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
  28.1-1.2.2008, No. 202  
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Table of contents


Avian flu


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Foreign Policy

Malawian president meets Chinese assistant FM (China Daily)
Malawian President Bingu Wa Mutharika met here Saturday with Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Zhai Jun, who is on a visit to the African nation as an envoy of Chinese President Hu Jintao. […] Mutharika said Malawi would like to learn from China's experience in developing itself and stands ready for cooperation with China. […] Zhai, for his part, said the Chinese government values its relations with Malawi and is ready to work with Malawi to boost exchanges at different levels, deepen mutual trust, develop mutually beneficial cooperation and strengthen coordination in international and regional affairs. […]. ^ top ^

Meeting held for closer China-Japan ties (China Daily)
[…] Zheng Bijian, chief Chinese member of the 21st Century Committee for China-Japan Friendship, and his Japanese counterpart Yotaro Kobayashi lead members of the two sides to attend the meeting. "The China-Japan relations are now stepping on a new horizon and face historical opportunities of development," Zheng said, adding that to seize the opportunity and create a better future were the common wish of Chinese and Japanese people and the subject of this meeting. Kobayashi said the current improvement of bilateral relations had made people feel the warmth of spring and he believed the Japan-China relations will head further. The two-day meeting will also focus on how to implement the consensus reached during Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda's China visit last month and on the Chinese President Hu Jintao's upcoming trip to Japan, Chinese secretary of the Committee Jiang Xiaosong said. […]. ^ top ^

DPRK, Chinese senior officials meet on bilateral ties (Xinhua)
Senior officials from China and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) met here Tuesday to discuss bilateral ties. Choe Thae Bok, secretary of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK), held talks Tuesday with Wang Jiarui, head of the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Choe said the traditional friendship between the two nations has a strong vitality, and bilateral relations are developing in an all-round way. Wang said China is willing to work with the DPRK to deepen bilateral relations and to make efforts for regional peace and prosperity. Wang, at the invitation of the WPK, arrived in Pyongyang Tuesday for a five-day visit. ^ top ^

Kim Jong Il meets senior CPC official (China Daily)
Kim Jong Il, the top leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), met here Wednesday with Wang Jiarui, head of the International Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Kim told Wang that the DPRK highly values the friendship with China, saying the bilateral relationship has been developing smoothly. He said the DPRK is willing to work with China to increase communication and coordination and push forward the DPRK-China relations. Both sides discussed the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula. Wang said positive development has been made in six-party talks, calling for the "full implementation" of the existing agreements on the issue. He expressed the hope that all parties concerned should continue to take positive steps and fulfill their commitments to push forward the six-party talks and denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula. Kim said the DPRK's stance on fulfillment of commitment under the six-party talks remains unchanged, adding that the parties concerned should fulfill their commitment under the principle of "action for action." Kim told Wang that the DPRK will cooperate with China to push forward the full implementation of agreements. […]. ^ top ^

China, Germany seek green energy co-op (China Daily)
Sino-German collaboration on renewable energy can set a good example for other countries, a senior official with the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said yesterday. China and Germany should expand cooperation to promote the use of renewable energy and achieve more sustainable development, Wu Guihui, deputy director of the energy bureau of the NDRC, told an energy forum. "It (use of renewable energy) is really important now as China is making great efforts in energy saving and environmental protection," he said. China is improving energy efficiency and using more renewable energy sources, and thus playing an important role in combating global warming, said German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel. […] As the world's fastest growing major economy, China has set a target of cutting energy consumption per unit of GDP by 20 percent and pollutant discharges by 10 percent from 2006 to 2010. The world's second-largest energy consumer is also making increased use of renewable energy such as wind and solar power. The government has set a target of raising the ratio of renewable energy in its total energy mix to 10 percent by 2010 and 15 percent by 2020. Renewable energy currently accounts for 8 percent of the total energy consumption. In some sectors such as wind power, China has seen over 100 percent annual growth in the past three years. A total investment of 2 trillion yuan is needed to meet the renewable energy target by 2020, according to the NDRC, the nation's top economic planning body. The Chinese market provides major opportunities for German companies, said Jurgen Heraeus, a representative of the Federal Association of German Industry. Leading wind power company Nordex, for example, has seen over 50 percent annual growth of its business in China. […]. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

Jiang Jufeng reelected governor of SW China's Sichuan Province (Xinhua)
Jiang Jufeng was re-elected governor of southwest China's Sichuan Province. […] Liu Qibao, also chief of the Communist Party of China Sichuan Committee, was elected chairman of the Standing Committee of the Sichuan Provincial People's Congress, the provincial legislative body, at the first session of the 11th Sichuan Provincial People's Congress. […]. ^ top ^

China taking 'right steps' to protect IPR (China Daily)
[…] This is what European Union (EU) Tax and Customs Commissioner Laszlo Kovacs said in Beijing yesterday. […] "We have already witnessed a decrease (in counterfeit goods from China)," he said. "I do hope that not in the long but in the medium term there will be some progress so that the proportion from China will decrease (further). "In 2006 and 2007 several persons were taken to court in China, who were manufacturers of counterfeit articles and landowners who operated markets where counterfeit goods were sold. So that shows China takes it (the problem) seriously." China has made welcome progress in setting up an IPR protection mechanism, he said. There have been visible improvements in enforcement, and the Chinese Customs legislation is now quite similar to that of the EU. Kovacs, however, said the country still needs to take some extra steps such as establishing stronger administrative cooperation between the Customs in the EU and China. That would lead to better enforcement of laws. Also, it would be a visible sign at the EU's willingness of the political level to support China's efforts in this field. […] Counterfeiting is an alarming and threatening phenomenon that gives rise to new trends, he said. Its compositions are changing, encompassing more products, from pharmaceuticals to toys. […] Kovacs' meeting with Mu Xinsheng, minister of the General Administration of Customs, yesterday was aimed exactly at solving these problems. They agreed to develop the concrete action plan on IPR that began three months ago, which includes a partnership between the private sectors in China and the EU. […] "We've agreed, on the level of intention, to widen the scope of the project, for instance, to involve the port of HK, and more European ports." Kovacs said the project could be strengthened if it is expanded to cover mutual recognition of security standards and controls. […] The purpose of the action plan is to better target counterfeit trade by:

  • Exchanging pre-arrival/departure data on containers loaded on vessels leaving their territory among Customs;
  • Using electronic seals on containers to ensure a secure end-to-end supply chain;
  • Applying minimum control standards on containers and communicating the control results electronically;
  • Defining common risk indicators to help select "high risk" containers for controls;
  • Reducing overall controls on imports through recognition of controls on exports, thereby ensuring that any remaining import controls focus on particularly high-risk items. ^ top ^

Dai Xianglong to run social security fund - Ex-PBOC chief to control 500b yuan in assets (SCMP)
Former Tianjin mayor Dai Xianglong has been appointed head of the mainland's social- security fund, ending months of speculation about the financial strategist's political future. "The party central committee and the State Council have appointed Comrade Dai Xianglong as chairman and party secretary of the National Council for Social Security Fund," a one-sentence statement posted on the central government's website said yesterday. […] The government hopes the fund can improve its investment returns. The fund mainly focuses on low-risk, fixed-income investments but plans to invest 20 per cent of its assets overseas. Analysts said Mr Dai's appointment was a reflection of the leadership's recognition of his expertise and financial management skills but did not mean anything politically because the new position suggested neither a promotion nor a demotion. […]. ^ top ^

Anti-graft spending card system to be expanded (SCMP)
The mainland will expand a pilot corruption-prevention system this year by asking central and provincial government staff to use a special bank card for daily work expenses. Under the system, civil servants must use the card to pay for business trip costs, daily purchases for their units and other expenses if they want to get reimbursed, according to the Ministry of Finance. […] At a national meeting yesterday with the central disciplinary body and the Ministry of Finance, People's Bank of China […] party committee member Wang Hongzhang said: "The system helps to improve expenditure transparency, prevents exaggerated invoices for cash payments and stops units keeping secret reserves [...] The trial scheme had cut expenditure in the Haishu district of Ningbo, Zhejiang, by 10 per cent year on year in the second half of last year, according to a posting on the ministry's website. […]. ^ top ^

Vice-premier urges all-out effort for food, drug safety (Xinhua)
Chinese Vice-Premier Wu Yi called on Thursday for an all-out effort to ensure food and drug safety through improved supervision, supply and rule of law. […] "Food and drug safety is directly linked to the health and safety of the people," she stressed, urging the supervisory authorities to further implement the Scientific Concept of Development, the essence of the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), which was held last October. […] She called for carefully implementing measures to ensure food and drug supplies to the Olympics host city of Beijing and five co-host mainland cities -- Shenyang, Qinghuangdao, Tianjin, Qingdao and Shanghai. Meanwhile, the government would introduce an on-line supervisory network, she said. This would enable the government to ensure the supply of common use pharmaceuticals and give the public easier and more affordable access to common use medicines. She called for transparent governance in the supervision of food and drug safety and said it should be a fundamental, long-term and strategic task to build up a group of supervisors who are honest, pragmatic and put people's interest first. […]. ^ top ^


Weather Crisis

China battles pre-holiday weather chaos (China daily)
Chinese travelers continued to struggle with the transport havoc caused by bad weather on Sunday as snow and sleet in central, eastern and southern regions threaten to paralyze air, rail and highway traffic. […] Almost 150,000 passengers were stranded at Guangzhou Railway Station on Saturday night after a power failure caused by snow, ice and sleet stopped more than 136 trains in Hunan Province on the trunk line between Beijing and Guangzhou. Though the power supply resumed at 4:00 p.m. Saturday, 50 trains remain stranded between Hengyang City in Hunan and Guangzhou provinces. An official with Guangzhou railway authorities said the number of stranded passengers in Guangzhou City alone could hit 600,000 on Monday if the situation continued. "Last night, 100,000 passengers packed the square in front of the railway station in heavy rain; another 50,000 crouched inside the building or under nearby crossovers," said an official in Yuexiu district of Guangzhou. He said the authorities were trying to find shelter for the passengers at nearby schools, conference halls and other public facilities. […] The Central Meteorological Station said the chaotic weather was likely to continue for a week, especially in the southern, northwestern and central regions. "There hasn't been any rise in temperatures or any room for optimism," said Yang Guiming, the chief weatherman. Yang said the cold spell had been "unprecedentedly long". The rain and snow started in many parts of China on January 10 and have lasted for two weeks. ^ top ^

China issues red alert for snowstorms (Xinhua)
The China Meteorological Administration (CMA) early Monday issued a red alert for severe snowstorms forecast for central and eastern China. Heavy snow is set to blanket northern Hunan, eastern Hubei, southeastern Henan, northwestern Zhejiang as well as most areas of Anhui and Jiangsu provinces on Monday, while some of these areas will expect snowstorms, according to the CMA. Meanwhile, freezing rain will pound some parts of Guizhou, Hunan, Jiangxi, Guangxi, Anhui and Zhejiang. The CMA warned local governments and departments to prepare for the coming bad weather, and transportation, railway, electricity and communication departments were advised to prepare post-snow clean-ups. CMA also suggested that citizens in these areas should reduce their unnecessary outdoor activities. The CMA's weather warnings fall into four levels in accordance with their severity and status of emergency, with red being the most severe. […]. ^ top ^

Migrant workers advised to stay in cities for Spring Festival (China Daily)
Inclement weather has led authorities in south China's Guangdong Province to advise millions of migrants to stay in the cities where they work during the upcoming Spring Festival because they may not be able to complete their journey home. "Authorities shall persuade migrant workers to postpone homebound journeys and strive to keep more than 65 percent of them in Guangdong during the festival," said a circular issued by the Department of Labor and Social Security in Guangdong, a southern province with 30 million migrant workers. As part of the effort, the Guangzhou Federation of Trade Unions in this provincial capital has prepared 50 free movie shows for migrants who choose to stay. It also invited 3,000 workers to an evening party along the Zhujiang River during the festival, which falls on February 7. "We would try to bring festive warmth to make them feel good although they are not with their families," said federation official Yi Lihua. […] Railway authorities in Guangzhou, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Beijing, Jinan and Kunming have been forced to stop selling tickets and refund passengers. However, most passengers have been reluctant to return their tickets, hoping railway operations would soon resume. […] The Ministry of Railways predicted the country's railways would carry an unprecedented 178.6 million passengers during the travel peak from January 23 to March 2, up from 156 million last year. Heavy snow since mid-January, the worst in 50 years in China's southern, central and eastern areas, has forced the closure of airports and expressways, in addition to train delays, stranding tens of thousands of passengers. Local authorities in different provinces have been sending water and food to passengers stuck in railway stations and highways. Heavy snow has also affected the normal lives of people, led to power cuts, collapsed buildings, damaged crops and killed livestock. […]Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao arrived in Hunan, one of the hardest-hit provinces, to oversee the relief work on Tuesday. The China Meteorological Administration (CMA) forecast early on Tuesday that strong snow and rain would continue to hit the central, eastern and southern regions in the next three days. ^ top ^

We will require global help, says disaster chief - 77 million people, 17 provinces hit (SCMP)
The snowstorms that have wreaked havoc across central and southern areas are the worst natural disaster since the founding of the People's Republic in 1949, according to the mainland's top disaster relief official. Speaking to the South China Morning Post from Anhui province yesterday, Wang Zhenyao, a vice-director of the Ministry of Civil Affairs' National Disaster Reduction Centre, said the central government would need international aid in its relief work, although it was still too early to talk about sending relief material because of transport bottlenecks. It was also too early to gauge the demand for relief material due to the magnitude of the disaster, which was even worse than the massive flooding of 1998. "It really depends from which direction the relief material is sent. If it is sent from Hong Kong, then it has to wait until the Beijing-Kowloon Railway is reopened." Mr Wang said the number of affected people remained at 77 million. He said the government's priorities were to restore transport links and send necessities to families facing acute difficulty. But he would not estimate the number of households in that situation. Xinhua quoted Vice-Premier Hui Liangyu as telling a televised conference that conditions in some areas were getting worse. He also called for accurate and updated weather reports. Rail and road transport from north to south have ground to a halt in the heaviest snowfalls in the region in half a century. A coal shortage has led to power cuts and flights to the provinces worst-hit by the transport backlog, like Hunan and Guangdong, have only partially resumed. According to figures released on the Ministry of Civil Affairs' website yesterday, 38 people have died in the disaster from causes such as collapsed buildings, slippery paths and drowning. The figure did not include people killed in traffic accidents. A total of 17 provinces have been affected while 1.61 million people have been moved to safer areas. Some 6.7 million hectares of arable land has been damaged, 149,000 buildings have collapsed and 602,000 buildings have been damaged. The disaster had inflicted direct economic losses of 32.67 billion yuan, the ministry said. The government had upgraded the disaster relief alert from grade four to grade two in the six worst-hit provinces, it said. According to ministry figures, which are incomplete because figures from other ministries are not included, the Ministry of Civil Affairs and the Ministry of Finance have sent 193 million yuan of central government disaster relief funds to the six worst-hit provinces of Hunan, Hubei, Guizhou, Guangxi, Jiangxi and Anhui. The People's Liberation Army has also sent 219,000 military jackets and 419,000 blankets. The ministry has ordered local civil affairs bureaus to distribute food, bottled water and blankets to stranded passengers. ^ top ^

Hangzhou rail passengers receive counselling (SCMP)
Railway passengers stranded in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, are receiving counselling in crowded station waiting halls, Zhejiang Daily reported. The municipal government sent a team of 22 psychologists to provide "crisis intervention counselling to anxious travellers" waiting to go home. "Weariness and anxiety could lead to the malfunction of people's immune systems and result in psychological problems," Zhao Guoqiu, the psychologist who heads the team, was quoted as saying. He said listening, smiles and patience were all effective measures to calm stranded passengers, 15 per cent of whom had shown signs of psychological problems. ^ top ^

PLA planes to fly relief missions (SCMP)
Four PLA Ilyushin II-76 aircraft have begun flying disaster relief materials to hard-hit areas. The General Staff Department had ordered quilts and coats from bases in Xian, Shaanxi province, and Changzhi, Shanxi province, to be sent to the southern provinces, Xinhua reported. However, aircraft scheduled to leave Xian just after midnight were delayed when sleet closed the airport in Guiyang, Guizhou province. ^ top ^

Cona buckles under heavy snow (SCMP)
Heavy snow has fallen on the 4,370-metre-high Cona tableland in southwest's Tibet Autonomous Region since January 23, building up to a depth of 70 centimetres and freezing animals to death. More than 3,000 soldiers have been sent to rebuild 45 houses for farmers. Some 20 tonnes of supplies have been sent to the area. ^ top ^

Charities rush to help travellers, worst-hit areas (SCMP)
Many Hong Kong charity groups have made donations to help stranded victims of the mainland snowstorms, while some have launched fund-raising appeals to help villagers in the worst-hit provinces cope with the bad weather. Hong Kong Red Cross said it had donated 100,000 yuan of urgent relief funds to Hunan - one of the worst-hit provinces. The donation has been used to provide basic supplies to 1,000 travellers stranded on highways. […]. ^ top ^

Hu loses sleep as analysts warn of power 'famine' (SCMP)
If coal production keeps declining, road and rail transport does not improve within days, and the power grid in central China remains paralysed, the electricity crisis in snow-hit areas is likely to escalate into a nationwide, long-term power famine that will cost industry dearly, analysts warn. Energy supplies on the mainland have never experienced such a sudden and severe blow. In less than a month, coal storage for power generation has rapidly dropped to about 20 million tonnes, less than half the normal level, according to the latest figures released by the State Electricity Regulatory Commission. The severe coal shortage has forced more than 4,000MW of power generating capacity - equivalent to five Three Gorges Dam projects - to shut down. While coal-fired power plants have run into hard times, hydropower, the second-largest energy source on the mainland, is also struggling. The Three Gorges Dam and other major hydropower stations are operating far below capacity because water reserves decline in winter - a dry season for most Chinese rivers. Nevertheless, the weakened supply has to feed the strong demand for electricity in winter. In central and southern regions, where a collective heating network does not exist, most families depend on electricity to stay warm in sub-zero temperatures. The energy situation has become so urgent and dispiriting that President Hu Jintao left Beijing and descended into a coal pit in Shanxi yesterday to bolster miners' morale in a bid to improve coal output. Officials in Shanxi had ordered nearly every coal mine in the province to shut down to avoid negative reports of coal mine deaths before the Lunar New Year, a move that had significantly reduced coal production this year, according to Xinhua. "Energy supply is critical to the operation of the economy the problem is very grave - I can no longer sleep well," Mr Hu said. If the power supply fell by 20 per cent, industries - especially steel and manufacturing - would suffer a terrible blow because the government would ensure that residential demand was met first, analysts said. Freezing rain is thought to be the primary and most devastating natural factor that has led to the unprecedented power failures. Because of its extremely cold temperature, the rain freezes as soon as it touches a solid subject. It quickly builds up on power lines, toppling cable towers under the heavy load, and can put a sheet of ice on roads so thick and slippery that only a tank can run over it. But human error may have played a bigger part, some analysts say. To improve efficiency, the mainland has built extensive high-voltage power grids and many huge coal-fired power plants, which are highly vulnerable to natural disasters. ^ top ^



Guo Jinlong elected mayor of Beijing (People's Daily)
Guo Jinlong, acting mayor of Beijing, was elected mayor on Saturday at the first session of the 13th Beijing Municipal People's Congress, the local legislative body. Legislators also elected nine vice mayors at the meeting, including a 42-year-old non-Communist woman, Cheng Hong, of the China Democratic League. Seven of them were re-elected vice mayors and two were newly elected, including Cheng and 57-year-old Cai Fuchao, who is head of the Publicity Department of the Beijing Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC). "We will always hold high the great banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics to open up new phases in the modernization drive of the Chinese capital," Guo told reporters after the local legislative body ended its week-long annual session on Saturday. "We must continue to deepen reform and expand opening up," he said. […] In addition, he promised a clean government during his five-year term, stressing that the new leadership of the municipal government would always be open to scrutiny by local legislators, political advisors and the public. "We will be strict with ourselves, and be diligent and honest in handling government affairs to promote social harmony," he said. "We must use the power granted by the people properly," he added. […]. ^ top ^

Beijing rejects farmers' call for land privatisation rights (SCMP)
A top mainland agricultural policymaker has rejected an appeal by some farmers for the right to privatise farmland, saying land seized illegally by officials should be returned to its collective owner, not individuals. Chen Xiwen, deputy director of the office of the central leading group on financial and economic affairs, said yesterday the mainland would stick to its constitution, which says rural land is owned collectively. […] Mr Chen was responding to appeals by farmers in Heilongjiang, Shaanxi, Jiangsu and Tianjin, which have been described by some activists as a call for a second land revolution. Online statements which claim to represent the farmers say farmers' rights cannot be protected by collective ownership because village officials often seize farmland without properly consulting farmers. […] He said the government would promote the transfer of land-use rights to farmland based on the household responsibility system this year and encourage local administrations to experiment with different ways of transferring land-use rights. However, he said the prerequisites for such transfers were collective land ownership - often represented by village groups - and keeping the land for agricultural use only. He said a national campaign by the Ministry of Land and Resources had uncovered 30,000 cases of illegal use of farmland, involving about 67,000 hectares. The Ministry of Agriculture was teaming up with six other ministries to clean up these cases. Land disputes expert Yu Jianrong said the mounting number of such cases could not be resolved unless farmland was privatised. "The problem cannot be solved," he said. ^ top ^



Shanghai's mayor back in as new vice-mayors named (SCMP)
Shanghai yesterday reappointed Han Zheng as mayor and named three new vice-mayors, bringing the total to eight. There had been rumours Mr Han might leave as part of a leadership shuffle after a graft case. The new vice-mayors are former Shanghai deputy secretary general Shen Jun; former education commission chairman Shen Xiaoming; and Zhao Wen, former head of the Shanghai branch of the September 3 Society, a political party. The Shanghai People's Congress also approved two outsiders to take the two top judicial positions: Ying Yong as president of the Shanghai Higher People's Court and Chen Xu to head the prosecutor's office. ^ top ^



New NPC deputies reject democracy call (SCMP)
[…] Speaking at RTHK's City Forum yesterday, China watcher Johnny Lau Yui-siu challenged the deputies to help enfranchise all Hong Kong people to vote in NPC elections in future. "Only 1,000-plus people are allowed to vote now, but all people should have the right to vote," Mr Lau said. "The pan-democrats have been fighting for dual universal suffrage. Why can't we have triple universal suffrage?" Although the deputies have no power over Hong Kong affairs under the "one country, two systems" principle, Mr Lau said he believed they could still enhance their public recognition by organising seminars on socio-economic affairs in Hong Kong. Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood legislator Frederick Fung Kin-kee, who was defeated in the polls, was critical of the election because pan-democrats had not been welcome to stand. He said before polling day on Friday, the media had already reported that only 40 of the 50 contestants were considered "real" candidates by mainland authorities. "As a result, organisers of election forums just invited the 40 preferred candidates. Only four of the 17 election forums invited pan-democrat candidates." Ip Kwok-him, a vice-chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, who was re-elected to the state legislature, remained non-committal on universal suffrage for NPC elections. He questioned whether the community knew what deputies did. "I think we should first enhance public understanding of our work," he said. But he agreed the number of voters should continue to expand in future elections. Liberal Party vice-chairwoman Miriam Lau Kin-yee, one of 13 new NPC deputies, said deputies could discuss future election models among themselves. In Macau yesterday, 12 local NPC deputies were returned, as expected, after no one in the weak pro-democracy camp bothered to run. ^ top ^



Ao verdict won't fix lands system, lawmaker says - Critics ask why ex-works minister was the only public servant tried over graft case (SCMP)
A Macau lawmaker said the 27-year jail term passed yesterday on former minister of works Ao Man-long for corruption did not mean the city's chaotic tendering system for land purchases and public works projects would change. He said the system was urgently in need of major reform, all the more so given that the case had left several questions unanswered. "Why was Ao the only civil servant put on trial? “We are talking about one of the largest graft cases in town. It must definitely have involved more than one government official, if not an entire syndicate," pro-democracy lawmaker Au Kam-san said. Less than a third of the HK$800 million in assets Macau's Commission Against Corruption was able to trace to Ao was accounted for in the trial, which focused on bribes paid to win tenders for public works projects, not the land deals where the big money can be made. […]. ^ top ^



Cabinet reshuffle farce ends with Chen rejecting mass resignations (SCMP)
Taiwan's cabinet reshuffle flip-flop has ended with Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian rejecting the resignations tendered by Premier Chang Chun-hsiung and his cabinet on Thursday. Instead of finding a chief executive to head the cabinet, as suggested by ruling Democratic Progressive Party presidential candidate Frank Hsieh Chang-ting, Mr Chen asked Mr Chang yesterday to stay on. Not a single cabinet member will be changed. Pundits said that while the president's rejection of the resignations reflected the absurdity of the political manoeuvring by the three DPP leaders, and their internal squabbling, the chief executive controversy had benefited Mr Hsieh since he first raised the issue on January 18. "With the crushing defeat of the DPP in the legislative elections, Hsieh has nothing to lose by raising whatever issues, regardless of whether it is the CEO issue or anything, to show he is different from the opposition Kuomintang and Chen Shui-bian or his government," Chinese Cultural University political science professor George Tsai Wei said. […] If Mr Hsieh could use the CEO cabinet chief idea or fear of a return to dictatorial Kuomintang rule to convince voters to support him, it was worth his while trying to raise such topics, no matter how phony they appeared, Professor Tsai noted. Results of two opinion polls released on Sunday by the China Times and the United Daily News showed that Mr Hsieh had regained 3 to 6 percentage points of support since the legislative elections. The China Times poll indicated his support had increased to 23.2 per cent from 19.9 per cent the day after the polls. Support for KMT presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou dropped to 46 per cent from 53 per cent. The United Daily News poll showed Mr Hsieh's support rising from 18 per cent to 23 per cent and Mr Ma's dropping from 63 to 57 per cent. […]. ^ top ^



Panchen Lama pays formal visit to China's top legislator (People's Daily)
The 11th Panchen Lama Gyaincain Norbu paid a formal visit to China's top legislator Wu Bangguo in Beijing on Thursday. Wu, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), extended greetings for the Spring Festival and the new year under the Tibetan calendar. Wu congratulated the Panchen Lama on his achievements and improvements in all areas and called on him to further study policies made in the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Wu encouraged the living Buddha to take responsibility to enhance China's reunification and do more things that could benefit the country. Wu also urged the Panchen Lama, one of the most influential religious leaders in Tibet, to constantly improve Buddhism's accomplishments and seriously follow Buddhist taboos. […] The Panchen Lama said that he had gained in-depth understanding of the CPC's pursuit of interest for the common people after attending the 17th CPC National Congress as a non-voting delegate. He vowed to support the CPC's leadership and make more contributions to the Tibetan economy and social harmony by guiding more religious work to adapt to China's socialist society. ^ top ^



China to import Russian high tech (China Daily)
China will import 156 high-tech materials and items of equipment from Russia, under an agreement signed by the two sides here on Saturday. The items include 63 energy-saving technologies, such as super-conductive materials, and 53 medical and bio-engineering technologies, such as diagnosing equipment. The cooperation also covers 17 new materials technologies, such as reinforced plastic, and 23 environment protection and agricultural technologies, such as waste-water treatment equipment. The projects, signed in a China-Russia trade forum, would improve the trade balance between the two countries, said president of the Chinese People's Association For Friendship With Foreign Countries Chen Haosu without giving further details. […]. ^ top ^

China to build 97 new airports by 2020 (China Daily)
[…] The proposals will mean eight out of every ten residents will live within 100 kilometres (60 miles) of an airport within 12 years, the General Administration of Civil Aviation said. It put the cost of building the 97 new airports at 450 billion yuan (US$61.6 billion). Air traffic volume rose 16 percent to 185 million passengers in 2007, according to official figures. The General Administration of Civil Aviation predicts passenger traffic will grow by 11.4 percent a year between now and 2020, and freight traffic by 14 percent. The number of airports serving more than 30 million passengers a year will rise from three now to 13, it said. ^ top ^

Stock markets see another 'black Monday' (China Daily)
The mainland stock market suffered heavy losses on Monday, failing to recover from last week's tumble, as the major indices in Shanghai and Shenzhen lost more than six percent in panic selling. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index opened 42 points lower at 4,720.56, and then never returned to its opening value. […] The Shenzhen Component Index, covering major stocks on the smaller Shenzhen market, also fell 6.45 percent to 16,177 points. […] Financial sectors lost even more as investors' confidence in the industry may be overshadowed by recent losses of Western financial tycoons and international ripple effects. […] Market analysts have pointed out that so far, most put warrant prices are still much higher than their internal value, and excessive speculation can lead to unexpected losses. The mainland stock performance today was echoed by neighboring markets. The benchmark Hong Kong Hang Seng Index slumped 4.25 percent to 24,053 points. […] Market watchers said today's loss is a continuation of last week's retreat. […]. ^ top ^

Services shine, but still trail industrial sector (China Daily)
China's service industry notched up the fastest growth in more than a decade last year, but it still lagged behind the nation's sizzling industrial sector, a senior government official said. The total output of the service sector expanded to 9.6 trillion yuan in 2007, up 11.4 percent year-on-year, according to the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the top economic planner. […] "This is the fastest growth of the service sector since 1996," said Xia Nong, deputy chief of the industrial policy department of the NDRC. […] A manufacturing powerhouse, China is trying to move up the value chain by boosting its modern service sector in areas such as the financial, logistic and telecom industries. […] "The nation will deepen the reforms and create a favorable environment to boost the service sector in the coming years," Xia said. As part of the efforts, broader market access will be offered to sectors such as telecom, railway, civil aviation and postal services, said Xia. The government will also offer tax, credit and land incentives to related enterprises. Foreign investors are also being encouraged to set up operations in this sector. ^ top ^

China's central bank urges local offices to ensure cash supplies (Xinhua)
The People's Bank of China (PBOC),the central bank, on Thursday asked its local offices to ensure cash supplies amid persistent snow to meet demand for the Spring Festival, which falls on Feb. 7. Snow has disrupted transportation, making it hard to deliver cash to the branches. The central bank, in a circular, urged its local offices to help commercial banks in getting or storing cash. […]. ^ top ^


Avian flu

China lifts bird flu quarantine in Xinjiang (China Daily)
Authorities in western China lifted a bird flu quarantine Sunday after no new outbreaks were reported. No cases of human infection were reported in Northwest China's Xinjiang Autonomous Region outbreak of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus strain, the Agriculture Ministry reported, according to the Xinhua News Agency. […] The virus remains hard for humans to catch, but experts worry that every outbreak in poultry may make it easier for the virus to mutate into a form that passes easily among people, potentially igniting a flu pandemic. Most human cases have been traced to contact with infected birds. […]. ^ top ^

China confirms new bird flu case in Tibet (China Daily)
Chinese Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) announced Tuesday it has confirmed a new bird flu case in southwestern Tibet Autonomous Region. The China National Bird Flu Reference Laboratory confirmed Tuesday the once suspected bird flu case hitting Gongga County on January 25 was caused by the highly pathogenic H5N1 subtype avian influenza virus, the MOA said.


Beijing Olympics

Beijing silences 'one-man rights organisation' - Hu Jia's arrest removes a thorn from the party's side ahead of the Olympics (SCMP)
[…on] December 27, human rights advocate Hu Jia finished an article on the situation of the wife and two children of dissident Guo Feixiong. […] Observers of the human rights scene on the mainland say that Hu's detention was related to the Olympics, now less than seven months away. With the world's eyes focused on Beijing, the Communist Party has been keen to put on a good face, and Hu, who some describe as a "one-man human rights organisation", was making that increasingly difficult. "He did a lot of damage to the Communist Party," says a journalist who knows Hu. "When the government put Gao Zhisheng under house arrest, they thought the story would go away, but it was Hu Jia who kept on the story and who told the world what was happening to him." The journalist adds that Hu told journalists when prison staff attacked Guo Feixiong with electric prods, providing them with a letter from Guo's wife detailing the attacks, and it was Hu who reported the beating of blind activist Chen Guangcheng. "These are the three people the party hates the most," says the journalist of the three dissidents that Hu tried to defend. "The party would like them to be forgotten, but Hu keeps coming back in their face." […] "The thing about Hu Jia is that he believes in the idea of transparency," says Eva Pils, assistant law professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. "He wanted to protect people by publicising everything, making everything that happened to them known." She says that while others thought that exposing government wrongdoing might increase the risk of retaliation, Hu talks openly about things like illegal detentions and beatings. "Rights defenders will, of course, disagree about what the right strategy is to promote their concerns, and they all work under very great pressure, in an atmosphere of general fear and repression," says Dr Pils, "but Hu Jia was special in that his response to repression was to become more outspoken." […] Chine Chan, a Hong Kong-based campaigner for Amnesty International, says Hu knows the government monitored overseas Chinese websites, such as Boxun, and that his postings were an open challenge to Beijing. "He was saying, `Can you see this human rights violation? Can you do something to improve the situation?'" Recipients of his reports say he was very professional and that they could be trusted. […] Also important was the moral support he offered to people who were being persecuted and who felt helpless. […] But if Beijing was intent on keeping human rights abuses hidden from smiling Olympic fans by removing Hu from the scene, the move may have backfired. […] His detention has led to rare public denunciations around the world. European Parliament president Hans-Gert Pottering issued a statement calling for Hu's release on December 31. On January 14, US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Hu's detention was "disturbing", adding that Washington was watching the case closely. On January 17, the European Parliament approved a resolution calling for his release. Human rights experts say that while Hu's detention has left an obvious gap, the flow of information has only slowed. "By shutting down people like Hu Jia, they are just creating 10 more people to fill his shoes because the conditions have not changed," Ms Davis says. ^ top ^

FBI chief lauds security measures for Beijing Games (SCMP)
The head of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation lauded security preparations for the Beijing Olympics yesterday and said he expected a terrorism-free Games. "The substance of our discussions has been and will continue to be on securing Olympic venues from potential attacks, principally from terrorists," FBI director Robert Mueller told a press conference in Beijing. "The challenge is to keep the various venues secure but I am very much impressed by the preparations that have been made to accomplish that and I fully anticipate the Olympics will be secure and safe." Mr Mueller spoke after talks this week with his mainland counterparts on Olympic security and other issues. The discussions were in keeping with a traditional pre-Olympic "exchange of ideas" on security that the FBI holds with host cities. The security issue carries extra importance for the agency this year amid plans by US President George W. Bush to attend the August 8-24 Games. Mr Mueller's talks with Ministry of Public Security officials also touched on terrorism and cybercrime, he said. He offered no details of the discussions. […] "We see the Olympics as an opportunity to build on and to enhance that foundation of working together, not just in anticipation of the Olympics but well past the Olympics," Mr Mueller said. ^ top ^



Leaders target national security (Mongolian Messenger)
President N. Enkhbayar said in 2008 he would pay more attention to renew national security and amend the Law of national security at a political parties consultative meeting initiated by him in State House on January 23. He clarified his position on the National Development Strategy until 2021 and exchanged opinions with political party leaders on urgent issues to be discussed at State level, Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party, Democratic Party, National New Party, People's Party and Republic Party and Civil Will Party leaders attended and exchanged views. The meetings follow the Mongolian tradition of observing and discussing future issues. Food safety and supply, harmful chemical substances, civil registration structure, Parliament and local election issue were discussed at the 2008 meeting with the President stating increased attention to national security and to amending the Law of national security. ^ top ^

Mongolia and South Korea cooperate for better energy (Mongolian Messenger)
Prime Minster S. Bayar received Ambassador of South Korea to Mongolia Park Jin Ho, on January 24. Ambassador Ho said he was pleased at the high level relationship between the two countries and that South Korea was interested in cooperating in Tavan Tolgoi coal project and uranium projects. He noted that it would be possible to develop cooperation on construction of a nuclear power station and uranium because South Korea was experienced in nuclear energy use. He proposed increasing flights between Ulaanbaatar and Seoul to cope with the increasing passenger numbers and suggested issuing flight permission to two aviation companies. He said it would reduce airfares and increase tourist numbers to Mongolia. ^ top ^


Novella Bellonia
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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