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
  29.4-3.5.13, No. 473  
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Table of contents

DPRK and South Korea

Mongolia

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Foreign Policy

EU foreign policy chief Ashton holds talks in China (SCMP)
2013-04-27
European Union foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton held talks on Saturday with officials in China in the first visit by a top-ranking EU official to the country under its new leadership. “You are the very first head of an EU institution to visit China after the inauguration of the new government in China,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at the start of a meeting with Ashton at the foreign ministry. Wang said the visit's timing was symbolic of the importance “placed by both the EU and you yourself on the Chinese-EU relationship”. High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Ashton said she had wanted to visit as early as possible to “discuss deepening our collaboration”. Before departing Brussels, Ashton, who is also a vice president of the European Commission, had said in a statement that given China's recent change in leadership, it was time “to renew ties”. […] Ashton was set to meet [State Council] Yang [Jiechi] later on Saturday. Earlier, she met new Defence Minister Chang Wanquan. Her talks in Beijing were expected to focus on global issues including Iran, Syria, North Korea and Afghanistan. The EU and China are major trading partners but ties have been strained at times by disputes over market access. China has consistently backed greater European integration but has resented criticism by Brussels of its human rights record, which Beijing sees as interference in its internal affairs. […]. ^ top ^

S.Korea, China reaffirms push for FTA in 5th talks (Xinhua)
2013-04-29
South Korea and China reaffirmed their push for the bilateral free trade deal in the fifth round of talks held in China last week, the South Korean trade ministry said Monday. "Both sides reaffirmed each other's will to push for the free trade agreement (FTA) in the negotiation that was held for the first time since new governments of both nations had been launched, " the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) said in a statement. Seoul and Beijing held the fifth round of talks over the Sino-ROK free trade deal for three days through Sunday in northeast China's city of Harbin. The next meeting planned to be held in South Korea, with no detailed time schedule decided. […]. ^ top ^

China willing to help Israel, Palestinians resume peace talks: envoy (Xinhua)
2013-04-29
Chinese special envoy to the Middle East Wu Sike said here Monday that China is willing to exert efforts for the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Wu made the remarks after holding separate meetings in Jerusalem with Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni who is in charge of negotiations with the Palestinians. Wu said that one of the purposes of his current visit to Israel and the Palestinians is to make preparations for the upcoming visits to China of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, both set for early May. The planned visits to China by Israeli and Palestinian leaders indicate that the new Chinese leadership devotes much attention to the Middle East issues and the development of the relations between China, Israel and the Palestinians, said Wu, who arrived here Sunday for a two-day visit. […] China has always stood for resolving the Palestinian issue through negotiations and has been much concerned over the prolonged stalemate in the peace process, Wu said, adding that China is willing to push Israel and the Palestinians to take some practical moves in order to create a good atmosphere for the resumption of the peace process. Wu stressed that China has long believed that the Palestinian issue is the core of the Middle East issues and pushing for its solution will have a positive impact on the entire region. He said China always backs the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in peaceful co-existence with Israel, based on the two-state solution, which is the way to settle the Israel- Palestinian issue in the long run. China is ready to cooperate with the international community in playing a role in helping Israel and the Palestinians build mutual trust and resolve issues through negotiations, according to Wu. Before his visit to Israel, Wu paid a four-day visit to the Palestinians, during which he met with a number of senior Palestinian officials, including Tayeb Abdel Rahim, secretary- general of the Palestinian presidency. ^ top ^

ASEAN, Chinese FMs to meet in Beijing to discuss territorial disputes: ASEAN secretary-general (Xinhua)
2013-04-29
Secretary-General of Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Le Luong Minh said on Monday that foreign ministers of ASEAN member countries will have a meeting with their Chinese counterpart in Beijing to further discuss peaceful settlement on territorial disputes in the South China Sea. "The meeting between ASEAN foreign affairs ministers and Chinese foreign affairs minister has been scheduled in August or September this year in Beijing," Minh told Xinhua on the sidelines of a media briefing on the results of the recent high-profile ASEAN Summit held in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei. He said that during the summit, all ASEAN members agreed to assign their foreign ministries to continue to work actively with China on the way forward for early conclusion of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) on the basis of consensus. In his briefing, Minh said that ASEAN leaders reaffirmed the importance of peace, stability and maritime security in the region. They also underscored the importance of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), ASEAN's six-point Principles on the South China Sea and the Joint Statement of the 10th anniversary of the DOC. […] He added that ASEAN is looking forward to continued engagement with China in implementing the DOC in a full and effective manner, including through mutually agreed joint cooperative activities and projects. ^ top ^

Amid improving Sino-Indian ties, border stand-off baffles the experts (SCMP)
2013-04-30
[…] Welcome to the icy desert wastelands of Daulat Beg Oldi, a forgotten pit stop on the Silk Road catapulted to overnight geopolitical fame as two nuclear neighbours vie for its possession in a dangerous game of tactical brinkmanship. For two weeks now, Chinese and Indian soldiers have been standing eyeball to eyeball, barely 100 metres apart, at this easternmost point of the Karakoram Range on the western sector of the China-India border. Both sides claim the land as their own in an unusually public show of mutual defiance that threatens to unhinge some of their newfound comity in an otherwise fraught relationship, and cast a shadow on Premier Li Keqiang's visit to India next month. The trouble began when Indian media started reporting a "deep incursion" on April 15 in which a platoon of about 30 Chinese soldiers entered the Daulat Beg Oldi area in the Depsang Valley of eastern Ladakh in Indian-administered Kashmir. […] India and China do not have a real border marked out on the ground as they never got around to negotiating one. What they follow is an undemarcated Line of Actual Control (LAC), but each side has its own perception of where that line actually lies. As a result, it is not uncommon for patrols to stray into each other's territory. Years of painstaking talks have gone into creating an elaborate mechanism to prevent such transgressions from snowballing, keeping the peace for 25 years. What is different this time is that none of the standard operating procedures that comprise this peace mechanism seem to be working. […] New Delhi insists Chinese troops have entered 18 kilometres into Indian territory and must leave. Beijing maintains its soldiers are on the Chinese side of the LAC and won't budge. […] The confrontation has sent diplomats into overdrive to calm tempers before Li's India visit as both sides have set much store by the trip. Bilateral trade, barely about US$3 billion in 2000 following decades of shutting each other out after the war, has now reached nearly US$80 billion, making China India's largest trading partner. The aim is to reach US$100 billion by 2015, with both sides looking for greater access to each other's markets. […]. Li's choice of India as his first port of call had created a burst of goodwill in India for its symbolism. Going by protocol, it was Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh's turn to visit Beijing this year to reciprocate for former premier Wen Jiabao's tour in 2011. […] "China at this moment does not have anything to gain from asserting itself against India. If anything, as former Indian foreign minister Jaswant Singh puts it, China seems to pivot to Russia and India, even while it seems to adopt a more assertive attitude towards Japan and Southeast Asia," Lei [Guang, director of the 21st Century China Programme at the University of California, San Diego] says. That makes this stand-off, and its timing, even more baffling. […] According to [Dr Li Mingjiang, an assistant professor at S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore's Nanyang Technological University], Chinese and Indian armies have regular run-ins but the PLA is clearly showing more aggression this time. "It might have been caused by the new leadership's assertive stance on issues of national interest. President Xi has publicly urged the army to spare no efforts to defend China's territorial integrity and core interests," he says. […] Ashley Tellis, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, also believes the PLA has upped the stakes. "This one dramatically changes the status quo as the Chinese appear to have physically occupied new territory under Indian control," he says, pointing out the Chinese picked an area where India has been attempting to ramp up defences. India has recently reversed an ultra-defensive policy of not building infrastructure along the border lest it provides easy access to enemy forces. It is briskly laying roads and setting up airbases to catch up with dazzling Chinese facilities across the border that give China a far greater advantage in troop mobilisation should a conflict break out. This buzz of activity close to the LAC hasn't gone down well with local Chinese troops, who often disrupt these construction works, in turn feeding the Indian media with more incursion stories. […] […] Dr Dibyesh Anand, associate professor at the University of Westminster, London, sees in the Indian response a familiar pattern of selective leaks from the security establishment and jingoistic media outrage. "I don't see a major policy change by Beijing. It's an initiative of local commanders, accentuated by familiar Indian brouhaha as if Indians don't make similar incursions." "Local" is a word that New Delhi has also been using a lot to describe the incident. In the understated language of diplomats, a local military move is shorthand for one driven at field level for local tactical gains - as opposed to a top-down act of aggression, the way the media and the opposition parties are portraying it in India. Stressing the "local" aspect of the crisis also reflects efforts to not let the border face-off "spill over into the larger spectrum" of bilateral relations, as Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid puts it. […] But if history is anything to go by, common sense doesn't always dictate Sino-Indian relations. Daulat Beg Oldi could be a pit stop before the two Asian giants resume their journey on a modern-day Silk Road, or before they return to their old inimical ways. A pit stop before China and India go back to making history, or repeating it. ^ top ^

Chinese FM visits Thailand to boost bilateral relations (Xinhua)
2013-05-01
Visiting Chinese Foreign Minster Wang Yi met with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Wednesday, pledging to further promote bilateral relations. Speaking highly of the time-honored friendly relations between the two nations, Yingluck said Thailand is willing to deepen comprehensive cooperation with China by increasing political communication and maintaining the momentum of strong growth in bilateral trade. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the establishment of strategical partnership between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). As the country coordinator of China-ASEAN relations, Thailand will continue to facilitate cooperation in various fields between the two sides, Yingluck said. The lady prime minister also welcomed more Chinese people to visit the kingdom. Wang said China's new leadership, which took office in March, will continue to enrich its traditional friendship with Thailand and transform the political ties between the two countries into a strong driving force to boost mutual beneficial cooperation. The foreign minister suggested that China and Thailand deepen cooperation in fields of water management, railway, new energy and education and expand exchanges in fields of science, defence, tourism, etc. He said China expects to closely coordinate with Thailand in dealing with international and regional issues. Wang also held talks with Suraporn Tovichakchaikul, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand and met with Thai Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda and former deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai. At the invitation of Suraporn, Wang arrived in Bangkok on Tuesday for a two-day official visit. This is the first leg of his six-day Southeast Asian trip which will also take him to Indonesia, Singapore and Brunei. ^ top ^

S. Korean envoy on nuclear visit to China for talks (Xinhua)
2013-05-01
South Korea's top nuclear envoy Lim Sung-nam visited China Wednesday for talks with Chinese officials on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), according to Yonhap News Agency. During his two-day trip, Lim is expected to meet with his Chinese counterpart Wu Dawei and others officials to discuss issues of mutual concern, including DPRK's nuclear issue. Lim visited China one day after South Korea and the United States ended a joint massive military exercise amid tensions on the Korean Peninsula. ^ top ^

China's new envoy warns US against meddling on Diaoyus (SCMP)
2013-05-02
China's new ambassador to the US has warned Washington not to "drop a stone on its feet" by meddling in a territorial dispute between Beijing and Tokyo. In his first direct remarks on the territorial dispute since his appointment last month, Cui Tiankai also said China was alert to a "negative trend" of right-wing intentions in Japanese politics, and denounced Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's wearing of a camouflage uniform at a weekend exhibition as a political stunt. Analysts said the tough rhetoric was in line with the new Chinese leadership's increasing assertiveness in diplomatic affairs. US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Monday that the disputed Diaoyu Islands, known as the Senkakus in Japan, were under Japanese administration and fell under a US-Japanese security treaty. Cui said the United States should bear in mind that it was Japan that was creating tensions and warned that any mis-step by Washington could see it "suffer a big loss for little gain". […] "Other countries should not cause long-term consequences just because of their short-term needs." […] Last week, Beijing denounced a visit by Japanese lawmakers and officials to Tokyo's controversial Yasukuni shrine, which glorifies Japan's wartime past. Abe said his ministers "will not yield to any kind of intimidation" on their visits to the shrine. On Saturday, he wore a camouflage jacket and helmet while getting into a Japanese Ground Defence Force tank at a publicity event sponsored by a video-sharing website. "What kind of show is this?" Cui said. "I believe such actions are contrary to the common wishes and interests of the international community." He said Japan's invasion of China before the second world war had been an act of aggression and an "inhuman crime". Lin Xiaoguang, an international relations specialist at the Central Party School, said Cui's remarks indicated Beijing was contemplating action should Japan and the US get closer. "Cui is sending a warning to the US that Washington may get short-term gains if it contains China with Japan, but eventually it will lose," he said. "China is telling the US that it will not just sit and do nothing." President Xi Jinping called Japan's purchase of the islands a "farce" in September, when he was vice-president. China called off an annual financial meeting with Japanese and South Korean officials that was due to be held in New Delhi this week. Meanwhile, the vice-president of Japan's Liberal Democratic Party, Masahiko Komura, cancelled a trip to China due to difficulties in arranging a meeting with Xi. ^ top ^

China, India consulting on border issues: spokeswoman (Xinhua)
2013-05-02
China and India have engaged in close contact and consultation with aims to properly handle problems along their border, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said on Thursday. In response to Indian media reports of a "stand-off" along a western part of the China-India borderline, Hua Chunying said that the two sides are communicating with each other closely through a consultation and coordination mechanism on border issues. Through this contact, both sides have learned more about each other's concerns and stance, helping to find an appropriate solution to the problems, said the spokeswoman at a daily news briefing. The border issues are a problem left over from history, Hua said, adding that the two countries have reached consensus that they should not affect the overall bilateral relationship between China and India. […] The spokeswoman said it is inevitable for the neighboring countries to have certain problems along the border. "What is important is that the two sides should resolve the problems by friendly consultation through the mechanisms and related channels," she said, adding that maintaining peace and stability along the border is in both countries' interests. ^ top ^

China a firm force in maintaining peace, stability in South China Sea: Wang Yi (Xinhua)
2013-05-03
China is a staunch force in maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea, and it will continue its efforts in strengthening coordination and cooperation with the ASEAN to make contributions to the peace, stability, development and prosperity in the region, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Thursday. China has ample historical and jurisprudential evidences on its sovereignty over the Nansha islands and their adjacent seas, Wang stressed at a press conference after meeting with his Indonesian counterpart Marty Natalegawa. Speaking of China's position on the South China Sea issues, Wang emphasized the Chinese government has clear, steadfast and consistent resolve in safeguarding state sovereignty and territorial integrity. As a responsible power, Wang said, China will stick to its stands on the South China Sea issues, which can be reduced to devoting to maintaining the peace and stability in the South China Sea, effectively implementing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in an all-round way, and peacefully resolving relevant disputes through friendly negotiations with sovereign states directly concerned. China has always remained open to discussions on the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea, the minister said, adding China and ASEAN members have long shared the view of eventually concluding the COC on the basis of consensus reached by all parties, which has been included in the DOC. The consensus reached by China and Indonesia this time is that all parties shall, through working together, expanding common ground and removing disturbances, discuss and steadily promote the COC procedure in the process of implementing effectively the DOC in an all-round way, Wang said. He went on that China is willing to continue to hold high- profile meetings on the implementation of the DOC, and agrees to discuss on promoting the COC procedure under the framework of the joint working group on DOC implementation. ^ top ^

China baulks at 'long live emperor' chant by Japan's Abe (SCMP)
2013-05-03
Japan's hawkish Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, has apparently upset China when he attended a ceremony last week, the first time the country marked the anniversary of the day it regained sovereignty after its defeat in the second world war. The Restoration of Sovereignty Day event drew great interest from media and political analysts worldwide, but state broadcaster CCTV said most of its international peers missed one detail. Towards the end of the event, Abe and other guests, mostly men in dark suits, "threw their hands up in the air and cried ' banzai!' (long life) to send the royal couple off," Reuters said. Tenno heika banzai, or "long live the emperor", was commonly chanted by Japanese soldiers in the second world war, said CCTV, adding that it was "extremely unusual" for a top government official to use it after the war. Accusing Abe of "hijacking" the emperor for his own nationalist agenda, CCTV cited criticism of the chant from within Japan, quoting media, scholars and opposition party members. "It felt like we were back in pre-war times," CCTV quoted a Japanese citizen as saying. Japan denied that the chanting was planned, said CCTV. Mich Maruyama, a former journalist and independent business owner who lives in Niigata, told the South China Morning Post that banzai was a Japanese expression commonly used in celebrations and other happy occasions. "We say it when a kid passes an entrance exam or when a candidate wins an election," he said. Maruyama said the Japanese would also chant banzai to the emperor in gatherings at the Palace Plaza on New Year's Day.[...] Some others drew a parallel between Abe and China's Maoists. "If you are still chanting 'long live Chairman Mao' then you are in no position to criticise Abe," said a blogger. ^ top ^

China rejects Washington IPR report (Global Times)
2013-05-03
China expressed "deep regret" Thursday over a recent report from the US which lists China as a "priority watch country" for intellectual property rights (IPR) violations. China's foreign ministry, as well as its ministry of commerce (MOFCOM) pointed out in response that the Chinese government has made substantial progress in IPR legislation and enforcement. The annual Special 301 Report, published by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Wednesday, claimed China's grave IPR violations were worsened by its rising cyber theft, and has listed China as a major country for nine consecutive years in terms of IPR violations. Experts say the report shows the US' political distrust toward China, and say its accusations will bring harm to Sino-US economic and trade ties. Commenting on the USTR report, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a press conference Thursday that cyber security is a worldwide problem and criticism cannot help resolve the problem. MOFCOM said in a statement Thursday that "we've noticed that the USTR has recognized the positive effort and progress China has made in IPR protection recently but we're deeply sorry that it has classified China as a priority watch country for the past nine years." […] The report claimed that particular concern came from public reports by independent security firms stating that actors affiliated with the Chinese military and government have been engaging in sophisticated cyber theft to steal data including IP from a significant number of US companies. […] "The US' charge of Chinese cyber theft and its corresponding actions such as barring US government agencies from buying Chinese information technology products will bring economic losses to Chinese companies including Huawei and ZTE," He Weiwen, co-director of the China-US-EU Study Center under the China Association of International Trade, told the Global Times Thursday. "Politically, it showed the US' strategic distrust of China is deeply rooted despite all of the rhetoric claiming to value the China-US partnership." On March 26, the US passed a spending bill which banned the US Commerce and Justice departments, space agency NASA and the National Science Foundation from buying IT products from firms thought to be "owned, operated or subsidized" by China due to concerns over cyber attacks that the US said it had traced to China. "The US is abusing the term 'national security' by accusing Chinese companies of engaging in cyber theft, harming the economic and trade ties between the two nations," He Weiwen said. "Such accusations by the US are unfounded, irresponsible and create a very bad atmosphere for Sino-US trade relations," said Zhou Shijian, a senior researcher with Center for US-China Relations at Tsinghua University. "In terms of cyber attacks, China is also a victim. If the US believes cyber thefts originated from China, it should publish evidence so the Chinese government can punish those who initiated them," Zhou said. The Chinese government has denied China's involvement in cyber espionage and expressed their strong opposition to the US bill in late March. The USTR report did not suggest the US government take action such as sanctioning Chinese products. But Reuters reported Wednesday that sanctions on Chinese goods remains an option as does the possibility of bringing the case to the World Trade Organization (WTO), citing an anonymous senior US trade official. Along with China, nine other countries including Chile, India and Russia were also on the list of priority watch countries in the USTR report. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

China bans military licence plates on luxury cars (SCMP)
2013-04-29
The Chinese military's long and litigious affair with luxury cars is set to be tested by a ban on the use of military licence plates on 11 vehicle brands or models, according to a Ministry of Defence statement. Under a new registration system, all military vehicles must be given new car plates by Wednesday, and blacklisted sedans include those made by Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Lincoln, Cadillac, Bentley, Jaguar and Porsche, as well as the Volkswagen Phaeton, according to a ministry website yesterday. However, a ban on SUVs appeared more relaxed, with only the Land Rover, Porsche Cayenne and Audi Q7 appearing on the banned list for military vehicles. There appeared to be no limit on the price of SUVs or their engines, but sedans must not cost more than 450,000 yuan (HK$566,750) or have engines larger than 3.0 litres. The statement said that the military had been urged by President Xi Jinping to be more disciplined and to improve its public image, and that the issuing of military plates needed to be reformed. Also next month, the vehicle management department of the People's Liberation Army will launch a campaign targeting counterfeit military plates and people who abuse authentic plates. Fake plates will be identified by video at highway toll stations and plate inspectors will also randomly visit areas, such as around nightclubs, to check for military vehicles. […] Professor Chen Jierong, who teaches law at Sichuan University in Chengdu, said the new regulations would probably reduce the number of luxury cars with military plates on mainland streets, but only for a while. "I am sure many expensive cars with military plates will re-emerge soon," he said. "They have been banned five times over the last few decades, but more emerged after each ban. This time will be the same." Chen noted that military plate inspectors were powerless to stop the leasing out of military-owned vehicles, with official plates, to civilians for non-military use. "It is a common practice in Beijing for an Audi A8, with a real [military] plate, real paperwork and a real driver in a military uniform, to be leased out by a senior military officer to a businessman," he said. "The businessman pays 800,000 yuan a year but gets many benefits in return, such as giving others the impression that he has strong ties to the military. It happens not only in Beijing, but in every city." He said military inspectors could do little when a case involves a higher-ranking officer. Even if a vehicle is seized, Chen said, a phone call by a general could foil any action. Chen said people were furious about privileges associated with military vehicles, especially as the number of mainland drivers continues to grow rapidly. Vehicles with military plates are allowed to run red lights, drive in emergency lanes and avoid road tolls, among some other privileges. The root of the problem, Chen said, was a lack of transparency over the military's budget. "China's military expense growth is one of the fastest in the world. But how much money has been spent on the purchase of expensive cars? The people want an answer," Chen said. "But I don't think they will get one any time soon, if ever.". ^ top ^

China emerges as world's renewable energy powerhouse: Australian report (Xinhua)
2013-04-29
China has increased its renewable energy use to meet its international commitments to tackle climate change, according to a report by the Australian government's Climate Commission released Monday. The report, namely the Critical Decade: Global Action Building on Climate Change, showed the world's two largest economies, China and the United States, are on the path to meet their international commitments on climate change. According to this report, China reduced the carbon intensity of its economy in 2012 more than expected and almost halved its growth in electricity demand. After years of strong growth in coal use, the rate of growth has declined substantially. China has emerged as the world's renewable energy powerhouse, taking ambitious strides to add renewable energy to its mix, the report said. According to the figures in this report, between 2005 and 2012, China increased its wind power generation capacity by almost 50 times. The amount of electricity generated from wind in 2012 was about 36 percent higher than in 2011. And new solar power capacity expanded by 75 percent this year. Solar power capacity is expected to triple to more than 21,000 megawatts by 2015. The Commission also pointed out in this report that China invested 65.1 billion U.S. dollars in clean energy in 2012, 20 percent more than in 2011. "This was unmatched by any nation and represented 30 percent of the entire G-20 nations' investment in 2012," it said. ^ top ^

Ya'an braces as flooding season nears (China Daily)
2013-04-30
The residents of Ya'an, still trying to recover and rebuild from the devastating earthquake, face new challenges as the flood season arrives. The city in Sichuan province, hit by a magnitude-7 earthquake on April 20, is preparing for heavy rain from May to September. Loose debris will increase the danger of surging floodwaters and buildings already structurally weakened could topple. The China Meteorological Administration and local authorities are also stepping up efforts to combat the spread of disease through tainted floodwater and instructing people how to cope, Chen Zhenlin, spokesman for the administration, said on Sunday. The quake killed nearly 200 people. "Ya'an is one of the wettest places in the country with an average rainfall exceeding 1,200 millimeters from May to September, almost triple the national average," he said. The meteorological administration has experience of dealing with rainstorms in quake-hit areas. It set up lightning protection facilities at relocation sites after the Wenchuan quake in 2008 and it is doing the same in Ya'an, Chen said. According to Tang Chuan, from the geo-hazard department at Chengdu University of Technology, Wenchuan experienced a number of landslides during the flood season and Ya'an, with traditionally heavier rainfall, is more likely to be hit. […]. ^ top ^

H7N9 called 'one of the most lethal' flu viruses (SCMP)
2013-05-02
A new strain of bird flu that is causing a deadly outbreak among people in China is a threat to world health and should be taken seriously, scientists said on Wednesday. The H7N9 strain has killed 24 people and infected more than 125, according to the Geneva-based World Health Organisation (WHO), which has described it as “one of the most lethal” flu viruses. The high mortality rate, together with relatively large numbers of cases in a short period and the possibility it might acquire the ability to transmit between people, make H7N9 a pandemic risk, experts said. [...] Speaking at a briefing in London, experts in virology said initial studies suggest the virus has several worrisome characteristics, including two genetic mutations that make it more likely to eventually spread from person to person. “The longer the virus is unchecked in circulation, the higher the probability that this virus will start transmitting from person to person,” Colin Butte, an expert in avian viruses at Britain's Pirbright Institute, said. Of the some 125 people infected with H7N9 so far, about 20 per cent have died, approximately 20 per cent have recovered and the remainder are still sick. The infection can lead to severe pneumonia, blood poisoning and organ failure. [...] Scientists who have analysed genetic sequence data from samples from three H7N9 victims say the strain is a so-called “triple reassortant” virus with a mixture of genes from three other flu strains found in birds in Asia. Recent pandemic viruses, including the H1N1 “swine flu” of 2009/2010, have been mixtures of mammal and bird flu – hybrids that are likely to be milder because mammalian flu tends to make people less severely ill than bird flu. Pure bird-flu strains, such as the new H7N9 strain and the H5N1 flu, which has killed about 371 of 622 the people it has infected since 2003, are generally more deadly for people. Human cases of the H7N9 flu have been found in several new parts of China in recent days and have now been recorded in all of its provinces. Last week a man in Taiwan became the first case of the flu outside mainland China, though he was infected while travelling there. [...] Jeremy Farrar, a leading expert on infectious diseases and director of Oxford University's research unit in Vietnam, said the age range of those infected so far stretched from toddlers to people in their late 80s - a range that appeared to confirm the virus is completely new to the human population. “That suggests there truly is no immunity across all ages, and that as humans we have not seen this virus before,” he said. “The response has to be calm and measured, but it cannot be taken lightly,” he said. ^ top ^

Media reports of premier's visit to Sichuan quake zone show propaganda grip (SCMP)
2013-05-02
The People's Daily published a lengthy feature online yesterday detailing how Premier Li Keqiang took command of rescue operations for the Sichuan earthquake, over the past 10 days, and analysts said it appeared to be part of a well-planned propaganda push to cast the nation's new leadership in a positive light. The article came after Xinhua and other official news outlets had run features and commentaries lauding the new leaders' "resolve and capabilities" in dealing with both the quake and the H7N9 bird flu outbreak. New leaders, according to analysts, are using the two high-profile events to trumpet their talents and abilities in managing crises, at a time when public trust in the government appears to be dwindling. They added that the leadership is becoming more adept at managing public relations and has improved its delivery style. For example, Li has been portrayed on state television not only as a man of action in the quake zone, but also as a caring politician who donned a white medical coat during a recent visit to the China Centre for Disease Control and Prevention as bird flu cases increased. In yesterday's feature, of more than 6,000 words, the People's Daily portrayed Li as working around the clock and even attempting to take part in the rescue efforts himself. […] He also reportedly climbed over debris and rubble to help search for survivors. "At a collapsed building, [Li] shouted; 'Is anyone under there' five times to make sure no one was buried, before he left," the article said. It also cited a reporter as saying that he saw Li working by flashlight in a tent at 2am, when there was no electricity, and start working again four hours later after having a bowl of porridge with some salted vegetables. […] The publicity push appears to have had a positive impact on the new leadership's image to date. "These disasters are the first test, and they have shown they are capable of handling such disasters," said Professor Ke Huixin, a public relations expert at Communication University of China in Beijing. [...] While visiting the county hospital in Lushan, Li assured an injured farmer that the government would pay for all medical bills after the patient expressed concern about the cost. The publicity campaign also appeared aimed at repairing the government's battered image following its handling of the devastating Wenchuan earthquake in 2008 that sparked intense public criticism. And the new leadership wants to show to the public that it is faring better than its predecessors did. The rescue work this time has been "more efficient and effective compared with during the 2008 quake", Xinhua said in an editorial last week. The Wenchuan earthquake killed more than 87,000 people, most in Sichuan. Former premier Wen Jiabao was also lauded for travelling around the quake zone, but his administration then faced public criticism over its slow response times and inefficiency. Public ire was also high after reports of shoddily constructed buildings and corruption involving donations. […] Analysts said the government was taking a more cautious and sensitive approach to handling its public image, and had thereby attached greater importance to public opinion. "The new leadership has acquired more sophisticated skills in managing such crises than their predecessors … they have a better understanding about the formation of public opinion and how [it] can help or hurt their image," Professor Liu said. ^ top ^

New health law to stop detention of mentally ill (Global Times)
2013-05-02
China on Wednesday enacted its first mental health law that aims to stop mental hospitals from admitting patients against their will, a practice that previously triggered public outrage amid accusations of forced detentions. The law, which was passed by legislators in October last year, requires Chinese psychiatric facilities to gain consent from mentally ill patients before taking them in for treatment. Mentally ill people, excluding those with conditions severe enough to warrant guardianship or who have the potential to harm themselves or others, should receive treatment on a voluntary basis, the law stipulates. It also requires institutions to respect the patients' right to demand discharges. "The law is the first in China that defines the concept, the standard and the procedure of 'involuntary medical treatment' in an effort to prevent healthy and innocent people from being wrongly diagnosed as 'insane' and placed against their will in a mental hospital," Zhou Zijun, a professor with Peking University's School of Public Health, told the Global Times. The law has attracted a lot of attention since its draft was submitted for discussion last year. Although there are no official records on the number of people wrongly institutionalized, Xinhua has reported that such cases have increased over the past few years. […] Huang Xuetao, a lawyer and leading activist for mental health rights, told the Global Times that Chinese mental hospitals go unsupervised. "People with mild symptoms or people who were wrongly diagnosed could be admitted easily," said Huang, "The new law is designed to change that." According to the law, the decision whether to admit a patient in a mental hospital should be based on a diagnosis made by licensed psychiatrists rather than law enforcement departments. The diagnosis must be verified by two independent professionals should the family of the patient demand a re-evaluation. Institutions and individuals must protect the privacy of the mentally ill by preventing leaks of personal information, such as their names, addresses and employment status. The new mental health law will affect some 16 million people in China, China National Radio reported. But some feel it does not go far enough. "This newly released law is only a general guideline and does not answer detailed questions such as how to determine the consent of a potentially mentally ill person," said Zhang Xinkai, a senior psychiatrist from the Shanghai Mental Health Center. Zhang hailed the law as a turning point in the development of China's psychiatric treatment but warned the regulation could serve as a double-edged sword and obstruct treatment of severely ill patients if carried out inappropriately. ^ top ^

Water supply resumes in quake-hit China city (Xinhua)
2013-05-02
Water supply has been resumed in Ya'an City, about 10 days after a 7.0-magnitude quake struck the city in southwest China's Sichuan Province, local authorities said on Wednesday. The quake, which jolted the city's Lushan County on April 20, cut water supply to 1 million local residents, among whom 848,800 live in rural areas, according to the city's water authority. As of midnight on Tuesday, all water supplies in urban areas have been resumed, while 99.2 percent of rural residents had access to clean water, the water authority said. Only a few villages in Longmen Township near the epicenter were still installing tap water facilities, it said. At least 196 people have been killed and tens of thousands were injured in the quake. ^ top ^

Military denies expensive vehicle had new plate (China Daily)
2013-05-03
Military forces in Beijing denied online allegations that an expensive vehicle with a new military plate was driven on a highway despite the order to ban the military from using luxurious vehicles, which took effect on Wednesday. The Volkswagen Touareg caught in photos driving on a highway in Beijing is not specified as among the types of cars that are banned from being used by the military, the Beijing Military Area of the People's Liberation Army said in a statement released on the website of PLA Daily, a newspaper owned by the PLA, on Thursday. The Volkswagen Touareg was among the vehicles bought for senior military officers in the past and will continue to be used to avoid waste, and military forces will not buy any vehicles costing more than 450,000 yuan ($73,000) in the future, the statement said. Several photos of the Volkswagen Touareg were posted on Sina micro blog on Wednesday, causing suspicion among netizens whether the new regulation to limit the use of expensive military cars can be carried out. According to the new regulation, issued by China's Central Military Commission, the military adopted new vehicle plates on Wednesday, and those previously in use, which were introduced in 2004, were annulled on Tuesday. Several types of vehicles will not be eligible for the new plates, including luxury cars, private and local government vehicles, and those for officials who hold concurrent positions in the PLA and armed police forces. [...] The Volkswagen Touareg is not specified in the list. The price of an imported Volkswagen Touareg ranges from 640,000 yuan to 1.18 million yuan, according to online shopping records. [...]. ^ top ^

 

Guangdong

Water officials go online to expose shoddy work on dam in eastern Guangdong (SCMP)
2013-05-03
Three water-resources officials in eastern Guangdong have exposed shoddy construction at a key embankment dam project that has seen seven major collapses in the past three years. The Shantou city officials are Zhao Hongzhang, deputy director of the port authority in Chaoyang district; Hong Huiqiang, head of the inspection unit at the Chaoyang Water Affairs Bureau; and Ma Hefeng, Hong's deputy. Their allegations were picked up by local media and went viral online yesterday. Since March, the trio has posted material in various online chat rooms, discussing the construction project that began in 2006 but dragged on for seven years and is estimated to have cost the local government 200 million yuan (HK$250 million) in damages. Zhao described the unfinished embankment dam on the Rong River as a classic "tofu" project, the nickname assigned to poorly built infrastructure of dubious structural integrity. Zhao attributed the seven collapses in three years to improper strengthening of the dam's foundations during construction. Hong also said that construction and inspections of the project were overseen by the same people at the Guangdong Water Resources Department. "No one has been penalised for the collapses except us," Hong told the South China Morning Post. "It's unfair. The trio was blamed for the third collapse by Shantou and Chaoyang disciplinary inspectors, who issued them with serious administrative demerits in 2011 - considered a serious party warning. They were accused of failing to stop illegal sand mining in the Rong River that could have contributed to the third collapse. Documents posted online by the three indicate that the 33-kilometre-long embankment dam was intended to protect more than 4,100 hectares of agricultural land and 270,000 local residents, according to The Southern Metropolis Daily. A total of 1.2 kilometres of the dam has collapsed in the seven accidents. An additional eight kilometres is considered dangerous, including three kilometres classified as extremely dangerous, Hong said. The three men have been petitioning on their own behalf to local authorities since 2011, and are now revealing details of the project to internet users. Hong, who is due to retire next month, said their persistence in discussing the incident was due not only because he believed they were wrongfully blamed, "but also we don't want to see 270,000 people live under the constant threat of flooding". He said they had been threatened and pressured into abandoning their cause, but "we will not become scapegoats". "Zhao has been beaten up and offered bribes. Many have wanted us to cave in, but we could never forgive ourselves if we did," Hong said. He added that corruption was rampant in Shantou. Bidding for the project began in 2006, but was only 60 per cent complete by 2009, and had already cost 112 million yuan. Another embankment dam built by the Jieyang city government on the opposite side of the Rong River had never suffered a collapse because it was built to better standards against such dangers, Hong said. ^ top ^

 

Xinjiang

Xinjiang terror group smashed, say police (SCMP)
2013-04-30
Mainland police say they have broken up a terrorist group linked to a clash with the authorities in Xinjiang last week in which 21 people died. Public security authorities said the assailants were linked to a jihadist group and said the mastermind of last Tuesday's attack had been interrogated five years ago. They did not say if the jihadist group had overseas links. At a memorial service yesterday, the 15 police officers and government workers killed in the attack were hailed as martyrs. Six of their assailants also died at the scene of the attack in Bashu county, Kashgar, making it the deadliest incident in the autonomous region since July 2009, when nearly 200 people died in rioting in the regional capital, Urumqi. Eight of those who died were police officers. The other seven included a township Communist Party secretary, a publicity official and workers. Ten of the police and government workers who died were Uygurs. A notice on the regional government's internet news portal said eight assailants had been captured on the spot, with 11 others who fled to other cities arrested over the past few days. Police had confiscated 20 explosive devices, "jihadist" flags, substances that could be used for making bombs and a number of knives. It said the police had investigated a member of the group in July 2007 for suspected involvement in terrorism but that he had been released as there was insufficient evidence to press charges. Three government workers checked a home last Tuesday after receiving a tip-off. A person in the house alerted their associates nearby, leading to the capture of three government workers, who were later killed. More police officers and government personnel rushed to the scene and fighting intensified. The assailants set fire to a room the police and workers had been forced into, killing nine people. Three assailants on motorcycles rushed to set fire to the archives office and hostel at the local police station. When asked why only the head of the local police station had been armed during the raid, regional government spokeswoman Hou Hanmin said local officials were caught off guard because they did not think they were dealing with terrorists. "No one had even thought that such a big thing would happen," she said. "And no one had even thought that the people living there were terrorists." Some government workers had built up a good relationship with the assailants through helping them apply for government certificates, she said. The group's members watched violent jihadi videos, organised "underground Koran classes" and had spread extreme religious teachings since September, the government notice said. It said they had started training for attacks in December and were planning a "major attack" in Kashgar this summer. Deputy Public Security Minister Meng Hongwei, director of China's anti-terror office, blamed the attack on separatism, religious extremism and terrorism. But Dilshat Rexit, a spokesman for the World Uygur Congress, said he suspected the terrorism claims were just an excuse to oppress Uygurs. ^ top ^

China's new mental health law to make it harder for authorities to silence petitioners (SCMP)
2013-05-01
The director of Xinjiang's largest mental health institution has welcomed a new law, which went into effect on Wednesday, banning involuntary inpatient treatment for many people deemed mentally ill. "Seventy to 80 per cent of the patients have been forcibly admitted to the hospital," said Xu Xiangdong, director of the Fourth People's Hospital in the regional capital Urumqi, the Yaxin online news portal reported on Monday. "Because of this increased consideration for patients' rights, [the figures] will change fundamentally," he said, adding that it would put an end to frequent episodes of people being wrongfully declared mentally ill. The new law, which has been debated for a quarter of a century, is meant to crack down on local authorities aiming to silence petitioners and troublemakers by arbitrarily declaring them mentally ill and locking them up in mental health wards. Under the law, patients must first give their consent to being hospitalised, except in cases in which they could harm themselves or others. If patients are still forcibly confined, they or their guardians have the right to seek a second opinion. Forced hospitalisations for reasons other than severe mental illness are banned. Last week about 200 health practitioners from the region were sent to Xu's hospital to be trained in the new provisions on patients' rights stipulated by the new law, the Xinjiang Daily reported. Two million people in Xinjiang live with mental disabilities, Xu estimated, amounting to more than 9 per cent of the population in the economic backwater of China's remote northwest. That compares with almost 8 per cent of China's population diagnosed with some form of mental illness, according to the Ministry of Health in 2011. A largescale 2009 study estimated a much higher national average at 17.5 per cent. In Xinjiang, authorities have not been able to provide adquate resources to deal with the increasing number of people living with mental disorders. Xu told the Yaxin portal in 2011 that the number of mentally ill patients had increased by 20 to 30 per cent annually over the last years. In Monday's report, he said less than 5 per cent of the two million mentally ill could receive treatment because of a lack of resources and trained staff. Two years earlier, the regional government had reported plans to build 15 new mental hospitals and to expand current ones. Until now, only one additional hospital in Kashgar has been completed, the Yaxin report said. In March, a gruesome murder of a seven-year-old Uygur boy by a Chinese man has caused tensions among ethnic communities in the Turpan prefecture east of Urumqi. The man had been declared mentally ill to prevent ethnic revenge attacks, locals told Radio Free Asia. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Hong Kong businesses may be affected as EU urges tax havens to open their books (SCMP)
2013-05-02
In a move with implications for Hong Kong, more tax havens are to open their books under pressure from the European Union. At a meeting on May 13, EU finance ministers may reach an agreement on measures to eradicate tax evasion and tax havens, said Finnish Finance Minister Jutta Urpilainen at an international seminar on tax fraud and evasion in Helsinki on Monday, the Finland Times reported. A letter on April 24 by the Irish finance minister, Michael Noonan, and EU tax commissioner Algirdas Semeta urged the European Commission to start talks with five tax havens - Andorra, Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino and Switzerland - to reveal information. It proposed six other measures, including a package against value-added-tax fraud. "Our common goal should be the rapid adoption of all these measures before the end of June," said the letter. Semeta said: "The EU will be an active partner in seeking automatic exchange of information as the global standard. We will do everything necessary to secure commitments on this at the G8 Summit in June and the G20 Summit in September." China is a member of the G20. Last week the Cayman Islands said it would join a pilot scheme with the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain on automatic exchange of tax information. Cayman Islands Prime Minister Juliana O'Connor-Connolly said: "We would call on other jurisdictions to commit to this initiative, which will remove hiding places for those who seek to evade tax." A significant part of Hong Kong's offshore business is transacted through the Cayman Islands, said John Bruce, Macau director of Hill & Associates, a Hong Kong risk consultancy. Manisha Mirchandani, Asia director of the Risk Resolution Group, a UK risk consultancy, said: "For Cayman Islands, people in Hong Kong and China are going to see what the implications are." Luxembourg has also said it will share confidential data on multinationals' bank accounts. The EU's actions come after revelations by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) of offshore havens that include dealings through Portcullis Trustnet, a financial services firm based in Singapore with a Hong Kong office. On its website, Portcullis has said it has identified an unnamed individual "whom it strongly suspects as having been involved in the data theft that has led to information published by ICIJ". Portcullis said it had filed a report with the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force, which is investigating. It has also engaged KPMG to conduct an IT security review for itself. ^ top ^

 

Economy

China's trade growth to pick up slightly this year (Xinhua)
2013-04-28
The Ministry of Commerce (MOC) said Sunday that China's foreign trade will maintain steady growth this year, adding that the rate of growth will be slightly higher than last year. The MOC said in a report on the country's trade situation that trade environments at home and abroad have improved compared with last year. "Positive signs are on the rise in the global economy," the report said, citing improving real estate and job markets in the United States and the EU's emphasis on both fiscal consolidation and economic growth, as well as strong growth vitality in emerging economies. China's economy has seen steady growth, the report said. In the first quarter, its GDP expanded 7.7 percent year on year, slightly higher than the growth target of 7.5 percent for the year. "If the external environment does not exhibit dramatic changes, exports and imports in 2013 will continue to show steady growth momentum," the report said. However, a substantial rebound in foreign trade is not likely this year, as the economic situation is very complicated and risks are still relatively high, the report said. The ministry said it will maintain consistent trade policies, continue to implement policies to promote trade growth and push for the balanced development of foreign trade. ^ top ^

Alibaba buys 18 percent stake of Weibo (Xinhua)
2013-04-29
E-commerce giant Alibaba has purchased 18 percent stake of China's popular microblogging service Sina Weibo for 586 million U.S. dollars, Sina Corp. announced Monday. Sina said in a statement on its website that its subsidiary Weibo and Alibaba China has signed an agreement for strategic cooperation to capitalize on their respective advantages in social networking and e-commerce. They will cooperate in the fields of user accounts sharing, data exchanges, online payment and online marketing, and explore an effective model of socialized e-commerce based on Weibo's large user base and Alibaba's business platform, the statement said. "The strategic cooperation is expected to bring Weibo about 380 million U.S. dollars of revenue from marketing and socialized e-commerce in the next three years," the statement said. Alibaba bought about 18 percent of Weibo's stake by paying 586 million U.S. dollars for its preferred and common stocks. Alibaba has the option to raise its stake to 30 percent in the future by stipulated way of pricing, according to the statement. Cao Guowei, Sina's chairman and CEO, said the cooperation with Alibaba will allow Weibo to make sturdy and imaginative strides in establishing a unique business model. Alibaba's board chairman Ma Yun said the cooperation of the two platforms is not only conducive to Alibaba's distribution and development in the mobile internet field, but also bring Weibo users more unique and long-lasting services. Weibo is the most popular microblogging service in China. Its users surpassed 500 million by the end of 2012, up 74 percent from a year earlier, the company's data showed. ^ top ^

China's oil, gas output up slightly in Q1 (Xinhua)
2013-04-29
China's crude oil and natural gas output rose slightly year on year in the first quarter of the year, new data from the country's top economic planner shows. The National Development and Reform Commission said in a statement released Monday that crude oil production stood at 51.2 million tonnes in the first quarter, up 2.3 percent from the same period last year. The country refined 109.48 million tonnes of crude oil during the January-March period, up 4.4 percent year on year, while refined oil products rose by 4.6 percent to 67.34 million tonnes, the statement said. In the first quarter, China's natural gas output rose 6.2 percent to 30.6 billion cubic meters, while natural gas imports surged 34.5 percent to 13.2 billion cubic meters. Apparent consumption of natural gas climbed 13.4 percent year on year to 44.2 billion cubic meters, according to the statement. ^ top ^

Fall in China PMI fuels pessimism (SCMP)
2013-05-02
The sustainability of the mainland's economic recovery is in doubt after the official purchasing managers' index [PMI] revealed a slowdown in the growth of manufacturing last month as new orders weakened. The PMI fell unexpectedly to 50.6 from 50.9 in March, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed. Analysts had expected the index to further rise to 51 after posting an 11-month high in March. Lingering weakness in the United States and Europe took a toll on the mainland's manufacturing sector as demand from global markets remained sluggish. A sub-index of new orders fell to 51.7 from 52.3, while new export orders dropped to 48.6 from 50.9. A reading above 50 indicates expansion and one below contraction. "The fall in the index is evidence that growth momentum has continued to weaken," said Zhang Zhiwei, the chief China economist at Nomura Securities. Zhang said the mainland's economic growth was expected to slow to 7.5 per cent in the second quarter from a year ago, after posting 7.7 per cent growth in the first quarter. The incentive to invest in the manufacturing sector also weakened, with the sub-index of input prices falling to 40.1 from 50.6 in March and the output sub-index easing to 52.6 from 52.7, he said. The official PMI index was in line with the HSBC flash PMI index, which triggered the largest drop in the share market in three weeks on Tuesday last week after the reading dropped to 50.5, from a final reading of 51.6 in March. Linus Yip, a strategist at First Shanghai Securities, said the share market would fluctuate slightly because of the weak PMI data when it opens today after the Labour Day holiday. The Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.97 per cent to close at 2,177 points on Friday. The market was closed for the holiday for three days from Monday. "The index will see strong support at the 2,150-point level," Yip said, noting that the benchmark had already fallen significantly last week after the HSBC flash PMI was released. "The current level has factored in investors' expectations of the weakness of the manufacturing sector." He said economic growth on the mainland might fall short of market expectations in the second quarter but would still be in line with the government's target of 7.5 per cent year on year. "Investors were over-optimistic about the economic growth over the past few months, but now they are too pessimistic, as some economic indicators have showed the economic recovery is not as strong as they expected," Yip said. ^ top ^

 

DPRK and South Korea

Seoul to withdraw all workers from Kaesong (Xinhua)
2013-04-27
South Korea will withdraw all remaining workers from a jointly run industrial zone in North Korea, it said on Friday, after Pyongyang rejected a call for formal talks to end a standoff that led to operations being suspended. The decision to remove about 170 people from the Kaesong factory park located just north of the armed border deepens a conflict between the two Koreas and puts at risk their last remaining channel of exchange that resulted from their breakthrough summit in 2000 and a bid to improve ties. The two Koreas are technically at war under a mere truce that ended hostilities in their 1950-53 conflict and North Korea, angry at UN sanctions and joint South Korean-US military drills, has threatened both countries with nuclear attacks in recent weeks. "Because our nationals remaining in the Kaesong industrial zone are experiencing greater difficulties due to the North's unjust actions, the government has come to the unavoidable decision to bring back all remaining personnel in order to protect their safety," South Korean Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae said. […] The North has prevented South Korean workers and supplies from getting in to the zone since April 3. On Thursday, South Korea made the proposal for formal talks as the South Korean workers who remained at the zone were believed to be running out of food and other supplies. But North Korea on Friday rejected the proposal for talks, saying the South has acted in an "unpardonable" manner to jeopardize a "precious" legacy of the rivals' bid to seek peace. The North's National Defence Commission, its supreme leadership body, repeated that what it saw as the reckless behavior of the South had thrown into question the safety of the zone's operations, saying that it would take decisive action should South Korea aggravate the situation. Labeling Seoul's demand as being "little short of an 'ultimatum,'" the commission said in a statement the dialogue offer "is nothing but a crafty trick." If Seoul is worried about the lives of South Koreans still in the industrial zone, it should withdraw all of them to the south side, and Pyongyang will take humanitarian measures to ensure their safety, the commission said in the statement. Should Seoul keep aggravating the situation, it would be the North Korea, not South Korea, "that will be forced to take the final decisive and crucial measure first," it warned. The Kaesong project opened in 2004 as part of a so-called sunshine policy of engagement between the two Koreas. The number of South Koreans in the industrial zone has dwindled from the 700 normally needed to keep the factories running to about 170, seen as the minimum number needed to safeguard assets at the 1 trillion won ($894.73 million) park. ^ top ^

North Korea sentences US citizen to 15 years' hard labour on 'hostile acts' (SCMP)
2013-05-02
North Korea has sentenced a US citizen to 15 years of prison labour for “hostile acts” against the communist regime, the North's official Korean Central News Agency said on Thursday. Pae Jun-ho, known in the United States as Kenneth Bae, was arrested in November as he entered the northeastern port city of Rason. “The Supreme Court sentenced him to 15 years of compulsory labour for this crime,” KCNA said. Pyongyang has not specified the basis of the crimes allegedly committed by Bae, who is believed to be a Korean-American tour operator. KCNA said on Saturday when announcing his trial that Bae had “admitted that he committed crimes aimed to topple the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea]”. The United States has urged North Korea to free the detainee on “humanitarian grounds”. “The welfare of US citizens is a critical and top priority for this department. We call on the DPRK to release Kenneth Bae immediately on humanitarian grounds,” deputy acting State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said on Monday. Seoul-based activist Do Hee-Yoon has said that he suspected Pae was arrested because he had taken photographs of emaciated children in North Korea as part of efforts to appeal for more outside aid. US officials have pointed out Pae had entered the country on a valid visa, and admitted to concerns he could be used as a “political bargaining” chip. Tensions have been running high between the United States and North Korea since Pyongyang carried out a third nuclear test in February. Several Americans have been held in North Korea in recent years. In 2011, a US delegation led by Robert King, the US special envoy for human rights and humanitarian issues, secured the release of Eddie Jun Yong-su, a California-based businessman, who had been detained for apparent missionary activities. In 2010, former US president Jimmy Carter won plaudits when he negotiated the release of American national Aijalon Mahli Gomes, sentenced to eight years of hard labour for illegally crossing into the North from China. On another mercy mission a year earlier in 2009, former president Bill Clinton won the release of US television journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee, jailed after wandering across the North Korean border with China. Experts believe the North is likely to try to use Bae to extract concessions from Washington. “The North will surely try to take advantage of Kenneth Bae as a bargaining chip in negotiations with the US,” said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul. “But the whole atmosphere is quite different from when similar hostage disputes erupted in the past. The diplomatic and military situation is so tense that the US is unlikely to dramatically change its stance or try to open dialogue with the North just to save this guy,” he said. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Erdenet cashmere factory opens (UB Post)
2013-04-24
The Minister of Agriculture and Industry, Kh.Battulga, opened a new cashmere factory in Erdenet on Sunday as part of his visit to the Erdenet Khivs Carpet Factory in Orkhon Province. The Erdenet Cashmere Factory was opened with ministry support following a commitment made by the government last year that a new “industrial revolution” would be initiated in Mongolia, with the aim of ending the export of unprocessed animal-related materials, renewing domestic value-added production, and increasing the manufacture in Mongolia of “final products.” “Our nation will only prosper if we diversify our economy and decrease dependency on mining products such as copper and coal. To achieve this, one of the most important steps we can take is to begin processing animal-related products domestically,” said Minister Kh.Battulga on Sunday. The Erdenet Cashmere Factory will be the second-largest textile and fabric factory in the country. According to company representatives, if it operates at full capacity, Mongolian textile producers will not have to depend on Russian imported thread and yarn as they currently do. According to industry representatives, this will help boost the productivity of the textiles and cashmere sector. Officials such as the Head of the Light Industry Policy Implementation Management Department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Industry, Ts.Bayarmaa, representatives from the Ministry of Economic Development, and private sector representatives participated in Sunday's opening ceremony. Representatives of the Erdenet Khivs Carpet Factory told Kh.Battulga during his visit that the company has been seeking to expand its facilities since 2008, and seeks to triple its production of textured yarn and assembled goods. Their goal has been to stop the export of raw wool (at low prices) and increase domestic production of value-added finished products According to the Erdenet Khivs representatives, a visit to all of the factory's stages of production requires walking a distance of six kilometers around the site Erdenet Khivs was established in 1981 and reportedly produces 96 percent of Mongolian carpets. The company exports around 20 percent of their goods, to 19 countries. ^ top ^

Aung San Suu Kyi lectured on democracy (news.mn)
2013-05-01
Burma"s pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi gave a lecture along with President Ts.Elbegdorj in Ulaanbaatar on April 30th. Aung San Suu Kyi attended at the 7th Ministerial Conference of the Community of Democracies that was held on April 27th – 29th in Ulaanbaatar upon President Ts.Elbegdorj`s invitation. At the lecture, state staff, youths and civilians were present and had their questions answered by Aung San Suu Kyi. In her lecture Aung San Suu Kyi stated “Aggression creates aggression. Therefore democracy should come through a peaceful way no matter how long it takes if a country chooses democracy, or still struggles to get it. The thing is to choose the right way from the beginning.” President Ts.Elbegdorj said in his presentation; “Replacing a director with another is not the meaning of democracy. The main purpose of democracy is to give the right to the people.”. ^ top ^

VII Ministerial Conference of CD concluded successfully (UB Post)
2013-05-01
The closing ceremony of the VII Ministerial Conference of the Community of Democracies that was conducted for three days in Ulaanbaatar was held at the Great Hall of the Government Palaceon Monday. The ceremony was chaired by the Foreign Affairs Minister of Mongolia and member of the Parliament, L.Bold. Over the three days of the VII Ministerial Conference, the participants held discussions at Forums on Civil Society, Youth, Corporate Democracy, Women and Parliament. Following the discussions, the Ulaanbaatar Declaration was approved based upon the requests and initiations of the Conference participants. During the closing ceremony of VII Ministerial Conference of the Community of Democracies, the 2013 Geremek Award was presented to Aung San Suu Kyi for her lifetime struggle to promote democratic values and practices in her region and throughout the world. The Palmer Prize was given to three figures: Christopher Stevens, U.S. Ambassador for Libya who passed away in September 2012; Stefan Eriksson, Ambassador of Sweden for Belarus in the years 2008-2012, and Mongolian Ambassador-at-Large S.Badral. In his closing remarks of the VII Ministerial Conference of the Community of Democracies, the President of Mongolia Ts.Elbegdorj said “The VII Ministerial Conference of the Community of Democracies was conducted successfully. We have adopted our wishes to create good wills in the future”, he then went on to emphasize that Mongolia's participation in the activities of the Community of Democracies will strengthen in the future. Then he handed over the flag of the Community of Democracies to Mr. Hugo Roger Martinez Bonilla, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of El Salvador. El Salvador will assume the Presidency of the Community of Democracies for the next two years. ^ top ^

Soil stripping begins at TT's West Tsankhi (news.mn)
2013-05-02
Khishig Arvin Industrial LLC announced it would beginning stripping soil at the giant Tavan Tolgoi coal mine's West Tsankhi block. Khishig Arvin has 16 years of experience in the mining, road, construction, and energy sectors, and has worked with notable miners such as SouthGobi Sands, Boroo Gold LLC, Oyu Tolgoi LLC, and Zaamar. According to the company, they have over 250 items of machinery and equipment, and work at the highest professional standards. The company was selected by state-owned Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi from among three national companies that applied. According to Khishig Arvin Industrial LLC, their extensive experience in the mining sector and international recognition were factors in their selection. “We believe that the government effort to support domestic companies by including them in domestic projects will help increase employment, strengthen economic capacity. It will further allow Mongolia to supervise, monitor, and operate large-scale projects independently, as well as allow national companies to release initial public offerings and trade on global markets on an international exchange rate,” said the company in a press release. ^ 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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