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
  18-24.2.2012, No. 411  
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Table of contents

DPRK and South Korea

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Foreign Policy

China's Mideast envoy urges negotiations over regional issues (Xinhua)
Chinese Middle East envoy Wu Sike said Sunday that China is willing to play a constructive role in bringing Israel and the Palestinians back to peace negotiations. Wu, on a visit to the region, met with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Yitzhak Molcho, head of Israel's negotiating team to the Amman exploratory talks with Palestinians earlier this year. Wu noted that Israeli-Palestinian peace process should remain the focus in the Middle East, despite latest changes of international or regional situation. China welcomes and supports recent meetings between Israel and the Palestinian National Authority, in an effort to restart long- stalled talks, the Chinese envoy said, adding that his government hopes both sides show enough flexibility and create a favorable environment to resume peace negotiations. Wu also discussed Syrian issue with Lieberman. Negotiation was the only way to solve the crisis in the Middle East, he noted. Considering that military actions would damage the region's stability and Syrian people's benefits, Wu said that China supports peaceful solutions, brought up either by the Syrian government or the opposition groups. [...] In order to solve the crisis peacefully, Wu urged the Syrian government to respond to its people's reasonable needs and begin a national dialogue. China is concerned with Israel's intentions to attack Iranian nuclear facilities, Wu said. "Both sides are now cautious of the disastrous result of military confrontations. There's still room for a peaceful solution." While stressing Iran's right to use nuclear power for peaceful purposes, Wu urged Iran to comply with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and cooperate with the international community, so as to reduce current tensions through negotiations. ^ top ^

Financial cooperation with Japan to improve as global crisis lingers (Global Times)
China and Japan pledged on Sunday to boost their financial cooperation as the global economic situation remains "complex and grim." "Financial cooperation is a major part of the economic cooperation between China and Japan," said Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan as he met with visiting Japanese Finance Minister Jun Azumi. Wang said he hoped the two economies would step up communication and coordination to deepen financial cooperation, and carry out research actively in settlement of trade and investment in local currencies to develop their financial markets in a healthy and stable way. [...] China and Japan should make joint efforts with the other members to ensure the success of the Los Cabos summit and spur reform of the international economic and financial system with a view to pushing ahead with the world's economic recovery, he said. [...] Wang said the fourth China-Japan high-level economic dialogue will be held later this year in Japan. [...]. ^ top ^

Vice-president wraps up Ireland visit (SCMP)
Vice President Xi Jinping wrapped up a three-day visit to Ireland yesterday with a trade and investment summit, as Dublin seeks to give Beijing an EU financial foothold. Ireland is the only European Union nation that the leader-in-waiting is visiting on an international tour, and Irish ministers say it sent a strong signal that Ireland was the place to do business in the 27-member bloc. Dublin is promoting its low 12.5 per cent corporation tax rate, as well as solid ties with the US. [...] The Irish economy is slowly recovering after the euro-zone member was forced to seek an €85 billion (HK$866.26 billion) EU-International Monetary Fund rescue package in November 2010 amid massive debt and deficit problems. Xi was to meet President Michael Higgins at his official residence before visiting parliament for talks with the speakers of both Houses. He was then to head to a trade and investment forum involving around 250 Irish and Chinese companies. Xi arrived in Ireland on Saturday after a trip to the United States, and was due in Turkey after the forum. [...] On the political front, Xi held talks with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny on Sunday. Bilateral agreements were signed on trade links, investment and education. [...] Kenny said both countries understood the need to reform and innovate. "Just as China has transformed itself in its recent history, so too has Ireland," he said. Kenny also said the two countries' enterprises and institutions were in the process of building long-term sustainable relationships. "Ireland and China have much to offer each other in food and agriculture, in high technology research and in investment. We should make every effort to realise that potential," the prime minister said. ^ top ^

Abbas, Chinese envoy meet on peace process (China Daily)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met Monday with Chinese Middle East envoy Wu Sike and they exchanged views on the current situation between the Palestinians and Israel. Abbas welcomed China's support of the Palestinian cause, stressing that the relations between China and the Palestine is steady "like mountains rooted in the ground". On the stalled talks between Israel and the Palestinians, which were cut short in 2010, Abbas blamed Israel for the failure of the peace process due to its refusal to stop building Jewish settlements and to recognize the borders of the future Palestinian state. "The peace process must be based on the references and the resolutions of the international legitimacy," Abbas said. [...] For his part, Wu, who has already visited Israel before his Palestinian trip, said that the two sides should create an atmosphere suitable for reviving the peace talks so as to resolve their conflict. During their meeting, Abbas also praised the way China uses in dealing with events in the Arab world after many countries in the region were hit by unrest over the past year. "China doesn't intervene in the internal affairs of other countries and it encourages peaceful ways to settle any conflict in those troubled countries," Abbas said. ^ top ^

China to cement ties with Indonesia (China Daily)
Vice-Premier Li Keqiang said on Tuesday that China is ready to make efforts with Indonesia to advance the strategic partnership between the two countries. Li made the remark while meeting with visiting Indonesian Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro in Zhongnanhai, the Chinese government's central compound. [...] He cited a 2005 meeting between President Hu Jintao and his Indonesian counterpart Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, which resulted in the creation of a strategic partnership between the two countries. [...] Li expressed willingness to strengthen political dialogues and communication regarding regional and international affairs on the basis of mutual respect and benefit. He said China is also ready to expand bilateral cooperation in defense, security and other areas to boost the development of the country's strategic partnership with Indonesia. He said China is ready to work with Indonesia and other parties to maintain peace and stability in the region and the world at large. Purnomo said Sino-Indonesian relations enjoy a solid foundation and broad prospects. He expressed willingness to further deepen cooperation between the two countries in order to realize "win-win development". [...]. ^ top ^

Senior CPC official meets French special envoy (Xinhua)
A senior official of the Communist Party of China (CPC) on Tuesday met with Laurent Fabius, former French prime minister and special envoy of the French Socialist Party's 2012 presidential candidate Francois Hollande. Wang Jiarui, head of the International Department of the CPC Central Committee, said China is pleased that France's Socialist Party attaches importance to China-France relations and party-to-party ties in light of the upcoming election. The CPC and Chinese government are committed to boosting China-France ties, no matter how France's political situation may change, Wang said. "China is ready to work with the Socialist Party of France to further cooperation in all fields and elevate bilateral relations," Wang said. Fabius said he and Hollande both highly value the France-China relationship, and will work to build positive and stable political relations and balanced economic and trade ties with China. ^ top ^

Chinese vice president urges Turkey to prevent separatist activities by "East Turkistan" forces (Xinhua)
Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping Tuesday urged Turkey to prevent "East Turkistan" forces from conducting anti-China separatist activities on its territory. "China hopes that Turkey will continue to take effective measures to oppose and prevent anti-China separatist activities by 'East Turkistan' forces on its territory so as to ensure the healthy and steady growth of China-Turkey ties," said Xi at a meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey 's largest city of Istanbul. Xi stressed that the "East Turkistan" issue concerns China's national security and social stability, as well as its core interests. Prime Minister Erdogan has reiterated that Turkey adheres to the one-China policy and respects China's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, Xi said. [...] For his part, Erdogan reaffirmed that Turkey has consistently adhered to the one-China policy, recognized the People's Republic of China as the sole legitimate representative of the whole Chinese people, and never allowed any activity on its territory that aims to undermine China's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. [...]. ^ top ^

Chinese VP calls for more efforts in boosting trade with Turkey (Xinhua)
Visiting Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping called here on Wednesday for more efforts in boosting trade and economic cooperation between China and Turkey. Xi made the call when addressing a Sino-Turkish business forum in Istanbul. [...] In his speech, Xi told hundreds of business leaders from China and Turkey that efforts should be made in four aspects in elevating bilateral economic cooperation, namely, to increase political trust, to explore more cooperation fields and deepen substantial cooperation, to join hands to reject trade protectionism and to enhance cultural exchange and people-to- people communication. On the sideline of Xi's visit, a Chinese trade and investment promotion delegation consisting of over 100 Chinese business leaders signed various contracts and deals worth some 4.3 billion U.S. dollars, among which deals concerning purchasing goods in Turkey are worth 490 million U.S. dollars. China has become Turkey's third biggest trading partner. According to statistics from the Chinese side, the trade volume between China and Turkey increased from some 1 billion U.S. dollars in 2001 to nearly 19 billion U.S. dollars in 2011, up some 18 times. The Turkish side said the bilateral trade volume hit 24. 1 billion U.S. dollars in 2011. Since 2001, Chinese companies have signed with the Turkish side project-contracting deals worth over 10 billion U.S. dollars, among which the construction of the Ankara-Istanbul high-speed railway is the biggest joint project. Xi said his current visit was aimed to deepen Sino-Turkish traditional friendship, to consolidate and elevate Sino-Turkish strategic cooperative relations and to advance the bilateral economic cooperation into a new stage. [...]. ^ top ^

China lodges representations over Nagoya mayor's denial of Nanjing Massacre (Xinhua)
China has lodged representations with Japan over a denial of the Nanjing Massacre by a Japanese mayor, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Wednesday. When asked whether the incident will have any impact on China-Japan relations, Hong said the Chinese government supports a decision by Nanjing municipal authorities to halt contact with the Japanese city of Nagoya. "We express understanding and support for this (decision) and are keeping a close watch over the issue," Hong said at a regular press briefing. Hong said the Chinese side has already made its stance clear regarding the incident. Noting that this year marks the 40th anniversary of the normalization of China-Japan ties, Hong said the Japanese side should abide by the principles of the historic agreements made between the two countries and work to advance bilateral relations in a healthy and stable way. "This is in the basic interests of both countries and their peoples," Hong said. Takashi Kawamura, mayor of Nagoya, said Monday that the Nanjing Massacre "probably never happened" while meeting with a delegation from Nanjing, the capital of east China's Jiangsu province. [...]. ^ top ^

China not to attend Friends of Syria conference (Xinhua)
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Thursday that China will not attend the Friends of Syria conference to be held Friday in Tunisia. Hong said China is not prepared to attend the conference as China needs to further study the aim, effect and mechanism of the conference and it has no idea of the preparations of the conference. China is a friend of the Syrian and Arab peoples, Hong said. "China supports all efforts that are conducive to peacefully and properly resolving the Syrian issue," Hong said, adding that China hopes to work with all parties concerned to play a positive and constructive role in the process. China believes that any action taken by the international community should help to cease tensions, boost political dialogues, resolve differences and maintain peace and stability in the Middle East, Hong said. Russia and China on Feb. 4 vetoed an Arab-European draft resolution on Syria backing an Arab League plan which demands a regime change in the Middle East country. And later on Feb. 16, China voted against a draft resolution on Syria at the UN General Assembly. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun, as a special envoy of the Chinese government, on Feb. 18 met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damasucs. During his two-day visit to Syria, Zhai also met with Syria's Foreign Minister Walid Mualem, Vice Foreign Minister Faisal Mikdad, assistant Foreign Minister Ahmad Arnous and heads of Syria's opposition groups. Zhai said that China has followed closely the development of the situation in Syria, and is deeply worried about the escalating crisis in the country, which has caused civilian casualties and affected peace and stability in the Middle East region. He said China urges all parties concerned in Syria to immediately launch inclusive political dialogue with no preconditions attached, and jointly discuss a comprehensive political reform plan and mechanism. China supports efforts by the Arab League (AL) in seeking a political solution to the issue of Syria, Zhai said. He called on parties concerned to strengthen communication and consultation, and join efforts in seeking a peaceful and proper solution to the Syrian crisis within the AL framework and on the basis of AL's political initiatives. Zhai stressed that China takes an objective, just and responsible stance on the issue of Syria. ^ top ^

29 countries sign anti-EU carbon fee declaration (Global Times)
A total of 29 countries inked a joint declaration in Moscow Wednesday opposing a European scheme that forces all airlines to pay for their carbon emissions. The declaration was issued after an international conference on cutting greenhouse gas emissions with 33 participating countries. The declaration envisages a basket of retaliatory measures to the EU Emission Trading Scheme (ETS). These could include allowing any country to introduce any measures in line with national laws to either completely scrap the ETS or to postpone it. Ji Yuan, an official from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), told Xinhua that the Moscow declaration is aimed at forcing the EU to abandon its plan. The EU carbon fees are disguised carbon taxes, Ji said, adding that the EU, as a regional bloc, has no right to levy tax on other countries under international air travel treaties. In February, China's air regulator CAAC banned Chinese airlines from complying with the EU scheme and from increasing fares or other passenger charges as a result of the EU scheme. Although the carbon fees have taken effect, the money will not be collected until April 30, 2013. China has added its voice to a growing global protest ahead of the collection date. [...]. ^ top ^

China to cement cooperative partnership with Myanmar (People's Daily Online)
China's top political advisor Jia Qinglin on Thursday pledged to boost strategic cooperation with Myanmar. During a meeting with Myanmar's Speaker of the House of Representatives Thura U Shwe Mann in Beijing, Jia hailed the sound development of bilateral ties, citing increased exchanges and enhanced trade and cultural cooperation. Jia, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), said complicated changes in the global situation have brought opportunities and challenges for both countries as they work to deepen their relations. He urged both sides to maintain high-level contacts, strengthen strategic coordination and draw up a plan for comprehensive and strategic cooperation at an early date. [...] As a friendly neighbor of Myanmar, China supports Myanmar's development path and will continue to back the country's efforts to maintain national stability and development, he said. [...] Safeguarding peace and stability in border areas is in the common interest of both countries, Jia said. China respects Myanmar's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and sincerely hopes Myanmar will properly solve reconciliation issues in border areas in order to maintain stability there, Jia said. Thura U Shwe Mann said he appreciates China's support for Myanmar over the years, adding that the government and people of Myanmar treasure their friendship with China. [...] Strengthening cooperation with China is one of his country's set policies, he said, adding that Myanmar will stick to the one-China policy and boost the growth of their all-around strategic partnership. [...]. ^ top ^

Chinese DM urges closer military co-opn with U.S. (People's Daily Online)
Chinese State Councilor and Defense Minister Liang Guanglie on Thursday met with U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke, calling for closer military cooperation between the two nations. To maintain smooth development of military ties between China and the United States is of great significance to improve strategic mutual trust, safeguard shared security interests, manage and control crises and prevent risks between the two countries, Liang said during the meeting. The military ties should serve and enrich the overall bilateral China-U.S. relationship, and support the strategic stability of the relationship, said the defense minister. He said China was ready to make joint efforts with the U.S. side to advance the bilateral military-to-military ties by respecting each other's core interests and major concerns and appropriately handle differences and sensitive issues. Locke said China and the United States have a long history of helping each other, and the world depends on their leadership in responding to natural disasters, terrorist activities, piracy and other issues. China and the United States should improve their communication and exchanges to avoid misunderstandings and miscalculations so as to further the development of the bilateral relations, he added. ^ top ^

China will not 'overspend' on army (Global Times)
China will not engage in an arms race with any other country, and will only determine its defense spending in accordance with its security needs and economic conditions, the Ministry of National Defense said Thursday. An IHS Jane's report released last week said China's military budget will double by 2015 to reach $238.2 billion compared with $119.8 billion in 2011, more than the rest of the Asia Pacific region's combined. "I do not know where these figures come from," Geng Yansheng, a spokesman with the defense ministry, told a press conference in Beijing. "China has always adhered to the principle of coordinated development of national defense and economy." An official announcement last year showed China's defense budget in 2011 was 601 billion yuan ($91.5 billion), an increase of 12.7 percent from 2010, accounting for 1.5 percent of the country's GDP. China determines its military spending on the basis of its national security needs and economic development situation, and it "will not engage in an arms race with any other countries," Geng said Thursday. The spending mainly covers three sectors: daily personnel expenses, equipment and training, Geng added, and China will announce its defense budget during the plenary session of the National People's Congress next month. [...] "Some countries look at China with colored glasses. With preconceived ideas, they accuse China of covering up its defense budget," Luo Yuan, deputy secretary-general of the PLA Academy of Military Sciences, told the Global Times. [...] Geng also said a two-day seminar was held from Thursday in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province to discuss the coordination of convoy fleets off the Somali coast by various countries, which is aimed at improving the efficiency of the escort missions. Geng said that by consensus, in January, China became the first country to arrange the escort mission schedule for its fleet. Japan, India and other countries will arrange their fleets around China's agenda. [...]. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

Scientists push bear bile sub (Global Times)
At a Beijing Loving Animals Foundation (BLAF) seminar yesterday, experts called for the government to approve the use of bear bile substitutes, in a bid to stop the practice of bile extraction from live bears by traditional Chinese medicine companies. The substitutes have been proved to have the same medical effects as the natural substance in clinical tests, Jiang Qi, former vice-president of Shenyang Pharmaceutical University and member of the bear bile substitute group, said at the seminar. [...] Protests against extracting bile from live bears have become increasingly intense in past weeks since Guizhentang, also known as Greetown, a Fujian-based company that produces medicines made from bear bile, became an IPO candidate. Guizhentang's website was even hacked Saturday after the company invited the public to visit its farm. The China Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) defended the company at a press conference last week, claiming the bears do not suffer in the extraction process. Amid protests, the research and development of substitutes is believed to be essential in protecting animal welfare and boosting medical development. China's success in developing artificial musk, a substance obtained from the gland of a male musk deer, could be copied to save bears from the torture of bile extraction, said Gao Yimin, a professor of traditional Chinese medicine at Capital Medical University. [...] Bear bile, considered an indispensable ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine, is used in several drugs. However, experts warn that although it is hard for other substances to match bear bile's efficacy, some enterprises are exaggerating its medical effects to sell their products. [...]. ^ top ^

China halts hundreds of mining projects in Inner Mongolia (Global Times)
The regional land and resources bureau checked about 9,000 mining projects in the months-long overhaul, halting 467 illegal projects, ordering 887 mines to suspend operations and permanently shutting down 73 mines. Officials of the bureau said the mines either were unlicensed, harassed the life of local residents, or failed to properly compensate for the use of grassland. In a bid to build "harmonious mines" the government defused 100 disputes between local herders and mining companies last year while establishing an effective mechanism among the government, mines, and local residents to settle mining disputes through dialogue, they added. Inner Mongolia ordered an overhaul of the mining sector, originally scheduled for one month but was extended, after protests against grassland mining broke out last May in the wake of the death of a Mongolian herder during a dispute between miners and herders. The regional coal mine industry bureau promptly ordered local work safety watchdogs to strengthen supervision of coal mines to ensure safe production practices, protection of the environment, and attention to the welfare of local residents. Inner Mongolia holds the country's largest coal reserves -- 770.3 billion tonnes by the end of 2011 -- and rich deposit of other mines such as iron ore and rare earth metals. A mining boom in recent years has brought prosperity to the region but concerns have been raised on the ecological damage that mining might cause to a region better known for its stretching, wavy grassland and a unique herding culture. ^ top ^

More transparency urged from courts (SCMP)
Most government departments have become more transparent through disclosures online in the past three years, but the courts need to do more, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said in a report released yesterday. It is the academy's third "Annual Report on China's Rule of Law", studying the state of open governance on the mainland since the Open Government Information Regulation came into effect in May 2008, but the first time it has looked at the transparency of courts. The study covered a total of 59 central government ministries, 26 provincial governments and 43 city governments. In terms of general information, the Ministry of Commerce's website got the highest transparency score, 67 out of 100. [...] However, more than half of the 59 central government departments still scored less than 50, with the State Administration of Foreign Exchange and the ministry scoring about 20 out of 100. Local governments performed better, with 16 of the 26 provincial governments scoring above 50, a feat that was matched by 27 of the city governments. [...] In comparison, transparency of the courts is in a more worrying state. In a study of 26 provincial higher courts and 43 city intermediate courts, [...] Only 10 provinces had websites featuring working links for all their intermediate courts. Only two higher courts and six intermediate courts gave their full addresses on their websites, and only one higher court and one intermediate gave information on all their departments and the staff in charge. While the law demands that all hearings must be open to the public unless privacy or state secrets are involved, only 76.9 per cent of higher courts and 58.1 per cent of intermediate courts put announcements about hearings open to the public online. In terms of making judgments public, just 19.2 per cent of higher courts and 27.9 per cent of intermediate courts updated their website in a timely fashion - containing judgments made in the previous 30 days. ^ top ^

Plea for care in civil trial rulings (SCMP)
The mainland's top court issued a notice this week, urging all courts to take special care when hearing cases touching on controversial topics such as private loans and the lease of farmland. In a notice entitled "Strengthening Civil Trials to Protect People's Livelihood", the Supreme People's Court listed eight categories of disputes that deserve particular attention. They were disputes over real estate, private loans, labour issues, farmers' rights and consumer rights, traffic accident compensation, medical negligence compensation, and marital and family disputes. It is not unusual for the Supreme People's Court to issue such working guidelines, but inclusion of private loans caught the media's attention. Zhejiang billionaire businesswoman Wu Ying was sentenced to death in 2009 for illegally collecting funds with the intention to defraud, but her defence argued that she was only borrowing money from friends and colleagues. The 30-year-old's death sentence was upheld in January, and a final decision now lies with the Supreme People's Court. The case has stirred unprecedented public discussion on issues, including the precarious state private firms find themselves in when trying to raise funds. It is difficult for firms to borrow from banks due to policy limits, but private lending is prone to being seen as illegal fund-raising. [...] The notice said courts should safeguard "legal and orderly" private loan relationships, and protect the parties' rights. The notice also said courts should be careful of loan-sharking elements and the creation of fake debt relationships to avoid paying a real debt. [...] On farmers' rights, the notice called for rulings to consider the maintenance of rural stability, in particular when cases concern the lease and transfer of rights to farmland. Many mass protests on the mainland concerned the illegal use of farmland, the most notable case in Wukan, Guangdong. [...]. ^ top ^

A resurrection of sorts for disgraced Zhao (SCMP)
People can now read a profile of Zhao Ziyang, the Communist Party general secretary purged after the June 4 crackdown, on Baidu Baike, a web-based encyclopaedia similar to Wikipedia run by Baidu, the mainland's largest search engine. Zhao's entry had long been blocked by internet censors but internet users discovered late on Monday that was no longer the case. Searches for Zhao on Baidu have also been freed up and generated more than a million hits. "This could be a signal that the central government wants to free up public discussion about Zhao," said Professor Zhang Ming, a political scientist at Renmin University [...]. Zhao's sympathies with student demonstrators during the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 placed him at odds with paramount leader Deng Xiaoping. He was purged and placed under house arrest, where he died in 2005 at the age of 85. The Baidu Baike webpage quotes a central government verdict after the Tiananmen protest, saying Zhao was "supporting turmoil and splitting the party". But it also acknowledges Zhao's "contributions to the party and to the people", and more importantly describes Zhao as a "proletarian revolutionary", praise usually reserved for the death of a top communist leader. [...] Zhao's appearance on Baike has become a popular topic of discussion on Weibo, Sina's popular microblog service, even though it still blocks searches for his name. [...] "The more than 1 million search results are like 1 million salutes to Mr Zhao," Beijing Television host Hu Ziwei wrote on her Weibo account. Zhang said: "If we ponder deeply about this issue, it appears the central government is moving towards reform and democracy.". ^ top ^

7,846 illegal websites shut down (China Daily)
Authorities have shut down 7,846 websites that were found to be involved in illegal commercial activity as part of a nationwide campaign against online black markets, the Ministry of Public Security announced on Tuesday. The ministry has deleted 1.2 million online posts related to illegal activity and disciplined 1,075 Internet services providers in relation to the campaign, the ministry said. Illegal activity singled out by the campaign includes the sale of weapons, ammunitions, explosives, toxic chemicals, personal information and devices used to tap mobile phones, the ministry said. The campaign has also resulted in the apprehension of 905 criminal suspects and the elimination of 53 criminal gangs, the ministry said. The ministry stated it will continue to use a "heavy-handed approach" in its fight against illegal online activity. ^ top ^

China plans faster growth in western regions (People's Daily Online)
The State Council, or China's Cabinet, said Monday that it has approved a plan aimed at accelerating development in the western regions through the end of 2015, a move to further narrow the country's development gap among different areas. The development plan for western regions set development goals concerning economic growth, infrastructure construction, ecological environment, public service, and people's living standards that are much higher than that of the economically-developed coastal and eastern regions. China's western regions include 12 provincial areas -- Xinjiang, Tibet, Inner Mongolia, Guangxi, Ningxia, Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan, Chongqing, Shaanxi, Guizhou and Yunnan. According to a statement issued by the State Council on its website, the economies of western regions will grow at paces faster than the national average, while residential income growth will outpace the country's average growth rate during the 12th Five-Year Plan period (2011-2015). About 15,000 km of railways will be opened in the western regions through the end of 2015, and the urban population will exceed 45 percent of the region's total, according to the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China's top economic planner that made the plan. Western regions must employ a 15-percent cut in energy use per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) from that of the end of 2010, and they should cut water consumption by 30 percent per unit of industrial output growth, according to the plan. As a key indicator of ecological conditions, nearly one-fifth of the land in western regions should be covered by forests by the end of 2015, according to the plan. [...]. ^ top ^

Top court clears way on probation pleas (China Daily)
Judicial reviews of prison sentence and criminal probation appeals are to be made more open. The Supreme People's Court issued its latest judicial interpretation on Wednesday, in which it calls for greater transparency in the review process. The interpretation specifies that courts have to hold public hearings on probation and sentence reduction pleas under six sets of circumstances. These would include when a case has received wide public attention, when a criminal has behaved meritoriously, or when prosecutors hold different opinions on the probation term. The interpretation, scheduled to come into force in July, is a modification of a current ruling issued in 1997 that does not require courts to hold open hearings when reviewing such pleas. The director of the Supreme People's Court's trial supervision tribunal said that at present judges decide on these appeals by reviewing case files, and this was causing a delay in proceedings. While admitting that insight into judicial reviews on probation is limited, the director said he believes the new policy will help establish an open judicial procedure. The director said it was still unrealistic for the judiciary in China to hear all the applications for probation and sentence abatement due to a lack of "human resources", especially at the local level. The six situations that require public hearings, noted in the interpretation, are believed to be the "most controversial ones". The top court's latest move is intended to support incentives to help criminal reform introduced in the Eighth Amendment to the Criminal Law in May last year. The amendment included measures such as tightening probation opportunities for repeat offenders of violent crimes. It also extended the maximum jail term for a prisoner under sentence of death to 20 years in prison from 18, if the prisoner has made "rendered meritorious service". [...]. ^ top ^

China launches anti-corruption campaign targeting rural development (Xinhua)
China's Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP) on Wednesday launched a national anti-corruption campaign to safeguard the interests of rural residents. The two-year campaign will focus on the prosecution of crimes and prevention of offenses in agriculture and related sectors, according to Hu Zejun, executive deputy procurator-general of the SPP. Hu urged his fellow procurators to focus on graft and bribery cases and to help local authorities detect institutional loopholes that could allow for the misuse of public funds. Innovative corruption-prevention techniques are crucial for the successful implementation of the central government's rural policies, Hu said. [...]. ^ top ^

Provinces to end 'iron bowl' jobs (China Daily)
A number of provinces including Jiangsu are mulling a pilot program to end the "iron bowl" culture of civil servants by imposing contracts of employment, Xinhua reported Wednesday. A contract for civil servants normally lasts 1-5 years and renewal depends on performance in the post according to the new system. Those who fail in the evaluation may be fired. The program rule is expected to be issued by the end of 2012. Meanwhile, other provinces including Sichuan, Henan and Hubei will also join the pilot program. In fact, Shenzhen, a special economic zone in Guangdong province, started the pilot program in 2007 and since Jan 2010, all new civil servants have contracts of employment. "The new system will exert pressure on those who don't take their job seriously," said an anonymous professor with Nanjing Normal University. "This system is good because civil staff need to perform well on their posts to renew the contracts," he added. The phrase "iron rice bowl" was used to describe a job for life usually as a civil servant in China. ^ top ^

Foxconn raises base wages, reduces overtime hours (China Daily)
Foxconn announced on Monday it is raising the base wages of its workers on the Chinese mainland by 16 to 25 percent as of Feb 1 and will reduce the number of extra hours they may work. Liu Kun, Foxconn spokesman, said the rate of the pay raises will differ according to the job location and description and the workers' skills. [...] Liu said this is the third wage increase since the first of several Foxconn employee suicides - on Jan 23, 2010 - when the base pay of workers at the factory was 900 yuan. "We are increasing the base pay to ensure that our workers' earnings will not drop much when their overtime hours are reduced. In this way, we hope to keep the good, qualified workers. Though the pay raises will definitely increase our costs, they will help save on recruitment expenses and lower the defect rate of our products." [...] According to Liu, the raise was a decision made by Foxconn's trade union, the workers and the management at the end of December. It was the second year Foxconn adopted such a negotiation system on wages. He said Foxconn will not permit employees to work more than 60 hours a week, or a total of 80 extra hours a month. The company will try to gradually lower the limit to a maximum of 36 extra hours a month, he said, and the company will increase its supervision of hours worked. [...] Liu said he would like to see foreign media reports on Foxconn become more balanced and deeper. [...]. ^ top ^

China's animated TV output jumps in 2011 (China Daily)
China's output of animated TV series reached 261,444 minutes in 2011, up 18 percent from a year earlier, signalling the country's effort in boosting its cultural sector. Overall, 469 TV drama programs went into production last year, yielding 14,939 episodes, up 7 percent from 2010, data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed. Meanwhile, the country produced 558 feature movies, 131 educational, documentary, cartoon and other kinds of movies in 2011. Cable television subscribers amounted to 201.52 million, while that of digital television hit 114.55 million, the NBS said. By the end of 2011, nationwide radio broadcast coverage was 97.1 percent of the population, and that of television had reached 97.8 percent. As the second largest economy in the world, China has been working to improve its cultural soft power. Last week, a consortium of Chinese companies agreed to set up a joint venture with the US-based DreamWorks Animation, with agendas to make a sequel of blockbuster movie Kung Fu Panda 3 later this year. The sixth plenary session of the 17th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China that convened last October called for deepening reforms in the culture sector, accelerating its development and making it a pillar industry in the country's economy. ^ top ^

Draft law on GM food online to solicit comments (China Daily)
China plans to set up a strict law on the management of genetically modified food in response to nationwide concerns about the safety of related agricultural products. The draft of a new grain law was posted on the website of the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council on Tuesday for public comment until the end of March. The draft requires that all activities related to GM seeds, including scientific research, field trials, production, sales, imports and exports, be carried out in accordance with the country's regulations. It is forbidden to use GM technology to develop principle grain cultivars without approval in advance, according to the draft. The move is seen as a major effort by the central government to deal with safety concerns of GM food. [...] Agricultural professionals said the draft is the country's first law to ensure grain safety by stabilizing output and intensifying control and supervision over the market. The draft includes stipulations concerning the safeguarding of grain production and encourages producers to improve storage conditions to ensure quality. According to the draft, producers are forbidden from processing mildewed grain or grain that has been contaminated by pesticide residue or heavy metals. Contaminated vehicles and packing materials are also banned from transporting grain. The production, circulation and sale of edible vegetable oil will also be under scrutiny, as it is a daily necessity for most people, the draft said. The draft states that provincial-level governments are responsible for regional production, circulation, storage and regulation enforcement to ensure quality and supplies. To ensure market order, the draft bans traders from spreading rumors, manipulating prices, monopolizing the market or cheating customers. [...]. ^ top ^

CPC stresses cultivating "non-communist" talent (Xinhua)
The Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee on Thursday called for more efforts to find and train talented individuals from outside of the Party in order to achieve long-term solidarity and stability. Cultivating talent from outside of the Party is crucial for consolidating and expanding the Party's base, according to a circular issued by the CPC Central Committee. The circular included detailed suggestions for finding and selecting non-communist talent based on comprehensive assessments, as well as a call for perfecting the mechanism for choosing and appointing talented individuals. The circular called on parties at all levels to support non-communist groups in the cultivation of new talent, as well as maintain sound cooperation between communists and non-communists. ^ top ^

Rules issued to curb nepotism among China's civil servants (Xinhua)
China has issued regulations to limit public servants' association with their spouses and relatives at work, a move hoped to curb corruption and interferences with their duties. Civil servants and their spouses, relatives within three generations or relatives-in-law can not hold two posts which report to the same director, nor should they have the director-subordinate work relationship, according to the regulations. In terms of geographical limitations, the regulations say that civil servants may not serve as heads of prefecture-level Communist Party of China (CPC) committees or governments in their hometowns. Civil servants are also not allowed to assume top posts in prefecture-level discipline inspection commissions, procuratorates, courts or police departments in their hometowns, according to the regulations. Civil servants are also asked to avoid situations such as recruitment, promotion or demotion of staff, taxation and approval for going abroad, that involve their relatives. Those who do not abide by the regulations could be removed from office, according to the regulations jointly issued by the Organization Department of the CPC Central Committee and the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security. If two civil servants marry or form a new relationship that "should be avoided," their posts will be adjusted, according to the regulations. ^ top ^

China to guarantee migrants access to public services (Xinhua)
China's central government has pledged to provide equal access to public services for people living in urban areas without proper residential permits. The pledge was highlighted in a national guideline on reforming the country's household registration system, which was posted on the official website of the central government on Thursday. Future policies and measures on essential public services, including employment assistance, compulsory education and occupational training, shall not be based on whether one has a permanent residential permit or not, according to the guideline dated Feb. 26, 2011. It also requested local and national authorities to revise or abolish existing policies and measures which are inconsistent with that principle. Under China's household registration system, many urban public services are still only available to registered urban residents within certain administrative regions. [...] Recent statistics show that the number of migrant workers reached 252.78 million in 2011, with 158.63 million of them leaving the towns they are registered to live in to seek employment elsewhere, usually in urban areas. The guideline proposes creating a unified household registration system, as well as granting equal access to public services for both urban and rural residents. The distribution of public resources between urban and rural areas should be balanced to improve living standards and working conditions in rural areas, the guideline said. The guideline also calls for greater protection for the property rights of rural residents. ^ top ^

Overseas talents wooed to improve social management (Xinhua)
A foundation has been set up to fund the work of overseas social management experts in China. The State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs and Hong Kong New World Development Company Limited co-founded the Overseas High-end Talent Exchange Foundation, with each contributing 10 million yuan (1.58 million U.S. dollars). One of its foundations focused on social management officially launched Thursday, inviting applications. Wang Haiyang, director of China International Talent Exchange Foundation, the fund's trustee, said the fund is to support the implementation of talent exchange programs in the field of social management. The fund will be used to pay for the travel, salaries and per-diem expenses of overseas experts specializing in fields such as social management laws, the social credit system, social stability risk assessment, fiscal and taxation policies, household registration systems, income distribution reforms, laws and advanced warning systems for social emergency response situations, among others. Applications are open to all programs aimed at promoting China's social management through the exchange of high-caliber overseas talents. The talents should be well-known or influential scholars in a certain field or celebrities holding important positions in relevant organizations. [...]. ^ top ^

China establishes 1st national renewable energy think tank (People's Daily Online)
China has established its first national think tank to conduct research, and to develop programs and policies on renewable energy. The China National Renewable Energy Center (CNREC) which was launched on Thursday, will be responsible for researching and promoting programs and policies in renewable energy development, as well as for drafting industrial standards and carrying out international cooperative programs. "In China, developing policies and strategies for renewable energy is a complex task because government leaders have to weigh all aspects to ensure that it will benefit the entire country," said Wang Zhongying, director of the new center. "That is not to say that our government doesn't have the courage to make policy, rather, a strong think tank can provide solid research to support policy-makers." The center was established by the National Energy Bureau with the support of the National Development and Reform Commission. It is also a result of cooperative efforts between China and Denmark, which established a Renewable Development Program in 2009. Denmark provided both financial and technological support for the center. [...]. ^ top ^



Shanghai's microblog 'most influential' (Global Times)
For the past two months, the Shanghai municipal government's four official microblogs have been far more influential than those of any other government organization in the nation, suggests new data from the country's largest microblog service provider. Not yet three months old, the city's microblog operated by Shanghai's government press office has accumulated some 750,000 followers on China's answer to Twitter, Sina Weibo, since setting up an official online mouthpiece through the service provider last year, according to the Sina Weibo report released on the weekend. The city government's three other microblogs on competing online Chinese platforms collectively boast another 1.07 million followers. The city government had released some 1,600 posts via its microblogs as of Sunday, with online users forwarding its notices some 543,000 times and responding with some 133,000 comments. Despite the city's subway operator attracting some 1.44 million followers on Sina Weibo - a crowd gained over the last nearly 20 months - it placed second in the ranking, while microblogs for the Chengdu government and Nanjing traffic police also proved less influential on Sina Weibo than that of the Shanghai government's. [...] The influential power of a Weibo account, determined by assessing the effectiveness and popularity of a microblog based on a complex calculation, the statement added, is "no longer determined solely by its number of followers, [but] a comprehensive evaluation based on posts, comments and the sum total of active followers." [...] Success from the city government's microblogs stems from well-managed operations, said social sciences expert Xie Yungeng. [...] The value attached to being in-the-know about the governmental affairs carried out by the country's most international metropolis further brings considerable advantages for the city's microblog, he said. ^ top ^

iPad case heats up in Shanghai (SCMP)
A Shanghai court yesterday heard evidence in a Shenzhen-based electronics firm's infringement lawsuit against Apple, further escalating a battle over the iPad name. In the preliminary hearing at the Shanghai Pudong New Area People's Court, lawyers for Proview Technology asked the court to order Apple's iPad tablet computers to be pulled off the shelves in Shanghai stores pending the outcome of the suit. Proview contends that Apple infringed its "IPAD" trademark, registered in Taiwan, the mainland and several other places between 2000 and 2004. However, yesterday's four-hour hearing, with a packed gallery, did not result in any decisions or direct action from the court. Proview's lawyers said afterwards that it could take several months for formal hearings to begin, assuming the court would take the case. US-based Apple, founded by Steve Jobs, said it bought rights to the trademark from Proview's Taiwanese subsidiary, Proview Electronics, in 2009. This was thrown out by a Shenzhen court in December, when judges sided with Proview's argument that the subsidiary did not own rights to the trademark registered on the mainland. Similar lawsuits have been filed in other mainland cities. Authorities in at least four provinces moved earlier this month to pull iPads from shelves in response to the Shenzhen judgment, which Apple has challenged. A victory for Proview - which took legal action against the management of Apple-branded stores instead of the parent company - could prompt wider action on the mainland. [...] Mainland media reported that the deliberations were heated, with judges repeatedly ordering both sides to keep their tempers in check. [...]. ^ top ^



Guangdong police net hundreds in raid (Global Times)
In a unified operation across Guangdong Province on Thursday night, police swooped in on 747 criminal cases, eradicated six gangs and destroyed 68 venues for counterfeiting brand products, but some experts asked whether such sustained law enforcement campaigns are a step in the wrong direction. The swoop was the second of its kind in a three-month campaign, "Yuean 12," which started on December 26 and will end on March 25, the Nanfang Daily reported. After an initial series of raids on January 16, Guangdong police detained 804 criminal suspects, another 2,137 people for minor offenses and seized 4,431 vehicles on Thursday night. Earlier this month, Wang Yang, secretary of the Guangdong Provincial Committee of the CPC, called on security forces to crack down on crimes. Three years ago, the Chongqing Municipality also launched a series of gang-busting campaigns against organized crime. Chongqing's campaign has drawn admiration and controversy in equal measure in recent years, as some law experts said it went against the spirit of the rule of law. "In these overloaded operations, police might not find enough proof and carry out cross-examinations, which will lead to miscarriages of justice," argued Zhou Xiaozheng, a professor of sociology at the Renmin University of China. [...]

"We have to move from a style of crackdown campaigns to a more strict adherence to the laws on a daily basis," Zhou said, "The rule of law is essential for a harmonious society." [...]. ^ top ^

Unions to set up teams for worker protection (China Daily)
Guangdong's provincial federation of trade unions will establish a team of more than 10,000 labor and capital coordinators to help mediate industrial disputes and protect workers' legal interests this year. "The coordinators will help local companies standardize their operations and improve management of workers," according to Yao Wenjun, an official from the province's federation of trade unions. "In addition to officials from labor departments and trade unions, the coordinators will include experienced lawyers, experts and special personnel who have the expertise of human resources and business management," Yao told China Daily on Wednesday. The special coordinators who are sent to irregularly visit local companies also have the obligation to promote labor laws and relevant regulations among employers and employees, he added. The recruitment of the special coordinators follows a growing number of industrial disputes in recent years in the southern province, home to myriad foreign-funded companies, joint ventures and private firms, local media reported. Earlier this week, a senior provincial Party official urged trade unions across the province to provide more legal aid to migrant workers from around the country in recovering their arrears of pay. Zhu Mingguo, deputy Party chief of Guangdong province, made the remarks at the fifth session of the 12th congress of the Guangdong Provincial Federation of Trade Unions in the provincial capital on Monday. [...]. ^ top ^

Excessive lead found in children (China Daily)
Dozens of children living near a lead refinery plant in South China's Guangdong Province have been diagnosed with excessive lead in their blood, a local government statement said. Environmental protection authorities have begun investigating the plant in Dongtang township of Renhua, a county-level city in Guangdong province, the statement said on Thursday. The statement did not identify the company's name, but said its waste gas and water and industrial residue will be closely monitored. As of Tuesday, 37 residents in Dongtang, mostly children, have been diagnosed with excessive lead in their blood, the statement said. Excessive amounts of lead can harm the digestive, nervous and reproductive systems and cause stomachaches, anemia and convulsions, doctors said. Samples of the surface and ground water in the township have not tested positive for excessive lead, the statement said. Tests on samples of soil and air near the plant are still under way, the statement added. "The company will be severely punished if it is found to be emitting excessive pollutants," said Huang Renfeng, an official with the Renhua government. A group of medical workers have been dispatched to the township to conduct further checkups of residents, according to Huang. The township of Dongtang, which neighbors Danxia Mountain, a World Heritage site, is famous for its rich mineral resources. The township has the country's largest producer of lead and zinc and a number of mineral refinery plants. [...] Lead poisoning cases have been frequently reported in recent years across the country, with 16 people being punished in connection with a lead pollution incident in Guangdong and a number of battery plants in Shanghai being ordered to close operation over pollution concerns last year. [...]. ^ top ^



Qinghai-Tibet railway brings more visitors to China's plateau city (People's Daily)
The plateau city of Golmud in far west Qinghai province has seen a growing number of tourists over the past five years thanks to the opening of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, a local official said Monday. Golmud, a major stop on the railway, received 4.16 million visitors from 2006 to 2011, while taking in revenue of 851 million yuan (135 million U.S. dollars), an average annual growth of 12.3 percent and 32.7 percent, respectively, said Chen Xu, director of the Golmud Municipal Tourism Bureau. The 1,956-km Qinghai-Tibet Railway links the Qinghai provincial capital of Xining with the capital of Tibet, Lhasa. Before it was fully put into operation on July 1, 2006, Golmud had been the destination of the railway. [...] More than 6.5 million people traveled on the Qinghai-Tibet railway in 2011, up 9 percent from 2010, the railway company has said. The high-elevation railway also transported 40 million tonnes of cargo in 2011, up 8 percent year-on-year. ^ top ^

Tibetans celebrate New Year (Global Times)
The country's Tibetan-populated regions are in a party mood as the Tibetan New Year, or Losar, falls today, striking a stark contrast with the call by the "Tibetan government in exile" to cancel celebrations. Decorations decked Lhasa's main streets, and local people were busy with last-minute preparations for their most important festival of the year. Yonten, the head of publicity and education with Drepung Monastery on the outskirts of Lhasa, told the Global Times that families have cleaned up the buildings, prepared heaps of food and purchased new Tibetan garments as the Tibetan Year of the Water Dragon drew near. [...]

The festivity continued despite a call by exiled Tibetan "Prime Minister" Lobsang Sangay Tuesday for the celebration to be cancelled. In a post on the website of the "Tibetan government in exile," Sangay asked Tibetans to observe traditional and spiritual rituals for monks who allegedly died of self-immolation. Western media reports claimed that at least 22 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in China over the past year, with at least three doing so in Sichuan Province this month. Denying further reports saying that the actual number was far less, officials with Sichuan's publicity department said no self-immolation cases took place this year. Xiong Kunxin, a professor at Minzu University of China in Beijing, told the Global Times that actions of looting, smashing and self-immolation incited by some religious extremists and separatists actually go against Buddhist doctrine. [...] Noting the importance of tackling religious problems properly, Xiong said it was critical for local governments to manage temples and monks well so as to solve the problems at the root. [...] Meanwhile, local authorities reiterated the importance of the security and stability of Tibetan areas ahead of the Tibetan New Year, urging officials at all levels to enhance their safety work during the holiday. [...] Liu Daoping, Party chief of Ganzi, described the situation as a "fierce battle" against the Dalai Lama clique, which was accused of masterminding the unrest. [...]. ^ top ^

Burnings cast pall on Tibetan New Year (SCMP)
The Tibetan New Year, or Losar, began in sombre fashion around the world yesterday amid mourning for more than 20 Tibetans who had set themselves on fire. A teacher from the Tibetan ethnic minority living in Sichuan province's Aba Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture said yesterday that the atmosphere on the first day of the New Year, or Lhakar Day, felt routine. "All our family members have stayed at home all day long, watching television, drinking tea and having meals - but there's no spirit at all," the teacher said. "I've heard that there are some evening shows to celebrate the new year in either the Tibet Autonomous Region or Qinghai province, but we've got nothing like that in Aba." The Tibetan government-in-exile had called for people to refrain from new year celebrations to show respect to those who had died in radical protests against Chinese rule. [...] Another Tibetan living in the Sichuan capital of Chengdu confirmed a markedly different mood during the holiday. There was heavy security in Aba and the neighbouring Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture following 21 reported self-immolations over the past year. In the latest case, the International Campaign for Tibet said, an 18-year-old Tibetan monk set himself on fire in Aba's Yangtang county on Sunday after proclaiming his support for Tibet's independence and its spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. ^ top ^



Brain drain warning after more leave HK than settle (SCMP)
For the second time in three years, more people left Hong Kong last year than settled in the city, prompting warnings of a new brain drain. Provisional figures from the Census and Statistics Department showing net emigration of 12,400 people last year should be a "wake-up call", one population expert said. Emigration exceeded immigration just seven years in the past 50. While previous exoduses could be attributed to events in the region, last year's figures have baffled experts. Chung Kim-wah, a social scientist at Polytechnic University, said there was no obvious reason for the high level of emigration last year, although he pointed to the introduction of the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education as a possible cause. [...] A census department spokeswoman said population change was difficult to explain, as it included the movements of non-permanent residents, including domestic helpers, expatriate workers and overseas students. Security Bureau statistics show that 8,300 permanent residents left the city last year, up 15 per cent from the previous year. Professor Paul Yip Siu-fai, a population expert at the University of Hong Kong, warned that many of the people departing were professionals and members of the middle class. [...] But Frederick Ho Wing-huen, former commissioner of the Census and Statistics Department, had another explanation for the phenomenon, which may cast new light on the debate over mainland women giving birth in Hong Kong. [...] The government is expected to release official population figures soon. In June last year, Hong Kong's population stood at 7.1 million, up 0.6 per cent from the year before. High levels of emigration could aggravate the city's long-standing problem of a low birth rate. Hong Kong's birth rate is just 1.04 per woman, prompting concern about a possible shortage of labour. The population is boosted by the arrival of up to 150 new residents a day from the mainland under a quota scheme intended to reunite families. ^ top ^

Under fire Tang stays in Hong Kong leadership race (Global Times)
Despite being dogged by a scandal that sees him accused of building an illegal basement to his home, Henry Tang Ying-yen, an affluent celebrity in Hong Kong, Monday afternoon submitted his formal bid to run as Chief Executive, the city's top position. Tang, the former chief secretary for administration of Hong Kong who resigned from his post in September 2011 to prepare for this run, has been embroiled in the scandal over an illegal underground basement, which is alleged by local media as an extravagant club, at his wife's property in Kowloon Tong. There have since been mounting calls for him to withdraw from the election. Tang made a public apology but insisted he would stay in the race. [...] Tang was also alleged to have two mistresses but he refused to comment on the scandals last year. The first contender of Chief Executive Election is Albert Ho Chun-yan, a solicitor and member of Legislative Council of Hong Kong, submitted the formal nomination forms to the electoral authorities on February 14, with 183 nominations from the 1,200-strong election committee. Tang Ying-yen received 379 nominations. ^ top ^

Leung Chun-ying submits nominations for election of next HK chief (Xinhua)
Leung Chun-ying, former Convenor of the Non-Official Members of the Executive Council of Hong Kong (Exco), Thursday submitted nominations for the 2012 Chief Executive Election to the Registration and Electorial Office of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government. Leung told reporters that he had received support of 293 of the 1,200 election committee members. Leung, 57, had joined the Exco in 1997 and became the Convenor of the Non-Official Members of the Exco in 2005. An election will be held on March 25 to select next Chief Executive of Hong Kong. The incumbent Chief Executive Donald Tsang is barred from seeking a third term. The nomination period, which began on Feb. 14, will run until Feb. 29. A nomination form must be subscribed by at least 150 Election Committee members. Each member can nominate only one candidate. Leung was the third candidate to formally submit nomination papers, following Henry Tang, former Chief Secretary for Administration of the city government, and Albert Ho, a lawmaker who is also head of a local political party.. ^ top ^



'Cultural journey' boosts Taiwan ties (SCMP)
Beijing Mayor Guo Jinlong wrapped up a six-day visit to Taiwan yesterday that analysts said marked a new phase in cross-strait relations. Although the trip by Guo was marred by daily protests by Falun Gong and Tibetan activists living in Taiwan, he was able to accomplish his mission and pave the way for Beijing to use cultural exchanges as the next step in building up cross-strait ties, analysts said. Leading a 500-strong delegation made up of more than 30 municipal-level government and party officials from Beijing as well as business leaders and celebrities, Guo - the first Beijing mayor to visit the island - arrived in Taiwan last Thursday for what he described as a "cultural journey". He was greeted at the island's Taoyuan International Airport by dozens of protesters, including Tibetan activists and members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which is banned as an "evil cult" on the mainland. [...] Guo shrugged off the protests and held talks with key local government leaders, including Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin, Xinbei Mayor Eric Chu Li-luan and Taichung Mayor Jason Hu Chih-chiang on cultural and other exchanges. He also met former Kuomintang chairman Lien Chan and honorary KMT chairman Wu Poh-hsiung to discuss cross-strait issues and visited a Taipei bookstore, fruit market and attended Beijing Culture Week activities in Taipei. Guo said at the airport before returning to Beijing yesterday that he had learned a lot in Taiwan. "This trip is meaningful," Guo said. "I hope our two sides will continue the good momentum of economic co-operation and cultural exchanges." He said there was a lot of room for cultural exchanges across the Taiwan Strait. [...]. ^ top ^

Mainland urges countries not to develop official ties with Taiwan (Xinhua)
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said Wednesday that countries who had forged diplomatic relations with China should not develop official ties or sign any official agreements with its Taiwan region. "We don't oppose the countries who have established diplomatic relationship with us promoting non-governmental economic, trade and cultural activities with Taiwan region," spokesman Hong Lei said at a regular news briefing. However, Hong stressed that China did object to those countries to foster official relations or sign any official pacts with its Taiwan region, which challenged and infringed the one-China policy that has been universally acknowledged by the international community. Hong made remarks in response to the reports of recent visits paid by the so-called Taiwan Vice Minister of Economic Affairs to Germany, France and Belgium in a bid to sign an economic cooperation agreement (ECA) with the European Union. In addition, Shen Lyushun, the newly-appointed so-called Taiwan representative to the United Kingdom, also advocated recently for Taiwan to participate in the inter-governmental organizations and the special agencies under the United Nations. "We also are opposed to accepting Taiwan region as member of any international organizations in which only sovereign states can join," Hong added. [...]. ^ top ^



Home prices drop in Jan from tightened property policies (China Daily)
Property prices in more than two thirds of China's major cities dropped further in January from the previous month, the result of a policy-driven property market. Of 70 major cities monitored by the government, 48 saw prices fall month-on-month, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Saturday. That is slightly fewer than the 52 cities which saw prices drop in December. Twenty-two other cities were seen as stable, compared with 16 in December. Year-on-year, 15 cities saw a price fall in January, compared to nine in December. [...] "With the government's tightening measures set to continue, a deepened price correction is expected in the first half year," said Carlby Xie, head of research at the real estate consultancy Colliers International (Beijing). "However, home prices may gradually stabilize in the second half after falling back to a reasonable level." Since the start of 2011, the government had introduced many measures to cool down the runaway real estate market, such as pushing up minimum down-payments, limiting the number of homes a family could purchase in some cities and introducing property taxes in Shanghai and Chongqing. Property analysts EC Harris said in a research note that the slowdown was likely to continue, while warning of the risks for the wider economy. [...] Most economists have lowered their forecast for China's growth this year, citing the correction in the country's property market as one of the biggest factors. However, the central government still seems confident it can maintain the growth while deflating the real estate bubble. Last week, it pressured the eastern city of Wuhu to suspend a plan to relax restrictions. In a commentary published in Qiushi magazine on Thursday, Vice-Premier Li Keqiang said China will expand its real-estate tax trial gradually. [...]. ^ top ^

Chinese lenders post record high net profit (China Daily)
China's commercial banks posted a record high net profit of 2.65 trillion yuan ($420.6 billion) in 2011, according to latest official data. Net profit in the fourth quarter of 2011 exceeded 1 trillion yuan for the first time, reaching 1.04 trillion yuan, the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) said in a statement Saturday. It was a marked increase from 817.3 billion yuan of net profit in the third quarter, 536.4 billion yuan in the second quarter and 263.5 billion yuan in the first quarter, the CBRC said. The lenders saw their non-performing loan ratio decline 0.1 percentage point year-on-year to 1 percent in the fourth quarter, while their capital adequacy ratio stood at 12.7 percent, according to the CBRC. Provision coverage ratio, the ratio of provisioning to gross non-performing assets which indicates the extent of funds a bank has kept aside to cover loan losses, reached 278.1 percent in the fourth quarter, higher than 217.7 percent at the end of 2010. Chinese banks have been benefiting from strong growth in net interest income, investment returns and fees and commissions despite the global financial crisis. In 2010, the Chinese banking industry, including commercial banks, policy banks, credit cooperatives and other financial institutions, posted 899.1 billion yuan of profit after tax, up 34.5 percent year-on-year. ^ top ^

Govt moves to boost credit (Global Times)
The People's Bank of China (PBC) cut the amount of cash that banks must set aside as reserves in a move to boost liquidity as the world's second-largest economy faces a continued slowdown in growth. Banks' reserve requirement ratio (RRR) will drop Friday by 50 basic points to 20.5 percent for large commercial banks, the central bank announced Saturday, with the ratio for medium and small-sized banks lowered to 17 percent. This is the second RRR cut in less than three months. The PBC lowered the ratio in December for the first time since December 2008, following six RRR hikes in an effort to check inflation. However, this latest adjustment came later than economists expected, with many awaiting the news prior to the Spring Festival. [...] China's banking system has been hurt by a credit squeeze as both new loans and foreign exchange funds - the main sources of market liquidity - dropped over recent months. PBC data showed that banks issued 738.1 billion yuan ($117.18 billion) in new loans in January, down 28 percent year-on-year and much lower than the typical 1-trillion-yuan growth predicted by analysts for the month, as banks usually ramp up lending at the start of the year. [...] Although the RRR cut will be good for markets in the coming weeks, it is merely part of the ongoing fine-tuning and should not be taken as a sign of bigger monetary easing, said Lu Ting [...] Credit restriction pushed many SMEs to the brink of bankruptcy last year and fueled an explosion in underground lending as these companies faced difficulties to get loans from banks that tend to favor State-owned enterprises. [...] Premier Wen Jiabao said last week that the government was paying close attention to the economic situation for the first quarter of this year and that fine-tuning of macro policies should begin in the same period. ^ top ^

Beijing to tweak macro policy to bolster growth (SCMP)
Beijing will "fine-tune" the mainland's macroeconomic policy, given the current global economic uncertainties, the ruling Politburo said in a statement yesterday after a meeting chaired by President Hu Jintao. The government will also maintain its proactive fiscal policies and prudent monetary policies this year, according to the statement issued by the Communist Party's decision-making body. The meeting was held to discuss a draft of a government work report that will be delivered at the opening of the annual session of the National People's Congress, the mainland's top legislature, which convenes on March 5. Premier Wen Jiabao compiled the draft. However, the statement, posted on the government's website, failed to mention party leaders' commitment to curbing property prices - even though Wen had highlighted the issue at a State Council meeting last week. The central government should "make a proper judgment on the macroeconomic situation at the right time, and make it more targeted, flexible and forward-looking", the statement said. [...] On Saturday, the central bank said it would cut the capital reserve requirement for banks by half a percentage point with effect on this Friday, in a bid to boost lending and bolster the economy. Analysts said the move seemed to indicate that policymakers were concerned that economic growth was slowing. However, government economists said yesterday that it was meant to help small and medium-sized firms stay afloat. Yesterday's statement also said the government would accelerate efforts to transform the nation's economic growth pattern, while making greater effort in expanding domestic demand, particularly consumption. It added that the party would continue to improve mainlanders' livelihoods and keep market prices steady ahead of the party's 18th congress in autumn. [...]. ^ top ^

China, Turkey sign currency swap deal (Xinhua)
China's central bank said Tuesday that it has signed a 10-billion-yuan (1.59 billion U.S. dollars) currency swap agreement with the Central Bank of Turkey. The three-year agreement will be extendable by mutual consent, the People's Bank of China said in a statement on its website. The move is aimed at enhancing financial cooperation and promoting bilateral trade and investment, as well as ensuring regional financial stability, the statement said. To promote the international use of the yuan, China has signed currency swap agreements with 15 countries and regions since the onset of the global financial crisis in late 2008. ^ top ^

China eyes increasing exports to emerging markets (People's Daily Online)
China will start to explore emerging markets this year to reduce reliance on exports to countries that have been plagued by the European debt crisis, Deputy Minister of Commerce Zhong Shan said Tuesday. China will strive to increase its imports to markets outside of the EU, U.S., Japan and Hong Kong, Zhong said at a foreign trade conference held in Nanchang, capital of south China's Jiangxi province. China will prioritize 30 countries, including India and South Africa, for the expansion of exports in the coming years, Zhong said. "We have put emphasis on countries with abundant resources and large populations, as well as those that have strategic positions or low trade volume with China," he said. The exploration of emerging markets will create new sources for export growth, as demand from major economies has continued to sag, he said. To achieve this goal, the government will boost funding for small- and medium-sized companies by 20 percent to help them tap into the global market, Zhong said, adding that China will keep its foreign trade policies stable this year. ^ top ^

China reiterates proactive fiscal policy stance in 2012 (Xinhua)
China will continue to implement a proactive fiscal policy this year amid complicated economic environments both at home and abroad, Minister of Finance Xie Xuren said Wednesday. In an article published on the ministry's website, Xie emphasized the important role of fiscal policy in maintaining China's growth. The country's fiscal deficit and government debt ratio both remain within a safe zone, giving room for the government to maintain its proactive fiscal policy, Xie said. [...] "It's necessary and possible to continue implementing the proactive policy," Xie said. The central government's infrastructure investment will remain at a "reasonable" level this year, focusing on the construction of affordable housing projects, building new water conservancy projects in rural areas, emission reduction and energy-saving, as well as the development of emerging strategic industries, he said. Xie said China will enhance support for micro- and small-sized enterprises, lower import tariffs on some commodities and increase imports of energy, resources and advanced equipment. The country will also push resource tax reforms forward in 2012 and promote property taxes on a trial basis, Xie said. ^ top ^

HSBC China PMI hits 4-month high (Xinhua)
A non-official preliminary purchasing managers index (PMI) released Wednesday indicated that China's manufacturing activity stabilized in February despite another fall in new export order volumes. The HSBC Flash China Manufacturing PMI rose to a four-month high of 49.7 in February, up from a final reading of 48.8 in January, HSBC Holdings PLC said. Despite the resilience of the PMI, factory activity in the world's second-largest economy still weakened in February, as a PMI reading above 50 denotes growth, while a reading below 50 suggests contraction. "Growth remains on a track of slowing down, despite the marginal improvement in the headline flash PMI led by quickened production after the Chinese Lunar New Year," said Hongbin Qu, chief economist on China and the co-head of Asian economic research at HSBC. "With a meaningful rebound for domestic demand not in sight, external weakness is starting to bite, adding more downside risks to growth," Qu said, urging the People's Bank of China, the country's central bank, to further loosen its policies after it cut the reserve requirement ratio (RRR) for banks for the first time this year. The PBOC announced last week that it would cut the RRR for banks by half a percentage point to 20.5 percent, which will go into effect from Feb. 24. [...]. ^ top ^

China's economy to grow by 8.5 pct in 2012: gov't think tank (Xinhua)
China's economy is expected to expand by 8.5 percent in 2012, slightly down from 9.2 percent in 2011, the head of a Chinese government think tank said Thursday. The world's second-largest economy faces relatively significant downward pressure this year due to increasingly complicated domestic and overseas situations, said Li Wei, director of the Development Research Center of the State Council, or China's Cabinet. China's annual export growth is likely to slow to 10 percent from 20.3 percent in 2011, as the global economic outlook has been darkened by slow economic recovery in the U.S. and Europe's sovereign debt crisis, Li said at a conference held in Guiyang, capital of southwest China's Guizhou province. Li projected the country's fixed-asset investment to grow by some 20 percent, down by four percentage points from a year earlier, as the manufacturing and real estate sectors have been hit by slowing exports and curbing policies, respectively. A moderate economic slowdown will help to curb inflation triggered by excess demand and also encourage more mergers and acquisitions, which will speed up the adjustment of China's economic structure, he said. Once the potential economic growth rate begins a downward trend, expansionary measures cannot increase the growth rate, but only lead to a "bubble" economy, Li said. ^ top ^

World Bank urges reforms in China (Global Times)
A World Bank report has urged China to deepen its reforms to avoid economic crisis, a notion that has already been stressed by Chinese leaders, analysts said. The report, titled "China 2030," warned that if China does not implement major reforms in the next 20 years, a sudden slowdown could trigger a severe downturn in the world's second largest economy, The Wall Street Journal reported. It makes a number of recommendations for restructuring China's economic growth model, including scaling back its vast and powerful State-owned enterprises (SOE) and making them operate more like commercial firms. It also urges Beijing to overhaul local government finances and promote competition and entrepreneurship. The report will be fully released Monday during World Bank president Robert Zoellick's visit to China. It was prepared by the World Bank and the Development Research Centre under the State Council. Also Thursday, the People's Daily published an opinion piece calling for progress in reforms. "For some people, 'gradual reform' has slowed down to no reform, and 'active and steady reform' has become more steady than active. Reforms have risks, but stopping reforms will bring danger. Better to have different opinions than crisis. Better to have flawed reform than crisis," the newspaper said. According to the Xinhua News Agency, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee Hu Jintao chaired a meeting of the Political Bureau of the CPC on February 20 discussing the draft government work report of the State Council. The meeting stressed economic growth, controlling inflation, restructuring the economy, improving livelihoods, progressing reforms and building a harmonious society as primary tasks for this year's government work. Ding Yifan, a researcher at the Development Research Center of the State Council, told the Global Times that Chinese leaders are fully aware of the urgency of reforms, but many SOEs have become vested interest holders and lack motivation for change. [...]. ^ top ^

Search for oil, gas set for faster expansion (People's Daily Online)
China plans to accelerate geological exploration and survey work for oil and natural gas to ease its rising reliance on energy imports, the Ministry of Land and Resources said on Thursday. The ministry is drawing up strategies to achieve breakthroughs in exploration, energy efficiency and replacements for oil and gas, with the ultimate goal of cutting China's expanding dependency on foreign oil and guaranteeing energy security, said Xia Jun, the ministry's deputy counsel. In 2011, China's new proven geological reserves of oil and gas reached 1.37 billion tons, the highest since the Daqing Oilfield - China's biggest - was discovered in the 1960s, according to Wang Changbo, deputy director of the ministry's department of mineral resources reserves. New proven reserves totaled 5.74 billion tons during the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10). Wang said total new reserves during the current five-year plan, which began last year, would likely continue to grow, without giving specific figures. China's crude oil demand rose 2.7 percent in 2011, while natural gas use rose 12 percent, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, which didn't give absolute volumes. China National Petroleum Corp, the country's biggest oil producer, projected in February that China's apparent consumption of crude oil would reach 454 million tons in 2011, with 3.3 percent year-on-year growth. Apparent consumption includes domestic production and imports. China, the world's second-biggest oil user, imported 250 million tons of crude oil in 2011, taking its foreign oil dependency ratio slightly past 55 percent. Analysts agree that China's oil and gas demand will expand more slowly this year, reflecting a deceleration in economic growth and energy-conservation efforts. But experts also warn that the nation's high reliance on oil imports will threaten the country's energy security. [...]. ^ top ^

Shanghai court postpones iPad decision (Xinhua)
The Shanghai Pudong New Area People's Court on Thursday rejected a request by Shenzhen Proview Technology to stop Apple from selling iPads in the city. The court said it could not support Proview's application because no ruling has been made on whether Apple has violated Proview's exclusive right to use the iPad trademark. A lawsuit over the right to use the trademark in China is still under the second instance trial at Guangzhou people's higher court, which is scheduled to hold a hearing on Wednesday. Xie Jinnan, a lawyer for Apple, said he was notified about the court's decision but is not authorized to make further comments on the case. Proview's lawyers could not be reached. Shu Jianxin, a Shanghai-based intellectual property attorney who has been closely following the case, said the Shanghai court is being cautious to wait for the Guangdong court's verdict. The lawsuit in Guangdong will decide whether the trademark should be exclusively used by Shenzhen Proview Technology, while the case in Shanghai will decide whether the distributors of Apple products have the right to use it. [...] In Shanghai's Apple flagship store, shop assistants said some customers have come to ask about the lawsuits, but they have not seen any changes on the sales of the iPad products these days. [...]. ^ top ^


DPRK and South Korea

China hopes for early resumption of six-party talks (Xinhua)
A Foreign Ministry spokesman on Wednesday expressed China's hope that the parties involved in the six-party talks will maintain contact, continue their efforts to solve differences through negotiation and create conditions for the early resumption of the talks. China is ready to make constructive efforts with all relevant parties to this end, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a regular press briefing in response to a question concerning an upcoming dialogue to be held in Beijing between the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the United States. [...] China believes the six-party talks are the most effective method of solving all parties' concerns in a balanced way, realizing the denuclearization of the peninsula and protecting peace and stability on the peninsula, he said. An interagency team of U.S. officials led by U.S. Special Representative for DPRK Policy Glyn Davies will meet with a DPRK delegation led by First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan in Beijing on Feb. 23, according to the U.S. State Department. [...]. ^ top ^

China opposes politicizing DPRK nationals' illegal border crossing: FM spokesman (Xinhua)
A Foreign Ministry spokesman on Wednesday reiterated that those who have illegally entered China from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) are not refugees, adding that China opposes politicizing their crossing. Illegal border-crossers who have entered China for economic reasons are not refugees, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said during a daily news briefing. China has been treating the DPRK nationals "prudently and properly" according to domestic law, international law and humanitarian interests, Hong said, adding that China's treatment of the nationals is in line with the interests of all relevant parties and international practices. "The Human Rights Council is not the right place to discuss the issue," Hong said. Reports have stated that President of the Republic of Korea (ROK) Lee Myung-bak has criticized China's treatment of the DPRK nationals and that the ROK is considering bringing the issue before the Human Rights Council. ^ top ^

U.S.-DPRK talks in Beijing "serious, substantive": special representative (People's Daily Online)
U.S. Special Representative for Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) Policy Glyn Davies said Thursday that U.S.-DPRK talks in Beijing were "serious and substantive." "We covered quite a number of issues," Davies said after meeting the DPRK delegation, which was headed by DPRK First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan. "We are still in the middle of talks with DPRK," Davies said. The envoy did not provide any details of his meeting with the delegation. Media reports said two meetings were conducted on Thursday, starting with a meeting at the DPRK Embassy in Beijing following by a second meeting at the U.S. Embassy. A number of bilateral talks regarding the Korean Peninsula have occurred in Beijing in recent days. According to the Foreign Ministry, China's Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Affairs Wu Dawei met in Beijing on Wednesday with Shinsuke Sugiyama, Japan's top envoy to the long-stalled six-party talks. Dialogue is the best way to resolve the DPRK nuclear issue, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Thursday at a routine press briefing, adding that the six-party talks can effectively address the concerns of all parties and realize the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. China has voiced its support for related parties to improve and develop relations in order to move the talks forward, Hong said. [...]. ^ top ^

DPRK denounces planned Seoul nuclear security summit (Xinhua)
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on Thursday denounced a planned nuclear security summit to be hosted by South Korea as provocation. "The nuclear security summit, a serious criminal act and unpardonable provocation against the north, runs counter to the desire of the Koreans and the world people for peace and security on the Korean Peninsula," said DPRK's official KCNA news agency in a commentary. The summit, scheduled for late March in Seoul, is a continuity and extension of Washington and Seoul's nuclear racket against the DPRK, it said. It warned that the summit will only backfire and leave an adverse impact on solving the nuclear issue on the peninsula. ^ top ^

S. Korea approves medical aid to DPRK by civic groups (Xinhua)
South Korea has approved humanitarian aid to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea ( DPRK) by civic groups here, the latest in the flow of private aid to the estranged neighbor, local media reported Thursday. With the approval, two South Korean aid groups, Nanum International and the Eugene Bell Foundation, plan to send medical equipment including X-ray machines and diagnostic reagents for tuberculosis, according to Yonhap News Agency. South Korea suspended almost all exchanges with the DPRK following their border incidents in 2010, but has occasionally allowed humanitarian assistance to the impoverished neighbor. ^ top ^


Gregor Muischneek
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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