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
  1.2-5.2.10, No. 305  
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Table of contents

DPRK and South Korea

Mongolia

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Foreign Policy

Swiss decision angers China (Global Times)
2010-02-05
Switzerland's decision to accept two Uyghur detainees to be released from the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay will hurt Sino-Swiss relations, China's Foreign Ministry said Thursday. China had expressed its opposition during negotiations for a free trade pact with Switzerland, ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said. "Such a decision will certainly affect Sino-Swiss relations," Ma said, adding that the seven Uyghurs held in Guantanamo were members of the East Turkistan Islamic Movement, listed as a terrorist group by the UN Security Council. "All countries must adhere to UN Charter chapter 7 and reject providing asylum to those who fund, plan, commit or abet a terrorist act," Ma added. The Swiss Justice Ministry said Wednesday in a statement that the decision was made on humanitarian grounds, adding that it had examined questions surrounding security and the integration of the pair, as well as their health, and found that there was "no problem." However, Feng Zhongping, director of the European Studies Center at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said that the humanitarian excuse is too vague to cover lots of concerns. "Sino-Swiss relations will definitely be hindered by this decision," Feng told the Global Times. "China has enough evidence to prove those detainees' crime against Chinese people. The UN Security Council also has blacklisted them. However, the Swiss government made the decision all on their own examinations, without consideration of China's concerns and the world anti-terrorism operation. Their humanitarian gesture to terrorists is anti-humanitarian to the Chinese people and other nationals threatened by terrorism." "Switzerland is outside the EU and NATO. I really don't understand why they made such a decision. Maybe they just have different opinions on anti-terrorism from China," Feng added.

Meanwhile, Swiss Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said Switzerland was aware of China's concerns. "We have a stable, good relationship with China, which we will continue to nurture," Widmer-Schlumpf told journalists, adding that it was the same as with the US. "We made our decision taking into account the humanitarian tradition... and therefore not for one or another country, rather, for our tradition that we have held high for hundreds of years." The Uyghur brothers were ready to learn the languages spoken in Switzerland and had expressed willingness to work, she added. However, Shen Jiru, director of the International Strategy Study Center at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, questioned the Swiss government's neutrality in making that decision. "If Switzerland thinks the two detainees are harmless, they really should have sent them back to the US and asked US President Barack Obama, 'Why don't you accept these two innocent people?'" Shen said. "Instead, the Swiss government risked its relations with China and did a big favor to Obama. I think they have picked a side in this case – not China unfortunately." "Bern didn't even consult with China before making the decision. That is ignorance, not neutrality," Shen added. In a separate report, Bulgaria's government has decided to grant asylum to an inmate from Guantanamo, a spokesman said Thursday. He did not specify the nationality, but said the detainee was not facing any charges and was not considered troublesome. Newspaper reports said that the government was likely to take in a Syrian man, together with his wife and six children. ^ top ^

UN envoy leads pack vying for US ambassador role (SCMP)
2010-02-05
In a major leadership reshuffle at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, China's ambassador to the UN, Zhang Yesui, has emerged as the leading candidate to become Beijing's next ambassador to the US, officials familiar with the arrangements say. The new ambassador in Washington will have to deal with a chill in Sino-US ties, with Beijing angered by US arms sales to Taiwan and plans by US President Barack Obama to meet Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama in Washington this month. The United States, for its part, has criticised Beijing's curbs on internet freedom and what it says is an artificially undervalued yuan. Obama warned on Wednesday that Washington would take a tough line on trade with countries such as China to ensure that US goods did not face competitive disadvantages. He Yafei, who is stepping down as deputy foreign minister, was expected to replace Li Baodong as the ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, ministry officials said. Li would then move to the UN headquarters in New York to replace Zhang. The reshuffle follows the promotion of assistant foreign minister Zhai Jun, former ambassador to Britain Fu Ying and former ambassador to Japan Cui Tiankai, all in their 50s, to deputy foreign ministers. Zhai was formerly an ambassador to Libya. State media reported on Tuesday that both Fu and Cui would take up their new posts soon. Jin Canrong, an associate dean at Renmin University's school of international studies, said the appointments were part of the government's efforts to ensure personnel reshuffles took place smoothly. "They won't have any major impact on [the overall strategy] of China's foreign policies," Jin said. "The government is now stricter on personnel replacements and so we see more reshuffles than before." Aside from injecting younger faces into the front ranks of China's diplomats, Jin said such arrangements also made Foreign Ministry personnel arrangements more systematic […] Ambassadors to the US and the United Nations hold important positions in China's foreign affairs system and are equivalent in rank to deputy ministers. Zhang and He were seen as the top candidates to be the next US ambassador, widely considered a prime job not only because of the significance of the Sino-US relationship but also because the two most recent foreign ministers, incumbent Yang Jiechi and his predecessor Li Zhaoxing climbed to the top from the embassy in Washington. Diplomatic observers said Zhang was considered more senior as he became a deputy minister in 2003, five years earlier than He. Formerly head of the ministry's protocol department, an otherwise low-profile Zhang stole the limelight as host of the Hong Kong handover ceremony in 1997. "One thing unique about China's foreign ministry is that seniority is an important factor in promotion," said an observer who is familiar with the situation. Zhang, a 56-year-old native of Hubei, replaced Wang Guangya as China's ambassador to the UN in September 2008. Before that he was a deputy foreign minister overseeing European affairs and policy research for five years. He, 54, became a deputy foreign minister in 2008, in charge of American, Hong Kong and Macau affairs and protocol. He has been seen as a rising star because of his work experience in the embassies in Washington and the UN. The Zhejiang native was minister-counsellor in the embassy in Washington between 1998 and 2001. Many were surprised by an announcement carried by Xinhua last month that He would be removed as deputy minister. Media reports even suggested that he was being punished for the fiasco at the Copenhagen summit on climate change […] Li, 54, has been posted in Geneva since 2007, after serving as ambassador to Zambia from 2005. The UN ambassador in New York looks after wide-ranging and multilateral issues while the posting in Geneva oversees more narrowly focused issues such as economic affairs, human rights and public health. ^ top ^

Chinese FM meets French counterpart on bilateral ties (Xinhua)
2010-02-04
Visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner on Wednesday held talks on bilateral ties and reached important consensus on developing China-France relationship. Through joint efforts of both nations, Sino-France relations has recently showed rapid development, Yang said. This year marks an important period for relations between France and China, therefore, the two parties should further implement important consensus reached by two leaders, continue to respect and take care of mutual concerns and promote pragmatic cooperation in various fields, Yang underlined. The Chinese minister also expected both countries to jointly oppose trade and investment protectionism, and maintain coordination and cooperation over significant international and regional issues […] Yang expressed China's willingness to use 2010 Shanghai World Expo as an opportunity to enhance comprehensive cooperations with France, such as on humanism, and to consolidate the basis of bilateral ties. As to China-Europe relations, Yang said the two sides have massive common interests as China always attaches importance to their relations and regards Europe as its important strategic partner […] Kouchner echoed Yang's view on China's relations with France and Europe, saying France attached importance to relations with China. France is satisfied with the friendly cooperation between the two nations and the recovery and development of bilateral ties, Kouchner said […] The two foreign ministers also exchanged views on climate change and other mutually concerned international and regional issues during their talks, which followed by a joint conference. Yang is on a five-nation tour, which has already taken him to Britain and Turkey. After a two-day visit in France, he will attend a meeting on security policy in Munich, Germany on Feb. 5-7. ^ top ^

China, India lead military spending (SCMP)
2010-02-04
Asian states led by China and India are surging ahead with military spending as they recover strongly from the global slowdown, while Europe and the US feel the military pinch, a study has found. The US military remains "under severe strain" due to ongoing Iraq operations and its 30,000-strong surge in Afghanistan, the respected annual "Military Balance" report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies said. Britain, the United States' main ally in Iraq and Afghanistan, faces a particular challenge as it grapples to pay for its military and draw down a massive budget deficit. In the US, after defence spending almost doubled under the administration of former president George W. Bush, a budget deficit of 12.5 per cent last year "marked the end of this phase of rising defence spending". The report said: "Both [US President Barack] Obama and [Defence Secretary Robert] Gates have signalled that fiscal realities will necessitate a dramatic reprioritisation within defence spending." However, Asia's giants will power ahead militarily. "In contrast to developments in advanced economies, both India and China have maintained their recent trend of double-digit increases in defence spending," it said. India increased defence spending by 21 per cent last year following the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, the report noted, adding: "Other Asian states, such as Australia, Indonesia and Singapore have also posted increases." The report comes a day after Beijing warned Obama not to meet the Dalai Lama, and threatened diplomatic reprisals over US arms sales to Taiwan, widening an escalating feud between the two powers. Russia's military ambitions have been hit hard by a 7.5 per cent GDP contraction last year, the report said, adding that a 2007-2015 reprioritisation programme "will be replaced with a new 10-year plan starting in 2011". In Europe, massive stimulus packages contributed to an increase in budget deficits, which ballooned to 6.2 per cent of GDP in the eurozone, while Britain is expected to have recorded a deficit of 11.6 per cent of GDP, it said. Among European Nato member states, only Norway and Denmark are likely to increase defence spending this year. ^ top ^

Britain, China pledge closer military ties (People's Daily Online)
2010-02-04
A top British military official met on Wednesday with visiting Deputy Chief of General Staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Ma Xiaotian, pledging to strengthen bilateral military ties. Jock Stirrup, Chief of the Defence Staff, said during the meeting that the British military "attaches great importance to the friendly relationship" with the Chinese military and expects more efforts to be made to improve mutual understanding and trust and to step up pragmatic cooperation. Ma suggested that both sides should maintain high level exchange visits, steadily promote the communication and cooperation of professional personnel, expand cooperation and push forward the relationship between the two militaries. Ma also met with Simon McDonald, British prime minister's adviser on foreign policy and co-chaired a defence consultation. ^ top ^

US urges Beijing not to impose sanctions on firms (SCMP)
2010-02-03
The United States has urged Beijing not to slap sanctions on US companies selling arms to Taiwan, as the firms involved tried to stay out of the row. The Obama administration, which has been plunged into its biggest row yet with Beijing, defended the arms sale as preserving the military balance between Taiwan and the mainland, where leaders reacted furiously to a US announcement on Friday that it was selling the US$6.4 billion in weapons. The Foreign Ministry reiterated at yesterday's regular briefing that Beijing would impose sanctions on US firms participating in the arms sales to Taiwan. Beijing has always strongly opposed US sales to Taiwan, which it considers a Chinese territory awaiting reunification. But it has never previously pledged to punish the US companies involved in the deal. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said sanctions "would not be warranted". Bruce Lemkin, deputy undersecretary for the US Air Force, told journalists on the sidelines of the Singapore Airshow - an industry trade fair for aerospace suppliers and Asian buyers - that Beijing's reaction is "unfortunate". State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said the sale was consistent with long-standing US policy of only recognising Beijing but of providing Taiwan with weapons to ward off a potential invasion. "We regret the fact that they have suggested they will impose sanctions on US companies involved in the sale of these defensive articles." Obama came under intense criticism at home last year for not meeting the Dalai Lama so as not to sour the mood before his trip to China. US companies involved in the Taiwan deal all declined to comment other than to say that the issue concerned governments and not individual firms. An official at one company noted that Beijing did not reveal details about the sanctions, making it difficult to gauge the impact. US defence contractors sell little to the mainland, which has been under a US and EU arms embargo since its bloody 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square. But Boeing - whose McDonnell Douglas unit was given a US$37 million contract for 12 Harpoon missiles to Taiwan - is an aerospace giant which counts China as one of its largest markets. The company said yesterday that it was too early to speculate about the impact of any Chinese sanctions on US firms as a result of the arms sales to Taiwan […] Boeing has deep ties with the aviation industry in China, which could stand to lose if it slapped sanctions on the aviation giant. Three Chinese companies are under contract to produce key parts of Boeing's emblematic 787 Dreamliner, which took to the skies in December after a more than two-year delay […]. ^ top ^

China says still room for talks on Iran, West eyes sanctioning central bank (Global Times)
2010-02-03
China said Tuesday that there was still room for negotiations to resolve the standoff over Iran's disputed nuclear program, while Western powers hope to blacklist Iran's central bank and firms in a new round of UN sanctions. "There is still room for diplomatic efforts," China's foreign ministry spokesman, Ma Zhaoxu, told reporters Tuesday. Meanwhile, Western diplomats told Reuters that officials at the US State Department have circulated a paper outlining possible new sanctions to senior foreign ministry officials in London, Paris and Berlin. According to the Reuters report, officials from those four countries will hold a conference call later this week to try to agree on a sanctions proposal and then discuss with Moscow and Beijing later. Several diplomats told Reuters that the Western powers would like to target Iran's central bank, which they said was a key player in financing Tehran's nuclear and missile industries and in skirting UN sanctions. On the same day, Iran slammed the expansion of US missile defense systems in the Gulf region against potential Iranian missile attacks, saying it had good relations with neighboring states. "America's new puppet show for protecting and implementing security in the region is nothing but a new political trick to pave the way for its presence at others' expense," AFP quoted Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani as saying […] The tougher tone from US President Barack Obama's administration is believed to be a response to domestic pressure […] However, the US military failed to shoot down a ballistic missile in a test resembling an Iranian or North Korean strike after a radar malfunctioned, AFP noted. The test was carried out Sunday at a US Army site at the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, but the target missile was not intercepted as planned, a spokesman for Missile Defense Agency (MDA) Rick Lehner said Monday. The ground-based interceptor performed "normally," but the sea-based X-band radar "did not perform as expected" in the test, the MDA said in a statement […]. ^ top ^

Pentagon paper questions China's military build-up (SCMP)
2010-02-03
The Pentagon has outlined a raft of measures to deal with potential military threats from China over the next decade. They include new integrated air-sea battle plans, better protection for offshore bases, improved cyber-warfare capabilities and new strategic relationships with China's Southeast Asian neighbours. It also says better surveillance and intelligence are needed, and advocates the creation of unmanned "drone" submarines. The plans are outlined in the United States' four-yearly Defence Review, a guide to overall US defence strategy. The review raises questions about China's military build-up but says Washington welcomes a "strong, prosperous and successful" China on the global stage. [China's] Foreign Ministry issued a swift and strongly worded protest yesterday, calling the document "misleading, full of cliches and an attempt to interfere with China's affairs". While the report, presented on Monday in Washington by US Defence Secretary Dr Robert Gates, makes the case for a nimbler and more fluid military to face a widening array of modern threats, and for moving away from the cold-war-era doctrine of fighting two conventional wars simultaneously, it carries more extensive references to the threats posed by China, and to a lesser extent Russia, than previous reviews over the past decade. "The United States faces a complex and uncertain security landscape in which the pace of change continues to accelerate," the report says. "The rise of China, the world's most populous country, and India, the world's largest democracy, will continue to shape an international system that is no longer easily defined […]" The first such review under US President Barack Obama, the report appears to reflect his administration's desire for a broader, balanced relationship with Beijing and the development of traditional and new partnerships elsewhere in the region. While calling for closer ties with China to reduce mistrust, the report stresses the need for the US to maintain its ability to project power against potentially hostile states. It warns of potential risks from China's ballistic and cruise missiles, its new advanced submarines and air and space defences, and of threats from North Korea and Iran. "China has shared only limited information about the pace, scope and ultimate aims of its military modernisation programmes, raising a number of legitimate questions regarding its long-term intentions," it says. Military attaches in the region said that while much in the report would not have come as a surprise to Beijing, the calls for new battle plans would be closely scrutinized […] The report says the US and China should keep talking and seek to solve disagreements to "manage and ultimately reduce the risks of conflict that are inherent in any relationship as broad and complex as that shared by these two nations". In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu was quick to respond. "Over the past years, the Chinese government has taken effective and active measures to improve our military transparency," he said. "We hope the US side can look at China and Chinese military development in an objective and fair light. The US should stop making irresponsible comments [on China's military] and do more to build mutual trust between the two militaries." Some Chinese observers of military matters said the report would add fuel to the Sino-US row already blazing over Washington's arms sales to Taiwan […]. ^ top ^

Border agreements (Global Times)
2010-02-03
China reached border demarcation agreements this week with 12 land neighbors, accounting for 90 percent of the nation's boundary. China has also signed guiding principles on how to solve border issues with India and a Declaration on Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea with countries bordering the South China Sea. China also reached principled consensus with Japan on the East China Sea issue. China's land border stretches more than 22,000 kilometers, bordering 14 countries. ^ top ^

Japan admits war 'act of agression' (China Daily)
2010-02-02
Japan admitted in a long-awaited report from the joint history study with China on Sunday that the 1937-1945 Sino-Japanese war was an "act of aggression", but the two neighbors are still at odds on a number of issues, such as the death toll of the 1937 Nanjing Massacre. Bu Ping, Chinese chief commissioner of the joint research, told China Daily yesterday that, despite the divergence, the report carries great importance for improving mutual understanding, especially as it is just the first of such joint studies, "I hope subsequent studies will lead to a history textbook in the future that is jointly endorsed by the governments of China, Japan and the Republic of Korea," said Bu, director of the Institute of Modern History of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS). In the report Japan used the word "aggression" to refer to the 1937-1945 war for the first time, breaking Tokyo's long-standing reluctance to use it. Japan's Kyodo news agency said the move ruled out China's long-term concerns that some people in Japan are denying the nation's responsibility and even the fact that it conducted a war of aggression. The war "left a deep scar on China that was the battleground, and we have to say that most of the causes were created by the Japanese side," said the report. But despite this deep divisions still remain. On the number of Chinese killed by the Japanese army after it seized Nanjing - the then Chinese capital - Chinese academics said the number was more than 300,000, based on the ruling of the 1947 Nanjing War Crimes Tribunal. The Japanese side, however, noted "various estimates up to 200,000, such as 40,000 and 20,000" exist in Japanese studies. Both sides refrained from asserting a definitive figure. The research panel member Sumio Hatano, a professor at the University of Tsukuba in Ibaraki Prefecture, told Kyodo there has been no accepted figure because of differences in "the verification of data", notably in terms of the definition of "massacre", the area and period in which the incident took place, burial records, and other sources. But they agreed that "mass killings" of prisoners of war, civilians, stragglers and other people did occur, along with rapes, looting and arson. Japan also avoids mentioning germ warfare Unit 731 although China refers to it by name. Ishii Akira, a professor on East Asia studies with Tokyo University, told Kyodo there would be no conclusion on the death toll of the Nanjing Massacre unless a massive investigation is launched. But Japan should not have ignored the victims of the 731 Unit, he said. Among other points the two sides disagree on is whether Japan was affiliated to China from ancient to medieval times. However, both sides did agree "the nation of Japan was born from the culture of the (Chinese) continent". The two governments endorsed the research project in 2006 to improve mutual understanding. The release of the 530-page report, covering ancient, medieval and modern history, marked the end of the project. A second stage is scheduled to begin soon […]. ^ top ^

China halts military ties with US (Global Times)
2010-02-01
China fired back over the weekend after the Obama administration approved a $6.5 billion arms package to Taiwan on Friday, with Beijing saying it was severing military and security communications with the United States. Calls were also made for the imposition of sanctions on US companies involved in the arms sales. The deal comes just over two months after a joint pledge to advance "sustained and reliable" military-to-military relations – made during US President Barack Obama's visit to Beijing in November. The sale also adds to a growing list of disputes over issues such as trade friction, climate change and Internet policy. The US' arms approval was deemed a move that risks angering Beijing after a hard-won improvement in bilateral relations, including last year's resumption of defense consultations between the two militaries in June after an 18-month suspension, as well as a high-profile visit to the US by the vice chairman of China's Central Military Commission, Xu Caihou, in late October. Beijing said Saturday that it was halting military-exchange programs, which could include US Defense Secretary Robert Gates' visit to China and mutual visits of warships, as well as the vice-ministerial consultation on strategic security, arms control and anti-proliferation, which was originally scheduled to be held soon, according to the Xinhua News Agency. The US arms deal includes 114 Patriot (PAC-3) anti-missile systems, 60 UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters, 12 Harpoon Block II Telemetry missiles, 2 Osprey Class mine-hunting ships and a command and control enhancement system […] Excluded from the deal were submarines and new fighter aircraft that Taiwan had asked for, AFP said. But the news agency also reported that Taiwan's top envoy to the US said yesterday that Washington was still considering selling the submarines and F-16 fighter jets to the island. "The US government is expected to complete its evaluation report on Taiwan's military strength in a week or two," the envoy, Jason Yuan, was quoted by the Central News Agency as saying […] "Until then, it will be considering the issues, such as the type of aircraft and the design of the submarines." Defending the sale, Washington insisted that the weapons deal "contributes to maintaining security and stability across the Taiwan Straits." The US is required under the Taiwan Relations Act to supply Taiwan with sufficient weapons to defend itself. But Beijing said the sales violate three Sino-US joint communiques, especially the principles established in the Joint Communique on August 17, 1982, which stated that the US would not seek to carry out a long-term policy of arms sales to Taiwan, and intended to gradually cut such sales. China's foreign ministry said the row endangers Sino-US ties in other areas. "Cooperation between China and the US on key international and regional issues will also inevitably be affected,' the ministry said in an official protest to the US […] Washington is seeking Beijing's help in halting the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea, but US officials have criticized China for not doing enough to help rein in those ambitions […]. ^ top ^

'Chinese expansionism' in Kazakhstan groundless: diplomat (Global Times)
2010-02-01
Chinese Ambassador to Kazakhstan Cheng Guoping yesterday denied reports of "Chinese expansionism" in the Central Asian country, saying bilateral ties between Beijing and Almaty are enjoying their best time. "The development of strategic relations between China and Kazakhstan is in accordance with the interests of both peoples," Cheng told reporters. "It is also important to regional peace and stability. The so-called Chinese expansionism in Kazakhstan is groundless and unappealing toward Kazakh people." Cheng was responding to a small-scale protest in Almaty on Saturday, when hundreds of Kazakhs gathered amid calls by opposition activists who accuse the government of planning to lease land to China. During a conference in early December concerning foreign investments in the Central Asian country, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev called for overseas funds for the country's agricultural industry. Nazarbayev used an example of Beijing suggesting a deal of growing soybeans and other crops on a million hectares of Kazakh land. Since then, Kazakh opposition has blamed the Nazarbayev administration of handing over lands to foreign countries. Nazarbayev denied the alleged land deal on December 23, saying that he knows the Kazakh laws won't allow such a deal from happening. Prime Minister Karim Massimov also called for a stop to related protests. However, during Saturday's protest, Bolat Abilov, a leader of the opposition party Azat, said, "They (the government) borrowed $13 billion from China and now they want to pay it back with our land." "Handing over land to foreigners should be forbidden," another opposition activist, Marzhan Aspandiyarova, said at the gathering. A close aide to Nazarbayev told the Global Times on the condition of anonymity that the opposition is using this issue to bolster its own influence. "Anti-China is just a disguise. Their ultimate target is the government," the official said. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Melamine victims to protest over arrest (SCMP)
2010-02-05
Relatives of children made ill by melamine-tainted milk plan to demonstrate for the release of an arrested leader of their group and blame the new contaminated milk scandal on the government's heavy-handed treatment of whistle-blowers. Zhou Jinzhong, who has been lobbying the government over the death of his one-year-old niece, said he and others were angry over the jailing of Zhao Lianhai, who founded the Kidney Stone Babies support group. About 12 of the victims' relatives plan to march in Guangzhou and go to Beijing to petition the authorities to release Zhao, he said, but declined to say when they will go. Zhao was charged with "provoking quarrels and making trouble" in December after more than a month in detention. His indictment, which came to light this week, said he had "maliciously spread speculation, incited and gathered crowds" to protest outside courthouses when cases were heard against milk companies. Zhao, a father of two, had said the authorities had harassed him many times over activities he had organised to support fellow parents of children made ill by formula milk contaminated with melamine, an industrial chemical added to milk to allow it to pass protein tests. "We are angry and bewildered about his arrest," Zhou said. Relatives of the victims say they are outraged but not surprised about the new melamine scandal. The government announced this week that at least five dairy manufacturers had been using contaminated milk powder seized more than a year ago in new products. The jailing of Zhao shows that the government is keen to cover up the last scandal and cannot face listening to people who point out its faults, they say. "To us, this is no surprise, because the authorities have never protected the under-privileged or the consumers," said Guo Caihong, whose then one-year-old child suffered kidney dysfunction after drinking Sanlu brand milk. "And cracking down on Zhao Lianhai is... to muffle our voices." Parents and relatives who have tried to seek legal redress over their children who died or were made ill by the tainted milk have been repeatedly harassed by the authorities. In September last year, police detained several parents to prevent them from travelling to Beijing to mark the first anniversary of the scandal […] Beijing vowed to implement stricter safety measures in 2008 after six infants died and almost 300,000 children fell ill with kidney failures. But after the incident, the authorities failed to trace how dairy companies handled the millions of tonnes of recalled milk powder. ^ top ^

Income gap not as big as earlier thought (Global Times)
2010-02-05
The income gap between the rich and poor in China has been narrowing in recent years and may have been overstated in the past, according to a report released Tuesday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). While the report suggests that China's efforts to tackle one of its toughest social problems are being increasingly recognized worldwide, some experts are challenging the report results while pointing to the core issues that they say the government needs to address to further narrow the national wealth gap. The report said that increased welfare spending in rural areas and growing migration to cities has helped mitigate the increase in inequality across the country. Richard Herd, a senior economist at the OECD, said at a press briefing Tuesday in Beijing that the migration of rural people to urban areas for work allows them to increase their income dramatically. Income inequality is measured by the Gini index, which ranges from zero to 100, with zero indicating complete equality and 100 showing complete inequality, while 40 is seen as a warning threshold. According to academics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), the Gini index stood at 49.6 in 2005. However, the OECD put the index at 41 in 2005 and 40.8 in 2007, based on what it called a better gauge of price changes and unregistered rural migrant workers in cities. Wu Yaowu, an associate professor with the university's Institute of Population and Labor Economics, told the Global Times that it's possible that the increase in China's inequality has leveled off in recent years. "The wealth gap in China has been overstated by international organizations and even government researchers in the past because they failed to include the rural population that migrated to cities, because it's difficult to track down their income," he said. Since 2004, there has been a significant shortage of laborers in cities – a trend that helped raise the average monthly income of migrant workers from between 300 yuan ($43) and 600 yuan in 2002 to between 1,200 and 1,500 yuan now […]. ^ top ^

Wen leads push for affordable medical services (SCMP)
2010-02-04
The State Council gave the green light yesterday to a controversial guideline designed to make the mainland's notoriously cash hungry public hospitals provide more affordable medical services. A meeting chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao endorsed the guidelines "in principle" and ordered each province to select a couple of cities or city districts to carry out experiments. The financial survival of public hospitals relies heavily on surcharges for medicine prescribed to patients and fees for operations and medical tests, practices long blamed for the mounting medical bills that have become a heavy burden for many. How to overhaul the profit-driven hospital system has been a sticking point in the multibillion-yuan health-care reform announced by the Health Ministry 10 months ago, because it affects the vested interests of hospitals and local governments. Central and local governments committed to investing 850 billion yuan on health-care reform from 2009 to 2011. The reforms of the 1990s left public hospitals needing to generate their own income to supplement reduced government funding. They were allowed to collect a 15 per cent surcharge on prescribed medicines, which resulted in doctors prescribing more expensive drugs to earn more money and patients complaining of unaffordable medical bills. The guideline stipulates the compensation scheme for public hospitals should be reformed by gradually scrapping the 15 per cent surcharge of prescribed medicine, with the shortfall made up by injections of government funding and medical service charges […] Local authorities should also come up with plans to facilitate partnership and division of labour between large public hospitals and community-level hospitals. Private investors should be encouraged to enter the medical service business and run non-profit hospitals and public hospitals should also reform their management, operating and regulation mechanisms and provide better quality medical services. Many believed that public hospital reform had been postponed because the government could not find enough means to compensate public hospitals for scrapping the prescribed drugs surcharge. Analysts said the new plan should just be considered an affirmation of the three-year health care plan released last year […] Professor Gordon Liu Guoen, head of Peking University's department of health economics and management, said it was up to grass-roots health authorities to implement the sketchy document so that each place could find a suitable way to reform. "The government is stressing there is no universal way to conduct the reform. It is smart to give a general direction and collect experience after each place runs its own reform," he said. He said one highlight was encouraging private investment in the running of hospitals, something that could provide funding and motivate medical staff in the absence of sufficient government compensation. ^ top ^

China reports more divorces, marriages in 2009 (Xinhua)
2010-02-04
Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs said Wednesday more cases of divorce and marriage were handled across the country last year. Civil affairs organizations in the country dealt with more than 1.71 million cases of divorce in the past year, up 10.3 percent year on year, and registered 11.46 million marriages in the same year, a rise of 9.1 percent year on year, said the ministry in a bulletin released Wednesday. The country's civil affairs departments also recorded 41,000 cases of adoption last year as the country kept improving and standardizing public administration and other social services. ^ top ^

High-profile corruption trial underway (Global Times)
2010-02-03
The trial began Tuesday of a former deputy police chief in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality who stands charged with rape and taking massive bribes to protect gang operations for years. Wen Qiang, 55, served as deputy police chief for 16 years until 2008 and was head of the municipal Judicial Bureau for about a year until his arrest in August. In addition to the rape charge, he is accused of accepting bribes to harbor criminal gangs and owning huge amounts of assets he couldn't justify. According to a 50-page indictment, authorities say Wen took bribes worth a total of 16 million yuan ($2.4 million) from gangs, government officials and businessmen. The money was allegedly funneled through his wife Zhou Xiaoya. The Fifth Intermediate People's Court of Chongqing Municipality is hearing the trial, which was expected to last four or five days. Individual bribes allegedly ranged from 1,000 yuan in cash to a painting worth 3.6 million yuan. Authorities said Wen received 8.8 million yuan by selling official posts and 6.3 million yuan for helping businesses and individuals win construction bids or avoid police prosecution for various crimes. Chongqing launched a massive crackdown on criminal gangs and their "umbrellas" in June. Wen was the highest-ranking official arrested for alleged involvement with the city's underworld element. To complicate matters, his sister-in-law, Xie Caiping, was known as the "Godmother" of the Chongqing underworld. The 46-year-old was sentenced in November to 18 years in prison for organizing and leading a gang, running illegal gambling, harboring people taking illegal narcotics, illegal detention and bribing officials. Since the crackdown, local authorities have arrested 1,176 people and prosecuted 782, including more than 100 police officers, according to the Xinhua News Agency. Wen's property has been valued at 30 million yuan. Of that, prosecutors say, 16 million came from illegal gains, 4 million came from his legal income and 10 million can't be explained. Wen, proclaiming his innocence to the court, said he never exchanged favors for money […] Three other senior former Chongqing police officers also stood trial Tuesday, charged with offering Wen bribes for promotions. Huang Daiqiang, former deputy head of the Criminal Police Department of the municipal police bureau, was accused of having offered 830,000 yuan and an Omega watch worth 120,000 yuan. Zhao Liming, former deputy head of criminal investigations, allegedly offered Wen 270,000 yuan in cash and a painting of green mountains and blue waters worth an estimated 3.64 million yuan. Chen Tao, former deputy head of public order, was accused of having given Wen a total of 4.65 million yuan. Additionally, the three officers also face charges related to cover-ups and collusion with mafia-style gangs and receiving bribes […]. ^ top ^

Food safety watchdog warns of harsh penalties for those using tainted milk (SCMP)
2010-02-03
The mainland's top food regulator has warned dairy manufacturers that storing tainted milk powder is a serious crime that will result in severe punishment. The warning came after dairy products containing melamine-tainted milk reappeared on the shelves of mainland shops, more than a year after a nationwide crackdown. At least five dairy producers had stored tainted milk powder and used it to make other products, the Ministry of Health said in a statement on its website. An unnamed official from the National Food Safety Rectification Office, a cabinet-level committee headed by Health Minister Dr Chen Zhu that was established last year after a wave of food safety scandals, said the incidents highlighted weak links in food safety regulation and the office was taking them seriously. A crackdown had been launched and eight teams had been sent to 16 provinces to supervise food safety inspections. Any violations would be severely punished, the official said […] Products from five manufacturers - in Shanghai, Shaanxi, Shandong, Liaoning and Hebei - have been pulled from shelves after they recycled tainted milk powder. Some cases were reportedly covered up by the authorities for more than eight months before the public was alerted. The incidents highlight the failure of local food safety authorities to destroy stocks of melamine-tainted milk powder. The official said the companies involved had been ordered to stop production and track and recall the products. Suspects involved were being investigated. Beijing pledged to strengthen food safety supervision after the toxic milk scandal exposed in 2008 saw 300,000 children fall ill nationwide with kidney problems. Twenty-one people were convicted, two of whom have been executed, for adding melamine to low-quality milk in order to pass protein tests. State media reported that thousands of tonnes of the tainted powder had been stored and put back into use after the scandal died down. ^ top ^

Rural policy blueprint a damp squib, analysts say (SCMP)
2010-02-02
A new policy blueprint for rural development has disappointed analysts, who say it touches on many thorny problems in the countryside but offers few solutions. The central government has for the past seven years declared the annual blueprint for rural development to be the most important policy document it issues. But this year's edition, issued on Sunday, did not impress researchers. Though mainland media said it demonstrated the top leadership's undivided attention to farmers and their livelihoods, analysts called it more symbolic than substantive. "Apart from repetition or repackaging lofty ideas and party slogans, it does not have much new to offer on a wide range of pressing issues concerning farmers, the agricultural sector and the countryside," said Professor Yu Jianrong, a rural researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Beijing's effort to close the gap between the rural and urban areas has been hindered by its reluctance to tackle the most critical of all rural problems - land ownership and the hukou, or household registration system, that stops farmers migrating to cities. "There are no major differences between the 'No 1 documents' over the years. A significant similarity among them is the lack of a breakthrough in reforming the basic system of land transfer and the migration of the rural population," Yu said. The "No 1 document" issued on Sunday promised to boost government spending in rural areas and increase farmers' income to "better co-ordinate" urban and rural development. But that pledge has been made repeatedly since President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao took the reins in 2003, and the document lacks specific measures to narrow the rural-urban gap, which has been widening over the years. Ai Yunhang, a former government adviser at the Communist Party's research office, said the widening income gap between farmers and city dwellers was a severe threat to stability in rural areas, which had seen more petitions, demonstrations and unrest in recent years. "Although the government has grappled with poverty for decades, more than 1,000 counties, or about 30 per cent of the total on the mainland, are still fighting to get rid of poverty," he said. The document listed maintaining stability in rural areas as a priority on a par with urbanisation and, for the first time, included a pledge to crack down on organised crime and triads in the countryside […] For the first time, the document mentions rising problems with the younger generation of migrant workers. It promised to help those "qualified farmers" become urban residents and enjoy the housing, insurance, social security, education and other benefits that city dwellers do - but again, does not say how. About 60 per cent of the mainland's 150 million rural migrant workers are 30 or younger […] Most are better educated than their parents but have limited knowledge of farming and little interest in it, said the office's deputy director, Tang Renjian. "They want to become part of the city and embrace a civilised life in the city, but at the same time, cities are not ready to accept this new generation," Tang said yesterday. ^ top ^

Home at last for stranded activist (SCMP)
2010-02-02
A prominent Shanghai rights activist who has been barred from returning from Japan for three months vowed yesterday to continue his mission of taking authorities to task over injustice after he arrives home. Feng Zhenghu, 55, has been stuck in the restricted immigration area of Narita International Airport since November 4 after he was refused entry into China from Japan. Feng, a signatory to the Charter 08 manifesto, which calls for political reforms, has just learned he will be allowed to enter the mainland in time for the Lunar New Year. Confirmation came after he met two officials from the Chinese embassy last Monday. But he said he would not stop campaigning for petitioners who have grievances against the government when he returns. "I will continue to do what I should do. I will carry on defending people's rights through legal means," Feng said. "I have nothing to fear. I think they are more scared of me than I am of them." When Feng tried to meet lawyers in Beijing in February last year, he was forcibly taken back to Shanghai and detained for 41 days. When he was released, the authorities put pressure on him to leave China ahead of the 20th anniversary of the June 4 Tiananmen crackdown. He went to Japan, but when he tried to take a plane from Tokyo back to Shanghai on June 7, he was refused entry and sent back to Japan. Since then, he has been refused entry into the mainland seven more times, either by the authorities or by airlines […] "It has always been my right to return to my country," said Feng, who added that he believed the central government had finally caved in after international media reported his plight. "Maybe this is the result of the central government hearing my complaints about the [Shanghai] officials who acted illegally," he said […]. ^ top ^

Pledge to boost rural investment, jobs in drive to fuel consumption (SCMP)
2010-02-01
The central government has vowed to increase investment and create more jobs in rural areas to fuel domestic consumption. In the so-called No 1 document of 2010, jointly issued by the State Council and the Central Committee yesterday, the government set out guidelines on rural development, saying that boosting consumption, promoting urbanisation and maintaining stability were top priorities. In a highly symbolic move, Beijing dedicated its first policy document of the year to rural issues, for the seventh year in a row, Xinhua said. While the government continues to promise more government spending, higher rural subsidies and better public services for farmers like those in previous years, this year's document puts more focus on improving people's livelihoods in rural areas. Analysts say it is an important change in Beijing's rural policy and reflects the leadership's new thinking on how to narrow the wealth gap between vast underdeveloped rural areas and affluent cities. The 11,000-word policy paper also acknowledged the daunting challenge of addressing mounting rural problems, ranging from poverty, job losses to pollution, official corruption and social unrest. The emphasis on rural spending also fits with Beijing's broader goal of developing consumption as an engine of growth after the export sector slumped during the global financial crisis, a priority highlighted last week by Vice-Premier Li Keqiang at the World Economic Forum in Davos. The document outlines 27 broad policies aimed to "better co-ordinate" urban and rural development, without giving specifics. It said local governments must work hard to create jobs for farmers, encourage migrant workers to find jobs in cities and protect their rights according to labour laws. An expert on rural issues at a government think tank, who declined to be named, said the focus on creating jobs and boosting urbanisation showed "the leadership has finally come to understand that fostering a well-off rural sector is not just about improving infrastructure. It's more about helping farmers find jobs and make more money". But the policymakers, who had failed to achieve significant results before, had yet to roll out detailed measures to back pledges, he said. The document said rural infrastructure projects would be the priority for government investment this year and promised subsidies for construction materials to encourage farmers to build new houses […] Beijing would continue to enhance financial support to agricultural enterprises and farmers, improve agricultural subsidy systems and maintain stability in produce markets, Xinhua said. More efforts would be made to strengthen financial services including micro-credit loans and insurance in rural areas, the report said. It also promised to raise price ceilings significantly for home appliances. ^ top ^

World's largest annual human movement began in China (China Daily)
2010-02-01
The world's largest annual human movement began in the country over the weekend, with about 2.5 billion trips expected over 40 days, up from 2.32 billion in the comparable period last year. The Ministry of Railways said 4 million people traveled by train across China on Saturday and yesterday as Chinese began the yearly trip to their hometowns to celebrate the Spring Festival with family reunions. The railway stations in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou were the busiest, mainly packed with migrant workers heading home to central and western China. Some 59 million passengers took buses over the weekend, the Ministry of Transport estimated. The traffic flow is expected to peak during Feb 5 - 10, days before the Spring Festival, which falls on Feb 15 this year. The real name ticketing system, on trial in Guangdong, Sichuan and Hunan provinces, led to fewer crowds or delays […] Media reports said many scalpers had quit their business this year because of the new system - but others appeared, selling IDs to people at the railway station square, according to the city-based Southern Metropolis Daily. A reporter from the newspaper was asked by at least two persons on Saturday whether he wanted to buy an ID card, which must be shown when buying train tickets in Guangzhou railway stations […] A railway police officer surnamed Chen said police have opened a counter to help those who have lost ID cards to apply for a temporary one. "If their data are correct, they will quickly be issued a temporary ID to buy tickets," Chen told China Daily. But in other places, many travelers found train tickets were still difficult to secure this year, and some had to rely on scalpers as usual. Yue Jinglun, a professor at the School of Government in Guangzhou-based Sun Yat-sen University, said that the real name ticket system can help fight scalpers, but does not tackle the problems large numbers of migrant workers have in buying railway tickets. Yue urged railway departments to introduce an open, fair and transparent system in selling tickets during the annual rush period. ^ top ^

 

Shanghai

Shanghai strives to transform Expo into a green dream (SCMP)
2010-02-05
China, the world's No 1 emitter of greenhouse gases, aims to hold the first "green" World Expo in Shanghai, as the sprawling metropolis tries to shed its polluted past and become eco-friendly. With less than three months to go before the Expo opens on May 1, an army of workers is hurrying to turn what was once the mainland's oldest shipyard into an environmentally friendly oasis in the heart of the country's biggest city. Solar power, recycled rainwater, hybrid engine buses - organisers and countries participating in the six-month event, expected to draw up to 100 million visitors, are working to create a "Better city, better life". "Green thinking, protecting the environment, harmony, low carbon - these are ideas that not only will we display at Expo, but we need to make each visitor feel them," said Shanghai mayor Han Zheng. It will be China's largest solar generation project, said Xu Bo, assistant commissioner general of the Expo. Several Expo pavilions have been designed to harness the sun's rays. Solar panels cover the roof of the national pavilion, the Oriental Crown, a 60-metre-tall red upside-down pyramid - one of a handful of buildings that will remain at the 5.3-square-kilometre site. The separate urbanisation theme pavilion - big enough to house four passenger planes - is covered in solar panels, and all the lighting used is energy-efficient. Organisers say the two buildings alone will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2,500 tonnes, by generating the equivalent in electricity to that derived from burning 1,000 tonnes of coal. As a sign of official willingness to make the environment a priority, authorities have warned that factories in the Yangtze River Delta up to 300 kilometres away could be shut if on-site air quality is below par […] Perhaps the most eye-catching eco feature at the Expo site is Sun Valley - visitors are greeted at the main entrance by six 40-metre-tall steel and plastic funnels. The transparent vase-like structures channel the sunlight and breeze underground to provide natural light and cooling. They also collect rainwater that will be used to flush toilets and run sprinklers to water the vast green spaces that cover a third of the Expo venue. Beneath Sun Valley, an underground network of 700 kilometres of pipes will use thermal energy from the earth and river water to provide natural heating and cooling for the site […] For transportation, visitors will be ferried around in buses with hybrid engines, and a mainland electric bicycle manufacturer has donated 100 electric cars and 300 electric bikes for Expo staff. The United Nations Environment Programme said an event on the scale of the Expo would inevitably lead to a massive increase in carbon emissions unless serious measures were taken. ^ top ^

 

Guangdong

Lawmaker pushes provincial gov't to open budget (Global Times)
2010-02-05
A lawmaker of southern China's Guangdong Province has been pressing the provincial authorities to disclose government budget, months after Guangzhou, the provincial capital, opened its budget for public scrutiny. "Government budget is public finance. It should not be seen as confidential," Guangdong lawmaker Xin Pu told Xinhua Thursday. Xin, general economist of Guangdong Power Corp., asked the Guangdong Provincial Finance Bureau to disclose budget of all provincial-level departments at the annual session of the Guangdong provincial People's Congress, which ended on Feb. 1. During the session, more than 700 Guangdong lawmakers, including Xin, reviewed and voted on the provincial budget plan submitted by the Provincial Finance Bureau. "The budget plan covers 116 departments and is as high as 469.5 billion yuan (about 69 billion US dollars). It's such a large amount of money. The public should know how and where the money will be used," Xin said. As of Thursday, Xin hasn't received an official reply from the Provincial Finance Bureau. Liu Kun, director of the bureau, told Xinhua that opening provincial budget to the public did not have legal ground. "Provincial budget is open to lawmakers according to the law. But there is no law saying that government budget must be open to the public" […] Liu said China was revising the Budget Law. "Guangdong will disclose the budget if disclosure to the public is written into the law." The government of Guangzhou released budgets of all its 114 departments on the official website of the finance bureau in October last year in response to the query of finance observer Li Detao, the first time for a Chinese city to break the secret. The website came to an intermittent halt the second day as citizens flooded to download documents. People had blamed Guangzhou government for excessive investment in nine kindergartens established for children of government officers […]. ^ top ^

Border security at HK, Macau to be tightened for Asian Games (SCMP)
2010-02-01
Guangdong police say they will tighten security checks at cross-border stations including those at Hong Kong and Macau before the 16th Asian Games in November. He Guangping, deputy chief of the Guangdong Public Security Department, declined to reveal details but told a news conference at the annual meeting of the Provincial People's Congress it was "international practice" before any major event to prepare measures against possible terrorism. He said the measures would be put into effect before the Games and would last until after the 10th Asian Para Games, to be hosted in Guangzhou from December 12 to 19. The deputy chief said many visitors, athletes and journalists would enter the province via Hong Kong and Macau during the period, and the authorities would do their best not to inconvenience travellers unduly. He said the security plan would create "a circle of defence around Guangzhou and Guangdong". He said police would tighten security not only at sports venues and the Asian Games Village but also at all connecting transport points with neighbouring provinces. Ensuring security at the Games is one of Guangdong's top priorities this year […] Guangzhou party secretary Zhu Xiaodan yesterday said authorities were working closely with Hong Kong police to draft the plan. "We frequently exchange intelligence on terrorists," the police deputy chief said. He said his department would not give terrorists the chance to affect the Games. To prevent social unrest, the province has made concessions on some sensitive social issues. Local journalists have speculated that a project to build an incinerator in Guangzhou's Panyu district has been put on hold by the provincial government to pacify thousands of residents who were angry the plant was being built near their homes. The project will be revisited early next year after the Games. ^ top ^

 

Xinjiang

New forces in Xinjiang to prevent riots (Global Times)
2010-02-04
The government has approved a plan to recruit 5,000 special police officers in Northwest China's Xinjiang region to help prevent unrest such as the devastating riots of July 5 last year, which killed 197 people. The new recruits would be civil servants under the leadership of the Xinjiang Regional Public Security Bureaus and cover the whole region. It would be the largest recruitment campaign of its kind in Xinjiang and all new recruits, after a month of intensive training, would serve alongside special police officers from other provinces, said Zhu Changjie, director of the regional public security bureau. "We expect them to be on patrol independently at the end of March," said Zhu. In China, special police units are responsible for combating terrorism, maintaining public security, and dealing with violent crimes and emergencies. More than 3,600 people, mainly decommissioned soldiers and college graduates, had been enlisted so far after a strict screening procedure. Training of the first 2,360 recruits started Tuesday in Urumqi, the regional capital. Cai Anji, an official with the Ministry of Public Security, urged training departments to develop "a professional force to fight terrorism and strike against violent crimes, and a quick-response force in emergencies." The recruitment was jointly laid out by the Committee of Political and Legislative Affairs of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, and the State Administration of Civil Service. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Tony Chan arrested on suspicion of forgery (SCMP)
2010-02-04
Fung shui master Tony Chan Chun-chuen was being questioned by police last night after being arrested on suspicion of forging a document. His arrest came a day after a judge ruled that a will Chan claimed had been written by tycoon Nina Wang Kung Yu-sum, leaving him her multibillion-dollar fortune, was forged […] Without identifying anyone, a police spokesman said last night that a 50-year-old man surnamed Chan had been arrested on suspicion of forging a document. On Tuesday, Mr Justice Johnson Lam Man-hong handed down his 326-page judgment on the sensational battle between Chan and the Chinachem Charitable Foundation. He concluded that the will Chan claimed Wang had signed on October 16, 2006, was forged. The judge ruled in the Court of First Instance that Chan was not a credible witness and many things he said in court were "tailored to suit his convenience". Chan claimed that Wang - who was the richest woman in Asia when she died in 2007 aged 69 - had bequeathed her estate to him because they had been lovers. Lam affirmed the validity of the will Wang made on July 28, 2002, as her last will, which he found truly reflected her long-held intention to leave her estate to her foundation. Confronted later by journalists outside his solicitor's firm in Central, Chan vowed to appeal and insisted he had not forged the will. The 2006 will is being kept by the court and police will have to apply to obtain it. ^ top ^

 

Macau

Macao's biggest historical residence opens to public (Xinhua)
2010-02-05
The Mandarin's House, one of Macao's world-heritage protected buildings, will open its door to the public Friday for the first time since the restoration project began, the local Macao Post Daily reported on Thursday. The Mandarin's House, also known as Zheng's Family Mansion in Chinese, is a two-story open plan dwelling and former residence of Zheng Guanying, a late Qing dynasty merchant and political reformer from Guangdong who penned his Treatise "Words of Warning in Times of Prosperity" while living in the historical residence. The Mandarin's House is due to open its doors to public for free at 3 p.m. Friday, according to a press release of Cultural Affairs Bureau of Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR). While visitors can gain entry without reserving a slot on one of the tours, it is recommended that visitors pre-register by going to the official website, as the entire house can only accommodate 100 people at a time, and priority is given to those who pre-register. Believed to be built before 1869, the Mandarin's House covers an area of nearly 4,000 square meters, the biggest of such kind in Macao […] Cultural Affairs Bureau took over the residence in July 2001 for restoration, and spent eight years and around 43 million patacas (5.44 million U.S. dollars) on the restoration project, which was originally scheduled to cost 36 million patacas and be open by 2007. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Taiwan ex-leader's wife gets shorter jail term for perjury (Xinhua)
2010-02-04
Taiwan ex-leader Chen Shui-bian's wife Wu Shu-chen was sentenced to nine months in jail by a Taiwan court Wednesday after a trial on the Chen family's perjury case. Investigations showed that Wu Shu-chen had collected personal invoices from Chen's two children and other people to get reimbursement from public money, Taiwan's high court said in the verdict. Wu was sentenced to one year in jail in September last year by the Taipei District Court in the first trial of her perjury case. When the high court started the second trial in November, Wu and others involved confessed their crimes at court but pleaded for shorter jail terms. Wu was accused of having told her son, Chen Chih-chung, and daughter, Chen Hsing-yu to give false testimony. The high court on Wednesday cut off three months from the previous six-month jail term imposed by the Taipei District Court respectively to her son, her daughter and son-in-law. Diana Chen, former chairwoman of Taipei 101 Mall, received an eight-month jail term, down from the previous 18 months, as her statement at court "evidently" did not match investigation records, the court said. Wu and his husband were also both sentenced to life in prison by the Taipei District Court in September last year for graft, embezzlement, money laundering and other abuses when Chen was in power from 2000 to 2008. They were still appealing their sentences at the Taiwan's high court. ^ top ^

US says it's committed to Taiwan's self-defence (SCMP)
2010-02-02
Washington intends to meet its obligation to ensure Taiwan's self-defence capabilities, the US assistant secretary of defence for the Asia-Pacific region said yesterday. Wallace Gregson's comment comes after Washington announced on Friday a US$6.4 billion plan to sell arms to Taiwan, a scheme Beijing said hurts its national security. The dispute adds to a list of issues including the value of the yuan, trade protectionism, Tibet and internet freedoms that could deepen a rift between the economic giants. "The United States is also obligated to ensure Taiwan's self-defence capability, and the United States fully intends to meet every one of our obligations there, and we will continue to do so into the future," Gregson said […] Gregson described US-Sino relations as "complex", but said Washington aimed to maintain co-operative, cordial relations with Beijing. Meanwhile, mainland media yesterday continued to bombard Washington over the arms deal, accusing it of "arrogance" and "double standards", and said Beijing's threat to penalise US companies was "very real". The China Daily and Global Times accused US President Barack Obama of being insincere when he said during a visit in November that he did not seek to "contain" China. "China's response, no matter how vehement, is justified," China Daily said, adding that Washington's move "exposes the US' usage of double standards and hypocrisy on major issues related to China's core interests". "Washington's arrogance also reflects the stark reality of how a nation's interests could be trampled upon by another," it said […] Aerospace giant Boeing - one of the US companies on which Beijing threatened to impose sanctions - said yesterday it had not been notified of any punishment by China […] China is Boeing's biggest international market and the company is working hard to grab the lion's share of the booming demand it expects in coming years from Chinese airlines. ^ top ^

Arms deal unlikely to hurt cross-strait thaw (SCMP)
2010-02-01
Washington's latest plan to sell US$6.4 million worth of arms to Taiwan will have little impact on warming cross-strait relations, considering that it involves less sensitive weapons, analysts say. Nor will it seriously upset the highly delicate triangle of Sino-US-Taiwan relations, they note. The arms sale plan, announced shortly after Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou left Los Angeles on a transit stop on his way back to Taiwan from the Dominican Republic, drew an angry protest from Beijing. But it has focused its criticism on Washington while doing nothing so far to punish Taiwan. The only reference so far about Taiwan in this dispute was a statement issued in Beijing by the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office, which stressed that the deal would only create a wrong signal to pro-independence activists in Taiwan and "ran counter both to the sound development of the cross-strait relations and to the fundamental interests of the Taiwan people in the long run". Analysts say while it is routine for the mainland to protest against arms sales to Taiwan, Beijing has been careful in both words and deeds not to sabotage cross-strait relations, which have dramatically improved since Ma took office in May 2008 and adopted a policy of engaging the mainland. They said the weapons to be sold to Taiwan could in no way create a serious threat to the mainland […] Professor Lin Chong-pin, at the same institute, said while Beijing was expected to be infuriated by the deal, it was unlikely to make any retaliatory move against Taiwan. "The grand strategy of Beijing is well oiled. It will avoid making things uncontrollable," he said. Lin Cheng-yi, a senior researcher of American and European studies at Taiwan's top academic institution Academia Sinica, said as long as the more advanced C/D versions of F-16 fighter jets and the submarines were not included in the deal, the impact on Taiwan would be very limited. "And the impact on the US will be short-lived, too," he said. Taiwan has been seeking to buy the advanced C/D versions of F-16 fighter jets and diesel submarines from the United States, but so far Washington has not approved such requests. Yen Chen-shen, a researcher at the Institute of International Relations under National Chengchi University, said President Hu Jintao's planned US visit later this year would be a good occasion to gauge the true impact of the arms deal on Sino-US ties. He said by selling those less-sensitive weapons to Taiwan, the US has slightly improved the military balance now strongly tilted towards China while avoiding seriously angering Beijing. "It also helps the Ma government find a good argument in defending its policy to engage the mainland when it tries to seek support from the opposition or the pro-independence camp in Taiwan," he said. The pro-independence camp has expressed worries that without adequate defensive capability, the Ma government would have no teeth at all in dealing with the mainland and will eventually be swallowed up by Beijing. Yesterday, it criticised the arms deal as "trash" while noting that Taiwan has to pay a huge bill for the package which is well above market prices. In response, Premier Wu Den-yih said his government would seek to obtain the package at a "reasonable price." Taiwan needs an additional NT$100 billion to buy the weapons, all of which were proposed by Ma's predecessor, Chen Shui-bian, between 2002 and 2007. ^ top ^

 

Tibet

US rejects Beijing's calls to snub Dalai Lama (SCMP)
2010-02-04
The White House said on Tuesday that US President Barack Obama would meet the Dalai Lama, firmly rejecting Chinese pressure to snub him as rows escalate between the Pacific powers. Days after defying Beijing with a US$6.4 billion weapons package for Taiwan, the White House also stood firm on US calls for China to address human rights concerns in Tibet. "The president told China leaders during his trip last year that he would meet with the Dalai Lama, and he intends to do so," White House spokesman Bill Burton said. "The Dalai Lama is an internationally respected religious and cultural leader, and the president will meet with him in that capacity," he said […] The Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement on its official website that Beijing strongly opposes any form of meeting between American leaders and the Dalai Lama, adding Chinese leaders "expounded this principled stance" during Obama's trip to China in November […] Obama has sought wide-ranging ties with the rising Asian power on issues from the global economy to North Korea. Burton said Obama remained committed to "building a positive, comprehensive and co-operative relationship with China". Obama avoided meeting the Dalai Lama when the Tibetan spiritual leader visited Washington in October last year. The move was controversial at home, but the White House said Obama did not want to sour ties with Beijing before his maiden visit a month later. But officials and experts said it was only a matter of time before Obama agreed to meet the Dalai Lama and to provide weapons to Taiwan, as is required under US law […] "To be clear, the US considers Tibet to be a part of China," Burton said. But he added: "We have human rights concerns about the treatment of Tibetans. We urge the government of China to protect the unique cultural and religious traditions of Tibet." Hours earlier, China said a meeting between Obama and the Dalai Lama would "seriously undermine the political foundation of Sino-US relations" […]. ^ top ^

Greater autonomy for Tibet ruled out (SCMP)
2010-02-02
Beijing bluntly ruled out any possibility of a "greater Tibet" or further autonomy in the Himalayan region as the Dalai Lama's envoys returned to India yesterday after seemingly futile closed-door negotiations in Beijing. Du Qinglin, head of the Communist Party Central Committee's United Front Work Department, told the envoys in Beijing at the weekend that "complete abandonment" of the idea of "greater Tibet and "meaningful autonomy" were the prerequisites of further negotiations […] The Dalai Lama's envoys - US-based Lodi Gyari and Swiss-based Kelsang Gyaltsen - had been in Beijing for two days of talks with officials from Du's department. "They returned to India today [Monday] after the negotiations in Beijing," the Dalai Lama's spokesman, Tenzin Taklha, said. But he refused to comment on the talks, the ninth round since 2002. The dialogue broke off 15 months ago because of a proposal submitted by the Dalai Lama's envoys that called for a "greater Tibet", which would combine four additional Tibetan-populated mainland provinces and the Tibet Autonomous Region. Du's remarks were yet another refusal of the Dalai Lama's calls for greater autonomy in "greater Tibet", which Beijing considers "separatist". "There is no room for negotiation on the issues of sovereignty and territory; there won't be any room for compromise," Du told the envoys. "The constitutional principles should not be abused, and the so-called 'greater Tibet' and 'high-degree autonomy' are against the constitution. Only when [the Dalai Lama] completely gives up [these ideas] will the negotiations have a foundation, and the Dalai Lama will have a future." "High-degree" autonomy, similar to the model being practised in Hong Kong and Macau, is one of the ideas the Dalai Lama has proposed to champion his calls for "meaningful autonomy" in greater Tibet. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate denies he wants to separate Tibet from China. Du added that negotiations would yield no progress if the Dalai Lama continued his "international anti-China campaign and sabotaging activities". The Dalai Lama is expected to meet US President Barack Obama in Washington this month. Although Beijing has repeatedly rejected the proposal of a "greater Tibet", it recently included Tibetan-populated areas in four other provinces - Yunnan, Gansu, Qinghai and Sichuan - for the first time in a blueprint for the region's economic development. Xinhua said Du had briefed the envoys on the development plan for Tibet and China's economic recovery from the global financial crisis. Wang Zuoan, director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, told a national conference of the Buddhist Association of China yesterday that Tibetan monks and nuns should be instilled with more nationalistic education. "[They should] absolutely oppose and voluntarily boycott separatist activities and attempts to destabilise society by the Dalai clique in the name of religion," Wang said. Beijing launched a campaign to "educate" Tibetan monks and nuns after unrest rocked Tibetan-populated areas in March 2008. In the campaign, the monks are required to denounce the Dalai Lama. In the latest issue of Qiushi magazine, Wang wrote that religious affairs in China were getting more complicated because of increased interference from "foreign forces" […]. ^ top ^

 

Economy

China, Switzerland FTA talks kick off in Beijing (People's Daily Online)
2010-02-05
China and Switzerland held their first study meeting on the feasibility of a Free Trade Area (FTA) in Beijing on Thursday, China's Ministry of Commerce (MOC) said in a statement on its website. The meeting will continue until Friday, the department of international trade and economic affairs of the MOC told Xinhua. According to MOC statistics, bilateral trade between China and Switzerland topped 11.3 billion U.S. dollars in 2008. Although the two-way trade volume dropped slightly on account of the global economic downturn in 2009, the decline rate was small. Official figures also show that Switzerland is China's ninth largest European trade partner, while China is Switzerland's fourth largest global trade partner. ^ top ^

China says RMB exchange rate "reasonable", dismisses U.S. criticism over trade (Xinhua)
2010-02-05
China on Thursday dismissed the latest U.S. criticism on its trade surplus, saying its currency exchange rate is close to a reasonable level. "We expect the United States to take a rational view of bilateral trade issues and to adhere to equality in negotiation. Accusations and pressure will not bring solutions," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said at a regular briefing. Ma's comments came a day after U.S. President Barack Obama said his administration will "get much tougher about enforcement"of trade rules in its dealing with China. Obama said his administration will put "constant pressure on China" to liberalize its capital account and appreciate the currency. "Our currency, the RMB, has appreciated more than 20 percent against the U.S. dollar since July 2005, when China moved to a floating exchange rate regime," Ma said. Before 2005, the RMB was pegged to the U.S. dollar at a fixed rate. "The RMB exchange rate has drawn close to a reasonable and balanced level, given the international balance of payments and the market supply and demand for foreign exchange," […] Ma dismissed the notion the RMB exchange rate is the major cause of the U.S. trade deficit. "China has never attempted to seek a trade surplus," Ma said, adding that China-U.S. trade cooperation is mutually beneficial. In response to questions regarding Washington's latest arms sales to Taiwan, Ma said China's decision to impose sanctions on U.S. arms firms is reasonable and reflected China's stance […] The potential targets of the sanctions include U.S. defense contractors Boeing, Sikorsky, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. Asked whether China-U.S. tension peaked over the arms sale and Obama's possible future meeting with the Dalai Lama, Ma said the United States should "take China's stance seriously and work with China on common goals." For the past two days, Ma has warned the U.S. leader against meeting the Dalai Lama in any way […] Ma called on the United States to abide by the principles of the three joint communiques and the recent agreement reached by the two presidents to safeguard the overall bilateral relationship. ^ top ^

Record U.S. budget deficit renews China's concern about its dollar assets (Xinhua)
2010-02-04
Chinese economists are again concerned about the value of the country's dollar-denominated assets after the U.S. government's budget plan unveiled Monday forecast a record deficit for 2010. The economists are worried that, if the Congress approved the budget plan, the U.S. federal government will issue more bonds and print more money to finance the deficit, which may prompt dollar depreciation. Dollar depreciation erodes the value of China's holdings of dollar-denominated assets. The same fears took hold almost one year ago when the U.S. government said it would issue up to 2.56 trillion U.S. dollars of treasury bond debt to stimulate the economy to get through the recession. This time the budget deficit is larger. The Obama administration on Monday proposed a budget of 3.83 trillion U.S. dollars for fiscal year 2011 with a forecast deficit of 1.56 trillion U.S. dollars in 2010. The planned fiscal deficit is 10.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) - up from a 9.9 percent share in 2009 - the largest deficit as measured against GDP since the second world war. He Maochun, director of the Center for Economic Diplomacy Studies at Tsinghua University, said the deficit would be financed by those holding U.S. dollar-denominated assets with the main channel to transfer the risks caused by the deficit being the issuance of U.S. treasury bonds. The U.S. is already in enormous debt, with Treasury data showing public debt topping 12 trillion U.S. dollars in November last year, the highest ever. To pay for the deficit, the U.S. federal government will borrow 392 billion dollars in the January to March quarter of 2010, according to a Treasury Department statement released Monday. It will then issue 268 billion U.S. dollars of treasury bonds in the second quarter […] In 2009, the greenback depreciated against major currencies by 8.5 percent, according to China's State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE). China is the biggest foreign holder of the U.S. government debt. As of the end of November last year, China held 789.6 billion U.S. dollars of U.S. treasury bonds. Moreover, more than 60 percent of China's 2.399 trillion U.S. dollar stockpile of foreign exchange reserves - the world's largest - is in dollars […]. ^ top ^

Record bank lending feared to lead to bad loans (People's Daily Online)
2010-02-03
Will Chinese banks' record-high lending create problems of non-performing loans and undermine the stability of its financial institutions? Not surely. But the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ) is thinking of the risks. The OECD said in its first China survey for five years that while China's loose monetary policies had helped shield the country from the world recession, excessive government interventions were a concern. The report identified the recent surge in new lending as a key problem facing the nation's economy and financial system. "While Chinese banks have so far weathered the global slowdown well, the acceleration in new lending since early 2009 raises the risk of a renewed surge in non-performing loans in the years ahead," the report said. Actually, the People's Bank of China, the central bank, has decided to raise the banks' reserve ratio to 16 percent of their deposits starting January 18, to rein in credit. "We welcome measures recently taken by authorities to deal with inflationary pressures, but we think this will have to be carefully monitored," OECD Chief Economist and Deputy Secretary General Pier Carlo Padoan told reporters. The OECD report said recent "sharp increases in land prices" in China stemmed partly from excess liquidity and it warned financial institutions could be stuck with bad loans if property prices fell. The housing price surge accelerated after Beijing responded last year to the world economic woes with tax breaks, easy bank loans, lower down payment requirements and by calling on banks to pump up lending to keep the economy growing. As a result, new loans nearly doubled in 2009 from the previous year to 9.59 trillion yuan (US$1.4 trillion), according to government data. ^ top ^

Stocks may hit bottom in April (China Daily)
2010-02-03
Chinese stocks may fall further before reaching a "bottom" in April or May as money supply growth slows and policy risks increase, JPMorgan Chase & Co said. The brokerage cut its December 2010 forecast for the MSCI China Index, tracking mainly Hong Kong-traded mainland company shares, to 62 from 78 […] The gauge on Monday rose 0.7 percent to 59.79. The Shanghai Composite Index has dropped 10 percent this year, on concern the government will tighten monetary policy to curb inflation and asset price speculation. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index has lost 9.2 percent. "We could see more and harsher tightening measures to come from China in the coming months, as China's CPI is expected to keep rising till July or August before tapering off," the analysts wrote. "Despite the correction over the past month, MSCI China has yet to fully price in the current tightening cycle in China." Record bank loans last year have added to the risk of asset bubbles and resurgent inflation. The nation's consumer prices climbed 0.6 percent in November from a year earlier, snapping a nine-month run of deflation. The government took its first steps on Jan 12 to curb lending by increasing the deposits banks must set aside as reserves. China's money supply growth may slow to 17 percent this fiscal year from last year's 27.7 percent, Li said. The performance of Chinese equities tends to track money supply growth, he said. JPMorgan's forecast for the MSCI index is based on a price-to-book value multiple of 2.1 times, the historical average since 2000, according to the report. The measure is currently valued at about 2.45 times book value, Bloomberg data shows. The People's Bank of China said on Jan 12 the proportion of deposits that banks must set aside as reserves will increase by 50 basis points starting on Jan 18. Along with the reserve ratio, the central bank has increased rates at bill auctions in the past month. Further measures to control inflation may include a reserve-ratio increase, higher interest rates, regulation on bank lending and price caps on commodities, the JPMorgan analysts wrote. The brokerage advised investors to be "overweight" on so-called defensive growth stocks such as Internet, gas, tissue and diapers, and healthcare companies. They have also "turned positive" on power producers, according to the report. They recommend selling property shares and stocks reliant on fixed-asset investment, saying that these industries may be the "most vulnerable" to tightening measures […]. ^ top ^

Amid dispute, Google launches map service for holiday travellers (SCMP)
2010-02-02
Google has launched a powerful map-searching service for the mainland's Lunar New Year travellers amid differences with Beijing over censorship which it has said could force it to quit the mainland market. The new service is being promoted on Carnoc.com, the official civil aviation website, with detailed introductions and graphics. The holiday transport service is based on a 2008 version Google launched for millions of passengers affected by heavy snow and ice which paralysed railways and stranded thousands of passengers in stations. That service provided information about the main transport routes in major cities and ticketing and weather updates. This year's service combines schedules, prices, information on train and plane tickets, highway and weather updates and Google's China map services to provide a comprehensive database for travellers nationwide who are returning home. It is unclear when Google began preparations to launch the service. About 210 million mainlanders are expected to travel to their hometowns for the Lunar New Year in the world's largest annual human migration. It is the only opportunity many people, including at least 150 million migrant workers, have for a family reunion. The number of travellers this year is expected to be 9.5 per cent higher than last year. Commentators said it was unlikely the new service was a sign Beijing and Google had reconciled […]. ^ top ^

Provincial governments lower GDP targets as nation seeks balanced recovery (Xinhua)
2010-02-02
Chinese provinces are scaling back economic growth targets for 2010 as the nation works to make its economic development more environmentally friendly. At its annual legislative meeting, southern China's Guangdong province set a growth target of 9 percent, lower than its estimated 9.5 percent expansion in 2009. The eastern province of Jiangsu earlier set a goal of 10 percent growth, down from the estimated 12.4 percent growth of last year. Neighboring Zhejiang Province, which relies heavily on exports, is aiming for 9 percent growth. Zhejiang governor Lu Zushan told lawmakers that 30 consecutive years of double-digit growth rate will stop. Zhejiang's economy grew at the second-slowest rate of 31 mainland provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities in the first quarter of 2009. But the rate accelerated to 8.9 percent for the year after a double-digit expansion in the second half. The lower growth targets were set at the annual sessions of local legislatures, after China recorded strong growth in 2009 on the back of a massive fiscal stimulus package and a surge in bank loans. Twenty-six provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities reported double-digit growth last year, compared with the national average of 8.7 percent. "There has never been a stronger call to give up some GDP growth to transform the growth model," said Sun Wenyou, Huzhou City's party chief. The Central Economic Conference and local legislatures have prioritized a shift to quality economic growth. On Jan. 28, National Bureau of Statistics head Ma Jiantang said the central government will scrutinize local GDP figures by using a unified calculation to prevent provinces from faking their economic figures. The central government's move shows it is serious about transforming the form of China's economic growth, Zhuo Yongliang, director of Zhejiang Province's Development and Reform Research Institute, said […] As local legislature meetings are held across the country, he foresaw more powerful and concrete action being taken by the local governments. In some regions, a desire for more sustainable growth was evident even as the national economy weakened rapidly last year. Drastic action was taken in Shanxi province, for example. Shanxi's major industry, coal mining, was restructured to close smaller collieries. Consequently, Shanxi's economy contracted 4.4 percent in the first half of 2009. For the whole year, the province's GDP grew 6 percent, 2.7 percentage points lower than the national average […] Continued weak global consumption could still take a toll on growth engines like the export-oriented Pearl River and Yangtze River deltas […] Analysts said demand for Chinese exports may not see significant improvement for three years as U.S.-style credit-based consumption may be gone forever. ^ top ^

China to experience slowdown in auto sales growth (People's Daily Online)
2010-02-01
China's vehicle sales may see a growth slowdown in 2010 because of a large base, according to the Ministry of Commerce. Auto sales in 2010 are forecast to rise more than 10 percent from 2009 to more than 15 million units, Saturday's China Daily cited the ministry as saying. "We are still confident of sales for 2010, as the government's policy to stimulate consumption at all levels will continue. But the robust growth momentum of last year cannot be sustained," said Chang Xiaochun, director of the department of market system development under the Ministry of Commerce. "Double-digit growth is not a difficult goal." China's reported 46.2 percent of growth in auto sales in 2009 from the previous year, the fastest in more than a decade. Last year, 13.65 million units were sold, making China the largest auto market by overtaking sales in the United States for the first time. ^ top ^

 

DPRK and South Korea

PDRK decides to release American trespasser (Xinhua)
2010-02-05
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) decided to release an American detained for trespassing on the DPRK border, the official Korean Central News Agency reported on Friday. After conducting an investigation into Robert Park, the DPRK decided to "leniently forgive and release him," the news agency said. The report said the decision was based on Park's "admission and sincere repentance of his wrong doings.". ^ top ^

Six-Party Talks before lifting sanctions: US (Global Times)
2010-02-04
A senior US official Wednesday rejected North Korea's terms for resuming nuclear disarmament talks, saying UN sanctions will stay in place until Pyongyang returns to the negotiating table. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, restating Washington's position, also ruled out any negotiations on a peace treaty until the Six-Party Talks get under way and the North reaffirms willingness to scrap its nuclear programs. "The essential next step is really the Six-Party Talks, not discussions on other matters," Campbell told reporters after talks with South Korean officials. "It's possible to have discussions on other matters within the six-party framework." The North must come back to talks and reaffirm its commitment to denuclearization accords in 2005 and 2007, he said. "Until those steps are taken, the US will not be prepared either to ease sanctions nor begin discussions on other issues," he added. Meanwhile, South Korea's Unification Ministry said the two Koreas will hold talks next week about resuming tourism projects if Seoul's conditions are met. The tours to the Mount Kumgang resort and the historic city of Kaesong previously earned the North tens of millions of dollars a year. South Korea suspended them after the North's army shot dead a Seoul housewife at Mount Kumgang in July 2008. She had strayed into a poorly marked closed military zone while on a stroll. Also Wednesday, Seoul's spy agency, the National Intelligence Service, said that Pyongyang had sacked Pak Nam-ki, its director for planning and finance, following a chaotic currency revaluation in November. The Yonhap News Agency reported that Pak was awaiting trial. ^ top ^

Seoul hints at holding summit with North (Global Times)
2010-02-03
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said Tuesday that he would not reward North Korea for agreeing to hold a fence-mending summit, as media reported secret talks aimed at setting up a meeting this summer. "The leaders of South and North Korea should meet under the principles that there will be no price for a summit," Lee said at a cabinet meeting. Lee told the BBC last week that a summit could take place this year. He reiterated Tuesday that he is willing to meet the North's leader, Kim Jong-il, at any time but "only under firm principles," according to Lee's spokesman. South Korea's Chosun Ilbo newspaper, in the latest of a spate of media reports, said a summit could be held in June or August and the South may resume desperately needed fertilizer shipments to its neighbor beforehand. However, Seoul's Unification Minister Hyun In-taek said at a press conference in Seoul that Lee's remarks do not guarantee a summit. "My understanding is that the president expressed our hope. It does not necessarily mean that the summit will take place this year," The Korean Times quoted him as saying. "Given the current circumstances and growing hopes for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, I think those speculations (about the summit) are percolating. But nothing has been determined." According to Lü Chao, a researcher on the two Koreas at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, Lee's words indicated that recent tensions have had little impact on Seoul's policy toward Pyongyang. "Lee was basically saying that there is still room for negotiation," Lü said. "Despite recent tensions, talks and reconciliation are still the main tone on the peninsula." However, Hyun questioned Pyongyang's willingness to return to the Six-Party Talks. "As North Korea continues to remain unclear about whether it will return to the talks, we cannot stop raising a fundamental question on its commitment to denuclearize itself," Hyun said. He also criticized the North's "repeated provocations" at sea, but said North-South relations were nevertheless slowly getting back on track. In regard to Kim's health condition, the unification minister said that the North Korean leader appears to be in good health, according to The Korean Times. The speculated summit would be the third, following meetings in 2000 and 2007. In 2000, the late former president Kim Dae-jung had the first summit with Kim and laid the foundation for improved inter-Korean relations with his "Sunshine Policy" […] Seven years later, the late former president Roh Moo-hyun held the second summit with Kim and signed the October 4 Peace Declaration, which called for international talks on replacing the current armistice of the Korean War (1950-53) with a permanent peace treaty […]. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Mongolia's grand champion Asashyoro ends his sumo career (MONTSAME)
2010-02-04
Yokozuna Asashoryu of Mongolia announced his retirement Thursday in a meeting with the sport's board of directors. The newly-elected board summoned the Yokozuna and his stablemaster to the Ryogoku Kokugikan Thursday to discuss the latest controversy surrounding the Yokozuna where he allegedly struck an acquaintance in the nose after a night of heavy drinking during the basho. Reports have Asashoryu announcing his retirement with no coercion from the board. "Thank you for all you've done for me, and I will now retire," he stated during the meeting. As Asashoryu left the Kokugikan flanked by former Ozeki Tochiazuma (current Tamanoi-oyakata), he stated to reporters,"Now I feel at peace." Grand champion Asashoryu, known for his truculent and fiery nature, said he has decided to bring an end to his illustrious but trouble-laden professional sumo career. Asashoryu, whose real name is Dolgorsuren Dagvadorj, is the first Mongolian-born wrestler to reach sumo's pinnacle of yokozuna. Asashoryu, 29, made his announcement to retire amid a recent scandal in which he was allegedly accused of seriously injuring a man in a drunken rampage. The 68th yokozuna was summoned by the Japan Sumo Association board of directors for questioning about the incident along with his stablemaster Takasago. He turned in his resignation, which was accepted by the JSA board. ^ top ^

Chinese aid arrives in Mongolia to help combat snowstorms (Xinhua)
2010-02-02
Aid materials provided by the Chinese government arrived on Monday to help Mongolians cope with the worst snowstorms the country has ever seen in three decades. The aid, worth 10 million yuan (1.46 million US dollars), includes food, portable power generators and quilts. At a handover ceremony at the airport, Enkhbold Miyegombo, deputy prime minister of Mongolia and head of the State Emergency Commission, said the timely support was an embodiment of brotherhood between China and Mongolia. Chinese Ambassador Yu Hongyao said he was confident that Mongolians would overcome the disaster with the leadership of the Mongolian government. The Red Cross Society of China has also announced a donation of 30,000 dollars to Mongolia, Yu said. Snowstorms across Mongolia have left over 1.5 million head of cattle dead, dealing a heavy blow to the country's farming industry. ^ top ^

29 Soums in Seven Provinces Rated as Calamity-Struck (UB Post)
2010-02-02
The country is currently experiencing extreme cold weather and heavy snow, which has caused much trouble for the life of rural herders. According to the Food and Agriculture Ministry, a total of 1,712,259 heads of livestock have frozen and starved to death nationwide as of January 31, due to the natural calamity of dzud that consists of a summer drought followed by heavy snow and abnormally low temperatures. The Government has appealed for food, medicine, heating supplies, and funds to buy fodder for livestock, to the local and international community. In response to the appeal, more assistance and support are coming. For instance, Australia has decided to provide AS$1 million to help the country recover from the effects of severe weather conditions. China sent disaster relief materials, which consists of 500 tonnes of rice and 180 tonnes of other relief items, including generators, quilts and food. The emergency aid materials provided by the Chinese government include portable generators, and quilts, as well as rice. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has increased its initial Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) allocation to CHF 400,000 (US$ 381,982) to support the Mongolian Red Cross Society (MRCS) over the next five months (until June 18) to deliver immediate assistance to some of the 1,200 families in the worst-affected five provinces. On 15 January 2010, CHF 150,000 (US$ 147,220) was allocated from the DREF to assist the country in delivering relief supplies to some 1,500 families. The number of affected herder families is estimated to be 180,000, out of which the government estimates that 120,000 are the worst affected. The Mongolian Red Cross Society jointly with the IFRC recently conducted an assessment to identify the critical needs of the worst-affected population. Assessment results indicated that families were facing food shortages, and needed warm clothes and boots, as well as psychological support and health education. Due to a drastic drop in temperatures from late 2009 to early 2010, nearly 90 percent of the country's territory was covered with snow as thick as 20 centimetres to 90 centimetres, and 198 soums have now been battered by the harsh weather. The average temperature in northern Region has dropped to -35 degrees Celsius, with temperatures in the rest of country ranging between -22 to -17 degrees Celsius. According to weather forecasts, snow fall and cold temperatures will continue throughout March, with temperatures ranging between -28 and -45 degrees Celsius. ^ top ^

132 Children From Same School Have Food Poisoning (UB Post)
2010-02-02
Last Friday, 132 students from the Russia-Mongolia Joint Secondary School No.3 have been taken to the National Center for Communicable Diseases for intensive treatments. According to preliminary diagnosis, the students aged 7-11 apparently suffers from acute diarrhea caused by food poisoning from meals served by the school's dining hall and were a part of 236 day-boarders. The source say that first symptoms of the food poisoning was observed in some of day-boarders beginning from January 28. For the past three days, 14 children were treated in reanimation unit of the National Center, after which were transferred to ordinary unit. However, the condition of five children is critical and are in reanimation unit currently. Official sources say that samples of 49 products used by the kitchen for meals and foods on January 27 and 28 were given to testing and results of the testing is expected to be ready soon. According to the employees, the dining room purchase its materials from a food market ‚Mercury' located nearby the school. In connection with this issue, the Metropolitan Emergency Commission held an emergency session. As result of the session, MEC chairperson G.Munkhbayar ordered competent bodies and authorities get all ill children involved in testing, keep constant contact with their parents, perform complete disinfection within and surrounding the kitchen and take required actions when necessary. The Russia-Mongolia Secondary School has been closed till February 3 under the decree issued by the Education Minister S.Otgonbayar. Consequently 1879 pupils from the school will not go to their school till Wednesday. ^ 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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