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
  18.1-22.1.10, No. 303  
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DPRK and South Korea

Mongolia

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Foreign Policy

Mainland media dismiss US call to cease internet censorship (SCMP)
2010-01-22
The media in the mainland on Friday dismissed Washington's call to lift internet censorship, after a top Chinese diplomat warned the Obama administration to heed alarm bells over trade, Taiwan and Tibet. The government in Beijing had no immediate response to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's speech on Thursday calling on China and other authoritarian governments to lift their curbs on citizens' use of the internet. Clinton's speech raised contention with Beijing over the cyber policy, which flared after Google, the world's biggest search engine operator, last week warned it could pull out of the country over complaints about hacking and censorship. "A new information curtain is descending across much of the world," said Clinton, calling growing internet curbs the present-day equivalent of the Berlin Wall, contravening international commitments to free expression. Clinton also urged Beijing to investigate the complaint about cyber spying that Google said targeted it and dozens of other companies, as well as Chinese dissidents. The internet has joined trade imbalances, US weapons sales to Taiwan, and tensions over human rights and Tibet among the quarrels straining ties between the world's biggest and third biggest economies. Beijing is likely to hit back at what it sees as meddling by Washington, and state-run newspapers already took swipes. "The United States' so-called internet freedom is freedom under US control," the Global Times said on its web site. "There's some wishful thinking in the United States making internet freedom a state policy to be preached to other countries," the tabloid quoted one Chinese scholar as saying […] Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are blocked on the internet in China, which uses a filtering "firewall' to prevent users from seeing overseas web sites with news critical of the Communist Party. On Thursday, however, Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei played down the dispute with Google, and laid out other worries that could deepen strains with Washington. "This year, China and the United States – especially the US – must both carefully handle the issues of weapons sales to Taiwan, the Dalai Lama, and trade frictions," He said in comments reported by the official China News Service late on Thursday. "How these issues are handled rests on whether political leaders, especially the US government, can show political decisiveness," said He in remarks made before Clinton spoke. This month, Beijing denounced the US sale of Patriot air defence missiles, capable of intercepting missiles from the mainland, to Taiwan. The mainland announced its own anti-missile test soon after the US unveiled the Patriot sales to Taiwan. Beijing has warned that more US weapons sales to Taiwan could badly bruise relations with Washington, and has urged President Barack Obama not to meet the Dalai Lama, the exiled Buddhist leader of Tibet who Beijing denounces as a separatist. The two global heavyweights are also at odds over trade and currency policies, with Washington saying Beijing has stoked global economic balances and a US trade deficit by holding down the value of the yuan […] Google said it may shut its Chinese-language Google.cn website and offices after a cyber attack originating from China that also targeted others. The internet giant said it no longer wanted to censor its Chinese Google.cn site and wanted to talk with Beijing about offering a legal, unfiltered site. Searches for sensitive topics on Google.cn are still largely being censored. ^ top ^

China announces more assistance to Haiti (Xinhua)
2010-01-22
A senior Chinese diplomat announced on Thursday that China has decided to contribute an additional 2.6 million U.S. dollars in cash to quake-hit Haiti and send a 40-member medical care and epidemic prevention team to the Caribbean country. The announcement came as Liu Zhenmin, China's deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, was taking the floor at the second briefing/pledging conference of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) for Earthquake in Haiti, which opened on Thursday afternoon. A strong earthquake on Jan. 12 has left many people dead, including 61 UN staff members working in the island country, and a lot of buildings damaged or destroyed […] "We support the United Nations in playing an important coordinating role in disaster relief and reconstruction in Haiti," he said. "We hope that the Haitian people, with the help of the international community, will overcome the difficulties, rebuild their homes and achieve self-reliance at an early date." The new Chinese contribution follows a Jan. 13 decision of the Red Society of China to donate one million U.S. dollars in cash to Haiti, he said. "On Jan. 15, the Chinese government announced its decision to provide 30 million yuan (about 4.4 million U.S. dollars) worth of humanitarian emergency supplies to Haiti." The first charter plane loaded with these supplies arrived in Haiti on Jan. 17, bringing to the local people medicine, tents, portable emergency lights, water purification equipment, food, drinking water and clothes, he said. "The second plane, which was delayed due to limited capacity of the Haitian airport, will arrive on Jan. 26." Since Jan. 13, the 60-member emergency rescue team sent by the Chinese government has fully engaged in disaster relief in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince, he said. "The team has carried out effective search and rescue operations at the headquarters of MINUSTAH (the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti), the prime minister's palace and other places, with a number of bodies found, including those of Special Representative Hedi Annabi of MINUSTAH and other UN staff. The medical team of the Chinese rescue team are providing medical support for several hundred local people everyday," he said […]. ^ top ^

China, Indonesia hold second meeting of dialogue mechanism (Xinhua)
2010-01-22
The second meeting of China- Indonesia dialogue mechanism at Vice Prime Minister level opened in Jakarta on Thursday, co-chaired by China's State Councilor Dai Bingguo and Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Political, Law and Security Affairs Djoko Suyanto. The two sides are both satisfied with the development of China- Indonesia relationship, and agreed to further improve their strategic cooperation. Dai Bingguo said that China and Indonesia are great developing countries and important countries in Asia, with comprehensive mutual interests, and the base of their relationship is concrete. The two countries should strengthen their cooperation according to their basic interests while facing more global issues and challenges […] Dai said China had attached importance to the relationship with Indonesia and was willing to join hands with Indonesia to implement the agreement between President Hu Jintao and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on China-Indonesia strategic cooperation […] Suyanto said the relationship between China and Indonesia went very well. According to him, Indonesia pays great attention to its relation with China, and is determined to take the Plan of Action for the Implementation of the Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership as guidelines, take practical actions and enhance cooperation with China […] The two sides agreed to improve strategic mutual understandings, improve economic and trading cooperation, expand personnel and cultural communication, strengthen cooperation in terms of security and law affairs, and coordinate more closely in multilateral affairs. After the meeting, Dai Bingguo and Suyanto witnessed the signing of the Plan of Action for the Implementation of the Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership. The plan includes detailed measures for the dialogue, communication and cooperation between China and Indonesia in comprehensive areas. Dai Bingguo arrived in Jakarta on Thursday afternoon. He is scheduled to meeting Indonesian vice president Boediono, President Yudhoyono, and ASEAN secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan on Friday. He will go on to visit Brunei on Sunday. ^ top ^

Spain could ask EU to lift arms ban on China (China Daily)
2010-01-21
Spain will propose that the European Union (EU) consider lifting an arms embargo on China and grant full market economy status to the country, Madrid's top envoy to Beijing has said. Elaborating on Spain's tasks during the six months it holds the EU rotating presidency, Carlos Blasco Villa told China Daily that Madrid will also promote the signing of a comprehensive cooperative partnership between China and the EU. "Relations between the EU and China are good, but they can be raised to a higher level," Blasco said. The ambassador wants to elevate ties to a comprehensive partnership, a relationship China has established with at least a score of countries, including Australia and New Zealand. "The establishment of such a partnership will show that ties go beyond trade," he said. Spain, which holds the rotating presidency from Jan 1 to June 30, will ask the EU to consider lifting the ban on arms exports to China, he said. "We hope to deepen discussions on lifting the ban," he said. Imposed two decades ago, the ban is cited by a number of analysts as an obstacle to China-EU ties. Madrid is also keen to put on the EU's agenda the granting of full market economy status to the world's largest exporter, Blasco said. As a compromise to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001, China allows WTO members not to recognize it as a full market economy until 2016. But the lack of such a status has made China the victim of a growing number of dumping charges. From January to November last year, other economies launched 212 trade cases against China, affecting $12 billion worth of Chinese exports, the Ministry of Commerce said. Both numbers were double from a year earlier. "To pull the world out of the financial crisis, trade protectionism must be rejected," Blasco said. More than 80 countries and regions, including Australia and New Zealand have granted the status to China. But China needs to further open up its service sector and make the yuan fully convertible to convince all EU members, Blasco said, adding that he understood the country's gradual and steady approach in opening up. The market economy status - a focal point of disputes on currency and trade - has long been an irritant in Sino-EU relations. Six months may not be enough to solve these problems, Blasco said, but he hoped negotiations during the period can pave the way for "substantial progress" at the year-end Sino-EU Summit. "We do wish the time is ripe for the EU and China to discuss these at the next summit," he said […] What worries the ambassador the most in regard to China-EU ties is the trade imbalance. Citing European figures, Blasco said China's exports in 2008 were 248 billion euros ($357 billion) but imports were only 78 billion euros […] One way to improve the balance is to let China import more hi-tech products, for which the Europeans are famed, he said. The ambassador predicted that bilateral trade could return to 2008 levels this year. The financial crisis saw trade plunge by about 20 percent last year. China is now Spain's largest trade partner outside Europe. Spanish companies are investing big in China, with banking behemoth BBVA and telecom giant Telefonica buying significant stakes in local companies […]. ^ top ^

China, Austria seek stronger ties with five deals (Xinhua)
2010-01-21
Presidents of China and Austria on Wednesday witnessed the signing of a package of deals and vowed to uplift bilateral relationship. "China would like to work with Austria to bring relationship to a new high," Chinese President Hu Jintao told visiting Austrian President Heinz Fischer. In their hour-long talks at the Great Hall of the People, Hu reviewed the development of bilateral relations since China and Austria forged diplomatic relations in 1971. "China and Austria witnessed deepening and growing ties," Hu said, citing expanded cooperation in economy, trade, investment, science and technology and culture. Fischer echoed Hu's views, saying China had become an important cooperation partner of Austria. Fischer said Austria was satisfied with ties with China, as bilateral trade increased steadily last year despite the international financial crisis. China-Austria trade hit 4.33 billion U.S. dollars from January to November in 2009, according to China's Customs. This was Fischer's first state visit to China since he took office in July 2004. Fischer's entourage included more than 60 officials in health, defense, sports, business, commerce, banking, among others, and around 120 business executives. Fischer expressed condolences over the death of eight Chinese peacekeeping police officers in a 7.3-magnitude earthquake in Haiti last week. Their bodies were returned to Beijing Tuesday […] On the economic front, Hu said both countries should make use of their own advantages and expand cooperation […] Fischer said Austria welcomed the visit of Chinese business promotion delegation. He also encouraged both countries to step up aviation cooperation. Hu proposed both countries work more closely in culture, education, tourism, think tank and media, promoting dialogues between different cultures […] Hu also pledged to cooperate more with Austria on international and regional issues. Fischer said Austria would like to play a positive role in promoting ties between Europe and China. At the end of talks, the two presidents witnessed the signing of five deals in public health, quality quarantine, science and technology, personnel training and Chinese teaching. ^ top ^

Chinese 'fingerprints' detected in attack programs, researcher says (SCMP)
2010-01-21
An American computer security researcher has found what he says he believes is strong evidence of the digital fingerprints of Chinese authors in the software programs used in attacks against Google. The search engine giant announced last week that it had experienced a series of internet break-ins it believed were of Chinese origin. Since the announcement, several computer security companies have made claims supporting Google's suspicions, but the evidence has remained circumstantial. Now, by analysing the software used in the break-ins against Google and dozens of other companies, Joe Stewart, a malware specialist with SecureWorks, a computer security company based in Atlanta, said he determined the main program used in the attack contained a module based on an unusual algorithm from a Chinese technical paper that had been published exclusively on Chinese-language websites. Malware is an abbreviated term used to describe a malicious software program. The malware at the heart of the Google attacks is described by researchers as a "Trojan horse" that is intended to open a back door to a computer on the internet. The program is called Hydraq by the computer security research community and is intended to subvert computers that run different versions of the Windows operating system […] "If you look at the code in a debugger you see patterns that jump out at you," he said. In this case he discovered software code that represented an unusual algorithm, or formula, intended for checking errors in transmitted data. He acknowledged that he could not completely rule out the possibility that the clue had been placed in the program intentionally by programmers from another government intent on framing the Chinese, but he said that was unlikely. ^ top ^

Baidu fuels cyber tension by suing US Web firm (SCMP)
2010-01-21
Internet search giant Baidu is suing a US Web firm after its site was hacked - a new salvo in a growing row after Google's threat to quit the mainland market because of cyber-attacks. Baidu, the mainland market leader, is seeking damages from Register.com, its domain name registration service provider, which it accuses of gross negligence. Baidu said its site went down for several hours after the attack last week by a group calling itself the Iranian Cyber Army, which Baidu said "unlawfully and maliciously altered" its homepage. The group is thought to have mistaken Baidu for a US-based company because it is registered there. State media reported that a sentence in Farsi on the hacked site said: "In reaction to the US authorities' intervention in Iran's internal affairs. This is a warning." Google's announcement has thrown a spanner into already frayed Sino-US ties, with Washington calling for an explanation and Beijing defending its right to filter information available on the Web and telling foreign firms to obey the law. The lawsuit casts Baidu as another aggrieved internet company hurt by hackers. Last week rival Google said it may shut down its Chinese-language search engine, Google.cn, and might pull out of the mainland over state censorship and what it said was a highly sophisticated attack by mainland-based hackers targeting dissidents with Google e-mail accounts. Kaiser Kuo, a Beijing-based internet consultant, said the timing of the lawsuit would fuel speculation that it was in response to the Google ultimatum. "The suspicion will be that Baidu wants it to appear that even as its American rival was under attack from sophisticated Chinese hackers, Baidu was also suffering attacks that, though perhaps not originating in the US, were at least made possible by the negligence of an American domain name registrar," he said. Baidu spokesman Zhang Xiaoxi said last week that the hackers changed Baidu's domain name system records and redirected traffic to another site. Yesterday it said Register.com's failure to protect the site resulted in "users from many places around the world being unable to access the Baidu website for a number of hours and caused serious damage". Baidu filed suit in New York seeking undisclosed damages […] Google has said the cyber-attacks against it were likely aimed at gaining access to the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists, but has said it does not believe that goal was achieved. The company is reportedly checking whether any of its China staff helped hackers lead the attack. In Washington, senior US diplomat Kurt Campbell said on Tuesday that US and Chinese officials had held "multiple meetings" over the Google case, and plan to have more in the coming days. Baidu and other Chinese-language internet service providers would benefit from Google's exit from the mainland, but security remains a concern if they are to serve the needs of its 380-million-plus internet users. And any expansion for Baidu is likely to be tempered by a need to put its house in order. Its chief technology officer, Li Yinan, resigned this week for personal reasons, days after chief operating officer Ye Peng quit citing the same grounds. ^ top ^

China rejects accusations on its rescue team in Haiti (Xinhua)
2010-01-20
China on Tuesday rejected accusations that its rescue team in Haiti searched only for Chinese nationals […] "The comment that the Chinese rescue team was only searching for Chinese nationals in Haiti is false and made out of ulterior motives," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu told a regular briefing. After a 7.3-magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti last Tuesday, China dispatched a rescue team of about 60 people to Port-Au-Prince, capital of the Caribbean nation. Ma said the team had found a number of bodies, including those of eight Chinese peacekeepers, UN officers in Haiti and some others. Setting up a temporary clinic near Haitian Prime Minister's compound, the Chinese rescue team gave medical treatment to around 200 local people, Ma said. "Chinese rescuers are highly welcomed by local people. Their actions are selfless and brook no accusation," […] "How long the Chinese rescue team will stay in Haiti depends on the development of local situation," Ma said, stressing the Chinese government's continued support on the rescue team. Ma said the Chinese mainland and Taiwan so far had no cooperation or engagement on their rescue teams' joint action in Haiti. Ma also expressed condolences to the families of eight Chinese peacekeeping police officers killed in the earthquake. Their bodies were returned to Beijing Tuesday. ^ top ^

China dismisses Japan's claim of tiny atoll in Pacific (People's Daily Online)
2010-01-20
China on Tuesday objected Japan's claim on a tiny atoll in the Pacific Ocean, saying international laws saw no justification for Japan's latest move on the atoll, some 1,700 kilometers south of Tokyo. The Japanese government reportedly submitted a bill to the congress on Monday, which proposes the protection of the coastlines of remote islands, including the so-called Okinotori island. This was widely seen as Japan's latest step to change the Okinotori into an "island", which would imply Japan's rights to claim Okinotori's surrounding area as an exclusive economic zone. But China insisted that Okinotori is merely a rock rather than an island, which can be used to claim an EEZ around. "The Okinotori atoll is only about 10 square meters above the sea at the flood-tide and is nothing but a rock according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLS)," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu told a regular press briefing Tuesday in Beijing. Japan's move to claim rights over such a large marine area, centered on the Okinotori atoll, is against international laws and would gravely damage the interests of the international community as a whole, Ma said. According to Article 121 of the UNCLS, rocks that cannot sustain human habitation or an economic life of their own shall have no exclusive economic zone or continental shelf. Japan has been trying to make the atoll a de facto island by a spate of moves in years. Since 1987, Japan has spent some 300 million U.S. dollars in building concrete wall around the Okinotori atoll, and has completed a solar-powered lighthouse on the atoll. Besides, Japan has allocated part of its fiscal 2010 draft budget for infrastructure building on Okinotori atoll to keep it from submerging into the sea. "Japan's such actions and claims are obviously untenable in legal terms and other countries have also raised their concerns," Ma said. "The construction of facilities, however, will not change its legal status." Some analysts say Japan tries to create an "artificial island" to meet the international laws because the Okinotori, which lies between Taiwan and Guam in a strategically important position, could win the country an EEZ and rich resources in the surrounding sea area. Japan could claim the EEZ of about 400,000 square kilometers and continental shelf of about 740,000 square kilometers around the Okinotori atoll […] "The activities Japan has conducted is obviously attempting to build a artificial island, which, however, can not enjoy the same status of a natural island that can claim an EEZ around it," said Zhou Zhonghai, an expert on international laws from the China University of Political Science and Law. "Japan is trying to pass a bill at home to challenge the world" […]. ^ top ^

Beijing 'forced' to develop missile interception system (SCMP)
2010-01-19
China developed a missile interception system out of a sense of "forced action" because it perceived threats from other nations, a senior military official has revealed in a commentary written for a state-run magazine. A professor of military strategy and theory in the Second Artillery Corps, Senior Colonel Wu Tianfu, wrote in the latest issue of Xinhua-run Outlook Weekly magazine that the world should not be surprised if China carried out more missile interceptor tests as it was just a "sensible thing to do". The first such test surprised many, with Beijing announcing last week that it had successfully tested a ground-based, mid-course missile-interception system just a week after the United States decided to sell more arms to Taiwan, despite strong protests from Beijing. The test, conducted in an unspecified location in China, sparked renewed discussion on its military development. Many critics noted that it underscored China's military ambition and confidence. Xinhua and the foreign ministry insisted the test was only "defensive" and did not target any country. Wu said the test was an "important experiment for China's long-term national security strategy" because it could not just focus on development when it felt threatened. He said China would not have had to develop such a sophisticated system if "certain Western countries" - none specified - had not insisted on building strategic missile systems and stepping up the development of such systems in areas with strategic importance. "If [they] had not frequently conducted anti-missile tests and space war drills, and extended their defence strategies into a large swathe of territories in developing countries, it's unnecessary for China to have conducted an anti-missile interception test," […] Those who perceived a "China threat" and attempted to "sow discord" between China and other major countries were either ignorant of China's military and national development or held reactionary views towards China's efforts in upholding world peace and security, Wu said. China's military spending and development has long been shrouded in secrecy. But with the country's economic and political clout rising internationally, Beijing has been more confident in showing off its military prowess, especially at the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic in October. The central government's spending on military development has been increasing over the years, but figures remain opaque. Last week's test also spurred speculation that it could trigger an arms race in the region. Wu said the test had helped boost national confidence and pride, and would prevent Western powers from "hatching sinister plots" against China. "[This] would help to maintain a balance in world strategy and promote a more multi-polar, orderly, harmonised world," he said. The test also showed that it was a "stupid idea" to attempt to monopolise military technology, Wu said. "China's successful missile interceptor test proved that some Western powers' monopoly on advanced technology would only encourage China to be innovative and master the technology quickly." China has long sought to acquire advanced technology but complains that Western countries have refused to sell it. The interception system Beijing tested was a complex anti-missile system that comprises a ground-based missile interceptor capable of shooting down a ballistic missile in space and a radar network that could monitor incoming warheads. Washington had pursued similar technology but cancelled tests last year because of repeated delays in the project. ^ top ^

Vietnam, China vow to further bilateral relations (People's Daily Online)
2010-01-19
Vietnamese and Chinese officials said in Hong Kong Monday that they will make joint efforts to further cement ties between the two countries, and ties between Vietnam and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR). The officials made the remarks at a reception, hosted by Vietnam's Consulate General in the HKSAR, to mark the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the People's Republic of China […] Pham Cao Phong, consul-general of Vietnam in the HKSAR […] said that the Chinese government and Chinese people have provided great support and assistance to Vietnam in its struggle for independence and freedom as well as its reform and modernization drive […] He said that in recent years, relations between the two countries have developed rapidly, with cooperation in political, economic, cultural and other sectors further deepened. The year of 2010 marks the first year of the founding of ASEAN-- China Free Trade Area, and the year has also been named the Year of Vietnam-China Friendship, which Pham said will "bring relations of the two countries into a new spring." Over the past six decades, the political relations between the two countries have become mature, with the deepening of bilateral cooperation in various sectors, said Lu Xinhua, commissioner of the Chinese Foreign Ministry in the HKSAR […]. ^ top ^

Tokyo warns of action if Beijing violates gas deal (SCMP)
2010-01-18
Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada told his Chinese counterpart yesterday that Tokyo would take "action" if China violated a 2008 agreement over disputed gas exploration projects. In his talks with Yang Jiechi, Okada also urged China to start discussing details about jointly developing the gas projects in the East China Sea, said a Japanese diplomat. "If China violates the agreement, Japan will have to take certain action," Okada said in the talks, held on the sidelines of a meeting of foreign ministers from East Asia and Latin America. Asia's two largest economies and top energy consumers reached an agreement in 2008 that they would share the potentially lucrative gas resources in the East China Sea, a deal struck after years of negotiations. Japan reportedly observed that China has built a drilling plant in the area and appears ready to start extracting gas. In response, Yang told Okada: "China will firmly stand by the 2008 agreement. We wish to continue unofficial, working-level exchanges to further enhance mutual understanding." China started drilling in the Chunxiao gas field, known as Shirakaba in Japan, in 2003, inflaming tensions with Japan, which voiced worries that Beijing may siphon gas from the deposit that stretches into what Tokyo considered its own side. The sea has been the subject of conflict between China and Japan because the neighbours hold different views on the boundaries of their exclusive maritime economic zones. Tokyo insists that the median line marks the boundary in the East China Sea, but Beijing defines the boundary according to the continental shelf. The Chunxiao gas field is particularly controversial because it is within what even Japan recognises as Chinese territory. Tokyo claims, however, it should have a share of the resources because the gas bed crosses the median line. The 2008 agreement will see Japan's private sector invest in the Chunxiao gas field operated by China, and joint exploration of a 2,700 sq km area stretching across the median line Japan says marks their sea boundary. Estimated oil reserves in the disputed fields are a modest 92 million barrels, but the sovereignty dispute and hopes that bigger reserves lie under the sea have made control of East China Sea resources a sticking point in bilateral ties. ^ top ^

China confirms death of all 8 Chinese police officers in Haiti quake (Xinhua)
2010-01-18
The bodies of all eight Chinese police officers buried under a collapsed building in the Haiti quake had been found as of early Sunday morning Beijing time, the Ministry of Public Security said. The first body was found at 4:30 p.m. Jan. 16 Beijing time after more than 80 hours of search and rescue work, and the other seven were retrieved from 10:42 p.m. to 3:56 a.m. Jan. 17 under the joint efforts of the Chinese rescue team, the Chinese peacekeeping force in Haiti and several foreign rescue teams […] Of the victims, four were officers of China's peacekeeping force in Haiti and the rest were in a team sent by the ministry to Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, for peacekeeping consultations, according to the ministry. The eight were meeting UN officials in the headquarters of the UN Stabilization Mission in Port-au-Prince when the quake struck at about 4:50 p.m. Tuesday local time. The team arrived in the Caribbean city Tuesday afternoon. The victims were: Zhu Xiaoping, 48, director of the ministry's equipment and finance department; Guo Baoshan, 60, deputy director of the ministry's international cooperation department; Wang Shulin, 58, and Li Xiaoming, 35, both researchers at the ministry. The four peacekeepers were: Zhao Huayu, 38; Li Qin, 47; Zhong Jianqin, 35; and He Zhihong, 35. They were all men except for He. According to the ministry, the bodies will be transferred back to China as soon as possible. "The eight comrades who sacrificed their lives during the Haiti quake are outstanding representatives of the 2 million Chinese police force members... They are the models for public security departments across the country to learn from," said a statement of the ministry. A total of 142 Chinese police peacekeepers are deployed in Haiti. A Chinese rescue team of more than 60 people left Beijing Wednesday evening along with 10 tons of food, equipment and medicines. ^ top ^

Report: Google denies leaving China (People's Daily Online)
2010-01-18
Google Inc said yesterday that it is not leaving China, and will try to seek consultations with relevant Chinese departments in the coming days, Reuters reported. There are wild speculations that the Internet search giant is considering pulling out of China market over hassles including cyber-attack concerns […] Reuters said that Beijing has tried to play down the matter, saying there exist many ways to resolve the dispute, but insisting all foreign companies, Google included, must abide by Chinese laws. Some analysts said that the confrontational approach with China by Google Inc has damaged its prospects in the world's largest Internet market, regardless of whether it carries out its threat to quit the country. Reuters quoted UBS analyst Wang Jinjin as saying that Google's relationship with local advertisers has been damaged as a result of the threat and that they will choose Baidu Inc over the firm. On Saturday, Yahoo was dragged into the growing row after its Chinese partner Alibaba Group slammed its statements supporting Google. ^ top ^

Third Beidou satellite launched: China closer to full navigational system (SCMP)
2010-01-18
State media yesterday hailed the successful launch of a space rocket that takes China a step closer to completing its own satellite navigational system. The satellite is the third link in the Beidou system, a multibillion-yuan project to produce a home-grown rival to the United States' Global Positioning System and Europe's Galileo. The blast-off took place shortly after midnight on Saturday night, from the main satellite launch station in Xichang, Sichuan province. The satellite was delivered to geostationary orbit aboard a Long March 3111 carrier rocket. The chief engineer on the Beidou project, Sun Jiadong, told Xinhua that the latest addition to the network showed the system was well on the way to completion […] He said the network was being put together along a three-stage plan and progress was "on schedule". Beidou - Chinese for the Big Dipper - will require at least 10 satellites to be in orbit before it can begin functioning in the Asia-Pacific region, scheduled for 2012. It will take a total of 30 to 35 satellites for the system to effect worldwide coverage, which China plans to complete by 2020. Five of those satellites will be in geostationary positions like the one launched yesterday, while the remainder will be in lower, non- stationary orbits. In addition to positioning, the satellite network will also be used to carry short-message services and broadcast time signals. The system, also known as the Compass in English, is of enormous commercial value but is hugely important from a military perspective. Beidou aims to perform in much the same way as the GPS. It is scheduled to be operational ahead of the European Union's Galileo system, in which China is a partner. Having its own network of satellites means China will be self-reliant in terms of running hi-tech weapons guidance systems. Military experts have previously expressed concerns about the possible impact of the US cutting access to its GPS system […] An official at China Electronics Technology Group Corp, which is involved in the project, previously told the South China Morning Post that he estimated the system would cost "several billion yuan" to complete. Work on the Beidou system began in earnest in 2000, with an experimental system using just two satellites. The first satellite for the second-generation Beidou was put into space in 2007, followed by another last year. China has pledged to give access to its "open service" free of charge within the service area, which would provide positioning accurate to within 10 metres. A more accurate service will also be available for "authorised users". Xinhua said Beidou's management office had released a statement saying that China would make its own global navigation system compatible and inter-operable with other international competitors. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Police detain soccer's big two in crackdown (SCMP)
2010-01-22
Two deputy chairmen of the Chinese Football Association have been detained by police in the most dramatic step yet in the mainland's crackdown on soccer-related corruption. Nan Yong, who ran the domestic soccer league and was in charge of China's national teams, and Yang Yimin were asked to attend a meeting last Friday at the Beijing headquarters of the General Administration of Sport. When the pair arrived, police were waiting. A special squad of officers from Shenyang, in Liaoning province, dedicated to fighting soccer gambling and organised crime, took them away […] Also detained the same night was Zhang Jianqiang, a former director of the CFA referees' committee, who was taken from outside his home in Beijing. The Ministry of Public Security confirmed yesterday that the three were interrogated about match-fixing. Their whereabouts is unknown. Nan was in charge of all men's national teams and domestic leagues. He was appointed to that position a year ago. He and Yang are the highest-ranking officials detained so far in the mainland's campaign against corruption in soccer, which began last year. The ministry said the special Shenyang police group, with the support of sports authorities, was also investigating how the domestic league had been controlled through commercial bribery. Xinhua said the action showed the authorities' determination to clean up the corruption in Chinese soccer and restore public confidence. The campaign has already seen the arrest of about two dozen coaches, club managers and players. More than 100 officials, team managers and other insiders have been investigated in such provinces as Guangdong, Liaoning and Sichuan. Another prominent soccer figure involved in the latest developments is Jia Xiuquan, captain of the men's national team in the 1980s and coach of the men's Olympic team in 2003 and 2004. Mainland media said they had been unable to contact Jia for nearly a week, and reports speculated that police had also taken him in for investigation sometime late last week […] Some CFA insiders told Soccer News that Nan might have profited commercially from his position, that Yang might have been named by a soccer team coach investigated previously, and that Zhang might have been involved in gambling on soccer. The use of the police team from Shenyang to target CFA leaders is a departure from the authorities' usual practice when dealing with corrupt senior officials […] The latest developments shook the foundations of soccer on the mainland. Although it is the country's most popular sport, the national men's teams have performed abysmally in international competition - a source of public anger and embarrassment. Liu Xiaoxin, chief editor of Soccer News, said he did not believe Nan and the others could escape the crackdown easily. "It will be a big joke if police say later that they are fine," he said. "Yet, if you understand Chinese politics, you will know that it is extremely hard to question the big fish like Nan, Yang, and Zhang" […]. ^ top ^

Real-name train ticket system kicks off in S. China (People's Daily Online)
2010-01-22
Southern Guangdong Province launched the pilot real-name train ticket system Thursday morning amid China's efforts to curb ticket hoarding by scalpers. China's first real-name ticket was booked at 7:03 a.m. Thursday by phone, confirmed sources with the ticket booking system of Guangzhou Railway Group (GRG), operator of the province's railways […] The real-name system covers tickets of trains in nine stations in Guangdong scheduled between Jan. 30 and Feb. 4, the travel peak of the Spring Festival holiday season. These tickets are now available as travellers can book 10 days in advance by phone. Train passengers can dial hot lines to book tickets and get them from wickets in railway stations or ticket agencies before midnight the day after the booking. Passengers only need to follow automated voice instructions and dial in necessary information. After the booking is accepted and processed in a computerized database, the automated voice system will issue a booking code. With the code and ID card, a passenger can get his/her ticket from wickets in railway stations or ticket agencies. "This procedure is expected to prevent long queues at the wickets of railway stations because most of the communication is made on phone," said Huang Xin, head of GRG's passenger transport section. The real-name system is also scheduled to be adopted in Hunan, Sichuan and Guizhou provinces and Chongqing Municipality […] The National Development and Reform Commission forecast some 210 million train trips will be made during the Spring Festival rush, a year-on-year rise of 9.5 percent. The real-name system has drawn much attention in China. People are waiting to see whether the system can effectively curb ticket hoarding. There are also worries that the newly introduced ID checks may paralyze railway stations because of the heavy workload involved. China's National Development and Reform Commission predicted this year's Spring Festival travel peak to be between Jan. 30 and March 30 [...]. ^ top ^

Only a third of migrant workers given contracts (SCMP)
2010-01-22
Only about a third of mainland migrant workers have signed contracts with their employers - two years after the introduction of a controversial labour contract law sought to make them compulsory, a survey has found. The Beijing Zhicheng law firm interviewed 581 migrant workers from 15 provinces and municipalities in the first half of last year and found that just under 34 per cent had been offered contracts. Another survey by the firm, conducted between January 2008 and June last year and involving 2,592 workers seeking to uphold their labour rights at 16 workers' rights centres across the mainland, found that just over a fifth had signed contracts. Researchers said unscrupulous bosses from small and medium-sized enterprises had exploited loopholes in the law, which was designed to improve the rights of the country's workers but also threatened to increase employers' staff costs. Researchers said the situation had only improved slightly since the new labour contract law was implemented in 2008. Surveys conducted between 2005 and 2007 showed that up to 12.5 per cent migrant workers had signed contracts with their employers. The firm's survey results contrast sharply with a labour law enforcement investigation launched by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, which estimated that 93 per cent of large companies had offered contracts to migrant workers. Lawyers said those enforcing the law should focus on small and medium-sized factories, which employed most of the country's migrant workers and were more likely to breach workers' rights. Although the law requires bosses who fail to sign labour contracts within 12 months to give their workers double pay as compensation, very few employers have complied with the law due to weak enforcement. The law firm said 90 per cent of the workers surveyed at workers' rights centres were not covered by social insurance, and many had seen their livelihoods threatened by industrial injuries or runaway bosses. Nearly 40 per cent had suffered industrial injuries and 55 per cent had tried to secure back pay. Many complained they had not received overtime pay, severance pay and other compensation demanded by the new law. The random survey found that more than half the workers were required to work more than eight hours a day and 93 per cent had not received sufficient overtime pay. The report also referred to a case that went to court last month involving French supermarket chain Carrefour, which was accused of requiring salesmen to sign labour contracts with a third party so the firm could avoid its responsibilities as an employer. ^ top ^

Human Rights Watch report claims China abuses critics (SCMP)
2010-01-21
A leading human rights group said on Wednesday that the government in China openly harasses targets and arbitrarily detains critics, disbars lawyers to silence complaints and detains petitioners in secret “black jails.” Along with blistering criticism of the mainland in its annual report, Human Rights Watch also said that Western governments have gone soft on efforts to hold Beijing accountable for its rights record. The European Union, the report said, bowed to pressure from the mainland to limit non-governmental organisations' participation in a rights seminar. Human Rights Watch faulted US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her comments in February that human rights should not interfere with improving bilateral ties. The group also rebuked President Barack Obama for putting off a visit last year to the Dalai Lama, and for failing to make human rights more of a priority during his trip to Beijing in November. Wang Baodong, spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, called the report biased and misleading. “It's not that everything is rosy in China, but law enforcement actions should not be confused with violation of human rights,” Wang said in an e-mailed response to a request for comment. Human Rights Watch lent its support to internet giant Google's efforts to resist censorship in the mainland; Google has threatened to pull out of China over e-mail hacking attacks. But the rights group said the Obama administration, not Google, should be taking the lead in pressing to protect internet freedoms. The rights report said the government in Beijing abducts petitioners seeking redress for claims of corruption and torture and detains them in secret jails used to discourage complaining. The authorities denied the existence of the jails, but a state-run magazine last year described the centres where petitioners are held and sometimes beaten. Officials were also said to have obstructed civil society groups and increased controls on Uygur and Tibetan minorities. “Citizens face significant limits on freedom of expression, association and religion,” Human Rights Watch said. Officials in Beijing, the report said, refused to renew activist lawyers' licenses and pressured the firms where they worked; while police regularly tortured suspects to extract forced confessions. ^ top ^

China gets tough on bank card-related crimes (Xinhua)
2010-01-21
China's Ministry of Public Security and the central bank will jointly launch a 10-month nationwide campaign to crack down on bank card-related crimes. The campaign was aimed at curbing high crime rate involving bank cards by handling major bank card-related crimes and eliminating cross-border and trans-regional criminal network, according to a notice appeared on the ministry's website Wednesday. Criminals would be severely punished if they were convicted of bank card-related crimes, the ministry said […] Credit card-related crimes were on the rise in recent years as credit card services were expanding rapidly in China, Xiong Xuanguo, vice president of the Supreme People's Court, said […] China has the largest number of credit card holders and the country has witnessed the fastest growth of bank card businesses in the world. By the end of November last year, a total of 2.08 billion bank cards were issued in China. Consumer expenditure by bank card accounted for 34.7 percent of the total retail sales of social consumer products. Credit card forging, stealing and selling card information, vicious overdraft and card fraudulence, such as using fake ID to apply for a card or withdrawing a large amount of money with fake cards were common practice for criminals in China. ^ top ^

Dissident HK handed to mainland jailed 9 years (SMCP)
2010-01-21
Questions over the implementation of "one country, two systems" have been raised by the jailing of a former student leader of the 1989 Tiananmen protests by a Sichuan court after he was handed over to the mainland by Hong Kong immigration authorities. The Shehong County People's Court sentenced Zhou Yongjun, 42, to nine years in jail on Friday after convicting him of attempted financial fraud and fining him 80,000 yuan, the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said. One of Zhou's lawyers, Chen Zerui, said his case stemmed from a complaint by Hang Seng Bank about a suspicious request to transfer overseas HK$6 million from a Hong Kong account registered to Wang Xingxiang, whose name was on the phony Malaysian passport Zhou used to try to enter Hong Kong. The signature on the transfer form did not match that of the original account holder and the name was placed on a money-laundering watch list. He said Hong Kong police had found no evidence linking Zhou to the transfer request during 48 hours of questioning following his arrival from Macau on September 28, 2008, and comparing his signature with that on the transfer form. He said Zhou was then passed back to Hong Kong immigration authorities, who handed him over to the mainland after he declined to reveal his true identity. Another of Zhou's lawyers, Mo Shaoping, said there were jurisdictional concerns about the case, because the alleged fraud was committed in Hong Kong and the alleged victim was Hong Kong-based Hang Seng Bank. "Firstly, it has to do with the location where the alleged crime was committed," Mo said. "It was allegedly committed in Hong Kong and Sichuan has no jurisdiction over that. Hong Kong is a special administrative region. Under 'one country, two systems' none of the mainland judicial authorities have the right to handle a Hong Kong lawsuit." […] Zhou's human rights had also been violated, with Shenzhen authorities having detained him for seven months without notifying his family in the US or Sichuan, he said […] Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan believes Zhou's sentence is related to his background as a student leader during the Tiananmen protests in 1989. Ho, a member of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, said the Hong Kong government had not provided details of Zhou's case, including his 48 hours of questioning by Hong Kong police, even though he had asked for such information months ago on behalf of Zhou's legal team […] Zhou, from Sichuan, captured global attention in 1989 by kneeling on the steps of the Great Hall of the People beside Tiananmen Square with two other students and pleading for top Beijing leaders to acknowledge student calls for political reform and the stamping out of corruption. Zhou managed to get out of the mainland in 1993 and moved to the United States. He returned in 1998 to visit his elderly parents after his mother fell ill, and was sentenced to three years in a labour camp in Mianyang, Sichuan. His name made headlines again after Hong Kong immigration authorities handed him over to Shenzhen authorities in September 2008 for using the phony passport bearing the name of Wang Xingxiang. The name was a pseudonym used by Zhang Hongbao, founder of a mainland qi gong organisation known as Zhong Gong, to open bank accounts overseas. Zhang was wanted by mainland police for rape, illegally collecting money and other charges from the early 1990s. He fled to the United States in 2000 and died in a car accident on July 31, 2006. Zhou's girlfriend said he denied the fraud charge and that he was the victim of bad luck and mistaken identity. She said he had obtained the fake passport through an immigration agency - a practice common among exiled dissidents, many of whom found themselves stateless when Beijing refused to renew their passports […] Chen said Zhou had decided to appeal. ^ top ^

Gang boss and his aide executed in Chongqing (SCMP)
2010-01-20
A triad boss and his top aide were executed in Chongqing yesterday, hours after the mainland's top court endorsed their death penalties […] Yang Tianqing was the first triad kingpin put to death since a crackdown on the city's rampant underworld activities was launched in June. Fourteen have been arrested. The executions took place within hours of the Supreme People's Court's decision to uphold the death sentences for Yang and his right-hand man, Liu Chenghu, yesterday morning […] Yang, 36, was convicted of a series of crimes, ranging from illegally injuring others and kidnapping to loan-sharking and illegal debt-collecting, after organising and leading an unnamed triad-like organisation since 2005, the report said. He was sentenced to death by the Chongqing No 1 Intermediate People's Court on October 21, the same day the court sentenced Liu to death for participating in a triad-like organisation, murder and illegally injuring others. Both men lodged appeals against the first trial, but they were rejected by the high court in Chongqing on December 14 […] In an apparent attempt to have his capital punishment overthrown, Yang denied in his appeal that he was a top figure in the crime syndicate he belonged to […] Instead, he named several triad bosses above him and said they were all under the protection of Wen Qiang, the former deputy head of Chongqing's police force, the report added. "I'm by no means a triad boss. Instead, I'm merely a member of a triad-style underworld society," Yang said. "They threatened to kill all members of my family if I refused to do what they ordered me to do." Chen Ming and Wang Xingping - two top crime syndicate figures detained in Chongqing before the crackdown was launched in June - were executed late last year. The high-profile triad crackdown waged by Bo Xilai, Chongqing's municipal party secretary, has won applause across the mainland, especially from internet users, despite widespread criticism of a lack of transparency in the process. One of the most hotly debated issues has been the detention of Beijing-based lawyer Li Zhuang, who was jailed for 2-1/2 years after being accused by his client, another triad boss, of attempting to falsify testimony. ^ top ^

China to maintain low birth rate: Vice Premier (Xinhua)
2010-01-20
Vice Premier Li Keqiang said on Tuesday China would continue to pursue a low birth rate while actively coping with problems such as sex ratio imbalance and the aging of population. Li made the remarks when inspecting the National Population and Family Planning Commission. China still faced pressure from population growth and "new situations" had emerged in population structure as its industrialization and urbanization continued to proceed, Li said. Efforts were needed to achieve reasonable distribution and orderly flow of population, he said, adding population and family planning authorities should put people first and better serve people at grassroots communities. He asked population and family planning authorities to provide better services for urban and rural residents, especially farmers and floating population. Official figures show the country's birth rate went down from more than 1.8 percent in 1978 to around 1.2 percent in 2007. China's family-planning policy was introduced in the 1970s to rein in its surging population by encouraging late marriages and late childbearing and limiting most urban couples to one child and most rural couples to two children. It's estimated that without the policy, the country's population would be 400 million more than the current 1.3 billion people, according to the National Population and Family Planning Commission. ^ top ^

China's former supreme court VP gets life imprisonment (Xinhua)
2010-01-20
Former Vice President of China's Supreme People's Court (SPC) Huang Songyou was sentenced Tuesday to life imprisonment for taking bribes and embezzlement. Huang, 52, was convicted of taking more than 3.9 million yuan (about 574,000 U.S. dollars) in bribes from 2005 to 2008 by abusing his post as SPC vice president, said the Intermediate People's Court of Langfang City in north China's Hebei Province. He was found to have embezzled 1.2 million yuan of public funds in 1997, when he was president of the Intermediate People's Court of Zhanjiang, a city in south China's Guangdong Province, according to the verdict. The court ordered Huang be stripped of his political rights for life and all of Huang's properties be confiscated for the crimes. Court hearings for Huang's case began Thursday. The court said Huang had voluntarily confessed to the crimes during investigation and the majority of money taken illegally had been retrieved. "But as a chief justice, Huang knowingly violated the law by trading power for money and taking a hefty sum of bribes, which has produced a bad impact on the society, and should be punished severely," said the court verdict. A native of Guangdong, Huang became SPC vice president in 2002. He was removed from the post on Oct. 28, 2008 by Chinese lawmakers at a legislative session and stripped of his CPC membership. He is the first chief judge to have been removed for law and discipline violations in the history of the SPC […] It is not immediately known whether Huang will appeal his case. ^ top ^

No Mr Gay China for world final (SCMP)
2010-01-20
Hopes of seeing the first mainland Chinese compete for Mr Gay World next month in Oslo, Norway, have been dashed after organisers of Mr Gay China decided not to send a contestant to the event, apparently due to pressure from authorities. Ben Zhang, co-organiser of Mr Gay China, said yesterday they were unlikely to restart the pageant, which was closed down by police before it could begin on Friday, in public or private in the foreseeable future. Organisers had initially planned to select privately a candidate from the eight contestants. Zhang would not rule out a gay pageant at some time in the future, but his words implied pressure from authorities. "It's definite there will be no contestant to represent mainland China in the Mr Gay World competition this time," he said. "Who would dare to go?" Beijing police shut down the Mr Gay China competition just before it was due to start on Friday without an explanation, though mainland media quoted Chaoyang district police as saying the organisers had cancelled the event voluntarily. Zhang said the organisers were told they had not obtained the permits necessary to host the pageant, but publicly they had to make the excuse that they could not proceed because the trophies were not ready. Associated Press quoted Tore Aasheim, executive producer of Worldwide Mr Gay, as saying Chinese organisers told him mainland officials had confiscated their passports and threatened to strip any attendees of citizenship if they travelled to Oslo, but Zhang denied that. Homosexuality remains a sensitive topic in China, with many gays staying in the closet for fear of discrimination. The mainland's first gay pageant, which received great exposure, particularly in international media, had caused discomfort in some quarters of the public for "bringing shame upon the country". Aasheim was quoted as saying he was "saddened and surprised that the Chinese authorities took such steps... China once again shows that they don't honour human rights". The last-minute cancellation of the event before a throng of reporters, including many from international media, was perplexing as both state-run Xinhua English and the China Daily gave it extensive coverage. Xinhua English even followed up with a story on the cancellation […] Professor Zhang Beichuan of Qingdao University, who specialises in gay cultural studies, said cancellation was the result of a communications breakdown between organisers and authorities. ^ top ^

Seven Chinese cities to launch smoke-free program (People's Daily Online)
2010-01-19
Seven Chinese cities are campaigning to start a tobacco-free program to prevent spreading threats of passive smoking, especially to pregnant women and children, health officials and experts said Monday. Experts and representatives of cities of Shanghai, Wuxi, Ningbo, Changsha, Luoyang, Tangshan and Qingdao, gathered in Beijing Monday for a three-day workshop to present their plans for the program. Smoke-free means no smoking is allowed in any indoor area at any time, without exception. Luoyang, Changsha and Shanghai raised their plans for community-based intervention of secondhand smoking among pregnant and infants, while the other cities would start smoke-free policies at schools, hospitals and offices […] Shanghai, China's financial center with a population of over 17 million, is aimed at reducing the rate of pregnant women's exposure to secondhand smoke by 10 percent, said Li Xinjian, a Shanghai Health Bureau official […] "By avoiding secondhand smoke at home which is the biggest smoke exposure, we will continue to raise smokers' awareness of the harm or even help them quit smoking," Li said. The program was sponsored by the Emory Global Health Institute (GHI) of the United States, and ThinkTank Research Center for Health Development (TTH), a nonprofit institution in China. China has more than 300 million smokers, the world's largest, with more than two trillion cigarettes sold in the country every year. More than 500 million people are exposed to secondhand smoke, mostly at home, in public places and offices. The United States spent 50 years to reach its goal for smoke-free cities, while Hong Kong used 20 years to do so. "It will not be overnight for China to realize the goal," said Jeffrey Koplan, director of GHI. "But it can happen, and it is just a matter of how quickly it happens," he said. Yang Gonghuan, deputy director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, warned that the non-tobacco efforts would arouse resistance, for example, from tobacco industry and retailers. China signed the UN Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2003 and the country's top legislature ratified it in 2005. The country's health authorities have asked all medical administrations, hospitals and disease control centers to impose total smoking bans by 2011. Shanghai's 2010 World Expo turned down a 200-million-yuan (29.3 million U.S. dollars) sponsorship deal from a tobacco company in July 2009. Guangzhou City in south China also promised to hold a smoke-free Asian Games this year. ^ top ^

Fujian party official jailed for life (SCMP)
2010-01-19
A top party official in Fujian province was jailed for life yesterday for taking more than 8 million yuan in bribes, state media reported. The Nanjing Intermediate People's Court heard that Chen Shaoyong, 54, the former general secretary of the Communist Party's Fujian provincial committee, had used his positions between 1992 and 2008 to help 11 companies and 15 individuals succeed in business or get promotions in exchange for up to 8.19 million yuan in bribes, Xinhua reported. Chen was party secretary of the city of Ningde in Fujian before becoming general secretary of the provincial party committee - a vice-ministerial-level post. The report did not say why the case was handled by a court in Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu province. Chen was also said to have led a decadent lifestyle, with several mistresses. The report said the court had handed down the relatively lenient sentence after considering Chen's spontaneous confession to a large number of crimes that the investigative task force had been unaware of, as well as the fact that he had returned all of the money he had amassed illicitly to the authorities. All Chen's assets were confiscated, and he was deprived of his political rights. Once regarded as a rising political star, Chen was promoted to the position of Fujian provincial party secretary of the Communist Youth League - considered to be the political power base of party general secretary Hu Jintao - in 1987 when only 32. Overseas reports attributed Chen's rapid climb up the political ladder to his strong connections with Jia Qinglin, chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. From 1991 to 1996, Jia was Fujian governor and then the provincial party secretary. Chen worked under Jia before Jia was appointed acting Beijing mayor in 1996. ^ top ^

Party chief held after employing thugs in fatal land grab (SCMP)
2010-01-19
The party chief of a Jiangsu village has been detained after hiring more than 200 armed thugs to forcibly evict farmers from their land to make way for a petrochemical factory, state media reported yesterday. At least one villager was killed and another seriously injured during the land grab on January 7, triggering a protest by 1,000 people after officials used police to take away the dead body and cover up the death. Another 29 suspects, mostly thugs hired by party chief Sun Xiaojun, had also been arrested over the violent clashes, Xinhua reported. Farmers from Hewan village in Pizhou complained they had often been forced to transfer their farmland to Sun for compensation well below the market rate, with the profits going into the pockets of developers and the local government. They said Sun had illegally requisitioned more than 2,500 mu (167 hectares) of land since 2003. Some 100 villagers staged a sit-in protest on their land when Sun wanted to requisition 300 mu of the village's remaining 500 mu on January 7. Farmer Li Dongdong, 22, was stabbed to death by thugs, while Li Weinan, 21, was stabbed in the chest and suffered serious lung injuries. Villagers said they had reported the clash to police twice, but officers had only given a warning to the mob before leaving. The next day, 200 police were sent to take Li's body from a mortuary, saying the authorities wanted to conduct an autopsy. Police allegedly opened the mortuary door by force and used tear gas to drive away Li's family after they rejected the autopsy. A few hours afterwards, more than 1,000 angry villagers took to the streets, staging two days of protests to demand justice over the fatality and continued land requisitions. The village has a history of trouble. In 2007 and 2008, villagers smashed factories and police vehicles during demonstrations over land requisitions […] Farmer Wang Shaoying, 72, whose family earned 3,000 yuan a year from their land, said they were forced to live on compensation of 1,000 yuan a year after they were evicted by the government in 2007. "They can't take away our land, we need the land to earn a bare living," she said. Other villagers complained that Sun had sold their land to real estate developers for 170,000 yuan per mu but had given them just 30,000 yuan in one-off compensation. Confiscations of homes and land by officials trigger a large number of deadly protests every year. In November, a Chengdu woman set herself on fire in such a protest and later died in hospital. ^ top ^

Case shaping up to be Beijing's costliest public-funds scandal (SCMP)
2010-01-18
One of Beijing's biggest cases in recent years involving embezzlement of public funds has been transferred to the city's municipal prosecutors for further investigation, state media reported yesterday. Liu Linxiang, an official in charge of the budget at a state institution responsible for providing financial aid to millions of farmers, is accused of embezzling nearly 400 million yuan in agricultural subsidies during his tenure. The case is shaping up to be the biggest scandal in the capital city in terms of the amount of public funds being embezzled, The Beijing News reported yesterday. Liu, who worked at the Beijing branch of the All China Federation of Supply and Marketing Co-operatives, allegedly siphoned off 396 million yuan in government funds earmarked for the countryside and transferred the money to a company run by his friends, the paper reported. It did not name the company. His case surfaced two years ago and he was dismissed in November 2007. The communist party's anti-graft bureau in Beijing had been investigating his case before transferring it to the municipal prosecutors. Most of the stolen funds have been recovered, the report added. But law experts say he faces a heavy jail sentence because the public funds he embezzled were rural subsidies - the generous provision of which is the centrepiece of the leadership's rural policies. "It seriously affected the timelines for providing rural loans to millions of peasants," the report quoted an unnamed senior rural official as saying. Last year, the central government provided an unprecedented amount of subsidies to lenders in rural areas in order to unleash the growth potential in the country's vast, yet underdeveloped, countryside. The sweeteners, aimed at encouraging lending to farmers, came at a time when Beijing was keen to cushion the impact of slumping exports by stoking domestic demand […] The countryside has been struggling to obtain capital since an industry revamp in the late 1990s forced most state banks to retreat, leaving behind only the Agricultural Bank of China and rural credit co-operatives at one stage. Lenders that stayed on have limited lending because of concerns about bad debts and low profits. They also charge rates as high as four times the central bank's benchmark rates. ^ top ^

Tight security as dissidents mark death of Zhao Ziyang (SCMP)
2010-01-18
Beijing stepped up security measures and scrutiny on dissidents over the weekend as mourners paid tribute yesterday to deposed reformer Zhao Ziyang. On the fifth anniversary of Zhao's death, a score of dissidents were barred from going to his former home in Fuqiang hutong in central Beijing. They said they had been told a few days ago that visiting the home for memorial purposes was strictly forbidden this year. Ding Zilin - a founder of Tiananmen Mothers, a group of parents who lost their children during the 1989 crackdown - said a dozen plain-clothes officers from the Public Security Bureau and officers from the National Security Bureau had started around-the-clock surveillance on her and her husband since Saturday. "There are two groups of them. One group is now stationed downstairs in my building, the other group is guarding the entrance of my residential compound," the retired professor said. A regular mourner on the anniversary of Zhao's death, Ding said she had been told once over the phone and once in person by authorities that paying her tribute was not allowed this year. "Maybe they don't want his place to be crammed with mourners on the fifth anniversary," she said. "They can stop us from setting foot out of our homes, and they can certainly make sure that none of us from Tiananmen Mothers will show up at Zhao's place today, but they can't stop us from paying our respects to him from our hearts." […] Zhao, a supporter of bold economic reforms who was purged for opposing the military crackdown on student demonstrators in June 1989, was widely respected although he was put under house arrest until his death in 2005. Zhang Xianling, another of the Tiananmen Mothers, said her home had been guarded by two plain-clothes officers since Friday night. "We are not allowed to go out today, but I heard that a lot of people still managed to pay their tributes at Zhao's place," she said. Other dissidents who received similar warnings included Bao Tong, Zhao's top aide, and Chen Ziming, an intellectual labelled a "black hand", or sinister conspirator, of the Tiananmen movement by the government. Despite Beijing's attempts to rein in public condolences for the former party reformer during the run-up to his death anniversary, dissenting voices still managed to get out, specifically in Hong Kong. Ten days ago, a book by a close ally of Zhao was published in the city. In the book, Du Daozheng said the former party leader attributed the obstruction of nascent political reform to his successors, saying it put China onto a path of corruption. ^ top ^

 

Shanghai

Expo to open, close with Olympic-style ceremonies (SCMP)
2010-01-19
China will seek the international spotlight again this year, with organisers of the Shanghai World Expo gearing up for grand, Olympic-style opening and closing ceremonies. Yang Xiong, Shanghai's vice-mayor and deputy director of the Shanghai Expo executive committee, said preparations for this year's event had entered the final stages and everything was running to schedule, 103 days ahead of the opening […] Organisers would stage an opening ceremony on the night of April 30 and a closing ceremony on October 31. He said the ceremonies would reflect the character of the World Expo, instead of just copying the ceremonies for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The Games' opening ceremony made a splash internationally and was hailed as the most spectacular ceremony in Olympic history. Yang said the construction of most pavilions was nearly completed. A total of 192 nations, 50 international organisations and all the mainland's 31 province-level regions, along with the Chinese communities of Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, would take part in the event. "The design of the ceremonial events is something different from the Olympic ones and they have been curtailed to meet the World Expo's characteristics and meet Shanghai's real conditions," Yang said, without elaboration. Municipal officials pledged to stage an environmentally friendly event, with measures to reduce carbon emissions. In recent years, Shanghai has spent huge amounts on infrastructure to meet the challenge of hosting the city's largest international event. Battered by a sharp slowdown in foreign trade, the city is banking on the World Expo to attract foreign business and visitors to boost growth. Its economic growth last year is forecast to have been below the national average of more than 8 per cent. The city government is hoping that hosting the World Expo will boost growth this year, just as hosting the 2008 summer Olympics gave a big boost to the capital's economy. The organisers forecast that between 70 million and 100 million people will visit the Expo site - and as of Sunday, more than 18 million tickets had been sold. In a trip to inspect preparations at the weekend, President Hu Jintao called on the nation to support the host city and help make the Shanghai World Expo a success. ^ top ^

 

Guangdong

Draft sex equality law proposes leave for dads (SCMP)
2010-01-22
New dads in Shenzhen could soon get 30 days of paid paternity leave under a draft regulation that aims to promote gender equality. The city's Women's Federation has drawn up a draft regulation, the first of its kind on the mainland, that is expected to be included in Shenzhen's legislative plans this year […] If the bill is passed, Shenzhen will be the first city to have detailed rules protecting women against gender discrimination in the workplace as well as domestic and sexual violence. Fathers will get leave to be with their wives and newborns. The new provision for fathers was welcomed by Liu Fang, a female lawyer in Shenzhen. "Currently, gender equality in the country's laws is mainly focused on public affairs. No laws have specified men's rights for paternity leave. Shenzhen's move indicates that people have developed a positive attitude toward men's involvement," she said. Thirty-six countries, mostly in Europe, allow leave for both parents, according to Xinhua. In the mainland, some areas offer time off for new dads. The duration usually ranges from three to 10 days. Such holidays exist only in regional law and only as an addition to the country's birth control policy. But the draft's main focus is on gender equality for women. Under it, a female victim of violence by a partner can seek court protection; female retirees will be guaranteed fair compensation for the smaller size of their pensions, since the law requires women to retire at age 55, compared with 60 for men; and women will even be provided with more toilet stalls than men are. The draft also requires that the government make public policy from a gender perspective, which would help prevent gender discrimination in government regulations. It also says the government should consider gender when distributing resources in its budget, so as to ensure equality. Though details of the draft have yet to be completely made public, the concepts of including gender considerations in public policy decisions and auditing to ensure a more equal local distribution of resources are pioneering ones. The country has so far implemented a law only for the protection of the rights and interests of women. It came into effect in 1993. ^ top ^

 

Xinjiang

Foreign calls ban lifted in Xinjiang (SCMP)
2010-01-21
Beijing yesterday said it had lifted its ban on international phone calls in restive Xinjiang, further easing restrictions on communications triggered by deadly ethnic unrest more than six months ago. "Xinjiang's international long-distance call services were restored at midnight today," a spokesman for the regional government, who refused to be named, said. The end to the ban came just days after authorities restored text messaging services in the troubled region. Internet access has also been partly reintroduced. "Some websites, such as Sina and Sohu have been reopened. Other websites should reopen very soon," the spokesman said. "At present, it is still not possible to go onto foreign websites." Riots erupted in Xinjiang's capital, Urumqi, on July 5, pitting mainly Muslim Uygurs against the majority Han. A total of 197 people were killed, according to official data, in the worst ethnic violence on the mainland in decades. Authorities quickly reacted by restricting the flow of information going in and out of the region. The government says terrorists, separatists and religious extremists used the internet, telephones and mobile text messages to spread rumours and hatred as the July violence erupted. But residents in Xinjiang complained that they remained isolated from the outside world due to the long-lasting internet and phone cuts. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Pan-democrats say resignation plan to start next Tuesday (SCMP)
2010-01-22
The Civic Party and the League of Social Democrats on Thursday announced five lawmakers would resign from the Legislative Council next Tuesday to trigger by-elections and force a "de-facto referendum" on democracy. The five lawmakers include two from the Civic Party, Alan Leong Kah-kit from the Kowloon East geographical constituency, and Tanya Chan for Hong Kong Island. The three lawmakers from the league are “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung for the New Territories East constituency; Raymond Wong Yuk-man for Kowloon East; and Albert Chan Wai-yip for New Territories West. They plan to organise a public campaign on the by-elections to be held at Chater Garden next Wednesday. Civic Party chairwoman Audrey Eu Yuet-mee told reporters on Thursday the plan was in accordance with the Basic Law – Hong Kong's mini-constitution. “In fact, Basic Law Articles 45 and 68 states the ultimate goal of Hong Kong is to have universal suffrage,” the former barrister and head of the Bar Association said. “What we are doing through the de-facto referendum is to fight for universal suffrage. So, clearly this is in the spirit of the Basic Law,” she said. Eu reiterated that their ultimate aim was to achieve universal suffrage and abolish functional constituencies. Under the plan, one pan-democrat lawmaker will resign from each of the five geographical constituencies. This is to create a de-facto referendum. They hope Hong Kong could acheive universal suffrage by 2012. If that date is not possible, they want the central government to say when Hong Kong can have it. Their goal is to elect the chief executive by universal suffrage no later than 2017, and the Legislative Council no later than 2020. However, the plan is not recognised by the government and some other parties. Tsang Hin-chi, a pro-Beijing businessman and former member of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress said on Thursday the plan was “brainless”. He said it would not benefit Hong Kong. ^ top ^

Villagers rethink after rail vote dooms homes (SCMP)
2010-01-18
With emotions running high after Tsoi Yuen Tsuen was dealt the death blow by Saturday's Legislative Council approval of funding for the high-speed rail link, villagers are now having to turn their minds to the inevitable - signing up for compensation and deciding where to move. A small hard core still plan to refuse the compensation offer and continue protesting against the railway and their village's demise […] Au Yeung, who has lived in the village since she was born about 50 years ago, said she and other villagers would have to start discussing where they would live. "From the very beginning, I have never thought about accepting the compensation because it's impossible to find a living environment as good as this one... and money can't buy the friendship we have with our neighbours," she said. "The best option is that all villagers can still live together. I don't care how big our flat is." […] More than 80 per cent of the village's 150 households have signed for compensation, the government says. The villagers are not the only ones assessing their positions after Legco's approval of HK$66.9 billion for construction of the Hong Kong-Guangzhou Express Rail Link; the government and opponents of the line are also rethinking their strategies. Secretary for Transport and Housing Eva Cheng was considering addressing protesters' concerns in an online forum, a day after hundreds of protesters tried to storm the Legco building to talk to her, a government spokesman said. At the same time, activists opposed to the railway vowed to continue their support for the Tsoi Yuen villagers and said they planned to draw on communities affected by the link's construction to step up action. But in Tsoi Yuen village yesterday, many villagers were feeling crushed. Yip Shui-lai, 71, said he was feeling miserable and upset that his home would be demolished - but he would not give in easily […] Cheng said the deadline for villagers to accept the compensation package would be extended by a month to the end of next month. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Taiwan air force plane makes stopover in US (SCMP)
2010-01-22
The United States allowed a Taiwanese military plane to transit its territory for the first time in 30 years, and gave the go-ahead without first consulting Beijing. The cargo plane made a stop inside US territory while carrying relief supplies to quake-ravaged Haiti, according to the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto US embassy. "The United States approved Taiwan's request for a cargo plane to land and refuel in US territory in order to reach Haiti as soon as possible," Christopher Kavanagh, an official at the institute, said. The decision immediately drew criticism from Beijing. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu yesterday called on countries not to make military contacts with Taiwan. "China resolutely opposes any country, including the United States, to have any military contacts with Taiwan," he said. Kavanagh said they felt there was no need to discuss the issue with Beijing beforehand because the approval was granted on humanitarian grounds. Kavanagh declined to be specific about when or where the cargo plane had made the stop. The Taipei-based United Daily News identified the aircraft as a C-130 transport plane from the island's air force and said the stop was for refuelling. It was the first US transit by a Taiwanese military plane since Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, according to the paper. Taiwan's defence and foreign ministries declined comment. The approval came before Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou leaves for the inauguration of Honduran president-elect Porfirio Lobo Sosa next week, with a transit stop in San Francisco. Ma's planned stopover has touched off anger in Beijing, which has warned the US against having any official contact with Ma during his brief stay in California. ^ top ^

Taiwan hopes to sign trade pact with mainland by May (SCMP)
2010-01-21
Taiwan will kick off long-awaited talks with the mainland on a semi-free trade pact later this month in a bid to sign a deal by May that would offset the brunt of an Asean-Beijing trade bloc. However, economic officials and scholars insist that even if a deal is struck in May, it would allow for access to the market in a piecemeal manner instead of free-for-all. Dr Lai Shin-yuan - chairwoman of the Mainland Affairs Council, which charts cross-strait policy in Taiwan - confirmed yesterday that the initial round of talks would be held before the end of this month. "It would be procedural talks rather than substantial negotiations, which would be held only after discussions of all relevant procedural issues are completed," she said. Taiwanese Premier Wu Den-yih originally said the initial round of talks was scheduled for yesterday, but economic and mainland affairs officials said they were still waiting for the response from the mainland over when to hold the preliminaries. The Taiwanese media reported that a political problem was the major reason for the mainland's hesitation in holding the meeting yesterday, as Taiwan wanted its vice-minister of the economy to lead the talks. hile Lai declined to comment on the reported attempt by the island to highlight the government role in the talks, cross-strait experts said Taipei was also cautious over Beijing's possible attempt to use the deal for political gain. "Beijing is eager to hold political dialogues with Taiwan, hoping this could be done before mainland President Hu Jintao retires in 2012, in order to leave behind a legacy," political science professor George Tsai Wei of Chinese Cultural University in Taipei said. Beijing set a goal of holding political talks with Taiwan after the two sides entered into close economic relations with each other. The two sides resumed contact shortly after President Ma Ying-jeou took office in May 2008. Since then, they have signed a series of agreements on direct transport, tourism and other non-political co-operation. Tsai said the semi-free trade pact, or the Economic Co-operation Framework Agreement (ECFA), which Taiwan wants to sign with the mainland, could help achieve the mainland's political goal. Sensing the political objective of the mainland, Taiwan's pro-independence camp has repeatedly voiced its opposition to the pact, saying that besides bringing economic disaster to Taiwan, the pact would eventually lead to cross-strait political integration. They have cited the expected dumping of mainland products in Taiwan, capital outflow and huge job losses. But Taiwanese officials and some economists said if the pact was not signed, Taiwan could become marginalised now that the mainland has already formed a trade bloc with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean). "That impact would become even more serious if Japan and South Korea join the trade bloc in the next few years," said Liu Da-nien, a senior researcher at Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research. He was referring to the 5 to 15 per cent tariff rates imposed on Taiwanese products by the mainland and the even keener competition the island is going to face after South Korea and Japan join the Asean-Beijing trade bloc. The two countries, especially South Korea, are the major competitors of Taiwan in terms of technology and information products, which are the island's major exports. Lai's deputy, Kao Chang, said there was no need for the public to be wary of the pact, because it would not create full market access for the mainland as a free trade pact does. "The ECFA is like building a house. You first build the structure and then decorate it later," he said. ^ top ^

Top prosecutor quits (SCMP)
2010-01-20
Taiwan's prosecutor general resigned after being impeached over his handling of the corruption investigation into former president Chen Shui-bian, officials said yesterday. Chen Tsung-ming was held responsible for failing to prevent Huang Fang-yen, the former leader's family doctor and a suspect in the case, from fleeing abroad, said an official at the top government watchdog, the Control Yuan. He was also blamed for not coming clean about privately meeting Huang, then justice minister Shih Mao-lin, land developers and media commentators on various occasions, the official said. "The Control Yuan decided to impeach Chen for damaging the judicial credibility and the government's image," the official said. His resignation would be reviewed by President Ma Ying-jeou, the justice ministry said. Justice minister Wang Ching-feng apologised to the public. The case will be sent to a special disciplinary commission, which will decide a penalty and could order the dismissal of the prosecutor general, according to the official. ^ top ^

Taipei leads Beijing in delivering aid to Haitians (SCMP)
2010-01-19
Taipei is leading Beijing in aid to quake-stricken Haiti, sending US$5 million to help a diplomatic ally that Beijing may one day hope to woo, officials said yesterday. The two sides have long-competed for international recognition, and Haiti is one of only 23 mostly small, impoverished nations that still has diplomatic relations with Taiwan. Beijing is pledging a total of 30 million yuan in aid, and on Saturday sent a plane with US$2 million in medical supplies, tents and clothing after last Tuesday's magnitude-7 earthquake wrecked the Caribbean nation's capital Port-au-Prince. Taipei has declined to work jointly with Beijing on relief efforts in Haiti, the island's Central News Agency reported. Shen Zhiliang, deputy director general of the Latin American and Caribbean department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing, asked whether the two were working together, said: "As far as I know, no. But we hope the rescue teams from both sides can strengthen co-operation, to spread the humanitarian spirit together." The two sides have long competed for global recognition, sometimes using "chequebook diplomacy" to woo aid-dependent nations. Beijing still seeks to restrict Taiwan's world presence, though tension has eased since Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou took office in 2008. Ma, beset by low opinion poll numbers, may deliver quake aid personally in a visit this month to Haiti's neighbour the Dominican Republic, a staging ground for rescuers, in a move sure to anger Beijing. "He's already down in a trough, so anything will pull him up," said Lin Chong-pin, strategic studies professor at Tamkang University in Taipei. "This is not political. It's humanitarian, so the chances of Beijing blocking it are small." Beijing also said it was considering evacuating its nationals from Haiti, and made a similar offer to people from Taiwan. "We will help them evacuate at their request," Wei Wei, director of the Foreign Ministry's consular department, said yesterday […] Taiwan evacuated its first batch of residents on Saturday, including the spouses of diplomats, technical personnel and businessmen. Chinese rescuers found the body of the head of the United Nations peacekeeping forces in Haiti, where eight Chinese peacekeepers were among those killed when the mission headquarters collapsed. They retrieved the bodies of Hedi Annabi, the UN secretary general's special representative to Haiti, and his deputy, Luiz Carlos da Costa. Taiwan's ambassador to Haiti was injured during the quake, and its embassy destroyed […]. ^ top ^

 

Tibet

Nepal says it may deport 10 Tibetans held for illegal entry (SCMP)
2010-01-18
Ten Tibetans arrested for illegally entering Nepal might be deported, an official said yesterday, suggesting a hardening of policy towards those fleeing across the border from neighbouring China. Hundreds of Tibetans make the dangerous journey into the Himalayan country every year on their way to India to meet their exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. Nepal, already home to about 20,000 exiled Tibetans, has traditionally allowed new arrivals to transit through the country, but has recently come under pressure from Beijing to clamp down on demonstrations against China. The head of the government immigration department said he wanted to ensure the Tibetans would not be involved in "anti-China activities". "We have started questioning the Tibetans who snuck into Nepal. Deporting them could be an option. We have not decided yet," said Madhav Prasad Regmi. "We will first investigate the reasons for their illegal entry into Nepal. We want to make sure that they will not be involved in anti-China activities." Beijing says Tibet has historically been an integral part of Chinese civilisation. But the Tibetan government-in-exile says Tibet was annexed by China in 1951. Tibetans began arriving in Nepal in large numbers in 1959, when the Dalai Lama fled after a failed uprising. Those who arrived before 1990 were given permission to stay, and many have integrated successfully. But in recent months the exiles say their lives have become increasingly difficult as Nepal - reportedly under heavy pressure from Beijing - sought to restrict their activities. Sandwiched between India and China, Nepal has upheld Beijing's "One China" policy. Last month, Nepali Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal assured his Chinese counterpart during an official visit to Beijing that his government would not allow Nepal to be used for anti-China activities. The eight Tibetan men and two women were arrested near the border on Saturday night and had been handed over to the immigration department for questioning, police said yesterday. ^ top ^

 

Economy

China GDP growth hits 8.7pc, becomes world's second largest economy (SCMP)
2010-01-22
China easily beat its last year growth target after a blistering performance in the fourth quarter that forms a powerful springboard for it to jump over Japan this year to become the world's second-largest economy. Gross domestic product expanded 10.7 per cent between October and December, compared with a year earlier, below market expectations of 10.9 per cent but up sharply from a revised 9.1 per cent in the third quarter. “Obviously the month-on-month growth momentum is very strong,” said Xing Ziqiang, an economist at CICC in Beijing. “So I think the chances for us to see an interest rate rise in the first quarter are increasing.” For all of the year, the economy grew 8.7 per cent. That handily exceeded the official target of 8 per cent, a goal deemed the minimum needed to preserve social stability and one that some sceptics dismissed as fanciful well into last year. Initial market reaction to the figures was muted. Shanghai shares were up 0.3 per cent in mid-morning. The fourth-quarter flourish was flattered by a low base of comparison in the same period a year earlier, when China's export-orientated economy was dragged down by the global financial crisis, costing more than 20 million migrant workers their jobs. But the double-digit growth is also testimony to the government's rapid response to the downturn, which reached its peak in the second quarter. A 4 trillion yuan ($585 billion) fiscal stimulus package was complemented by an unprecedented surge in lending by the nation's predominantly state-owned banks, ensuring that China was the first major economy to recover decisively from the credit crunch. Indeed, banks have been lending so freely of late that policymakers have turned their attention to nipping inflation in the bud. The National Bureau of Statistics […] also reported that consumer prices rose 1.9 per cent in the year to December, a marked acceleration from November's reading of 0.6 per cent. Alarmed by a new burst of credit at the start of January, the central bank last week increased the proportion of deposits that banks must hold in reserve, rather than lending out, and followed through this week by ordering some of them to sharply curtail lending for the rest of the month. After Thursday's batch of generally strong data, economists said it was only a matter of time before Beijing tightened monetary policy further […] So far China has resisted international pressure to let the yuan resume its rise after an 18-month pause, but expectations are growing that Beijing will relent in coming months. “Yuan appreciation is likely to resume in March or April, though the rise will be gradual, say about 3-5 per cent a year,” said Xing at CICC. A stronger exchange rate would damp down inflation and encourage domestic demand, thus helping to rebalance the Chinese as well as the global economy. China has already taken a slew of steps to spur spending, including subsidies for rural buyers of domestic appliances and tax breaks on fuel-efficient cars, a measure that helped China to overtake the United States last year as the world's largest car market […] Growth of 8.7 per cent last year fell short of the previous year's rate of 9.6 per cent, but economists polled by Reuters expect a rebound this year to around 9.5 per cent. That would be enough for China to relegate Japan to number three in the world economic rankings. Goldman Sachs expects China to eclipse the United States as the biggest economy in the world by 2027. ^ top ^

US launches first trade probe of 2010 against China (China Daily)
2010-01-22
Washington - The US government will investigate charges that Chinese companies are selling oil well drill pipe in the United States at unfairly low prices, the Commerce Department said on Thursday. It is the first US trade probe of the year against China after about a dozen in 2009. The proliferation of cases in recent years has strained US-China trade ties. The United Steelworkers union and a group of companies from Texas and Illinois have asked for anti-dumping duties ranging from 429 percent to 496 percent. They also want additional countervailing duties to offset alleged government subsidies […] The investigation covers heavyweight drill pipe and drill collars of iron or steel used to drill oil wells. The United States imported $194.6 million of the drill pipe from China in 2008, up from $107.1 million in 2006. Trade lawyers expect a steady stream of cases against China this year because of an expected increase in imports as the United States recovers from its worst recession in decades. The United States already has 82 antidumping duty orders in place against a variety of Chinese goods and another 12 countervailing duty orders. Meanwhile, several cases begun in 2009 will be working their way to conclusion in coming months. That includes a record case involving imports of $2.74 billion of Chinese-made steel tubing and casing used in oil and natural gas production. In the drill pipe probe, the US International Trade Commission has to decide by mid-February whether there is a reasonable indication that US companies have been injured or threatened with injury by the imports […] The United Steelworkers union has been a driving force behind many of the trade cases against China, which they accuse of stealing American jobs by undercutting US prices […]. ^ top ^

China credit tightening drags down Wall Street (People's Daily Online)
2010-01-21
The Dow suffered its worst drop of 2010 on Wednesday as U.S. stocks succumbed to increasing fears that China's curbs on bank lending might affect a nascent global economic recovery, traders said. Rumors have run in the past days that Beijing allegedly ordered its major banks to curb lending over the rest of this month after an early burst of credit. On Wednesday, a Hong Kong radio program quoted a Chinese banker as saying the People's Bank of China reportedly had decided to raise the benchmark interest rates as soon as this Friday. The news sent Chinese stocks in Shanghai and Hong Kong into a dive. When the Wall Street opened, signals that China may restrain its economic expansion hurt shares of natural resource companies including Alcoa and big manufacturers like Caterpillar. The Dow Jones industrial average tumbled 122.28 points, or 1.14 percent, to end at 10,603.15 […] "This is really a direct result of concerns around the tightening of credit in China," Peter Kenny, managing director at Knight Equity Markets in Jersey City, New Jersey, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying. Chinese stocks tumbled by 3 percent Wednesday, as jittery investors dumped shares on rumors that the country's central bank is to raise interest rate by 0.27 percentage points. The People's Bank of China, the central bank, tightened lending by raising commercial banks' reserve ratio requirements, and increasing the auction yield on its one-year bills. The incremental measures, aimed to drain liquidity from the banking system and head off possible inflationary pressures, have sent the country's two stock markets to a tailspin. At closing Wednesday, the Shanghai composite stock index dived 95.02 points, or 2.93 percent, to end at 3151.85. The Shenzhen stock index tumbled 434.52 points, or 3.25 percent, and closed at 12916.15 points. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao Tuesday told a cabinet meeting that China would take steps to deal with inflationary expectations. "China will maintain reasonable growth in money supply and credit, focus on optimizing the credit structure and carefully manage the pace of lending to reduce financial risks," Wen said. Investors count on emerging economies like China to underpin a nascent global recovery, so any restrictive policy could be a setback for those investors who bet on a sustainable rebound, analysts said. ^ top ^

China's home mortgage lending up 48% in 2009: central bank (Xinhua)
2010-01-21
China's yuan-denominated individual home mortgage lending rose 1.4 trillion yuan (204.98 billion U.S. dollars) in 2009, up 47.9 percent from the previous year, said a report issued by the People's Bank of China, the central bank, on Wednesday. The growth rate was 37.4 percentage points higher than the previous year, said the report on China's investment flow in 2009. Meanwhile, the yuan-denominated property development lending gained 576.4 billion yuan in 2009, up 30.7 percent year on year, and the growth rate was 20.4 percentage points more than the previous year […] The total mid-term and long-term loans in foreign and domestic currency expanded 7.1 trillion yuan in 2009, up 43.5 percent from the previous year, and the growth rate was 23.4 percentage points more than the previous year. The short-term loans in foreign and domestic currency expanded 2.3 trillion yuan, up 758.5 billion yuan from the same period last year. Industrial mid-term and long-term loans in foreign and domestic currency added 1 trillion yuan among China's major financial institutions, up 26 percent from the previous year. Infrastructure mid-term and long-term loans in foreign and domestic currency expanded 2.5 trillion yuan, up 43 percent from the same period last year […] The central bank said on Jan. 15 that China's new yuan-denominated lending in 2009 hit a record 9.59 trillion yuan (1.4 trillion U.S. dollars), almost double that of the previous year. ^ top ^

China becomes India's 2nd largest trade partner (People's Daily Online)
2010-01-20
China Economic Net reporters learned from the China-India Economic and Trade Cooperation Forum held in Beijing January 19 that the trade volume between China and India doubled in the past 2 years, exceeding 50 billion U.S. dollars. The 2-way investment increased by 10 times and the infrastructure projects that Chinese enterprises built in India exceeded 10 billion U.S. dollars. So far, China has become India's second largest trade partner […] China's Commerce Minister Chen Deming said that in 2009, the trade cooperation between China and India slightly cooled due to the international financial crisis, but both governments and relevant departments of the 2 countries actively looked for solutions, and signs of good development momentum of the bilateral trade cooperation have emerged in January 2010 […] Chen added that China and India should strengthen their exchanges and cooperation in the following 4 areas in the future. Firstly, they should promote the balanced development of trade. Starting 2010, the Ministry of Commerce and the Yunnan provincial government will jointly hold an annual "South Asian Countries Commodity Fair" in order to enhance trade exchanges between the 2 countries. Secondly, they should encourage mutual investments. China welcomes Indian entrepreneurs to invest in China and supports Chinese enterprises to invest in India […] Thirdly, they should magnify the converging points of their common interests. India has rich resources and an advanced information industry while China's domestic consumption market is huge […] Fourthly, they should promote contacts between commercial chambers and companies to lay a good foundation for expanding and deepening commercial and trade cooperation […]. ^ top ^

China's power consumption to grow 7 pct in 2010 (Xinhua)
2010-01-19
China's power consumption would rise 7 percent this year if the country could maintain an 8-percent growth of economy, Wang Xudong, chief of the State Electricity Regulatory Commission (SERC), said here Monday. Because the economy would continue to improve this year, the power consumption is expected to steadily increase to 3.9 trillion kilowatt-hours, a rise of 7 percent from last year, Wang said at a meeting of the SERC. Despite a slump in the first half of last year due to global economic downturn, China's power consumption totaled 3.66 trillion kilowatt-hours last year, up 6.44 percent year on year. However, Wang warned that some regions would likely suffer from seasonal power supply shortage this year as uncertainties remain in coal supply, coal price, transportation and weather. China would step up the development of new energy and the construction of energy bases, including the development of coal, hydro and wind power in northern and western China and nuclear power in central and eastern regions, he said. ^ top ^

First phase of China's strategic oil reserve project finished (People's Daily Online)
2010-01-18
China has finished the first phase of the country's strategic oil reserve, and the average cost was around 58 U.S. dollars per barrel in 2009, said Zhang Guobao, vice minister of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and head of the National Administration of Energy […] Last year, China extended over 60 billion U.S. dollars of loans to oil producers in Russia, Brazil and Venezuela in exchange of annual oil supply of 75 million tons, he said. In last December, China imported 21.26 millions of crude oil, setting a new record, according to data from the General Administration of Customs (GAC). China's oil import in the whole 2009 reached 204 million tons, and its dependence on imported oil is estimated to be around 52 percent. The global financial crisis has led to a downward trend in the demand for energy resources, said Zhang. China should seize the chance and implement the "go out' strategy of its energy sector. An oil pipeline linking Russia's far east to China's northeast is set to start operation by the end of 2010. The pipeline would transport 15 million tons of crude oil annually from Russia to China, he added. ^ top ^

Bad loans decrease despite growing credit (Global Times)
2010-01-18
Although Chinese banks saw their assets increase while the ratio and balance of bad loans both sank in 2009, the nation's bank regulator warned over the weekend that banks should pay attention to future risks, especially in the property market. The total foreign and domestic currency assets of Chinese financial institutions rose 26.3 percent year-on-year to 78.8 trillion yuan ($11.54 trillion) in 2009, and combined liabilities rose 26.8 percent from last year to 74.3 trillion yuan ($10.88 trillion), the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) announced on its website Saturday. "The rise of total assets was due to increasing mid- and long-term loans, and the rise of liabilities was largely due to deposits from enterprises, which get loans from banks but do not use all of them, as well as increasing residents' deposit," said Zhao Xijun, deputy director of the School of Finance at Renmin University of China. Zhao expected that banks' total assets and liabilities increase in 2010 would not be as large as in 2009, but the quality of assets and liabilities would become better. The bad loan ratio among major commercial banks, including State-owned and joint-stock commercial banks, fell to 1.59 percent, down 0.86 percentage points from the beginning of 2009. Bad loans stood at 497.33 billion yuan ($72.86 billion), down 62.98 billion yuan ($9.23 billion) from the beginning of 2009. "It is good to see the decreasing bad loan ratio and balance in China, as 'toxic assets' in other countries were increased during the financial crisis," Zhao commented. "However, banks still face challenges from their mid- and long-term loans to enterprises." New lending in December rose to 379.80 billion yuan ($55.64 billion) from November's 294.80 billion yuan ($43.19 billion), and new lending for the whole year in 2009 amounted to 9.59 trillion yuan ($1.40 trillion), almost double the level in 2008, the People's Bank of China, the central bank, said […]. ^ top ^

 

DPRK and South Korea

S.Korea, DPRK talks on industrial park produce little result (Xinhua)
2010-01-22
South Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) wrapped up discussions on improving operations of their joint industrial park but did not reach an agreement on impending agendas, the government said Thursday. "South Korea suggested discussing transportation, communication and customs system at the joint park along with accommodations for workers there, but the DPRK insisted wage hikes should be included in the discussion," the unification ministry said. "The meeting was concluded without setting the date for the next working-level meeting," it added. The South Korean officials returned Thursday morning through the inter-Korean border, according to local media. Unlike the first round of meeting on Tuesday, mainly devoted to evaluating their joint industrial survey conducted in Vietnam and China last December, which Seoul's Ministry of Unification said was held in a "serious and businesslike" mood, the second and last round of discussion on Wednesday revealed unabridged gap between the two sides on wage issues. The South Korean delegation said wage hikes are not an issue to be decided at a government level, as such move would automatically burden South Korean companies based in the industrial park, ridding them of the incentive of cheap labor […] But at the DPRK's insistence, discussions continued until midnight without making much progress. A 16-member South Korean delegation visited earlier this week the border town of Kaesong where the industrial complex is located to discuss with their counterparts from the DPRK ways to make operations there more internationally competitive. The first bilateral meeting this year has helped clear doubts that threats Pyongyang issued against Seoul last week might dampen the budding mood for dialogue, local media said. The industrial park, which is under the joint management of the two Koreas, has been one of the key symbols of economic cooperation between the two countries, though worsening ties between the two have occasionally put operations there in danger. Currently, some 110 South Korean companies are based in the complex, employing about 42,000 workers from the DPRK mostly producing labor-intensive goods. ^ top ^

Two Koreas continue tense talks (Global Times)
2010-01-21
South Korea would launch a preemptive strike against North Korea to thwart any nuclear attack by Pyongyang, Seoul's defense chief said Wednesday. "We would have to strike right away if we detected a clear intention (from the North) to attack (South Korea) with nuclear weapons," Defense Minister Kim Tae-young told a forum, according to the Yonhap News Agency. Kim made similar remarks in 2008, when he was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Pyongyang reacted angrily at the time, temporarily expelling South Korean officials from a Seoul-funded industrial park in Kaesong, just north of the heavily fortified border. Despite the dispute, the neighbors held a second day of talks Wednesday about their joint business project in Kaesong. The two sides were holding "a comprehensive discussion" on ways to improve the Kaesong industrial zone, Seoul unification ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo said. She said the talks had been extended by a few hours to allow more discussions. Kaesong is the last reconciliation project still operating and a valuable source of hard currency for Pyongyang. Some 42,000 North Koreans work in 110 South Korean-run plants, producing cookware, textiles and other light industrial goods. The talks concluded later Wednesday and representatives from the South returned home. Analysts say Pyongyang, hit harder by international sanctions following its nuclear and missile tests last year, seems willing to promote economic exchanges with Seoul, despite an angry broadside last Friday that threatened to cut all dialogue and cooperation unless the South apologizes for an alleged contingency plan to handle a regime collapse in the North […]. ^ top ^

US dismisses DPRK demand on peace treaty (China Daily)
2010-01-20
Wshington - The United States on Tuesday dismissed a proposal by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on negotiating a peace treaty, saying the first and foremost thing for Pyongyang is to return to the six-party talks. "The appropriate next step is for North Korea to return to the six-party talks and to resume deliberations in this context. And within that context, it's possible to have bilateral interactions and other discussions, not just with the United States but with other countries," said Kurt Campbell, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. Pyongyang on Monday renewed its demands of negotiating a peace treaty and lifting sanctions before it would return to the six-party talks, saying failure for the discussion on concluding a peace treaty to start would consequently "push back the process of denuclearization." "The U.S. position, which is very firm and in close coordination with our allies and friends in the six-party talks, is that it would be inappropriate at this juncture to lift sanctions or to revisit aspects of UN Security Council Resolution 1874, given the current circumstances," said Campbell. "It's important that North Korea make clear that they are prepared to abide by previous agreements in 2005 and 2007," he added. The DPRK shut down the Yongbyon nuclear facilities in 2007 under a six-nation nuclear disarmament deal. However, Pyongyang quit the multilateral talks in April 2009 in anger over international criticism of its long-range rocket test. It conducted an underground nuclear test in May and declared it was in the final phase of an experimental, highly enriched uranium program -- another way to make an atomic bomb. However, tensions began to ease recently, and the DPRK has expressed willingness to return to the six-party talks involving itself, the United States, China, the Republic of Korea, Japan and Russia, if it had satisfactory talks with Washington. In early December, the two countries agreed on the need to resume the negotiations during a trip by President Barack Obama's envoy to Pyongyang. Washington has been trying to persuade Pyongyang to return to the stalled six-party talks, while Pyongyang wants permanent peace and normalization of relations with the United States before its denuclearization. ^ top ^

Beijing 'detains accomplice of US missionary arrested in N Korea' (SCMP)
2010-01-19
Beijing appears to have detained a man who helped US Christian missionary Robert Park cross from China into North Korea last month on a one-man human rights crusade, activists said yesterday. The man, a North Korean defector living in South Korea, was arrested on Friday by Chinese police in Yanji, Jilin province, Radio Free North Korea said on its website. Park has been detained in North Korea after crossing a frozen border river on Christmas Day to protest against repression there. His helper, identified only by the surname Kim, guided Park to the border and took video footage of him praying on the frozen river before crossing. "Kim appeared to have been detained last week in Yanji," said Cho Sung-rae, one of Park's fellow activists in Seoul, confirming the report by the radio station, which is run by defectors. Cho said Kim and another companion of Park's had demanded 100 million won for the video clip and tried to sell it to media organisations. "I heard through sources in China that the video clip is safe and being kept by one of Kim's colleagues," Cho said. The North has confirmed it is investigating an American detained for illegal entry from China - an apparent reference to Park, a US citizen of Korean ancestry who comes from Tucson, Arizona. The United States has expressed concern over Park's detention, saying Swedish diplomats who represent US interests in Pyongyang will try to meet him. "Park is now in Pyongyang, and I believe there will be talks probably next week between North Korean officials and Swedish diplomats over his fate," Cho said, citing sources in the North for his information. Park, 28, claimed he had seen a vision from God of North Korea's liberation and redemption, according to his colleagues. They said he had crossed the border shouting, "I came here to proclaim God's love". Some analysts believe the North, which has said it wants better relations with the US, will eventually deport him. ^ top ^

N.Korea's Kim Jong-il observes 'shattering' military drill (Global Times)
2010-01-18
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has inspected a joint military drill of "shattering" intensity, state media said Sunday, in the first such disclosure since he became military commander two decades ago. In what appeared to be fresh saber-rattling after he threatened last week to battle South Korea, Kim watched his troops "shattering the 'enemy camp' to pieces and turning it into a sea of flame." Kim, who viewed the drill by the army, navy and air force from an observation platform, expressed great satisfaction, the North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported. It did not disclose when or where the maneuvers were held. Pyongyang's state television released photographs of Kim on a hilltop overlooking the exercise and scores of multiple-rocket-launcher vehicles being lined up for firing. It is the first time North Korea has released news of Kim inspecting such a joint drill since he was named supreme commander of the armed forces by his father, Kim Il-sung, in December 1991 […] Yang Moo-jin, of Seoul's University of North Korean Studies, said the report was a follow-up to Pyongyang's saber-rattling toward Seoul last week. Pyongyang threatened Friday to break off all dialogue with South Korea unless Seoul apologized for reportedly drawing up a contingency plan to handle potential political instability in the North, such as regime collapse, a coup or a popular uprising. Pyongyang's National Defense Commission, headed by Kim, said it would stage "a sacred nationwide retaliatory battle to blow up the stronghold of the South Korean authorities" who drew up the plan. "The North Korean news release of Kim watching the massive military maneuvers was designed to display a show of force against South Korea as part of its psychological warfare," Yang told AFP. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Mongolia, Russia to boost cooperation (MONTSAME)
2010-01-21
Prime Minister S.Batbold received Thursday Governor of Voronej Region of the Russian Federation and Russian President's special envoy in charge of promoting cooperation with Mongolia in trade, economic and investment A.V.Gordeev. Underlining the fruitful cooperation between the two countries in 2009, the Premier Batbold noted that Russian President D.Medvedev, Government Head V.Putin and other top ranking officials visited Mongolia last year. Mongolia gives much importance to the relations with Russia and makes effort in realizing new goals raised in bilateral relations and cooperation, Batbold said. Gordeev delivered a greeting of the Russian Government Head Putin to Mongolia's Premier and noted that the bilateral relationship is boosting in all fields. "Russia attaches much importance to the relations with Mongolia in railway, atomic power, uranium and financial sectors. There are much works to do in these fields," Gordeev said. ^ top ^

First Maternity closed for 2 weeks after navel infection among babies (News.mn)
2010-01-21
The First Maternity hospital will be closed for two weeks from Wednesday because of a navel infection among infants. Eight cases have been registered until now. According to Ts.Gankhuu, director of the Metropolitan Health Department, all the babies are improving. The infection most likely occurred because proper hygiene standards were not followed. There are reports that the sewage system was damaged. Pregnant women in the hospital have been sent to other maternity clinics. Infant mortality due to the infection had reached three by Thursday evening. ^ top ^

One million livestock perish nationwide (MONTSAME)
2010-01-21
As of January 19, 2010, a total of 1,071,121 animals have perished nationwide due to severe winter conditions, and 90 percent of Mongolia's territory is covered with snow. A total of 198 soums in 19 provinces have been suffering from the harsh conditions combined with strongest snow storms or blizzards that are classified as dangerous to extremely hazardous, and out of them 94 in 8 provinces are considered the worst-affected area. Deputy Premier and Head of the State Emergency Commission M.Enkhbold and Chief of the Government Cabinet Secretariat Ch.Khurelbaatar hosted a net meeting Thursday with leadership of zud-hit provinces to talk about measures to be taken. ^ top ^

President Calls End to Capital Punishment (UB Post)
2010-01-15
Mongolia should become a country free from practicing capital punishment, President Ts.Elbegdorj said in his address at the Parliament on Thursday, which was attended by foreign diplomatic missions in Ulaanbaatar as well as media representatives. President Elbegdorj called on law makers to replace the death penalty with a penalty of 30-years imprisonment. He explained his action with eight reasons and two special situations. Mongolia is one of a few countries in the world that practices capital punishment, however, no one was executed last year. Elbedorj was sworn as the fourth President of Mongolia in July 2009. “I have to mention that during these seven months, no death penalties have been carried out.”. In 2009, he pardoned a 33-year-old prisoner Buuveibaatar, who had his death sentence commuted by the court of last resort. A decision whether to accept or deny a request to commute a death sentence rests ultimately with the Head of State, according to current law. “As the President of Mongolia, I declare to our Parliament, to my people, and to the international community that the change made in Mongolia's capital punishment in 2009 will continue. From today on, Mongolia is a country which will suspend the execution of capital punishment, and become a country which announces a moratorium on execution of the death penalty. Mongolia will further aim to become a fully abolitionist country and shall conform our laws and legislation to this end.” he said. According to the Constitution of Mongolia, (a democratic constitution that was adopted in 1992), every citizen has the right to life, but international communities put a lot of pressure on Mongolia to abolish its practice of capital punishment which has thus far been carried out in a secretive and inhumane manner. ^ 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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