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
  8.3-12.3.10, No. 310  
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Table of contents

DPRK and South Korea

Mongolia

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Foreign Policy

High-speed rail: New Silk Road (Global Times)
2010-03-12
Less than two years after China's first high-speed railway went into operation, the country is now planning to extend its rail network beyond its borders, a project that will involve 17 nations, a Ministry of Railways spokesman confirmed to the Global Times Thursday. The international rail network will boost the exchange of trade and promote China's newly acquired high-speed railway technology, likely the next brand of "Made in China" comparable to world competitors, experts say. Initial negotiations with some countries are already underway, the spokesman said, without disclosing what progress had been made or details of the routes. The information was first revealed by Wang Mengshu, a professor at Beijing Jiaotong University and a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, who said Sunday that China plans to construct a high-speed railway system that will travel across Asia and Europe by 2025 […] China began construction of the domestic part of one route, which will travel across Southeast Asia, several years ago. The line starts in Kunming in Yunnan Province and runs south, as far as Singapore. Negotiations with parties in Myanmar and Singapore have gone smoothly [...] According to Wang, a second route will start in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and connect Central Asian countries such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan with Germany. A third line will connect the city of Heilongjiang in northern China with Eastern and Southern European countries via Russia. "Progress on the first route has been faster than the other two," Wang said. "Many problems such as discrepancies in track gauge, line direction and expense allocations are under discussion with the related countries." Lu Huapu, director of the Communication Research Institute at Tsinghua University, said the project is part of the Pan-Asian railways network, a plan proposed in 2006 that is expected to connect 28 countries with 81,000 kilometers of railways […] China will obtain major benefits from the project, which will carry mostly cargo transportation. "The second route will serve as a new "Silk Road" for China's western regions," Wang said. "Industries, businesses and issues of environmental protection are built on growing transport networks." "It will also be more convenient for us to tap into natural resources, especially oil and gas, in Myanmar, Iran and Russia if the system is completed," Wang said, adding that some parts of the project can be financed by a proposed "resources-for-technology" agreement […]. ^ top ^

Beijing tightens rules on foreign funding of NGOs (SCMP)
2010-03-12
The central government has tightened restrictions on overseas donations to independent domestic non-governmental organisations in a move that experts and NGO workers fear will threaten the survival of the mainland's fledgling civil society. Under regulations that came into effect this month, independent NGOs that accept donations from overseas donors face more scrutiny than ever. The central government refuses to allow independent NGOs to register as non-profit organisations, so most are forced to register as companies and are liable to pay tax. But now the State Administration of Foreign Exchange is requiring NGOs to meet a new set of conditions, among them the presentation of certificates of registration of the overseas donor organisations abroad and a notarised donation agreement. Religious groups are also required to obtain approval from the authorities before accepting donations worth more than 1 million yuan. NGOs connected to the government are exempted from the rules. The move has sparked outrage among independent grass-roots NGO workers, who fear it is the latest step by the government to restrict their work. "Obviously this is targeting funding [from abroad] for independent NGOs," said Wan Yanhai, head of outspoken Aids organisation Aizhixing. "This gives the government even more control. The new policy is a weapon that targets NGOs, it's a gun in their hand." The central government increasingly realises the value of NGOs' community work but also distrusts their motives, especially those that receive funding from abroad. The closure last July of Beijing-based civil rights group Open Constitution Initiative, which received grants from the Yale University law school, is still fresh in many NGO workers' memories. The non-profit group annoyed the government with a series of high-profile cases, including providing legal aid to victims of tainted baby milk formula. Apart from being fined 1.4 million yuan for tax violations, its founder Xu Zhiyong was detained for weeks. Wan said grass-roots NGOs already faced a plethora of bureaucratic procedures and were subject to scrutiny from various government departments including tax, commerce and state security authorities […] Although the new rules do not apply directly to international groups, the move nonetheless signals a further restriction on NGOs' overall operating environment. Last month, a notice attributed to the Ministry of Education appeared on the websites of several mainland universities saying Oxfam Hong Kong was an organisation with "ulterior motives". NGO workers say the bureaucracy involved under the new rules is unworkable and fear funding will be severely delayed or cease altogether because of the procedure's complexity […]. ^ top ^

US envoy optimistic after Beijing visit (Global Times)
2010-03-12
US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg expressed optimism over US-China relations after his visit to Beijing earlier this month. According to Steinberg, the US is now working closely with the Chinese government to prepare the next Strategic and Economic Dialogue, which will take place this summer. "I met with State Councilor Dai Bingguo, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and other senior Chinese officials. The US and China agreed on the high importance each attaches to their relationship and their commitment to building a positive, cooperative and comprehensive relationship," Steinberg told the Global Times in an exclusive interview. Steinberg characterized the bilateral relations as "partners out of necessity, but also out of opportunity.". ^ top ^

Google denies 'exit China' rumor (China Daily)
2010-03-12
Google on Thursday denied it was planning to shut down its business in China by the end of the month, dispelling rumors that it had informed its Chinese advertising agents to cease their business operations in the country. Google's spokeswoman Marsha Wang told China Daily on Thursday that the company had not ordered its domestic advertising agents to stop doing business. "That's not possible. Our China operations are still at normal," Wang said. Google's China team continued to develop new services, hire people and its businesses were "as usual", Wang said. In fact, two of Google's domestic advertising agencies also confirmed to China Daily on Thursday that their business was "running well". Rumors about Google's possible retreat from China were running high on Thursday ever since its CEO Eric Schmidt said at a media summit in Abu Dhabi a day earlier that he expected "something will happen soon" about its high-profile spat with China. Schmidt had said on Wednesday that Google's dispute with China would be solved "soon" and that the search giant was still in active negotiations with Chinese officials. China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology refused to comment on the Google issue on Thursday. But Qin Gang, the Foreign Ministry spokesman said at a regular press briefing that "the communication channel between relevant Chinese ministries and foreign Internet operators is running well." Qin also reiterated that foreign Internet operators should respect Chinese law while doing business in the country. Google sent shockwaves across the business and political world when it declared on Jan 12 that it would stop censoring Chinese search results, and said it was considering pulling out of the country. The announcement quickly turned into a political spat between Beijing and the US administration, which is weighing the merits of taking the dispute to the World Trade Organization […]. ^ top ^

China, India sign loan deals with Sri Lanka (Global Times)
2010-03-12
Both China and India opened their checkbooks Wednesday to grant massive support to Sri Lanka. In a deal signed in Beijing last week, China agreed to loan $290 million to the Sri Lankan government to build an airport and expand the island's railway network, the foreign ministry in Colombo said Wednesday. Beijing will provide a $190 million loan through its funding arm, Export-Import Bank, to construct the island's second airport and $100 million to boost the capacity of the Sri Lankan railway […] The two countries also discussed more funding for highways in the island's war-ravaged Jaffna peninsula, the statement said […] China was the largest foreign funding source for Sri Lanka in 2009 with $1.2 billion, followed by the Asian Development Bank with $424 million. Meanwhile, India and Sri Lanka on Wednesday signed a Line of Credit agreement for $67.4 million to fund the second phase of upgrades for the Southern Railway Line from Colombo to Matara, a city on the southern coast of Sri Lanka […] The Indian government, through the Export-Import Bank of India, had earlier provided a $100 million Line of Credit to Sri Lanka under an agreement signed in July 2008 […] Although both countries pledged support to the pearl of the Indian Ocean, the BBC quoted some Indian officials as saying that they "fear Beijing is trying to undermine New Delhi's influence in the region through its economic assistance," indicating a possible rivalry behind those supports. Hu Shisheng, a researcher at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times that such conspiracy theories are unnecessary. "Sri Lanka's strategic importance in the Indian Ocean is indisputable. However, in terms of influence on Sri Lanka, China is incomparable to India, which sits right next to Colombo," Hu said […]. ^ top ^

Learn from Copenhagen talks, official urges world (SCMP)
2010-03-11
China's top climate negotiator said the world must learn a lesson from the Copenhagen talks last year to ensure a meaningful deal is produced at the UN climate meeting in Mexico later this year. Although the Copenhagen meeting, which ended in a non-binding, face-saving political accord China helped hammer out, was widely seen as a failure, it was rare for Beijing officials to criticise it in such a way. The remarks yesterday by Xie Zhenhua, deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission, came a day after Beijing formally announced its support of the Copenhagen deal. "On top of the many topics to be tabled at the Mexico meeting, first and foremost, we must learn some lessons from the Copenhagen talks and ensure all parties have fair, open, transparent and broad participation," he said. China has been fiercely criticised by both rich countries and many poor allies for its leading role in secretly producing the controversial final document along with the US and three other emerging economies - India, Brazil and South Africa. "We should be aware of the lessons from the Copenhagen talks, which ended with dismay for some countries," Xie said at a briefing on the sidelines of the National People's Congress. "What they were not satisfied with was not the content of the deal, but the procedure that produced it." He said China had high hopes for the talks in Mexico in December but offered little detail about what China, the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, was prepared to do to make the meeting a success. Analysts say Beijing is unlikely to make any substantial concessions, such as accepting mandatory caps on carbon emissions or allowing an independent verification of its domestic emissions-cutting campaign. Although China made a conciliatory gesture in the Copenhagen Accord, which pledged to provide more transparency in reporting and monitoring carbon reductions in developing countries, Xie and other mainland officials said yesterday that it was unfair to ask China to do more before rich nations honoured their commitments […] Xie also urged the US to play a more constructive role in leading the global talks on climate change. "So we hope the United States will do more... and we hope the US will not shift the responsibility for taking more active action to other countries because of its rifts and difficulties at home," he said. ^ top ^

Writers, scholars call for release of Charter 08 dissident (SCMP)
2010-03-11
More than 100 writers, scholars and human rights activists have submitted a letter to the National People's Congress calling for the release of leading dissident Liu Xiaobo, Human Rights Watch said yesterday. Signatories to the letter - addressed to NPC chairman Wu Bangguo - include British author Salman Rushdie, Nobel literature laureate Nadine Gordimer of South Africa and mainland writer Ma Jian. Liu, 54, a writer and former professor, was sentenced to 11 years in prison in December on subversion charges, a year after he co-authored "Charter 08", a bold manifesto calling for political reform on the mainland. His sentence was upheld on appeal last month. "We believe Dr Liu was arrested solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed under China's constitution and by international law," the letter said. "We believe further that the crime of incitement to subvert state power as defined in Chinese law violates international human rights standards." The letter called for Liu's immediate release "without conditions". The writers, scholars and activists said it was "urgent that China's National People's Congress ensure that no one is sent to prison simply for the peaceful expression of his or her views". Sophie Richardson, the Asia advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, which released the letter, called Liu's imprisonment a "stain on China's reputation and standing in the world". Charter 08 called for the overhaul of the one-party communist system and the protection of human rights. According to China Human Rights Defenders, an activist network, more than 10,000 people have signed the document. The charges brought against Liu also related to anti-government articles written by him that were posted online. ^ top ^

China prefers greenback to gold (Global Times)
2010-03-10
The chief currency regulator reiterated Tuesday the country's continued commitment to invest in US Treasuries, calling the move responsible and assuring that a recent unloading of some holdings was simply part of regular market operations. He added that the country is diversifying its foreign investments to spread out risks, and it has no plan to boost its gold holdings. Speaking at a news conference Tuesday, Yi Gang, head of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE), said China's investment in US Treasuries is market-driven behavior and should not be politicized. Yi, who is also the vice governor of the People's Bank of China, the country's central bank, was responding to a question about concerns expressed by some American banks that believe China's cutback in US Treasuries may pose a threat to the US. The conference was part of the annual gathering of the National People's Congress. "The US Treasury market is the world's largest government bond market. Our foreign exchange reserves are large, so you can imagine that the US Treasury market is very important to us," he said, adding that buying and selling Treasuries are daily operations of his investment team. China's holdings of US Treasuries stood at $894.8 billion at the end of December, down from $929 billion in November, stoking concerns about whether China is retaliating over a number of recent issues, including US actions concerning Taiwan and Tibet. "China is a responsible investor, and we fully believe such investments can be mutually beneficial," Yi said […] Derek Han, a senior consultant for the China Economic Policy (London) Research Center and the board chairman of Blue Oak Global Holdings, told the Global Times that, regarding the structure of China's foreign exchange reserves, given its massive amount, there is no right or wrong strategy. "Whatever one may think of the US economy and its future prospects, the US bond market is the only market sufficiently large enough, offering relative security and sufficient liquidity, for a country with foreign exchange reserves so big," he said. China's foreign reserves grew from $286 billion in 2002 to $2.4 trillion in 2009 to become the world's biggest. That rapid rise has some bankers questioning whether China is right in investing so much in dollar assets. However, Yi said that SAFE will focus on spreading out risks, noting that China has dollars, euros, yen and emerging countries' currencies in its foreign reserves portfolio. He also pointed out that China has diversified investment abroad at both the state and private level […]. ^ top ^

China denies Sweden spy claim (SCMP)
2010-03-10
China yesterday hit back at accusations it was spying on exiled dissident groups, after a man was jailed in Sweden for collecting information about Uygur expatriates on Beijing's behalf. "This kind of accusation is totally groundless and has ulterior motives," foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said, without giving any further details. Babur Maihesuti, a 62-year-old Uygur who had been living in Sweden for 13 years as a political refugee, was sentenced by a Stockholm court to 16 months in prison on Monday for spying on expatriates from the mainly Muslim minority. Uygurs, a Turkic-speaking Central Asian people residing in northwest China's volatile Xinjiang region, have accused Beijing of decades of religious, cultural and political oppression - claims the government denies. The region suffers from strong ethnic tensions. In July last year, nearly 200 people were killed when ethnic violence erupted in the regional capital Urumqi, according to official figures. Maihesuti was found guilty of "aggravated illegal espionage activity" by the Swedish court. The court found that from January 2008 to June 2009, he had collected personal information about exiled Uygurs, including details on their health, travel and political involvement, and passed it on to Beijing. He had given the information to a Chinese diplomat and journalist who, on assignment from the nation's intelligence service, carried out operations in Sweden for Beijing, the court said. Qin would not be drawn on whether the case could have an impact on relations between China and Sweden. "We attach great importance to Sino-Swedish relations, and hope to be able to develop ties on the basis of respect and mutual confidence," he said. ^ top ^

China gets Sea of Japan foothold in N Korea (SCMP)
2010-03-09
North Korea has agreed to lease a port on its northeastern coast to Jilin province for 10 years, giving China a directly controlled foothold on the Sea of Japan for the first time in more than a century. Li Longxi, a National People's Congress deputy and head of the Yanbian Korean Minority Autonomous Prefecture, told China News Service that the deal, for exclusive use of a port in Rajin in the "special city" of Rason, would boost the regional economy and give landlocked Jilin valuable access to trade routes. China has worked to acquire a foothold in Rajin for several years, after North Korea designated Rason a free-trade zone. A Chinese company secured the right to use Rajin's No 1 port two years ago and it has since been used to transport coal to southeastern China and Japan. However, the new deal will give China much more freedom, because it will be able to choose what facilities to build at Rajin's No 1 port and how to use them. "With the lease, China can develop the port and build infrastructure there as it desires," said Liu Ming, director of Korean Peninsula studies at the Shanghai Academy of Social Science. He said Chinese authorities planned to use the port not only for shipping goods and resources but also for tourism. "This port could be used to dock cruise boats. Chinese tourists with a special permit can board cruises to countries like Russia, Japan and South Korea from the Rajin port," Liu said. China lost port access to the Sea of Japan, which Koreans call the East Sea, in the 19th century, and the resource-rich and strategically important northeastern provinces of Jilin and Heilongjiang became landlocked. The lease of the port in Rajin is further indication of Beijing's desire to develop the region into an important trade gateway connecting the northeast Asian economies of Russia, Japan, North Korea and South Korea. In August, the State Council approved a proposal to turn Jilin's Tumen River area into an economic development zone. It includes the provincial capital Changchun, the city of Jilin and Yanbian. It said the new economic zone was significant for China's long-term strategy, and accelerating its development was a big step in reviving the country's backward northeast […] The North Korean embassy in Beijing said yesterday it had no information about the deal. There are five ports in Rajin. Chinese and Russian companies have secured rights to use ports No 3 and No 4. ^ top ^

China-Russia oil pipeline to be completed this year: FM (China Daily)
2010-03-09
The China-Russia oil pipeline is likely to be completed by the end of this year and the project will enter into operation in 2011, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said […] Yang made the remarks at the press conference held Sunday on the sidelines of the annual session of the National People's Congress, the country's top legislature. Yang said the China-Russia relation is one of the priorities of China's diplomacy and that there is much potential in the practical cooperation and development for both countries. The two countries support each other on issues concerning core interests. On many major international and regional issues, China and Russia share same or similar views and have close communications […] China and Russia signed a series of agreements on energy, oil, natural gas, coal, power, nuclear and high-speed railways last year, Yang said. ^ top ^

Foreign minister fends off claims of assertiveness (SCMP)
2010-03-08
Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi fended off criticisms over Beijing's increasing assertiveness in handling international issues yesterday, saying it was only using its rising power to protect the nation's core interests. Addressing strained relations with the United States, Yang said bilateral ties had been seriously disrupted and Washington should be held responsible. Speaking at a press conference on the sidelines of the National People's Congress, Yang fielded questions on a range of issues, from the Iran nuclear problem to climate change. In the face of growing concern over Beijing's assertiveness, Yang said defending China's national interests and dignity was "completely different to being assertive". "The utmost goal of China's diplomacy is to safeguard national sovereignty, security and development rights, as well as to promote world peace and development," he said. "If one considers upholding a country's core interests and dignity as a show of assertiveness, and undermining a country's core interests as a sensible thing, then where is the justice?" Beijing has recently come under fire for its reluctance to commit to concrete measures at the Copenhagen climate summit, its high-profile sentencing of dissidents and the execution of a British national despite international pressure, with observers saying that growing economic prowess has allowed China to be more assertive on the world stage. But Yang said the world needed to abandon conventional mentality and ideology to better understand China. "I like oil paintings as well as Chinese ink paintings, but if people apply the standards for oil paintings to appreciate ink paintings, there are going to be mistakes," he said […] Yang said the "most pressing matter" now was for the US to respect China's core interests and "properly handle" sensitive issues in order to get Sino-US ties back on track […] Yang said leaders had had an "in-depth" and "candid" discussion with US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg and the National Security Council's senior director for Asian affairs, Jeffrey Bader, both of whom recently visited Beijing for a fence-mending trip. Yang did not say if the trip had helped to improve ties. Professor Jin Canrong, of Renmin University's School of International Studies, said new undercurrents in bilateral ties were likely as the issue of the yuan exchange rate was expected to be brought up again in the US Treasury Department's semi-annual report on the foreign exchange rate, to be released on April 15. Another source of tension, he added, would be Beijing's reluctance to impose sanctions on Iran […] He said China had deviated from a submissive approach in diplomacy, and although it did not want that assertiveness to be perceived negatively, that was the perception overseas. "China doesn't want to be at the focal point of conflicts," Jin said. "China wants its voice to be heard but doesn't want this to be perceived as being aggressive, because it wants to keep a low profile” […]. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Judiciary data won't tally with police figures (SCMP)
2010-03-12
The annual reports of the mainland's top judge and state prosecutor yesterday raised concerns that the country's courts were being stretched too thin by a rising tide of crime. Buried under a mountain of court data, two sets of figures in the otherwise banal reports left many people scratching their heads, asking: did the crime rate rise last year after all? Earlier this month, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences released a report based on police figures for crime on the mainland. It painted a gloomy picture, as the figures for many serious crimes recorded double-digit increases. Yet when the chiefs of the Supreme People's Court and Supreme People's Procuratorate released their figures yesterday, they showed a reduction in crime. The number of criminal cases dealt with by the court of first instance dropped slightly, by 0.2 per cent to 767,000, with 997,000 suspects being convicted. The number of people being arrested and prosecuted last year also registered decreases, of 1.2 per cent and 0.8 per cent respectively. This contrasted with the figures from the academy's report, which said mainland police had investigated more than 4.4 million people last year, up 14.8 per cent year on year. Serious crimes, such as rape, arson and poisonings, all grew by double-digits. The great disparity between the academy's figures, based on police reports, and figures announced by the courts and prosecutors left many people puzzled. Lawmakers, judges and legal experts said the apparent contradiction could be down to various reasons. Criminal law professor Liu Renwen said it was partly due to the growing preference by court officials to use mediation or light administrative measures to solve light cases - such as crimes committed by first-timers, young people and people who were willing to repent. He attributed the increase in the number of cases filed by police to greater policing efforts in a sensitive year marked by the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic and an unprecedented crackdown on triads in Chongqing. Mainland courts have been struggling for years to handle the sharp increase in cases with limited resources. According to statistics in the Supreme People's Court's report, despite a 25 per cent jump in the number of cases handled by provincial and regional courts, from 8.37 million in 2005 to 10.54 million in 2009, the number of judges remained unchanged at 190,000. The authorities hope the use of mediation and other methods can help reduce the workload faced by judges and prosecutors. "It is not uncommon for a judge to handle two to three cases a day. That means on average up to 1,000 a year," said Li Qihong, a judge from Henan. "More and more senior judges are retiring, while the number of young judges entering the profession is being limited by the tough qualification examinations. The pressure on judges is getting very tough. A survey showed that many of us are suffering from one kind or another form of health problems." Apart from the punishing workload, the courts and procuratorate have also been demoralised by of a number of high-profile corruption cases over the years […]. ^ top ^

Chief justice vows to combat corruption (Global Times)
2010-03-12
China's Chief Justice Wang Shengjun said Thursday that courts will take steps to prevent abuse of judicial power. The pledge came after Huang Songyou, former vice president of the Supreme People's Court (SPC), was sentenced on January 19 to life imprisonment for taking bribes and embezzlement. Huang was convicted of taking more than 3.9 million yuan ($574,000) in bribes from 2005 to 2008. Wang, president of SPC, said nearly 800 court officials were punished for violating laws last year. The SPC will "strengthen capacity building and act as a model for local courts," Wang told the nation's lawmakers at the annual parliament session. Courts at all levels should "learn a lesson from the case of Huang Songyou" to find out deep-rooted problems on the management of judges and supervision of power […] The SPC has appointed discipline supervisors in its 14 departments and more than 27,700 supervisors are watching over nearly 3,000 courts nationwide, Wang said. Prosecutor-General Cao Jianming said in a separate report the same day that prosecutors investigated more than 2,700 judiciary workers suspected of graft and malpractice for personal gains last year. Judiciary staff will be punished if they are found "meddling and intervening in court cases, giving bribes to law enforcement personnel, beating or verbally abusing petitioners and over-running timetables in enforcing court rulings," according to an SPC regulation. Cao said in the report that efforts should be made to "resolutely punish corrupt acts in the judicial sector to purify the judicial team and safeguard integrity and justice." An anti-gang crackdown in Chongqing since last year revealed widespread judicial corruption. About 200 judicial and public security officials were implicated. Wen Qiang, former deputy police chief and head of the justice bureau of the city, stood trial last month for allegedly raping, taking about 15 million yuan ($2.2 million) in bribes for protecting criminal gangs, and owning a huge amount of unexplainable assets. ^ top ^

NPC deputy calls for petitioners to be jailed for 15 years (SCMP)
2010-03-12
Petitioners who "seriously disrupted the normal life and work order of local government leaders" should be jailed for up to 15 years, according to an NPC deputy in charge of legal affairs in a regional legislature. The proposal by Liu Qingning, deputy director of the legal affairs committee of the Guangxi regional people's congress, attracted criticism from internet users, lawyers and petitioners. Liu said 20 actions in the process of petitioning - seeking government vindication or redress by complaining to government offices - should be criminalised if they were repeated and caused "serious consequences". The actions include chanting slogans, unfurling banners, distributing printed or written material, staging sit-ins, blocking exits of buildings, occupying or overstaying in petition offices, suicide attempts and self-harm [...] Liu did not spell out what he believed amounted to "serious consequences". But he proposed that a jail sentence of up to three years should be handed to petitioners involved in one such action, rising to seven to 15 years for "particularly serious cases". Liu said "illegal petitioning" had become a serious problem and "only very few people know that the Communist Party and the State Council have attached great importance to the work of [handling] petitioners and, in order to maximise their interests, they have taken the initiative to petition Beijing in order to increase pressure on local governments". Angry internet users lashed out at the proposal and called it a blatant violation of the constitution. Some wondered whether Liu represented the people or "corrupt officials" […] Shanghai-based petitioner Xue Haiquan said: "It is what a lot of officials have in mind: to persecute petitioners... One only becomes a petitioner because he or she is unfairly treated." She was sent back to Shanghai from Beijing on March 6 when she attempted to lodge a complaint against a hospital that she claimed had disabled her after an operation in 2002. She has been detained twice, in 2007 and 2008, for petitioning. ^ top ^

Journalists must face new exam (SCMP)
2010-03-11
The mainland's top print media censor is to introduce a new qualification exam for aspiring journalists this year in a push to tighten up on control of media outlets. Li Dongdong, deputy director at the General Administration of Press and Publication, said yesterday that the new regime would be similar to the qualification exam for civil service jobs, and prospective journalists would have to sit the exam before they could apply for a news-related job. "No matter what your field of study, if you are not taught about the history of Chinese Communist Party journalism, the Marxist view of news and media ethics, you cannot pass the tests," she added. The new qualification regime will make knowledge of Communist Party lines on news reporting and Marxist thoughts on journalism prerequisites for a qualified reporter. Official statistics show that there are 1,943 newspapers and 9,860 magazines on the mainland that employ a million people, 230,000 of whom are editors and frontline reporters who need to obtain accreditation. Li said the new accreditation regime was being introduced in the wake of heightened public discontent over what she called vulgarity, bad taste and unethical news reporting by mainland media. Beijing TV reporter Zi Beijia was sentenced to a year in jail in 2007 for putting together a hoax investigative report about cardboard-stuffed steamed buns being sold in Beijing. Beijing TV quickly claimed that Zi was not an accredited reporter, to distance itself from the scandal. However the hoax, along with other irregularities, has triggered a national outcry over the lack of ethics of mainland journalists. Farmer's Daily reporter Li Junqi was sentenced to 16 years in prison late last year after he was found to have accepted 200,000 yuan on behalf of the paper for promising to help cover up a mining accident in August 2008. Hong Kong Baptist University journalism professor Huang Yu said the qualification exams had much more to do with official concerns over dissent than the government's desire to eradicate unprofessionalism and misconduct. Huang said a case in point was the government's speed in meting out punishment for some senior newspaper editors who published a joint editorial calling for reform of the controversial hukou household-registration system. Li Dongdong said all newspaper directors and chief editors would have to undergo separate training, and her agency planned to train all of them within three or four years […] "If they don't have the judgment, that means they have yet to develop the basic political acumen to take charge," Li said. "So we should strengthen education, strengthen political education and education about control of the overall situation." The Communist Party has tightened media control, especially control over the internet, over the past year. ^ top ^

Editor punished (SCMP)
2010-03-11
A newspaper editor says he has been punished for co-writing a bold editorial demanding the reform of the unpopular hukou household-registration system, which critics say discriminates against farmers and other rural poor. Zhang Hong, a former deputy editor with The Economic Observer, said in a letter posted on The Wall Street Journal's website that he was "punished accordingly" for the March 1 editorial carried by 13 mainland newspapers. "Other colleagues and media partners also felt repercussions," Zhang wrote in the letter, dated Tuesday. He did not say if he was sacked but added that he was now an "independent commentator". Such direct and public criticism of government policy by the media is unusual. While many publications have sharpened their reporting on controversial issues to help draw readers, editorials tend to adhere closely to Communist Party lines. The editorial was particularly daring because it appeared just before the annual legislative session. In his letter, Zhang said the timing was deliberate and meant "to express the media's wish to participate in China's overall reform". He wrote: "To put it bluntly, I've lived for 36 years, but never known which representatives were chosen by me, who are able to seek justice on my behalf. We hope that the voices of the masses can make themselves heard among the representatives who `represent public opinion'.". ^ top ^

Severe drought in SW China regions likely to linger till May (Xinhua)
2010-03-11
A severe drought in southwest China, which local people say is the worst in a century, is forecast to linger and extend till the start of the rainy season in May, according to two provincial meteorological stations. The meteorological stations in Yunnan and Guizhou provinces made the forecast Wednesday saying no effective and widespread rainfall could be expected before May, although weak rainfall was likely in the second half of this month. The Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) said Sunday that the drought since autumn last year had affected 61.31 million mu (4.09 million hectares) of farmland in southwest China as of March 5. About 32.95 million mu (2.20 million hectares) of that area was seriously damaged, according to the MOA. ^ top ^

Parents of missing teenagers win in new trafficking law (China Daily)
2010-03-11
Chinese police plan to introduce a new guideline making it easier to rescue teenage girls from the clutches of human traffickers. The guideline will speed up the investigation and filing of cases involving girls between 14 and 18, who often fall through the cracks of anti-trafficking legislation, said Chen Shiqu, chief of the anti-trafficking office under the Ministry of Public Security (MPS). "Parents will be able to seek legal help without providing complete evidence about their missing children," Chen was quoted by the Beijing Morning Post. The MPS will jointly issue the guideline with the Supreme People's Court, Supreme People's Procuratorate and the Ministry of Justice, the report said. "It's good news for parents, as grassroots legal departments can no longer refuse a case related to missing girls aged 14 to 18," Zhang Zhiwei, a lawyer and volunteer with the non-government organization Baby Come Home, told China Daily on Wednesday. "The understanding of the law surrounding girls 14 to 18 years old was always a nebulous concept, and in some trafficking cases it wasted the best time to save the girls," he said. Zhang said missing girls younger than 14 fall under the anti-trafficking law for children, while many people mistakenly believe that the anti-trafficking law for women only relates to those older than 18. Zhang […] said many websites now facilitate parents sharing information about missing children. In a move to reconnect families, the MPS released information on about 60 rescued children on its website last October, and seven of them have found their parents, the report said yesterday […] Chinese police freed more than 3,400 children and 7,300 women during a nine-month national campaign against human trafficking that was launched in early April last year. To help reconnect children with their parents, police will speed up the construction of a national DNA database, which has only 20,000 to 30,000 records. Information in the database is shared among the country's 236 DNA laboratories. It includes DNA of the missing children given by their parents, as well as samples taken from children suspected of having been abducted or from children with an unclear history. About 30,000 to 60,000 children are reported missing every year, but it is hard to estimate how many are involved in trafficking cases, according to the MPS. ^ top ^

Political reform with Chinese characteristics is intriguing talk (SCMP)
2010-03-10
It has become routine that top mainland leaders renew pledges to push ahead with political reform during the parliamentary plenary sessions. This year is no exception. Although the promises still lack specific details as they did in previous years, the officials seem to have changed their tone this year. There is a greater sense of urgency that has rarely been seen for years. And the change of wording has left many China watchers puzzled, with some overseas media even speculating on the possibility of substantial reform. But other analysts have cautioned against such a rosy prediction, citing the leaders' poor track record in honouring their commitment to greater democracy and political reform. The latest case in point is some intriguing remarks yesterday by parliamentary chief Wu Bangguo, the second most powerful man in the Communist Party. In his annual report to the National People's Congress, Wu talked about the lessons of the Cultural Revolution as he elaborated on the importance of political reform. "At the third plenary session of the 11th Central Committee [in 1978], the party reviewed the lessons since the founding of the People's Republic, particularly those of the Cultural Revolution," he said. Although that tumultuous 1966-76 era ended more than three decades ago, it largely remains a taboo subject on the mainland. Analysts noted leaders have tried in the past to avoid mentioning the Cultural Revolution because of its sensitivity about the reappraisal of Mao Zedong and reopening bitter political wounds. Beijing-based political observer Hu Xingdou said authorities apparently felt the heat from a group of leftists who were nostalgic for Maoist days and critical of the reform and opening-up. "By mentioning the 1978 meeting that gave a comprehensive review of the Cultural Revolution and ushered in a new era, the leadership wants to reiterate its determination to continue with the reform and opening-up," he said. Analysts noted that Wu's remarks also echoed those of Premier Wen Jiabao, who stressed the importance of political reform in his annual work report just a few days ago. It was the first time Wen said economic reform and the modernisation drive would not be a complete success without political reform. But the concept of political reform that Chinese leaders often talk about is vastly different from what the people anticipated and the authorities have no intention to review the Cultural Revolution, according to analysts. Another Beijing-based analyst, Liu Junning, said the public should not read too much into the words of leaders. "They always talk about political reform, but they are talking nonsense because they don't mean it at all," he said. ^ top ^

Cabinet officials to face inquiries (China Daily)
2010-03-10
China's top legislature will demand State Council officials to attend its regular legislative sessions to face inquiries and interrogations from legislators, a move to improve supervision of the central government. "Inquiries and interrogations are legal means by which people's congresses oversee governments, courts and procuratorates," Wu Bangguo, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), said on Tuesday during his work report. "This year, we will select some widely concerned issues and hear reports on those issues from relative State Council departments. Main leaders from those departments will be required to listen to suggestions and respond to inquiries and interrogations," he said. This is the first time the top legislature has included "inquiries and interrogations of State Council officials" in its annual work report. Experts said the change reflects the legislature's resolution to better supervise the government and get rid of the "rubber-stamp" image given by Western media. In their reports, China's NPC is generally described as weak and obedient especially in the face of a strong government. Chen Sixi, deputy director of the NPC's internal and judicial affairs committee, said the legislators' power to inquire and interrogate government officials is granted by the Deputy Law. "Inquiry is mild, but interrogation could be very harsh, usually with criticism," he said. "If legislators are not satisfied, they can keep asking until the officials offer a satisfactory answer." He said as far as he could remember, no interrogation of State Council officials has been conducted in the past three decades, and inquiries have been very rare, too. Chen said so far the NPC Standing Committee has not made clear plans on when to conduct such inquiries and interrogations, but "there will definitely be some arrangements as it has been written into the report so explicitly". According to the work report, the NPC Standing Committee this year plans to hear reports from the State Council in the following sectors: implementation of the central budget, development of the service sector and the culture industry, national food security, medical care reform, road safety management, as well as the protection of migrant workers. The NPC Standing Committee usually has six legislative sessions a year […] Top legislator Wu also said on Tuesday that the NPC Standing Committee would ensure the goal of formulating a socialist legal system with Chinese characteristics be achieved by the end of this year as scheduled. ^ top ^

Mental illnesses among the young rising (People's Daily Online)
2010-03-10
The mental health of China's youngsters is on the decline, with 60 percent of college students feeling isolated and 80 percent feeling injustice and subdued, according to a national survey. Those inflicted students often find their expression through irregular behavior, skipping classes, autism and rebellion, and have also led to psychological problems like Internet addiction and even suicide, the Bejing-based China Daily quoted the China Population Communication Center as saying. "The current crisis of personality makes me wonder whether we have failed to build up our young people in the country?" said Pan Gui-yu, deputy secretary-general of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee, a top advisory organization in China. The psychological problems seem to exacerbate as children grow up, the survey found out. Primary and junior high school students did not show personality disorders. Senior high school students, although having a higher incidence of psychological troubles, covered up problems by engaging in preparations for the college entrance examination. Those who went to college showed the worst state of mind, the report revealed. In the survey, three of 10 college respondents said they never communicated with their parents, while 25 percent will not talk to their parents unless they experience a conflict. Nearly 50 percent said they lacked a sense of security in social interactions, and another 50 percent were not content with their lives. Two of 10 felt trapped in a state of emptiness and 60 percent often felt lonely and lost. The report also said that 80 percent of college students complained about social inequality and some of them had developed an intense anger […] There have been a growing number of college students showing psychological disorders when encountering problems. Pan Quanhui, a 23-year-old student at the University of Hong Kong, committed suicide earlier this month because he could not get rid of the pimple on his face. Pei Meng, a 19-year-old student in Nanyang Normal University of Sichuan province, jumped to her death from a building on January 15 due to a poor performance on her final exam […] According to research by the China Youth and Children Research Association, 30 million youngsters below the age of 17 are suffering from mental troubles. It also said anxiety disorders among college students increased 8 percent between 1992 and 2005, and depression rose by 7 percent. This is partly because families have failed to develop their children's mental toughness, said Pan Guiyu. "In most cases they are spoiled and have not been taught to be independent, responsible and express due gratitude." On Chinese mainland, 34 percent of people younger than 25 are the only children in their families, said the Bejing-based China Daily […]. ^ top ^

Disaster warning over plan to link rivers (SCMP)
2010-03-10
A proposal by Jiangxi and Guangdong officials for a canal to link the main rivers in each province has met with fierce opposition from academics and former officials who have described it as "ridiculous" and a "potential natural disaster". Officials from three Jiangxi government departments have confirmed that discussions are continuing on the Gan-Yue Canal proposal. The 1,237 kilometre canal would connect the Gan River in Jiangxi with the Pearl River in Guangdong, creating a new route for shipping and trade. A Jiangxi Waterways Bureau official said that plans to link the two rivers had been floated three or four years ago, but nothing concrete had yet been planned. "This project is going to be very eye-catching as it will transform regional economic development," he said. The Gan flows across Jiangxi from south to north, entering Poyang Lake near the provincial capital Nanchang before joining the Yangtze. Connecting the Pearl with the Gan could cut the distance ships cover between the Pearl and Yangtze deltas by more than 1,200 kilometres, avoiding the coasts of Fujian, Zhejiang and Shanghai […] Guangzhou Daily […] said construction of the massive project could cost up to 10 billion yuan (HK$11.35 billion). Sixty-one per cent of the canal - 759 kilometres of it - would be in Jiangxi […] Plans to build the Gan-Yue Canal are bound to spark controversy due to the massive scale of construction work involved, the sharing of scarce water resources and its negative environmental impact. Professor Chen Xiaohong, who heads Sun Yat-sen University's department of water resources and environment, said the canal proposal was nothing more than a fantasy and vanity project that would waste public money and manpower. "The Bei River is tiny and has already reached its maximum capacity to carry more ships," he said. "The economic benefit brought by the canal is negligible because it can't handle any more shipping. It's meaningless and unnecessary to dig a canal just for that. It will do more damage than good to the regional economy. Water resources and the ecological system around it will be under threat. It's just not worth it." However, it would not be the only such project to face heavy criticism […]. ^ top ^

China mulls fairer elections (Global Times)
2010-03-09
China's top legislature Monday began deliberating a draft amendment to eliminate the discrepancy in the representation of rural and urban people in the people's congresses, a move believed to be aimed at narrowing the development gap between cities and rural areas. The draft, which also requires face time between legislative candidates and voters, is seen as a step forward in the country's democratic election process by introducing more transparency and competition. Lawmakers are expected to vote on the draft amendment to the Electoral Law at the closing meeting of the annual session of the National People's Congress scheduled for Sunday. The amendment, for the first time in China's history, requires both rural and urban areas to adopt the same ratio of deputies to the represented population in elections of people's congress deputies […] Enacted in 1953, the Electoral Law underwent a major revision in 1979, followed by four subsequent minor amendments. The rural deputies used to represent eight times the number of people represented by each urban deputy. Since 1995, the ratio was 4:1. The new amendment will change the ratio to 1:1. Wang said it's an adjustment in accordance with the change of population makeup. Urban residents accounted for only 13.26 percent of the total population in 1953. The percentage expanded to 46.6 last year, according to Wang. There are close to 3,000 NPC delegates from the provinces, autonomous regions, municipalities, and the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macao. The military also has a delegation of more than 260 people. The deputies will listen to the work reports of the government, the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate, and pass a number of laws during the annual session. "The amendment marks a big step forward in expanding China's grassroots democracy," Xu Chongde, a School of Law professor at Renmin University of China, said. The income gap between urban and rural residents has widened since the economic reform in the 1980s, with the urban-rural ratio at 3.33:1 last year. The amendment also proposes to add the stipulation that the election committee should organize face-to-face contact between candidates and voters, at the request of voters, to allow candidates to "introduce themselves and take up questions" [...]. ^ top ^

Chinese women struggle to hold up the sky (SCMP)
2010-03-09
Mao Zedong said women held up half the sky, but in today's China, the half that matters, the economy, often remains out of their reach. Women make up the backbone of production-line workers in the mainland's private, export-oriented factories, and gravitate to professions such as medicine and teaching. But they have done less well in entering the centres of power - the Communist Party, and the giant corporations that form the core of the state-dominated economy. At the annual meeting of the National People's Congress (NPC) and an auxiliary advisory body that both opened this week, women were very much a minority, especially female Communist Party members from the Han Chinese population. Guo Shuqin, a doctor from Hebei attending as a parliamentary delegate, said: "While there are a lot of women at all levels of politics, proportionally their numbers are small. This is because in the old feudal system there was no equality between men and women." But, Guo added: "I think it's likely that in the near future we'll have a female president." One-fifth of NPC parliamentarians are female, higher than the 17 per cent of the United States Congress who are women. But China's parliament comes under the firm thumb of the Communist Party, where real power lies. All nine members of the Party's top ruling body, the Politburo Standing Committee, who marked the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day on Sunday, are men. Chinese women's economic power and wealth are still lower than men's. They own 20 per cent of businesses, compared to a world average of 30 per cent, said Global Summit of Women president Irene Natividad. In China, the ownership pattern of an industry is a good indicator of women's foothold in management. Conventions for the steel industry, the bastion of the state-owned enterprise, are full of men; by contrast, the lead smelting industry has many more female bosses. China's retirement age is five years earlier for women than for men, a situation that women would like changed, said Qin Bailan, an artist who belongs to the advisory body, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). "Because of the one-child policy, women have to spend less time on family, so they hope to be treated the same" […]. ^ top ^

Demolition guidelines tightened (China Daily)
2010-03-09
Forced urban housing demolition, which caused several deaths and injuries last year and snowballed into a major controversy, will be strictly supervised thanks to a proposal to better protect the rights of property owners, a senior official has said. But forced relocation will be used if necessary so that the self-interests of a handful of people will not hurt the interests of the majority, said Zhang Qiong, deputy director of the State Council Legislative Affairs Office. Zhang, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee, made the remarks in an interview with China Daily about the proposed amendment to the regulation on urban housing demolition. In January, Zhang's office published a draft revision to the Regulations on Property Requisition, which has long been criticized for neglecting the rights of property owners, to solicit public opinion. The draft amendment stipulates that no violence, threat or other illegal means be used in forced relocation, such as cutting off electricity, water, heating or gas. Zhang said the office has received over 60,000 responses, most of them suggesting that the proposed revision is more in accordance with the Constitution and the Property Law. Responding to a common public suggestion that demolition should not proceed unless all residents agree to move, Zhang said "it is not realistic […] Take the rebuilding of dangerous and old houses, for example. Most people living in such poor conditions would like to move out, yet there are always one or two who would take this opportunity to ask for very high prices and refuse to be relocated", Zhang said. "In such cases, we tend to consider the interest of most people and use forced relocation." According to the draft, dangerous and old houses will be rebuilt only after 90 percent of residents give their consent. The current rule gives the government the final say […] Zhang acknowledged that another major public concern was a clause in the amendment, which says: "To demolish housing for constructions of non-public interest, the constructors - such as real-estate developers - need to seek permission of related government departments." Ma Guangyuan, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said this stipulation should be deleted as both the Constitution and the draft revision itself stipulate that the government can only intervene in relocation cases "for public interest". The draft revision, which emphasizes public interest, will be watered down by this single item that authorizes the government to permit demolitions for non-public interests, such as real-estate developers, Ma said […]. ^ top ^

Scores of rights activists rounded up or warned (SCMP)
2010-03-09
Mainland authorities have stepped up harassment of human rights activists during the NPC session, detaining a prominent legal scholar and handing an anti-abortion activist a lengthy term in detention. At least 100 human rights advocates, lawyers and petitioners have been arbitrarily detained, put under house arrest or warned to stay quiet, according to activist Ran Yunfei, who chronicled cases from human rights websites and the social-networking tool Twitter. Beijing-based Christian legal scholar Fan Yafeng was taken away by police on Saturday afternoon after he refused to cancel a meeting with a foreign journalist, Fan said. Police detained him for nine hours and told him the Bible classes he had been hosting had "generated noise and disturbance" in his neighbourhood […] Fan accused the authorities of using heavy-handed measures to maintain a facade of stability. "Our human rights, civil rights, personal freedom and freedom of association have all been infringed upon by this `stability maintenance system'," said Fan, who was dismissed from the prestigious Chinese Academy of Social Sciences last year because of his rights activities […] A handful of human rights lawyers have also been placed under heavy police surveillance. Li Fangping, Li Heping and Jiang Tianyong separately said several police officers had been manning their front doors around the clock since early last week. "While they discuss law-making during the NPC, they're putting lawyers under surveillance," Li Heping said. Meanwhile, anti-abortion activist Mao Hengfeng has been sentenced to 1-1/2 years of "re-education through labour", her husband said. Wu Xuewei said Mao was taken into custody on February 25 after being sent back from Beijing to her native Shanghai […] Mao, who was forced to have an abortion 20 years ago when she was pregnant for the second time, had campaigned against the one-child policy. ^ top ^

New plan seeks to ensure migrant workers get paid (Global Times)
2010-03-09
A migrant worker deputy to the National People's Congress (NPC) is calling on the government to set up a "security payment system" to tackle the rampant problem of migrant workers not getting paid […] Zhu Xueqin from Shanghai spoke for 230 million itinerant workers at this year's meeting of the NPC. Zhu's proposal to guarantee pay from deadbeat employers focused mainly on the catering and construction industries, which hire the majority of migrant workers. Under her proposal, employers would be forced to establish a "security fund" at the local labor and social security department, which the authorities could use to pay migrant workers in case their employers fail to do so. Zhu said that when she was back home in the outskirts of Shanghai during last year's Spring Festival, she discovered that many migrant workers from her hometown couldn't return home because their wages were not paid on time. "Many migrant workers would feel ashamed to go back home if their hands were empty […] The problem of wages in arrears is particularly rampant in the construction industry," Zhu explained. She pointed out that unlike other businesses where people are paid on a monthly basis, construction workers do not get their money until the end of a project. "That worsens the problem because many construction projects are subcontracted to different individuals. Migrant workers end up having no place to ask for their money." Zhu is not alone in her pursuit to recover migrant wages in arrears. Hu Xiaoyan, another NPC deputy who is also a migrant worker from Guangdong Province, introduced a similar proposal […] A report by the AllChina Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) showed that unpaid wages for migrant workers hit 100 billion yuan ($14.6 billion) in 2006, with 70 percent of the money owed to migrants by the construction industry. The severity of the situation has prompted some experts to call for a legal stipulation that withholding pay from migrant workers is a "criminal act" […]. ^ top ^

China to improve quality standards for food safety (Xinhua)
2010-03-09
China is making plans to upgrade its food safety system, stressing improved quality standards and strengthened supervision, according to a notice made public Monday at www.gov.cn. In late February, south China's Hainan Province took emergency measures to stop toxic cow peas from entering the market after about 3.5 tonnes of Hainan cow peas found were tainted with a poisonous pesticide. To prevent such incidents and help ensure food safety, the country plans to increase the frequency of food tests and inspections -- especially for dairy products and other high-risk food. National quality standards for diary products will also be released this year. At least six infants died and almost 300,000 became ill across the country after consuming dairy products tainted with the industrial chemical melamine. The scandal was first reported in September 2008 and prompted a food safety overhaul nationwide. ^ top ^

 

Beijing

Beijing plans for law on garbage sorting (China Daily)
2010-03-08
Legislators in the Chinese capital plan to draft a regulation on garbage disposal, which is expected to enforce garbage sorting system while regulating controversial garbage incineration plants. Saturday's Beijing News quoted a document of the Standing Committee of the Beijing Municipal People's Congress as saying that the regulation would be drafted this year and submitted for review next year. The planned legislation would likely make garbage sorting an obligation of waste treatment departments and residents, said Zhao Yi, director of the city legislature's environmental protection office. It is estimated that Beijing's 17.55 million residents produce almost 18,400 tonnes of household garbage every day, 90 percent of which are landfilled, mainly because it is difficult to recycle unsorted garbage. The city government has been working to have daily garbage sorted into three categories -- recyclable garbage, kitchen garbage and others. But most of the garbage stations and landfills have not conducted the sorting work. In 2009, garbage sorting was only carried out among 10 percent of Beijing residents, according to the government statistics. The government plans to realize garbage sorting in all schools and government departments this year, said a government statement in mid February. The regulation will also stipulate on garbage incineration plants, with a plan to enforce the monitoring and daily reporting of emissions from the plants, Zhao told the newspaper […]. ^ top ^

 

Shanghai

Migrant workers pose headache in run-up to World Expo (SCMP)
2010-03-08
They might have built the skyscrapers that define Shanghai's unique skyline and pavilions in the World Expo with their bare hands, yet in the eyes of some of the social elite, migrant workers are an eyesore and should be removed in a makeover. Yan Chengzhong, a professor at Shanghai's Donghua University and also a National People's Congress deputy, said the Shanghai government should come out with "concrete and detailed arrangements" to make sure migrant workers would not lead to instability. "I am concerned about migrant workers in Shanghai," he said on the sidelines of the congress, adding that his worries were shared by fellow deputies from Shanghai. "What will they do if the construction sites are closed at the end of March for the upcoming World Expo and they have nothing to do but hang around? "There will definitely be an impact on social stability." Even the Shanghai government was considering action, he said. "Under the current circumstances, there are still chances that problems will surface," he said. Millions of migrant workers, most of them low paid and from the countryside, often work in dangerous conditions. Their hard work has helped showcase Shanghai's growth and development for decades. The most recent example is the World Expo pavilions they built. Asked what he had in mind for migrant workers, Yan said they could be arranged to work in "closed construction sites such as subways in the suburbs". "My biggest worry is `destructive' incidents', which will mar Shanghai and China's image." Beijing came under heavy criticism two years ago when it ordered migrant workers to leave the capital in the run-up to the Olympics. ^ top ^

 

Guangdong

Guangdong villages battle over road use (SCMP)
2010-03-10
Hundreds of villagers in Guangdong province launched a violent attack on a neighbouring village over a land dispute, assaulting its residents and destroying houses with home-made firearms and grenades, locals say. Residents from Meitian village descended on neighbouring Gangkou in Lufeng county late on Sunday night, hurling rocks, rods and home-made grenades at residents and their houses, according to a Gangkou villager […] They also threw petrol bombs at houses, deliberately setting fire to them. The attack continued throughout the night and the entire village of about 1,000 residents rushed to escape, Xu said. They have since set up temporary shelters outside the Jieshi town government headquarters. About 40 people had been injured, nine seriously, Xu said. Five were hit in the head by metal pellets from the grenades, four in the eyes […] Police sealed off the village, barring cars and outsiders from entering, a local driver said. A staff member at the Lufeng City Hospital confirmed that villagers injured in the clash were admitted but refused to elaborate. A duty officer at the Jieshi police station said the conflict had died down but refused to give details […] The Lufeng government was quoted by the newspaper as saying that the two villages had been attacking each other with fire- crackers and that the government had sent work groups to the villages to investigate. The clash was the latest in a feud between the two seaside villages that has been going on for a year over the ownership of a road that has access to the sea […] Zheng Chuguang, a Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference delegate, told the body yesterday that social tension had intensified because many officials were doing nothing about injustice. "Some of our civil servants have little idea about the rule of law... They do not handle incidents fairly, so mistrust and insecurity in society are exacerbated.". ^ top ^

Rising star tipped as Guangzhou mayor (SCMP)
2010-03-09
The Guangdong deputy governor in charge of Hong Kong and Macau affairs has emerged as the leading candidate to be the next mayor of Guangzhou, according to various officials. Wan Qingliang, 46, the youngest of the province's eight deputy governors, is widely regarded as a rising star after being promoted to his current position in 2008. He has been closely involved in cross-border issues and represented the province in the Guangdong-Hong Kong Co-operation Joint Conference last month. Current Guangzhou mayor Zhang Guangning is tipped to be promoted as the city's party secretary, while incumbent party boss Zhu Xiaodan, who was appointed a deputy governor late last month, will become permanent deputy governor, a more influential post, according to officials from several Guangzhou and Guangdong government departments. They said it remained unclear who would succeed Wan to take charge of cross-border issues. The reshuffle could still undergo last-minute changes, particularly with Guangzhou hosting the Asian Games in November. Some fear a wholesale change of leadership might be counterproductive. An alternative plan previously circulated is that Lin Xiong, the provincial propaganda chief, would replace Zhu while Zhang's position would remain unchanged. The possible promotion of Wan, a Guangdong native from the Hakka ethnic group, like Governor Huang Huahua and newly elected provincial Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference chairman Huang Longyun, reflected the growing influence of officials with Hakka ethnic backgrounds and experience in the China Youth League in Guangdong, the officials and a Guangzhou-based analyst said. Wan's experience in dealing with Hong Kong and Macau affairs could also help Guangzhou develop closer ties with the two special administrative regions. He is known as a keen supporter of greater regional economic integration […]. ^ top ^

 

Xinjiang

City healing from riot: Urumqi mayor (China Daily)
2010-03-12
As Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, attempts to heal from the July 5 riot, its government will increase surveillance on migrant communities and boost spending on daily activities that contribute to social stability. Jerla Isamudin, mayor of Urumqi, told China Daily in an exclusive interview on Thursday that the city still faces an arduous task in maintaining stability. He said the Urumqi government would better address social problems this year, such as employment, so that the "three forces" - extremists, separatists and terrorists - won't use them to "promote ethnic hatred". "We've learned from the July 5 riot that maintaining social security requires constant and persistent effort from the government. It is the daily and minor things that matter the most," he said. The riot in Urumqi left 197 dead and more than 1,700 injured. So far, 198 people have been convicted for involvement in the riot. The authorities have blamed the "three forces" for instigating the unrest […] The mayor said Urumqi would increase its effort in maintaining social stability by keeping a closer eye on communities, especially migrants' communities. "Government officials are now stationed in all 588 communities in Urumqi to manage and control the social situation at the grass-root level," Jerla Isamudin said. "Patrol vehicles for each community are already in place." "Our budget on public security has been substantially increased this year in order to have the social situation under control and prevent further unrest," Jerla Isamudin said. The government will improve its emergency response capacity, so that it can stop all sabotage activities and plots beforehand, he said. "Prevention is the key," he added. About 3,000 special police have been recruited to strengthen police resources and their equipment has also been upgraded. Surveillance cameras will be widely installed across the city this year, he said. "Urumqi residents have learned a precious lesson from the July 5 riot, which is: Nothing can be achieved without a stable social environment," he said. The city's economy was seriously damaged by last year's riot and the financial crisis […] "I am glad we are on the right track now.". ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Deputies told to tutor public on electoral reform (SCMP)
2010-03-08
Vice-President Xi Jinping has asked local deputies to the National People's Congress to promote public knowledge of the Basic Law to enhance "rational discussion" on constitutional reforms. Xi made the appeal as he met the deputies in Beijing during the state legislature's annual plenary session. "As members of the highest-power body in the state, Hong Kong deputies to the NPC should explain the Basic Law to people in a way which is in-depth and easy to understand. Many deputies have been working in this regard," Maria Tam Wai-chu, deputy convenor of the local NPC delegation quoted Xi as saying. The state leader, who oversees Hong Kong and Macau affairs, said the city's autonomy was empowered by the central government, and that the relationship between Beijing and the special administrative region should be "appropriately managed". Xi also reiterated his hope for Hong Kong people to correctly understand the Basic Law, and to uphold national integrity and security - hopes that he spelled out on Thursday when he met local delegates to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. In his 15-minute speech yesterday, Xi also urged Hong Kong to make use of the economic opportunities brought by external changes and to boost its competitiveness. There was no mention of the "de facto referendum", pushed forward by the Civic Party and the League of Social Democrats, during the 1-1/2 hour closed-door meeting, deputies said […] Tam said local NPC deputies including herself often publicised Basic Law knowledge by speaking at public forums and seminars, but the delegation as a whole had not yet discussed any collective activity. In Hong Kong, veteran political commentator Johnny Lau Yui-siu said Xi's remarks showed the Beijing leadership did not fully understand the situation in Hong Kong. "The leaders think Hong Kong people do not fully understand the Basic Law because some Hong Kong people do not hold the same views as those of the leaders," he said. "The leaders also seem to have confused the views of some radical democrats with the majority view of Hong Kong people. It is rather clear that the so-called referendum is only supported by a small group of relatively more radical democrats. It is not the common stance of Hong Kong people." Alan Leong Kah-kit, one of the five lawmakers who resigned, said Xi's comments amounted to a "threat" to Hong Kong people warning them not to vote in the by-elections […]. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Cross-strait military ties may benefit from think tank (SCMP)
2010-03-10
Taiwan's military has set up an office to prepare for the establishment of a think tank that could pave the way for future exchanges with the People's Liberation Army and a cross-strait confidence-building mechanism. The National Defence Think Tank - the first to be established by Taiwan's military - will study the PLA and other military and security issues. "Once it is officially set up, it will have four departments for studies of the PLA, international security affairs, national defence strategy, and military interchanges," said Lieutenant General Liao Jung-hsin, director-general of the Defence Ministry's Integrated Assessment Office. The military recently opened an office to prepare for the formation of the think tank, which still needs approval from the island's legislature. Under the plan, the think tank would have an annual budget of NT$150 million and boast a staff of more than 40 civilian and military researchers […] Liao said the think tank would help cultivate talent in defence research and international exchange, enhance national defence policy and boost strategic analysis capabilities. He declined to say whether it would become a "second track" for military contacts between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. There are no official military exchanges across the Taiwan Strait, though mainland-friendly Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, who took office in 2008, has proposed the establishment of a mechanism to avoid accidental military clashes. A military officer who understands the background and mindset behind the establishment of the think tank said military authorities would not rule out the possibility of starting cross-strait contacts through it. "It hinges on government policy and authorisation in the future," he said […]. ^ top ^

US warned over any future F-16 fighter jet sales to Taiwan (SCMP)
2010-03-10
Beijing has again warned the United States against any future arms sales to Taiwan, including F-16 fighter jets the island has been pushing for in hopes of upgrading its air defence capabilities. Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said the mainland was firmly opposed to US sales of weapons to Taiwan, the self-ruled island that the communist government in Beijing regards as part of its territory and has vowed to conquer by force if necessary. Asked to comment on reports that Taiwan is pushing to buy F-16s from the United States, Qin said yesterday that Beijing hoped the US would "take China's position seriously and respect China's core interests and concerns" […] Since Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou came into office in May 2008, Taiwan has consistently pressed the United States to supply it with 66 F-16 C/Ds, an upgrade on its present inventory of F-16 A/Bs. The issue was underscored last month when a Pentagon report painted a grim picture of Taiwan's air defence capabilities, saying that many of the island's 400 combat aircraft would not be available to help withstand an attack from the mainland. Many observers saw the study as justification for the possible sale of advanced fighter jets to Taiwan. The US says the F-16 request remains under study. Despite warming ties with Beijing, Taiwan maintains that it needs state-of-the-art weaponry from the US to help it counter Beijing's threat to attack. ^ top ^

Taiwan may assemble F-16s if US okays sale (SCMP)
2010-03-09
Taiwan says it is willing to assemble the advanced versions of F-16 fighter jets if the United States approves their sale to the island. Beijing is sure to protest against the proposal despite reports that it is studying the possibility of removing its missiles aimed at Taiwan to show its goodwill and pave the way for cross-strait peace. Taiwan's defence ministry said yesterday: "In its pricing letter to the US, the ministry has already included an industrial co-operation programme related to the purchase of C/D versions of F-16 fighter jets." It said that as soon as Washington approved the ministry's plan to buy 66 F-16 C/Ds, Taiwan would seek to have the planes assembled on the island in line with a programme that requires their multibillion-Taiwan-dollar cost to be partially offset. Under the programme, military suppliers to Taiwan of any equipment worth at least US$5 million must offer at least 40 per cent of the procurement amount to be returned to the island in the form of investment or manufacturing. "We have never changed this position," the ministry said, in response to a report in the Liberty Times newspaper that the government would sacrifice the 40 per cent offset to win US approval for the F-16 deal. The Liberty Times also said an internal assessment by the ministry indicated that the mainland now had better fighter jets than Taiwan, and that of the three types of warplanes Taiwan has, only the F-16A/Bs have a slight edge over the mainland aircraft. The paper said Taiwan's home-grown Indigenous Defensive Fighters and French-made Mirage 2000-5s were inferior to the Russian-made Su-30s deployed by the mainland. The ministry, however, maintained that the assessment was just an estimate of relative air supremacy between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, focusing on the air combat arena, which is "different from the real situation". But the ministry admitted that Taiwan needed to acquire the C/D versions of the F-16 quickly to improve the island's air force and ensure stability in the strait […] Meanwhile, Dr Joseph Wu Jau-shieh, the former chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council, said Beijing was studying the possibility of removing at least a quarter of the 1,300 missiles targeting the island, hoping that it would prompt the government of mainland-friendly President Ma Ying-jeou to hold political talks with the mainland and sign a peace pact. Citing intelligence obtained by academics, Wu said Beijing had recently started studying this possibility. He said what Taiwan needed was for the mainland to destroy the missiles rather than remove them, as they could be redeployed easily […]. ^ top ^

 

Tibet

Dalai Lama attacked for 'wrecking' ethnic unity (SCMP)
2010-03-12
Beijing and the Dalai Lama have stepped up their war of words on the eve of a sensitive anniversary. In a further sign that a recent round of dialogue between the two sides has made little progress, the Foreign Ministry and mainland media hit back yesterday at remarks made by the Dalai Lama on the 51st anniversary of his exile to India. To commemorate the failed uprising in 1959 that led to his exile to Dharamsala, the Tibetan spiritual leader said on Wednesday that China intended to "annihilate Buddhism" and that monks and nuns in Tibet lived in "prison-like" conditions. Sunday marks the second anniversary of bloody rioting that began in Lhasa and later spread to other Tibetan-populated areas. The Dalai Lama also referred to Xinjiang, another restive border region, as East Turkestan, a term only used by pro-independent exiles. The Foreign Ministry said his remarks had distorted the situation in Tibet and insulted Beijing's policies in the Himalayan region. "This exposes and proves his intent and nature on splitting up China and wrecking ethnic unity," said Qin Gang, a ministry spokesman. Beijing has long accused the Nobel Peace Prize winner of being a separatist intent on making Tibet independent, a claim that the Dalai Lama has repeatedly denied. Qin said the Dalai Lama should "seriously reflect" on his stance and mistakes, "so that he could create favourable conditions for contacts and negotiation with the central government". The Dalai Lama's envoys and Beijing officials held a closed-door meeting in Beijing in January after a 15-month hiatus. Both sides have revealed few details and there has been little sign of progress. Beijing said the dialogue was only used to discuss the Dalai Lama's personal future - such as whether to allow him back on Chinese soil. The Dalai Lama's envoys had hoped to ask for greater autonomy and the integration of Tibet with other Tibetan-populated regions. Juma Tayier, vice-chairman of the Xinjiang Islamic Association, told Xinhua the reference to East Turkestan indicated the Dalai Lama was trying to split the country. "The East Turkestan [Islamic Movement] is known internationally as a terrorist force, how could Dalai Lama publicly support this?" The East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a Uygur militant organisation, has been branded a terrorist group by the United Nations. ^ top ^

Chinese embassies stormed (Global Times)
2010-03-11
Hundreds of "pro-Tibet independence" and anti-China activists have tried to storm Chinese diplomatic organs in Nepal and India over the last two days, marking the 51st anniversary of "Tibetan Uprising Day." The Dalai Lama led a failed armed rebellion on March 10, 1959, for Tibet independence. Nepal and India border China's Tibet Autonomous Region. China is becoming more adept at curbing such attempts to create chaos on the anniversary, following deadly riots two years ago in Tibet's regional capital of Lhasa, which left 19 dead, including one policeman, and 400 injured. In all, seven schools, five hospitals and 120 homes were destroyed by fire. Nepalese police Wednesday arrested around half a dozen protesters from a main Buddhist monastery, located in the capital Kathmandu, when around 300 people demonstrated alongside Buddhist monks and some Westerners, shouting "Free Tibet" and waving the old Tibetan flag, Nepalnews.com reported. In a separate incident yesterday, police detained about a dozen young protestors when they tried to make a dash toward a Chinese consulate office in Kathmandu where visas are issued, Reuters said. Nepal is home to around 20,000 pro-independence Tibetans, and the capital has been the scene of several anti-China protests since the unrest in 2008. A large presence of riot police could be seen in many parts of the country Wednesday. In a preemptive move, Thinley Gyatso, the representative of the Dalai Lama in Nepal, was arrested by police Sunday and warned not to incite anti-China sentiment in the country, according to Nepalnews.com. Security was also beefed up along the border that Nepal shares with Tibet, while Chinese authorities have grounded flights from Kathmandu to Lhasa and virtually closed the bridge connecting northern Nepal with Tibet, while ordering tour operators to suspend Tibet tours until March 28, Indo Asian News Service reported. In neighboring India, heavy security was deployed Wednesday to prevent unrest in New Delhi a day after Tibetan separatists tried to storm the Chinese embassy, which led to the arrest of around 30 Tibetan activists […] Hu Shisheng, a researcher of South Asian studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said similar violent protests have become a routine "political show" on and around some sensitive anniversaries regarding Tibet. "The protests have been largely ceremonial and aimed at catching global attention in order to get support and money. Many of the socalled protesters were hired and paid by the separatists," Hu said, adding that they were protesting for the sake of protesting […] In an address marking the 51year anniversary of his fleeing Tibet, the Dalai Lama yesterday accused Beijing of restricting Tibetan people's free practice of culture and religion, which he described as trying to "annihilate Buddhism" in Tibet […] He also publicly displayed his support for Xinjiang separatists by referring to Xinjiang as "East Turkestan," the name given to the province by proindependence exiles, according to the AP. Chinese authorities have repeatedly said the Dalai Lama means to instigate independence, though he has denied such claims […]. ^ top ^

Tibet to have 5 airports at end of 2010 (Xinhua)
2010-03-11
Tibet will have five airports in operation at the year end, according to Zhang Qinglin, top leader of Tibet Autonomous Region. Zhang, secretary of the Tibet Regional Committee of the Communist Party of China, made the remark in an interview with People's Daily online in Beijing on Monday. Now Tibet has three airports in Lhasa, Nyingchi and Chamdo. "Tibet will open an airport in July and another at the end of this year. Then it will be more convenient for tourists to visit the region," Zhang said. He also called attention to the major role of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway in the region's development. The railway has boosted the region's tourism since it opened on July 1, 2006, according to the leader. "Tibet was visited by four million tourists in 2007 and the number of visitors reached 5.61 million in 2009, thanks to the operation of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway," Zhang said […]. ^ top ^

Final say on next Dalai Lama is ours, Beijing says (SCMP)
2010-03-08
Beijing has indicated that it will not negotiate the selection of a successor to the ageing Dalai Lama with him, insisting that it has the final decision on the reincarnated successors to the Buddhist region's top lamas. Padma Choling, governor of the Tibet Autonomous Region, said there was no need now to discuss the issues related to the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama. The hardline remarks, in rare comments on the sensitive issue, were made at a press conference yesterday on the sidelines of the National People's Congress. The Dalai Lama's succession has become a prickly issue, as the Nobel Peace laureate ages and his health declines. Many Tibetans fear that his death may create a leadership vacuum that Beijing could exploit to tighten its grip over the restive Himalayan region. Others fear the loss of their most recognised leader could weaken the unity of the Tibetan movement and potentially trigger widespread unrest in ethnic Tibetan regions across the mainland, after an outburst of anti- Han violence prompted a tight security clampdown in March 2008. Padma Choling said the Dalai Lama had made a series of assertions, saying that he might choose his reincarnation while still alive, or that he could stop his reincarnation. He has also suggested that his next incarnation might be found outside the country, or that Tibetans themselves could vote on whether to continue an institution that once gave one monk both spiritual and temporal sway over Tibet. Qiangba Puncog, chairman of the Tibet Regional People's Congress, said the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama must meet all the traditional requirements in four aspects: religious rituals, historical conventions passed on since the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), lot drawing from the Golden Urn in the face of the Buddha Sakyamuni, and approval from the central government […] The reincarnation issue became controversial when Beijing selected Gyaincain Norbu as the 11th Panchen Lama, Tibet's second-highest-ranking figure, shortly after the Dalai Lama announced his choice of a 16-year-old boy, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, in 1995. The boy and his family vanished a few weeks later. Officials have insisted he is safe, healthy and wants privacy, but Tibetans say the boy and his family are believed to be under a form of house arrest […]. ^ top ^

 

Economy

Air China plans $950m share sale to cut debt (China Daily)
2010-03-12
Air China, the world's most valuable airline in terms of market capitalization, said it will raise about 6.5 billion yuan ($952.20 million) via an issue of new shares, becoming the second Chinese carrier to announce fundraising plans this week. A recovery in domestic and regional traffic has rekindled investor interest, allowing Chinese carriers battered by the global financial crisis to tap the market to reduce debt, and fund fleet expansion and acquisitions in response to growing competition. Air China's announcement on Thursday came just three days after rival China Southern Airlines said it would issue $1.6 billion shares to repay debt. Air China and China Southern plan to sell their new shares privately to a handful of investors, including their state-owned parents. Air China, the biggest of the country's three major airlines including China Southern and China Eastern Airlines, said in a statement it would use the proceeds of the new share issue for working capital and to help lower debt. After the deal, Air China's gearing could fall by 4.58 percentage points to 71.8 percent from 76.4 percent, it said in a statement to the Shanghai Stock Exchange. If the company used all the money raised from the share issue to repay debt, it would cut its interest expenses by 345 million yuan a year, Air China added. Shares of the company, which more than doubled in value in 2009, have risen 11.5 percent this year in Hong Kong as industry sentiment improved on strengthening domestic demand and as the global economy stabilised. Trading was suspended on Feb 26 for Thursday's share announcement and is expected to resume Friday. China Southern's shares have risen 42 percent this year, partly helped by its capital replenishment plan, which will cut interest expenses and enhance earnings growth. China Eastern's shares have risen 18 percent, beating the benchmark Hang Seng Index's 3 percent loss and a 5 percent drop in the index for major Chinese companies listed in Hong Kong. Air China said it would sell up to 585 million new A-shares for about 5.6 billion yuan and 157 million H-shares for HK$1.04 billion ($134.05 million) […]. ^ top ^

China to float 26b yuan T-bonds (People's Daily Online)
2010-03-12
China's Ministry of Finance (MOF) will offer seven-year book-entry treasury bonds with a total par value of 26 billion yuan ($3.8 billion) Thursday, the ministry said. Interest on the bonds would be paid every March 11 until 2017 when the last interest payments and principals would be paid back together, according to a statement on the website of MOF released Wednesday. The issue of the bonds would finish next Monday, and from March 17 the bonds could be traded on the interbank bond market and securities bond market […] This was the 5th batch of book-entry bonds MOF has issued this year, the ministry said. Book-entry bonds are the bonds recorded in the investors' securities accounts called book entries. They can be traded on the open market, and their market prices can deviate from par value. ^ top ^

China's export recovery adds pressure to pare stimulus measures (China Daily)
2010-03-11
China's exports rose more than forecast in February and posted a third straight gain, a rebound that adds to pressure on policy makers to pare back stimulus measures adopted during the global recession. Shipments abroad gained 46 percent in February from a year before after a 21 percent advance in January, the customs bureau reported on its website today. Year-ago figures were depressed by a contraction in world trade resulting from the crisis. The trade surplus hit a one-year low of $7.6 billion, affected in part by the Lunar New Year holiday. The strengthening in exports may reduce excess capacity in manufacturing and contribute to price increases. Premier Wen Jiabao has cited price pressures, along with property speculation and loan quality at banks, among his top concerns for this year. Imports rose 45 percent after an 86 percent jump in January, today's figures showed. The advance underscores China's rising role as a driver of global growth. The export gain in February was more than the 38.3 percent median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey of 28 economists. Imports topped a 38 percent estimate and the trade surplus was in line with forecasts. Central bank Governor Zhou Xiaochuan said on March 6 that policy makers must be "very cautious" in timing an exit as a world recovery isn't yet solid. Commerce Minister Chen Deming said the same day that it was too early to say that exports had recovered from the global financial crisis, and that the trade surplus for the past two months combined had contracted by 50 percent. At the same time, Chinese authorities are also concerned at the toll that yuan appreciation may take on exporters. A stronger yuan could help to restrain inflation. Inflows of speculative capital have also added pressure for the yuan to gain, the nation's currency regulator said yesterday. "The yuan's appreciation should be limited to no more than 1 percent this year as costs rise," Pan Liyun, a sales executive at Zhejiang Daishan Xingfa Toys Factory, said at a trade fair in Shanghai this month. Pan said manufacturers already face pressure to pay workers higher wages […]. ^ top ^

Real estate prices rise at record pace (People's Daily Online)
2010-03-11
Real estate prices in February rose at the fastest pace in almost two years, adding urgency to the government's efforts to rein in speculation and increase the amount of affordable housing. Prices in 70 major cities rose 10.7 percent year-on-year in February, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Wednesday. "Despite the government's tightening policies, it will take some time for the sizzling property sector to cool down, as developers are still awash with cash from last year's sales boom," said Qin Xiaomei, chief researcher with property firm Jones Lang LaSalle Beijing. Officials are trying to reduce the risk of asset bubbles, resurgent inflation and bad loans for banks after flooding the world's fastest-growing economy with cash to drive a recovery. Premier Wen Jiabao warned of "latent risk" in banks and pledged to crack down on property speculation in a speech to the country's annual parliamentary meeting in Beijing last week. The latest numbers "imply that there may be more upward pressure on inflation from the housing component," said Dariusz Kowalczyk, chief investment strategist at SJS Markets Ltd in Hong Kong. "Social consequences will be negative, making it more likely that policymakers will introduce further administrative curbs in the real-estate market and in lending overall." To cool speculation, the government in January re-imposed a tax on homes sold within five years of their purchase, after having cut the taxable period to two years in January 2009 to bolster a then-flagging market. But run-away prices appear to be gradually losing momentum. Though the year-on-year growth rate in February is 1.2 percentage points higher than January, the month-on-month increase is down 0.4 percentage points, according to the NBS […] Bei Fu, associate director of corporate ratings at Standard & Poor's, said: "Prices are likely to fall from mid-2010 as slower demand, higher supply and various government initiatives dampen market sentiment. However, we do not expect developers to find 2010 as severe as the downturn in 2008 or as volatile as 2009.". ^ top ^

CNOOC and Sinochem win bid for Iraqi oilfield (People's Daily Online)
2010-03-10
According to a Wall Street Journal report, Iraqi officials said that a consortium led by China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) is expected to win the bid for Missan oilfields in southern Iraq. The consortium had accepted the price offered by the government of Iraq. The oilfield has reserves of about 2.5 billion barrels. An Iraqi official said, the Iraqi Oil Ministry has ended negotiations with CNOOC and its partner Sinochem International Co., Ltd. on matters relating to development of three Missan oil fields, and has submitted a draft contract to the Iraqi Cabinet, pending final approval. Iraqi Oil Ministry spokesman said that the two Chinese companies have accepted the price offered by Ministry of Oil. Iraq has set the lowest oil production target at 275,000 barrels per day. If the Chinese companies can exceed this target, China will be granted a service charge of 2.3 U.S. dollars per barrel from the Iraqi government. The field's production is currently 100,000 barrels per day. The report said that CNOOC winning the project successfully will further enhance China's importance in oil field development in Iraq. In 2008, China National Petroleum Corp successfully won bid for the first oil field development project in post-war Iraq. In November last year, China National Petroleum Corp joined BP oil and won a bid for then Iraq's largest Rumaila oil field. ^ top ^

Political advisor calls for legislation to tax e-commerce in China (Global Times)
2010-03-10
China's top legislature should quickly enact the taxation of e-commerce, as an increasing number of buyers and sellers are relying on business-to-consumer (B2C) and consumer-to-consumer (C2C) websites to buy and sell goods […] Zhu Yilong, member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), China's top political advisory body, made the proposal during the ongoing CPPCC session. "Online shopping has become one of the mainstream commerce models in China, but few stores on B2C and C2C websites are registered or report their incomes to the taxation departments," Zhu said. "We must fill the taxation vacuum." Currently, a person can start an e-commerce business on any B2C or C2C website in China after providing personal information and paying a certain amount of fees to the website. According to his proposals, the National People's Congress (NPC), the country's top legislature, should move to regulate the e-commerce industry, mandate the registration of online stores and require the payment of taxes. If the proposed legislation on e-commerce is enacted, China is expected to further boost its revenue from the booming online sales among the country's 384 million Internet users. Thousands of websites are hosting e-commerce in China, where spending on online shopping reached more than 250 billion yuan (37 billion dollars) in 2009, about 80 percent of which was carried out through Taobao.com, China's fast-growing e-commerce hub. ^ top ^

PetroChina, Shell set sights on Arrow (China Daily)
2010-03-09
Oil giants PetroChina Co and Royal Dutch Shell have made a joint A$3.3 billion ($3 billion) bid to acquire Arrow Energy Ltd, an Australian coal-seam gas developer. Analysts said the move would boost PetroChina's gas portfolio and also help speed up its initiatives for new energy. Arrow Energy on Monday said in a statement that it has received a formal proposal from a company jointly owned by Royal Dutch Shell and PetroChina. Under the proposal submitted, Arrow shareholders would get $4.45 cash per share plus a stake in a new entity comprised of Arrow's international business. Jiang Jiemin, president of PetroChina's parent CNPC, said the company would also look for opportunities in Iran. Arrow claims to have the largest reserves of natural gas in Australia's northeastern state of Queensland. "It is a good deal for the Australian company," said Han Xiaoping, chief information officer of domestic energy portal China5e.com. "Through the deal Arrow Energy can get an entry into the Chinese market, which is full of opportunities." Coal-seam gas, which is commonly known as coal-bed methane, has similar components like natural gas. China plans to increase its annual coal-bed methane output to 10 billion cubic meters in 2010. PetroChina is one of the main developers of coal-bed methane domestically […] Analysts said the partnership with Shell will reduce the risks involved in overseas acquisitions for the Chinese oil company. The offer to acquire Arrow Energy is the latest step by PetroChina in its overseas expansion plans. The company's overseas development will focus on the Middle East, Africa, and South America this year, said Jiang Jiemin, president of PetroChina's parent China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC). "Iraq will still be our focus for overseas development," Jiang told China Daily on Monday on the sidelines of the ongoing annual National People's Congress session. The company is also looking for opportunities in Iran, said Jiang. China's crude oil imports are likely to go up by 9.1 percent this year to 212 million tons, according to a report from CNPC. The nation's oil dependency reached alarming levels last year with imports accounting for 52 percent of the total consumption, Customs figures showed. Imports of more than 50 percent are globally considered to indicate an energy security alert. Analysts said China should further diversify its oil import sources for sustainable supplies […]. ^ top ^

Shanghai GDP surpasses HK's in 2009 (People's Daily Online)
2010-03-09
According to the latest data form Shanghai Municipal Government, the city's GDP in 2009 was 1.49 trillion yuan ($218.28 billion). The Census and Statistics Department of the Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) disclosed February 24 that Hong Kong's GDP hit 1.60 trillion Hong Kong dollars, or 1.43 trillion yuan last year, down 2.7 percent compared with 2008. Hong Kong and Shanghai are the cities with active cooperation. Shanghai, with higher GDP, is not a threat to Hong Kong, said Donald Tsang Yam-Kuen, chief executive of the HKSAR. Shanghai's port handling capacity and stock market value have already exceeded that of Hong Kong. The fact that Shanghai's GDP recorded higher than Hong Kong in 2009 reflected the fierce competition between the two cities. However, cooperation should still be the top agenda. The impact of the global financial crisis led to Hong Kong's slower economic growth, but that couldn't be the final nail, said some experts. The figure also reflected the problems in various dimensions, said Sun Lijian, professor of China Center for Economic Studies, Fudan University. "The global financial crisis has distinct impact on the two cities. Hong Kong was more severely affected by the crisis as it depends more on finance, port trade and related services sectors." With the establishment of Yangshan Port and other projects, some existing businesses of Hong Kong was diverted by Shanghai in homogenous competition. There were various reasons that contributed to Shanghai's higher GDP in 2009. Sun added that although Hong Kong suffered a lot from the crisis due to its high dependence on the overseas market, it would rebound as soon as the global economy warms up. For example, Hong Kong's GDP growth rate jumped from negative 2.3 percent to positive 2.8 percent in Q4, 2009 with the global recovery. "If the government's stimulus policies exit, Shanghai's growth trend still remains to be seen.". ^ top ^

Airline chief warns of railways threat (SCMP)
2010-03-09
The mainland's ambitious high-speed railway programme will deal a "devastating blow" to its airlines and could even kill off short- to medium-haul routes, the chairman of China Eastern Airlines warned yesterday. "For trips under 500 kilometres, the impact is fatal," Liu Shaoyang said. "For trips between 800 and 1,200 kilometres, the impact will range from significant to marginal." He said the government should better define the roles of express railway services and airlines because high-speed trains were siphoning off airlines' customers, leaving them weakened in a competitive market. "Just like the airline fever we saw a few years ago, now it's high-speed railway fever," Liu, 51, said. "The government should work out a reasonable division of labour between the two to prevent overlapping and a waste of land and other resources." […] Liu said the central government could also help airlines by opening up the skies for commercial flights. "We should speed up air traffic control reform as soon as possible because we all know that it is the key reason for so many flight delays," he said. "In our country, airlines just have 20 per cent of air traffic control rights; others are controlled for non-airline purposes. But in the United States, the aviation industry's share is more than 80 per cent." Nearly 80 per cent of air traffic control rights on the mainland are in the hands of the People's Liberation Army and state security departments. Hong Kong's Airport Authority says 6,568 flights from Hong Kong to mainland cities were delayed by mainland air traffic control problems over the past three years. Fears have also been expressed that the high-speed railway programme may affect China's ambitious plan to develop a new generation of regional jets - the ARJ21 Xiangfeng. The 5 billion yuan programme - which began in March 2002 - is a key project of the 10th five-year plan. The 70-seat, twin-engined jet, with a range of more than 2,200 kilometres and costing US$20 million each, is designed for domestic routes [...] Xinhua has reported that 3.7 trillion yuan will be spent on the high-speed railway network in the next six years […]. ^ top ^

China's easy monetary policy to remain unchanged (Xinhua)
2010-03-08
A 17 percent year-on-year increase in China's broad money supply, and a target of 7.5 trillion yuan (1.1 billion U.S. dollars) for this year, indicated a relatively easy monetary policy, said Su Ning, deputy governor of the People's Bank of China, the country's central bank. Speaking on the sidelines of the ongoing annual session of the top legislature, the National People's Congress (NPC), Su said the 17 percent increase in the nation's broad money supply was larger than the combined increase of targeted GDP and CPI growth, which suggested an "easy" monetary policy. "If M2 (the broad measure of money supply) growth is 2 to 3 percentage points higher than the combined growth of GDP and CPI, the monetary policy could be seen as easy," said Su. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said Friday, in the government work report submitted to the NPC, that China targeted an approximate 3 percent rise in consumer prices and 8 percent GDP growth this year. Su further believed the 17 percent increase in the broad money supply would be able to support the ongoing economic recovery throughout the country. China's financial institutions lent a record 9.6 trillion yuan in new yuan-denominated loans last year, almost double that of the previous year, to spur the economy amid the global downturn, but it was accompanied by soaring property prices and rising expectations of possible inflation. Su said the 7.5 trillion yuan in new lending this year should speed up completion of projects under construction, rather than support new projects. ^ top ^

China to see "more trade disputes" this year (China Daily)
2010-03-08
China will face rising trade protectionism this year as a result of an increase in its exports as well as high unemployment rates in the United States and the European Union, the Chinese ambassador to the World Trade Organization (WTO) said. But China is committed to pushing forward the stalled Doha round of WTO talks, although it seems "highly unlikely" that the global trade negotiations can be completed this year, said Sun Zhenyu, who is also a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the country's top political advisory body. Last year, various economies launched a total of 118 trade cases against China, affecting Chinese exports worth more than 13 billion U.S. dollars. The U.S. was among the most aggressive, launching 23 cases involving 7.6 billion U.S. dollars worth of Chinese exports. "China was the scapegoat in most cases and some countries simply blamed China for their own economic problems such as trade deficits," Sun said […] Given the high unemployment rates in major economies, including the U.S. and the EU, Sun predicted there "would not be any improvement" this year and China would "have to face rising trade protectionism". Buoyed by the economic recovery of the developed nations, China's exports surged by 17.7 percent from a year earlier, ending 13 consecutive months of downturn since November 2008. In January, exports surged by 21 percent. Many Chinese economists said the nation's exports are set for an annual growth of 15 to 20 percent in 2010, as opposed to a year-on-year drop of 16 percent in 2009. Sun said the Doha Round of WTO talks will not be concluded this year, partly because Washington is not going to put that high on its agenda. The U.S. focus will instead be on creating more jobs at home and improving exports, he said […] The Doha talks entered a deadlock in 2008 as the U.S. and a number of emerging economies grappled over a few critical issues, including special safeguards to protect farmers in poor countries from import growth and sectoral arrangement on industrial goods […]. ^ top ^

 

DPRK and South Korea

N.Korea sets up medium-range missile unit, ready for war and talks (Global Times)
2010-03-10
North Korea has set up an independent military division to deploy and operate its medium-range ballistic missiles, a report said Tuesday. A South Korean government source quoted by the Yonhap News Agency said the move indicates Pyongyang's determination to continue developing IRBMs (intermediate-range ballistic missiles) […], adding that these missiles have the range to cover US military bases in Japan and Guam. Seoul's 2008 defense ministry white paper confirmed that the North recently deployed intermediate-range missiles after developing them since the late 1990s, but gave no details. Military experts said Pyongyang has developed a missile called the Musudan-1 with a range of 3,000 kilometers, in addition to its intercontinental Taepodong missiles. Earlier Tuesday, Pyongyang said it would boost its nuclear power because US President Barack Obama was determined to ignore its calls for peace. "The US is leaving no means untried to bring down the DPRK (North Korea) including military threat, economic sanctions and ideological and cultural poisoning," the North's KCNA news agency quoted an unnamed foreign ministry spokesman as saying. "(Pyongyang) is fully ready for dialogue and war. It will continue bolstering its nuclear deterrent as long as the US military threats and provocations go on," the spokesman added. North Korea said this week that it had put its army on full combat alert as US and South Korean forces began joint military drills involving nearly 40,000 troops. ^ top ^

DPRK military: denuclearization process to halt (China Daily)
2010-03-08
The denuclearization process in the Korean Peninsula will halt because of the US-ROK (Republic of Korea ) joint military exercises, said the Panmunjom Mission of the Korean People's Army of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on Sunday. "The process for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula will naturally come to a standstill and the DPRK bolster its nuclear deterrent for self-defense given that the saber rattling is proven to be nuclear war exercises and maneuvers for a war of aggression against the DPRK in its nature," said the mission in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency. "It is an inviolable right of the revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK for self-defense to counter with powerful nuclear deterrent the US nuclear offensive means threatening the territorial waters and air and land of the DPRK on account of exercises […] The revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK will be left with no option but to exercise merciless physical force as the rival is set to do harm to the DPRK," it added. The military forces of the DPRK will no longer be bound to the Armistice Agreement after the Korean War in the 1950s and the agreement on non-aggression between the DPRK and ROK, said the statement. "There is no reason whatsoever for the DPRK to remain bound to the AA (Armistice Agreement) and the non-aggression agreement now that the other belligerent party scrapped the AA and the other dialogue partner reneged on the non-aggression agreement" […] It said all military dialogues with the United States and with ROK will be suspended as long as the joint exercises go on. The United States and ROK would begin military exercises codenamed "Key Resolve and Foal Eagle" on Monday, according to the KCNA. Massively involved in the exercises will be more than 18,000-strong forces including over 10,000 US troops present in ROK and ultra-modern military hardware as well as army corps-level, fleet command-level and flying corps-level units of the ROK army and even civilian forces, the KCNA said. ^ top ^

Another bridge to link DPRK (Xinhua)
2010-03-08
A second bridge linking China and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) will be built in Dandong, Liaoning province, a local official has said. Zhao Liansheng, mayor of Dandong, said construction work on the bridge linking Sinuiju in the DPRK will begin in October and take three years to complete. "Preparatory work for the new road bridge is underway," Zhao told China Daily on the sidelines of the ongoing National People's Congress (NPC) session. Zhao, an NPC deputy, said the 6-km, 33-m-wide two-way bridge is expected to cost about 1.7 billion yuan ($250 million), which China will fund. "The first bridge to be built over the Yalu River in more than half a century will become a major link between the two countries," the mayor said. The existing bridge was built in the 1930s and cannot meet the traffic demand as a result of rising commercial exchanges between the two countries, said Lu Chao, a researcher at the Liaoning Academy of Social Science. Lu told China Daily that the new bridge, 10 km downstream from the old one, will be linked to the Dongbiandao railway, which will be connected to the Trans-Siberian Railway. "It will be part a railway network connecting major countries in Northeast Asia," he said […] An international trade and commerce center will also be built in Dandong, the largest city facing the DPRK across the river […] Dandong will serve as the hub of bilateral ties in trade, investment and tourism," Zhao added. Official statistics show more than 70 percent of bilateral trade is handled in Dandong. In 2008, two-way trade reached a record $2.79 billion, up 41.7 percent from 2007. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Draft laws submitted (Montsame)
2010-03-11
Minister of Justice and Internal Affairs Ts.Nyamdorj has presented a draft renewed law on police organization and a bill to amend the law on intelligence agency to parliament Speaker D.Demberel. Since an adoption of the law on police organization in 1993, no amendment was made to this law. Therefore, the draft bill has been drawn up to improve legal basis of structure, management and operation of the police organization through ways of introducing international experiences in Mongolia in consideration of changes appeared in the society since 1993. A draft law on casino was also presented to Speaker D.Demberel. The law initiators consider that casino business is developing in many countries and that Mongolia could gain much profit. According to the draft, one percent of profit gained from casino business is to be accumulated in the "Goodwill" Foundation that will engage in social care activity. ^ top ^

Birth increases in Mongolia (Montsame)
2010-03-11
In the first 2 months of 2010, a number of live births reached 11,253 increasing 983 children or 9.6 percent. The number of mothers delivered child were 11,219 increasing by 991 mothers or 9.7 per cent compared to the same period of the previous year. In the meantime, a number of infant mortality stood at 243 going up 11.5 per cent or 25 infants, child mortality under 5 reached 64 increasing 33 children. Maternal mortality reached 7 decreasing 4 mothers against the same period of the previous year. As of the first 2 months of 2010, the under five mortality per 1,000 live births reached 27 increasing 3 cases against the same period of 2009. The infant mortality rate per 1,000 live births was 22 increasing by one case against the same period of previous year, and this indication is higher in Uvs, Khovd, Uvurkhangai, Bayan-Ulgii, Arkhangai, Sukhbaatar and Dornod aimags by 8-25 than of the national average. ^ top ^

Confusion over Olon Ovoot license continues (News.mn)
2010-03-10
There is still no official confirmation or denial of reports that Goldman Sachs has filed a case against Mongolia in the international arbitration tribunal regarding the Olon-Ovoot gold mine. Ts.Myanganbayar, then by director of Mongol Gazar, is reported to have mortgaged the mine to secure loans from Anod and Zoos banks, apart from Goldman Sachs. His failure to repay the loans was a major factor behind the collapse of both banks. The Executive Director of Olon-Ovoot Gold Company, D.Enkhtuya, has claimed that her company presently holds the license for the mine. Since the Mineral Department had permitted the illegal mortgages, there is suspicion that it issued a fresh license for Enkhtuya. It can be that Goldman Sachs has the original license. The Director of Geology in the Mineral Department, L.Davaatsogt, has said they have no information about the Goldman Sachs case. He has also said the mining license mortgaged to banks was cancelled in November, 2009 because it was illegal. A new license was issued in the name of Olon-Ovoot Gold Company. In the circumstances, whatever licenses was placed with Goldman Sachs as surety for a loan has no validity. The company has sought information on the issue. Goldman Sachs investment bank does not have a branch in Mongolia and thus has no legal right to enter into any commercial transaction here. Actually the Olon-Ovoot license was mortgaged to a company named Goldman Sachs International. The Mongolian side overlooked the rule that mining licenses can be mortgaged to only banks and non-banking financial organizations. Thus, Mongolian side has urgently corrected its mistake and cancelled the license. ^ top ^

Tavan Tolgoi Negotiations Reach Second Level (UB Post)
2010-03-09
Mongolia resumed investment talks with potential bidders of Tavan Tolgoi, a high grade coking coal mine in Omnogobi province, last week. Representing the Mongolian side, state-owned Erdenes MGL have invited foreign investors from South Korea, Russia, Brazil, Japan, USA, China, Australia, and India to Ulaanbaatar to open “second-level” talks. Shinhua Energy of China, Bazovii Element and Renova of Russia, Xtrata of Australia, Peabody Energy of USA, BHP Billiton of Great Britain, Vale of Brazil, Sojits of Japan, Marubeni and Itochu of Japan, CORES of South Korea, Mitsui of Japan, Jindal Steel and Power of India, and Sumitomo of Japan are among the potential bidders on the development of Tavan Tolgoi project. The Government of Mongolia had earlier decided to retain 100% ownership of the Tavan Tolgoi coal mine. “The investors were introduced to the proposals of potential cooperation on infrastructure developments and various investment possibilities on the development of the entire project”, said a representative from a special working group appointed by the government. After a “complete different situation”, a government representative said, eight business consortiums out of the previous eleven consortiums have re-expressed their interests in taking part in the development of the project. ^ top ^

Police Preparing for Protest Demonstrations (UB Post)
2010-03-09
National police authorities last week organized a so-called “pre-emptive” training for a possible massive protest, local media outlets reported. Hundreds of armed police officers, and armored vehicles and truck-mounted water cannons, have been mobilized in and around the Central Stadium for the training exercise. Media reporters were barred from entering into the Central Stadium which was used as an “emergency-situation object”, and all civilian vehicles passing by were checked by police. “This was a regular exercise for a possible emergency response that we prepare for a ‘natural' disaster situation,” said Col. T.Sainjargal, a chief press officer of the General Police Department. But local media outlets speculated that this was for a possible protest that civil movements have announced that they would organize on March 11 (So much for freedom of assembly). O.Magnai, one of activists leaders of the civil movement, earlier announced that over ten different civil movements would joined their voices together to set up a new unified movement by holding its first meeting at the Cultural Center of Mongolian Trade Unions. A massive protest is expected to march at the main square, afterwards. ^ 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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