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
  11-15.3.13, No. 466  
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Table of contents

DPRK and South Korea

Mongolia

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Foreign Policy

Chinese surveillance ships, helicopter patrol Xisha Islands (Xinhua)
2013-03-10
A China Marine Surveillance (CMS) detachment on Sunday started a joint ship-helicopter patrol of the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea. Three CMS ships -- the Haijian 83, Haijian 262 and Haijian 263 -- departed from the port of Sansha City at 9 a.m. and will be joined by the Haijian B-7103 helicopter as they patrol the waters for nine days, said Zhang Weijian, the on-site director of the mission. Zhang said the detachment will start by patrolling 10 islands and reefs on Sunday, while law enforcement personnel on the ships will land on the islands of Zhaoshu and Beidao. It is the first time for the Chinese maritime helicopter and ships to carry out a joint patrol around the Xisha Islands since Sansha City, which administers the three islands groups of Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha, was officially set up in July last year. Yang Zhong, deputy head of the detachment, said the team will carry out regular patrol and observation missions, including maritime space management and marine ecology and island protection. The CMS ships are under the administration of the State Oceanic Administration. They have carried out regular patrols and law enforcement activities in waters under China's jurisdiction since 2006. ^ top ^

China's new president to visit Russia, Africa: FM (Xinhua)
2013-03-09
China's new president will pay his maiden state visits to Russia, Tanzania, South Africa and the Republic of Congo and attend the fifth leaders' summit of BRICS countries in Durban, said Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi on Saturday. The BRICS summit will be held in Durban from March 26 to 27. Commenting on the new president's visit to Russia, Yang said China hopes to take the opportunity to inject a strong impetus to the Sino-Russian comprehensive and strategic partnership. […] Yang said the new president's visit to Africa fully demonstrated China's commitment to growing its relations with African countries. "China and African countries are good brothers, good friends and good partners," he said. Yang said he hoped all parties can view the cooperation between China and African countries in an objective manner, and respect the African friends in choosing cooperative partners by themselves. "If you want to walk fast, walk alone; if you want to walk afar, walk together," Yang said, citing a traditional African proverb to elaborate the importance of cooperation with African countries. Many countries are advancing their cooperation with Africa, and China welcomes such cooperation, he said. […] Yang called for more exchanges, less suspicions and accusations toward cooperation between China and African countries, and jointly promoting peace, stability and development in Africa. Yang also expected the visit by the new president to strengthen partnership among the BRICS countries, improve the BRICS mechanism, and boost the cooperation between BRICS nations and countries in Africa and other regions. […] BRICS is an economic bloc representing five of the world's leading emerging economies, namely Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. BRICS member countries represent about 43 percent of the world population and approximately one fifth of the global gross domestic product. ^ top ^

Beijing protests Tokyo's one-China policy violation (China Daily)
2013-03-12
China on Monday lodged strong protests to Japan over violations of the one-China policy related to Tokyo's anniversary commemoration of its devastating earthquake. […] During Monday's ceremonies, the Japanese government invited representatives from foreign countries and regions, media organizations reported. Staff members of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Japan were also invited. Tokyo arranged the personnel from Taiwan to attend the ceremony as part of a diplomatic delegation and international organization's staff, the spokeswoman said. The move is against principles and the spirit of the 1972 Joint Communique of the Government of the People's Republic of China and the Japanese government, as well as Japan's promises on upholding the one-China policy, [Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying] said. Japan has made promises to endorse the one-China policy in key bilateral political documents with China, including the Joint Communique, which both countries signed on Sept 29, 1972. The Japanese government "fully understands and respects" the Chinese government's position that Taiwan is an inalienable part of the territory of the People's Republic of China, according to the Joint Communique, a landmark of the two Asian neighbors' decision to normalize diplomatic ties in 1972. "We have lodged solemn representations to Japan and are strongly dissatisfied with Japan's acts," Hua said in a statement on Monday. She reiterated that the Chinese government resolutely opposes any attempt by word or deed to create "two Chinas" or "one China, one Taiwan". […]. ^ top ^

China's maritime enforcement plan 'a threat' to Japan (SCMP)
2013-03-12
China's decision to place all its maritime law enforcement agencies under unified control is likely to dramatically enhance Beijing's naval capabilities and poses a significant threat to Japanese interests, analysts in Japan say. […]. The restructuring, announced at the National People's Congress on Sunday, is in part a response to tensions with a number of neighbouring states - notably Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines - over territorial issues. "This will give the new organisation greater authority and co-ordination capabilities at a higher level in the Chinese government, while at a functional level it will give these naval assets more partnerships in exercises, for example, when it comes to disputed territories," Masayuki Masuda, a China analyst at the National Institute of Defence Studies, said. With a unified command structure, the new entity will be able to co-ordinate its maritime forces and "pose a very serious challenge" to Japanese forces in waters close to the disputed Senkaku archipelago, which China calls the Diaoyus, he said. "This suggests that China feels uncomfortable with the Senkaku situation and that they are aware they need to step up their patrols in the region to show Chinese sovereignty over the islands," Masuda said. […] Go Ito, a professor of international relations at Tokyo's Meiji University, agreed that Beijing's proposal is "very significant for its impact on Japan's efforts to protect its maritime interests". Ito said physical ownership of the islands was not China's priority because the barren and inhospitable isles offered little to its residents. More important, he believes, is the ability to use sovereignty over the territory to extend China's exclusive economic zone farther away from its shoreline and to simultaneously limit other countries' access to the waters of the East China Sea. […] Enhancing naval capabilities to claim territory is being done in tandem with other measures, Ito said, such as the introduction of the Spratly and Paracel islands on maps of Chinese territory printed in Chinese passports. And while China officially claims that the addition to its nationals' travel documents is merely a declaration of its hope that one day the islands might be recognised as Chinese territory, Ito expects the argument to come full circle in "a few decades" when Beijing could claim that because the islands had been on Chinese passports for many years, they must be Chinese territory. "Strengthening its naval forces is very important for China, but at the same time it severely damages Japan's interests," he said. "The size of Japan's maritime territory is larger than that of China at present, but Beijing expanding the areas that it claims - this is truly a case of 'gunboat diplomacy' - will inevitably bring the two nations into further confrontation.". ^ top ^

Japan seeks defense ties with ASEAN amid China rows (Global Times)
2013-03-14
[...] Japan on Wednesday called for stronger security ties with Southeast Asia as Tokyo looks to boost alliances at a time of growing territorial tensions with China. Vice-minister level representatives from Japan and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) began a two-day gathering in Tokyo. "The Asia-Pacific region has various issues concerning security and defense... including territorial conflicts in the South China Sea," Vice Defense Minister Akinori Eto told the opening session of the meeting. "On top of the growing maturity of our economic cooperation, Japan and ASEAN need to further strengthen ties in the field of security and defense," Eto said. Ahead of the meeting, the ASEAN participants met Abe late Tuesday and voiced their high expectations for Japan "in dealing with various security issues of the Asia-Pacific region," the defense ministry said in a statement. Also on Wednesday, two Vietnam-registered fishing ships were driven out of China's territorial waters by a China Marine Surveillance fleet. The Vietnamese vessels were spotted around 7 am in the South China Sea around the Xisha Islands. Japan reportedly plans to donate patrol boats worth more than $10 million each to the Philippines, ramping up regional efforts to monitor China's maritime activity in disputed waters. ^ top ^

Beijing-Vatican breakthrough not expected (Global Times)
2013-03-15
Chinese mainland bishops and Hong Kong Cardinal John Tong Hon expressed their hopes Thursday that China-Vatican relations could improve after the election of Pope Francis. But analysts said that although the Vatican is likely to continue to seek dialogue with China under Pope Francis, major breakthroughs in Beijing-Vatican relations are not expected. Cardinal John Tong Hon of Hong Kong, the first Chinese cardinal in history to take part in a conclave, told the Global Times in an exclusive interview that he believed the new leadership of the Roman Catholic Church "will push hard for better relations with the Chinese government." [...] Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 77, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, was elected Pope Francis on Wednesday by the cardinals after two days of secret ballots in a conclave held in Vatican City, becoming the first Jesuit and non-European pope in 1,300 years to lead the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. China on Thursday congratulated Bergoglio's election as new pope, but urged the Vatican to be "practical and flexible" for an improvement in China-Vatican relations. China urged the Vatican to sever its so-called diplomatic relationship with Taiwan and recognize the government of the People's Republic of China as the sole legal government representing China, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters at a regular press briefing in Beijing. She also said that the Vatican should not interfere in China's internal affairs under the name of religion. These are the two basic principles for China when it deals with relations with the Vatican, according to the spokeswoman. China-Vatican ties were cut in 1951, two years after the founding of the People's Republic of China. There has been speculation that because Pope Francis is a Jesuit, there may be conditions for increased engagement between Beijing and the Vatican given the historical relationship between [...] But some analysts aren't optimistic about the prospect of China-Vatican ties under the new pope. "Pope Francis is first a leader of the Vatican and Catholic Church. He was elected because he was believed to be suitable to lead the Vatican, not because he is a Jesuit," Wang Meixiu, a researcher with the Institute of World Religion Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times. […] "That said, I think Pope Francis will also try to find opportunities to engage with China and Chinese Catholics because as the leader of the Vatican, he must feel obliged to do so," Wang said. [...]. ^ top ^

Chinese, U.S. presidents discuss ties over phone (Xinhua)
2013-03-15
Newly elected Chinese President Xi Jinping held telephone talks with his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama on the expansion of cooperation and mutual respect between China and the United States. Offering his congratulations on Xi's election as Chinese president, Obama said the United States and China have conducted broad and in-depth cooperation over the past four years. Currently, U.S.-China relations are faced with a historic opportunity to chart a course for future development, said Obama. The U.S. side hopes to work with China to maintain contacts between the heads of state of the two countries and strengthen communication and dialogue in a bid to promote steady development of bilateral ties and build a new type of inter-power relations, he said. Obama said the U.S. side is willing to strengthen communication and coordination with China through mechanisms such as the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue to accommodate each other's concerns and to promote economic and trade relations. The U.S. side is willing to strengthen cooperation with China to ensure security, stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region, he said. Xi said China and the United States have enormous common interests, but also differences. China firmly maintains and promotes the development of China-U.S. relations, and would like to work with the United States in enhancing mutual trust, expanding cooperation, handling differences, and maintaining high-level contacts, Xi said. He also said the two countries should jointly maintain and promote the sound development of a series of mechanisms, including the Strategic and Economic Dialogue and high-level consultations on humanistic exchanges, boost the development of cooperative partnership, and find a path for new-type of inter-power relations. On bilateral economic and trade cooperation, Xi said the two sides should adhere to equal dialogue and candid communication, and should prevent politicizing economic and trade issues so as to further consolidate the basis of China-U.S. economic and trade ties that are characterized by mutual benefits and win-win results, which will bring benefits to the two peoples and will produce positive results on global economic development, said Xi. He emphasized that as long as the two sides follow the spirit of mutual respect, openness and tolerance, China and the United States will be able to achieve more in the Asia-Pacific region and to turn the Pacific into an ocean of peace and cooperation. Xi and Obama also exchanged views on the situation of the Korean Peninsula, cyber security among other issues. Xi expressed China's principles and positions on those issues. [...]. ^ top ^

Putin calls Xi over deepening bilateral ties (Xinhua)
2013-03-15
Newly elected Chinese President Xi Jinping talked with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin by phone Thursday, with both sides pledging to strengthen ties. Putin congratulated Xi on his election as Chinese president, saying the Russia-China relationship was of great significance. Putin said Russia was making active efforts to prepare for Xi's upcoming visit to Russia, and he believed the visit would further promote bilateral cooperation and humanistic exchanges as well as strengthen bilateral ties. Xi said Putin called him by phone upon his election, which showed the Russian president highly valued China-Russia relations, adding he also attached great importance to the development of the China-Russia comprehensive relations of strategic cooperation and partnership, which would always be a priority of China's foreign relations. Xi said China was willing to work with Russia to push their cooperation in various fields to a higher level. He added he was looking forward to meeting with Putin during his visit to Russia and exchanging views with him on ways to strengthen bilateral cooperation as well as on major international and regional affairs. Xi also said he believed his visit to Russia would inject new vigor into the development of Russia-China relations. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

China investigates 30 ministerial-level officials within five years (Xinhua)
2013-03-10
A total of 30 officials at the ministerial level or higher have been placed under investigation for corruption or other job-related crimes over the past five years, China's top procurator said Sunday. Prosecutors have investigated about 13,000 officials at the county level or above for corruption and other job-related crimes since 2008, said Cao Jianming, procurator-general of the Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP), when delivering a work report of the SPP at the first session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC). The work report of China's supreme court also delivered at the session showed that during the same period courts nationwide meted out verdicts on 138,000 cases of bribery and malfeasance involving 143,000 criminals. The past five years have seen the investigation of several high-level officials including Bo Xilai, a former member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, and Liu Zhijun, former railway minister. Li Dajin, an NPC deputy and Beijing-based lawyer, said China had always attached great importance to anti-graft work. […] Since the 18th CPC national congress, China has remained tough on corruption. Within two months since the congress concluded, the CPC sacked several officials who were suspected of violation of law or discipline, including Li Chuncheng, former vice-secretary of the CPC committee of Sichuan Province. Meanwhile, spurred on by new leaders' resolve to fight corruption, China's netizens have used the Internet to expose corrupt local cadres. […] During the CPC disciplinary watchdog meeting in January, Xi ordered enhanced restraint and supervision on the use of power and said "power should be restricted by the cage of regulations." A disciplinary, prevention and guarantee mechanism should be set up to ensure that people in power do not dare to, are not able to and can not easily commit corruption, Xi said. Li Chaogang, an NPC deputy and Party chief of Beijing's Fengtai District, said "restricting power by the cage of regulations" is the key to anti-corruption campaign. In combating corruption, it was not enough to rely on self-discipline of people in power and a bigger role should be given to the functions of anti-corruption systems, said Li. According to the SPP report, prosecutors took about 19,000 bribers to court over the past five years. At the same time, the SPP set up a national anti-corruption hotline and website, and improved its work in collecting clues and protecting whistleblowers and witnesses, he said. A national database of bribery cases has been established and more than 2 million searches were conducted, according to Cao. […]. ^ top ^

China unveils plan to streamline gov't (Xinhua)
2013-03-10
The State Council, China's cabinet, will begin its seventh restructuring attempt in the past three decades to roll back red tape and reduce administrative intervention in the market and on social issues. The number of ministries under the State Council will fall from 27 to 25, while several departments and agencies will be reorganized, according to a plan on the institutional restructuring and functional transformation of the State Council, which was submitted to the national legislative session Sunday. Having gone through restructuring six times, "the State Council has established a framework that meets the needs of the socialist market economy but still has notable shortcomings," State Councilor Ma Kai said while deliberating the plan at the session. "Some departments have more power than necessary, while in some aspects of governance, they are not in a position to act," Ma said. The central government is troubled by the duplication of functions, overlapping management, low efficiency and bureaucracy, while supervision over administrative power is not fully in place, he said, adding that this has somewhat facilitated cases of corruption and dereliction of duty. The most important task of the restructuring plan is to transform and streamline the government functions, he said. According to the plan, the Ministry of Railways, which has long been at the center of controversy for being both a railway service provider and a railway industry watchdog, will be broken up into administrative and commercial arms. Wang Yiming, deputy head of the Academy of Macroeconomic Research under the National Development and Reform Commission, hailed the move as a "landmark." "It means the country has removed the last 'stronghold' in the way of reforming the industry from a planned economy to market economy," Wang said. "It will open another door for the financing and management of the railway sector." […] Other ministries and commissions to see a reshuffle are the Health Ministry and the National Population and Family Planning Commission, which will be merged into a new National Health and Family Planning Commission. The status of the existing State Food and Drug Administration will be elevated to a general administration in order to improve food and drug safety. The country's top oceanic administration will be restructured to bring its maritime law enforcement forces, currently scattered throughout different ministries and departments, under the unified management of a single administration. The National Energy Administration will be restructured to streamline the administrative and regulatory systems of the energy sector. Two media regulators, the General Administration of Press and Publication and the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, will be merged into a single entity to oversee the country's press, publication, radio, film and television sectors. ^ top ^

Death row sentences reviewed (Global Times)
2013-03-11
The Supreme People's Court (SPC) has reviewed sentences of prisoners on death row to ensure capital punishment is reserved only for offenders of "extremely serious crimes," SPC President Wang Shengjun said Sunday. Delivering the SPC's work report at the first session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC), the country's top judge noted courts nationwide have been cautious about executing prisoners sentenced to death. In a separate work report, Cao Jianming, procurator-general of the Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP), said a capital punishment supervision mechanism established to review cases also offered a stay of execution to criminals deemed harshly sentenced. Previously, only the SPC had such powers. Cao's report, which did not reveal how many cases the SPP had reviewed over the past year, noted that the country's top prosecutor's office had appealed rulings in 24,178 criminal cases after finding errors over the past five years. Neither work report revealed how many criminals were executed in China between 2008 and 2012. The SPP's supervisory role in reviewing cases of prisoners on death row was enshrined in the latest amendment of the Criminal Procedure Law that took effect this year. Since 2007, all courts sentencing criminals to death have required SPC approval. "The newly-added supervisory role abides by the spirit of the Constitution," Qu Xinjiu, a criminal law professor at the China University of Political Science and Law, told the Global Times. The involvement of the top prosecutor's office indicates lawyers will probably be part of the review process, Qu added. "This bodes well for the country's system of measuring punishment by tempering justice with leniency. The involvement of the SPP won't necessarily cause the process to drag because the more complicated the review is, the more carefully capital punishment will be considered," he said. However, Liu Renwen, director of the Criminal Law Research Center at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, noted the absence of transparency in such cases means judicial explanations are "sorely needed to standardize the supervisory role and streamline the process." […]. ^ top ^

China unveils lineup of top political advisors (Xinhua)
2013-03-11
Some well-known names in China's cabinet, including central banker Zhou Xiaochuan, and senior provincial officials, on Monday entered leadership of the country's top political advisory body. The leaders that comprises a chairman and 23 vice chairpersons were elected by members of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). Yu Zhengsheng, 67, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, was elected chairman of the CPPCC National Committee, replacing Jia Qinglin. Having been governor of the People's Bank of China since 2002, Zhou Xiaochuan is one of the most prominent figures among the newly-elected vice chairpersons. […] The new lineup unveiled Monday features both veteran advisors and newcomers, high-profile officials of the State Council and experienced CPC chiefs or regional leaders, as well as senior officials from departments of the CPC Central Committee and leaders of democratic parties. With an average age of 63.7 years, the leadership members are younger in average than their predecessors were when they took office five years ago. More than half of them hold master's degrees and some have doctorates. "The new leadership has a wider background of knowledge, better education and more experience in working at various posts," said Ji Zhengju, an official from the Central Compilation and Translation Bureau, a CPC think tank. [...] Du Qinglin, who is ranked first among the vice chairpersons, is a member of the secretariat of the CPC Central Committee. The 66-year-old official had worked in Jilin, Hainan and Sichuan provinces before being appointed minister of Agriculture and then head of the United Front Work Department of the CPC Central Committee. Ling Jihua, head of the United Front Work Department of the CPC Central Committee, and Wang Jiarui, head of the International Department of the CPC Central Committee, also became vice chairpersons of the top advisory body. Five provincial heads were promoted to the CPPCC National Committee leadership, compared with only one in the previous lineup. They are CPC chiefs Zhang Qingli of Hebei Province, Su Rong of Jiangxi and Lu Zhangong of Henan, as well as Wang Zhengwei, chairman of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, and Ma Biao, chairman of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. [...] "Having worked on leading posts in provinces and autonomous regions for a long time, these officials have wide connections and have developed skills in tackling sophisticated issues," Ji said. "Their promotions will help boost efficiency and effectiveness of the Chinese mechanism of consultative democracy." [...] Lin Wenyi is one of two female vice chairpersons in the new leadership. She is chairwoman of the Central Committee of the Taiwan Democratic Self-Government League, one of eight non-communist political parties on the Chinese mainland. […] The other female vice chairperson is Li Haifeng, director of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council. She has nearly ten years of experience in dealing with affairs concerning overseas Chinese. Sixty-year-old Science and Technology Minister Wan Gang was re-elected as vice chairperson. A member of China Zhi Gong Dang, he has been one of the first non-communist ministers since China adopted the policy of reform and opening-up three decades ago. Tibetan Pagbalha Geleg Namgyai, 73, is the most experienced top political advisor among the new leadership. He is beginning his eighth term as vice chairperson of the CPPCC National Committee. Also re-elected are two former chief executives of the special administrative regions: Tung Chee-hwa from Hong Kong and Edmund Ho Hau Wah from Macao. Chen Yuan, chair of the board of directors of the China Development Bank, was elected to the leadership for the first time. He is son to Chen Yun, a CPC revolutionary veteran. The lineup also includes leaders of non-communist parties, including Han Qide from the Jiu San Society, Luo Fuhe from the China Association for Promoting Democracy, Qi Xuchun from the Revolutionary Committee of the Chinese Kuomintang, Chen Xiaoguang from the China Democratic League, Ma Peihua from the China National Democratic Construction Association and Liu Xiaofeng from the Chinese Peasants and Workers Democratic Party. Wang Qinmin, chairman of the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce, also joined the top ranks of the CPPCC National Committee. ^ top ^

Rights groups miss out on easing of registration rules for NGOs (SCMP)
2013-03-12
Mainland authorities are moving to ease registration controls on four categories of NGOs to further social development while continuing to shut out groups advocating civil rights. Industry and commerce associations, community-based care groups, charity groups and NGOs promoting scientific research will no longer be required to find a government agency to be their patron before registering for an NGO licence with civil affairs departments, according to a draft rule on social organisations. The proposed easing of rules for NGOs is part of a restructuring bill which the State Council, the mainland's cabinet, has tabled to the National People's Congress for deliberation this week. The Communist Party has been trying to reach out to NGOs in an effort to formulate a broad consensus amid rising social tensions and discontent over excessive bureaucracy and rampant irregularities among government-backed NGOs. However, the bill says NGOs of a political, legal and religious nature and global NGOs with an office on the mainland will still have to find a "patron" government agency before registration due to "complicated circumstances". Analysts place the number of NGOs on the mainland at about four million. But only some 400,000 have received a licence, with the vast majority forced to register as a business or to operate without any licence because they cannot afford to pay corporate taxes. Finn Kwok, director general of Equity & Justice Initiative, a Shenzhen-based NGO advocating rights for underprivileged people, says the new policy sends a positive signal in terms of nurturing NGOs in general after a similar pilot scheme was introduced in Guangdong in 2011. But he says it is much harder for a rights advocacy group like his to apply for an NGO licence due to the government's distrust of such NGOs. Kwok, who registered his group as a corporation, says he fears that requiring rights advocacy groups to find a patron government agency before receiving a licence will tie their hands as independent organisations. "Rights advocacy does not amount to opposition to the government because we simply do something the governments fail to deliver and something we think we could do better," Kwok said. Wan Yanhai, founder of Aizhixing Institute which advocates for HIV/Aids sufferers, says it may have to think of registering some of its offices on the mainland as a different NGO in order to obtain legal NGO status. But he says he is worried that governments may set some pre-conditions before allowing them to do so, particularly as Aizhixing is almost entirely funded by overseas grants. Tsinghua University professor Jia Xijin, an NGO studies specialist, says the authorities maintain tight control of NGOs advocating civil rights, as they still view them as threats to social stability. And such NGOs are now being forced to operate outside the law, she says. ^ top ^

Doubts surface over reorganizing railways (China Daily)
2013-03-13
Deputies to the National People's Congress expressed concern that the construction of a non-profit railway in western regions may be jeopardized if the Ministry of Railways is split, with its regulatory powers going to the Ministry of Transport, and its operations handed over to a commercial entity. "The railway system in southern Xinjiang, such as in Hotan, is hardly going to be profitable, but it plays an important strategic role. As a profit-driven company, I wonder how the new railway company will deal with the relationship between regional development and profit," said Nur Bekeri, chairman of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. Nur made the comments during a group discussion about the government's restructuring plan on the sidelines of the NPC. "How can the company continue to invest in railway construction in border areas in western China while losing money?" he asked. Xinjiang shares borders with eight countries, including Pakistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Qiangba Puncog, deputy Party chief of the Tibet autonomous region, said there would be uncertainty if the Ministry of Railways ceased to exist because under the current system it's easier for the ministry to approve construction plans in the region. "The cost of building railways in high plateau areas is extremely high and it is not something a company would like to do if it doesn't make money," he said. "The railway company might focus its business in developed areas because it's more profitable, and pay less attention to less populated areas," said Lobsang Jamcan, chairman of Tibet. "It helped the locals a great deal in terms of social development when the Qinghai-Tibet railway was constructed. More railways should be built in the region in the future." He said in China's border areas, the construction of a railway system should not only be profit-driven, but take national and border defense and social benefits into consideration. Strategic concerns were raised by Wang Mengshu, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering. "Take the Qinghai-Tibet railway as an example. Many routes are non-profitable but have strategic value. Which body would cover such losses if the ministry is split? Also, the transportation of disaster relief goods and equipment used in cross-regional military exercises is free. Who will pay for that in the future?" […] According to the institutional restructuring and functional transformation plan released by the State Council on Sunday, the Ministry of Railways' administrative powers will be incorporated into the Ministry of Transport. They include planning railway development, drafting technical standards and supervising operational safety and construction quality. Meanwhile, the China Railway Corp will be established to take over the ministry's commercial functions, including organizing railway transportation and construction. ^ top ^

Beijing launches spy investigation against Coca-Cola (SCMP)
2013-03-14
China has launched an anti-espionage investigation against Coca-Cola for allegedly conducting illegal mapping in many sensitive areas on the mainland as the spying row between Beijing and Washington escalates. The case is being handled jointly by the National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation and the Ministry of State Security. The involvement of the top intelligence authority underscores the seriousness of the case. "We understand that espionage is a serious charge against a world famous company," said an official from the administration. "We are still in the process of gathering information. "What we can say for now is that many subsidiaries of Coca-Cola are involved and this happens in many provinces. Due to the sheer scale of the case, the complexity of the technology involved and the implication to our national security, we are working with the Ministry of State Security on this." The news came after Li Pengde - deputy director of the administration - openly accused the beverage giant on a national radio programme on Tuesday and said some of its employees were caught using hand-held GPS devices to collect sensitive geographic information in Yunnan province. Coca-Cola issued a statement yesterday saying it was "co-operating fully" with the investigation. It said the GPS they used were "digital map and customer logistic systems commercially available in China". The GPS devices were used to improve fuel efficiency and customer service, it said. Many Western companies use GPS devices to track the whereabouts of their employees as a way to improve efficiency and better planning. But Han Qixiang, director of the administration's law enforcement department involved in the investigation, said Coca-Cola was apparently doing more than that. He said the mapping technology used by the US company was so sophisticated that it was beyond the administration's capacity to analyse its system. […] Professor Guo Jiming, an expert in GPS mapping at Wuhan University, said the government must be very careful on reaching its conclusion. Only the use of "devices with ultra high sensitivity" or "mapping technology with military-level algorithm" should warrant such a level of concern being raised, he said. Guo said Beijing was sensitive about the use of GPS devices by foreigners because such geographical data could be used by guided missiles to strike key military facilities. Satellite images nowadays have high resolution, but they cannot pinpoint the exact location of an object due to the lack of reference. ^ top ^

China's parliament elects new state leadership (Xinhua)
2013-03-14
Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, was elected president of the People's Republic of China (PRC) and chairman of the PRC Central Military Commission (CMC) on Thursday. When Liu Yunshan, executive chairman of the presidium for the first session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC), announced the election results, Xi stood up and bowed to nearly 3,000 NPC deputies in the Great Hall of the People. Amid thundering applause, he shook hands with Hu Jintao, who had served as head of state since 2003. Born in 1953 into a revolutionary family from Fuping of northwest China's Shaanxi Province, Xi joined the CPC in January 1974. He graduated from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Tsinghua University with a major in Marxist theory and ideological and political education. From the Loess Plateau to the southeast coast and then to Beijing, and from county-level official to the central leadership, Xi has had a well-rounded political career. On Nov. 15, 2012, he was elected general secretary of the CPC Central Committee at the first plenum of the 18th CPC Central Committee and became the first top Party leader born after October 1949, when the People's Republic of China was founded. Xi's performance as Party leader in the past four months has been impressive, said Cai Jiming, an NPC deputy. "I am inspired by Xi's elaboration on the 'Chinese dream,'" he said. "He has advocated a new working style and shown resolve in pushing forward reform and fighting corruption, which is refreshing to me." Li Yuanchao, a 62-year-old member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, was elected vice president. From 2007 to 2012, Li headed the Organization Department of the CPC Central Committee. The plenary meeting also saw the elections of leaders and members of the 12th NPC Standing Committee, the permanent organ of the country's parliament. Zhang Dejiang, a 66-year-old member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, was elected chairman of the NPC Standing Committee. He replaced Wu Bangguo, who held the position for the past decade. The new top legislator and his predecessor also enjoyed a warm handshake after the election results were announced. Zhang, who graduated from the Department of Economics at Kim Il Sung University in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), has been vice premier since 2008. Before that, he led Zhejiang and Guangdong provinces, two of the country's most developed provinces. Li Jianguo, Wang Shengjun, Chen Changzhi, Yan Junqi, Wang Chen, Shen Yueyue, Ji Bingxuan, Zhang Ping, Qiangba Puncog, Arken Imirbaki, Wan Exiang, Zhang Baowen and Chen Zhu were elected vice chairpersons of the NPC Standing Committee. Wang Chen was also elected secretary-general of the NPC Standing Committee. A total of 2,963 deputies participated in the secret ballot under the supervision of 35 election monitors. In the conference hall, 28 ballot boxes had been installed for the elections. Each deputy cast four ballots -- crimson for president and vice president, bright red for CMC chairman, purple for leaders of the NPC Standing Committee and orange for members of the NPC Standing Committee. According to the election and appointment rules adopted at the NPC session, the elections of chairman, vice chairpersons and secretary-general of the 12th NPC Standing Committee, president and vice-president of the PRC, and chairman of the CMC are non-competitive. The elections of the 12th NPC Standing Committee members are competitive. A total of 161 members were elected from a pool of 174 candidates, bringing the 7-percent margin in the previous election five years ago to 8 percent. The NPC deputies also adopted a massive cabinet restructuring and streamlining plan aimed at reducing bureaucracy and making the government more efficient. [...]. ^ top ^

Xi Jinping completes rapid transfer of power (SCMP)
2013-03-15
Xi Jinping's formal election as new president yesterday saw him assume full control over the Communist Party, the state and the armed forces in a swift and orderly transfer of power from predecessor Hu Jintao. Only one of the nearly 3,000 deputies of the National People's Congress who voted in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing opposed Xi's succession. Three abstentions were recorded. Xi, 59, was also appointed head of the state Central Military Commission, a parallel government post to the party's top military position which he already held after becoming party leader in November. There was also one opposing vote and three abstentions in that election. Politburo member Li Yuanchao, who is not a member of the party's supreme, seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, was named vice-president, while Zhang Dejiang, a Politburo Standing Committee member, was elected as the new NPC chairman. The transition of power to Xi was smoother than the one a decade ago, when Hu had to wait for two years to take over as head of the military commission from Jiang Zemin. Analysts said the rapid transition of power indicated that Xi was a stronger leader who had settled power struggles among different factions of the party. This was largely due to his upbringing as the son of veteran revolutionary Xi Zhongxun and his close ties to the military, which he began establishing in 1979 when he served as secretary to Central Military Commission secretary general Geng Biao. Beijing-based political analyst Zhang Lifan said: "Xi got more support from the party because he is one of the princelings, who believe that they should inherit leadership." Zhang said Xi was shaping up to be a very different leader from Hu, whose leadership was considered weak. "Xi's style is more like a strongman leader than Hu," he said. Xi bowed to the deputies and shook hands with Hu when the results were announced. His accession to the top party, military and government posts within four months is unprecedented in the past few decades. It took Jiang four years to assume all the top posts after becoming party chief in 1989. The start of Xi's presidency comes amid mounting challenges at home and abroad. Internationally, China's rising power is seen as an opportunity and a threat in equal measure. Domestically, there is growing political awareness among the public, who are making greater demands on their leadership. For the past few months, Xi has rolled out eye-catching campaigns to crack down on corruption, cut official extravagance and streamline governance. But analysts doubt political reform will be on the new leadership's agenda. ^ top ^

Li Keqiang endorsed as Chinese premier (Xinhua)
2013-03-15
Li Keqiang was endorsed as Chinese premier Friday morning at the ongoing session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC), the country's top legislature. Nearly 3,000 NPC deputies voted to approve the nomination of Li, by newly-elected President Xi Jinping, as the candidate for premier at the ongoing parliament session. He has been the seventh premier since the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949, replacing Wen Jiabao who had headed the State Council since 2003. Li, born in 1955 in Anhui Province, joined the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 1976 and graduated from Peking University with law and economics degrees. After working as provincial leaders in Henan and Liaoning provinces, he was elected to the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee in 2007 and appointed vice premier in 2008. Li was re-elected to the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee in November. ^ top ^

 

Beijing

Beijing sees second-hand housing sales surge amid new rules (Xinhua)
2013-03-09
In the week since stricter measures were rolled out to tame China's property market, 9,400 units of second-hand homes were sold in Beijing, local authorities said Saturday. The figure marked a 140.5-percent week-on-week increase and a 279.5-percent increase from the period of Feb. 2-8, according to statistics published on the website of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Housing and Urban-Rural Development. Amid expectations for rising home prices, China's central government issued rules to further tighten controls on the property market on March 1. The government said in an online notice that homeowners who sell their homes will be levied an income tax as high as 20 percent on the profit they make on a transaction. Prior to the new rules, the income tax levied was 1 percent to 2 percent of the sale price. Echoing the new property control rules, Beijing has seen an 87-percent increase in the amount of second-hand homes on the housing market,according to statistics released by 5i5j Real Estate, a leading real estate agency in Beijing. Moreover, inquiries and registrations from people considering purchasing homes also rose last week. First-time home buyers and those looking to improve their living conditions are the two major groups in the second-hand housing market, said Hu Jinghui, vice president of 5i5j Real Estate. Hu forecast that the currently hot second-hand housing market will soon cool and the sales volume will plummet. ^ top ^

Beijing pollution fight 'greater than for Olympics'(China Daily)
2013-03-13
A leading figure of the Beijing Olympics said the capital is doing more to ensure blue skies than it did for the historic event. "We went all out to improve the environment and had 'truly exceptional Games' in 2008," said Ji Lin, who was head of venue construction for the Olympics. "Now we are addressing air pollution on a larger scale and with more investment than was possible when we prepared for the Games." In addition to capping coal consumption in Beijing, the city is seeking to get neighboring Tianjin, Hebei and Shanxi to rally behind the fight against pollution, Ji, chairman of the capital's top advisory body, the Beijing Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, told China Daily. The conversion to gas of coal-burning boilers, each producing less than 20 metric tons of steam per hour, was completed in the capital last year, he said. These boilers supplied heating for about 200,000 households, the Beijing News reported in January. "By the end of next year, we'll have transformed the remaining 33 larger coal-burning boilers, which, together with last year's effort, means an additional use of 600 million cubic meters of natural gas and a reduction of coal by 900,000 tons a year," said Ji, a member of the National Committee of the CPPCC, the country's top advisory body. The transformation will slash sulfur dioxide by 3,500 tons a year and nitrogen oxide by 2,250 tons, Ji said. Both are major pollutants tainting Beijing skies. "We were not ready to do this before, or in, 2008, since we didn't have the resources - natural gas, for one thing, was not in ample supply," he said. Experts have blamed Beijing's smog-inducing fine particles, known as PM2.5, on emissions from coal-burning power plants, heating stations and vehicle exhaust. The capital experienced one of the longest stretches of smoggy days in years last month. And again last week, Beijing residents gazed into the sky only to see a blanket of suffocating smog. "In tackling air pollution, it's fair to say that we've attached great importance to the issue, and we'll lay more emphasis on it; we've worked hard, and we'll work harder," Ji, a former vice-mayor, said. The government is launching four mega-projects to set up periphery power generation and heating centers on the four sides of the city, he said. ^ top ^

 

Shanghai

More dead pigs retrieved from Shanghai river (Xinhua)
2013-03-11
The number of dead pigs found in Shanghai's Huangpu River increased to 2,800 after an extra 1,600 of the corpses were fished out by Sunday evening, city authorities announced on Monday, adding that they may have come from neighboring Zhejiang Province. Labels pinned in the ears of the pigs for tracing purposes have indicated they come from the upper reaches of Jiaxing City in east China's Zhejiang Province. Local media in the Jiaxing region have reported residents dumping dead pigs into the river since March 4, authorities with the Information Office of Shanghai Municipality said. Jiaxing authorities admitted the dumping of dead pigs in the water, but pointed out the labels on the ears only indicate the birthplace of the animals, while where they spent the rest of their lives is still unknown. Laboratory tests found porcine circovirus in one water sample taken from the Huangpu River, a water source for city residents, according to sources with the Shanghai municipal agricultural commission. The virus can spread among pigs but not to human beings, a commission statement said. All other tests on the river water provided negative results. Water quality in Shanghai has not been affected by the floating pig cadavers, according to the city's water supply bureau. Water quality in the Huangpu River is similar with last year, it said. ^ top ^

Pig carcasses in river result of weather and illnesses, not epidemic: officials (SCMP)
2013-03-14
The large number of pig carcasses dumped in rivers in Jiaxing, Zhejiang province, was due to a lack of proper disposal facilities for animals that had died on farms from illnesses or the weather, not an outbreak of disease, pig collectors and villagers say. Jiaxing, about 100 kilometres upstream from Shanghai, is the suspected source of the nearly 6,000 dead pigs retrieved recently from the Huangpu River, which flows through the heart of the country's largest city. A government crackdown last year on an underground market for dead pigs that were butchered for illegal pork may also have contributed to the rise in dumping, farmers from Jiaxing's Yongfeng village said. Pig sales are the biggest contributor to villagers' incomes. Gu Jinlin, who collects dead pigs from the village's farms, said the number of animals that had died had risen at the start of the year, but the village lacked the means to dispose of all the carcasses properly. An employee of the village committee, Gu said he collected 40 to 50 dead pigs a day and carted them to "non-hazardous treatment pits" - 100-cubic-metre holes, five metres deep, with concrete walls. […] He said there were five pits in the village, and the village committee was looking for land to build another one. Zhejiang's agriculture department had previously said that most of the dumped pigs had frozen to death. Gu and another villager who declined to be named said some dead pigs used to be sold to illegal dealers but a government crackdown last year had slashed the number of such transactions. […] "They were made into stuff like meat sauce. Last year some dealers were arrested." Another villager said the sale of dead pigs used to be common, but had stopped recently. […] In an online interview yesterday, Jiaxing's rural economic bureau said the city was not the only source of carcasses in the Huangpu River, but did not say which other places were to blame. The bureau insisted that no epidemics had occurred among pigs in the area, which raised over 7 million animals last year, including more than 300,000 that had been disposed of through "non-hazardous treatment". About 70,000 pigs had died this year due to poor farm practices and weather, it said. Shanghai's government said yesterday it had sped up construction of barriers on the Huangpu River to prevent more pigs from floating downstream. Water quality was still in line with national standards and the number of dead pigs retrieved had dropped on Tuesday, it said.. ^ top ^

More than 7,500 dead pigs found in Shanghai's Huangpu River (SCMP)
2013-03-15
The number of dead pigs found in Shanghai's Huangpu River rose to more than 7,500 as workers retrieved another 944 yesterday, Shanghai's municipal government said. In addition to closer monitoring of water quality, municipal food supervisors launched spot checks on pork in markets to prevent the use of dumped pig carcasses. In a statement on Sina weibo yesterday, the government insisted that water quality was normal, and no pork of unknown origin has been found in markets. The area where the carcasses were found was the source for nine water plants, which provide 22 per cent of the municipality's drinking water. It said all the pigs retrieved had either been incinerated or buried in seven-metre deep holes with quicklime. Meanwhile, the neighbouring city of Jiaxing, the source of the carcasses, said it had a new Communist Party chief. At a Jiaxing government meeting on Wednesday, the resignation of the city's party secretary, Li Weining, was announced. He will become the Zhejiang provincial government's secretary general and be succeeded by Jiaxing mayor and deputy party chief Lu Jun. A staff member at the Jiaxing municipal party committee's general office denied the move had anything to do with the latest scandal. "It was decided a long time ago," he said. "The Zhejiang Daily published the provincial party committee's decision about the transfer half a month ago to solicit public opinion. It's just the timing for the announcement was bad." As the search went on for more dead pigs in the Huangpu River, similar problems were reported in a branch of the Yangtze River in Hubei. Thirty-eight dead pigs, mostly young ones, were found in a section of the Wulong River in Yichang's Dianjun district, Xinhua reported yesterday. Local authorities were still checking where they had come from and emphasised that water from the river was used only for irrigation, it said. Yichang police said on their Sina microblog yesterday that preliminary investigations had showed they were dumped by pig farmers. An official from Shanghai's city environment authority was quoted by the Xinmin Weekly as saying that dead pigs floating in the Huangpu River had been a problem for more than a decade. The number usually rose in late spring and early summer, and in late summer and early autumn, it said. Several farmers in Jiaxing have said that a black market for dead pigs existed in the past couple of years, adding to public concerns that pork from dead pigs was finding its way onto dinner tables. The city produced more than 4.6 million pigs last year, with 1.5 million going to Shanghai and the rest mainly to Suzhou in Jiangsu province, a report on Jiaxing Daily's website said on Wednesday. The report said one farmer, tracked down from the ear label of a pig retrieved by Shanghai workers, had admitted throwing dead pigs in the river. The report that of the other 13 ear labels Shanghai officials found and sent to the Jiaxing government, seven were not complete and could not be traced, while the rest were being checked.. ^ top ^

 

Guangdong

10 arrested after village land clashes in Guangdong (Global Times)
2013-03-11
A village chief in Jieyang, South China's Guangdong Province has been arrested, alongside another nine suspects, after a recent land deal dispute resulted in chaos and some injuries, the local government revealed over the weekend. Li Baoyu, the head of the Shangpu village committee, was detained due to his involvement in physical confrontations with local villagers, according to a statement released by Jiexi county government's publicity department on Saturday, adding that Li's nomination as the director of the village committee had also been revoked. Meanwhile, both the head of the Mianhu township and the local Party chief have also been deprived of their posts for "incompetent handling" of the mass incident. Another 21 suspects are still at large, said the statement, which added that the land contract signed on January 17 had now been nullified. On February 12 and 14, locals voiced their dissatisfaction over the land deal, under which the largest stretch of farmland in the village would be contracted to an investment company by the village committee. On February 22, Li hired thugs from other villages to attack Shangpu villagers, resulting in four injuries. During the attack, 29 cars were destroyed and another two were burnt, said the statement. A local villager, who only gave his surname as Li, told the Global Times Sunday that the dismissal of local officials is "meaningless," and only a move by the county government to patch up the incident quickly. Li said that villagers want Li Baoyu and the thugs he hired to be severely punished, adding that another attack took place on Saturday night. The government move has been applauded by some netizens after being made public, but many also questioned corruption in grass-root elections. Dang Guoying, a researcher with the Rural Development Institute under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times Sunday that in order to stamp out corruption in rural areas and avoid unrest caused by land disputes, land reform has to be carried out. He noted that the current system of collective ownership of land in rural areas should be changed and any property held in the public interest should not be used by anyone for personal benefit. "The purpose of the land must be clearly specified and no change of purpose should be allowed," said Dang. According to the Jiexi government, alleged gang leader Wu Guicun has been listed as "most wanted" by the public security ministry, and an investigation of the village's corruption problem will soon be underway. It added that the injured villagers would receive free medical treatment. ^ top ^

Order back in Guangdong village after land clashes (Global Times)
2013-03-12
The government in Jiexi county, Guangdong Province, on Monday said order had been restored to a local village, where chaos erupted in late February due to a land dispute. The county government acknowledged clashes took place on Sunday during police efforts to tear down roadblocks set up by locals in Shangpu village. In a press release the county government said villagers had started to tear down their makeshift roadblocks voluntarily on Monday. The roadblocks were set up after thugs stormed the village on February 22. The thugs were allegedly hired by Li Baoyu, the village's former chief, whose illegal inking of a land sale contract was opposed by villagers. Li has been arrested. The county said that the public security department went to tear down the roadblocks near Shangpu early Sunday in accordance with law. The press release said a few villagers "stubbornly instigated trouble and incited other villagers to disrupt the police," adding that wrecked vehicles were also torched. Police took some villagers, who stayed at the scene and refused to cooperate, away for "education," while a few others who suffered minor injuries during the clash were hospitalized, the press release stated. A Shangpu villager surnamed Li said that the vehicles were used by thugs and seized by the villagers, adding villagers resisted having them taken away amid fear their evidence of the crime would be destroyed. Li accused the police of cutting off electricity and communications during their operation as well as firing tear gas at villagers and beating them, causing more than 30 people to be severely injured. Five villagers were also taken away by police, he added. ^ top ^

 

Tibet

Tibetan lamas write thank you letter to Xi (Xinhua)
2013-03-09
Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, on Saturday expressed his best wishes to Tibetans after receiving a 3-meter-long thank you letter from 108 Tibetan lamas. "Please convey my best wishes to all. Tashi delek," Xi said, using a Tibetan phrase for extending good luck and best wishes, while attending a panel discussion of the Tibetan delegation to the first session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC). NPC deputy Losang Tenpa presented Xi with a hada, a strip of raw silk and linen that conveys good blessings, as well as the hand-written thank you letter from the 108 high monks of Tibetan Buddhism. "The high monks in Tibet are grateful to the CPC for its religious policies, so they wrote the letter that I'm presenting to you," Losang Tenpa said. Xi also received hadas from another two Tibetan deputies. The central authorities have always placed great importance on the development and stability of Tibet and cared about the lives of local people, he said. Xi expressed his hope that people of all ethnic groups in Tibet could carry out the central government's policies and stay on a development path of Chinese characteristics and Tibetan features. Tibet should find an effective way to maintain long-term stability and realize fast growth so the region can become a society of moderate prosperity along with the rest of the country by 2020, he said. ^ top ^

Nepal police arrest Tibet activists on anniversary of anti-China uprising (SCMP)
2013-03-11
Nepalese police arrested 18 people in Kathmandu on suspicion of "anti-China activities" yesterday, the 54th anniversary of the 1959 rebellion against Chinese sovereignty over Tibet. All but three were released from custody within hours, police said. Nepal, home to around 20,000 Tibetans, is under intense pressure from Beijing over the exiles, and has repeatedly said it would not tolerate what it calls "anti-China activities". On February 13 a Tibetan monk doused himself in petrol in a Kathmandu restaurant and set himself on fire, in the 100th self-immolation by a Tibetan since 2009 in a wave of protest against Chinese rule. The gruesome burnings, most of which have occurred in Tibetan-inhabited areas of China, are seen as a sign of desperation in the community over perceived religious and political persecution in Chinese-ruled Tibet. The Nepalese government had stepped up security efforts ahead of the anniversary. Home ministry spokesman Shanker Koirala was quoted as saying last week the government was making "security arrangements … to foil any untoward incidents". ^ top ^

Panchen Lama takes higher advisory post (Xinhua)
2013-03-12
Three years after making his political debut, the 11th Panchen Lama, a spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, has been entrusted with a more important role of advising China on state affairs. He was elected as a member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee, China's top political advisory body, on Monday. The elevation comes amid anticipation that the Panchen Lama, who turned 23 in February, will make greater political contributions through his religious influence. […] The 11th Panchen Lama, with the secular name Gyaincain Norbu, was born in February 1990 in Lhari County, in northern Tibet's Nagqu Prefecture. He was chosen as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama in November 1995 after a lot-drawing ceremony among three candidates in the Jokhang Temple in Tibet's capital of Lhasa. In 2010, the Panchen Lama was elected vice president of the Buddhist Association of China and became a member of the CPPCC National Committee. […] After a deadly riot broke out in Lhasa on March 14, 2008, he strongly condemned the violence, saying that it ran counter to Buddhist tenets. "The rioters' acts not only harmed the interests of the nation and the people, but also violated the aims of Buddhism," he said. "We resolutely oppose all attempts to split the country and undermine ethnic unity. We strongly condemn the crimes of a tiny number of people," he said. He also presided over a prayer meeting held in Beijing on May 21, 2008, during which time he prayed for those living in areas in southwest China's Sichuan Province that were struck by an 8-magnitude earthquake on May 12. ^ top ^

 

Xinjiang

Over 3,000 affected in Xinjiang quake (Xinhua)
2013-03-13
A total of 3,256 people were affected and 864 houses damaged after an earthquake hit northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on Monday morning, the local government said Wednesday. A 5.2-magnitude quake jolted Artux City, Kizilsu Kirgiz Autonomous Prefecture, at 11:01 a.m. Monday. According to the latest statistics from the city government, as of 6 p.m. Wednesday, 3,256 people had been affected and 864 houses had been destroyed or damaged at the epicenter. In the worst-hit areas, 794 people have been evacuated and moved to safety, and an elementary school suspended classes after structural damage was found. Relief materials have been sent to the vicitims. Artux lies in the southwest of Xinjiang, about 1,500 km from the regional capital Urumqi. ^ top ^

Xinjiang murder suspect (Global Times)
2013-03-15
Xinjiang police have arrested a suspect in an unprovoked attack that killed five people and injured seven others in the city of Korla on March 7, the region's news portal ts.cn reported Thursday. According to the public security department of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, the killer Aizitiaili Mamuti, 27, is a farmer of Uyghur descent from Hejing county. Police said he has a gambling addiction and bad relations with family members. On March 7, he quarreled with his family members, and then took out his anger with a murderous attack, police said. Around 3 pm, in front of a supermarket in Korla, he killed three men and two women, including one Uyghur and four people of Han descent, and wounded five men and two women, including one Uyghur and six Han. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Taiwan deputy defence chief laments military readiness in face of threats (SCMP)
2013-03-14
Taiwan's military has warned that a lack of crisis awareness, a low birth rate and resource constraints could threaten security in the face of a growing threat from the mainland. The deputy defence minister, Andrew Yang Nien-dzu, said yesterday there was still a long way to go before Taipei could establish "military confidence-building measures" with Beijing to avert that threat. The defence ministry listed three factors that challenged the island's security in the English-edition of its 2013 Quadrennial Defence Review, which assesses military readiness and policies over the past four years. […] The report said there was a need to "improve public awareness of espionage activities, encourage public participation in defence affairs, and strengthen the public's vigilance of maritime territorial sovereignty". Taiwan and the mainland were bitter political rivals after their civil war ended in 1949, but relations have improved greatly since Ma Ying-jeou became the island's president in 2008 and adopted a policy of engaging Beijing. While rapprochement has led to the signing of 18 economic and other non-political co-operation agreements, Beijing has not renounced the use of force against Taiwan if it declared formal independence. The defence ministry also said the previous population policy, which discouraged parents from having more children, had resulted in the island having one of the lowest birth rates in the world, which had created a manpower shortage for the military. […] Taiwan's military has decided to gradually phase out conscription in favour of a fulltime professional force by the end of next year. However, a lack of incentives, including higher salaries and welfare packages, has made all-volunteer recruitment difficult, Taiwanese media and lawmakers have said. Noting the mainland's military expansion, North Korea's growing nuclear threat, and escalating regional tensions over territorial claims in the South and East China seas, the ministry warned about the effects of a steadily declining military budget in recent years. Yang said Taipei was not yet ready to establish military mutual trust or confidence-building measures with Beijing. "The two sides must first establish political mutual trust," he said. "Although the Communists have stressed peaceful development of cross-strait relations … there is still a long, long way to go for the two sides to build adequate trust before they hold a political dialogue.". ^ top ^

 

Economy

China to boost coalbed gas sector (Xinhua)
2013-03-11
China will earmark more funds and roll out favorable policies to further exploit its coalbed methane reserves amid increased efforts to step up new energy exploration, the central government has said. The Chinese government will allocate more money from the central budget and encourage the inflow of private capital for this emerging energy sector, according to an industrial policy released online by the National Energy Administration on Monday. Preferential measures including helping enterprises to finance and improving the gas pricing mechanism are also noted in the policy. China plans to complete the construction of two major production bases in the country's central and western regions in 2015, and increase the number to three to five in another five to 10 years. The Ministry of Land and Resources said previously that the country is aiming to produce 16 billion cubic meters of coalbed methane and put 7.4 billion cubic meters into use in 2013. China's coalbed methane reserves are estimated at 36.8 trillion cubic meters, ranking as the third-largest in the world after Russia and Canada. ^ top ^

Inflation in govt cross hairs (Global Times)
2013-03-14
China needs to be on high alert in the face of inflationary pressure, which the central bank will tackle via various means, the head of the country's central bank said Wednesday. Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People's Bank of China (PBC), said during a press conference on the sidelines of the 12th National People's Congress that the bank aims to stabilize consumer prices and inflation by fine-tuning monetary policy and taking other measures. The warning came after the country released a year-on-year rise of 3.2 percent in its February consumer price index (CPI), the biggest increase since last April. The governor also said that a prudent monetary policy, which is relatively neutral, would be taken, when being asked of the 13-percent increase target set for this year's broad money supply, or M2, in the government work report delivered by Premier Wen Jiabao. "This policy needs to draw a balance among its four purposes including lowering inflation, pushing economic growth, promoting employment and keeping a healthy international balance of payments," Zhou said, noting that in most cases, reining in inflation was the top priority. "For the central bank, stabilizing prices is critical, and economic growth trails behind," Zhou Chunsheng, a professor of finance at the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business, told the Global Times. The M2, which covers cash in circulation and all deposits, saw a figure of 97.42 trillion yuan ($15.68 trillion) by the end of 2012, registering a year-on-year increase of 13.8 percent. The central bank has been highlighting the necessity of stabilizing consumer prices when setting the M2 growth target. The February CPI figure, which was up from the growth of 2.0 percent registered in January, is usually pushed up by the Spring Festival shopping rush, during which the prices of consumer products rise. "Only when we control the M2 increase rate within a reasonable range can we avoid a sudden rise in prices," Zhou Xiaochuan said. He also alleviated concerns by saying that the M2 figures will not necessarily put consumer price stability in jeopardy, thanks to the country's huge share of savings in the national economy and its heavy reliance on indirect financing that supplies capital through bank loans. […] Experts contacted by the Global Times Wednesday offered varied opinions on whether the country can limit the CPI increase to below the 3.5-percent target set in the government work report. "The inflation is mild, and it won't be difficult to reach the target, as we predict a 2.8-percent CPI increase," Zhu Jianfang, chief macroeconomic economist at CITIC Securities, told the Global Times. Zhu also listed other factors that might increase inflation. "Whether train ticket prices increase after the restructuring of the Ministry of Railways and whether gas prices rise due to the higher standards being followed by State-owned petrol refiners still require further observation." [...]. ^ top ^

 

DPRK and South Korea

DPRK cuts communication hotline with S. Korea: report (Xinhua)
2013-03-11
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) has reportedly severed an inter-Korean communication hotline following its threat to do so last week, the unification ministry said here Monday. The ministry said the DPRK seems to have cut the emergency link set up to deal with any contingency along the demilitarized zone of Panmunjom, which separates the two Koreas, Yonhap News Agency reported Monday. ^ top ^

Tensions rise as US-ROK drill begins (China Daily)
2013-03-12
The Republic of Korea and the United States launched a joint military exercise on Monday as Pyongyang cut off its hotline with Seoul to denounce the drill. Also on Monday, the ROK's new foreign minister, Yun Byung-se, said that the security situation on the Korean Peninsula has become "very grave", Yonhap News Agency reported. Meanwhile, China again urged all parties to act with restraint and resolve the issue through political dialogue. Observers said the possibility of confrontation between the ROK and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is not high, but no one should increase uncertainty on the peninsula. "The current situation on the peninsula is highly complex and sensitive," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying at a daily news briefing. "China calls on relevant parties to exercise calm and restraint, and avoid actions that might further escalate tensions." Beijing urges all relevant parties to find effective ways for a complete resolution of the issue within the framework of the Six-Party Talks, Hua said, adding that China would like to work with all parties. Hua's remarks came as a two-week "Key Resolve" military exercise jointly conducted by the ROK and the US began on Monday, while the DPRK's state media said that the 1953 armistice agreement that halted the Korean War is no longer valid. Pyongyang had earlier condemned the joint maneuvers as a provocative invasion rehearsal. "Key Resolve" is largely a computer-simulated exercise, but still involves the mobilization of more than 10,000 ROK forces and 3,500 US military personnel. […] The ROK is scheduled to assume wartime operational control of the combined forces in December 2015. Although it is a routine military drill, it will add to the tension on the peninsula, said Wang Fan, assistant president of China Foreign Affairs University. The US and the ROK attempted to deter the DPRK with such exercises, but the drill will further provoke Pyongyang rather than intimidate it, he added. The ROK plays a bigger role in this routine military drill this year, which has angered the DPRK, said Zhang Liangui, an expert on Korean Peninsula studies at the Party School of the Communist Party of China Central Committee. The DPRK will upgrade its security level, and the possibility of military accidents cannot be ruled out, Zhang said. With regard to the hotline, the ROK's Unification Ministry confirmed that the DPRK did not answer calls from the ROK on Monday, according to AFP. The two sides habitually speak twice a day on the hotline, installed in 1971. The DPRK has severed it five occasions in the past, the most recent being in 2010. ROK President Park Geun-hye said in her first state conference that Seoul should firmly deal with Pyongyang's provocation, but should not give up pushing the trust-building process on the Korean Peninsula, Yonhap said. ^ top ^

UN says North Korea cannot end war armistice (SCMP)
2013-03-12
The United Nations said on Monday that an armistice which halted the 1950-53 Korean War remains valid despite claims by North Korea to have scrapped the accord. “Let me just stress here that the armistice agreement is still valid and still in force” as it was approved by the UN General Assembly, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters. “The terms of the armistice agreement do not allow either side, unilaterally, to free themselves from it.” North Korean state media had said earlier that the armistice was “completely invalid.” That statement came as Pyongyang steps up tensions over UN sanctions against a nuclear bomb test last month and joint South Korean-US military exercises launched on Monday. UN leader Ban Ki-moon believes that the 60-year-old armistice remains a “critical” document, said Nesirky. Ban calls on North Korea “to continue to respect the terms of the armistice agreement as it was approved by the General Assembly,” the spokesman added. Meanwhile on Monday, the Washington slapped sanctions on North Korea's primary foreign exchange bank and four senior officials, upping the pressure on Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear programme. The new measures imposed by the Treasury and State Departments comes after Pyongyang flouted international resolutions and conducted its third nuclear test last month, triggering global condemnation. Washington will “continue to work with allies and partners to tighten national and international sanctions to impede North Korea's nuclear and missile programs,” US national security advisor Tom Donilon said in New York. The Treasury imposed sanctions on the Foreign Trade Bank (FTB) of North Korea and Paek Se-Bong, the chairman of the North's Second Economic Committee, which is responsible for overseeing the production of ballistic missiles. Separately, the US State Department named to its sanctions list three North Korean officials with links to Pyongyang's weapons program. […] The State Department warned Pyongyang that it would “continue to face isolation if it refuses to take concrete steps to comply with its international obligations and address the concerns of the international community.” US sanctions forbid any US individual, business or organisation from any transactions with the people or groups named. The announcement came as South Korea and the United States launched joint drills Monday involving thousands of troops, defying North Korea's apocalyptic threat to repudiate the 60-year-old Korean War armistice in retaliation. The start of the two-week “Key Resolve” exercise follows a week of escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula, with Pyongyang also threatening nuclear war over UN sanctions. Donilon, speaking to the Asia Society, called such statements “highly provocative” but reaffirmed that Washington was “committed to the defence of our homeland and our allies. “North Korea's claims may be hyperbolic, but as to the policy of the United States, there should be no doubt: We will draw upon the full range of our capabilities to protect against, and to respond to, the threat posed to us and to our allies by North Korea.” He also reiterated that Washington was willing to hold “authentic negotiations with North Korea,” but said it “refuses to reward bad North Korean behaviour.” “To get the assistance it desperately needs and the respect it claims it wants, North Korea will have to change course,” he said. “No country, including China, should conduct ‘business as usual' with a North Korea that threatens its neighbours. China's interest in stability on the Korean Peninsula argues for a clear path to ending North Korea's nuclear program,” he stressed.. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Rosneft to reduce the supply of petroleum products into Mongolia by 25% (InfoMongolia)
2013-03-12
The Board of Directors of the Russian Rosneft Company at its recent meeting approved the deal between Rosneft and Mongolia (the buyer) for the sale of petroleum products for 2013 in volume of 1.068 million ton, worth 1.1 billion USD, excluding VAT. This amount equals up to 25% less compare to last year's trade. In 2012, Rosneft transported to Mongolia 1.4 million tons of petroleum products. Total cost of oil in 2012 was 1 billion USD. In 2013, the company plans to deliver to Mongolia 1.068 million tons of petroleum products, but the cost of supply due to price increases would estimate at 1.1 billion USD. At the end of 2012 the volume of sales of fuel to Asia amounted to 8.5 million tons, the total amount realized by the company was 57.3 million tons. Revenue from sales in Asia amounted up to 228 billion Rubles or 7.4 billion USD in 2012. Between Russia and Mongolia, there is currently no long-term agreement for the supply of petroleum products, but at the XVI Intergovernmental Committee meeting between the authorities of the two counties held in Ulaanbaatar in December 2012, Mongolia requested on negotiations on long-term reliable supply of petroleum products from Russia, moreover to develop an industry on oil products with Russian assistance. Mongolia imports almost 100% of fuel from the Russian Federation. Rosneft is the leader of Russia's petroleum industry, and ranks among the world's top publicly traded oil and gas companies. The Company is primarily engaged in exploration and production of hydrocarbons, production of petroleum products and petrochemicals, and marketing of outputs. Rosneft has been included in the Russian Government's List of Strategic Enterprises and Organizations. The state holds 75.16% in the Company (through OJSC ROSNEFTEGAZ), while approximately 15% of shares are in free-float. ^ top ^

Oyu Tolgoi LLC denies reports of accident in processing plant (news.mn)
2013-03-12
Oyu Tolgoi LLC has denied reports about an accident in their processing plant on March 9th that may have caused injuries to some workers. The Chief Manager of Oyu Tolgoi LLC, Ch.Burenbayar, made a statement denying the released reports. He said in the statement “disinformation might come from the fact that a section of lime wash tubes came free of its holdings and caused one injury on December 12th. Some workers received preventative treatment. Currently the plant is running normally. An investigation to discover the cause of the incident is in process. A top priority of Oyu Tolgoi LLC is workers' health and safety. We are seeking the reason behind the accident to prevent possible further accidents and injuries.”. ^ top ^

Minister N. Batbayar: OT LLC Accepts Government's Demands (Montsame)
2013-03-13
The Oyu tolgoi LLC has accepted the Mongolian side's demands and says it will give a concrete response to them. It was reported by N.Batbayar, the Minister of Economic Development, at a press conference Tuesday. He said the 6th shareholders' meeting of the OT LLC is considered as running these days and that working sub-groups are functioning. As we informed before, six problems have accumulated in the shareholders--the government of Mongolia--the Rio Tinto ties, such as: Conflict of interests of the consulting company which worked for the Mongolian side; The investment agreement's clauses that do not meet the national laws; dramatically increased investments of the project and implementation of the feasibility study; The special license owned by the Entree Gold Inc; Realization of the Mongolian laws and resolutions; The payment for management services. The government demands that the investors' side explain a reason of augmenting the investment cost and other problems. If these requirements are fulfilled, the government will be ready to approve the 2013 action expenses for the OT project. The OT LLC has admitted own and the investors' obligation to strictly obey Mongolian laws, and says it intends to release a research into increasing the initial investments According to the Minister, the meeting is likely to run on March 20 after a preparation is fully made. ^ top ^

“Miner and Supplier 2013” forum (news.mn)
2013-03-14
This is the 3rd year that Mine and Mineral Property Exchange has organized “Miner and Supplier 2013” forum in Ulaanbaatar. The “Miner and Supplier 2013” forum and exhibition begins in Chinggis Hotel on Thursday March 14th. This year Mine and Mineral Property Exchange is organizing the forum jointly with Minister of Industry and Agriculture. During the forum future from the Mongolian Government, better mining technology and legal environment of the mining supply sector will be raised. As well as the forum, national and international companies will show off their best technologies during the exhibition “Miner and Supplier 2013” at Khaan restaurant in the first floor of Chinggis Hotel. ^ top ^

 

Andrin Eichin
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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