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
  24.5-28.5.10, No. 321  
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Table of contents

DPRK and South Korea

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Foreign Policy

Chinese leaders, European Parliament speaker discuss debt crisis, climate change (Global Times)
2010-05-28
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Vice President Xi Jinping Thursday respectively met with visiting European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek to discuss the European debt crisis, economic ties and climate change. "I believe that European countries could overcome difficulties emerging during their economic recovery through the practice of unity and coordination," Wen told Buzek during their 45-minute meeting in Beijing. Wen reaffirmed China's support for the integration of Europe and pledged to enhance mutual trust and cooperation as ties had entered an important period of development. Xi, during his meeting with Buzek at the Great Hall of the People, said China supports the European Union's role in international affairs and asked the 27-member bloc to respect China's development method. He proposed the two sides cultivate new growth points in ties, such as energy efficiency, greenhouse gas emissions cuts and dealing with climate change. […] Buzek said Europe could emerge from the debt crisis and pledged further dialogue between the European Parliament and the Chinese National People's Congress. "We have been fully prepared to recover as soon as possible from the current crisis," he told Wen. Europe would "spend a lot of money" and "avoid mistakes in the past which led to the crisis." Following a 750-billion-euro ($920-billion) bailout package for Greece, the European Union has asked Spain and Portugal to take austerity measures to improve their public finances. ^ top ^

Visiting Indian leader stresses common interests (SCMP)
2010-05-28
[…] Patil holds a mainly ceremonial position, and mainland experts said her six-day visit would serve more to underscore the two countries' common interests as emerging powers than to settle thorny issues such as border disputes. In her meeting with Premier Wen Jiabao, Patil said India hoped to expand on trade co-operation and investments. […] After meetings with Wen, President Hu Jintao and National People's Congress chairman Wu Bangguo, Patil signed several co-operation agreements. Li Li from the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations said the most sensitive bilateral issue - the long-running border dispute - was most likely glossed over during the talks, but Patil's rare visit was a chance to underscore the significance of Sino-Indian ties. […] The common goal of seeking a greater voice on international issues - from climate change to financial reforms - had allowed the neighbours to co-operate well internationally despite a traditional lack of mutual trust, Li said. "That is why it's important for Patil to visit China to mark the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties," she said. […] Although both governments insist that their leaders had been in frequent contact at multilateral international meetings, Zhang Guihong from Shanghai's Fudan University said such infrequency of high-level visits between powerful neighbours was unusual. […] Ties between the two countries have remained cool since a brief border war in 1962, and border disputes have remained a thorn in both countries' sides since then. Last year, media hyped up tensions along the border, with both sides deploying more troops, and the Tibetan leader in exile, the Dalai Lama, who has been living in India since 1959, visited the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, prompting a protest from China, which claims the state as its territory. ^ top ^

Indian president begins rare state visit to China (SCMP)
2010-05-27
[…] Pratibha Patil is the first Indian head of state in a decade to visit her country's giant neighbour, an illustration of how ties remain cool almost 50 years after the countries fought a brief but bloody border war. Patil was scheduled on Thursday to meet with Premier Wen Jiabao and President Hu Jintao before attending a signing ceremony for a number of bilateral agreements. Her six-day visit will also take her to the India pavilion at the World Expo in Shanghai and to the central city of Luoyang, where she will attend a temple ceremony commemorating the arrival of Buddhism from India 2,000 years ago. Such activities mark a push to strengthen ties between the two beset by mutual suspicion and a sharpening rivalry over resources and global markets to fuel their surging economies.

Indians frequently complain about a flood of Chinese exports that account for about two-thirds of bilateral trade, which grew by about 33 per cent in 2008 to nearly US$52 billion, but declined by as much as US$10 billion last year amid disputes and the global economic slowdown. Citing safety concerns, India last year issued a six-month ban on mainland toy imports that dominate the local market, and launched investigations into other Chinese exports ranging from steel to pharmaceuticals. In April, New Delhi also banned telecom equipment from Chinese vendors such as Huawei and ZTE, citing national security concerns. The ban came less than a week after media reports that mainland hackers had broken into the computer networks of India's security, defence and diplomatic establishments.

The most glaring disagreement remains the remote, mountainous China-India border, over which the two fought gun battles in 1962. The two lack even a commonly designated line of control, despite 13 rounds of settlement talks, and India recently beefed up its military presence along the frontier following accusations of increasing incursions by Chinese troops.

China, meanwhile, resents the presence in India of the self-declared Tibetan government-in-exile headed by the Himalayan region's Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama, who fled across the border amid an abortive rising against Chinese rule in 1959. Beijing last year angrily protested a weeklong visit by the Dalai Lama to the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which it claims as Chinese territory. China for its part occupies a part of Kashmir claimed by India.

Despite such disputes, the two found common cause at last year's climate change talks in Copenhagen, uniting to resist attempts by industrialised nations to reach a new legally binding treaty after two years of UN-sponsored negotiations. They have also sought to co-operate in global finance and co-ordinate foreign policy independently of the West – with limited success thus far – as the two largest of the so-called BRIC nations, which also include Russia and Brazil. ^ top ^

US and Japan agree on closer watch (SCMP)
2010-05-27
A day after China told the United States to scale back surveillance operation in waters and airspace near its territory, US Defence Secretary Dr Robert Gates agreed with his Japanese counterpart to step up monitoring of the Chinese navy. Gates and Japanese Defence Minister Toshimi Kitazawa held talks at the Pentagon yesterday. The two "talked about the recent activities of the Chinese navy and agreed to continue to co-operate and to monitor Chinese actions in the region", Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said in a statement. […] A February report from the Pentagon reviewing US defence strategy echoed findings a year earlier that China was developing and deploying "large numbers" of advanced missiles, new attack submarines, long-range air defence systems and other capabilities. The US resumed military-to-military talks last year aimed at getting explanations and assurances that China's moves are purely defensive. […] Xu Guangyu, a Beijing-based retired People's Liberation Army general, said the meeting between Gates and Kitazawa would not bother Beijing as Japan had played the key role of "monitoring China and North Korea" for decades. […] Gao Haikuan, a security specialist with the Chinese Association for International Friendly Contacts, said the meeting would have no impact on Sino-US military relations. "The US is always a double-dealer in the international community, and we're all used to it," Gao said. […]. ^ top ^

China, Finland sign clean tech deals worth 250 mln U.S. dollars (Xinhua)
2010-05-27
Companies from China and Finland signed twelve deals on clean technology with a total contract value of around 250 million U.S. dollars on Wednesday. "The immediate value of all the contracts and agreements is about 200 million euros (about 245.76 million U.S. dollars), and their potential exceeds 1.5 billion euros (about 1.84 billion dollars)," Leif Fagernas, director general of the Confederation of Finnish Industries, said at the Cleantech Finland China Seminar in Beijing. Visiting Finnish President Tarja Halonen and Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang attended the seminar, and pledged to promote clean tech cooperation between the two countries. […]. ^ top ^

China, US edge towards closer co-operation (SCMP)
2010-05-26
China and the United States have made a commitment to closer co-operation on all major issues and signalled progress in their pivotal relationship during high-level talks. But the annual most important meetings between the world's No1 and No3 economies ended yesterday without any major breakthrough as differences remained. […] In a closing statement, US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said that "quietly but surely, we are building a very strong network of co-operative arrangements on a range of goals". In meetings with US delegations late in the day, President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao hailed "positive results and progress" made in the dialogue. Vice-premier Wang Qishan called the two economies "increasingly inseparable." […] "Leaders have sent clear signs that they are willing to engage co-operatively on important matters of mutual concern, as both Beijing and Washington have realised that neither of them can succeed without a helping hand from other," Professor Jin Canrong, associate dean of Renmin University's School of International Relations, said. […]

Wen also highlighted the differences, saying that the key is to "properly handle contentious issues and take care of each other's interests." No concrete agreement was reached on the contentious issues, such as the trade deficit and the exchange rate, but the two sides did sign several memorandums of co-operation in nuclear energy safety, public health and environmental protection. Geithner said that the "US welcomes China's commitment to submit a revised offer on joining the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement by July 2010, as well as its commitment to reduce barriers to foreign investment in services and high-technology goods". Analysts said the US top priorities were access to the Chinese market. […] US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said a review of export controls ordered by President Barack Obama would be completed by mid-year, but declined to specify which curbs could be relaxed with respect to China. Geithner nudged China to move on the yuan, but adopted a conciliatory tone, saying "this is, of course, China's choice" in his statement. […]. ^ top ^

China calls on US to properly handle Taiwan, Tibet issues (Xinhua)
2010-05-25
China on Monday repeated its request for the United States to respect its core interests and major concerns, and to pay particular attention to handling sensitive issues such as those regarding Taiwan and Tibet. This was one of the seven proposals China made at the on-going second round of China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogues (S&ED), said Ma Zhaoxu, spokesman of the Chinese delegation attending the strategic track of S&ED. […] "China believes both sides should abide by the three joint communiques between the two countries and the joint statement issued during US President Obama's visit to China last November," Ma said. […]. ^ top ^

Pakistan, China strengthen military cooperation (People's Daily Online)
2010-05-25
Pakistan and China agreed to further increase military cooperation and strategic communication at all levels so as to overcome the challenges being confronted by the two countries, according to top military officials of both countries. During a meeting held here Monday at the Pakistani Ministry of Defence between Minister for Defence Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar and Chinese Defence Minister General Liang Guanglie, the two sides exchanged views on bilateral defence cooperation, geo-strategic situation of the region and the anti-terror efforts made by Pakistan. The meeting discussed the security environment of the region and emphasized the need for making joint efforts to weed out terrorism. It was also agreed to share intelligence gathering which was essential for defeating the terrorist elements. General Liang Guanglie assured his Pakistani counterpart that China would continue to provide military and economic assistance to Pakistan so as to make it a stronger and prosperous country. He also assured that his country would continue to support Pakistan's stance on different issues on every international forum. […]. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

NGOs fight uphill battle as Beijing tightens the screws (SCMP)
2010-05-28
Staff at the Yirenping Centre in Beijing have not been paid for two months and more than two-thirds of their projects have been suspended due to lack of funding. "Much of our project funding has stopped coming in," said Lu Jun, founder of the non-profit group that fights discrimination against hepatitis B and HIV carriers. "It is possible that we might have to close down." Yirenping has been under pressure before. Last year, government workers raided its office and confiscated all of its publications, accusing it of illegal publishing. But until recently, it had never been short of funding. That changed this year with the introduction of a regulation that restricts foreign donations to independent non-governmental organisations, making access to its overseas funding - 80 per cent of its financing - almost impossible. […] A crackdown on house churches, human-rights lawyers and other rights activists has also intensified, prompting fears of a new round of persecution of the mainland's nascent civil society. […] According to academics' estimates, some 90 per cent of mainland NGOs lack legal status because Beijing does not allow them to register without a government-backed agency as their caretaker. As few government bodies want to be responsible for independent NGOs, most are forced to register as companies and are subject to government scrutiny over taxes and other administrative issues. They are also excluded from government funding, prohibited from raising funds from the public and as most enterprises consider it safer to donate to government-backed organisations, they rely on overseas funding. Xu Youyu, a retired Chinese Academy of Social Sciences professor, said that when a nervous government sensed a dangerous level of conflict building up in society, its default reaction was to curb the rise of civil society. […] Nicholas Bequelin, senior researcher at New York-based Human Rights Watch, said the past three years had seen an intensified persecution of groups or individuals who were previously tolerated. […] "The Communist Party sees civil society as a potential political threat and wants to nip in the bud any attempt to organise independently," Bequelin said. […] Bequelin said the central government is nervous about an increased awareness of legal rights among ordinary Chinese. The authorities pay lip service to the rule of law but they do not want to have their power restrained by it. That means independent civic groups such as Gongmeng, Yirenping and Aizhixing, which try to help victims seek legal redress against the government or companies, tend to be the targets of official ire.

[…] But it is not all bleak, according to Deng Guosheng of Tsinghua University, who specialises in NGO research. He said despite previous clampdowns on civic organisations, they have grown rapidly. Officially registered NGOs had grown nearly a hundred fold from just 4,500 in 1988 to some 425,000 by the end of last year. Scholars estimate the number of unregistered NGOs range from one million to three million. […] "The government's attitude towards NGOs has been wavering all the time... tight sometimes, lax other times," Deng said. "But looking back at the past 15 years' trend... I still feel optimistic.". ^ top ^

Suicides expose workers' anguish (SCMP)
2010-05-28
Foxconn was hit by another suicide attempt in Shenzhen yesterday - the 13th this year, 10 of which have resulted in deaths - as the company's Taiwanese boss Terry Gou flew back to the city again, less than 24 hours after leaving it. A 25-year-old worker slit his wrists early yesterday morning, a few hours after a fellow worker jumped to his death, Shenzhen police said. The worker, who recovered after hospital treatment, had joined Foxconn only two months ago, Xinhua reported. […] Professor Wang Xiangqian, from the China Institute of Industrial Relations, said Foxconn exposed the urgent need for "stronger and more independent workers' unions" - independent from the employer, not from the Communist Party, because all workers' unions on the mainland are party-affiliated. "Our economic development has reached a point where there must be an effective bargaining mechanism between the labourers and the employers, and that means a strong and independent workers' union," Wang said. "Without this legal weapon, the workers could only turn to other ways to express themselves, which could then bring instability to society." The authorities have found no evidence of illegal practices at Foxconn's two Shenzhen plants, which employ more than 400,000 people, even though reports have emerged of people working up to 100 hours of overtime a month, when the legal maximum is 36. According to media reports, Foxconn workers can toil for up to 12 hours without talking to anyone, follow strict rules on how long to spend on meals and toilet breaks, are subject to constant surveillance of their operations and have to work rapidly on repetitive tasks, making them feel like machines. "A strong and independent worker's union could have tabled such unreasonable work conditions for negotiations with the employer," Wang said. […]. ^ top ^

New Foxconn suicide after boss visits Shenzhen plant (SCMP)
2010-05-27
Another worker jumped to his death at Foxconn's main Shenzhen complex last night hours after the company's boss, Terry Gou, flew in to visit the plant and defend its management after a series of suicides. […] Gou, chairman of Foxconn said earlier the 11 suicide attempts since January, nine of them successful, were more of a social problem and Foxconn should not bear the blame. […] "Generally, the suicide rate in a society will increase when its GDP rises," Gou told some 200 mainland and foreign reporters during a rare press tour of the sprawling Longhua plant. "I've consulted psychologists and they told me the suicide rate at Foxconn is much lower than the country's average." […] Tsinghua University social science professor Guo Yuhua and eight sociologists criticised Foxconn in an open letter last week, saying a lack of basic human rights was the reason behind the suicides. "[Manufacturers] use the term `migrant workers' as an excuse and pay them monthly salaries much lower than the average of underdeveloped countries, forcing them to leave their hometowns and families behind, and live a struggling life without family care and dignity," the letter said. […] Gou said nine of the 11 suicide attempts involved young people who had worked at the plant for less than six months, and denied that hard work was driving people to kill themselves. […] Gou said he could not guarantee that there would be no more suicides at Foxconn, even though "every single life is valuable" and he felt deeply sorry about the deaths." […] Guo said he had learned about his workers' unhappiness a year ago and had immediately recruited psychiatrists. He said barriers were being erected around buildings at the plant to deter suicidal workers. […] A lone Foxconn staff member, in uniform, complained to media that all workers had been forced to sign letters promising not to kill themselves and that their families would not seek extra compensation, above that required by law, from Foxconn if they committed suicide. Gou apologised for the letter at a later press conference and said it would no longer be used. […]. ^ top ^

Apple has its eye on working conditions (SCMP)
2010-05-27
Apple said yesterday it was evaluating the steps by Foxconn, which manufactures many of its products including the iPhone, to prevent further suicides at its assembly plant in Shenzhen. "We are saddened and upset by the recent suicides at Foxconn," an Apple spokeswoman said in an e-mail reply. "Apple is deeply committed to ensuring that conditions throughout our supply chain are safe and workers are treated with respect and dignity. "We are in direct contact with Foxconn senior management and we believe they are taking this matter very seriously. "A team from Apple is independently evaluating the steps they are taking to address these tragic events and we will continue our ongoing inspections of the facilities where our products are made," she said. Apple refused to confirm if the new iPad was being made at the plant. Foxconn, a Taiwanese company, also counts Dell and Hewlett-Packard among its clients. […]. ^ top ^

Dell looking into suicides at Foxconn plant (SCMP)
2010-05-27
Computer giant Dell said on Thursday it was looking into conditions at the Shenzhen factory owned by a Taiwanese supplier following the deaths of 11 workers in apparent suicides. “We're investigating the reports. Any reports of poor working conditions in Dell's supply chain are investigated and, if warranted, appropriate action will be taken,” Dell spokeswoman Sharon Zhang told reporters. “We expect our suppliers to employ the same high standards we do in our own facilities.” […]. ^ top ^

Decade-long drought threatens poor, rural Chinese county (Global Times)
2010-05-26
[…] More than 120,000 villagers and 26,400 heads of livestock in three townships in northern Jingyuan County face severe water shortages, said Xie Yousheng, head of the county government. Everyday, along winding paths and over the plains and through the mountains, long lines of the county's residents travel up to 10 kilometers from their home with their livestock loaded with buckets to fetch drinking water. The three townships are close to the Tenggeli Desert and receive annual precipitation of less than 200 millimeters -- but evaporation reaches up to 1,700 mm a year. "I have a water tank in my home, but it only stores snow water collected in the winter. That water is filthy," said Zhang Guohua, a villager in Woniu Village, Yongxin Township. In some villages, people sold their livestock because there was little rain and grass. "We have distributed cash and supplies, such as water and grain, to help relieve the situation," said Xie, adding that "we have organized the villagers to work as migrant laborers in other places. But these measures won't solve the fundamental problem." The irrigation facilities built in 1980s cannot meet the county's demand, Xie said. The State Council, or China's cabinet, has unveiled a support package to boost development in Gansu. The measures include providing adequate drinking water to drought-stricken people. "We are presently preparing to build a new water control project," Xie said. ^ top ^

Top court gives order to speed up petition cases (SCMP)
2010-05-24
The mainland's top court has ordered judges around the country to speed up handling petition complaints and applications for retrial that involve lawsuits against the government, especially cases in which petitioners tried to seek redress in Beijing and provincial capitals. A campaign lasting until the end of the year will focus on identifying these cases and aim to "reduce the number of such cases dramatically within a relatively short period", Supreme People's Court deputy chief Jiang Bixin told a national courts work meeting in Guangdong on Saturday, Xinhua reported. By the end of next month, all provincial high courts must submit a list of such cases to the Supreme Court, the order stated. As Xinhua noted, the courts are crucial to resolving conflicts between the people and the government, but too often the failure of the courts to do so has led to aggravated conflicts. Social conflicts are increasingly manifesting themselves in the forms of riots and, more disturbingly, violence such as the five random attacks at kindergartens nationwide within the past two months. […]. ^ top ^

 

Beijing

Court hears novelist's Google lawsuit (SCMP)
2010-05-27
Mian Mian – known for lurid tales of sex, drugs and nightlife – filed a lawsuit in October after her latest book, Acid House, was scanned into the library. Google says it removed the work following Mian Mian's complaint but the author is suing for damages of 61,000 yuan (US$9,000) and a public apology. A Beijing court held a hearing on Wednesday after talks ordered by the judge failed to produce a settlement, said Mian Mian's lawyer, Sun Jingwei. “Compensation is negotiable but Mian Mian really is demanding an apology,” Sun said. A Google spokeswoman in Beijing, Marsha Wang, declined to comment. […] Google's ambitious effort to make printed works available online has faced opposition from writers in the United States, Europe and elsewhere. Google has scanned more than 10 million books, many of them still under copyright. A government-affiliated group, the China Written Works Copyright Society, is calling on Google to negotiate compensation for Chinese authors. The group says it has found more than 80,000 works by Chinese authors scanned into the library. […]. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Hong Kong, French Bordeaux sign wine pact (Xinhua)
2010-05-26
Hong Kong and the Southwestern French region of Bordeaux on Tuesday signed a supplemental memorandum of understanding on cooperation in wine-related businesses, adding new elements to their 2008 deal. […] "This enriches our wine culture and capitalizes on Hong Kong's strength as a gourmet center for the region. We will collaborate with Bordeaux through, for example, chef exchange programs between our training institutions," she said. […] France is Hong Kong's largest wine supplier, accounting for some 56 percent of its total wine imports by value, and many of HK 's wine imports come from Bordeaux. Since the exemption of wine duties in early 2008, the value of wine imports from France to Hong Kong increased by almost 160 percent year on year, amounting to 252 million euros, in HK's financial year ending March 2010. Also on Tuesday, Bordeaux Region Development Agency, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Bordeaux and the Hong Kong Science Park co-host a half-day event for Hong Kong's high-tech industry. The aim of this event was to promote collaboration and development opportunity between Bordeaux and Hong Kong companies, and to introduce innovative technology achievements of Bordeaux and Hong Kong in the fields of photonics, laser, aeronautics, biochemistry and Information and Communication Technology. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Lawmakers in Taiwan to meet over trade deal (SCMP)
2010-05-27
Taiwan's divided parliament will meet in July to review and possibly stall a trade deal with the mainland that is expected to boost the island's US$390 billion economy but may also bring an unwelcome flood of cheaper goods. […] Taiwan's anti-Beijing opposition Democratic Progressive Party is sure to protest to parliament, citing over-dependence on Beijing, while the KMT is expected to offer the DPP concessions ahead of tense year-end local polls. […] Strong opposition from the DPP, which fears the mainland may use the deal to flood Taiwan with cheaper goods or assert the sovereignty it claims over the self-ruled island, would prompt concessions most likely affecting the agreement's core list of some 300 items set for tariff cuts. […] Opponents of the deal said small Taiwan firms could be put out of business by any sharp influx of mainland merchandise following import tariff reductions. Concessions in parliament would keep the populist DPP from using the pact as an issue in November 27 city elections seen as a barometer for Taiwan's presidential race in 2012. […]. ^ top ^

China, Taiwan to add 120 flights a week as trade booms (SCMP)
2010-05-24
China and Taiwan will add 100 direct passenger flights and 20 more cargo flights a week to keep up with two-way trade worth an annual US$109 billion and growing since hostilities began to ease in 2008, officials said on Monday. A weekend deal that boosts direct flights to a total 370 and cargo flights to 48 from mid-June reflects increases in mainland tourists as well as growing demand by Taiwanese investors bound for China, the island's civil aviation authority said. Markets are expected to look favourably at the flights as a sign that business between the political rivals of 60 years is picking ahead of a free trade-style deal due to be signed next month. The two sides had banned direct flights on security concerns for decades but began opening routes from 2005 as Taiwan investors sighted economic powerhouse China as a manufacturing and sales hot spot despite political tensions. “New flights will be a reflection of economic interaction, as for Taiwan certainly China is one of its fastest growing markets,” said David Cohen, director of Asian economic forecasting with Action Economics in Singapore. “It does appear to be one of the fastest growing relationships anywhere on the planet,” he said. China, for its part, seeks to help Taiwan's US$390 billion economy as part of a charm offensive that it hopes will lure the island into political unification. Negotiators meeting in Taipei over the weekend also agreed to open six new airports for passenger or cargo flights, including one near central Shanghai seen boosting tourist traffic. ^ top ^

 

Tibet

Tibetan gets suspended death sentence for riots (SCMP)
2010-05-27
[…] The Dharamsala, India-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said in a statement late on Wednesday that the Lhasa Intermediate People's Court sentenced Sonam Tsering, 23, to death with a two-year reprieve on Tuesday. Such sentences are usually commuted to life in prison. It said Sonam Tsering is the seventh Tibetan so far to be sentenced to death for the riots, including two already executed. Rioting that broke out in Lhasa on March 14, 2008, left 22 people dead and led to the most sustained Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule in decades. Beijing says the demonstrations were part of a violent campaign organised by the Dalai Lama and his supporters to throw off Chinese rule in Tibet and sabotage the Beijing Olympics in August 2008. The Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet 50 years ago amid an uprising against Chinese rule, has denied the charge and says he seeks only significant autonomy for Tibet under continued Chinese rule. The Lhasa court on Tuesday also ordered jail terms of between three and seven years for five other Tibetans convicted of harbouring Sonam Tsering in their homes following the riots and helping him prepare to flee abroad, it said. He disappeared after the riots but was arrested 17 months later in October last year, it said. […] The centre reported that the Lhasa court heard that he [Sonam Tsering] rioted and led others to riot by setting cars and shops on fire and overturning police vehicles. While standing on top of a police vehicle, he wielded a knife in the air and loudly shouted anti-government slogans, it said. Lhasa government and court officials refused to confirm the ruling and said they had no knowledge of the case. […]. ^ top ^

 

Xinjiang

Xinjiang support package hailed by local residents (Global Times)
2010-05-23
China's support package for the far-west Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region unveiled Thursday has become a hot topic for residents of the region who hailed the strategic plans that help bring prosperity to their hometown. Chinese President Hu Jintao said during a central work conference held in Beijing from Monday to Wednesday the region should undergo a spurt in development so that by 2015 its per capita gross domestic product reaches the national average. Incomes and access to basic public services should reach the average level of the country's western regions, he said. […]

Zhang Man, an experienced stock investor in Urumqi, was thrilled to see the shares of companies based in Xinjiang surge across the board Friday. To boost development in the region, the government will cut taxes for some enterprises in the region, according to the package. "The tax cuts are good news for listed Xinjiang companies and companies who have branches here, which will eventually benefit infrastructure construction and industries in the region," said Zhang Man. According to the package, Xinjiang will be the first Chinese region to reform resource taxes. The resource tax for oil and gas produced in Xinjiang will be levied based on price instead of quantity, effectively raising the revenue for the regional government. "The resource tax reform will also help save energy and cut emissions," said Zhang Man. […] "We feel this is a new starting point for Xinjiang, and we have to try our best to make the most of this great opportunity," said Hadeerbieke, deputy secretary-general of Altay Prefectural Party Committee in northern Xinjiang. ^ top ^

 

Economy

Income gap rings alarm (Global Times)
2010-05-27
[…] A plan to curb the yawning wealth distribution will be drafted, according to officials with the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) who declined to give a timetable. The efforts come as experts warn that the nation can ill-afford a growing disparity in earnings.

Such a plan could be written into the country's next Five- Year Plan for 2011-15, according to the 21st Century Business Herald newspaper. […] The Xinhua News Agency reported earlier this month that the top 10 percent of the richest people earned 23 times more than the poorest 10 percent of people in 2007 - up from 7.3 times in 1988. Cong Yaping and Li Changjiu, economic analysts with Xinhua's Center of World Studies, warned that China's Gini Coefficient - an indicator of income inequality - has exceeded 0.5, threatening poor economic security, a weaker development outlook and social instability, the Xinhua-owned Economic Information Daily newspaper reported last week. The warning threshold, as commonly recognized by the international community, of the Gini Coefficient is 0.4. […] Yang Yiyong, director of the Social Development Research Department at the NDRC, warned that China can't afford any further rises in the Gini Index, as growing disparity could result in social unrest and "could even cause distrust in the country's public-ownership economic system." "Social problems, including migrant workers consecutively taking their lives and serial attacks on schoolchildren, are related to conflicts stemming from the income gap," Yang said. […] People's Daily reported that the existing hukou system has helped push up the gap between the rich and poor. Citizens with rural hukou cannot generally enjoy the same social benefits as urban residents, even though they live and work in cities. […] Zhong Dajun, director of the Beijing Dajun Economy Observe Institute, however, cautioned that any reform would be difficult, as it would involve various interest groups, while "the rights of workers should be strengthened, and their voice should be expressed so as to determine that they are not underpaid." The income gap will not only bring social unrest but also hit the country's economy, Zhong warned. Officials say tackling the growing income gap has been a top priority for the country's leadership, with Premier Wen Jiabao pledging to increase the proportion of residents' income to the entire national income, and to use financial and tax leverage to narrow the income gap and promote social security. […]. ^ top ^

China opens index futures to foreign investors (People's Daily Online)
2010-05-27
Beijing decided to allow qualified foreign institutions to trade in its stock-index futures, in a measure to open its capital market to overseas investors. The permission was deemed a result of this week's two-day China-US Strategic & Economic Dialogue (SE&D) in Beijing. […] The move will widen investment options for overseas institutions in the world's third-biggest stock market by value. QFII, or qualified foreign institutional investors, have been able to invest in the yuan-denominated Chinese A shares. The total combined quota for QFII funds is US$30 billion. Futures, or agreements to buy or sell the CSI 300 Index at a preset value, began trading on the China Financial Futures Exchange in Shanghai on April 16, while margin trading and short selling was introduced March 31. The CSI 300, which tracks 300 of the largest companies on China's two equities exchanges, has dropped 21 percent this year on concern government measures to cool property market will hurt corporate earnings. The Shanghai Composite Index has slumped 20 percent this year after surging 80 percent in 2009. Opening up the futures markets to foreign investors may reduce volatility by allowing more participants to place strategic bets, analysts said. ^ top ^

China supports rescue moves to end EU sovereign debt crisis (Global Times)
2010-05-25
China was concerned about the ongoing sovereign debt crisis in several eurozone nations and supports the rescue actions taken by the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Chinese Minister of Commerce Chen Deming said here Monday. "China believes the European Union (EU) is able to strengthen supervision over the sovereign debt, and hopes the relevant nations will overcome the crisis," Chen told a news briefing. […] The EU sovereign debt crisis would also influence the trade between the United States and China, although the impact would not be severe, Chen said. "China's trade surplus fell 34 percent last year and has decreased 78.6 percent in the first four months of this year. China will continue to increase its imports in line with stable exports," he added. […]. ^ top ^

 

DPRK and South Korea

North says it will cancel military pact as South stages naval drills (SCMP)
2010-05-28
[…] Signs emerged that China, the North's main benefactor and ally, is reviewing ties with the isolated communist state, a week after international investigators accused Pyongyang of torpedoing a South Korean warship on March 26. The sinking killed 46 sailors and sharply raised tensions in economically significant East Asia. In the latest chapter of blistering rhetoric, North Korea accused the South of driving 10 years of developing ties into the ground and said it would scrap pacts between the two militaries which guaranteed the safety of cross-border exchanges. The move could push the North a step closer to severing a border link which provides access to a joint industrial complex in the North Korean city of Kaesong. […] It could also mean the beginning of the end for Kaesong, where more than 100 South Korean firms use cheap labour and rent to make consumer goods, and has been one of a few legitimate sources of income for the North. […]

The South Korean naval exercise - aimed at better detecting North Korean submarine intrusions - is likely to further anger Pyongyang, which has cut most ties. Most analysts say that neither side is ready to go to war but warn there could be more skirmishes, especially along their disputed sea border off the west coast. Washington is looking for ways to avoid the issue collapsing into conflict, with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pressing Beijing to coax its ally into changing course during her Asia tour. US officials travelling with Clinton on the tour that ended on Wednesday said China had shown indications that it was rethinking its ties with Pyongyang.

South Korea will ask the UN Security Council next week to take up the issue, its Yonhap news agency said. South Korean officials anticipate some progress in China's response when Premier Wen Jiabao visits Seoul today for a summit with President Lee Myung-bak. […] North Korea's Supreme People's Assembly is scheduled to meet on June 7, two months after the parliament passed constitutional amendments strengthening leader Kim Jong-il's powers. Experts say a major announcement is likely. ^ top ^

Wen faces balancing act over Pyongyang (SCMP)
2010-05-27
Premier Wen Jiabao flies into a regional storm over North Korea this week, when neighbours' disquiet over China's reluctance to press Pyongyang could fracture what was cast as a show of northeast Asian unity. Wen, who has the demeanour of a mild school master, has been the friendliest face of China's effort to convince wary South Korea and Japan that Beijing is no threat and wants to act only as a benign regional adhesive, promoting trade and co-operation. Wen will use his week-long Asia trip from tomorrow, spanning South Korea, Japan, Mongolia and Myanmar, to promote economic co-operation, Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun told a briefing yesterday. But with Seoul and Tokyo convinced that North Korea torpedoed a South Korean warship, the Cheonan, China's attempts to balance those ties with its traditional support of Pyongyang will be at issue during a three-nation regional summit on the South Korean resort island of Jeju at the weekend. […] "He needs to somehow find a public way of placating South Korea and of warning North Korea. Zhu Feng, a professor of international relations at Peking University, said. "But if China publicly sides with South Korea, the United States and Japan over the Cheonan, that would amount to totally abandoning North Korea, and China does not want to go that far." […] Chinese experts said the government believed it could upset the brittle stability on the Korean peninsula by overtly taking sides and dash any hopes of Pyongyang abandoning nuclear weapons. In the eyes of many in South Korea and Japan, however, that muted approach amounts to be protecting Pyongyang, and that threatens to corrode China's efforts to draw closer to those two big trade partners. […] "The dilemma faced by Beijing is that provocative acts by [North Korea] put pressure on China's strategic objective of separating its relations with North and South Korea," Victor Cha, an expert on the region at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC, wrote in a commentary on the ship sinking that was published by the think-tank on Tuesday. "While most understand China's dilemma, many see Beijing's 'muddle through' strategy as a disappointing symbol of its inability to play a leadership role in East Asia commensurate with its rise," added Cha, who dealt with North Korea as a National Security Council official under president George W. Bush. China's growth, pushing it close to overtaking Japan as the world's second-biggest economy, is a big reason for both South Korea and Japan to seek smoother ties with Beijing. China is now the biggest trade partner for both, Zhang said. ^ top ^

N Korea to cut all relations, communication with South (SCMP)
2010-05-26
Pyongyang declared yesterday that it would sever all communication and relations with Seoul as punishment for its accusations over the sinking of a South Korean warship two months ago. The North also announced it would expel all South Korean government officials working at a joint industrial park in the border town of Kaesong, the official Korean Central News Agency said in a dispatch monitored in Seoul late last night. […] South Korea's military restarted psychological warfare operations - including blaring radio broadcasts into the North and placing loudspeakers at the border to blast out propaganda - to punish the North for the provocation. The South is also slashing trade and denying permission to North Korean cargo ships to pass through its waters. North Korea struck back by declaring it would cut all ties with the South until President Lee Myung-bak leaves office in early 2013. South Korean ships and airliners will be banned from passing through its territory, and the North will start "all-out counterattacks" against the South's psychological warfare, Pyongyang's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said in a statement carried by KCNA. The committee called the moves "the first phase" of punitive measures against the South, suggesting more action could follow. South Korea's Unification Ministry said it had no immediate comment on the statement. […] Earlier, a Seoul-based monitoring agency reported that North Korea's leader had ordered its 1.2 million-member military to get ready for combat. South Korean officials could not immediately confirm the report.[…] Yesterday, North Korean state media cited the powerful National Defence Commission as saying the North's soldiers and reservists were bracing to launch a "sacred war" against South Korea. […]. ^ top ^

China calls for restraint over ROK's warship sinking (Global Times)
2010-05-25
[…] China hopes the parties to maintain calmness and restraint and to properly deal with relevant issues, Chinese spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said during the second round of the China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogues (S&ED) Monday in Beijing. […] "China has always been committed to maintaining the stability in Northeast Asia and the Korean Peninsula, promoting the six-party talks and denuclearization of the Peninsula," said Ma spokesman for the S&ED's strategic track talks. He added that international and regional matters such as the sinking of the warship should be handled in an objective and fair manner and based on facts. […]. ^ top ^

US, ROK to conduct military exercises (Global Times)
2010-05-25
The United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK) will conduct two new military training exercises in the wake of the sinking of an ROK warship, the Pentagon said on Monday. The US Navy will conduct anti-submarine and maritime interdiction training with the ROK side after consulting with the ROK counterparts regarding the sinking of the frigate Cheonan on March 26, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters, without providing any details or timelines on the two exercises. […] The White House issued a statement early Monday, saying that President Barack Obama "fully supports" the ROK's response to the sinking of Cheonan. "US support for South Korea's defense is unequivocal, and the president has directed his military commanders to coordinate closely with their Republic of Korea counterparts to ensure readiness and to deter future aggression," said the statement. ^ top ^

 

Corentin Buela
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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