Der wöchentliche Presserückblick der Schweizer Botschaft in der VR China
The Weekly Press Review of the Swiss Embassy in the People's Republic of China
La revue de presse hebdomadaire de l'Ambassade de Suisse en RP de Chine
  11.8-15.8.2008, No. 229  
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Table of contents

DPRK and South Korea

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Foreign Policy

Chinese president meets with foreign leaders (People's Daily)
Chinese President Hu Jintao on Saturday met separately with several foreign leaders in the Great Hall of the People in central Beijing. The foreign leaders included President of the Republic of Korea (ROK) Lee Myung bak, President of the Philippines Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Mongolian President Nambaryn Enkhbayar, Uzbek President Islam Karimov, and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. The leaders all attended the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games, held in the National Stadium in north Beijing on Friday night. In his meeting with the ROK president, Hu called for more efforts from all parties involved to advance the six-party talks to a new stage. […] Meeting with President Arroyo, Hu said that trade and economic cooperation between China and the Philippines in recent years has maintained rapid development and brought concrete benefits to the two peoples. […] The meeting with his Mongolian counterpart, Hu said that China and Mongolia are on a smooth track of developing their relations, and the two countries have broad potentials and bright prospects in friendly cooperation. […] Meeting with the Uzbek president, Hu pledged that China will continue to provide assistance for Uzbekistan's economic and social development, and will deepen bilateral cooperation. The two countries have scored remarkable achievements in their security cooperation, and the Chinese side wants to further enhance such cooperation, said Hu. […] While meeting with the Australian prime minister, Hu said that the development of Sino-Australian relations has maintained a good momentum and is showing a promising future. Faced with a complex and changing global financial situation and soaring petroleum and grain prices, China and Australia should join hands to cope with the global challenges, Hu said. […]. ^ top ^

President Hu: One-China principle will never change (China Daily)
Chinese President Hu Jintao said here on Sunday that the Chinese government will never change its stance against "Taiwan independence," and hoped that the United States properly handles the Taiwan issue to support the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations. "No matter what kind of changes take place in the cross-Strait relations, our stance of adhering to the one-China principle and opposing 'Taiwan independence' secessionist activities will never change, and cannot be changed," Hu told US President George W. Bush in Beijing. Under new circumstances, the Chinese government will continue to push for the peaceful development of the relations across the Taiwan Straits, said the Chinese president, adding that China hopes to see Washington properly handle the Taiwan issue and support such peaceful development. President Bush responded that the United States is glad to see the improvement of cross-Strait relations.. ^ top ^

Serbia, China to sign science co-op agreement (People's Daily)
Serbia and China agreed on Tuesday that the two countries would sign an agreement on scientific and technological cooperation by the end of this year. The agreement will be signed in December during a Serbian delegation's visit to Beijing, according to a statement released by the office of Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Bozidar Djelic. […] Djelic said that Serbia wants to be for China what Ireland was for America in winning the European market in the domain of technology, according to the statement. Wei said that China strongly supported a speedy implementation of the Stabilization and Association Agreement between Serbia and the European Union, since this was one of the key preconditions for attracting Chinese investments in Serbia. […]. ^ top ^

Counterterrorism a key topic for Hu's next state trip (SCMP)
Regional co-operation on counterterrorism will be a major topic of discussion when President Hu Jintao embarks on a trip later this month to South Korea and two central Asian countries. In his first state visit after the Beijing Olympics, Mr Hu will also visit Turkmenistan and attend a Shanghai Co-operation Organisation summit in Kyrgyzstan. The six-member group is one of the few platforms China uses to garner international support to fight terrorism, which Beijing has said was a major threat to the Olympic Games. Mainland police have blamed a series of bombings and attacks in Xinjiang in recent weeks on people linked to terrorist groups. Other members of the organisation are Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Mr Hu is also expected to hold talks with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak during the trip, which will mark the second time the two leaders will have met in a month. […] In a meeting with Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi in Seoul yesterday, Mr Lee urged China to help improve inter-Korean relations. Mr Yang was in Seoul to prepare for Mr Hu's visit. Mr Lee said he hoped China would play a constructive role in improving relations between the two Koreas and also in ending Pyongyang's nuclear programmes. Relations between the two Koreas have soured since Mr Lee came to power. He had promised a harder line in dealing with the North, including linking major economic aid to progress in denuclearisation. […] The fatal shooting of a Seoul tourist who had allegedly strayed into a restricted area in the North's Mount Kumgang resort last month aggravated relations. Mr Lee said his summit with Mr Hu would strengthen relations with China. Mr Yang also met his South Korean counterpart, Yu Myung-hwan, and promised to help the two Koreas improve relations. ^ top ^

Ministry advises Malaysia against trip to disputed islands (SCMP)
The Foreign Ministry spoke out against a planned trip by the Malaysian deputy prime minister and minister of defence to the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said such a move would only complicate the situation and lead to further disputes over the sovereignty of the islands, which are claimed by Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, the mainland and Taiwan. The islands are strategically important, and thought to have large reserves of natural gas and oil. The countries earlier agreed to put aside their disputes and jointly develop the islands. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

Two Olympic pandas born in southwest China (China Daily)
A 9-year-old giant panda gave birth to two cubs on Sunday morning at a breeding base in southwest China's Sichuan Province. Mother Qizhen, or Magic Treasure, delivered the twins at 10:35 a.m. and 10:50 a.m. at the Chengdu Panda Breeding Research Center.

Born two days after the opening of the Olympics, the cubs were named after two of the Games' mascots, Beibei and Huanhuan. […]. ^ top ^

Terrorists suspected after 11 die in Xinjiang bomb raids - Violence flares with 12 incidents throughout the day (SCMP)
Alleged terrorists armed with guns and home-made bombs staged a series of attacks against police, a market and government buildings in central Xinjiang yesterday, leaving 11 people dead. Xinhua reported that police killed eight attackers in battles stretching across the day; two other suspected terrorists committed suicide, while two were taken into custody. Three others were on the run. Quoting police sources, Xinhua reported that a security guard was killed when attackers carrying explosives drove a vehicle into a police- station compound in Kuqa town at about 2.30am. Two bombers died in a shoot-out at the scene and two police officers and two civilians were also injured in the attacks. Six hours later, police discovered five attackers hiding under a market counter, Xinhua said. They threw explosives at the officers, who returned fire, killing two of them. It was not clear how the other attackers died, with police giving few details. Xinhua, however, said there were 12 bombings in total, targeting buildings belonging to local government agencies, including the Public Security Bureau and industrial and commerce authorities. Xinhua quoted a man as saying his shop in the market was destroyed. About 20 people were gathered in front of the shop at the intersection of Jiefang Road and Wenhuazhonglu Road. "Suddenly there was a big bang. The customers and I just ran away. When I looked back, my shop was destroyed." Quoting local military sources, Xinhua said the army had been deployed, while police sealed off the area where the explosions occurred. The devices used were described as gas-based pipe bombs. The blasts came just a week after 16 police officers were killed and another 16 wounded in Kashgar, Xinjiang, by suspected terrorists who state media said rammed a stolen truck into the group of officers before attacking them with knives and setting off home-made bombs. The identities of the assailants involved in yesterday's blasts were not clear, but the attack came after an Islamic group seeking independence for Xinjiang threatened on Thursday to attack buses, trains and planes during the two-week Olympics. […] Xinjiang is a massive, rugged territory - one-sixth of China's land mass - and home to the Uygurs, a Muslim minority with a long history of tense relations with the Han Chinese. The Uygurs, with a population of about 8 million, have complained that the central government has restricted their religious freedom and Turkic culture. Beijing has accused Uygur groups of using terrorism in a violent campaign to split Xinjiang from the rest of the country. State-run media have reported sporadic bombings, shootings and riots in the territory over the years. ^ top ^

Uygur bombers pose little threat to venues, analysts say (SCMP)
The Kuqa bombings bore the hallmarks of an act of terrorism by Uygurs seeking attention for their cause while China hosts the Olympics, but the threat of attacks on Games venues was low given the intense security, analysts said. The incident, described by state media as a group hurling home-made bombs from a car at a police station, was the second in a week and the first since the Games began. The western region of Xinjiang, which borders Pakistan and Afghanistan, is home to the Uygurs, a Muslim ethnic group. Some members want a separate state and support violent means to achieve it. "These two weeks are the weeks they will go for gold because they can get publicity," said Steve Vickers, chief executive of International Risk, a risk consulting company. The Beijing Olympics started on Friday and will run until August 24. A week ago two men used similar tactics against a police station in Kashgar, driving a truck into a group of officers and throwing bombs. State media said 16 were killed and 16 injured. Analysts said it may have been the worst act of terrorism in the Xinjiang region since 1949. […] Uygur groups are believed to have access to weapons, funding and training from their overseas links. Before the Olympics, a group calling itself the Turkestan Islamic Party, which analysts believe to be the same as ETIM, released a video warning of attacks on the Games. Another analyst said security threats should be taken seriously, but Beijing had a record of combining Uygur groups that used violence with those that used political means. "We need to be sceptical about Chinese claims, but it doesn't mean we don't take the incidents seriously," said Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch. "The Chinese government has put a lot of misleading and false information on the table regarding the threat of terrorism.". ^ top ^

Museum collects newspaper archive on 5/12 earthquake (People's Daily)
A museum in southwest China is compiling publications from around the world for a special exhibition to commemorate the May 12 earthquake. Qiang Folklore Museum curator Gao Zeyou said the collection would focus on newspapers that ran quake stories from May 13 to May 31. He said it would appreciate contributions from the media and public, especially overseas friends who could provide foreign-language newspapers. All the materials collected would be preserved in the "May 12 earthquake memorial" in the museum. Guangming Daily was the first of China's official media groups to donate its special disaster edition, which was published on May 22. The Qiang Folklore Museum is in the Beichuan Qiang Autonomous County, one of the worst-hit places in Sichuan Province. ^ top ^

Zealots spare public to boost cause' - Uygur militants hope to win legitimacy by attacking police, expert says (SCMP)
The three deadly assaults in Xinjiang in the past two weeks mainly targeted members of the security forces rather than ordinary people because the attackers were trying to win legitimacy and draw attention to their cause, an anti-terrorism expert said yesterday. John Harrison, of the Singapore-based International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, was speaking after the killing of three security guards by four or five Uygur assailants on the outskirts of Kashgar yesterday morning. "Given the locations and timing of the series of attacks, one could not rule out a connection between the East Turkestan Islamic Movement and the assaults," Dr Harrison said. The movement has been declared a terrorist organisation by China, the US and the UN. "As a short-term solution, the Chinese authorities can step up their security measures to reduce the possibility of being put under attack. But in the long term, they should address the political causes behind the violence," Dr Harrison said. He said underlying factors, including cultural, religious and ethnic differences between Uygurs - the majority in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region - and Han Chinese, who are the majority nationwide, must be addressed directly before the issue could be resolved. Another expert said the wealth gap in the region could be another reason behind the unrest. […] Dr Harrison warned that the attacks might not be over yet. "As long as the media converges on the Olympic Games in Beijing," he said, "such activities are highly likely to take place again." Yesterday's attack came two days after attacks - using guns and homemade bombs - on police, a market and government buildings in the central Xinjiang town of Kuqa left 11 people dead, and eight days after an attack, using knives and homemade explosives, on border police in Kashgar left 16 officers dead and another 16 injured. ^ top ^

Obstruction of media trio concerns ministry (SCMP)
The Foreign Ministry was concerned about foreign reporters being obstructed from covering the recent deadly bombings in Xinjiang, a spokesman said yesterday. The remarks by Qin Gang followed the temporary arrest of a British journalist near the National Stadium while he was covering a protest by pro-Tibet activists yesterday morning. "We are concerned about the incidents in which some Japanese reporters working in Xinjiang were obstructed," Mr Qin said. Japanese news outlets said three members of the media - two reporters and a cameraman - were temporarily detained by Xinjiang security authorities on Tuesday. The Daily Yomiuri named the three as reporters Toshu Noguchi of the Sankei newspaper and Hidemi Shiroyama of Jiji Press, and Jiji Press cameraman Hideo Yamazaki. The three journalists had been in Kuqa, Xinjiang, to report on a series of terrorist bombings. Mr Qin said the ministry had contacted Xinjiang authorities for details of their detention. "The local authorities tried really hard in the investigation," he said. "But after two days of effort, they still could not arrive at any conclusion [on why the three were detained]." Mr Qin also urged foreign reporters to respect and comply with any special arrangements put in place by law enforcement agencies during emergency situations. Yesterday, John Ray of Independent Television News was taken away by police while covering a Free Tibet protest near the Olympic Green. According to the Foreign Correspondents' Club of China, Ray's equipment was confiscated. ^ top ^

Local government: Floods, landslides in southwest China kill 40 (People's Daily)
The death toll from disasters caused by heavy rain has risen to 40 with six missing in southwest China's Yunnan Province, the provincial government said on Wednesday. From Thursday to Monday, downpours caused by the remnants of tropical storm Kammuri struck 11 prefectures or cities in the province, triggering landslides, floods and mud-rock flows. […]. ^ top ^

Pearl River Delta to go wireless (People's Daily)
People in the Pearl River Delta cities of Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Foshan and Dongguan might soon be able to surf the Internet using a unified wireless network, provincial authorities have said. Nanfang Daily reported yesterday that the provincial information industry department has completed a report on the construction of a wireless city group in the region, and it has been approved by the respective provincial governments. "Construction of a wireless city group entails coordinated planning and gradual promotion. It needs to define the role of each government and their work divisions," Wang Wei, a deputy director of the department's administration office, was quoted as saying. Details about costs and date of construction are not yet available. […]. ^ top ^

Tension remains high after series of attacks in Xinjiang (SCMP)
The Olympics may have proceeded smoothly in Beijing, but tension remains high in other parts of the country that are still facing terrorist attacks and security scares.

Most of the recent attacks took place in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, where authorities say three terrorist attacks since August 4 have killed more than 30 people. Xinjiang Communist Party Secretary Wang Lequan warned local cadres that they were facing a "life-and-death" struggle against the terrorists, local media reported yesterday. He told local leaders at a high-level meeting in Urumqi on Wednesday that they must improve intelligence work to detect terrorist activities. "We are facing a long and hard fight against the three evils [terrorism, separatism and fundamentalism]. This is a life-and-death struggle," he was quoted saying by the Xinjiang Daily. "We must stay vigilant. We must not have the slightest uncertainty [over security information] and must not leave things to chance." He also asked cadres to learn lessons from the recent attacks in Kashgar and Kuqa. "All these violent attacks are premeditated, organised and carried out by the three evil forces in Xinjiang as well as overseas. We must not drop our guard." […] Beijing-based anti-terrorism expert Li Wei said yesterday more attacks would come during the Olympics and that Xinjiang authorities needed to strengthen security measures. But security threats are not coming from radical pro-independence ethnic groups alone. In Shanghai, police on Wednesday arrested a man in his 50s who claimed to have a bomb and held an office manager hostage. After a 2-1/2-hour standoff, they persuaded the suspect to release the hostage and surrender. Shanghai police said yesterday they had found no explosives on the man. However, the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said the bomb was real. ^ top ^

Quake rebuilding 'to cost 1 trillion yuan' (SCMP)
Reconstruction efforts in quake-devastated areas of Sichuan and two neighbouring provinces will cost about 1 trillion yuan (HK$1.14 trillion) and take three years to complete, according to official estimates in a tentative plan. The plan covers new houses and infrastructure for more than 3 million rural households, industrial reconstruction and the creation of jobs for about 1 million people, the National Development and Reform Commission says. Authorities said there were no plans for a large-scale relocation of people from the quake zone. "We plan to accomplish major rebuilding work within three years, enabling residents there to return to and improve their previous living conditions and level of economic development," the commission said in a 59-page draft on its website. It said funds would be raised through various channels, including central and regional government funds, donations, financing, and domestic and overseas loans. Authorities said the quake had caused more than 843 billion yuan in direct economic losses and affected nearly 20 million people in 51 counties and cities. The rebuilding scheme will include construction of about 3,400 primary schools and 1,100 high schools, and reinforcement of 2,600 others in Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi. The reconstruction estimate is equal to Sichuan's annual gross domestic product or one-fifth of the country's total revenue last year. But mainland media reported that the rebuilding budgets were only a fraction of provincial officials' calculations. Sichuan deputy governor Huang Xiaoxiang said last month that the total cost of rebuilding in his province alone could surpass 1.2 trillion yuan. ^ top ^



US visitor murdered, wife stabbed in Beijing (SCMP)
A man stabbed an American visitor to death and injured his wife and a woman tour guide at one of Beijing's biggest tourist attractions yesterday. The assailant threw himself to his death from the Drum Tower immediately after the attack. The couple, named by sources as Todd Bachman and his wife, Barbara, were in-laws of a coach for the US men's indoor volleyball team. Mrs Bachman was critically injured. Darryl Seibel, a spokesman for the US Olympic Committee, said the volleyball team "are deeply saddened and shocked". He said the two victims "were not wearing apparel or anything that would have specifically identified them as being members of our delegation" or as Americans. It was "too early to say" whether security would be upgraded for the US Olympic team. The incident took place soon after noon. Xinhua named the attacker as Tang Yongming, 47, from Hangzhou in Zhejiang province. He attacked the trio on the second floor of the 13th-century tower, then leaped 40 metres to his death. Attacks on foreign tourists are rare on the mainland. Xinhua reported the attack with unusual speed, apparently a sign that the authorities were nervous it would raise alarm among foreign travellers and dignitaries in the capital for the Games. US President George W. Bush said he and his wife Laura were saddened by the attack. Susan Stevenson, a spokeswoman for the US embassy, said the incident did not present a security issue for Mr Bush's stay in Beijing. It said the attack was probably not directed at Americans or foreigners. ^ top ^

Beijing tourist spots strengthen security (China Daily)
All tourist attractions in Beijing are required to beef up security checks in the wake of Saturday's attack on two American tourists and a Chinese tour guide at the city's Drum Tower, a senior tourism official said yesterday. Starting from Sunday, the Summer Palace became the first to check suspicious people and baggage with hand-held scanners. The security measures are necessary in order to guarantee tourists' safety during the Olympic Games, said Wang Zhifa, deputy director of the National Tourism Administration. "In addition, (the security measures) should become part of a regular procedure that all scenic spots should strengthen after the Games," he said. […]. ^ top ^

Games not stretching Beijing's water supply, officials say (SCMP)
Officials denied yesterday that the Beijing Games were putting pressure on water resources in and around the parched capital. Critics have charged that Beijing's plans for a "Green Olympics" have increased the city's need for water, pumping more and more from sources that are already overused, including strategic reserves of deep underground supplies. "The deep underground water is under strict protection in China because this is a strategic resource and we do not permit its development," said Gao Erkun, an official with the Ministry of Water Resources. "For Beijing during the Olympic Games, there is no development or exploration of deep groundwater." In a report released earlier this year, conservation group Probe International accused Beijing of drawing on "karst" groundwater supplies more than a kilometre below the surface - supplies meant to be used only in times of war or emergency. […]. ^ top ^

Beijing police stop five foreigners advocating "Tibet independence" (Xinhua)
Beijing police on Friday morning stopped five foreign tourists advocating "Tibet independence" near the construction site of China Central Television's new building. […]. ^ top ^



Suspended death sentence for former Shanghai land official (SCMP)
Shanghai's No1 Intermediate People's Court sentenced former land official Yin Guoyuan to death, suspended for two years, yesterday - the harshest penalty handed down so far in the city's pension fund scandal. Yin, the former deputy chief of Shanghai's Housing, Land and Resources Bureau, was convicted on several charges including taking huge bribes, abuse of power and illegally possessing ammunition, Caijing magazine said on its website. The court found that Yin, 54, took more than 36.7 million yuan (HK$41.75 million) in bribes from real estate companies in return for favours during his decade-long stint at the bureau from 1995. ^ top ^



Chequebook diplomacy shelved for Ma's trip (SCMP)
Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou left for two Latin American allies yesterday without a chequebook, which might be risky as one of his hosts is considering switching diplomatic ties to the mainland. In what is seen as a test of whether his mainland engagement policy has helped achieve a cross-strait diplomatic truce, Mr Ma has chosen not to propose any foreign aid during his visits to Paraguay and the Dominican Republic - his first overseas trip since taking office in May. The president said before departing that Taiwan would do all it could to improve ties with the mainland in order to stop their "vicious competition or wasting resources" to lure each other's allies. Mr Ma, of the Kuomintang, said Taiwan's foreign relations hinged on cross-strait ties. "We have strongly felt that the foreign relations of the Republic of China are closely related to cross-strait relations, and this is why I seek to promote `workable diplomacy' to achieve a cross-strait diplomatic truce," he said. Through that strategy, the two sides would be able to achieve not only reconciliation and a truce, but also co-existence and co-prosperity, thus ending the need for "chequebook diplomacy", he said. Paraguay's Fernando Lugo, whose inauguration Mr Ma will attend on Friday, said in April he would end Asuncion's 51-year relationship with Taipei and recognise Beijing. His foreign minister-designate, however, later indicated Mr Lugo wants to review Paraguay's ties with Taiwan. Taiwanese Foreign Minister Francisco Ou Hung-lian said last month that if Paraguay switched recognition to Beijing after Mr Ma returned to Taiwan, it would mean Beijing had rejected Mr Ma's "workable diplomacy" policy. Foreign Affairs vice-minister Javier Hou Ching-shan stressed on Monday that Mr Ma was not considering proposing any new foreign aid, but if any of Taiwan's allies proposed a plan, the island's leader would bring it home for further study. […] He is to meet US Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and former congressman Rob Portman, US President George W. Bush's envoy to the two inaugurations. Mr Ma is making three stopovers in the US - an overnight stay in Los Angeles en route to Paraguay, an overnight stay in Austin, Texas, on Sunday on his way back from the Dominican Republic, and then in San Francisco the next day before returning to Taiwan on Tuesday. ^ top ^



Two women shot by police in Sichuan: pro-Tibetan group (SCMP)
A pro-Tibetan group claimed yesterday that two women in a Tibetan-populated area of Sichuan were shot by police. The report could not be independently confirmed last night. Matt Whitticase, spokesman of the London-based Free Tibet Campaign, said the shooting took place at about 4.30pm in Aba township as the pair entered a mobile phone shop. He said one of the victims was a Tibetan who suffered wounds to her legs and the other one, whose identity had yet to be confirmed, suffered hand wounds. Mr Whitticase did not explain why police opened fire. He cited an unnamed witness who saw the women on the floor with visible wounds. The whereabouts of the women were not clear. The group said police had imposed a curfew in Aba this month. ^ top ^

Central govt to pump $5.5 billion into Tibet (China Daily)
The central government will spend more than 38 billion yuan ($5.5 billion) over the next few years to help boost economic development and social welfare in Tibet, China News Service reported on Monday. […]. ^ top ^



Stocks slide to lowest in 19 months (China Daily)
Led by a plunge in metal and energy stocks, the benchmark index of the Chinese stock market Monday lost more than 5 percent to fall to its lowest level in 19 months amid growing concern about a slowing economy. Massive unloading of Olympics-related stocks, such as tourism and catering, also weighed down the key indicator. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index slid 5.21 percent to 2470.07 points, with the turnover amounting to 41.5 billion yuan, down 10 percent from the previous trading day. The smaller Shenzhen Component Index also sank 5.64 percent to close at 8170.15 points. Together with the decline of 4.47 percent last Friday, the index plunged a total of almost 10 percent in two trading days. Economists and stock analysts said the latest plunge was a continuation of the depressed sentiment that has clouded the market in the past 10 months or so.Although inflation pressure seemed to have eased, investor confidence took a greater blow from heightened worries about a global recession and a slowdown in the domestic economy. The unexpectedly fast increase in rising producer price index, or PPI, published Monday has also raised concerns about increased pressure on the profits of many manufacturers. Figures from the National Bureau of Statistics showed PPI registered a sharp increase of 10 percent year-on-year, compared with 8.8 percent in June. […]. ^ top ^

Oil falls to $113 in Asia on stronger dollar (China Daily)
Oil prices fell Tuesday in Asia to a 3-month low as a stronger dollar and weakening crude demand from China weighed on investor sentiment. Light, sweet crude for September delivery fell $1.45 to $113 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange by late afternoon in Singapore. The contract lost 75 cents overnight to settle at $114.45, the lowest close for a floor session since May 1.A report from China on Monday that the country's crude oil imports in July were down 7 percent from last year fueled expectations that the economic slowdown affecting the US and Europe may be spreading to Asia and cutting demand for oil. A stronger dollar is also pushing prices down. The euro fell Tuesday to $1.4894, while the dollar was holding near 110 yen. A weak dollar helped boost oil prices earlier this year, because dollar-denominated commodities are often used as hedges against inflation and a falling US currency. But gains in the currency are reversing that trend. […]. ^ top ^

Tax on big cars raised to save fuel (China Daily)
Taxes will be raised on big cars and reduced on smaller ones from Sept 1 to save energy and reduce pollution. Owners of cars with engines above 4-liter capacity will have to pay 40 percent tax, double the existing rate, the Ministry of Finance said yesterday. The tax for vehicles with engines between 3 and 4 liters will be up from 15 to 25 percent. And the tax on cars with engines below 1-liter capacity will be reduced from 3 to 1 percent. China is one of the biggest and fastest growing auto markets, with vehicles accounting for the lion's share of its gasoline. The proportion of imported oil to total consumption in the country has risen to about 50 percent, prompting it to adopt policies to improve energy efficiency, analysts said. The country has pledged to lower energy consumption per unit of GDP by 20 percent and cut emission of major pollutants by 10 percent during the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10). Last year, however, it could not meet its annual target of 4 percent reduction, falling short by 0.34 percentage points. Cars with engines between 3 and 4 liters sold the most last year. The increase in their sales was phenomenal: six-fold to 12,100 units, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers has said. In contrast, the sale of cars with engines below 1 liter fell 31 percent to 251,700 units. […]. ^ top ^

Growth of China exports to US slows (China Daily)
The growth of China exports to the United States, the country's second-largest trading partner, slowed in the first half of the year, the General Administration of Customs said on its website Thursday. China's exports to the US in the first six months totaled $116.79 billion, up 8.9 percent from the same period last year. The growth rate was 9 percentage points lower than a year earlier. China Customs said the slowdown was partly due to economic problems sparked by the US subprime mortgage crisis. A stronger Chinese currency, the renminbi, also contributed to the declining export volume. […]. ^ top ^


Beijing Olympics

Massive US audience for the opening ceremony (SCMP)
The colourful Olympics opening ceremony from Beijing on NBC drew 34.2 million US viewers, making it the biggest American television event since the Super Bowl. It was the biggest audience ever to watch an Olympic opening ceremony not held in the United States, eclipsing even this year's Academy Awards and the finale of American Idol, Nielsen Media Research said. The previous summer Olympics, in Athens four years ago, drew 25.4 million US viewers for its first night, Nielsen said. Sydney in 2000 had 27.3 million viewers. It was good news for NBC and its advertisers, particularly since there had been concern on Friday about computer users finding ways to access non-NBC video feeds and watch portions of the ceremony before it appeared on the network. Due to the time difference, NBC aired the ceremony in the eastern US 12 hours after it happened in China. Instead, the tape delay may have helped NBC, allowing word of mouth to spread about the spell-binding ceremony, which featured an estimated 15,000 cast and crew members. ^ top ^

Screws tighten on mainland journalists (SCMP)
Beijing's censorship apparatus has kept a tight grip on the mainland press by issuing a meticulous, 21-point regulation on taboo topics for Olympic coverage and sending provincial propaganda officials to keep watch over reporters. According to mainland reporters, publications are forbidden to touch on a wide array of topics - ranging from the seat arrangements for heads of state at the opening gala to food safety across the country. To prevent mistakes, deputy heads of provincial propaganda departments have been summoned to Beijing to hold daily meetings with the press from their provinces, according to mainland journalists. According to the directive, which was issued last month, the mainland press is not allowed to report on any emergency that happens in competition without permission from the propaganda authorities. The mainland press is banned from reporting on topics including the dispute over blocked overseas websites, the private lives of state leaders, religious services provided in the Olympic Village, food safety, and protests in the three parks set aside as protest zones. The press is not allowed to use so-called "racist" terms such as "white" or "black" people, and must refer to Taiwan as "Chinese Taipei" and its people as "those from the precious island". Most mainland press used only Xinhua reports about the stabbing death of Todd Bachmann, the US visitor attacked by Tang Yongming of Hangzhou. Others simply stayed away from the story. Mainland reporters reportedly had their notepads confiscated after interviews with members of the US volleyball team, who were asked about their reaction to Bachmann's murder on Saturday. Spokesman Sun Weide, of the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (Bocog), said: "I am not clear about the situation. But as for Chinese journalists, they very much enjoy the rights to cover the Games. Their rights are protected by the Chinese constitution." IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies said: "We will ask Bocog and will look into this to get the facts." The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said yesterday that plain-clothes Chinese security staff were photographing journalists interviewing athletes and locals. "This is a form of intimidation that contravenes press freedom... and an unacceptable interference in the work of journalists," said Aidan White, IFJ general secretary. "Once again we call on the Chinese authorities to make good on their promise that journalists can work without intimidation. "Protection of journalistic sources is a cornerstone of press freedom. This sort of activity shows complete disregard for that principle by the Chinese authorities.". ^ top ^

Street party marks Liu's record lifts (China Daily)
The people of Qishan, Shandong province, took to the streets Wednesday to pay tribute to their very own golden girl, Olympic champion weightlifter Liu Chunhong. Fireworks lit up a balloon-filled sky, and drummers and Yangko opera performers entertained a jubilant crowd following the 23-year-old's triple record-breaking performance in the 69 kg division. […] The tax move is a good first step for the country toward an energy efficient and environmentally friendly economy, Zhong Shi, a Beijing-based industrial analyst, said. "It's good to see that the government has started using taxation policies as a tool to achieve its energy efficiency goals." The tax increase, however, is not likely to stop the rich from buying big cars because such people are not very sensitive to price changes, he said. ^ top ^

Environment-friendly Olympic Village granted LEED gold award (Xinhua)
Chen Zhili, head of the Beijing Olympic Village, received a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold award here on Wednesday presented by the U.S. Green Building Council.On behalf of the council, U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson honored the award to Chen, who is also vice president of the Beijing Organizing Committee of the 29th Olympic Games (BOCOG).Chen noted that the concept of "Green Olympics, High-Tech Olympics and People's Olympics" has been fully implemented at the Beijing Olympic Games. The award affirmed the cooperation between China and the United States in clean energy technology for Olympic Games. […]. ^ top ^

Golden day for Asia, top tennis names crash (China Daily)
Japanese swimmer Kosuke Kitajima and Chinese gymnast Yang Wei led a golden day for Asia on Thursday that showcased the continent's growing sports power. As hosts China powered ahead in the medals table on the sixth day of the Games, three of the biggest names in Beijing, Roger Federer and sisters Venus and Serena Williams, crashed out of the tennis singles at the quarter-final stage. […]. ^ top ^


DPRK and South Korea

Minister vows to help resolve N Korea nuclear issue (SCMP)
Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi pledged to help resolve the North Korean nuclear issue when he met South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, Mr Lee's office said. Mr Yang flew to South Korea yesterday for a two-day trip aimed at preparing for an expected visit by President Hu Jintao later this month. Mr Lee said he expected China to continue to play a constructive role in producing progress in international efforts to end North Korea's nuclear programme and in ties between the divided Koreas, the presidential Blue House said. Mr Yang reconfirmed China's "unchangeable support and assistance" for the resolution of the nuclear issue and the improvement of inter-Korean relations, the statement said. ^ 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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