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
  5-11.1.13, No. 457  
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Table of contents

DPRK and South Korea

Mongolia

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Foreign Policy

China's air force dismisses report of Myanmarese jets' intrusion (Xinhua)
2013-01-05
China's air force issued a statement on Saturday saying no Myanmarese jets have entered Chinese territory. The statement came in response to reports that Myanmarese fighter jets had mistakenly entered China after armed conflict broke out in northern Myanmar. According to the statement, China's air force has tightened surveillance over territorial air across the China-Myanmar border since the conflict began. The closest Myanmarese jets are five kilometers away from the border. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying confirmed on Friday that three bombs landed in China on the evening of Dec. 30, 2012 during the armed conflict between the Myanmar military and the Kachin Independence Army. Hua said China made representations to Myanmar afterwards. "The Chinese side demands the Myanmar side immediately take effective measures to prevent similar incidents from happening again.". ^ top ^

Japan fighters head off Chinese plane over Diaoyu (Global Times)
2013-01-05
Japan scrambled fighter jets Saturday to head off a Chinese State-owned plane that flew near islands at the center of a dispute between Tokyo and Beijing, a Japanese Defense Ministry spokesman said. The Japanese jets were mobilized after a Chinese maritime aircraft ventured some 120 kilometers north of the Diaoyu Islands, which Japan calls the Senkaku islands, at around 12 pm, the spokesman said. The Chinese Y-12 twin-turboprop later left the zone without entering "Japanese airspace" over the islands, he was quoted as saying. It was the first time Japanese fighter jets had been scrambled this year to counter Chinese aircraft approaching the islands, the spokesman said. [...] China's defense ministry on December 27 said the Chinese military "closely monitors" and is "highly vigilant" concerning relevant Japanese Air Self-Defense Force activity in the airspace over the Diaoyu Islands, according to the Xinhua News Agency. "We will decisively fulfill our tasks and missions while coordinating with relevant departments such as maritime supervision organs, so as to safeguard China's maritime law enforcement activities and protect the country's territorial integrity and maritime rights," Ministry of Defense spokesman Yang Yujun said. [...]. ^ top ^

US excludes China from satellite deal (Global Times)
2013-01-07
The Chinese government and aerospace industry have called on the US to stop politicizing Sino-US space cooperation and allow China access to commercial launch services, after new revisions to US satellite export control rules once again barred the emerging space power from obtaining US satellites. US President Barack Obama Thursday signed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, which included a section on the removal of satellites and related items from the US Munitions List with the aim of stimulating the commercial space sector. However, the relaxation of export controls shut China out by stipulating that no satellites or related items may be exported, re-exported or transferred to China, North Korea or any country that is a state sponsor of terrorism. It prohibits satellites or related items from being launched in those countries, and prohibits those countries from using these items in their launch vehicles. Only the president could waive the prohibition on a case-by-case basis. In response, China expressed grave concern. Shen Danyang, spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce, said Saturday that despite US promises that the reform of the export control system would benefit Beijing and boost US exports of high-tech equipment to China, the US in fact took measures to continue containing Sino-US cooperation in civilian-use satellites. "China is very disappointed and dissatisfied," said Shen, adding that China hopes the US will stop discriminating against it. [...] Despite a ban on satellite exports to China in the early 1990s, former US presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton all authorized launches in China during their tenures citing national interests. "The Obama administration has made repeated promises to relax high-tech export controls. But it turns out that it has been the strictest," Zhou Shijian, a senior researcher with the Center for US-China Relations at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times. The new rules proposed by some right-wing legislators have in fact labeled China as "an enemy" of the US, Zhou said, noting that even during the Cold War era, the US didn't stop space cooperation with the former Soviet Union. [...]. ^ top ^

Three Chinese navy ships visit Vietnam (Xinhua)
2013-01-07
Three Chinese navy ships returning from counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden have docked at south Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City, kicking off a five-day good-will visit on Monday. The People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy ships belonging to the 12nd Escort Task Group were warmly received by representatives from Vietanmese army and government, the Chinese embassy in Vietnam and consulate general in Ho Chi Minh City as well as local Chinese institutions and companies. [...] The fleet, led by Rear Admiral Zhou Ximing and joined by over 790 PLA Navy officers and men, had left China in July, 2012, and visited Sydney of Australia in December after fulfilling the escort mission. [...] According to the schedule, the Chinese PLA Navy visiting group will hold various activities jointly with their Vietnamese counterparts, as to increase bilateral communication and understanding, while Zhou Ximing and his commanding team are to visit and hold talks with Vietnamese government and senior military officials including Rear Admiral Pham Van Hong, Deputy Staff Chief of Vietnamese Navy. [...] Chinese Navy has increased its ability to conduct off-shore military maneuvers, with a total of 34 warships, 28 helicopters and over 10,000 officers and sailors participating in ocean-going missions since Dec. 26, 2008, when Chinese navy ships began conducting escort missions in the Indian Ocean. Since then, they have escorted over 5,000 Chinese and foreign civilian vessels, half of which belonged to foreign owners including Vietnamese. ^ top ^

Xi Jinping: China-Russia ties prioritized in Chinese diplomacy (Xinhua)
2013-01-08
Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Tuesday said that promoting relations with Russia is a priority for Chinese diplomacy as he met with a Russian delegation in Beijing. Xi, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, told Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev that China will continue to push forward a bilateral comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination. Patrushev is in Beijing to attend the eighth round of the China-Russia strategic security consultation from Jan. 8 to 9, co-chairing the discussion along with Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo. The consultation at the beginning of a new year is very timely and necessary, Xi said. As two constructive forces in promoting healthy development of the international situation and maintaining an international strategic balance, China and Russia should further cooperate, according to the general secretary. [...] China fully agrees with Russian President Vladimir Putin's proposals on enhancing bilateral cooperation in the economy, trade, energy, investment, finance, aerospace and other fields, Xi told his guest. In the new year, Patrushev said, Russia is willing to continue strengthening Russia-China high-level exchanges, maintain close communication on major issues, and promote pragmatic cooperation in various areas and cultural exchanges so as to push bilateral coordination on the basis of mutual respect, equality and mutual trust to a new level. ^ top ^

France hoped to facilitate high-tech exports to China (Xinhua)
2013-01-08
Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang on Tuesday expressed the hope that France will continue to create conditions for high-tech exports to China as he met with French Minister of Economy and Finance Pierre Moscovici in Beijing. Li said he also hoped that France will promote the European Union to remove limits on high-tech exports to China. Li said both developed countries and emerging economies are confronted with various economic difficulties. "They should work together to enhance mutual trust, reach a consensus and pool wisdom to tackle pressing challenges in economic and financial sectors," the vice premier said. According to Li, to narrow the gap between rural and urban areas and gaps between different regions are the requirement and strategic choice to realize modernization, which will tap huge development potential and have a long-lasting effect. China's move to promote new-type urbanization is a complicated systematic project and also a basic solution to the two gaps, Li said, highlighting an ecological, energy-efficient and intensive way to realize urbanization. The vice premier recalled his visit to EU last year, saying China hoped to work more closely with France and other highly urbanized European countries in ideas, technology and markets. [...]. ^ top ^

Beijing rejects protest by Tokyo (China Daily)
2013-01-09
Cheng Yonghua, China's ambassador to Japan, rejected a protest by Tokyo over Chinese vessels patrolling waters off the Diaoyu Islands. Japanese Deputy Foreign Minister Saiki Akitaka summoned Cheng in Tokyo on Tuesday to lodge a protest against patrols conducted by four Chinese maritime surveillance ships. [...] Beijing also blasted Japan on Tuesday for allowing fighter jets to violate the islands' airspace and letting its vessels enter China's territorial waters off the islands. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China's patrols are regular missions conducted for administrative purposes and Beijing has lodged protests to Tokyo on a number of occasions demanding a halt to illegal activities. [...] At a meeting of Japanese business leaders, the Chinese ambassador said that relations went through a deep freeze in 2012. Trade between the two countries from January to November fell to $302.8 billion, down 2.9 percent year-on-year. The possibility of further escalation "still cannot be ruled out'', but the situation remains "controllable'', said Yang Bojiang, a Japanese studies specialist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. This year will witness the 35th anniversary of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between China and Japan. Though there is no apparent mood to celebrate the event, Cheng was guardedly optimistic over the new Japanese government. Cheng urged the Japanese Cabinet to take a positive approach and abide by the four key political documents signed by the two countries. "We hope that Japan meets China halfway and finds appropriate ways to ease the tension over the Diaoyu Islands through dialogue and consultation," Cheng said. "We shouldn't let our spirit sag when facing difficulties." [...]. ^ top ^

China denies accusations of fake drug exports to Africa (Global Times)
2013-01-09
Chinese pharmaceutical firms and medical experts in Africa have denied a Western report which labeled China a suspected source of counterfeit drugs which were holding back the fight against malaria in the continent. UK-based newspaper the Guardian published an article last month claiming that a large quantity of Chinese malaria drugs exported to African countries were fake and "not life-saving at all." [...] Drugs qualified for public procurement have to be certified by the World Health Organization (WHO), while drugs exported to the continent have to follow strict supervision and examination procedures conducted by both sides.Tanzania is one of the countries that suffer the most from malaria. Mohamed Ali, chief of the Tanzania Malaria Control Program, told the Global Times that in the public sector, the only ways Chinese-made malaria drugs can get into the country are through public procurement by the WHO and the Tanzanian government. In the private sector, local dealers import the drug from companies with certifications issued by the country's food and drugs authority. "It's hard to believe the drugs could arrive on cargo trucks as the Guardian reported, we use air transportation and all of them, no matter whether they're from the public sector or the private, have to be strictly examined at the airport and customs," Ali said. [...] Ouyang Daobing, a diplomat at China's embassy in Uganda, told the Global Times that the allegations were baseless and biased. "China has provided millions of doses of malaria drugs to Uganda and has received compliments from the government and citizens. Each year the Uganda government requests new aid from China. Fake drugs could not mingle into the official distribution and sales channels under the government's strict supervision," said Ouyang. Charys Nuhu Ugullum, acting chief of Tanzania's food and drug authority, told the Global Times that although Tanzania conducts strict supervision and inspections of malaria drugs, fake drugs still occupy 20 percent of the market share, and most of them come from counterfeiting producers in Africa, or are imported from other continents by illegal dealers. ^ top ^

Japan scrambles fighters over Diaoyu (Global Times)
2013-01-11
Japan's Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) Thursday scrambled fighter jets to head off several Chinese military planes in its self-proclaimed Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) near the disputed Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, Japanese media reported. The Chinese planes were spotted on Japanese military radar north of the Diaoyu Islands, the Fuji TV network reported, quoting Japanese government officials. They did not enter airspace over the islands but flew inside Japan's ADIZ, the report said. The Chinese planes were gone when F-15 jet fighters scrambled from an airbase in Japan's Okinawa Prefecture reached the area, the report said, adding Chinese flights continued until about 5 pm local time. Japan's Kyodo News quoted a senior Japanese defense ministry official as saying that the Chinese aircraft spotted Thursday included J-7 and J-10 fighter jets. However, the AFP reported that the Japan Coast Guard said Thursday evening they were not aware of any Chinese military aircraft in the area. As of press time, the report hadn't been verified by the Chinese military. Some media said it was the first report of Chinese military jets approaching the disputed Diaoyu Islands. Last December, Chinese government planes were seen off the Diaoyu Islands several times, sometimes within the 12-nautical-mile maritime boundary of the islands. An ADIZ is set up by a country or a regional bloc outside its territorial airspace, in which the administrator can scramble fighter jets to intercept unidentified flying objects in the interests of national security, a source from the Chinese People's Liberation Army air force, told the Global Times. So far, only a handful of coastal countries, including Japan, have announced their own ADIZ. The westernmost part of Japan's ADIZ is only 130 kilometers from China's coastline, the air force source told the Global Times. However, the ADIZ cannot be regarded as one country's territorial airspace, and the country has no right to interrupt the flight route of any aircraft in the ADIZ, even if the owner of the aircraft didn't report to the ADIZ's administrator, the source said. "According to both international laws and Japanese domestic laws, Japan's fighter jets have no right to harass the regular training of China's military aircraft," he stated. China Central Television reported that Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga Thursday denied a report by the Sankei Shimbun newspaper, which said on Wednesday that the Japanese government was considering strengthening confrontation measures with China, including firing warning shots with tracer bullets against Chinese planes. [...]. ^ top ^

Domestic Policy

China's heavy metal and chemical pollution worsening (SCMP)
2013-01-06
A senior environmental policy official has warned the mainland faces an "extremely grave" environmental crisis that will only worsen as pollution increases and the health problems its causes come to light. Wang Jinnan, a deputy director at the Chinese Academy of Environmental Planning, told a three-day conference at the Chinese University of Hong Kong that the country has not yet come to grips with the amount of toxins seeping into the ground, pollution that would linger for decades to come. "China's pollution problem has yet to reach a peak," said Wang, whose institution helps draft policies for the Ministry of Environmental Protection. "While it is fair to say that some traditional pollutants, such as sulphur dioxide, have been put under control, other problems which pose even greater health risks to the public have yet to gain policymakers' attention." Wang cited heavy metals and other hazardous chemicals that can accumulate in human bodies, causing cancer. Previously unknown chemical spills are still emerging at former industrial sites and some cities, as no clear mapping of such polluted sites has been worked out. "The toxic chemicals are far more dangerous [than organic compounds]," Wang said on Friday. "So the country's environmental prospects are extremely grave." [...] Other environmental experts, such as Tsinghua University air pollution specialist Hao Jiming, shared Wang's pessimism. Hao lambasted as contradictory the government's effort to control pollution while pursuing maximum economic growth. He noted that the country's most energy-intensive and heavy-polluting industries, such as coal, iron and steel, beat the growth targets approved by the National People's Congress for 2006 to 2010. That shows the government has not taken seriously the pollution controls sought by the top legislature, he said. "Does this suggest the social and economic development plan approved by the National People's Congress actually meant nothing to the State Council?" Hao said. "Also, when the 4 trillion yuan (HK$4.54 trillion) bailout package was unveiled, was there any review of its environmental impact once carried out?" [...] "There is already little space left for further cutting emissions of sulfur dioxide," Hao said. "If coal consumption continues to grow at such a rapid pace, the scale of pollution would be unacceptable." Professor Wang Canfa of the China University of Political Science and Law said reckless decisions shared the same root cause as many other social woes: that authorities were "above the law". "So some good principles in China's environmental laws and regulations were never really respected and implemented," Wang Canfa added. Some environmentalists have pinned their hopes on the new leadership, led by Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping, which has pledged to "prioritise" the environmental in future policies. But Wang Canfa was not optimistic. "Priority means that if there is a conflict between environmental protection and economic growth, the development plan should be abandoned," he said. "But the notion will not have any real effect until it is law, and the law is respected.". ^ top ^

Xi Jinping endorses Deng Xiaoping's party mantra (SCMP)
2013-01-06
Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping yesterday called on newly elected senior party members to adhere to "socialism with Chinese characteristics". Since Xi took over as leader there have been growing calls for wide-ranging reforms. Although analysts cautioned that it was too early to know what role reform will play in Xi's administration, his affirmation of the key party doctrine comes at a sensitive time when he is trying to consolidate his own political power. Since Xi took the helm in November, the leadership has unveiled a series of initiatives, including orders to officials to cut pomp and shorten speeches. Meanwhile, scores of officials, including a deputy provincial party secretary in Sichuan, have been swept up in corruption investigations. At the same, the country has also seen signs of tightening controls on information, including stricter internet rules and a row over propaganda authorities' interference in the reputable Southern Weekly. [...] "Which path we take will determine the fate of the party," Xi said, according to Xinhua. "Socialism with Chinese characteristics is the only route that must be taken." While Xi said party members should deepen the process of reform and opening up, he gave credit to the party's leadership before the reforms began in the late 1970s, including Mao Zedong . "People cannot deny what was done before the reform and opening-up based on what happened after it, and vice versa," he said. Zhang Lifan, a political analyst formerly with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said it was too early to expect any "outspoken and bold political comments" from Xi. "We had better not take too seriously anything Xi says before March's National People's Congress," Zhang said, referring to the gathering when most top government positions will be finalised, including Xi's ascent to the nation's presidency. "Xi's current top priority should be seeking a balance between the reformers and conservatives in a bid to consolidate his power," he said. [...]. ^ top ^

Former housing bureau head in custody, family's second hukou revoked (Global Times)
2013-01-07
A local public security bureau in Henan Province has revoked the second hukou, or household registration permit, held by the family of a former chief of the housing management bureau in Erqi district of the provincial capital Zhengzhou, as authorities also confirmed the official is being held in criminal detention for corruption. Zhang Yafei, a director of Xiangcheng public security bureau, said the illegal second hukou held by Zhai Zhenfeng, his wife, son and daughter had been canceled, reported the China Central Television over the weekend. Zhai's family received their second hukou in the city of Xiangcheng with the help of Zhang Xinsheng, a police officer with the local Moling township police station in 2011 through a middleman named Wang Feng. Their household registration was later transferred to the police station in Nanguan. [...] "Zhang is in solitary confinement, waiting further investigation. Wang is in criminal custody," Zhang Yafei said, adding that local officials are investigating whether other police officers are involved, and the results will be made public soon. Zhai's case came to the attention of authorities after Yang Yanfang, a reporter with the Henan branch of the Hong Kong-based Sing Pao newspaper, released a series of posts on Sina Weibo revealing that an unnamed young woman had illegally obtained two sets of hukou and owns 11 apartment units in an affordable housing project in the city of Zhengzhou. [...] In September 2011, Zhai was kicked out of the Party and removed from his post by the discipline inspection watchdog in the city's Erqi district for various violations including providing benefits to his family. [...]. ^ top ^

Four generals promoted in key military command area of Jinan (SCMP)
2013-01-07
The People's Liberation Army's Jinan Military Command has seen a new round of reshuffling, with the appointments of four generals to top-brass positions in the military region responsible for Shandong and Henan provinces. Major-General Chen Zhaohai, formerly the head of military training for the PLA's Headquarters of General Staff, was named the deputy commander for the Jinan command, succeeding retiring Lieutenant-General Feng Shaoju , according to Century Weekly magazine's online news portal. The Jinan Military Command has been seen as a stepping stone for rising stars since the Communist Party's 18th national congress in November, when its former commander General Fan Changlong was promoted to vice-chairman of the PLA's top decision-making body, the Central Military Commission. Chen's ascension followed the appointments of Major General Wang Xixin and Major General Liu Zhigang to deputy commander positions in the Shenyang and Beijing military commands, respectively, over the last few weeks. Aside from Chen, Lieutenant General Zhang Lieying, former director of the political department of the Jinan Military Command, was made deputy political commissar for the region. Zhang, 61, is generally viewed as a protégé of General Xu Caihou, the former vice-chairman of the party's Central Military Commission. [...] Meanwhile, Major General Ma Yiming , the former commander of the 26th Army Corps based in Weifang , Shandong, was promoted to be the region's chief of staff, Century Weekly said. [...] Ma is regarded as being in pole position for further promotion after securing his new position. Several incumbent commanders of the PLA's seven military regions began their rise with appointments as chief of staff. [...]. ^ top ^

Reliance on land sales 'must be reformed' (China Daily)
2013-01-07
The new leadership is facing an increasing clamor for reforms and one of its priorities should be to reduce the reliance of local governments on land sale revenues, said a leading economist. Resolving this issue is important for further urbanization, a major objective, said Hua Sheng, who was on a key research body under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in the early years of reform in the 1980s. Local governments should depend on tax revenue for expenditure, Hua said in an interview with China Daily. Only then can local governments follow the central government's line that the purpose of urbanization is to enable migrant workers and their families to settle down in cities where they work, rather than making money through more land auctions. [...] Income from land sales hit 2.9 trillion yuan ($467 billion) in 2011. Revenue slumped to 2.35 trillion yuan in the first 11 months of 2012, thanks to the tightening regulatory measures on real estate. However, figures from the Ministry of Finance revealed that the costs of land acquisition - including compensation for demolition and resettlement for the people involved (mainly farmers) - also rose to 1.69 trillion yuan to December. This accounted for 72 percent of land sale revenues. If farmers are not satisfied over levels of compensation, authorities have to pay them more to avoid protests, resulting in growing debt for local governments and increasing prices for home buyers. Hua said it is "abnormal" for local governments to draw direct revenue from land sales. Instead, they should adjust and redesign land policies by integrating them with the hukou system, he said. China's rate of urbanization passed 50 percent in 2011. Urban residents accounted for 51.27 percent of the population in 2011, up 1.32 percentage point from 2010. Hua said the figure should be about 65 percent at this stage. Japan and South Korea finished urbanization in about 40 years. The definition of urban residents includes migrant workers who have worked in cities for more than six months. [...] There are more than 400 million migrant workers and their immediate relatives, about one-third of the population. The hukou system hinders consumption as urban residents consume about three times as much as rural dwellers. "In addition, it is a colossal waste of social resources and also the root of social unrest. It has become a major cause of economic and structural imbalance," said Hua. According to Hua, migrant workers should be allowed and encouraged to exchange or transfer contracting rights for farmland for land earmarked for property. Then they should be given financial support from public funds to help them settle in cities, accompanied by a host of supporting measures. [...]. ^ top ^

China to reform re-education through labor system (Xinhua)
2013-01-08
The Chinese government will this year push the reform of its re-education through labor system, according to a national political and legal work conference on Monday. The controversial system allows police to detain people for up to four years without an open trial, leading experts to argue that it contradicts high-level laws, including China's Constitution. No further information on the reform has been made available. [...] The labor camp system played a role in consolidating the Party's rule and safeguarding social stability in the early years of the People's Republic of China, which was founded in 1949, said Wang Gongyi, former director of the judicial institute of the Ministry of Justice. However, problems have emerged surrounding the system, Wang said, adding, "The system contradicts the Constitution, the Legislative Law and the Administrative Penalty Law." Neither the decision adopted by the NPC in 1957 nor its additional provisions have been sufficient in "regulating" the labor camp system, he said. Public criticism of the system has mounted following two recent cases. Last month, a court in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality rejected an appeal from Ren Jianyu, a 25-year-old village official who was sentenced to two years in a re-education through labor camp in September 2011 for spreading "negative information" and inciting the subversion of state power. Ren was released after serving just over half of his sentence. Last August, a woman in central China's Hunan Province was sentenced to 18 months in a labor camp after demanding tougher penalties for the seven men convicted of abducting, raping and prostituting her 11-year-old daughter. Tang Hui, the mother who petitioned courts and local government officials for tougher penalties for her daughter's captors, was released within a week following complaints from academics, state media and the public. Ma Huaide, vice president of the China University of Political Science and Law, said criticism stems from the abuse of the labor camp system and the lack of a legal basis in randomly expanding its scope to cover unwanted petitioners. According to the Bureau of Re-education Through Labor under the Ministry of Justice, 160,000 people were held in 350 re-education through labor centers nationwide as of the end of 2008. The public would welcome the abolishment of the system, Ma said, adding that the NPC should amend laws concerning labor camps in order to maintain the stability and validity of the system after reforms are carried out. [...] Jiang Wei, a senior official in charge of judicial reforms, said last October that the necessity of the reforms had been recognized and a related plan was being formulated. ^ top ^

Court to hear railway tendering suit (Global Times)
2013-01-09
The Beijing No.1 Intermediate People's Court accepted Monday a case against the Ministry of Railways (MOR), for allegedly violating laws during the tendering of the construction of its ticket booking website. The complainant, Dong Zhengwei, a lawyer with the Beijing Lianggao Law Firm, asked the ministry to make public the details on the bidding for a contract to build 12306.com the railway's booking website, which, according to previous media reports, cost 330 million yuan ($53 million) and often crashes. "The court's acceptance of the case clearly shows the MOR's rejection of my previous request violated the information disclosure act," Dong told the Global Times, adding that he sued the ministry to ensure consumers' right to know. Dong said he asked the ministry to review the tendering process for the 12306.com website in October 2012 but was flatly rejected. Dong suspects corruption was involved in the tendering process as little information was released to potential bidders or about how the winning bid was selected. He requested the ministry reveal the number and qualifications of all bids, the length of the tendering period and the final cost of the website construction. "I am confident I'll win the case. I believe the case will help push forward the government's transparency and promote the rule of law," he told the Global Times, adding that just having the case accepted by the court is a victory. The MOR refused to comment on the case, but in an email to the Global Times it said it has improved the ticket purchasing website following massive disruptions to the network during last year's Spring Festival peak travel season. The ministry will continue to optimize the website with better hardware and improved software and lengthen the window available for purchasing tickets online to cope with the huge demand from commuters, the email said. The ministry has been shrouded in scandal even before the infamous and tragic July 2011 bullet-train accident in Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province, which killed 40 and injured 172. The collision between two trains, one of which stalled on the tracks, was blamed on bad management. [...] At least eight senior officials of the MOR have been fired and placed under investigation. The new railways minister, Sheng Guangzu, said he's planning the biggest staff reshuffle since he took office in February 2012, according to China Central Television. The current railways bureau chiefs in Shanghai, Nanchang and Kunming are among those who are expected to change jobs. ^ top ^

Cold weather damages sugar crops in China (SCMP)
2013-01-09
China's coldest winter in 28 years has damaged some sugarcane crops in the top producing region of the world's second largest sugar consumer, state media and traders said on Wednesday, as fears of another cold front push local futures to a five-month high. A new cold front set to hit southern China this week will take temperatures down as low as minus 5 degrees this weekend, Chinese weather authorities said on Tuesday, and may bring snowstorms to some provinces, such as Guizhou and Hunan. A cold front earlier this week has already damaged cane crops in Guangxi, which produces 60 per cent of the country's output, traders said. While it may be too early to assess the extent of damage, a lower domestic harvest could prompt Beijing to ease control over imports. Beijing has not issued any import quotas so far in the year as it has focused on stockpiling domestic supplies in a bid to shore up sugar prices. Temperatures in China have plunged to their lowest in almost three decades, cold enough to freeze coastal waters and trap 1,000 ships in ice, official media have said. Worries of a poor harvest pushed white sugar futures prices on the Zhengzhou Futures Exchange to 5,715 yuan (US$920) a tonne this week, their highest since July. [...]. ^ top ^

China raises pension for corporate retirees again (Xinhua)
2013-01-09
Chinese authorities have decided to raise the pension for corporate retirees by 10 percent to cope with the rising cost of living, according to a cabinet meeting on Wednesday. The new rules took effect on Jan. 1, 2013, according to an executive meeting of the State Council, chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao. The government has increased the corporate pension for nine consecutive years. According to a press release issued after the meeting, the pension for corporate retirees in 2013 will be raised based on the basic level of their monthly pension per capita in 2012. In addition, it said pensions for corporate retirees with the professional qualification of senior engineer and those who were demobilized veterans will be further increased, without offering specific details. The central government agreed to establish a pension-adjusting mechanism to ensure that pensions for corporate retirees could be raised gradually. China's central government has raised pensions for corporate retirees since 2005. Their monthly pension per capita has been lifted from 700 yuan (111 U.S. dollars) in 2004 to 1,721 yuan in 2012. The State Council also approved a list of 4,824 professionals and technical staff who will be given special government allowances. To date, more than 166,000 people in China have been given such allowances. ^ top ^

Bo Xilai's law violation case transferred to judicial organs: CCDI (Xinhua)
2013-01-09
The serious law violation case involving Bo Xilai, former member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, has been transferred to judicial organs, according to the CPC's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI). A total of 4,698 county-level cadres or higher-level cadres were punished by the CPC's discipline watchdogs in 2012 and 961 cadres at the county-level or above have been transferred to judicial organs, CCDI spokesperson Cui Shaopeng revealed on Wednesday. Among them are Liu Zhijun, former minister of railways, Huang Sheng, former vice governor of east China's Shandong Province, and Tian Xueren, former vice governor of northeast China's Jilin Province. Their cases have been transferred to judicial organs, according to Cui. Another two high-ranking provincial-level officials are under investigation for alleged discipline violations, Cui revealed. Zhou Zhenhong, a former Standing Committee member of the CPC Guangdong Provincial Committee and head of the United Front Work Department of the provincial Party committee, was removed from office for suspected "serious discipline violations" in January last year. Li Chuncheng was removed from the position of deputy secretary of the CPC Sichuan Provincial Committee for suspected "serious discipline violations" in December last year. Nearly 73,000 people were punished for corruption or dereliction of duty in 2012, official figures released on Wednesday showed. From January to November last year, discipline inspection and supervision authorities launched investigations into more than 11,000 cases in the construction sector, a hotbed of corruption. Nearly 5,000 officials were found to have breached relevant Party discipline and laws in these cases, according to Huang Xiaowei, spokesperson with the Ministry of Supervision. Among those officials, 3,780 received Party or political disciplinary penalties, while another 1,097 have been handed over to judicial authorities. In the same period, discipline watchdogs uncovered 27,500 violations of regulations and laws involving land use and mine exploitation. Altogether, 3,891 people received Party and political disciplinary penalties related to these violations, Huang said. In the first 11 months last year, 305 people were punished for their wrongdoing in environmental pollution cases, she said. ^ top ^

Govt staff must take four pregnancy tests every year (Global Times)
2013-01-10
The local family planning authority in Shangluo, Shaanxi Province, has told women working at government affiliated institutions they are obliged to take a pregnancy test four times a year. The Shangluo Population and Family Planning Commission, Shaanxi Province, increased the number of pregnancy tests for urban government staff from two to four in August. It also ordered women who already have a child to be fitted with an intrauterine device. The commission's policies were widely criticized by Web users after they were made public Saturday. The local commission told the Beijing News that more frequent pregnancy tests will allow it to identify government staffers who are pregnant and order abortions at an early stage if the woman is not qualified to bear a child. "The local commissions have to take certain measures in order to meet their family planning quota," Liang Zhongtang, a former expert with the National Population and Family Planning Commission and a researcher at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times. Although the law does not specify frequency, requests of women to take pregnancy tests in smaller cities or villages are very common, said Laing. The Shangluo commission said the pregnancy tests were obligatory and those who refuse to take the test could be punished, according to the Bejing News. ^ top ^

State media attacks use of clichés by officials (SCMP)
2013-01-11
State media turned on the government's own use of language yesterday, mocking a list of "repulsive" official clichés submitted by the public. The shaming of bureaucrat-speak, hosted on the microblog of People's Daily, came after the new leaders slammed the culture of long speeches and meetings and urged better governance. "No speech is not 'important', no applause is not 'warm'," People's Daily said on its weibo account, as it poked fun at officialese and invited followers to share phrases they found irritating. "No leader is not 'highly valued', no visit is not 'friendly', no accomplishment is not 'satisfactory', no achievements are not 'tremendous'," it continued. Commenters ridiculed officials' tendency to give non-answers and criticised tiresome terms thrown around in meetings that dragged on. "The most common one is 'relevant department'. When it's good news there's a specific department, when it's bad news it's a 'relevant department'," wrote a user named Suzhiqiang. There were around 4,300 submissions as of late yesterday and a list of comments compiled by a local newspaper was reposted by several outlets, including Xinhua. [...] Others derided the effort to put down the officialese. A blogger calling himself "One Who Probes" pointed out: "These official phrases, clichés, empty words, lies, didn't we learn them all from certain newspapers?". ^ top ^

Beijing increases pension for disabled servicemen (People's Daily)
2013-01-11
Beijing will carry out a new round of increase of the pension standard for servicemen enjoying the consolation money and the preferential allowance standard for the compulsory servicemen, according to the Civil Affairs Bureau of Beijing Municipal Government. Among them, the biggest adjustment is made to enhance the pension standard for the first-class war-caused disabled servicemen, increasing from 32,990 yuan to 37,940 yuan per year, an annual increase of 4,950 yuan. After the adjustment, the consolation money for disabled servicemen will increase by 470 to 4,950 yuan per year depending on the disabled grades. At the same time, the regular pension standard for martyrs' families and retired Red Army veterans living in rural areas will also be adjusted according to the previous year's growth of per capita consumption expenditure level for Beijing urban families. The growth is about 10.3%. For example, the monthly consolation money for the childless and old family members of martyrs will be adjusted from previous 1,828 yuan to 2,016 yuan per person. According to a person in charge of the Civil Affairs Bureau of the Beijing Municipal Government, the above mentioned new standards came into effect from October 1, 2012. Various civil affairs departments at district and county levels will pay the due consolation money from October to December of 2012 to those who enjoy the benefits. In addition, the annual preferential allowance standard for compulsory servicemen will increase from 20,000 yuan to 22,000 yuan per person, among them, the standard for those who serve in Tibet areas will be doubled, namely 44,000 yuan per person per year. ^ top ^

33,331 cases of official corruption in Jan-Nov 2012 (Xinhua)
2013-01-11
China's procuratorial agencies nationwide investigated and dealt with duty-related violations of 2,494 officials at county level or above in the first 11 months of last year. Between January and November, agencies investigated and handled 33,331 cases of officials' criminal violations related to their performances in office, a year-on-year increase of 5.4 percent. A total of 46,024 people were found to be involved, a 6.4 percent rise on a year-on-year basis, according to a document issued at a national conference attended by local procurator chiefs on Thursday. Over the same period, procuratorates approved the arrests of 896,259 criminal suspects, and instituted public prosecutions against 1,247,709. The prosecutors also dismissed applications for arrest warrants for 157,898 people. It said procuratorial agencies will adhere to resolutely enforce the law in 2013 to make China safer and ensure the rule of law in the country. Cao Jianming, China's procurator-general, called on prosecutors to step up investigations in areas of the use of public spending and the industrial structure adjustment as well as to advance their work to fight commercial bribery and problems in the construction sector. Job-related crimes in fields regarding industrial transformation and upgrading, transferring of public resources, state-owned assets management, urbanization, cultural service promotion and railway construction, should be seriously investigated, Cao said. [...]. ^ top ^

 

Beijing

Beijing sees 7.6 pct housing price decrease in 2012 (Xinhua)
2013-01-07
Beijing has seen an increase in the number of residential apartments sold in the city and witnessed a drop in prices for newly built homes in 2012, the Beijing Real Estate Association said on Sunday. The capital sold about 230,000 residential apartments, a 36.9 percent year-on-year increase, statistics released by the association said. The average price for newly built residential apartments was 20,700 yuan(about 3322 U.S. dollars) per square meter. The figure was a 7.6 percent year-on-year decrease from that in 2011. Statistics show that in 2012 about 90 percent of all houses sold in Beijing were bought by first-time housing buyers. Chen Zhi, secretary general with the association said it shows the effect of the government's firm stance on property market control. Chen predicts that Beijing's market will be generally stable in 2013 as more low-cost housing and new apartments are introduced. Beijing has imposed a raft of measures aimed at reining in house prices since April 2010. The government has vowed to keep in place measures such as higher downpayments, bans on third-home purchases and property tax trials. ^ top ^

Gulou plan to 'revive' area (Global Times)
2013-01-08
The demolition of courtyards in the Gulou area is only intended to improve the environment of the historic district, officials from Dongcheng district government said Monday. Cultural heritage protection activists and local business owners, meanwhile, told the Global Times they fear the project may have the opposite result, destroying both the local culture and historic buildings. "The aim is to revive the Drum and Bell Tower square as a place for leisure and improve locals' livelihood," said Zhao Junming, the spokesperson for Dongcheng government. "No more buildings will be built. We will preserve the old style of the Drum and Bell Tower area," he told the Global Times Monday. The demolition plan affects 66 courtyards and 136 households around the area, covering 4,700 square meters. It was announced Sunday that 38 families had already accepted a compensation package of 44,361 yuan ($7,115) per square meter. Local real estate agency HomeLink sells property in the Gulou area for 74,569 per square meter. An official surnamed Zhang with Dongcheng Commission of Urban Planning said the residences slated for demolition are illegally built houses that date from the 1970s. "The infrastructure of this area isn't good and it's crowed and dirty. Our renewal program will improve the environment there as well as protect the old style," said Zhang. He Shuzhong, founder of Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center disapproves of the plan. "It's just tourism and marketing development done under the banner of preserving historic relics. The history and culture will be destroyed in this process. And the residents' lifestyles will be changed," said He. He stressed that the government can improve the infrastructure by investing more money and paying attention to management of the area rather than simply demolishing it to pursue neatness and orderliness. Rong Guangrong, owner of bar Zajia Lab in Doufuchi Hutong, said while his pub will not be demolished now, he is worried about business. "About 70 percent of the tourists who come to the Gulou area are foreigners. They like old Beijing and its courtyards. I'm afraid the government plan may destroy its historical scenery," said Rong. Rong is now shooting a documentary about the residents in the Gulou area who need to move. "Most of those residents worry about their future. Lots of them are elderly and live on government subsidy. They pay around 20 yuan a month for rent; if they move, they'll worry about their livelihood," said Rong, adding that some people are reluctant to move to a modern apartment. ^ top ^

Homes moved to improve historic view (Global Times)
2013-01-09
Dongcheng district government announced Tuesday a plan to move 3,700 households from round the Temple of Heaven in order to reveal the walls of the complex and improve the view. Some local residents told the Global Times Tuesday they do wish to move to a better environment while others are reluctant to move from an area in which they have lived for decades. The government says no new buildings will be constructed in place of those demolished. Niu Qingshan, the district chief of Dongcheng district, said in a report Tuesday that it will commence the transfer of 3,700 households from 57 residential buildings, which were described as "shabby brick buildings" in the report. According to the report, residents will move to Hongshan Jiayuan, a complex around 5 kilometers from the Temple of Heaven between the southeast Second and Third Ring Roads, however, several residents contradicted this information. A local resident, surnamed Ma, said he is worried that he will be assigned a low-cost government-subsidized house in a remote place, as he has heard they will be transferred outside the Fifth Ring Road, although he is happy to move to a better apartment. "It will be inconvenient if the houses are far away, like outside the Fifth Ring Road," said Ma. Ma said his parents do not want to move because they are accustomed to life there. Dou Xueyu, a 78-year-old women who has lived there for more than 40 years shares the same feeling. "It's good to live here. I'll miss this place and I'm unwilling to move. I think it will take one or two years for the transfer program. Maybe by that time I'll be dead already," said Ma. [...] Half the residents have already left, but others still stay on despite urging from the government. Ning Dong, who lives with six relatives, complained they have no running water. "I called the government for help but they didn't solve it," said Ning, adding that he is more than pleased to move out but not if the house provided by the government is too far away. "Officials said only housing in Majuqiao, in Tongzhou district is available, far away from the city center," said Ma. ^ top ^

EPB pledges 2% cut in worst pollutants for 2013 (Global Times)
2013-01-09
The Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau (EPB) said Wednesday it will improve the urban environment by cutting 2 percent of the four major pollutants in 2013. The four pollutants are sulfur dioxide, nitric oxide, chemical oxygen demand (COD) and ammonium nitrate, the same pollutants the government pledged to cut last year. The EPB will undertake a series of measures to ensure it lives up to its promise, it said Tuesday. Environmental experts have said that cutting these four pollutants is far from enough to improve the current environment. Zheng Zaihong, deputy director of the EPB's Pollution Prevention and Control Office, said the reason they chose to focus on the four pollutants is because they are the most widespread in the city. "Sulfur dioxide and nitric oxide are the two main industrial pollutants from factories, and power plants are the major source of the pollutant," Zheng said. The EPB will ask power and concrete plants to install nitric oxide scrubbers in smokestacks. Zheng noted that the most difficult pollutants to control are COD and ammonium nitrate, two elements that affect water quality and are caused by people's everyday lives. In order to alleviate the problem, a new water treatment plant is to be established in Daxing district this year. Ma Jun, director with the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, said building a treatment plant in Daxing district might not be the ideal way to tackle the pollutants citywide. "It's better to establish more small water treatment plants, instead of letting pollutants flow over a wider area, contaminating more places," he said. Qiu Qihong, an engineer from the Beijing Environmental Monitoring Center, said that despite the fact that Beijing has changed to natural gas instead of coal as its main source of power, the increasing numbers of vehicles on the roads are not making the situation better. "They have contributed to the rise of nitric oxide in Beijing," he said. ^ top ^

Beijing to require ID for cellphone numbers (China Daily)
2013-01-10
Beijing residents will soon need to provide identification when they register a new cellphone number or transfer an old one, authorities said on Wednesday. The so-called real-name system, part of a draft regulation still under discussion, follows similar moves by many micro-blogging websites to get users to log their personal details. "People's interests will be better protected under the policy, while illegal uses of cellphones, such as fraud and spreading rumors, will be effectively deterred," said Tong Liqiang, deputy director of the Beijing Internet Information Office. The capital should set a good example for the country, he said, adding: "The real-name system is a trend involved in the fast development of the Internet. It's a foundation for online management and will be helpful in promoting credibility in our country." The Beijing Public Security Bureau, the city's communication administration and the commission of economy and information technology have also been involved in drawing up the policy. Tong said the publication date of the regulation has not been set because many details need to be ironed out. Reaction to the new rules was mixed among people contacted by China Daily on Wednesday. [...] Beijing branches of the country's three telecom giants — China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom — welcomed the system, however, and said they are each introducing specific measures to follow the regulation. China Mobile has more than 25 million users in Beijing, among whom 40 percent presented an ID when purchasing products, while China Telecom said more than 60 percent of its capital clients have registered with real names. [...]. ^ top ^

 

Shanghai

Consumer confidence jumps to two-year high (Global Times)
2013-01-08
Consumer confidence in Shanghai rose to its highest level since 2010 in the fourth quarter of 2012, a local university reported Monday. The Shanghai consumer confidence index rose 6.8 points to 107.5, up 5.1 points from the same period in 2011, according to the latest quarterly report from Shanghai University of Finance and Economics. A reading above 100 indicates a positive outlook. "The rise in the consumer confidence index shows that local residents have become more optimistic about the domestic economy," according to Xu Guoxiang, the report's chief researcher, who is also the director of the university's Applied Statistics Research Center. [...] "There are seasonal reasons behind the growth of the consumer confidence index because there are a lot of festivals and holidays around the end of the year," said Shi Lei, director of the Center for Public Economy Research at Fudan University. Shi said that consumers' willingness to purchase will also grow along with confidence during the holiday season. Considering the irrational factors that push up the index, he believes investor confidence is a more accurate indicator of the economy's direction. [...] Consumers' confidence was positively related to their evaluation of their own income. Figures showed that people were more satisfied with their income in the fourth quarter, a sentiment shown by a 1.6-point gain in the income index from 120.8 to 122.4. ^ top ^

Pudong to launch free-trade zone later this year (China Daily)
2013-01-09
Shanghai is planning to set up a free-trade zone in the Pudong New Area later this year, the China Securities Journal reported on Tuesday. Authorities in the city are working out plans to launch the zone as part of an attempt to turn Shanghai into an international trading center, the report said. The plans include opening duty-free stores in the area — approved in December when the municipal government started looking for sites. Under the initiative, Shanghai Pudong Airport Comprehensive Free Trade Zone is likely to be used to test the plan. ^ top ^

 

Guangdong

Outrage at Guangdong plan to ban teachers with HIV and STDs (SCMP)
2013-01-08
A draft regulation unveiled by Guangdong education authorities that would ban HIV carriers and people with sexually transmitted diseases from applying for jobs as teachers has triggered a huge outcry from the mainland's anti-discrimination NGOs. The draft, released by the province's education department on Sunday for public consultation, said individuals infected with HIV, gonorrhoea, syphilis, genital warts or any of three other sexually transmitted diseases would be screened out through physical examinations during the recruitment process. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis would also be banned from working as teachers, according to the department's website. HIV carriers have brought at least four anti-discrimination lawsuits against the education authorities in the provinces of Anhui, Guizhou, Jiangxi and Sichuan after they were disqualified from working as teachers because of the disease. The plaintiffs have lost two of the cases, another was rejected by the courts and the fourth is going through mediation. [...] Yu Fangqiang , director of the anti-discrimination NGO Justice for All, said it was foolish to ban HIV-positive teachers because students would not be at risk of infection in daily school life. "It's clear that HIV would only be transmitted through unprotected sex, via infected blood or from an infected pregnant woman to her unborn child," he said. "You can't get it from kissing, coughing or sneezing and certainly not from swimming pools, showers or sharing the toilets." Beijing Yirenping Centre director Lu Jun said the draft went against another regulation announced by the State Council that guaranteed equal employment rights for HIV carriers. "[The ban expresses] an attitude far behind the times because it evaluates the morals of patients [based on] certain diseases," Lu said, adding that most sexually transmitted diseased could be cured. However, nearly 44 per cent of 330 internet users in an online poll voted against HIV carriers working as teachers, saying that small children who were not aware of HIV prevention measures could be infected through bleeding wounds. [...]. ^ top ^

 

Tibet

Tibet receives over 10 mln tourists in 2012 (Xinhua)
2013-01-09
Southwest China's Tibet autonomous region witnessed booming tourism in 2012, with tourist arrivals hitting a record high of over 10 million thanks to improved transportation and government promotion. The number of tourists visiting the region surged 21.7 percent year on year to 10.58 million, sources from the region's tourism bureau said. Revenues for the tourism sector increased 30.3 percent year on year to 12.65 billion yuan (2 billion U.S. dollars), according to the sources. Three national parks were opened in the region last year, adding to existing attractions, such as the Potala Palace. The Tibetan government launched a series of campaigns to promote regional tourism in 2012. The region is home to 70 class-A national scenic spots, as well as 211 star-rated hotels. Authorities expect to see 15 million tourists annually by 2015. ^ top ^

 

Xinjiang

Urumqi aiming to be modern int'l metropolis (Xinhua)
2013-01-09
The municipal government of Urumqi, the capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, is aiming to build the city into a modern international metropolis, it was highlighted on Wednesday. Mayor Jerla Isamudinhe said at a session of the municipal legislature that the city's authorities were drawing up a plan for the goal and that it had already taken steps to improve its infrastructure. With a population of around 3.1 million, the city started building its No.1 subway line and spent more than 12 billion yuan (about 1.9 billion U.S. dollars) on improving air quality last year. It is estimated that the gross regional product of Urumqi grew 17.3 percent year on year to reach 206 billion yuan (32.8 billion U.S. dollars) in 2012, the mayor said. By 2020, city authorities are hoping, Urumqi will have been built into a key city in west China and an international commerce and trade center for China and central and west Asian countries. Urumqi hosts the annual China-Eurasia Expo. In 2012, foreign trade contracts worth 6.2 billion U.S. dollars were signed at the event. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Fake census claims put low jobless rate in doubt (SCMP)
2013-01-08
An investigation has been launched over allegations that as many as nine out of 10 frontline census officers fabricated answers - and it could mean Hong Kong's low jobless rate has been underestimated for a decade. The Census and Statistics Department confirmed in a statement yesterday that it had "grave concerns" over reports in Ming Pao newspaper accusing frontline officers of filling in fake answers over the past 10 years. The department said it was conducting an investigation, "with a view to getting hold of every piece of relevant information". Its spokesman added: "Statistical work must involve professional pride when it comes to getting reliable data so as to uphold the public's trust in us as well as our reputation internationally." Frederick Ho Wing-huen, former commissioner of the Census and Statistics Department, said an investigation was necessary. [...] Ming Pao reported yesterday that up to half of some 180 full-time census officers had made up answers. Meanwhile, a retired census officer claimed as many as 90 per cent of the officers would make up figures. One key area of concern was employment statistics. It was reportedly quicker and easier for officers to state that a person was not working and not looking for a job rather than unemployed but looking for a job. Only the latter are included in the government's jobless rate, which currently stands at about 3.4 per cent. The unnamed officer told Cable TV news: "Officers would try to finish an interview quicker by not asking some questions. "We needed to meet some performance targets. If we were found to be too slow, it would affect our chance of promotion." [...]. ^ top ^

District councillors and residents oppose housing plans (SCMP)
2013-01-09
A government plan to rezone land for housing use yesterday ran into opposition from communities and a member of the Executive Council, despite the chief executive's calls for support. In recent weeks Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has repeatedly urged members of the public and district councillors to sacrifice their own interests and support the construction of public flats in their neighbourhoods. But in Kwun Tong, residents raised objections at a district council meeting when officials outlined four plans for new housing, including one that calls for 2,200 private flats accommodating 6,000 residents at the site of the former Cha Kwo Ling kaolin mine, which adjoins Laguna City, a major private estate. The government also wants to rezone three other sites - in Ngau Tau Kok, Yau Tong and Lei Yue Mun - each less than a hectare. The first two could be designated for public flats and the third for private residential development. About 100 villagers from Cha Kwo Ling attended the district council meeting, fearing their ancestors' graves dating back 200 years would be removed. A fifth site, in Diamond Hill, covers about seven hectares and was once home to Tai Hom village. Two options are being considered, both calling for the relocation of the village's historical structures to a new park and the reserving of space for an exhibition facility to be used by artists and the film industry. The first calls for the construction of 1,130 private flats and hotel and office developments. The second provides 1,580 flats, of which 860 would be subsidised. But Wong Tai Sin district councillors want more subsidised housing, fearing the development of private housing will increase traffic congestion. District councillor Mandy Tam Heung-man said the planned six residential towers of 34 to 40 storeys could block views. "I can accept new buildings that are 30 storeys or fewer ... I don't mind new buildings being constructed, but everyone would be happy if more thought was put into the height and density." [...]. ^ top ^

Zhang Xiaoming pours cold water on idea Beijing may dump CY Leung (SCMP)
2013-01-11
Beijing's liaison office does not rule Hong Kong - despite suggestions it has too much influence in the city's affairs - but it has a job to do and must do it, the office's new chief said yesterday. Zhang Xiaoming also said speculation that Beijing might dump Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying was "unfounded talk and should be put to rest". He spoke at a youth forum in Wan Chai - his first public function since starting his job a month ago. The office has faced bipartisan calls to tone down its approach to local affairs, with pan-democrats repeating the criticism that "Western District", the location of the office, "is ruling Hong Kong". Zhang countered: "'Western District' doesn't rule Hong Kong, but 'Western District' must do its job and fulfil the tasks the central government has given us." This, he said, included informing Beijing accurately about Hong Kong's situation, supporting and providing help to the local government and communicating with various sectors. He flatly denied that Beijing had tightening its grip on Hong Kong, referring to incoming president Xi Jinping's statement that the government's policy on the city was unchanged. Zhang sparked alarm among democrats in November with an article in which he called on Hong Kong to pass the national security law under Article 23 of the Basic Law "in due course". This was seen as possibly indicating a harder line by Beijing towards dissent in the city. But Zhang said it would be wrong to conclude from the article he was a hardliner. "I'm a person of principle, but I'm also benevolent and willing to befriend others." He also seemed to soften his tone on security legislation, saying it should be passed when the local government believed appropriate, but it should not be regarded as taboo. In a departure from the low profile of his recent predecessors, Zhang revealed he had travelled on the MTR, and visited poor families in Sham Shui Po and in subdivided flats. [...]. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Chinese mainland tourists to Taiwan hits record high (Xinhua)
2013-01-06
Chinese mainland visitors to Taiwan topped 1.97 million in 2012, up 57.6 percent year on year, hitting a record high, the cross-Straits tourism authority said Sunday. The Association for Tourism Exchange Across the Taiwan Straits said more than 1.78 million were group tourists, with the rest being individuals. Group visitors rose nearly 46 percent year on year, and individual tourists surged 553 percent in 2012 from the previous year, according to the association. Mainland visitors accounted for about 36 percent of Taiwan's total inbound tourists in 2012, ranking this group first, according to relevant departments of Taiwan. Taiwan opened for group tourists from the Chinese mainland in 2008, and for individuals in 2011. ^ top ^

Taiwan start-up signs tech deal with mainland TV set-top maker (SCMP)
2013-01-09
A Taiwanese firm specialising in wireless streaming has signed an unusual deal with mainland-based Coship Electronics to design set-top boxes that let television viewers send on-air content to mobile devices. CyWee said it signed the agreement last month to sell two million encoder chipsets to Coship within a year. The Taiwanese firm, spun off in 2007 by a government research institute, said the deal was its biggest ever. The agreement stands out as Taiwan's laws ban some technology firms, especially in liquid crystal display panels, from tie-ups on the mainland for fear of technology theft. Other companies in technology-rich Taiwan worry about commercial misuse of new schemes introduced on the mainland. "It could just be that the company in Taiwan is more efficient in design systems than Coship is," said Michael Clendenin, the managing director of RedTech Advisors, an information-technology consultancy in Shanghai. "It shouldn't be a big deal, since it's not manufacturing technology, and I think that's the most sensitive thing from the Taiwan side." Under the agreement, Coship would use CyWee technology to build boxes that could send television content to smartphones or media tablets, CyWee's sales and marketing vice-president Paul Liu said. [...] Both sides call the deal the first major break for CyWee, which says it trusts Coship to use its technology legally but will take legal action if needed. Taiwan should not worry about set-top box technology falling into the wrong hands on the mainland, Clendenin said. CyWee's deal is not the first cross-strait technology partnership. In one of the best known cases, Taiwanese-based Acer agreed in 2010 to operate most of Founder Technology's personal computer business while Founder's factory in Suzhou would keep providing support. ^ top ^

US moots F–16 jet sales to Taiwan on top of missiles (Global Times)
2013-01-09
The US will sell advanced missiles, attack helicopters and transport helicopters to Taiwan between this year and 2015, Taiwanese media have quoted a US senator as saying. Senator James Inhofe made the promise during a visit to Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou on Tuesday. According to the Taipei-based Central News Agency (CNA), Inhofe, who led a 19-member congressional delegation on a two-day visit to the island, said the US will sell Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles to Taiwan in 2015 and this is Washington's firm promise. Prior to that sale, the US will sell Taiwan 30 Apache attack helicopters this year and 60 Black Hawk transport helicopters in 2014, Inhofe said. [...] US President Barack Obama last week signed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013. The act included a section urging the US president to address Taiwan's shortfall in fighter aircraft, whether through the sale of F-16 C/D aircraft or other aircraft of similar capability. The move prompted strong opposition from the Chinese mainland. Yang Yujun, spokesman of the Ministry of National Defense, told a regular press conference last month that the content of the Act represented rude interference in China's internal affairs and was harmful to strategic mutual trust between the two sides. Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying also pointed out that China is firmly opposed to arms sales to Taiwan by any country, urging politicians in the US congress to abandon their cold war mentality, adhere to the three Sino-US joint communiqués and respect China's key national interests. "They should do more to facilitate regional peace and stability, and help the stable growth of ties between China and the US as well as the ones across the Taiwan Straits," Hua added. ^ top ^

 

Economy

China's 2011 GDP revised up (Xinhua)
2013-01-07
China's statistics authority on Monday revised its gross domestic product for 2011 slightly up based on its final verification. The revised GDP was 47.31 trillion yuan ($7.52 trillion), up 22.2 billion yuan from the preliminary verification figure, the National Bureau of Statistics said in a statement. The year-on-year growth stayed unchanged at 9.3 percent calculating in constant prices, the statement said. According to international practices, the GDP figure is usually adjusted several times as more statistics become available, the NBS said. The bureau calculates each year's GDP three times - preliminary calculation that ends before January 20, preliminary verification that ends before the end of September, as well as final verification before the end of January the following year, the statement said. ^ top ^

Steel prices jump with iron ore up (Global Times)
2013-01-08
Domestic steel producers have started to increase their product prices across the board as 2013 gets underway, in response to rising material costs, analysts told the Global Times Monday after Baoshan Iron & Steel Co (Baosteel) announced a price hike. Shanghai-based Baosteel said Monday it would raise prices on all products in February by amounts ranging from 80 yuan ($12.80) per ton to 160 yuan per ton before taxes. Industry counterparts also scheduled price increases Monday. Data from steel information portal mysteel.net indicated that on Monday Anyang Iron & Steel Group Co in Central China's Henan Province raised product prices by 50 yuan per ton (including tax), and Shandong Iron & Steel Group Co in East China's Shandong Province raised prices by 100 yuan per ton (including tax). Mysteel.net chief analyst Jia Liangqun attributed the industry-wide price hike to the inflation of steelmakers' main raw material—iron ore, which is seriously undersupplied in the current Chinese market. Domestic iron ore mines tend to be small in scale and were vulnerable to the strong deflation of iron ore in September 2012, resulting in 40 percent of them shutting down temporarily and an inventory decline around the country, Jia told the Global Times Monday. [...] Besides, China's steel firms prefer to use more expensive imported iron ore, given that domestically produced iron ore has a lower iron content, Jia noted, adding that the current price of imported iron ore is more than $150 per ton. ^ top ^

China opening up border areas to boost trade (China Daily)
2013-01-08
China Securities Journal reported on Monday that ministries including the Ministry of Commerce are drafting a 2011-2020 guide for border areas to develop new engines for foreign trade. The guide will expand financing support to border trade and extend favorable policies in financing, fiscal taxation, land use and talent. The newspaper cited unnamed experts as saying that the opening-up of border areas will focus on developing experimental zones and improve the infrastructure in key border ports and towns. Key projects will include cross-border railways and highways. China's exports to traditional markets such as the European Union and the United States shrank in 2012 amid the financial crisis while trade with emerging economies, including Russia and the ASEAN, kept surging. The government is in a trial of restructuring its foreign trade strategy through opening up inland areas, the newspaper said. ^ top ^

China remains world's largest energy producer (Xinhua)
2013-01-09
China remained the world's largest energy producer for a fifth year in 2012, China's energy authority said Wednesday. The National Energy Administration (NEA) said in a statement on its website that the country's total installed power generation capacity reached 1.14 billion kilowatts (kw) by the end of 2012. Installed hydropower capacity stood at 249 million kw, the world's greatest. The country's wind power also led the world with an installed capacity of 63 million kw by the end of last year, the statement said. Crude oil reserves and production steadily increased, while natural gas production saw rapid development last year, according to the statement. China has been the world's largest energy producer since 2008, official data show. ^ top ^

Vehicle sales overtake Europe in 2012 (China Daily)
2013-01-10
China overtook Europe in vehicle sales in 2012 and is now in pole position after passing the United States in 2009. Sales of passenger vehicles increased 6.8 percent, from the previous year to 14.68 million units, the China Passenger Car Association said on Wednesday. In December alone, passenger vehicle sales jumped 8.6 percent year-on-year to 1.56 million units. European passenger vehicle sales reached 12.5 million units, 1.1 million fewer than a year earlier. The US registered the best sales growth since 2008, 13 percent year-on-year, but it still lagged just behind the Chinese mainland market after selling 14.5 million units. Analysts said China's vehicle market will continue to grow. The market could be as big as Europe and the US combined, Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, head of vehicle research at the University of Duisburg-Essen, told the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung. Rao Da, secretary-general of the China Passenger Car Association, said the market "would probably yield about 30 percent growth year-on-year in January," driven by an expected sales boom in the run-up to Spring Festival. [...] However, as traffic congestion and environmental pollution are becoming increasingly serious in more Chinese cities, Rao said that he believed the government will take additional measures to slow vehicle sales. [...] Jia Xinguang, a market analyst in Beijing, said he predicts 8 percent growth year-on-year in 2013, in what he described as "low but healthy development''. [...]. ^ top ^

Foreign trade misses target (Global Times)
2013-01-11
China's foreign trade in 2012 rose 6.2 percent from a year earlier, missing its annual growth target of 10 percent, the country's customs bureau said Thursday, noting that this trade performance will improve in 2013. Exports rose 7.9 percent in 2012 from the previous year while imports increased 4.3 percent year on year, data released by the General Administration of Customs of China (GACC) showed Thursday. The figure brought the trade surplus in 2012 to $231.1 billion, up 48.1 percent from the level in 2012. "The trade result was hard-won given the deepening of the eurozone debt crisis, slow recovery in the world economy, weak demands in the global market and big downward pressure on the domestic economy in 2012," Zheng Yuesheng, spokesman of the GACC, said at a press conference in Beijing. Despite uncertainties, the country's trade will be slightly better in 2013 than in 2012, Zheng said. "Many people are too pessimistic about China's external trade. It actually did not perform as badly as it seems. The surplus of $231.1 billion in 2012 showed a positive contribution by trade to GDP growth rather than a drag on the economy," Jin Baisong, deputy director of the Department of China's Foreign Trade Studies at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, told the Global Times. [...] A breakdown by region showed that trade volume with Europe, China's biggest trade partner, dropped 3.7 percent year on year in 2012, while trade with the US, which overtook Europe to be the biggest destination of China's exports, rose 8.5 percent year on year. Japan was downgraded to be China's fifth largest trade partner in 2012 from the fourth in 2011. Trade between the two shrunk 3.9 percent in 2012 from the previous year amid a row after Japan's "nationalization" of the Diaoyu Islands. Thursday's customs data also showed exports surged 14.1 percent in December from a year earlier, the strongest growth in seven months and more than quadruple November's 2.9 percent pace. Imports increased 6 percent year on year in December after flattening in November, the fastest pace in six months.The surprisingly large rebound in the country's exports and imports in December added to evidence that the pick-up in the country's economy is gathering momentum. [...]. ^ top ^

 

DPRK and South Korea

New bridge to connect China, DPRK next year (Xinhua)
2013-01-07
A new bridge being built over a border river between China and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) is expected to open next year, local authorities have said. Major construction on the Yalu River Bridge will be finished this year, according to Zhang Tiemin, director of the Transport Department of northeast China's Liaoning Province. Construction on the 3.026 km-long bridge began in 2010, with an investment of 2.22-billion yuan (356 million U.S. dollars), Zhang said. The bridge is being built by both countries and will have four two-way lanes upon completion, according to an agreement signed by both sides in February 2010. "The cross-border bridge will help boost communication and economic cooperation between the two countries," said Lyu Chao, a researcher with the Liaoning Provincial Academy of Social Sciences. A bridge that was built in 1937 currently stands as the only bridge connecting both sides. Trucks weighing more than 20 tonnes are not allowed on the one-way bridge, restricting trade between both sides. ^ top ^

Google delegation finds limitations to internet usage in North Korea (SCMP)
2013-01-09
Students at North Korea's premier university showed Google's executive chairman how they look for information online: they Google it. But surfing the internet that way is the privilege of very few in North Korea, whose authoritarian government imposes strict limits on access to the World Wide Web. Google's Eric Schmidt yesterday got a first look at North Korea's limited internet usage when an American delegation he and former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson are leading visited a computer lab at Kim Il-sung University in Pyongyang. Other members of the delegation on the unusual four-day trip include Schmidt's daughter, Sophie, and Jared Cohen, director of the Google Ideas think tank. Schmidt, who is the highest-profile US business executive to visit North Korea since leader Kim Jong-un took power a year ago, has not spoken publicly about the reasons behind the journey to North Korea. Richardson has called the trip a "private, humanitarian" mission by US citizens and has sought to allay worries in Washington. North Korea is holding a US citizen accused by Pyongyang of committing "hostile" acts against the state; charges that could carry 10 years in a prison or longer. Richardson said he would speak to North Korean officials about Kenneth Bae's detention and seek to visit the American. [...] Cohen asked a student how he searches for information online. The student clicked on Google — "That's where I work!" Cohen said — and then asked to be able to type in his own search: "New York City." Cohen clicked on a Wikipedia page for the city, pointing at a photo and telling the student, "That's where I live." Kim Su-hyang, a librarian, said students at Kim Il Sung University have had internet access since the laboratory opened in April 2010. Computers at Pyongyang's main library at the Grand People's Study house are linked to a domestic intranet service that allows them to read state-run media online and access a trove of reading materials culled by North Korean officials. North Koreans with computers at home can also sign up for the intranet service, but access to the World Wide Web is extremely rare and often is limited to those with clearance to get on the internet. ^ top ^

DPRK to deepen partnership with Nigeria on youth development (Xinhua)
2013-01-09
The goverenment and citizens of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) are willing to work closely and deepen partnership with the Nigerian people in the area of youth development, the Asian country's envoy to Nigeria Jong Hak Se said on Tuesday. Jong told reporters in Abuja after a meeting with Nigeria's Minister of Youth Development, Inuwa Abdul-Kadir, that the move was being made to strengthen the existing ties between the two countries. "Such relationship will be based on rendering support to Nigeria in the area of technology training. President Goodluck Jonathan had identified youth empowerment as priority area in his transformation agenda and this is one of the reasons we thought it is necessary to partner with Nigeria to achieve meaningful development," he said, noting there are 200 Korean technologists and specialists who are currently providing support to the Nigerian government and people. The DPRK ambassador, however, decried poor orientation to be a challenge facing young people, but said through partnership they could be engaged in meaningful ventures such as technology and skills training. He expressed hope that while the youths are gainfully engaged, the issue of frivolities could be effectively addressed among them. According to Jong, the training would further engage the youths and keep them away from vices. "It is very important to take issues bordering young people seriously because they form the major part of the nation's population. Youths are future leaders and the future of every nation lies on them. It is therefore necessary to focus on educating the youths, organize and mobilize them, so as to redirect their energies into useful venture that can drive economic growth," he added. On his own part, the Nigerian minister said such discussions should be carried out regularly to further strengthen ties between the two countries, while declaring Nigeria's readiness to work closely with Korea to boost youth development. Noting that laziness by young people to engage in meaningful ventures could hinder their growth, Abdul-Kadir said the partnership should also include orientation and moral education. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Changes to new version of mineral resource law (News.mn)
2013-01-07
Officials from the Mining sector are focusing on a new draft law on mineral resources after a new version of the mineral resource law was publicly announced. Due to the new draft law on mineral resources the Mongolian National Mining Association hosted the second discussion for member organizations on Thursday. Attorney B.Munkhtuya, the head of the working group that developed the draft law, introduced the concept and features of the new law and answered delegates questions. Attorney B.Munkhtuya said that the new mineral draft law is much better and more supportive for domestic companies than the previous law. The working group is still available to accept views and opinions from the public on the new mineral draft law and may submit them to the draft law. The Mongolian National Mining Association is responsible for establishing three main working groups that will consider public views and opinions and submit it to the working group for the new draft law, the PR working group and the survey working group. The attorneys who want to join the working group should give their names to the Mongolian National Mining Association before January 8th. Each working group will appoint their own head. ^ top ^

Mining Sector to Lead Economic Growth in 2013 (UB Post)
2013-01-07
In the last few years, Mongolia has enjoyed enormous growth in its gross domestic products (GDP) mainly thanks to the increased mining activity in the country. The Oyu Tolgoi project is expected to commence operations in their underground mine where majority of the wealth lies, which will boost the country's production to a new level. The government has managed raise 1.5 billion USD through the release of the much publicised Chinggis Bonds, which will be used for infrastructure development. Government spending is bound to increase which will fuel inflation. Inflation reached over 15 percent in 2012 while GDP growth decreased to around 13 percent which was 17.3 percent in 2011. Despite IMF's warning about decreasing spending, the government has plans for a large scale spending spree for this year to develop infrastructure through the bond money. The Economic Intelligence Unit of Economic Group forecasts that Mongolia will be second largest economic grower in the year of 2012, mainly driven by mineral export to China. Mongolia was one of the top economic growers, if not the top grower of 2012. All of the above will play parts in oscillating the pendulum that is Mongolia economy, therefore we at the UBpost feel it right to let the country's top economic experts to have a say in what direction they think the economy of the nation will swing. ^ top ^

Governors in aimags still not appointed (News.mn)
2013-01-07
The Local Residents` Representative Khural in some aimags have not yet appointed their Governors from the June Local Administrative Election. Currently six aimags including, Khuvsgul, Dundgovi, Dornod, Govisumber, Selenge and Govi-Altai still do not have Governors. The MPP is suspicious because there may be political reasons behind the delays in the Governors appointments. The Government explains that there are no political reasons behind this except some legal issues relating to the appointments. The Government is ready to accept the appointments after the legal issues have been solved. For some aimags the Local Residents` Representative Khural have already submitted the Governors names to the Government. ^ top ^

N.Enkhbayars supporters demand his release (News.mn)
2013-01-09
Members of the Human Rights sub-committee, authorities from the Court Decision Enforcement General Office and the State General Prosecutor`s Office confronted the former president N.Enkhbayar`s supporters near the detention center in Zaisan during a regular work visit today. After the working group arrived in the detention center the supporters and members of MPRP arrived with a bus and intentionally blocked the gates holding slogans and did not allow the working group to enter the detention center. The supporters and members of MPRP demanded the release of N.Enkhbayar from prison for him to be treated in hospital. The supporters and members of MPRP also handed a request to D.Ganbat, the head of the working group that visited the detention center. The request read: “Release N.Enkhbayar from prison or transfer him to hospital”. The demonstration help by supporters and members is not the first and will not be the last. On Monday 100 mothers announced that they will hold a hunger strike to save the former president, head of MPRP, N.Enkhbayar. They have planned the hunger strike for next week. ^ top ^

Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi JSC claims for 200 million USD investments (Infomongolia)
2013-01-09
At the Economic Standing Committee meeting of the State Great Khural (Parliament) held on January 09, 2013, Executive Director of the "Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi" JSC Ya.Batsuuri introduced current implementation works following the 39th resolution issued by the Parliament of Mongolia in 2010. At the meeting Executive Director Ya.Batsuuri stressed that the Company faces with financial problems and needs 200 million USD of investments in order to complete the project started in the East and West Blocks of Tavan Tolgoi site in Umnugovi aimag, Mongolia. Earlier, “Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi” JSC has been financed first with 350 million USD in the form of advanced payment under the agreement established with Aluminum Corporation of China Limited (CHALCO), later received additional 131 million USD from GOLOMT Bank (Mongolia) and another 100 million USD from Development Bank (Mongolia), comprising a total of 581 million USD investments to date. According to him, only 270 million USD were utilized for Company's activity from the total of 581 million USD invested, whereas the rest of 311 million USD was distributed to civilians accounting into Human Development Fund. If to receive the 200 million USD investments, the activity would be normalized and citizens are able to receive their dividends from 1,072 shares distributed by the Government of Mongolia. Yaichil BATSUURI served as a Member of the Parliament in 2008-2012, elected from Democratic Party. At the "Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi" Board Members meeting held on October 11, 2012, it was resolved to replace the incumbent Executive Director B.Enebish and appoint Ya.Batsuuri accordingly. ^ top ^

 

Fabian Eng
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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