conference. "I want to stress that Chinese judicial bodies handle cases independently. Outsiders have no right to interfere." Jiang's comments underscored that the government was unlikely to heed growing international pressure in support of Liu, who could face trial as soon as next week. If convicted, the 53-year-old dissident could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison. But the row between Beijing and Washington over Liu is unlikely to affect bilateral ties. US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday said the US needed to adopt a pragmatic stance towards human rights in China and Russia. "Principled pragmatism informs our approach on human rights, informs our approach with all countries but particularly with key countries like China and Russia," she said in a speech on the Obama administration's human rights agenda. "Co-operation with each of those is critical to the health of the global economy and the non-proliferation agenda we seek, also to managing security issues like North Korea and Iran, and addressing global problems like climate change," Clinton said. "The United States seeks positive relationships with China and Russia," she said […] "In China, we call for protection of rights of minorities in Tibet and Xinjiang." The United States also pushes for the right of people in China to "express oneself and worship freely" and for civil society and religious groups to advance their causes within a legal framework, she added. "The assumption that we must either pursue human rights or our 'national interests' is wrong. The assumption that only coercion and isolation are effective tools for advancing democratic change is also wrong.". ^ top ^

Nations set to sign nuclear agreement (China Daily)
2009-12-15
China will soon reach an agreement to receive nuclear power assistance from Kazakhstan, a source told China Daily. The unnamed source with ties to the government said the two countries had originally planned to sign the agreement during President Hu Jintao's recent visit to the Central Asian country. But due to Hu's limited time there, an agreement was not drafted, but the source said one will be signed soon. The agreement […] will allow the resource-rich Kazakhstan to offer substantial help to China, which has a rising demand for nuclear plants. China Guangdong Nuclear Power Co from China's major economic engine, Guangdong province, has begun cooperating with Kazakhstan's state nuclear power firm for uranium, according to the source. A legal framework such as an intergovernmental agreement is necessary for more cooperation in the nuclear energy field, said Kairat N. Kelimbetow, chief executive officer of Kazakhstan's sovereign wealth fund Samruk Kazyna. Kelimbetow, who is in charge of the state-funded enterprises and state-owned finance in Kazakhstan, said the two countries have been negotiating for the past two months over the nuclear agreement. As China is set to increase its nuclear power supply, there is a huge potential for cooperation, Kelimbetow told China Daily. Kazakhstan, a nation rich in natural resources, is set to surpass Canada and Australia to become the world's biggest uranium producer in 2010, according to its national plan. ^ top ^

Central Asian leaders greet Hu at gas pipeline opening (SCMP)
2009-12-14
Central Asia welcomed China's foray into the energy-rich region yesterday as President Hu Jintao prepared to open a new pipeline connecting a Turkmen gas field with the restive Xinjiang region. Leaders of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan assembled in the Turkmen capital, Ashgabat, to greet Hu on the eve of a ceremony to open the 1,833 kilometre pipeline that snakes across Central Asia via their countries. The pipeline marks a new stage in China's involvement in the former Soviet region and represents a snub to Russia, which still considers the Muslim region to be part of its sphere of influence. Central Asia's overtures towards China also represent a worry for the European Union, which sees gas-rich Turkmenistan as a potential supplier of gas for the Nabucco project designed to connect Europe with Caspian gas fields while bypassing Russia. Speaking in Ashgabat, a city of marble palaces tucked away in a desert near the Iranian border, Hu described Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov as an "old friend". Speaking later, Berdymukhammedov […] praised China's commitment to Central Asia. "This project has not only commercial or economic value. It is also political ... China, through its wise and long-sighted policy, has become one of the key guarantors of global security." The pipeline, starting near a Turkmen gas field developed by China National Petroleum Corporation, is Central Asia's biggest export route to markets outside Russia, the territory of which is fully bypassed. With capacity of 40 billion cubic metres a year, it will ease Turkmenistan's reliance on Russia, which purchased about 50 billion cubic metres a year before the two fell out over supply terms this year. The pipeline is expected to reach full capacity in 2012-13. Hu's visit serves as a rare unifying force for regional leaders who, ridden by rivalries and rows over cross-border water and electricity use, rarely meet. Their willingness to put aside their differences and fly to Turkmenistan's remote capital to meet Hu shows their resolve to forge closer ties with their giant eastern neighbour. Speaking ahead of Hu's arrival in Ashgabat, Uzbek President Islam Karimov - who rarely goes abroad or speaks in public - said the pipeline was a key step towards diversifying energy exports. "The geopolitical map is changing ... and Turkmenistan's role will only grow," said Karimov, who has ruled Uzbekistan since 1989. Central Asia, home to some of the world's biggest oil, gas and metals reserves, is at the centre of a geopolitical tug-of-war between Russia, China and the West, all seeking to grab a share of its untapped riches. Years of quiet diplomatic manoeuvring have helped China step up its presence in the region by handing out billions of dollars in loans, snapping up energy assets and building an oil pipeline from Kazakhstan […] In Kazakhstan, Hu and his delegation signed a range of investment deals, most detailing agreements between Astana and Beijing, in sectors such as steel, chemicals, renewable energy and reconstruction of a Kazakh oil refinery […] As diplomacy heats up, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is due to travel to Turkmenistan this month for energy talks. ^ top ^

China-U.S. symposium on human rights, rule of law ends (Xinhua)
2009-12-14
The first Sino-American Dialogue on Rule of Law and Human Rights ended Sunday in Nantong, a city in east China's Jiangsu Province. The two-day symposium was jointly organized by the China Foundation for Human Rights Development (CFHRD) and National Committee on United States-China Relations (NCUSCR) of the United States. Representatives from China and the United States exchanged views on topics of government transparency, pretrial detention, labor disputes and lawyers' role. Prof. Jerome Cohen of the New York University School of Law said the symposium was "a good exchange" and the U.S. delegation learned more about China. "We talked about some sensitive issues with people we didn't know before. This is a big good start," Cohen told Xinhua. "The dialogue is a sign of increasing exchanges between non-governmental organizations," Huang Mengfu, vice chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and CFHRD chairman, addressed the opening ceremony on Saturday. The symposium attracted more than 30 Chinese and U.S. law professionals and scholars. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

3 trillion yuan to help tackle pollution (SCMP)
2009-12-18
Beijing is to invest more than 3 trillion yuan in environmental protection over five years from 2011, state media said yesterday, as the country battles widespread pollution. Wu Xiaoqing, deputy head of the Environmental Protection Ministry, said a third of the overall investment would go towards the operating costs of pollution control facilities […] The investment period refers to the next five-year economic development plan, which begins in 2011. China, the world's biggest carbon polluter, has pledged to reduce carbon emissions per unit of gross domestic product by 40 to 45 per cent by 2020, based on 2005 levels. However, experts say its emissions could still double, given economic growth projections. Heavy pollution is widespread on the mainland, which relies on coal for 70 per cent of its energy needs and is home to countless coal-burning power plants. Rapid industrialisation in recent decades and soaring sales of cars have contributed to the problem. ^ top ^

Site sparks rush to air graft cases (China Daily)
2009-12-18
Netizens are playing a larger role in the nation's anti-graft fight and flocking to a government website to blow the whistle on alleged corruption, says the top discipline inspection body of the Communist Party of China. In the first month after the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the CPC launched www.12388.gov.cn - a website to report alleged government graft - on Oct 28, accounts of corruption has topped 13,800 […] The website was jointly launched by the commission and the Ministry of Supervision. It comprises all reporting websites of the nation's province-level governments and provides a platform for netizens to directly report alleged corruption to the commission. "Hits to the website reached 19.2 million on the first day and the average number of hits has been standing at 1 million per day," said the commission's statement. "More than 70 percent of the 13,800 reported cases were under the CCDI's responsibilities, and (within the 70 percent) 45 percent are against officials at the county level or higher." The province-level reporting sites have also become a hit with netizens, with Beijing, Guangdong, Henan, Liaoning and Fujian provinces each receiving 3,000 reports […] Senior officials in Beijing, Heilongjiang, Guangdong and Henan provinces have been punished as a result of online corruption reports thus far. Based on online clues, an official surnamed Wang from the Heilongjiang provincial forestry department was found accepting bribes worth up to 20 million yuan ($2.94 million), according to the commission. The commission also revealed that the nation is expected to introduce a regulation incorporating online corruption reports in the first half of next year […] Zhu Lijia, professor of China National School of Administration, said the large number of reports demonstrates that social supervision over officials is expanding. "Forty-five percent of the reports are against officials at the county level or higher, which suggests the potential corruptible rate among middle- to high-level officials is climbing," he said. The commission said they have sorted out many clues from among the online reports and transferred them to related departments to handle. ^ top ^

Lawyers want probe of defence counsel's arrest (SCMP)
2009-12-18
A group of 20 lawyers are calling on Beijing to investigate the arrest of a defence lawyer representing an alleged gang boss, and to take a closer look at the massive crackdown on organised crime in Chongqing. Li Xiongbing, one of three draftees of a letter to Beijing, said Li Zhuang's arrest marked the lowest point in the crackdown. The Beijing-based Li Zhuang is defence counsel for Gong Gangmo, one of 14 alleged triad bosses held since June. The letter was signed by lawyers in Beijing, Guangdong, Hebei, Shandong, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Sichuan, and was mailed to the government-sponsored All China Lawyers Association and Beijing Lawyers Association yesterday. "The lawyers associations should pay urgent attention to the case and protect lawyers' rights," it said. Li Xiongbing told the South China Morning Post that Chongqing police should no longer handle the case. "[They] have taken too many illegal steps during the crackdown and this case was their nadir," he said. In the letter, the lawyers said Chongqing police had repeatedly rejected Li Zhuang's application to see his client before the trial. When he was permitted, four officers were present and the conversation was taped. Li Zhuang was also prevented from examining all the evidence. The letter said Chongqing police detained Li Zhuang on Saturday in Beijing. According to mainland law, police should notify the local lawyers association of a detention within 24 hours, but the Beijing association knew nothing about it until Monday […] In response to questions over why officers were present when Li Zhuang met Gong, Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun said police were merely following Ministry of Public Security guidelines for organised crime cases […] Gong has said Li Zhuang winked at him to suggest he lie about being forced into a confession. Gong and his co-defendants are accused of involvement in four murders, possession of 15 firearms and loan-sharking, among other crimes. Li's arrest has dragged Kang Da Law Firm, one of the country's biggest, into the spotlight. Its founder, Fu Yang, is the son of Peng Zhen, chairman of the National People's Congress in the 1980s. Fu has declined to comment, but Xing Jun, director of the firm's general office, said Kang Da supported the crackdown and would tighten internal management […] Li Xiongbing said the arrest was a warning to other defence lawyers, and a way to protect police against illegal actions in the crackdown. But Li Fangping, a Beijing lawyer who sent another appeal letter to the NPC and Ministry of Public Security on Wednesday, said lawyers were just one group who had lost their rights since Chongqing began its crackdown on gangs. Early last year Chongqing launched a 100-day campaign, during which police arrested 10,000 people - 100 per day. "After that, the environment of rule of law in the city changed significantly. Decision-making was loose, especially this year," he said, referring to the methods police had used to arrest and charge people for organised crimes. In his letter, which was also signed by 20 other lawyers, Li Fangping urged Chongqing to heed advice that "the crackdown on gangs does not mean cracking down like gangs". ^ top ^

Cold shower of water price rises is hot topic of debate (SCMP)
2009-12-17
The interest was so great that the Beijing government's webcast of the hearing crashed several times in the course of its three and a half hours. The issue is such a big one for the mainland that the capital is just one of more than 20 cities forced to confront it: water, and how much to charge for it. Amid worsening shortages, but widespread scepticism, 24 delegates yesterday debated a municipal government proposal to raise water prices by 24 per cent. All but two agreed that a price rise seemed necessary to encourage conservation, but many were disappointed they were not given other options such as rationing, which they believed would be a better and a fairer solution. "I don't think it's responsible for the government to pin its hopes on price hikes all the time to solve water shortages, which are also partly attributed to poor management," Zhu Yufeng, a delegate who lives in Haidian district, said. Beijing is one of more than 20 mainland cities, including Shanghai, Guangzhou and Tianjin, which have raised or are proposing to raise water tariffs this year in the face of public resistance. Earlier this month it proposed raising water prices for domestic users, which are already among the highest on the mainland, by 90 fen per cubic metre from the current 3.70 yuan. The rise, the first since 2004, is mainly to cover the soaring costs of water treatment and schemes to divert water to Beijing. It was a reflection of the bleak reality that water is in short supply across the country, Zhang Yuan, a deputy director of the city's development and reform commission - steward of the capital's economy - said at the meeting. Water resources per capita in the country are about 2,200 cubic metres - less than a third of the world average - and will drop considerably over the next two decades, according to the Ministry of Water Resources. Water resources per capita in Beijing are less than 300 cubic metres. The delegates, comprising residents, officials and business representatives, were asked to choose between a one-off rise and gradual increases into 2011 […]. ^ top ^

TV censor triggers public outcry (Global Times)
2009-12-17
Public anger over the censorship of a popular TV series that realistically illustrates two sisters' desperate struggle to buy an increasingly unaffordable home reached a crescendo in recent days, following a broadcast watchdog official openly criticizing the show as vulgar and obscene. Web users have vented their ire by exposing luxury properties allegedly owned by the official, in hopes of copying an earlier case in which a government official was brought down after his luxurious living was exposed and a government investigation ensued. The targeted official is Li Jingsheng, director-general of the Department of Teleplay Administration under the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television. His criticism of the hit television series commonly known as Snail House has drawn widespread public attention […] Li said at an annual TV series promotion meeting December 9 that the drama had created a "vulgar and negative social impact by hyping porn jokes, corrupt officials and sex to woo viewers." The 33-episode series is about the struggles of contemporary Chinese living in a bustling metropolis, modeled after Shanghai, with a focus on roaring property prices that young people struggle to afford. One of the stars even goes as far as becoming a corrupt official's mistress to get money for an apartment. The show also mirrors the harsh reality facing many young graduates, especially those living in big cities, who can relate to the situation. As a result, Li attacking the show hasn't been well received […]. ^ top ^

Forced relocation on Council's radar (Global Times)
2009-12-17
A group of scholars provided their input to officials trying to amend a relocation regulation, during a forum held Wednesday by the State Council's Legislative Affairs Office […] The forum was held after five scholars from Peking University wrote a letter to the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee suggesting that the current relocation regulation should be abolished or revised to protect property owners. But the discussion and the draft of the regulation were not disclosed to the public […] How and when the current relocation regulation will be amended or abolished remains unknown, the report said. "I think it is inappropriate to keep the draft a secret," Wang Ling, a lawyer with Beijing Cailiang Law Firm who has experience with relocation cases, told the Global Times […] "It is absolutely great news for the public," he added. The Housing Demolition and Relocation Management Regulation has been a topic of discussion since a woman in Sichuan Province set herself on fire last month to protest against the forced demolition of her home. At the Letters and Calls Office of the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, 80 percent of the petitions between 2003-06 involved relocation issues, China Newsweek reported in July. "The biggest problem is how to define public interest in China," Wang said […] According to the Constitution and Property Law, a citizen's private property is inviolable. The government should only confiscate a person's home for public welfare projects. However, in many places, Wang said developers with relocation permits negotiate with residents and force them to move out if the negotiations fail. Wang suggested that the government should withdraw from business relocation work. "The government should let residents decide if they want to move out or not. And by doing so, many conflicts could be solved," he said. A spokesman for the State Council's Legislative Affairs Office said they will seek the opinion of scholars and parties affected by relocation before submitting the draft to the for further scrutiny. ^ top ^

Guangzhou 'won't be locked down for Games' (SCMP)
2009-12-16
Guangzhou would not be subjected to a Beijing Olympics-style security lockdown during next year's Asian Games, government sports officials pledged yesterday. The Guangzhou 16th Asian Games Organising Committee assured travellers planning to visit the trading hub that it would be business as usual in the run-up to and during the November 12-27 event. Officials also sought to allay concerns among the city's ethnic communities and migrant workers, who fear they will be ordered off the streets or out of the city in severe moves similar to those witnessed during last year's Beijing Olympics. "There will be no visa restrictions, and we will not be targeting ethnic minorities such as Uygurs, or Africans, living and working in the city. They contribute much to our society. There will be no crackdowns," organising committee deputy chief Gu Shiyang said last night […] "Of course, security has to be tightened, given the size of the event. But we will not in any way restrict movement of people wanting to come here or who already live here. Guangzhou is a tolerant, multicultural city, and we welcome everyone to visit during the Games." The Games would help the economic and social development of the city, he said, and speed up the improvement of urban infrastructure. "We will have 222 kilometres of subway lines up and running by the time the Games open," Gu said. He declined to say whether weather manipulation such as cloud seeding would be deployed to ensure perfect conditions, but did say steps would be taken to clean up the skies. "We have moved several factories out of the city and made others cleaner in recent years," Gu said. "We are making other improvements to the environment and air quality." State media have reported that nearly 1 billion yuan will be spent on security. Internet access is likely to be restricted but international media organisations have been told "relevant internet sites" will remain open. ^ top ^

Nation's water lacks treatment options (Global Times)
2009-12-16
One in four Chinese cities and seven out of 10 counties are without a sewage-treatment plant, and that widespread omission is being blamed for contributing to the nation's worsening water pollution. The issue was highlighted Sunday by a senior official with the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the chief economic planning body, who said rising water prices in many cities are needed mainly to cover sewage-treatment costs. The residential wastewater treatment fee in 36 major cities was only 0.7 yuan per cubic meter, on average, as of 2008, less than the national average cost of 1.1 yuan, not including the cost for pipe construction and sludge disposal, according to Cao Changqing, head of the NDRC's Department of Pricing. He suggested that the situation has restricted the development of the wastewater-treatment industry. Citing data released by the Housing and Urban-Rural Development Ministry, Cao said China's wastewater treatment rate was 66 percent in 2008, with 1,792 related plants having been established by September of this year and the treatment capacity topping 99 million tons per day. "However, 25 percent of cities and more than 70 percent of county towns haven't built any sewage-treatment plants, while many of the established ones are operating at less than 30 percent load rate, with 70 percent of them limited by a shortage of funds and supporting pipe networks. Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public Environmental Affairs, told the Global Times that about 180 Chinese cities discharge wastewater without treatment due to an absence of facilities, while Beijing is among the best cities in terms of wastewater treatment […] Du Pengfei, a scholar with Tsinghua University, noted that China has become the biggest discharger of wastewater in the world, as well as the one with the fastest-growing discharge level […] Based on an analysis of statistics released in June by the ministry, Caijing, a business magazine, reported that the national wastewater-treatment plants were running at 73.6 percent capacity, in terms of load rate. "Even if all the plants were running at full load, only 60 percent of the national wastewater could get treated," the Caijing report said, stressing the need for increased load rates and more facilities. The discharge of untreated water has noticeably damaged the water quality of the country's rivers and lakes, including the Yangtse River […] To curb the worsening problem, Wu Xiaoqing, vice minister of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, said November 30 that the government will invest 90 billion yuan in the next two or three years to build more sewage-treatment systems. A public hearing on water rate hikes for residential use will be held today in Beijing, according to the Legal Mirror. According to a plan announced by the Municipal Development and Reform Commission earlier this month, the expected increase is 0.9 yuan per cubic meter, and 0.42 yuan of that is attributed to the wastewater-treatment fee […]. ^ top ^

Mainland bans private websites (SCMP)
2009-12-15
Mainlanders have been banned from registering personal domain names, and those who already have personal websites could lose them, according to a government regulation that came into effect yesterday. The regulation states internet service providers are no longer allowed to host individually owned websites, and that only businesses with operating licences or government-authorised organisations may now have websites. The China Internet Network Information Centre, which supervises domain name registration on the mainland, said the measure stemmed from concern over widespread pornographic content on personal websites. The draconian regulation requires a domain name applicant to submit, among other things, a photocopy of its business or organisation licence. The purpose of requiring the licence is to guarantee the background information of the applicant is "real, accurate and complete". An individual would not have a chance to get a website under the new rule, said a centre employee […] "We will reject the application if it does not come with either of the licences," he said. Existing individual domains could also be in trouble. "We have launched a thorough examination ... if their registration information is found incomplete or fake, we will kill their domain names as well," the employee said. "We're doing so to clean up pornography and piracy on the internet." Website owners in Jiangsu, Shanghai, Henan, Zhejiang and Jiangxi said their sites were no longer accessible from yesterday morning. Nanjingtaobao.com is one of the victims. "Most of the world's websites are established by individuals; most of the world's websites are still run by individuals," its webmaster wrote. "The internet needs freedom, needs sharing and needs the spread of words. Killing personal websites is like killing an infant in the cradle. The government must stop using the methods of the Cultural Revolution to manage the open internet platform." HiChina, one of the biggest ISPs on the mainland, said it would return hosting fees paid by customers whose applications were rejected. William Long, author of the best-selling book How to Make Your Blog Famous, urged mainland website owners to shift their base to other countries, such as the United Sates […]. ^ top ^

Govt to check real estate (Global Times)
2009-12-15
The State Council said Monday that it will take measures to rein in excessive growth in property prices in some cities, without mentioning the specific cities. The authority said after a regular meeting presided over by Premier Wen Jiabao that while keeping its policies consistent and steady, it will seek to speed up building houses for the low-income population, aiming to help 15.4 million more poor households solve their housing problems by 2012. It said that the government will reinforce regulations and stabilize market expectations. The government agency announced last week that a sale tax break on homes bought over two years before will expire and the full taxation period will return to five years from the start of the next year. ^ top ^

Migrant worker arrested over murder of 12 relatives (SCMP)
2009-12-14
Police yesterday captured a man suspected of killing 12 people, including his father and other relatives, and setting fire to up to six homes, a government official said. "The suspect was captured early this morning ... and has been taken away by police," a spokesman for the Gaoming county government in Hunan province said. "Twelve people were killed, six homes were destroyed by fire. The victims included his father. The others were all his relatives, spanning five generations." The killings took place on Saturday evening, the spokesman said. The suspect was identified as Liu Aibing, 34, a migrant worker with a history of mental illness, the Hunan government news site Hongwang reported. Liu had recently returned from Guangdong, where he had looked for work, it said. Special police and paramilitary troops had cornered Liu on a hilltop near Yinshanpai village, where the killings took place […] The spokesman refused to confirm details of the murders, but Xinhua reported that Liu shot his victims with a hunting rifle. Two people were also seriously injured in the rampage, it said […] The Hunan killings are the latest family-related murders on the mainland in recent weeks. They have captivated national attention for their horrific nature and drawn attention to one of the country's biggest social stigmas - mental illness. Last month, police in the southwest captured a man suspected of murdering his parents and four other relatives after he escaped from a mental hospital in Yunnan province, while police in Hainan province captured a man suspected of hacking to death his parents, wife, sons and sister in Beijing. In the same week, a 46-year-old farmer used a knife to murder six villagers and seriously wound another in a village of about 15 households in Inner Mongolia […] All of the suspects had either a history of mental illness or had suffered from chronic depression. It is difficult to find complete and authoritative figures on the issue. But the figures quoted most often still provide a very dark picture: the number of mainlanders with mental illness is estimated at between 100 million and 170 million. Of the 16 million who need regular medical attention, half have been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Every year, about 250,000 mainlanders commit suicide, accounting for a quarter of the world's total. As a result of the deep-rooted social stigma and rising economic pressures, analysts say the number of mental patients looks set to soar in coming years, but the government has neglected the issue. ^ top ^

Tax reform to encourage creation of more pensions (Global Times)
2009-12-14
A national standard for the personal income tax workers pay on their pensions was announced Thursday, with the State Administration of Taxation (SAT) saying the standard will help more companies establish a pension system for their employees. In China, pensions are comprised of the supplemental income paid to retired workers on top of the standard retirement benefits they receive. They are jointly funded by employers and employees and include investment income derived from the pooled funds. Employees' contributions to their pensions will now be added to their normal taxable income and taxed at the corresponding rate, while employers' pension contributions will be treated as separate income and taxed at a relatively lower rate, the SAT said in a statement released Thursday […] The upper limit for an employer's contribution to a worker's pension is one-twelfth of the employee's salary in the past year, and the upper limit for the combined payments of the employee and the employer is one-sixth of the employee's salary during the same period […] The government has encouraged companies to establish a pension system since 1991. Pensions have sometimes been regulated and taxed under local laws. In Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, for example, a 2007 regulation stated that both employee and employer pension contributions should be added to employees' normal taxable income. The new national regulation would decrease the taxes workers in Guangzhou pay on their pensions. "As there was not a national regulation, some employees did not pay the personal income tax for the pension. With the new regulation, all the employees with a pension should pay taxes," said Feng Yuanshi, head of Retirement, Risk and Finance Consulting at Mercer China. Figures from the MOHRSS show that more than 30,000 companies had established a pension system as of June 30, covering 13 million employees and with a total worth of 200 billion yuan ($29.28 billion). However, employees with pensions comprise just 7 percent of the 174 million employees with basic retirement benefits around the country […]. ^ top ^

2 trillion yuan spree looms on mainland (SCMP)
2009-12-14
Government departments at all levels across the mainland are expected to go on a spending spree in coming weeks in a final push to use up as much as 2 trillion yuan, or about a quarter of the annual fiscal spending budget that remains unused in state coffers. Analysts warned the frenzied spending would inevitably lead to widespread misappropriation or waste of taxpayers' money, or in some instances, embezzlement of public funds. As of last month, the Ministry of Finance put government spending at 5.62 trillion yuan, accounting for 73.8 per cent of the annual target of 7.62 trillion yuan earmarked for this year. He Zhenyi, a public finance senior researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a top central government think tank, said provincial as well as central government officials would speed up spending the remaining 2 trillion yuan, as they feared a budget cut next year if they failed to achieve the expenditure target […] It would create the potential for financial malpractices such as building luxury office buildings, buying posh official cars, or giving away fat bonuses to staff, in order to disburse such a large sum in such a short time, he added. Finance Minister Xie Xuren has voiced his concern by urging local governments to strengthen the management of public funds and to take precautionary measures to prevent the spending spree at the end of the year […] It is not the first time that a proportion of budgeted government spending has not been achieved by the end of the year. But this year's sum is much bigger than previous ones, largely due to the central government's massive stimulus plans to spend its way out of economic recession, said Ma Guoxian, director of the Public Policy Research Centre at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics. Beijing announced a two-year stimulus package of 4 trillion yuan in November last year, which focused on large-scale infrastructure projects in the early stages. Also, as part of the country's proactive fiscal policy, a deficit target of 950 billion yuan was set in March, the highest for the past six years. Ma said two reasons were behind the delayed use of public spending. The first was that large infrastructure projects took time to prepare. Second, local governments had refrained from pushing ahead with budgeted projects due to worries about their finances. The central government only promised to provide 30 per cent of the amount required for local spending projects, with local governments to provide the remaining public funding. "Unlike the central government, which can raise funds through issuing treasury bonds, local governments' revenues largely depend on taxation, which is in tandem with their economic growth," Ma said […]. ^ top ^

Local Party chief jailed for paying off reporters (Global Times)
2009-12-14
A regional court has sentenced the former Party chief of Yuxian county, in northern Hebei Province, to 13 years' imprisonment for abuse of power in a coalmine blast coverup scandal and bribery, the Beijing Youth Daily reported, the latest case highlighting government involvement in the coalmine sector and the crisis of the integrity of journalism in China. Chongli County Court of Hebei ruled Saturday that Li Hongxing, former Yuxian Party secretary, "directed" a local publicity chief to bribe reporters in an attempt to silence media coverage of a blast at Lijiawa Coal Mine in July 2008, which cost 35 workers' lives. The coal mine owners eventually spent 2.6 million yuan ($382,000) to seal the lips of journalists, the newspaper reported Sunday […] A Xinhua News Agency report said earlier this month that the judicial department would decide whether 10 suspected reporters should be implicated. Li denied the charges of abuse of power under the coverup allegation, and said he would appeal the sentencing […] Li insisted that Yu Dehong, the former publicity chief, proposed that the pit owners should cover the cost, a suggestion Li did not oppose, the paper said. Yu claimed that he was told by Li to "suppress the media at any price," […] The blast took place when explosives illegally stored in the pit ignited, Xinhua said. The mine owners and some village and county officials covered up the tragedy, which infuriated witnesses and victims' families, whose complaints prompted the central government to investigate the incident. The accident was revealed to the public on October 7 of last year, Xinhua said. Li was among 22 officials prosecuted for the coverup. Police detained three mine owners […]. ^ top ^

 

Beijing

'Bird's Nest' becomes winter wonderland (SCMP)
2009-12-17
The iconic National Stadium, rarely used since the Olympics last year, is hosting a snowy winter wonderland in the heart of the capital. Mounds of artificial snow and mini ski slopes await the local visitors and tourists expected to flock to the snow festival's opening on Saturday to reacquaint themselves with the "Bird's Nest", which dazzled millions during the Olympics but which has since largely lacked the roar of the crowd. "We believe that we will be able to provide a fun, interesting, snow world for this Christmas," said the stadium's media spokesman, Xiang Jun. The symbol of the Beijing Olympics, the stadium has secured its place among more ancient tourist attractions such as the Great Wall and Forbidden City. However, the managers of the US$500 million venue have struggled to find uses for the arena, which many fear could become a huge white elephant. With Beijing's average winter temperature hovering at just above freezing, the number of visitors to the stadium recently dropped by a further 30 per cent compared with the peak season, Xiang said. He is hoping to cash in on Christmas, when city dwellers flock to bars and nightclubs, restaurants offer special discounts, and salesmen wear Santa hats. "We have prepared some special activities for Christmas. The `Bird's Nest' will stay open late on Christmas Eve. We will advertise and promote our activities," Xiang said. Creating this snowy wonderland does not come cheap. It will cost about 50 million yuan to complete and maintain the transformation. The Huairou Ski Resort, outside Beijing, has contributed technicians, and snow machines have been pumping out artificial snow over the ground 24 hours a day since December 10 […] Beijing has chronic water-shortage problems, but that has not daunted the organisers. The stadium has tried to make the event slightly more environmentally friendly by using recycled water, and when the snow melts, the water would return to the city's recycling system, organisers said. They hope the snow festival will attract hordes of visitors from the mainland, as well as from Hong Kong and Taipei. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Government allies plan massive campaign in support of reform bid (SCMP)
2009-12-18
Government allies are planning to repeat their 2005 strategy to drum up support for the constitutional-reform proposal through a massive signature campaign - this time in collaboration with pro-government media organisations. The move by a newly formed alliance, which counts more than 100 leading tycoons, politicians and professionals among its ranks, came as pan-democrats moved ahead with their plan to resign and trigger a de facto referendum on universal suffrage. Some Civic Party leaders were expressing worries about rumours that party leader Audrey Eu Yuet-mee would be one of the lawmakers to resign her seat. Launching the Alliance for Constitutional Development, executive councillor Cheng Yiu-tong, of the Federation of Trade Unions, said he hoped the new group would reflect the public consensus that the electoral system for the 2012 chief executive and Legislative Council elections should move forward. "We are totally opposed to someone who wants to close their eyes and reject the government proposal without even knowing the details," Cheng said, referring to the pan-democrats. "We don't care about [whether universal suffrage is introduced] in 2017 or 2047. At least we have to move forward in 2012." Cheng said a growing number of business chambers and social groups were joining the alliance […] In 2005, a coalition of 11 pro- government groups led by Cheng claimed to have collected 775,000 signatures supporting the administration's reform proposal, which was vetoed by pan-democrats. This time, Cheung says the alliance will encourage the public to sign an online petition and send submissions to the government to declare their support. Three pro-government newspapers - Ta Kung Pao, Wen Wei Po and Sing Tao Daily - will receive signatures on their websites. The publicity offensive by government allies came as the Civic Party and League of Social Democrats intensified preparations for their resignation plan, in which one lawmaker from each of the five geographical constituencies will quit, then contest the ensuing by-election - creating a de facto referendum. Issuing its free newspaper, A45, the Civic Party said the scheme would allow the public to demand the abolition of Legco's functional constituencies, and a road map for genuine universal suffrage. The paper also drums up support for Alan Leong Kah-kit and Tanya Chan, who are expected to resign. But some party leaders privately expressed concerns about rumours that Eu would resign instead of Chan. They feared forces outside the party were trying to undermine Chan's image; some say her election victory last year was due to public support for Eu, her running mate. The resignations are expected next month. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Taiwan eyes closer ties with Southeast Asia (SCMP)
2009-12-18
Taiwan aims to forge closer ties with Southeast Asia once it has signed a trade agreement with the mainland, the island's president was quoted as saying in a report yesterday. Apart from North Korea, Taiwan is the only economy in the Asia-Pacific region that has not yet signed a free-trade agreement with a country in the region, Ma Ying-jeou told a group of scholars, the Economic Daily News reported. "We have to work even harder to become a part of the economic co-operation in this region," Ma said. Taiwan has said that it hoped a trade agreement with the mainland could mean a softening on Beijing's attitude on similar pacts between the island and other economies. Beijing, Tokyo and Seoul were already involved in co-operation with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), a mechanism known as Asean plus three, and Ma hoped to make that "Asean plus four", the paper said. Although Ma's Beijing-friendly government is pushing vigorously for a trade pact with the mainland and hopes to sign it next year, it has signalled concern that it may end up being too reliant on the mainland. The mainland and Hong Kong accounted for more than 40 per cent of Taiwan's exports in the first nine months of the year, while the 10 Asean members accounted for about 15 per cent […] Asean plus three covers an array of issues, including currency swap agreements, and Beijing, Tokyo and Seoul are also separately involved in plans for free-trade agreements or similar deals with the group. ^ top ^

Taipei wants spies back (SCMP)
2009-12-18
Taiwan said yesterday that it would attempt to bring home its spies jailed on the mainland after a former intelligence chief called for a swap of agents between the two sides. "We will do our best to take care of agents and their family members in accordance with the law and regulations," the Defence Ministry said. The statement came a day after Chen Hu-men, who retired from his job as head of Taiwanese military intelligence, urged Taipei and Beijing to display "goodwill" by swapping spies, the Taipei-based China Times reported. Chen admitted Taiwan's government had never seriously considered rescuing its agents and had not done enough to take care of their families. But he said he felt now was a good time, as ties with Beijing had improved fast after Ma Ying-jeou became president of Taiwan in May last year. Taiwan and the mainland have spied on each other ever since the end of the civil war in 1949, but there is no public information on the number of agents jailed on either side. Two Taiwanese intelligence operatives went missing on the China-Vietnam border during a four-day mission in May 2006 after meeting a mainland national-security officer, Taiwanese media reported earlier. The earlier reports said the agents were believed to have been arrested on the border and later put under house arrest in Guangxi. ^ top ^

Taiwanese say time to talk peace with Beijing (SCMP)
2009-12-17
Most Taiwanese believe it is time for political talks with Beijing to begin, according to a poll published yesterday, suggesting the public wants to speed up engagement. The poll of 1,090 people, interviewed by the authoritative CommonWealth magazine, was published less than a week before a high-level meeting between representatives of the two sides in Taichung, Taiwan. Fifty-seven per cent said Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou of the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang should negotiate with Beijing to prevent war and secure peace. This is in contrast to Ma's priority of discussing "economy first, politics later". Political talks between the two sides are likely to be tougher - even though relations have improved dramatically since Ma took office last year. They are still technically at war but have expressed the desire for a truce. Meanwhile, Beijing said yesterday that it was confident Taiwanese authorities would have sufficient security measures in place during the visit by a mainland envoy next week despite opposition party threats of a protest. Chen Yunlin, head of Beijing's semi-official Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, would visit Taiwan for five days next week for a fourth round of talks to discuss economic co-operation and improving cross-strait relations, spokeswoman Fan Liqing said. Chen's last visit to Taiwan a year ago was marked by chaos as protesters clashed with police and laid siege to his hotel in Taipei […] The pro-independence opposition Democratic Progressive Party has warned of more protests when Chen visits Taichung on Monday. The two sides are expected to discuss issues related to a wide-ranging trade agreement Taiwan hopes will be completed by the end of next year. Meanwhile, the United States has decided it will proceed with arms sales to Taiwan despite recent protests by Beijing, a US official says. Raymond Burghardt, chairman of the American Institute in Taipei, the de facto US embassy in Taiwan, said arms sales to Taiwan were consistent with what White House officials had been saying was US President Barack Obama's policy […] In the past week, mainland officials and news organisations have expressed anger over reports that the Obama administration could notify Congress shortly of such arms sales. Notification is the final step in the process. US officials say Beijing could break off military-to-military contacts once notification is given. When the Pentagon announced in October last year, under the previous administration, that it was selling Taiwan US$6.5 billion worth of weapons, Beijing froze military ties and did not resume them until after US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited Beijing in February. ^ top ^

Cross-Straits talks between mainland, Taiwan set on Dec. 22 (Global Times)
2009-12-14
Leaders of the Chinese mainland's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) and Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) will hold talks in Taiwan's Taichung on Dec. 22, according to Thursday's preparatory meeting. The two organizations are authorized by authorities in the mainland and Taiwan to handle cross-Straits issues. According to a preliminary agreement, ARATS President Chen Yunlin and SEF Chairman Chiang Pin-kung will meet for the fourth round of talks since they resumed negotiations in June last year following a 10-year suspension. ^ top ^

 

Tibet

Official repeats accusation that Dalai Lama lied (SCMP)
2009-12-18
A senior official responsible for talks with the Dalai Lama's envoys reiterated his accusation that the Tibetan spiritual leader lied about statements the official made during their talks, mainland media reported. Zhu Weiqun, deputy head of the Communist Party's United Front Work Department, told the Beijing-owned Tibet Information Centre he had never said that Beijing acknowledged the Dalai Lama's repeated pledge that he would not seek independence for the volatile Himalayan region. "In fact, I told all details to the Global Times on December 8, but now I found I have to rebut the rumour after reading the announcement released by Lodi Gyari on December 10," he said, referring to an envoy of the Dalai Lama […] In that statement, Lodi Gyari said that in their fifth talks with Beijing officials in February 2006, Beijing clearly stated that it was pleased with the Dalai Lama's decision to ask for autonomy under the constitution. But Zhu, Beijing's top negotiator with the exiled Tibetan government in the 2006 talks, denied saying that, but highlighted "five points" to try to discredit the Dalai Lama's "so-called middle-way policy". "I warned Lodi Gyari at least twice last year in talks in Shenzhen and Beijing to send our message clearly and correctly to the Dalai Lama, and he confessed to us that they had made misunderstandings when reporting to their leader," Zhu said. "That caused a very serious problem: had Gyari sent all important messages to the Dalai Lama? ... Or was the Dalai deliberately lying?" In the envoy's statement, Lodi Gyari said Beijing's reaction to the request for autonomy proposed by the Dalai Lama was initially positive, but its policies and press statements "have been contradictory" because recent comments reminded him that it was unlikely that Beijing would "remove the hat of separatism from the Dalai Lama". ^ top ^

 

Economy

Greater bank disclosure required in 2011 (Global Times)
2009-12-18
China's banking regulator said Thursday it would move to promote transparency in the country's banks through new financial disclosure requirements set to be enacted in 2011. Commercial banks will have to publicize their capital adequacy ratio and core asset amount quarterly, while their bad debt, risk exposure and equity investment quantity are to be disclosed semi-annually, according to guidelines released Thursday by the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC). The CBRC said in a separate statement that the new guidelines are to enhance risk disclosure in the banking industry and promote financial prudence among institutions. The CBRC made the move to meet the requirements of the Basel II banking regulatory standard, a globally-accepted guideline with an execution deadline of December 31 2010 […] By the end of September, Chinese banks' capital adequacy ratio averaged 11.4 percent, according to the CBRC, higher than the bottom line figure of 8 percent set in the Basel II standard. The CBRC would up the minimum capital adequacy ratio requirement from 8 percent to 10 percent for small- and medium-sized banks, and 11 percent for large banks, CBRC chairman Wang Zhaoxing wrote in an article earlier this month in China Finance magazine. Zhu Xiaodong, a Beijing-based banking analyst, said the new guidelines make it seem as if the CBRC is worried about bad debt that could result from the huge amount of loans given this year. The country's banks issued news loans of 9.21 trillion yuan ($1.35 trillion) in the first 11 months of the year, 5.06 trillion yuan ($741.1 billion) more than the same period last year. Loans next year are expected to reach 7.5 trillion yuan ($1.1 trillion), the National Business News reported. Zhu also warned of the risk of issuing subordinate bonds to raise funds. "Banks are buying each others' sub-bonds, so raising the capital adequacy ratio by this means is meaningless, and cannot reduce any risk," Zhu said. As of early December, 19 of China's banks had sold sub-bonds worth 282.5 billion yuan ($41.37 billion), nearly four-fold the amount sold in 2008 […]. ^ top ^

Power giants head for wind power resources in Yellow River Delta (People's Daily Online)
2009-12-18
Following the State Council's plan to develop the Yellow River Delta (YRD) in Shandong province into an efficient and environmentally-friendly economic zone, six state-owned energy giants, including State Grid Corporation of China and Shenhua Group Corporation Limited, are actively setting up wind power bases in the YRD area. The region, which is rich in wind resources, includes such major cities as Dongying and Binzhou and takes up about one sixth of the Shandong province area. China Datang Corporation's Dongying Wind Power Program is the first power plant that was connected to the grid. It will have an annual power capacity of over 95 GWh after all its 33 wind turbines are put into productivity. Meanwhile, Dongying city is planning to build three other wind farms. Four wind power programs will be finished in Weifang city by 2010. Huangneng Shouguang Power Generation Company Limited, with a first phase investment of 560 million yuan and 33 1.5 MW wind turbines, has already gone into operation. Fast growing wind power generation industry helps to promote the development of wind power equipment manufacturing companies in the YRD region […] According to the plan, the YRD region's biologic energy power and wind power capacity will reach around 1.8 million kW by 2010, and the share of new energy in the total energy consumption will be 10 percentage points higher than that of the whole Shandong province. ^ top ^

Sign of the new times: Foreign money to nation surging (China Daily)
2009-12-17
China's foreign direct investment (FDI) reached its highest total in 16 months during November, sustaining the rising trend since August, a clear signal that the nation's speedy economic recovery is attracting more foreign investors. The FDI climbed as high as 32 percent from a year earlier to $7.02 billion last month, compared with a 5.7 percent bump in October, according to the Ministry of Commerce […] The growth for four consecutive months has saved the total FDI from dropping by double digits during the past 11 months. China's FDI fell by 9.9 percent to $77.9 billion from January to November, said the Ministry of Commerce. "China's ongoing economic recovery and the low reference point last year are the reasons behind (November's growth)," said Li Wei, an economist from Standard Chartered China. While developed economies, including the United States and Europe, are still weak, China's GDP for the third quarter grew by 8.9 percent year-on-year, one percentage point higher than the second quarter. The World Bank predicted recently that China's GDP will grow by 8.4 percent for the year and 8.7 percent in the upcoming year, much higher than that of developed nations. "China's amazingly high economic growth has and will keep it the most attractive destination for international investors," said Li Xiaogang, a professor with foreign investment research center under the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. The FDI will grow steadily in the next few months with the monthly figure possibly remaining in the range of $7 billion to $8 billion, predicted the Ministry of Commerce […].
In the pharmaceutical sector, Novartis International AG, the world's sixth largest pharmaceutical, said in November it will inject $1 billion to strengthen research capabilities in China in five years, to cash in on the nation's rapidly growing medical business industry under the healthcare reform. It also signed an agreement with Tianyuan Bio-pharm to invest in and acquire business from the leading vaccine producer in China […] This year, China has taken measures to promote FDI. Song Zhe, head of the Chinese mission to the European Union, said on Tuesday that the nation will step up efforts to boost foreign investment, including opening more opportunities in the service, hi-tech and energy-saving industries; and encouraging foreign companies to be listed domestically. ^ top ^

China holds to WTO vow on tariffs (China Daily)
2009-12-17
The import tariff for fuel oil will be raised to 3 percent and bumped to 6 percent for jet fuel next year, an increase by the Chinese government of 1 percent for both products that could influence domestic oil prices. China will also cut a number of import tariffs to meet its World Trade Organization (WTO) commitment it made upon joining the organization in 2001 as it strives to restructure its economy. "It is highly significant," said Jia Kang, director of the Institute of Fiscal Science, Ministry of Finance. China's market economy status has not been recognized by all nations and its fulfillment of its WTO commitment will help this status be recognized by more countries, he told the press. The hike in fuel oil taxes will deal a further blow to importers after the country levied a heavy consumption tax on the product, used to power ships and energy plants, because the production cost of the country's fuel importers will rise, analysts said. They said the new duties could have an impact on domestic prices of the products […] China announced on Tuesday that it will lower import duties on more than 600 products next year, including coal, naphtha and phosphate ore. As a result, China's overall import tariff level would be reduced to 9.8 percent next year, with that of agricultural products cut to 15.2 percent on average and industrial products to 8.9 percent. But Wang Lengyi, researcher with the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said China has paid a dear price in fulfilling its WTO promise. In 2004, for example, China for the first time since the 1980s became a country suffering from agricultural trade deficit. The tariff-cutting move is also part of the country's effort to build an energy-efficient economy by encouraging the import of resource products, analysts said. China has kept import duties for naphtha, a feedstock for petrochemicals, at 1 percent for next year. And the change in tariffs does not cover main transportation fuel gasoline and diesel, with a duty of 1 percent since 2008 versus 5-6 percent previously. It will also cut import tariffs on rubber in 2010, helping domestic tire-makers that have enjoyed increasing demand from soaring Chinese car production […]. ^ top ^

China's asset prices remain bubbling up (Global Times)
2009-12-16
With house prices skyrocketing in China's cities, urban residents are finding themselves stripped of purchasing power, fanning likelihood of social unrest and prompting government measures to rein in run-away prices. He Keng, an official with the Financial and Economic Committee of the National People's Congress, complained about the growing housing bubble in a CCTV interview over the weekend. "If even a vice minister-level official like me can't afford a decent home, it will be a huge problem for most ordinary people," he said. For the majority of the wage-earning public, the soaring prices have taken the dream of buying their own home further out of reach. It also explains why a TV series called "Snail House," which reflects people's difficulty in affording a house, has been an instant hit. It has also become controversial, as it was called to a halt after only 10 episodes broadcast by Beijing-based BTV, reportedly due to pressure from real estate developers. Noticing the smoldering public discontent, the central and local governments have been cautiously making small moves, trying to prevent the danger of an outpouring of anger that may jolt society as a whole […] An executive meeting of the State Council, chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao, announced on Monday that the central government would rein in the overheated momentum of housing prices by increasing the supply of low-cost homes, curbing speculation and strengthening the supervision of the real estate market. The stock market in Shanghai and Shenzhen saw real estate-related stocks falling across the board, some down 6-8 percent at closing Tuesday […] However, analysts are not optimistic about the government's determination to take steps to control housing prices, saying that the government is at a dilemma in the face of growing social discontent and a recovering economy boosted largely by the real estate market and related industries […] Yi Xianrong, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, confirmed Tuesday that tightening credit lines would be the most effective way to curb the housing market, because the soaring home prices at present are caused by lax credit policies. Experts said the State Council's action guidelines announced Monday show its intent to restrict the credit policies for mortgage loans so as to curb speculation […] Zhong Wei, director of the Financial Research Center at Beijing Normal University, said the growth of the real estate market is expected to slow down next year, with total sales of 3.3 trillion yuan, compared with this year's 3.6 trillion. ^ top ^

China's mainland to have first free port by 2020 (People's Daily Online)
2009-12-16
Hong Kong is often regarded as a shopping paradise by many people from Chinese mainland. Thanks to the free port, imported goods, especially luxuries, cosmetics and digital products, are less expensive than in the mainland. However, Hong Kong may lose the advantage of being the only free port after 2015 because Shanghai is planning to build up an international free port which will not only upgrade Shanghai to become an international shipping center, but also further accelerate the consumption market there. Usually a free port is a special customs area with favorable customs regulations (or no customs duties and controls for transshipment). Moreover, imported goods can also be converted, processed, stored long-term or sold in free port. That is why imported goods are less expensive in Hong Kong. Shanghai has launched a three-step strategy for building up a free port, according to Xiao Lin, deputy director from Shanghai Municipal Development and Reform Commission. First step from 2009 to 2010, Shanghai will launch a series of preferential policies including tax relief in bonded area and promote enterprises to open offshore accounts. Second step from 2011 to 2015, Shanghai will explore new managerial systems and reform shipping taxation. The last step from 2016 to 2020, the functions and system of the free port will have basically taken shape in Shanghai. ^ top ^

'Indigenous innovation' purchase rule defended (SCMP)
2009-12-16
The central government yesterday defended rules that foreign companies claim lock them out of the multibillion-dollar market for selling computers and office equipment to government departments. Beijing stipulates that sellers of hi-tech goods must have them accredited based on "indigenous innovation" - meaning they must contain Chinese intellectual property - to be included in a government procurement catalogue. Accredited products will be favoured, according to the policy, which foreign firms say in effect excludes them from the process. "The indigenous innovative product accreditation project is in line with ... international rules," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said. The measure […] "treats both domestic- and foreign-invested enterprises equally and without discrimination". More than 30 industry groups from the United States, Canada, Europe, Japan and South Korea last week lodged a protest with the ministries responsible for the measures. The rules "impose onerous and discriminatory requirements on companies seeking to sell into the Chinese government procurement market and contravene multiple commitments of China's leadership to resist trade and investment protectionism", the group's letter said. "The very restrictive and discriminatory programme criteria would make it virtually impossible for any non-Chinese supplier to participate - even those non-Chinese companies that have made substantial long-term investments in China." The letter was addressed to the heads of the Science and Technology Ministry, Finance Ministry and National Development and Reform Commission, which jointly issued the rule […] The dispute comes amid growing concerns about protectionism as the world recovers from its worst economic crisis in decades. Beijing has accused its trading partners of using protectionist measures against its products […]. ^ top ^

China's centrally-administered SOEs expect 750 bln yuan in annual profits (Xinhua)
2009-12-15
China's centrally-administered state-owned enterprises (SOEs) are expected to reap 750 billion yuan (110.29 billion U.S. dollars) in profits this year as their business operations improve, the state assets watchdog announced Monday. In the first 11 months, the 131 SOEs saw a 3.4 percent year-on-year growth in operation revenues to 11.1 trillion yuan and in profits to 710.9 billion yuan, according to figures released by the State Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC). Li Rongrong, director of the SASAC, announced the figures at a conference attended by senior executives of the centrally-administered SOEs. "We overcame great difficulties and maintained stable profit growth this year though the economic crisis dampened external demand," he said. Li also stressed that companies should enhance innovative capacity, strengthen core competitiveness and avoid blind expansion in 2010. The SOEs made profits of 696.2 billion yuan in the corresponding period last year, said the SASAC. ^ top ^

China's crude steel output, consumption to hit record high in 2009 (China Daily)
2009-12-14
Boosted by the government's economic stimulus package, both crude steel output and consumption in China were expected to hit a record high in 2009, said Qi Xiangdong, vice secretary-general of China Iron and Steel Association (CISA). The CISA estimated both the country's production volume and apparent consumption of crude steel would exceed 565 million tons this year, while the actual consumption might top 500 million tons. Daily crude steel output topped 1.66 million tons in October, up 42.4 percent year-on-year, which means annual production may reach 600 million tons a year at this rate, Qi said at a forum on the steel market held in Shanghai recently. The government's economic stimulus package has helped domestic steel industry counter the impact of shrinking global demand, he said. China produced 500 million tons of crude steel last year, accounting for 38 percent of the world's total. ^ top ^

 

H1N1 flu

China announces effective herbal remedy for flu (Global Times)
2009-12-18
Chinese medical specialists announced Thursday that they developed a herbal medication to treat the A(H1N1) flu. The remedy, called Jinhua Qinggan, can shorten the time patients suffer from fevers and improve their respiratory system, Beijing's Chaoyang Hospital president Wang Chen said. Science workers proved the effectiveness of the remedy through medical experiments on more than 4,000 mice and clinical studies on 410 patients with slight A(H1N1) flu syndrome […] Cris Tunon, senior program management officer at the World Health Organization Representative Office in China, said Thursday they welcomed the clinical results as the Traditional Chinese Medicine offers a low-cost treatment of the A(H1N1) flu. Wang said the remedy, which was selected from among more than 100 classic anti-flu prescriptions based on traditional Chinese herbal medicine, cost about one-fourth of the price of Tamiflu. He added that no side effects were found on patients who were treated with the remedy […] The municipal government earmarked 10 million yuan ($1.47 million) for the project, she said. The Jinhua prescription had been adopted in many local Traditional Chinese Medicine hospitals, Beijing Daily reported. Zhao said 11 hospitals nationwide, including Chaoyang Hospital and Ditan Hospital in Beijing, conducted clinical studies on "Jinhua" and gave positive assessments. "We are applying for patents for the prescription both at home and abroad," she said, without elaborating. "We are further developing the medicine and trying to present it to the whole country and the world as soon as possible, thus offering an alternative to treat the A(H1N1) flu." The Chinese mainland has reported almost 108,000 A(H1N1) flu cases, including 442 deaths, according to the Ministry of Health. ^ top ^

 

DPRK and South Korea

North Korea temporarily bans entry of foreigners (Global Times)
2009-12-17
North Korea has imposed a temporary ban on foreigners entering the country, South Korean media reported Wednesday. Chosun Ilbo, South Korea's largest newspaper, said North Korea in banning the entry of foreigners from Sunday to early February, citing an unidentified source in China. It was unclear from the report if all foreign travelers would be barred, or only those who cross the Chinese border by land. The newspaper said some experts believe the ban, along with the recent visit by North Korea's security minister Ju Sang-song to China, might hint at Kim Jong-il's visit to China in the near future. "It would be meaningful for both North Korea and China if Kim Jong-il makes a visit on the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries and ahead of the possible Six-Party Talks," Cheong Seong-chang, an expert on inter-Korean studies at the Sejong Institute in South Korea, told the Global Times. "However, considering Kim's health condition, it's not easy to predict," Cheong added.

Chinese President Hu Jintao in October invited Kim to pay a visit "at a convenient time." However, travel agencies specializing in North Korean tours said closing the border is normal around the new year […] Other analysts say the security minister's visit may aim to seek cooperation from Beijing in preventing a mass exodus of North Korean middle class citizens angry at the devaluation of their savings. "It's unlikely that Ju visited Beijing to discuss Kim's visit, but rather to discuss border issues," Cheong said. North Korea has taken measures to curb unrest caused by the November 30 currency reform. Good Friends, a Seoul-based aid group with cross-border contacts, said inflation is rising so fast that Pyongyang decided to shut down open-air markets for three days from Monday, Chosun reported […]. ^ top ^

U.S. envoy delivers Obama's letter to DPRK leader (Xinhua)
2009-12-17
U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly confirmed on Wednesday that U.S. special envoy to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) Stephen Bosworth had delivered President Barack Obama's letter to the country's top leader Kim Jong Il during his visit last week. However, Bosworth said he brought no reply back. "I can only confirm there was such a letter," Kelly said during a regular briefing in the State Department, refusing to discuss the content and tone of the message. He said sometimes diplomacy "is best conducted in a private and confidential way." But he reassured that one can feel confident the letter concerned the "simple agenda" for the visit of Bosworth, which was to get the DPRK to come back to the six-party talks. Bosworth conducted a three-day visit to the DPRK last week, becoming the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit the country since Obama took office. Bosworth himself refused to confirm the existence of Obama's letter earlier in a State Department briefing, telling reporters, "I was the message." He said he was conveying directly to the DPRK leadership "a vision for the future which would be a lot different than the present or the past." Bosworth said he didn't bring any letter back from Kim for Obama. Kelly also said he wasn't aware if there was a reply from Pyongyang. The spokesman said the ambassador handed the letter over to the DPRK government, not Kim Jong Il himself. Bosworth said the U.S. side didn't request a meeting with Kim. According to the administration, Bosworth's visit was to see if the DPRK is prepared to return to the six-party talks and to reaffirm its commitments under the 2005 joint communique. Last week, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the visit was "quite positive" for a preliminary meeting. Bosworth held talks with the DPRK's First Vice Foreign Minister Kang Sok-ju and Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan, and communicated Obama's view that "complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is the fundamental undertaking of the six-party talks, if resumed." […]. ^ top ^

DPRK, Japan urged to fix ties, resume nuke talks (China Daily)
2009-12-17
Vice-President Xi Jinping yesterday applauded recent "easing signals" on the Korean Peninsula and called on Tokyo to repair ties with Pyongyang and help push forward the resumption of denuclearization talks. Xi made the remarks while talking with Mizuho Fukushima, head of Japan's Social Democratic Party, before wrapping up his three-day Japan tour and heading for Seoul. He is likely to discuss the nuclear issue with the President of the Republic of Korea (ROK), Lee Myung-bak, when they have breakfast together this morning before Lee heads to Copenhagen for the climate change talks. Chinese experts said Pyongyang may make strides toward revitalizing ties with Tokyo but a major shift in Japan's attitude is unlikely […] Pyongyang also told Bosworth the DPRK was open to dialogue with Japan. Ties between the neighbors have been strained for decades. Flashpoints include claims from Japan that its citizens have been abducted by agents from the DPRK. The DPRK has acknowledged it had 13 Japanese people in its custody and it returned five to Japanese authorities. It said the other eight were dead. Zhang Liangui, an expert on the DPRK at the Central Party School in Beijing, said Pyongyang is likely to want to improve its ties with Japan to persuade other countries to acknowledge its status as a nuclear nation. "Perhaps it will offer new concessions on the abduction issue, such as re-launching an investigation or giving back the remains or things left by the dead abductees." But Japan will not be easily moved unless Pyongyang makes bigger strides. He said many people in Japan believe more than 13 people were abducted. The ROK's Yonhap news agency reported yesterday DPRK officials told Bosworth UN sanctions, in place since June, in response to nuclear testing must be lifted. The ROK's foreign minister responded yesterday by saying the sanctions would remain in place during diplomatic efforts to revive talks. At the same time, ROK's chief nuclear envoy left for Moscow yesterday for consultations. ^ top ^

U.S., DPRK agree to discuss peace treaty through four-way talks: Yonhap (Xinhua)
2009-12-14
The United States and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) have reached an understanding on relaunching the four-party framework to negotiate a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported on Sunday, citing government officials. During a recent visit by Stephen Bosworth, U.S. special representative for the DPRK policy, in the DPRK, the two sides agreed that once the six-party nuclear disarmament negotiations are resumed, the denuclearization issue would be dealt with in light of the Joint Statement of September 19, 2005, while the four-party framework, involve the two Koreas, the United States and China, would also be relaunched to discuss on a peace treaty, South Korean government officials were quoted as saying on condition of anonymity. It was the DPRK that first requested the matter to be discussed within the four-party framework, and the U.S. side agreed to it, the officials were quoted as saying. The first round of the four-party talks was held in 1997. ^ top ^

Thailand seizes N.Korea cargo plane (Global Times)
2009-12-14
A cargo plane carrying weapons arriving from North Korea was seized by Thai authorities Friday, and its crew members have been charged with illegal arms possession, Thai police said Sunday. The cargo landed in Bangkok's Don Mueang airport on Friday for refueling and was inspected by Thai authorities, who were reportedly tipped off by their US counterparts about the cargo. "We will strictly follow our own laws and UN resolutions. The investigation is progressing. Charges will soon be brought," Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said […] Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said the aircraft was carrying more than 30 tons of North Korean weapons, including rocket-propelled grenades and components for surface-to-air missiles, in breach of UN sanctions […] There were differing local media reports about the plane's destination, with some saying it was headed to Sri Lanka and others saying Pakistan, according to the AP […] Five crew members of the plane, four from Kazakhstan and one from Belarus, have been charged with illegal possession of weapons. Supisarn said the men denied the arms-possession charges and were refused bail. They will appear in court today. "They committed two crimes, firstly they gave false information about their cargo, and second that cargo was found to be weapons," the prime minister said. This is not the first case this year of North Korea transporting weapons and drawing international attention. In June, a North Korean ship, Kang Nam 1, suspected of carrying banned weapons, was refused entry into a port in Southeast Asia and was forced to return home after being tracked by the US Navy for weeks. In August, a Bahamas-flagged cargo ship allegedly exporting banned arms from North Korea to Iran was seized in the UAE, the first seizure after the strengthening of UN sanctions. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

2010 Budget law vetoed by President (Mongol Messenger)
2009-12-16
President Ts.Elbegdorj has vetoed the law on the 2010 State Budget entirely. MPs budgeted to distribute Tgs1 billion to each constituency for a total of Tgs76 billion. After approval of the budget law, it was criticized by public. The President considered it illegal and made his resolution to veto the law on December 10, 2009. In his veto, the President explained that when he requested an official explanation from Government and Parliament aabout the so called matter of ‘Money MPs' and he received a written response with no clear ground or truthful answer for him to believe the aforementioned bad practice has been discontinued. But Parliament made a show of doing it by means of absorbing the ‘money of MPs' into the law's clause regarding the total investment. It caused him to veto the law. Parliament is scheduled to discuss the Presidential veto this week. If two-thirds of MPs attending the Parliament meeting do not accept the veto, the 2010 State Budget will remain in effect. ^ top ^

NCDR: Economic growth to reach 7.4 per cent next year (MONTSAME)
2009-12-16
The National Committee of Development and Reform (NCDR) has done a calculation the economic growth in Mongolia. As it claims, the economic growth will reach 1-1.5 per cent this year, 7.4 per cent next year, and 12.5 per cent--in 2015. According to the calculation, the annual economic growth will rise by approximately 12.5 per cent due to putting into economic circulation the biggest strategic mineral deposits in 2010-2015. Strategic projects that will greatly push the economic growth are puttin into use a 47.5 km Nariin sukhait coal mine-- the Shivee khuren border checkpoint railway, a 266 km railway in route Ukhaa-khudag--Oyu-tolgoi--Gashuun sukhait border checkpoint. The Oyu tolgoi gold-and-copper mine, the Mardai, Dornod and Gurvanbulag's mines of uranium ore and other biggest mines will go into operation as well. In the years, external trade total turnover will increase up to 24.4 per cent, the budgetary deficit--which is now equivalent to five per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP)--will reduce and thus will have profit from the year 2012, says the NCDR. ^ top ^

Civil Cabinet opens (news.mn)
2009-12-16
The Civil Cabinet opened its doors to the public. The cabinet was proposed by the President of Mongolia to hear the voices of the people and influence the political decisions.
"We have actualized the work which was set up 20 years ago. Since then we have managed to constitute our democracy with its forms of terms and institutions. Now we ought to plan new works for the next 20 years" said Elbegdorj at the opening ceremony. President also stated that the most important method of having people manage power of the state and government is to drill a transparency and justice into state decisions and to adhere to a principle of realizing opinions and views of people through conducting wide-range discussions. According to Ts.Elbegdorj, Civil Cabinet will resume the success of the democratic society. Vice Speaker of the Parliament N.Enkhbold spoke about open discussion recently organized by the Parliament on the July 1st incident, and pointed out that it became a vital step to ensure a participation of the civil society. The Ambassador of Germany Mr. Pius Fischer attended the ceremony to represent donators that helped to equip the chamber. Mr. Fischer, Melony Lindberg, a country director of the Asia Foundation for Mongolia and P.Erdenejargal, an executive director of the Open Society Forum made speeches. The chamber's first discussion will dedicated to a theme "Law on press freedom". Opinions will be received from December 17. The only independent MP Z.Altai was very happy to have an open cabinet. He said the only place open for him during party groups' discussions is the restaurant. “It is good to have friends for a person who is not a part of a party or a group” he added. ^ top ^

A/H1N1 Spread Continues in Rural Areas (UB Post)
2009-12-15
According to the health ministry, though the A/H1N1 pandemic flu virus spread has decreased in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, there are more confirmed cases registered in rural provinces. As of December 14, 2009, the number of people infected with the A/H1N1 virus rose up to 1194 and one more person died due to the infection with the pandemic flu virus since last week, bringing the death toll to 27. According to latest news, several children from a same dormitory in Uvurkhangai Province, who all apparently had fever, have been immediately separated by the province's hospital. Specialists warn that the virus spread may be intensifying as the temperature is getting lower. Five thousand dozes of vaccine against the A/H1N1 pandemic flu virus have arrived from France. A Mongolian company “Munkhiin Tun” that was given the right to import the vaccines will receive totally 50 thousand dozes from France, through the channel of Mongolian Ministry for Health. According to the Health Ministry, the vaccine will be given to 30 percent of Mongolia's population through the National Center for Communicable Diseases, firstly to risky groups such as children and pregnant women. ^ top ^

Announcement of Winning Bid for Tavan Tolgoi Delayed until Early 2010 (UB Post)
2009-12-11
Budget negotiations and a new prime minister mean that Mongolia will likely delay until early next year, the selection of the winning bidders for the giant Tavan Tolgoi coking coal deposit, reported by Reuters on December 4, citing a comment from an industry executive. Mongolia had earlier planned to select the winners for the US$2 billion stake sale by the end of this year, following quickly on the conclusion of negotiations over investments in the Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold deposits. The nomination of a new prime minister, after the previous one fell ill, and negotiations over next year's budget could delay the selection, said Badamdamdin Ragchaa,. “I believe the issue will be solved by early next year,” Badamdamdin told to Reuters. R.Badamdamdin is a CEO of the Mongolian state uranium firm, MonAtom. Shortlisted bidders for Tavan Tolgoi included Australia's BHP Billiton, India's Jindal, Brazil's Vale, U.S. coal mining concern, Peabody, and China's Shenhua, as well as South Korea's COPEC consortium, a group of Japanese companies, and Russian consortiums including Gazprom and Renova. Erdenes MGL, a state-owned company, will legally own at least 51 percent of the project, by law. ^ top ^

 

Manuel Muehlebach
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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