Der wöchentliche Presserückblick der Schweizer Botschaft in der VR China
The Weekly Press Review of the Swiss Embassy in the People's Republic of China
La revue de presse hebdomadaire de l'Ambassade de Suisse en RP de Chine
  5.5-9.5.2008, No. 216  
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Foreign Policy

Hu wishes 'warm spring' with Japan (China Daily)
President Hu Jintao said he hoped to "meet old friends and make new friends" during his upcoming visit to Japan, and that the trip will have the atmosphere of a "warm spring". Hu, who is scheduled to reach Japan tomorrow and stay until Saturday, made the remarks yesterday during an interview with journalists from 16 Japanese media organizations stationed in Beijing. "I expect to meet with the Japanese Emperor, exchange in-depth views with Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo on bilateral relations and other issues of common concern, and have extensive contact with Japanese people from different walks of life," he said. He also said he "wished for a warm spring for the friendship between the two peoples". This year marks the 30th anniversary of the signing of the China-Japan Treaty of Peace and Friendship, and Hu said fruitful results have been achieved in the past three decades. "The results have brought substantial benefits to the two peoples and made an important contribution to peace, stability and prosperity in Asia and the world," Hu said. "The visit is aimed at enhancing mutual trust, friendship and cooperation, making programs for the future, and comprehensively pushing forward bilateral strategic and reciprocal relations." He said it is normal for the two countries to have different views during the development of bilateral relations. […]Hu's visit will be the first by a Chinese president to Japan in a decade, and is seen as a step to further improve once-chilly ties, which started to warm with the "ice-breaking" visit by former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe to China in October 2006. […]. ^ top ^

Beijing pushed musical diplomacy, says Vatican (SCMP)
It was Beijing that approached the Vatican about letting the China Philharmonic Orchestra perform for Pope Benedict in an unprecedented concert that could help improve often thorny relations, Vatican sources said yesterday. The sources said the Vatican realised that China was trying to improve its image, but the church hoped the performance could be a seed for eventual diplomatic relations. They cautioned not to expect any breakthroughs following tomorrow night's concert at the Vatican. "I don't think [Beijing] are doing it out of love for the Pope or love of the Holy See, but it will be positive in the end," a priest said. He said a Chinese diplomat had approached a Vatican representative and made the offer. An initial offer for the orchestra to play for the Pope was made several months ago, but the concert could not be arranged. "It's very important that they made the offer again," the priest said. "It will be positive for the Chinese people to see the Pope, too," he said, adding that he expected the concert to be broadcast on Chinese television. ^ top ^

China rebukes on religion policy (Xinhua)
China Tuesday expressed "firm opposition" to a U.S. report on the religious situation in China. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) criticized the religious situation in China and other developing countries in its 2008 annual report, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said. The report constitutes a malicious attack on China's policies on religion and ethnic minorities, and represents a gross interference in China's internal affairs, Qin said, adding that this is a reflection of the committee's consistent prejudice against China. "It is a fact and reality that the Chinese government protects its citizens' freedom of religious belief according to the laws and Chinese citizens of all ethnic groups and locations enjoy full freedom of religious belief protected by law," the spokesman said. "We advise the USCIRF to seriously examine the United States' own problems and stop interfering in other countries' internal affairs under the pretext of religion, so as not to undermine China-U.S. ties, and save from further damages to its own image," Qin said. ^ top ^

Experts welcome willingness to set aside sensitive issues (SCMP)
The joint declaration signed yesterday by China and Japan was hailed by Sino-Japanese experts as a good start that showed a willingness to set aside contentious issues in the interests of closer ties. Analysts said the joint communique put forward a comprehensive set of principles to govern the future development of bilateral ties, and its all-encompassing nature set it apart from three previous agreements. Describing President Hu Jintao's trip as a success, Li Guangmin , an expert on Sino-Japanese relations at Qingdao University's Politics and International Studies Institute, said the declaration laid out a basic framework for relations between the two countries, leaving its translation into practice to various government departments in the future. Professor Li said that in the past both sides tended to insist on their own interpretations on controversies such as territorial and gas-field disputes in the East China Sea, but this time "the wording of the declaration showed that both countries tried to avoid touching on sensitive issues". He said Beijing was most worried now about whether Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda would continue to be leader after the general election in September next year, given his unpopularity in his homeland. "This declaration does not have any binding effect on subsequent governments and we're not sure if this will be carried on," he said. While Premier Wen Jiabao's "ice-melting" trip to Japan last year resulted in a joint statement that centred on co-operation on trade, energy and environmental issues, former president Jiang Zemin's trip to Japan in 1998 - the last one by a Chinese head of state until now - was considered a failure because he did not deliver breakthroughs on issues such as wartime history. A decade later, Mr Hu's trip is seen as having a dual purpose - to warm relations chilled by nationalist Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, and to restore Beijing's image tainted by suppression in Tibet and the waves of protests dogging the overseas Olympic torch relay. Chen Gang, a research fellow with the East Asian Institute at the National University of Singapore, said that in these terms Mr Hu's trip seemed quite successful. Dr Chen also said China had moderated its position on some policies towards Japan, the most striking being the slight shift in stance on Japan's application for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. He said China had declared that it recognised and supported Japan playing a bigger role in the UN and that this could be a hint that it was prepared to support Japan's bid. Despite Beijing's desire for Japan to recognise Taiwan as part of the People's Republic of China, Tokyo's stance on this - in which it "respects and understands" Beijing's position on Taiwan - was unchanged. Chen Peng-jen, a professor at the Japanese Institute at Taipei-based Chinese Culture University, said Japan would not change or clarify its position on the Taiwan issue, as it was a sensitive matter that also touched on US military ties with Taipei. ^ top ^

Statement consolidates partnership (China Daily)
President Hu Jintao and Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda yesterday signed a joint statement calling for the promotion of a mutually beneficial strategic relationship between China and Japan. This is the fourth landmark paper the two countries have inked on defining their ties since the normalization of diplomatic relations in 1972. "The document will serve as a new guideline for bilateral relations," Hu said at a joint press conference with Fukuda. The two leaders agreed the China-Japan relationship is very important for both sides. "The two sides confirmed they are partners of cooperation and will not be a threat to each other," the statement said. To bolster trust, the leaders will visit each other's nation every year. On the Taiwan question, Japan reiterated that it maintains the stance outlined in past Japan-China joint statements. China will "place importance on Japan's position and role" in the United Nations and hopes Japan will play a constructive role in international affairs, the statement said. China and Japan signed a Joint Communiqu in 1972, the Treaty of Peace and Friendship in 1978, and the China-Japan Joint Declaration in 1998. Liu Jiangyong, a professor of international relations with Tsinghua University, said: "The fourth important bilateral document will help keep China-Japan relations on track in the future." The two countries also signed a series of other documents, including one on cooperation on climate change.In that, China pledged to work with other countries to study measures to realize the ultimate goal of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. "Japan has cutting-edge environmental and energy-saving technologies," Hu said. "The two countries have a bright future for cooperation in this field." He invited businesspeople and nongovernmental organizations to join the governments in this regard. When Fukuda visited China last year, he promised Japan would set up environmental information facilities in China to share its expertise on environmental technologies, and provide training programs for 10,000 Chinese over three years. Japanese Emperor Akihito welcomed Hu at a grand ceremony before his summit with Fukuda. ^ top ^

Russia's new President Dmitry Medvedev to visit China (China Daily)
Russia's new President Dmitry Medvedev will pay a state visit to China from May 23 to 24, at the invitation of Chinese President Hu Jintao. […]. ^ top ^

President Hu pledges peaceful development (China Daily)
China will never be a military threat to any nation, President Hu Jintao said here yesterday, while vowing the country will continue to grow through peaceful development. "China pursues a national defense policy that is defensive in nature. We will not join any arms race or become a military threat to any country," Hu said in a speech at Tokyo's Waseda University that was broadcast live in both China and Japan. China will never seek hegemony or territorial expansion, he said, adding that peaceful development is the strategic choice of the Chinese government and its people. China and Japan should see each other as cooperative partners rather than rivals, he said. "China and Japan should recognize each other's development objectively and accurately, and view each other's development not as threat but opportunities," Hu said.He said mutual trust is the foundation of stable bilateral ties and the two countries should respect each other's concerns and core interests and insist on solving disputes through negotiation. Speaking to an audience of about 1,500 people, Hu said Japan's wartime aggression greatly damaged friendly ties and brought disaster not only to the Chinese people but also deeply hurt the Japanese. "History is the most philosophical textbook. We emphasize the remembrance of it not to continue the animosity but to learn from the past and face up the future," Hu said. The two nations should cherish and maintain peace so their friendship can pass from generation to generation and the people of the world can enjoy peace and stability, he said. His 50-minute speech was the key event of the third day of Hu's visit, which aims to reach out to the Japanese public. China and Japan yesterday issued a joint press communiqu on boosting exchanges and cooperation as measures to implement the joint statement signed on Wednesday after talks between President Hu Jintao and Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda. According to the communiqu, several visits between the defense departments are scheduled within the year. Japan's defense minister will visit China this year, while the China's Air Force commander will visit Japan next month. The two sides also agreed to launch the exchanges of about 4,000 Chinese and Japanese young people each year over the next four years. The communiqu covered a range of issues including politics, trade, environmental protection and food safety. […]. ^ top ^

Protesters face off outside lecture hall (SCMP)
Flag-waving and slogan-chanting Japanese and Chinese protesters shouted at each other yesterday outside the lecture hall where President Hu Jintao was giving a speech at Waseda University. The university did not publicise Mr Hu's visit, but that did not stop hundreds of emotional Japanese protesters from turning up to chant slogans such as "free Tibet, we are friends" to "Hu Jintao is a killer". About 100 Chinese protesters shouted "one China" and "Go go China" in response, waving Chinese flags. […]. ^ top ^

Landmark Vatican concert bridges gap (SCMP)
Beijing yesterday offered an overture to the Vatican following a landmark performance by the China Philharmonic Orchestra, saying China is willing to improve relations with the Holy See. Describing music as a bridge for communication, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said the latest performance by the orchestra would help improve understanding between the two sides. "China is ready to improve China-Vatican relations and will make efforts in this regard," Mr Qin said at a press briefing in Beijing. "We are ready to conduct further dialogue on the basis of fundamental principles." Ties between the Vatican and China's communist government have been strained for decades, but analysts say the orchestra's performance at the Vatican shows a warming of ties between both sides. The 75-member orchestra performed for Pope Benedict on Wednesday. The Pope, a classical music lover, sat in an embroidered ivory velvet chair and listened intently to Mozart's Requiem. Describing the hour-long concert as a "truly unique event", Pope Benedict offered a "thank you" in Putonghua when it finished. He praised music as a bridge between cultures and peoples and expressed greetings "to all the people of China as they prepare for the Olympic Games". The pontiff said he wanted to reach out "to your entire people" and that he had a "special thought" for Chinese Catholics loyal to the papacy. Conductor Yu Long said in brief remarks to the Pope and guests before the concert: "This is a glorious moment that will be cherished long in our memories." He expressed hope that the performance would "help spread a message of peace and love". The Pope has said improving relations with China is a priority of his papacy. China's officially atheist Communist Party cut ties with the Vatican in 1951 and the two sides have never restored formal ties. China appoints bishops for the state-sanctioned Catholic church. Still, many of the country's estimated 12 million Catholics worship in congregations outside the state-approved church. It is not the first time that classical music has served a diplomatic purpose. In February, the New York Philharmonic played in North Korea. The Chinese orchestra will also perform in Venice, Italy, and Vienna in Austria. ^ top ^

Ma Ying-jeou saves face by scrapping visits to US, Japan (SCMP)
Taiwanese president-elect Ma Ying-jeou has dropped his plan to visit the US and Japan ahead of his May 20 inauguration, a decision seen by analysts as an attempt to avoid embarrassment for those countries. Shortly after trouncing his Democratic Progressive Party opponent, Frank Hsieh Chang-ting, in the March 22 presidential election, Mr Ma said he wanted to visit the US and Japan before he took office. His announcement caused controversy, with critics saying he should not unilaterally talk about plans involving leaders of other countries without prior consultation. Stephen Young, the de facto US ambassador to Taipei, yesterday said he had spoken to Mr Ma and they agreed he would not visit the US. Denying the reversal was a result of pressure from Beijing, or of the US State Department forbidding Mr Ma from going, Mr Young, director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), said the decision was made because there was not enough time to prepare for the trip. […]. ^ top ^

Public, media cool to offer to rent pandas to Tokyo zoo (SCMP)
Some Japanese public and media reactions have been chilly towards President Hu Jintao's offer to rent two giant pandas to a Tokyo zoo. Japanese media reported yesterday that Japan would pay 100 million yen (HK$7.42 million) a year for the two pandas and mocked Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda for the "bad deal". The other eight pandas on loan to Japan cost only 100 million yen altogether. […]. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

Five rail officials suspended after crash (SCMP)
Five officials have been suspended from duty following last week's train disaster in which 72 people died. The five mid-ranking officials were responsible for the day-to-day running of the stretch of track where two trains collided in Shandong province last Monday. The Jinan Railway Bureau said: "The mistakes of these officers directly caused the disaster." Three senior officials at the bureau have already been sacked, ahead of further investigations. Chen Gong , former director of the bureau, and Chai Tiemin, former party secretary, were sacked by the Railways Ministry last Monday. Former executive deputy director Guo Jiguang was dismissed a day later. An inquiry into the accident near Zibo ruled that the T195, a high-speed passenger train travelling from Beijing to Qingdao, derailed in the path of an oncoming train because it was travelling at 131 km/h on a stretch of track with a speed limit of 80km/h. Sixty-three of the 416 injured had been discharged up to Saturday, while 177 others were transferred to hospitals elsewhere, and 176 remained in hospital in Zibo city, officials said. The identities of all those killed have been confirmed. The bodies of 16 victims have been cremated with the agreement of their families. ^ top ^

Nationwide alert issued on disease (China Daily)
A nationwide alert has been issued in a bid to control a virus that has caused 22 deaths in one city and shows signs of spreading to other parts of the country. The Ministry of Health warned on Saturday that cases of hand-foot-mouth disease (HFMD) will possibly increase in the following months since June and July are the peak seasons for the disease. Following the 22 children's deaths reportedly caused by enterovirus 71, or EV71, in Fuyang of Anhui province, two other deaths from the same virus have been confirmed in Guangdong province, Xinhua News Agency reported yesterday. By May 2, 4,529 HFMD cases had been reported in Anhui, including 3,736 cases in worst-hit Fuyang, the provincial health authority said yesterday. Of those in Fuyang, 22 have died and 12 are in critical condition, with more than 600 still in hospital. Some have damaged brains, hearts and lungs. Several hundred cases have emerged in other places including Henan, Hubei, Shaanxi, Zhejiang, Jiangxi and Guangdong provinces as well as the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions. EV71 has been confirmed to have caused some of the cases, Xinhua reported. […] HFMD, characterized by fever, sores in the mouth and rashes on hands and feet, is not a new infection and is common among infants and children, experts say. It can be triggered by various viruses and usually does not lead to death. Of the fatal cases reported this year, severe complications due to EV71 infection including meningitis, encephalitis, pulmonary edema and paralysis were the cause of death. […]. ^ top ^

At least 15,000 killed in Myanmar cyclone (China Daily)
More than 15,000 people have been killed in two divisions of Yangon and Ayeyawaddy in the violent cyclone storm Nargis that swept Myanmar's five divisions and states on last Friday and Saturday, according to official sources Monday evening. It is estimated that the casualties in Ayeyawaddy division's Bogalay alone will exceed 10,000 and at least 1,000 in Laputta in the same division. Earlier official figures show that 3,880 people were killed in Ayeyawaddy division including 20 in Bogalay and excluding Laputta, and 59 in Yangon. ^ top ^

Visa policy 'is based on global practices (China Daily)
The Foreign Ministry on Tuesday denied that China had stopped issuing multi-entry visas to foreigners, insisting that visa issue procedures continue to be convenient. Applications are being scrutinized more carefully, spokesman Qin Gang said, adding that the new procedures are based on practices during previous Olympics and other large-scale international sports events. "It does not mean all multiple-entry visas have been suspended," he told a regular news briefing. He said the policies would be in place "for a period of time". "What is unchanged and will not change is safeguarding our national security and making sure our environment is safe, and making sure foreigners in China will be safe," he said. "The Chinese government and people will continue to adhere to the policy of opening and reform, and we will continue to be open to the world. We welcome foreigners to come to China to study, work, and travel," he said. Qin stressed that traveling to China remains far more convenient than to many other countries. For example, "we do not require fingerprinting for foreign visitors". Earlier foreign media reports - citing travel agents in Hong Kong - said China had stopped issuing multiple-entry visas and slowed visa processing in the special administrative region - a major gateway for travel to the mainland - in restrictions that will remain in place until after the Olympics. They said that the authorities are now issuing only single- or double-entry visas to foreigners in Hong Kong, scaling back a program that issued multiple-entry business visas valid for up to three years. More rules including additional documentation for business visas and hotel bookings and plane tickets for tourist visas have also been reported. Some foreign chambers of commerce in Hong Kong said the alleged restrictions were affecting their members who travel frequently to the mainland on business. In Hong Kong, the Foreign Ministry's Office of the Commissioner issued a statement on Monday to clarify some doubts over the visa policy. It said Chinese visa procedures remain convenient and the office would continue to provide efficient service to applicants. The office also suggested those who do not work or reside permanently in Hong Kong to apply for a Chinese visa at the Chinese embassies in their resident countries because "the recent drastic rise in the number of applicants adds to the waiting time for processing". Visa processing usually takes four work days, it said. ^ top ^

Ample grain to keep food prices stable (China Daily)
The country has enough grain reserves to keep food prices stable, the top economic planner said on Tuesday. "Our grain supply and demand is basically stable, our reserves are full, and we can ensure supply and stable grain prices," the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said in a statement. The statement, in a question-and-answer format, was made amid reports of soaring grain prices on the international market. It's a national strategic priority to maintain basic self-sufficiency in grain for the 1.3 billion people, it said, noting that the country has reaped four straight years of bumper harvests. The NDRC said the country's supplies can meet the current annual grain consumption at 510 million tons. Output of wheat, rice and corn exceeds consumption; and the country only needs some imports to meet the shortfall in soybeans, it added. In the major production regions, reserves can meet demand for six months, the NDRC said, adding that the government is transporting grain from the north to the heavily-populated south where consumption outstrips production. Ding Shengjun, an expert at the Academy of the State Administration of Grain, said the country has achieved more than 95 percent self-sufficiency in food supply in recent years. It also has in storage 150 to 200 million tons of grain, about 30 percent of the annual production - far more than the 17 percent safety level set by the Food and Agricultural Organization. Rice accounts for 70 percent of the reserves. About 185 million tons of rice was consumed last year, roughly equivalent with production. As the country is mainly self-sufficient in corn, wheat and rice, rising rice prices on the global markets will not have much impact domestically, the NDRC said. Customs and commerce authorities are cracking down on illegal grain exports by traders hoping to profit from surging international prices. Asian rice prices have almost trebled this year and prices on the Chicago Board of Trade have risen more than 80 percent to hit successive record highs as export restrictions by leading suppliers fuel worries over food supplies. The Asian Development Bank said on Monday more than 1 billion Asians may sink back into extreme poverty without extra aid to counter soaring food prices. Asia is home to two-thirds of the world's poor. When the price of rice in Thailand rose from some $300 to $1,000 per ton in about six weeks, its Chinese equivalent remains at no more than 2,000 yuan, or less than $300. Lured by the huge disparity in international and domestic prices, rice exports have risen sharply compared with last year despite export controls and a cut in rebates, according to latest figures from the State General Administration of Customs. Official figures show the country exported 350,000 tons of rice in the first two months and imported 138,588 tons. Despite optimism, top grain authorities and experts have expressed worries over the country's long-term grain supply. "We now have less room to increase grain planting acreage, and it's becoming more and more difficult to raise yields," said Nie Zhenbang, head of the State Administration of Grain, citing shrinking arable land and water shortages. "It is increasingly difficult to maintain price stability," he said recently, noting that fast expanding demand had made China increasingly dependent on imports for edible oil. Experts have also said that domestic grain prices are bound to rise gradually as the profit margin for farmers is narrowing due to rising costs. Experts also said that steady grain prices contribute to the pressing task of curbing inflation. China's CPI growth hit a 12-year peak of 8.7 percent in February and dipped only slightly to 8.3 percent in March, much of the increase fueled by rising food prices. ^ top ^

China offers $1 mln worth of aid to cyclone-hit Myanmar (People's Daily)
China is sending 1 million U.S. dollars worth of aid to cyclone-devastated Myanmar, the Ministry of Commerce announced on Tuesday. The aid include 500,000 U.S. dollars in money aid and 500,000 U.S. dollars worth of relief supplies, according to a statement posted on the ministry's website. The supplies mainly include tents, blankets and biscuits, which are scheduled to arrive at Yangon, Myanmar's capital, on Wednesday. A devastating cyclone struck five provinces of Myanmar last weekend, killing at least 15,000 people and leaving 30,000 missing. ^ top ^

Guarded response to secret sub base claim (SCMP)
The Foreign Ministry yesterday refused to comment directly on reports that China was building a major underground nuclear submarine base, but defended its right to protect its maritime and territorial interests. "We have a vast territorial sea, and it is the sacred duty of the Chinese army to safeguard our security on the sea, the sovereignty of our territorial waters, and maritime rights and interests," ministry spokesman Qin Gang said. He was responding to questions about a report by Jane's Intelligence Review on Friday that said China was building the base near Sanya , on Hainan island. Jane's reported it had confirmed the existence of the base through satellite images. It said China's plans raised regional and global security concerns, partly because the vessels would be stationed so close to Southeast Asia's sea lanes. Mr Qin insisted that China's military posed no threat to the world. "There is no need for the western countries to be worried, or concerned, or make any irresponsible accusations," Mr Qin said. "China's national defence and military-building will not pose a threat to any countries." Jane's said the base could mean China was preparing to house a large proportion of its nuclear forces, and even operate them from there. ^ top ^

Chinese official says viral outbreak won't affect Olympics (Xinhua)
The recent outbreak of hand-foot-mouth disease (HFMD) will not affect the Beijing Olympic Games, health ministry spokesman Mao Qun'an said here on Wednesday. China is confident that it can control the spread of the disease with effective prevention methods, Mao said at a press conference jointly held by the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization. […]. ^ top ^

HFMD death toll rises to 32, 24,934 infected (China Daily)
Contagious hand-foot-mouth disease (HFMD) has left 32 children dead and sickened 24,934 in China as of Thursday, according to Xinhua's tally based on confirmed death reports from provincial-level health bureaus. […]. ^ top ^

Examiners in spotlight over bribes (China Daily)
Xiao Yang, a student about to sit for his national college entrance exam, is worried, and with good reason. "From time to time, we hear of stories about cheating and bribery, especially exams related to physical education, arts and music," the student of Guangzhou No 41 Middle School, said. Yesterday, provincial authorities confirmed that three examiners have been accused of bribery and malpractice in connection with a local physical education entrance exam which was held between March 2 and 13. The authorities declined to disclose the names of the three pending legal action. "We took immediate action after learning about the bribery and malpractice from the local media and citizens," Lai Hongying, a press officer with the provincial education department, told China Daily. Lai said the examiners had received bribes from an intermediary to score high marks for some students. "The students involved were told their exams would be null and void," she said. Students found to have cheated are barred for a year from taking the same exam. In about a month's time, 614,000 students in Guangdong, will take this year's national college entrance exam in various subjects, a 10 percent increase over last year. The admission rate to colleges in Guangdong last year was about 65 percent. More than 12,000 students took the physical education exam, but less than 4,000 were admitted to colleges last year. Many take majors in arts and physical education because they require lower academic scores. Exams of such majors are held earlier so that candidates can prove they are qualified. If students fail in these exams, they can still take part in the national entrance exams in various other subjects. […]. ^ top ^



Security boosted at Tiananmen (China Daily)
Security in Tiananmen Square was officially tightened on Monday in a bid to prevent people entering the area with potentially dangerous items. The "Administration Regulation in the Tiananmen Area" took effect yesterday. The key element of the new ruling is that security checks will be made throughout the year, rather than just on special occasions and holidays, as was previously the case. Anyone entering the square could be stopped and checked, as the process will be random, an official surnamed Li from the legal office of the Beijing municipal government said. […] On the approach to the Olympics, Tiananmen Square will be a focus for Beijing authorities as they try to avert the threat of possible terrorist attacks. The new ruling has met with mostly support by locals and tourists. […]. ^ top ^

Beijing suspends two kindergartens over hand-foot-mouth infections (Xinhua)
Two kindergartens in Beijing were temporarily shut down Tuesday after children showed symptoms of hand-foot-mouth disease (HFMD). […]. ^ top ^



Bus catches fire in Shanghai, leaving three dead (Xinhua)
Three people died and 12 were injured when a bus caught fire in Shanghai at about 9:00 a.m. on Monday, said police. The cause of the fire was still under investigation. The injured have been sent to hospital, according to the police. […]. ^ top ^

Chemical park polluting water supply (China Daily)
Mei Zhengning, a resident of a village in Guangde county, Anhui province, has been drinking bottled water for several years because of the poor quality of the water in a nearby river. But more than 70,000 others are not so lucky - they simply cannot afford the price of bottled water. "There are still many poor families in the area who have to rely on water from the wells," Mei, a restaurant worker, told China Daily. The Liudong River is seriously polluted by industrial wastewater from a chemical park in Yixing in neighboring Jiangsu province, China Comment magazine said yesterday. The river, which serves as the primary water source for people in the area, is found to contain pollutants 28 times more than the national standard. Mei said the river had turned black and was giving off a putrid smell that made him sick. "It used to be so clear that we could see right through to the bottom of the riverbed," Mei said. "I'm not sure whether other people still drink the water or not, but I've heard that those who use the water to wash themselves are suffering from red, itchy skins." Ding Shimei of Jianchuan village committee said that his family had installed tap water since last year because of concerns that the water quality in the river may deteriorate further. However, not many people can afford tap water, Wang Zhangxing, head of Jianchuang village, said. Water in many wells in the village is undrinkable due to pollution, he said. "Villagers now have to carry water from faraway mountains." Due to its geographical location, industrial wastewater from the chemical park in Yixing flows directly into the river. Companies in the park, which mainly manufacture paint and industrial lipin, have failed to treat their waste before dumping it into the river. […]. ^ top ^



Ma hopes for mainland students (SCMP)
Taiwan's president-elect, Ma Ying-jeou, says he hopes mainland students can be admitted to colleges on the island and inspire Taiwanese students to study harder. Mr Ma's comment came during a meeting with Lee Kai-fu, the Taiwanese-born president of Google's Greater China operations. Mr Ma won the March elections on a platform of improving economic and political ties with Beijing.^ top ^



Dalai Lama-Beijing talks deemed cordial (SCMP)
Talks on Sunday between representatives of the Dalai Lama and Beijing officials in Shenzhen were "conducted in a good atmosphere", the Tibetan government-in-exile said yesterday. Speaking from Dharamsala, India, prime minister-in-exile Samdhong Rinpoche added: "Like we said before, we're not expecting much outcome from these talks, but this is a slow process, and we are happy to continue the dialogue." However, speaking yesterday from Brussels, Kesang Yangkyi Takla, a minister with the government-in-exile, said: "We feel that until and unless the current crisis ... in Tibet improves, it is difficult to start negotiations. We hope that the government in China will consider this and give a concrete reply so that things improve in Tibet." On Sunday, Xinhua said both sides had agreed to hold further discussions. The official news agency published a commentary yesterday reiterating that Beijing's position in dealing with the Dalai Lama was "consistent", and urged the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader to match his words with action to create "favourable conditions" for the next round of talks. The closed-door meeting in Shenzhen was the first since rioting in Lhasa and unrest rocked Tibet and nearby areas in March. It came after western and Japanese leaders had put pressure on Beijing to reopen dialogue with the Dalai Lama. French President Nicolas Sarkozy had expressed reservations about attending the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in August unless the dialogue resumed. The White House said yesterday that renewed talks between Beijing and representatives of the Dalai Lama should take up Tibetan complaints about freedom of religion and cultural values. "We believe that dialogue between the Chinese government and representatives of the Dalai Lama is the best way to address some of the fundamental issues in Tibet," said spokesman Scott Stanzel. The central government's official account says 18 civilians and one policeman were killed in the riots in Lhasa. Overseas Tibetan groups have reported much higher death tolls. Tom Grunfeld, a China and Tibet expert at State University of New York, said years of mistrust made it difficult to expect much. "The best-case scenario is that both sides commit to small, doable, reasonable actions from now until the end of August," he said. ^ top ^

Tibet envoy upbeat as 'sincere' Beijing asks same of Dalai Lama (SCMP)
The Dalai Lama must create "a conductive environment" for the next round of negotiations, Beijing said yesterday, adding that the central government was "sincere and serious" in its talks with the Tibetan spiritual leader. Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said the Dalai Lama must take concrete steps to show his sincerity. "The Dalai Lama must stop conducting separatist activities and stop sabotaging the Beijing Olympics in order to create a conductive environment for the next round of contact and negotiation." An envoy of the Dalai Lama said central government negotiators had shown a willingness to engage with the Tibetan side during recent talks, despite major differences on important issues. Each side exchanged "concrete proposals which can be part of a future agenda", the envoy, Lodi Gyari, said in a statement issued in Dharamsala, home of the Tibetan government-in-exile. "Despite major differences on important issues, both sides demonstrated a willingness to seek common approaches in addressing the issues at hand," he said. A date for another round of formal talks would be finalised soon, Lodi Gyari said. "We welcome the recent statement of President Hu Jintao that his government is `serious' about the dialogue and his acknowledging that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is being `conscientious and serious'." He said the two sides "disagreed more than we agreed" at weekend talks in Shenzhen on how to move beyond the unrest in Tibet. At the talks, both sides made "concrete proposals" that could be part of a future agenda for discussions on Tibet, Lodi Gyari said. He did not provide any details on the proposals but said the Tibetan side called for the release of people detained after the unrest that engulfed the region in March, and for authorities to let visitors - including journalists - into Tibet, which has been largely sealed off since the violence. The Tibetan side also pressed for an end to Beijing's "patriotic re-education" campaign in the region, which forces monks to denounce the Dalai Lama. But it was far from clear whether Beijing was ready to listen. "The Chinese did not give any assurances. They strongly defended their views," Lodi Gyari said. "Our counterparts again made baseless allegations against the Dalai Lama for derailing and sabotaging the Beijing Olympics. But we made it very clear that the Dalai Lama supported the Olympics from day 1." Beijing has repeatedly accused the Dalai Lama and his supporters of fomenting the recent protests. In a statement released ahead of the news conference, Lodi Gyari said: "We made it clear that the events in Tibet are the inescapable consequences of wrong policies of the authorities towards the Tibetans. "The recent crisis in Tibet is a clear symptom of deeply felt grievances and resentment of the Tibetans.". ^ top ^



UBS staff in Asia escape worst of heavy job cuts (SCMP)
UBS, the largest bank in Switzerland, will largely spare staff in Asia from its global lay-off, planning to cut only about five people from its mainland investment banking joint venture as part of its group-level reductions that will see up to 8,000 employees let go. Sources said the bank had more than 400 employees at its Beijing-based joint venture and the cuts were part of 10 jobs to be eliminated in the Asia-Pacific. "It's been a real light touch and Asia-Pacific is getting off minimally based on the distance from where the losses originated and continued strong [regional economic] growth," a source said. "You'd have to be asking questions if they were really going to take the axe out." UBS, which cut 1,500 jobs last year, has written down US$38 billion over the past nine months and has become the biggest victim of the investment banking industry's subprime mortgage crisis. […]. ^ top ^

Most of world's top companies invest in China (Xinhua)
Almost 480 of the Fortune 500 companies have invested in China during the past 30 years, Du Ying, deputy minister in charge of the National Development and Reform Commission said here on Monday. From 1978 to 2007, China's total use of foreign investment exceeded 760 billion U.S. dollars, the largest amount among developing countries and the second largest worldwide, said Du at a national economic conference held here. […]. ^ top ^


Beijing Olympics

Bidding war for slots on relay route revealed (SCMP)
As the Olympic flame began a three-month journey covering 113 mainland cities yesterday, insiders revealed that the exposure and prestige offered by the Olympic flame had prompted a bidding war among venues - especially among small backwater towns - that was no less ferocious than the one to host the Games. Most cities went through an evaluation process similar to that applied by the International Olympic Committee to Games bidders, said a Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games torch centre official. There were exceptions for the 31 provincial capitals and municipalities but some of the more obscure places on the modern Long March of pride and profit might leave people wondering about their selection. With fewer than 200,000 residents and no prominent cultural heritage sites, Jixi , in Anhui province, raised eyebrows by making it onto the tour. The torch is scheduled to arrive there late this month. Close scrutiny of its bid returned a possibly decisive reason for its inclusion - the family ancestors of President Hu Jintao came from the unassuming county, which can only be reached from the nearest airport by a two-hour journey through the mountains. In the same vein, Taizhou, in Jiangsu province, earned a place on the itinerary (May 22) through its status as the city where Mr Hu was born and raised. As if the coincidence was not strong enough, all the previous three generations of prominent Communist leaders have their hometowns included on the relay route - namely Shaoshan, Hunan province (June 3, Mao Zedong), Guangan, Sichuan province (June 15, Deng Xiaoping) and Yangzhou, Jiangsu province (May 23, Jiang Zemin) - a move in line with the party's tradition of paying tribute to its patriarchs on major occasions. […]. ^ top ^

Online ticket requests a record, says agency (SCMP)
Beijing Gehua Ticketmaster Ticketing, the official Olympic tickets distributor, claimed a world record yesterday for requests accepted on the first day of the third round of Games ticket sales. The Bank of China said 330,000 tickets were sold on Monday online and through the bank's 544 branches across the country. The bank sold about 130,000 tickets between 9am and 5pm, suggesting the ticketing website sold about 200,000 tickets on the day. Beijing Gehua Ticketmaster general manager Curt Logan said he was not authorised to confirm the number sold through the online service but the result was easily a world record in terms of the number of purchase requests filed. "Twenty-seven million purchase requests were posted in the first hour of the morning ticket sales. "I have never seen such a massive demand anywhere in the world, or at least it never happened even in the distant history of Ticketmaster," Mr Logan said. "It's testimony to how much people in this country are excited about the Olympics. It's unbelievable." […]. ^ top ^

Olympic flame on top of the world (China Daily)
The Olympic flame scaled the highest point on Earth as Chinese mountaineers carried it to Mount Qomolangma on Thursday - in what is the high point of the relay. […] The "Lucky Clouds" torch was lit at about 100 m from the summit amidst strong winds and minus-30 temperatures and then carried up by the five torchbearers - the unprecedented relay lasting about six minutes. The climbers could be heard struggling for breath as they moved a few meters before passing on the flame to the next person. The final torchbearer, a Tibetan woman named Cering Wangmo, stood silently on the peak with her torch while other team members unfurled Chinese and Olympic flags. They then came together, cheering "We made it" and "Beijing welcomes you" in Chinese, English and Tibetan. […]. ^ top ^

Shenzhen relay disrupted amid tight security - Flame put out as 'precaution' (SCMP)
The Olympic flame was extinguished briefly during the torch relay in Shenzhen yesterday, and witnesses reported that people tried to grab the torch and had to be wrestled to the ground. The remarkable development shows that the passage of the Olympic torch on the mainland may not be as smooth as expected. The Shenzhen leg is only the second stop in Guangdong. The torch is scheduled to travel across the country before returning to Beijing in August. The relay was interrupted several times near an area called Overseas Chinese City, where the flame attendants took preventive action until police restored order, mainland website reported. said the Olympic flame was snuffed out several times near Overseas Chinese City and put on to vehicles before the relay was resumed. Witnesses told the South China Morning Post (SEHK: 0583, announcements, news) that the flame escorts prevented five young men from snatching the torch on the Shennan Road, a key thoroughfare in the city where one police officer was stationed about every 10 metres along the route. The men suddenly jumped into the relay procession and rushed to grasp the torch, but flame escorts wrestled one person to the ground before police caught the others and took them away. Witnesses said local television broadcasts (SEHK: 0511) of the relay were suspended for a few seconds. The attackers' intent was not clear. Shenzhen authorities refused to answer phone calls. Mainland media reports, however, said the flame was extinguished because the crowds were too excited and that "normal precautionary measures" were taken to ensure public safety. But, a Hong Kong-based independent news website, said two men dressed like labourers suddenly rushed the procession and extinguished the Olympic flame. […]. ^ top ^

US rights group urges Olympic pardon for long-term prisoners (SCMP)
A US rights group has appealed to China to grant a pardon to long-serving prisoners, saying such a move would leave a humanitarian legacy for future hosts of the Games. The Dui Hua Foundation, which seeks the release of political prisoners in China, made the appeal in a letter to Wu Bangguo, chairman of the National People's Congress. In a separate statement, John Kamm, who heads the foundation, said a pardon would allow for the early release of prisoners jailed in connection with the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy movement. "An Olympic pardon would not target any one group of prisoners," Mr Kamm said. "But a pardon for those who have served the great bulk of their sentences would result in the release of the remaining prisoners from June 1989 - symbolically putting that tragedy behind the Chinese people," he said. ^ top ^

Elation, pride and tears as torch reaches roof of the world (SCMP)
Most people were elated that the Olympic torch had been carried to the roof of the world, but there were also murmurs over the need to spend so much on the climb. "I felt very proud when I heard that the torch-bearers had successfully climbed to the top," said Xu Hao, a 30-year-old logistics worker in Beijing. "As a big nation we should do it no matter how expensive and how difficult the climb. Through the climb, we are showing the world the tenacity and courage in our hearts." Mr Xu's sentiments were widely echoed. "The successful ascent means great glory for all Chinese," a 76-year-old retiree said. "The spending on the climb is worthwhile. It has told the whole world that we Chinese have grand ambitions and great willpower, and it's with this that we have set the torch on the mountaintop." Attempts to scale Mount Everest on a scale similar to yesterday's effort usually cost millions of yuan. The bill for the manufacture of the high-altitude torch was reportedly in the tens of millions of yuan. Some attributed the success of the climb to a joint international effort. Cheng Long, 20, a student at the Capital University of Economics and Trade (CUET), said: "It shows that we have got international support for the climb. The Nepali government has co-operated with us very well and it also shows the strong cohesion of the whole Chinese nation. "The success has shown to the world the Chinese people's organising capacity and our ability to carry on while facing up to pressure at home and abroad." Pro-Tibetan independence groups have criticised the expedition as a show of dominance over the region and threatened to disrupt the climb. But the ascent was largely trouble-free, thanks to the governments of China and Nepal banning climbing on the mountain for the torch run. Mr Cheng said: "As a great nation, China should not only have strong economic power but it should also have a powerful intangible strength such as the sense of national reunification and patriotism, which we can sense from the successful ascent." Others saw the climb as a victory over Tibetan separatists. "We Chinese people held to it and finally made it despite the pressure," said CUET student Yao Xuexia. "Hosting the 29th Olympics is a grand event and we must do it regardless of how difficult it is." Some expatriates also voiced their support. Moise Mihai, 22, a climber from Romania studying at CUET, said: "You Chinese have done a thing, which is very difficult to do. I admire and respect those climbers." He said the Olympics would help the outside world understand China. "Foreign media will report China extensively which will tell a lot about China." But there were a few people who questioned the cost of the expedition. "So much money was spent on it ... I'm wondering whether it is worthwhile. Why don't we use the money for those people living in the remote mountainous areas?" said Yang Kuibo, 21, a security guard at a five-star Beijing hotel. "We should not forget that China still has many people who do not have enough food and clothes." Hong Sung Sik, 28, a student from South Korea, said he was struggling to share the enthusiasm for the Games. "The Games is like a big party for Chinese people, but it does not seem a party for the whole world," Mr Sik said. He added that the authorities were rejecting visa applications for the Olympic period. "This is something beyond my understanding." Online chat rooms were flooded with celebratory postings. Many contributors said they could not hold back their tears. ^ top ^



Rosneft petroleum proposal under consideration (Mongol Messenger)
Prime minister S.Bayar submitted the Government policy in regard to the Russian Rosneft company's proposal on its price for petroleum products to be delivered during May in the Plenary Parliamentary meeting on May 2, 2008. The Rosneft Company is expecting to increase its petroleum price in May by USD 62-89. Under this condition, this average price per liter for gasoline would go up by MNT 105-235. The Rosneft Company says that the price can be reconsidered if Mongolia accepts the Company's proposal to build a total of 100 petroleum stations in the capital of Mongolia. “The world market petroleum price continues to escalate, currently reaching $113 per barrel and might in future reach $170-200”, said the PM. “For this reason we have to accept the Rosneft Company proposal and amend Law on Petroleum Products approved during 2005”, he said. Some MPs suggested stabilizing the petroleum price by subsidizing domestic entities and not necessarily by accepting the Russian company's proposal. The Prime Minister's statement was followed by a Council meeting under the Parliamentary Speaker. ^ top ^

Program Agreement Inked (Mongol Messenger)
Minister of Social Welfare and Labor D.Demberel and SDC Resident Representative in Mongolia Markus Dubach have signed a Mongolian-Swiss intergovernmental agreement on implementing a program on combating human trafficking. The program is charted to fight the human trafficking, which has spread in Mongolia in resent years, to render necessary support to victims of such kind of crime and to contribute to reducing the human trafficking crime. In the context of the program, Mongolia will focus on joining the Palermo Convention and on providing an effective implementation of a national program on protection of children and women from sexual exploitation. The Swiss side will render assistance to Mongolia in drawing up a draft law on combating the human trafficking. Under the program, a wide range of activities are planned, including the organization of training on fighting the human trafficking and protecting its victims among personnel of the law enforcement organs, the construction of shelter houses in rural areas, and providing direct assistance to victims of the human trafficking and their families. Costing MNT two billion program will be carried out by the Research center for Human Security in cooperation with relevant ministries between 2008 and 2010. ^ top ^

XacBank receives USD 3 miliion from Dexia Micro-Credit Fund (Mongol Messenger)
XacBank is pleased to announce that Dexia Micro–Credit Fund, BlueOrchard Debt Sub Fund, Luxembourg, has signed an agreement with the bank to provide a 3-year USD 3 million new loan to support its growth in microfinance on 22 April 2008. The loan agreement is a solid proof to long standing fruitful relationship between the Bank and the Fund. Its investments in XacBank sum up to over USD 5 million since 2002, aimed at supporting the Bank's contribution to sustainable development of the microfinance sector in Mongolia. XacBank is the leader among Mongolian microfinance lenders with an average loan size of about MNT 1,896,098 ($1,623 equivalent), delivering innovative financial products and services to all the regions of the country through a network of 67 branches. The Dexia Micro-Credit Fund is an investment fund registered in Luxemburg and is managed by Dexia Asset Management Company. ^ top ^


Patricia Straessle
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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