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
  2-8.2.2013, No. 461  
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DPRK and South Korea


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Foreign Policy

China to host peace talks to defuse Kachin crisis in Myanmar (SCMP)
Myanmar's government and ethnic Kachin rebels said on Sunday that they would hold talks in China this week after some of the worst fighting in the country in years. The two sides will attend an "emergency meeting" in the Chinese border town of Ruili on Monday to seek a breakthrough in the bloody conflict, Khun Okker, a spokesman for the United Nationalities Federal Council, said on Sunday. "China arranged it," he said. "They might want to give their views to both the KIA (Kachin Independence Army) and the Myanmar government." But Okker said the rebels "have not had much time to prepare" and the problem was unlikely to be resolved without talks at further meetings including the whole UNFC, formed by about a dozen ethnic groups. There was no comment from the government, and it was unclear which officials would attend today's meeting. Almost a dozen rounds of talks between Myanmar's reformist government and the Kachin since the conflict flared up again in 2011 have failed to make progress. [...] Beijing, which fears an influx of refugees from the violence-torn region, has urged an end to the fighting. "China doesn't want very serious fighting along its border," Aung Kyaw Zaw, an analyst with close ties to the KIA, said of today's talks. "More than 30,000 Myanmar troops are here in Kachin State. The KIA is resisting them with about 8,000 troops," he said. "Kachin State is ruined because of the long fighting.". ^ top ^

China communicating with India on cross-border river issue: spokeswoman (Xinhua)
A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said Monday that China is maintaining "communication and cooperation" with India on the issue of a cross-border river and ensure that no negative impact is caused on the river's lower reaches. "China has always taken a responsible attitude towards cross-border river development. China and India are maintaining communication and cooperation on the cross-border river issue," spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a daily press briefing. Hua's comments came in response to India's concerns about China's plans to build three hydropower stations on the middle reaches of the Yarlung Zangbo River, known as the Brahmaputra in India. China is committed to carrying out development and protection at the same time and has given full consideration to the projects' impact on the river's lower reaches, Hua said. "The construction of the stations will not impact flood control or disaster reduction efforts, as well as ecological environment on the lower reaches," she said. With an average altitude of 4,500 meters, the Yarlung Zangbo River is the highest river in the world. It originates in the glacial regions of the northern Himalayas, runs 2,057 km through southwest China's Tibet autonomous region, passes into India and finally meets the Indian Ocean in the Bay of Bengal. ^ top ^

Beijing hits back at US hacker claims (Global Times)
The People's Daily denounced Monday recent accusations from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal that they had been the victims of cyber attacks originating from China, calling it a strategy for the US to suppress China's development using cyber forces. The flagship newspaper of the Communist Party of China (CPC) stated that China has been accused of cyber attacks for years by US organizations based on insufficient evidence such as IP addresses traced to China. Hong Lei, spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, responded Thursday that "the conclusion that China participated in related cyber attacks based on unverified evidence is irresponsible," adding that China was also a victim and Chinese law strictly forbids Internet attacks. [...] The New York Times published a story Wednesday claiming that Chinese hackers have been infiltrating its computer systems for the last four months and obtained employees' passwords. Following the accusation was Dow Jones & Co., publisher of The Wall Street Journal. The company said Thursday that the newspaper's computer systems had been attacked by Chinese hackers aiming to identify the sources of its China coverage and upcoming pitches. [...] The US Department of Defense is to expand the size of its cyber security force by more than fivefold over several years, reported The Washington Post, and the Associated Press reported that the US is preparing a new National Intelligence Estimate, which will include the economic impacts brought by cyber attacks from China. Zhu Feng, an international security expert and professor at Peking University, told the Global Times Monday that these moves and accusations suggest that cyber security is a new strategic focus for the US against China, and the Chinese government should pay serious attention to it in order to secure stable bilateral cooperation and protect its national image. "Cyber security is an intensive but invisible form of combat related to global public interests, and China should respond actively and not only make denials. The cyber world also has boundaries and rules that every country needs to follow," said Zhu. Tang Lan, an information security scholar, told the Global Times that a "cyber war," if escalates, could sabotage military and civil infrastructure. so countries should follow the rules with discretion. [...]. ^ top ^

China 'diplomatically cornered' by N.Korea nuclear test plan (Global Times)
China has been diplomatically cornered by North Korea's attempt to go ahead with a third nuclear test, analysts said, as South Korea sent its chief nuclear envoy to Beijing and urged China to exert its influence on the North. South Korea's chief negotiator of the Six-Party Talks, Lim Sung-nam, held talks with Chinese deputy foreign minister Zhang Zhijun and Chinese special envoy for Korean Peninsula Affairs Wu Dawei in Beijing on Monday, China's foreign ministry said on its website, without revealing details about the talks. According to the Yonhap News Agency, Lim called on China to exert every possible means to persuade North Korea to scrap its planned nuclear test, and if North Korea disregards the objections of the international community, China should join the ranks of the US and South Korea in significantly ramping up sanctions against Pyongyang. [...] Nevertheless, a South Korean embassy official told the Global Times that Seoul is well aware that North Korea rarely listens to Beijing's advice. What South Korea expects is just pressure from China in line with the other participants of the Six-Party Talks to deliver a clear message before it attempts an audacious and defiant third nuclear test, the official said. "This is a grave test of China's diplomacy," said Zhang Liangui, a professor on Korean Peninsula issues at the Party School of the Communist Party of China Central Committee. If China fails to persuade North Korea to give up its plan for a fresh nuclear test or fails to deliver immediate and severe sanctions that could substantially hit North Korea after the test, China will forever lose the chance to play a dominant role on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue and all the previous efforts to realize the denuclearization of the peninsula will have been in vain, Zhang said. Yonhap Monday quoted a government source in Seoul as saying that senior North Korean officials have recently visited the western tunnel at the Punggye-ri nuclear site in the North's northeastern tip, further fueling speculation about an imminent test. [...] China's foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying Monday once again called on related parties to refrain from actions that would escalate tensions in the region. ^ top ^

PLA general warns against 'accidental warfare' (SCMP)
A top PLA general said China should do its utmost to safeguard the hard-won, peaceful environment it had secured for its own development, giving a rare glimpse of the PLA top brass' thinking in the tense atmosphere over the territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas. "It is the final minute of the race," said Liu Yuan, political commissar of the People's Liberation Army's General Logistics Department, in a reference to the country's past 180 years of history, when efforts to revive the country's economy were repeatedly destroyed by wars. "We should not be interrupted by accidental [warfare] again," the official Global Times on Monday quoted Liu as saying. "What the Americans and the Japanese fear is that we will catch up with them, which is why they exhaust every possible means to suppress China's development. We should not fall into their trap." The Global Times report was an edited and abridged version of an essay by Liu on studying the spirit of November's Party Congress report. The newspaper did not specify when Liu wrote the article, but the timing of its publication is interesting. In an attempt to justify his argument that China should be patient and swallow any possible insult until the day it was strong enough to fight back, Liu recited several classic strategies. These included paramount leader Deng Xiaoping's "keep a low profile, never take the lead and bide your time"; King of Yue kingdom Gou Jian's "sleep on firewood and taste the gall bladder to remind himself of the bitter taste of defeat and to reaffirm his desire for revenge"; and the legendary general of the Han dynasty (206BC-220AD) Han Xin's "shame of crawling through between someone's legs". Liu said that while it was important to maintain a strategic peaceful period in order to ensure long-term peace, China should not shy away from taking military action when this was warranted. "Still, to the nation, [war] is the last option." [...] Liu, a son of former president Liu Shaoqi, had once been tipped to enter the Central Military Commission, the supreme military body, but was not promoted last year. In the Global Times' excerpt, he mentioned remarks made by outgoing President Hu Jintao but did not refer to new party general secretary Xi Jinping. ^ top ^

Xi completes nationwide military tour (Global Times)
Chairman of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Military Commission Xi Jinping has addressed all five major branches of the People's Liberation Army since being elected in November last year. Xi visited a PLA air force base deep in the Gobi Desert Saturday and inspected modern equipment there. Xi told staff at the air base that he has always had them in mind and came to visit them especially, according to the official microblog of the PLA's news website. It is reportedly the first time official media has covered Xi's activities via microblog. Xi stressed that the Party's Central Commitee and Central Military Commission highly recognize the importance of national defense and building up of the military, the development of the PLA's air force and its military equipment. This has been the fifth meeting with PLA units from different branches since Xi was elected Chairman of the CPC Central Military Commission, after he inspected the armed police headquarters in Beijing and the South Sea Fleet and a PLA army group in the Guangzhou Military Region as well as the second artillery force in the past months. "The visits have emphasized the spirit of the 18th National Congress of the CPC on transforming China into a maritime power to better protect its national interests. To pursue this goal, the PLA must have a strong air force and navy and long-range strike weapons," Zhang Xixian, a professor at the Party School of the CPC Central Committee, told the Global Times. China's territorial disputes with neighboring countries have escalated recently. Though Beijing hopes to solve the disputes through talks, the PLA must be fully prepared for war situations when resorting to force becomes an inevitable choice, Zhang said. [...]. ^ top ^

Chinese FM, US secretary of state discuss ties over phone (Xinhua)
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi on Tuesday held telephone talks with US secretary of state John Kerry on bilateral ties. Congratulating Kerry on his appointment as the new secretary of state, Yang said that, under the guidance of the two countries' leaders and with concerted efforts from both sides, China-US relations had made steady progress over the past four years. Currently, bilateral ties stood at a crucial juncture that linked past and future and were faced with fresh opportunities for further development, Yang said. China stood ready to work with the US to promote a cooperative partnership featuring mutual respect, mutual benefit and a win-win outcome and explore ways to foster a new type of inter-power relations, he said. The two sides needed to maintain high-level exchanges, enhance dialogue, respect and accommodate each other's core interests and main concerns, advance mutual trust, expand cooperation and boost contacts and communication on major issues so as to better safeguard regional and world peace, stability and development, he said. Kerry highlighted the importance of US-China relations. The United States was willing to advance exchanges and cooperation with China in the Asia-Pacific region to achieve a win-win outcome and maintain contacts and coordination on major regional and global issues, said Kerry, who started Monday his first day at the State Department as the country's 68th secretary of state. [...]. ^ top ^

China opposes escalation of Korean Peninsula tensions: FM spokeswoman (Xinhua)
A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said Wednesday that China opposes any moves that could create more tension on the Korean Peninsula. Spokeswoman Hua Chunying made the remarks at a daily news briefing in response to a question regarding the current situation on the peninsula. [...] "We are opposed to any action that could cause tensions or be inconducive to the denuclearization of the peninsula," Hua said, urging all parties concerned to remain calm and make joint efforts to maintain peace and stability. Hua confirmed that Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi exchanged views regarding the situation on the Korean Peninsula with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry over telephone Tuesday night. Yang said it is the common responsibility, as well as the common interests of all parties concerned, to appropriately address the nuclear issue and maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. "The Chinese side is committed to the achievement of denuclearization, as well as maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula," the spokeswoman quoted Yang as saying. "The current situation on the peninsula is sensitive and complicated and the Chinese side is highly concerned about the developments there," Yang told Kerry. "All parties should keep the overall situation in mind, take a cautious attitude, be committed to the achievement of denuclearization on the peninsula and try to address the concerns of all parties through dialogue so as to avoid the progressive escalation of tensions," Yang was quoted as saying. During his talk with Kerry, Yang said all parties should work together to create conditions for the early resumption of the six-party talks. [...]. ^ top ^

Beijing calls for Syria political transition (China Daily)
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi called for all parties in the Syrian conflict to start a political dialogue as early as possible and push for a political transition, saying the situation has reached a "crucial stage". Yang met with Syrian Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Faisal al-Makdad in Beijing on Wednesday. All parties should implement the Geneva Communique passed at the meeting of the Action Group on Syria on June 30 and finalize concrete steps to realize it, Yang said. He added that China will be positive and open to any proposed solutions acceptable to all Syrian parties. On Tuesday, Chinese Ambassador to Egypt Song Aiguo met with Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces Chairman Ahmed Moaz Al-Khatib in Cairo. He said that China has noticed Al-Khatib's recent diplomatic activities for resolving the Syrian issue through political means and hopes that all Syrian parties will soon launch inclusive political dialogues and reach a solution through patient and thorough negotiations and consultations on an equal footing. Al-Khatib, head of the main opposition in exile and newly elected head of the Syrian National Coalition, called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday to give Vice-President Farouk al-Sharaa the task of opening negotiations when talking with senior Russian, US and Iranian officials. [...] His recent remarks broke the continued insistence of opposition groups that there could be no dialogue or contact with Assad's government without the president's departure, said Li Guofu, an expert on Middle East studies at the China Institute of International Relations. The change also reflects the will of Western powers behind them, because countries such as the US are hesitant to intervene directly as they did in Libya, Li added. They are also worried about the growing extreme organizations that would further threaten Western interests in the region. "When the US stance changed, we saw a change in the rhetoric of the opposition," said Bassam Abu Abdullah, an international law professor at Damascus University. [...]. ^ top ^

China accuses Japan of 'smear' over radar incident (SCMP)
Beijing accused Tokyo on Thursday of mounting a smear campaign after Japan said a Chinese frigate had locked its weapons-targeting radar on a Japanese warship in a “threat of force”. [...] The radar incident, which Japan said happened last week, marked the first time the two nations' navies have locked horns in a dispute that has some commentators warning about a possible armed conflict. Asked to respond to Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera's description of the radar targeting as a “threat of force”, Beijing foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said: “Recently Japan has been hyping up crisis and deliberately creating tension to smear China's image. “This move is counter to the improvement of relations,” she told a regular briefing. “The current problem is not China being assertive but about Japanese ships' and airplanes' repeated illegal activities in the airspace and waters of the Diaoyu Islands, which undermine China's territorial sovereignty.” [...] Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Thursday the “window for dialogue” must remain open but reiterated his rebuke to Beijing over the “extremely regrettable” naval confrontation. “But we will not close the window of dialogue. This is most important,” said Abe. “I would like China to return to a more open attitude towards our strategic partnership.” [...] China's premier-in-waiting Li Keqiang, meanwhile, urged marine surveillance staff on Thursday to intensify law enforcement in China's sea territories, according to the official Xinhua news agency. “Supervising and governing seas under the jurisdiction of China is the main responsibility of Chinese marine surveillance staff,” Li, who is expected to take over as China's premier next month, was quoted as saying. [...]. ^ top ^

China Exclusive: China to conduct daily fishery patrols in S China Sea in 2014 (Xinhua)
China will conduct daily fishery administrative patrols in the South China Sea in 2014 to better safeguard the legitimate interests of domestic fishermen, a fishery official said Thursday. Wu Zhuang, chief of the South China Sea Fishery Bureau under the Ministry of Agriculture, said the timeframe for the patrols is based on his bureau's growing law enforcement capacity. "A noticeable improvement will be seen in our enforcement capacity in the next two years, as the bureau has entered a period of rapid development, " he said. Describing 2012 as "a most challenging year," Wu said his bureau has taken a very strong position regarding fishery patrols and protection. He said the bureau's fishery patrol ships stayed at sea for a record high of 183 days on average last year. "Thanks to our more frequent patrols and quicker responses, no Chinese vessels engaging in normal fishery operations in the Nansha waters were illegally seized by foreign countries last year," he said. On Thursday morning, on behalf of the Chinese government, Wu sent Lunar New Year greetings to the China Yuzheng 302 and China Yuzheng 311, vessels posted in waters off the Meiji Reef and Huangyan Island, respectively. [...] More than 400 fishing vessels are currently operating in the South China Sea, most of which will have to usher in the Year of Snake, which begins on Feb. 10, at sea. "Where there is a fishing vessel, there is our patrol ship. We will overcome all difficulties to protect fishermen," said Captain Yang Jia'en, who heads the China Yuzheng 302. [...] In the Huangyan Island, fishery inspectors onboard the China Yuzheng 311 can only communicate with the China Fishery Command Center for the South China Sea through marine satellites. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

Nobel laureate, former NBA player elected nat'l political advisors (Xinhua)
Mo Yan, the 2012 Nobel Laureate in Literature, and Yao Ming, a former NBA star with the Houston Rockets, have been listed among China's national political advisors. The Standing Committee of the 11th Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee, China's top political advisory body, adopted a member list for the 12th CPPCC National Committee on Friday. In addition to Mo and Yao, movie star Jackie Chan is also on the list of 2,237 CPPCC National Committee members. The decision was based on a proposal formulated by the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee. The proposal list included people from all walks of life in China, including officials, military officers, members of non-Communist parties, as well as representatives from economic, political, cultural, social and environmental fields, according to Ling Jihua, head of the United Front Work Department of the CPC Central Committee. Representatives from religious circles and ethnic minority groups are also included in the final list, Ling said. Of the 2,237 members on the final list, 893 are CPC members. People from ethnic minority groups hold 258 seats, and 399 female members have made the list. [...] According to a decision adopted at Friday's meeting, a new chairman of the national advisory body will be elected at the first annual session of the 12th National Committee of the CPPCC, which is scheduled to open on March 3. Jia Qinglin is the current chairman of the CPPCC National Committee. ^ top ^

Road traffic peaks ahead of Spring Festival (Xinhua)
China's public transportation network is getting increasingly crowded as hundreds of millions journey home amid the Spring Festival travel rush that started last week. Road traffic will hit a peak on Sunday, with around 88 million passengers expected to travel by bus, according to He Jianzhong, spokesman of the Ministry of Transport. He said on Sunday morning that stations nationwide have mobilized 860,000 large and medium-sized buses to meet the growing demand. The busy roads, together with poor weather conditions in some regions, have made the homeward trips quite an adventure for some passengers. Some sections of roads in the snow-hit provinces of Shanxi, Hebei, Heilongjiang and Jilin were closed early on Sunday because of ice. The National Meteorological Center forecast on Sunday that rain and snow will sweep most of central and east China in the coming three days, accompanied by temperature drops. Also on Sunday, 5.86 million people are expected to travel by rail, and the Ministry of Railways has put an additional 642 trains into service to cope with the traffic. [...] A record 3.41 billion trips are expected to be made over this year's Spring Festival travel rush, according to the National Development and Reform Commission, the country's economic planner. ^ top ^

Police detain four after Henan highway blast (Xinhua)
Police have detained four people over a truck explosion that caused 10 deaths and a viaduct collapse in Central China's Henan Province, government authorities confirmed on Sunday. Investigations found that the fireworks the vehicle was carrying were produced by a firm registered in Pucheng county of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, said the press office of the county government. The four people detained by police for further investigation are from the fireworks producer and the haulage company that owned the truck, said the office. The company, Pucheng Hongsheng Fireworks Ltd., is a licensed fireworks producer with a safety production license, according to investigators. The blast, which occurred around 9 am on Friday, caused the collapse of a 30-meter-high expressway viaduct in Mianchi county, Sanmenxia city, about 193 km west of the provincial capital of Zhengzhou. Ten people were killed and another 11 injured in the accident. The driver of the truck, a man surnamed Shi, set off in the vehicle, which was carrying about 600 large bags of fireworks, from Pucheng on Thursday. Rescue work has concluded, with the 11 injured people all in stable conditions. The probe into the accident is continuing, according to government sources. ^ top ^

Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang on tour to poor areas (SCMP)
Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping and premier-in-waiting Li Keqiang visited respectively poor farmers in northwestern Gansu and struggling migrant workers in Inner Mongolia yesterday, a week ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday. "Life was equally arduous when I was living in the northern part of Shaanxi province more than four decades ago," Xinhua quoted Xi as saying during his trip to Weiyuan county in Gansu's Dingxi city, one of the poorest areas in the nation. "The living standards [in Shaanxi] have since improved. We, the party and the government, will care for you and help you. So let's jointly strive for better and more prosperous days in the years to come." Yesterday also marked "Little New Year", which falls about a week before the Lunar New Year and is also known as the "Kitchen God Festival". Xi reportedly came bearing gifts for the nearly 450 households in the village. Noodles, cooking oil, pork, sweets, melon seeds and cotton-padded quilts were among the items distributed to each household. Dingxi often suffers from drought and is well known as an underdeveloped area where farmers earn not more than 2,000 yuan (HK$2,460) a year. As a result, tens of thousands of local farmers have left to become migrant workers, earning annual wages of about 10,000 yuan, official figures show. Li yesterday also went to a railway station in Baotou, Inner Mongolia, where he met migrant workers who were heading home for the Lunar New Year. "It's no easy task for you to leave your hometowns and work somewhere far away," Xinhua quoted him as saying to the workers. "I was once a peasant, so I understand your hardship. I'm now working with the government, which means I'm serving all of you." Pundits said Xi and Li were trying to address the hardships facing many people to build an amiable image for themselves. Professor Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, a political scientist at City University of Hong Kong, said "popularity is important" to officials. "Similar to what their predecessors Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao have done, Xi and Li like to be seen as being close to the people and understanding of the problems they are facing," Cheng said. [...]. ^ top ^

China strives to reduce air pollutants (Xinhua)
China will make more efforts to reduce PM 2.5 pollutants, as well as other pollutants, a government official said Tuesday. A national obligatory target will be set to limit PM 2.5 emission, which is a fine particulate matter measuring 2.5 microns or less in diameter, and monitoring and assessing measures will be introduced, Vice Minister of Environmental Protection Wu Xiaoqing said. Several Chinese cities suffered from dense buildups of smog in January, including the cities of Beijing, Jinan, Xi'an, Shijiazhuang, Zhengzhou and Changsha. "Both natural and human factors contributed to the lingering smog, including coal burning, pollutant emissions and unfavorable weather conditions," Wu said. "China will formulate regulations, standards and policies to reduce air pollutants and control coal burning," Wu said. The government will expedite bans on vehicles that emit large amounts of pollutants, as well as promote more fuel-efficient cars, Wu said. The ministry said 70 percent of China's cities fail to meet the new air quality standard introduced in February, 2012. ^ top ^

Police disperse protesters over death of migrant worker Zhang Derong (SCMP)
Authorities in Sichuan's provincial capital, Chengdu, sent about 1,000 riot police to disperse a protest by a group of migrant workers and hundreds of supporters in Wenjiang district on Monday after Zhang Derong, a 20-year-old migrant worker involved in a back-pay dispute, was beaten to death allegedly by thugs hired by a local company. Wenjiang district police confirmed the man's death on their microblog on Monday, saying it had followed a dispute between a construction company and a labour outsourcing firm. They did not elaborate on the labour outsourcing firm's relationship to the developer, Tianlai Group. The police said yesterday that they had launched a criminal investigation into the case but declined to provide more details. Delays in paying migrant workers, especially before the Lunar New Year holiday, have long been a cause of discontent on the mainland. Labour market analysts say rogue employers are a particularly serious problem on construction sites owing to lax supervision of building projects by authorities. [...] To make matters worse, few migrant workers on construction sites sign contracts and those who do hold little sway in enforcing their rights. Zhang was beaten to death and two other migrant workers were injured when they were confronted by thugs at the Tianlai Plaza construction site at lunch time on Monday, local resident Zhang Yi said. He said he later saw 20 to 30 construction workers protesting in front of the construction site, with a long white banner bearing Zhang Derong's name and a wreath to mourn his death. He said some 500 supporters had gathered to show their solidarity with the workers by 7pm, when about 1,000 riot police were sent in to disperse them. He said that plain-clothes police also popped out of the crowd to help detain those who were slow to leave and he was taken to the Jinma Police Station along with seven other supporters and held late into the night. "Even though I said I suffered from hypertension, they still beat me up and swore at us until I lost consciousness and ended up in hospital," Zhang Yi said. [...]. ^ top ^

Rare victory for petitioners as 10 hired thugs are convicted over 'black jail' (SCMP)
A Beijing court yesterday sentenced 10 people to prison for illegally detaining petitioners in a "black jail" after they tried to lobby the central government to handle their grievances - a rare victory for petitioners who are often subject to abuse. Many local governments on the mainland employ thugs to rough up and detain petitioners from their provinces in run-down hostels known as black jails, to prevent them from taking their complaints to the central government. Officials fear that exposure of their misdeeds undermines their chances of promotion. Xinhua said the 10 defendants, all peasants from Henan province aged 17 to 32, were given sentences ranging from six months to two years for illegally detaining petitioners last year. Three juvenile defendants received suspended sentences. Xinhua said the men intercepted four petitioners on the night of April 28 and forcefully drove them to a rented house, where they were kept until the next evening, when they were sent back to Henan. They later returned to Beijing to report the case and police arrested the defendants on May 2. Xinhua said the main defendant, Wang Gaowei, rented two houses on the outskirts of Beijing used for holding petitioners from Henan. It said the defendants were hired by a man called Fu Zhaoxin. The Southern Metropolis Daily said Fu was Wang's uncle and was responsible for hiring young men in their village, adding most of them were from impoverished families. The report quoted Wang's father as saying his son was asked by the Yuzhou city officials to work in Beijing: "[They] said they found him a good job." Petitioners involved in the case told the Post yesterday they were outraged that the court absolved the officials responsible for setting up the black jail. "The verdict said they had nothing to do with the local government, how can this be?" asked Jia Qiuxia, one of the petitioners. Four of them were given compensation of 2,400 yuan (about HK$3,000), but three told the Post the amount was not enough to cover the injuries and mental anguish they suffered as they were beaten by the guards. Jia said she did not believe illegal detention of petitioners would cease despite the outcome of the court case: "We still hear about other people being taken away." Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch said the move was "more about reining in the black jails system than eradicating it". The sentencing would have a "moderating effect" by making other officials think twice before detaining people illegally, he said. But punishing only the people hired to operate the black jails instead of the officials who set them up meant these facilities would continue to exist. "Beijing will continue to look the other way as long as petitioners are seen as disturbing the image of the capital," Bequelin said. [...]. ^ top ^

Wage increases part of approved income distribution plan (SCMP)
The State Council on Tuesday approved long-delayed guidelines to reform the mainland's income distribution system, under which wages will be raised and state-owned enterprises will be required to hand over a greater share of their profits. With China's social inequality reaching alarming proportions, Premier Wen Jiabao in March pledged that rolling out the guidelines would be a top priority before he stepped down. The planned reform had been delayed by about eight years, after being amended half a dozen times amid strong objections from interest groups related to state-owned companies and some government bodies. "The guidelines are about the goals, direction, and major principles of the reform," said Li Shi, a professor at Beijing Normal University. "The broad ideas are correct. However, the key is how to implement them. That will be something left to the new generation of leaders to worry about." The cabinet urged government agencies to prepare detailed action plans but didn't offer a time-frame. By 2015, enterprises owned by the central government will be required to surrender a greater share of profits - five percentage points over current levels - to the government, with part of the funds slated for "improving people's livelihoods". The government also aims to double average urban and rural per capita individual income by 2020 from 2010, and make more rural migrant workers city dwellers, according to the guidelines. "Reasonable wage rises" have been planned for low-income earners partly by boosting minimum wages in most regions by 2015 to more than 40 per cent of average wages earned by urban workers. Incomes of senior managers of state-owned enterprises will be subject to ceilings. To broaden its channels of income, the government plans to further develop the capital market; push forward interest-rate liberalisation reforms; widen the range of deposit and lending rates that banks can set themselves; and roll out more bond and currency products. The country will also gradually broaden property tax trials, raise and broaden the scope of resources taxes, adjust the consumption tax scheme to include more high-end goods, and may begin levying inheritance tax "at the right time". ^ top ^

China Focus: Free-pass policy faces New Year migration test (Xinhua)
China's policy that exempts cars from road tolls during holiday periods will face an unprecedented test in the Spring Festival travel rush, the world's largest annual migration. The country's 260 million licensed drivers will be exempt from the highway tolls as they go home to be reunited with their families. The free-pass policy will see a 70 percent increase in traffic flow during the Spring Festival holiday from Feb. 9 to 15, highway authorities estimate. The policy begins at 12 a.m. on Feb. 9 and ends at 11 p.m. on Feb. 15. In early August, the State Council, China's Cabinet, approved a plan to lift road tolls on highways for passenger cars during major Chinese holidays. [...] The free-pass policy has been welcomed by many private car owners as it cuts the cost of their travel. More than 189 million car owners enjoyed the policy during the National Day holiday from Sept. 30 to Oct. 7, in 2012. However, many were annoyed after being stuck in traffic jams on highways. [...] Drawing lessons from the last holiday, some local government traffic authorities have issued detailed and improved implementation measures to ease congestion on some major travel peak days. In south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, highway management authorities will issue tickets for private cars 12 hours before the cutoff time of the free-pass policy. This is expected to ease intensive traffic flow before the policy ends, and lead to less tension among drivers, said the regional department of transportation. However, there could be problems ahead. China has not set up a complete transportation information collection system encompassing the highway, railway, aviation and shipping sectors. The lack of this system makes it difficult for government authorities to evaluate and resolve traffic pressures. Also, recent weather such as haze, snow and freezing rain may cause problems. [...]. ^ top ^

China to roll out cleaner fuel standards (SCMP)
China will introduce national V standards for automotive diesel fuel by June and similar specifications for petrol by the end of this year, the government said on Wednesday, as it moves to clear up the smoggy air of many Chinese cities. Ahead of these moves, Beijing will soon launch national IV fuel standards for automotive diesel, similar to Europe's IV quality with a sulphur content of 50 parts per million (ppm), according to a central government post on The new national V standards – similar to Euro V with a sulphur content no greater than 10 ppm – will become compulsory by the end of 2017, and the national IV for diesel by the end of next year, the government said, to allow oil refiners time to upgrade their facilities and the market time to phase out old vehicles. Once the new specifications are published, the government will allow price premiums for higher quality fuels versus lower quality ones, according to the government circular, as a motivation to oil firms to quickly start producing cleaner fuels. Automotive diesel, burned by trucks and buses, forms just over half of China's total diesel market of about 3.6 million barrels per day. Emissions from sub-quality diesel are among the main culprits for urban air pollution. [...]. ^ top ^

Re-education reforms gaining momentum (Global Times)
Southwest China's Yunnan Province has pledged to stop sending new detainees to re-education through labor centers, said a senior provincial official on Tuesday. Meng Sutie, secretary of the Commission for Political and Legal Affairs of the Yunnan Provincial Party Committee, said the province will stop hearing new re-education cases. Meng, who is also a member of the Standing Committee of the Yunnan Provincial Party Committee, said people suspected of undermining State security, "making a scene" while petitioning and smearing the image of top Party and government officials will no longer be sent to detention centers. A deputy director surnamed Zhao from the publicity office with the Yunnan commission, confirmed the move with the Global Times. "What the province is doing is in line with plans announced earlier this month by the CPC Political and Legal Affairs Commission, and more efforts will be seen across the country this year." Zhao said they are still working out scheduling and procedures before implementing the new regulations. "The judiciary organs in the province have to shift their reliance on re-education to related laws to handle infractions," Meng said, adding that current detainees will be kept until the end of their term, and petitioners suing for wrongful detention will be handled on a case-by-case basis. Yunnan now has over 800 registered detainees, of which only 200 are being housed in re-education centers, the local news portal reported. [...]. ^ top ^

Media told to drop ads for gifts (China Daily)
Radio and television stations have been ordered to pull any advertisements that promote giving ostentatious gifts, as part of efforts to cut down on extravagance and waste. Advertisements for goods such as watches, rare stamps and gold coins that suggest they are "must have items for superiors" are now banned, China's media watchdog said. According to a statement on Wednesday from the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, such ads "promote incorrect values and helped create a bad social ethos". [...] Radio and TV stations should regard the banning of advertisements that promote gift-giving as a way to respond to the calls from the top leadership, an unnamed spokesman from the administration said in the statement. The ban was announced four days ahead of Spring Festival, or Chinese New Year, the most important festival to Chinese and a typical occasion for gift-giving. Ads with implications of gift-giving flooded TV screens and radio channels because they appeal to the needs of consumers, said Zhao Shuguang, an associate professor of media and advertising studies at Tsinghua School of Journalism and Communication. "In a sense, these advertisements promote gift-giving and banning them would help reduce the phenomenon to some extent," he said. Zhang Zhian, deputy dean of the School of Communication and Design at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, said: "Chinese society is one that values connections and gift-giving is a must during festival periods. "Choosing gifts is always a headache for me when I return to my hometown for Spring Festival. The easiest solution is to choose the gift they all know, which is often one that is heavily advertised," he said. "Although many people would regard the content of ads that promote products as a proper gift as silly, they reinforce the notion of gift-giving," he said. Zhang said it remains to seen how long the ban will last and the measure will only be effective if it is long-term. ^ top ^

Xi Jinping urges Communist Party to tolerate criticism (SCMP)
China's new leader says the ruling Communist Party should tolerate sharp outside criticism, in comments that have received scepticism from a public accustomed to pervasive censorship. State media said newly installed Party General Secretary Xi Jinping made the remarks on Wednesday at a gathering of non-Communist Party groups. Xi urged members of the groups to speak truthfully, give advice even if it is unpleasant, and accurately reflect the voice of the public. He also asked all party organisations to accept advice and criticism from outside the party. Xi has vowed to tackle endemic official corruption, which he says threatens the future of the Communist Party. China has routinely detained and imprisoned people critical of the party and the government. It also tightly censors newspapers, other publications and the internet. ^ top ^

Three jailed, 13 given suspended terms for violent pollution protest (SCMP)
Three people were jailed and 13 given suspended sentences for their roles in a violent anti-pollution protest last year. A court in Qidong, Jiangsu province, on Wednesday sentenced the 16, who were among thousands who protested against a planned waste water pipeline at a Japanese-owned factory last July, Xinhua said. Three protesters were sentenced to between a year and 18 months in jail, the news agency said, but it did not give exact details of their crimes. A further 13 people were given similar sentences, but the court suspended the terms on the grounds that they had confessed and repented. One of those handed a suspended term was Zhu Baosheng, who state media previously said forced Qidong mayor Xu Feng to wear a T-shirt with an anti-pollution slogan after protesters stormed a municipal building. Zhu also smashed a clock inside the building and took away objects that he gave to others. Only one defendant, Zhu Xiaoling, planned to appeal. The protests eased after the owner of the Japanese owned Oji Paper plant cancelled the pipeline, which would have dumped wastewater into the sea. ^ top ^



Fireworks might be banned on polluted days (China Daily)
Fireworks may be banned on seriously polluted days in Beijing, a move experts said is designed to reduce smog during the Lunar New Year holiday. The Beijing city government is considering including the ban in its emergency plan for serious air pollution, Kang Jiyong, secretary-general of the Beijing Fireworks Association, told Beijing News. Cooperation with meteorological authorities is needed so that setting off fireworks can be banned on certain days, he said. [...] Compulsory measures will be taken when the pollution in Beijing reaches extremely serious levels, including suspending civil work at construction sites and cutting the use of government vehicles by 30 percent, according to the emergency plan that took effect in December. Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, said he supported the ban. "The government can issue a 'firework index' during the Spring Festival holiday every day based on weather conditions, including wind forces, to determine whether to allow setting off fireworks or firecrackers," he said. Pollutants produced by fireworks can be diminished quickly on windy days, which can cause little pollution, but they will cause or aggravate smog in unfavorable conditions, he said. [...] Setting off fireworks has prompted a lot of concern among the public recently, as the worst smog in decades shrouded many parts of China in January and aroused worry over the possible deteriorating air pollution during Spring Festival, traditionally the most important Chinese festival, when people set off fireworks and firecrackers to ward off evil and invite luck. [...]. ^ top ^

Beijing's air quality will worsen without coal control, Greenpeace says (SCMP)
Greenpeace campaigners warned yesterday that Beijing's air quality would only deteriorate without drastic changes to control coal consumption on the mainland, because the capital was surrounded by some of the biggest consumers of coal. [...] A study led by Dr Wang Yuesi, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Atmospheric Physics, found that between January 9 and 15 an estimated 4,000 tonnes of pollutants were floating in Beijing's grey sky, the National Business Daily reported on Monday. Zhang Kai, a climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace, said that even though Beijing was determined to cut annual coal consumption from 27 million tonnes in 2010 to 20 million tonnes by 2015, the drop would easily be offset by increased consumption in neighbouring Tianjin and Hebei province. The burning of coal in Beijing contributes to about 20 per cent of the city's smog, according to Wang's study. Pollutants from neighbouring regions account for 20 per cent and the capital's vehicle emissions for another 25 per cent. Tianjin's municipal government has said it expects to see annual coal consumption rise from 48 million tonnes to 63 million tonnes between 2011 and 2015, while Hebei was already burning around 300 million tonnes of coal in 2010, the mainland's third biggest provincial consumer. Worse still, the surrounding provinces of Shandong and Shanxi took the top two spots, with Inner Mongolia ranked fourth. Zhang said statistics showed that each of them burned more coal in 2010 than Japan. [...] "The trend of an increasing appetite for coal consumption in these regions is definitely worrisome, as increased emissions could simply write off efforts made by Beijing," Zhang said. [...]. ^ top ^

Capital ordered to clear the air for NPC and CPPCC meetings (SCMP)
The central leadership has ordered the capital to get rid of smog in time for annual meetings next month of the legislature and top political advisory body. [...] The level of pollution in Beijing is deemed so bad that the central government has been pressuring the municipal government to ensure the smog will not return during the meetings of the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference next month, an environmental source says. Deputy Environmental Protection Minister Wu Xiaoqing told staff at Beijing's two air quality monitoring stations recently to tackle the problem, which he blamed on extreme meteorological conditions, the China Environmental News, the ministry's official newspaper, reported yesterday. "Beijing has won public understanding and recognition for its efforts to release accurate and real-time air quality ratings, as well as prompt actions … and with advanced technology and rich talent, Beijing is expected to do even better," Wu said. [...] Some experts say Beijing cannot tackle the problem alone because it is surrounded by other polluting towns and cities. Eight cities recorded worse air quality than Beijing last month, seven of them in neighbouring Hebei province, which is the mainland's third-biggest user of coal, burning at least 300 million tonnes a year. [...]. ^ top ^



NYU Shanghai picks 500 candidates for inaugural class (Global Times)
New York University Shanghai has chosen 500 students to participate in a series of evaluations to whittle down the number of candidates for its inaugural freshman class this fall, the university announced Friday. The evaluations will take place at an open house later this month. The university will use activities at the open house, such as demo classes, group discussions, interviews and team work assignments, to evaluate applicants on their leadership, teamwork, communication and writing skills, according to a university announcement. "We are going to have five or six open house events at East China Normal University starting at the end of February. Each of the students will be randomly assigned to participate in one of them," said Wang Zhenji, a senior associate for communications and public affairs from NYU Shanghai. The 500 candidates will be vying for the 151 slots in the freshman class that the university has set aside for students from the Chinese mainland. "When students attend the demo classes, the admission committee will pay more attention to whether a student is an active and attentive learner, instead of testing how many things he or she can memorize," Wang told the Global Times. The open house events will last for one day. The university will set the students up in nearby hotels the night before so they can participate in "candidate weekend." Sixteen students from the US and Europe have already been admitted to NYU Shanghai through the early admissions process. The university is still considering candidates for the remaining slots open to international students. ^ top ^



Guangdong's asset declaration scheme falls short, critics say (SCMP)
Guangdong's much anticipated pilot programme on the declaration of officials' personal assets has been strongly criticised for its extensive restrictions on information disclosed to the public. The government in Taiping township in Shixing county, Shaoguan, disclosed the salary and perks of 13 officials in its government headquarters, the Beijing Times reported on Monday. It said the town's party chief, Zheng Weiming, was paid 2,100 yuan (HK$2,586) in basic salary a month, plus a 620 yuan allowance and 360 yuan for mobile phone expenses. But income from other sources and the assets of officials' family members were not disclosed. [...] The Beijing Times report, citing a source close to the Communist Party's discipline watchdog in Guangdong, said the declarations would be used for internal reference, and that the authorities might disclose some of the information to the public. Many internet users found the level of disclosure insufficient and unconvincing. "I just wonder if the figure is fake. Even the chief in my poverty-stricken hometown earns more than that," one microblogger wrote. Another said: "I am very sure that the figure disclosed is just a tip of their actual income." [...] Professor Wang Quanjie, from Yantai University, who signed an open letter calling on party cadres to publicly disclose their family assets, said the limited information from Taiping failed to satisfy the public. "It sounds like the officials are only disclosing the information to complete government procedures rather than doing it sincerely," he said. "Disclosing only the salary and the perks is not useful to the public, who can already get such information." Wang said officials should disclose the income they earned through stock and financial investments, and the assets of their spouses, children and parents. Dr Peng Peng, a researcher at the Guangzhou Academy of Social Sciences, said he expected strong resistance if officials were asked to provide more information. "There are also concerns on the use of information disclosed through the internal reference mechanism," he said. "Will officials who release such internal information to the public or use such information to report the wrongdoings of their counterparts be punished?". ^ top ^

Chinese police officer denies owning 192 houses (Xinhua)
Authorities in south China's Guangdong Province on Tuesday announced the launch of an official probe into a senior policeman who allegedly owns 192 houses and has double national identity cards. The Communist Party of China (CPC)'s discipline inspection authorities in Lufeng City, Guangdong, made the decision to investigate as the CPC committee in Lufeng demanded the case of Zhao Haibin, a senior police official in Lufeng, be investigated thoroughly and handled as quickly as possible. Zhao acknowledged he had had double IDs and been a legal representative of a buildings materials company. But he denied he had 192 houses as reported by whistle-blowers. He said these properties had been jointly developed by his brother and others, and had later all been sold on. Zhao claimed he was just a "supervisor" of the properties. The police official said all his houses were in Guangdong. As of Tuesday, Zhao retained his posts as member of the CPC committee of Lufeng City's Public Security Bureau and deputy Party chief of a local town. ^ top ^



Tibetan leader accuses China of 'sham' trials (SCMP)
The political leader of Tibetan exiles on Friday accused China of holding “sham” trials in which eight Tibetans were convicted of inciting others to self-immolate to protest Chinese rule. Lobsang Sangay, prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile, said the convictions reported Thursday by China's state-run news agency were unfortunate because “repression is the cause” of the self-immolations. [...] On Friday, Sangay attended a prayer meeting of nearly 1,000 Tibetans in the Indian capital of New Delhi, with a huge banner in the background reading, “Why do Tibetans burn themselves?” Sangay said it was unfortunate that the Chinese government had resorted to “sham” trials that had “no basis or legal process.” “Now they are given long sentences, including suspended death sentences. These are very unfortunate trends because repression is the cause of self-immolation,” Sangay told The Associated Press. He said he had asked Tibetans around the world not to celebrate the Lunar New Year this month out of respect for those who have died from the self-immolations. “As a form of condolences and solidarity to all those Tibetans inside Tibet... I have asked Tibetans not to celebrate, not to organise any festivals, but to wear traditional dress and go to monasteries and pray for all those who have died and continue to suffer in Tibet,” he said. ^ top ^

Online public service platform opens in Tibet (People's Daily)
An online public cultural knowledge service platform has opened in Tibet Library to provide better network inquiry service to local public in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region. The library bought the data base of CNKI (Chinese National Knowledge Infrastructure), biggest resource sharing service platform in China, at a price of over 400,000 yuan in last December to further accelerate the establishment of its digital resources. The service platform will meet the great demand of readers including officials, scientific researchers and local residents for knowledge and cultural information, said Numu, curator of Tibet Library. The library will also enhance its capability in providing public service through the platform, added Numu. Over the past years, Tibet has sped up its digital library and culture sharing project. Initiated in last August, the "digital library promotion project" has so far finished the digital resources concerning the eight Tibetan operas, Tibetan dancing resources, videos, e-books as well as periodicals in Tibetan language. ^ top ^

China detains 70 people in crackdown to halt self-immolation protests (SCMP)
The authorities have detained 70 people in a crackdown on self-immolations in ethnic Tibetan regions, state media said yesterday, the largest single reported sweep of suspects as the government tries to stop the unrest. Nearly 100 Tibetans have set themselves on fire to protest against Beijing rule since 2009 across a large swathe of ethnically Tibetan regions, with most of them dying from their injuries. Police will exert more efforts to thoroughly investigate the cases and seriously punish those who incite innocent people to commit self-immolationIn recent months the government has begun a new tactic to discourage the protests, detaining and jailing people it deems to have incited the burnings. The latest detentions took place in the northwestern province of Qinghai, where police detained 70 "criminal suspects", 12 of whom were formally arrested, meaning they will be charged, Xinhua said. "Police will exert more efforts to thoroughly investigate the cases and seriously punish those who incite innocent people to commit self-immolation," it quoted Lu Benqian, Qinghai's deputy police chief, as saying. [...]. ^ top ^



Reservoir leak results in casualties in Xinjiang (Xinhua)
A reservoir leak in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region has left one dead and more than a dozen injured, rescuers said Saturday. The Lianfeng Reservoir in Kaziwan Village, located about 25 km from Urumqi, the regional capital, began to lose water around 6:10 a.m., sources with the reservoir administration said. Water gushed out and flowed into a nearby village, blocking traffic and flooding some local houses. The point of the leak has since expanded to a break of about 10 meters along the dam, according to Xinhua reporters at the scene. Rescuers have found a deceased elderly person floating on the water and brought 13 others to safety. Xinhua reporters saw about 10 people with injuries related to freezing temperatures, as the low fell to 20 degrees Celsius below zero, and two injured people who have been hospitalized are in serious condition. The reservoir has a designed capacity of 300,000 cubic meters of water, and it was holding an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 cubic meters of water prior to the leak. Search and rescue efforts are underway. ^ top ^



Hong Kong ranked 14th most expensive city in world (SCMP)
Hong Kong has raced up the cost-of-living league alongside a host of Asian cities to become one of the 15 most expensive cities in the world to live in, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit. Its survey, conducted every two years, finds Hong Kong ranked 14th among 131 cities worldwide, moving up eight places. The city is ranked 4th in Asia - behind Japan's Tokyo and Osaka, and Singapore. Tokyo also reclaims the title of the world's most expensive city in the world after being overtaken by Zurich in Switzerland last year. India's Mumbai and Pakistan's Karachi are both ranked the least expensive cities in the world. Susan Evans, an analyst at the EIU in Hong Kong, said the city's rising property prices were not included, but added: "The unrelenting growth in real estate costs feed into higher prices for everything else," she said. For multinational companies looking to relocate expatriate workers to Hong Kong, it meant attracting staff to work in the city had become harder, Evans said. Singapore was ranked even higher, however, at number six. [...] Mainland Chinese cities, which were listed separately from Hong Kong in terms of country, saw living costs climb significantly in the past year, fuelled by rising wages, increased consumer demand and tighter currency controls. Shanghai, up 11 spots from last year, was the priciest mainland city, followed by Guangzhou and Shanghai's neighbour, Suzhou. Tianjin also jumped seven places to make the list as fourth most expensive city in the mainland. Beijing was ranked 54th in the world, and Taipei 60th. "Gradual appreciation of the yuan over the past few years and rising GDP per capita has contributed to rising costs of living in these cities," Evans said. ^ top ^



Macau political group calls for 'colonial' pillbox's demolition (SCMP)
A political group in Macau has called for the demolition of a pillbox built against a possible Japanese invasion because of its colonial links. The Association of Political Science and Law of Macau placed a newspaper advert last Friday claiming the pillbox - a coastal defence facility built in the 1930s - was "a symbol of colonial power and colonialism". The association is believed to be related to a group of alumni of China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing. "Conserving it would obviously hurt the feelings of hundreds of thousands of people who love [China] as well as Macau," the group said. The pillbox is on Coloane Hill, on the 7.6 square-kilometre Coloane island, in the southernmost part of the former Portuguese enclave. In response to public concern about the advert, Macau government officials have reportedly promised to look into the matter and consider the possible protection of the pillbox. But Macau-based commentator and military expert Antony Wong Tung cast doubt on the government's commitment. He also wondered if local officials knew more about the affair than they were letting on. "There is an [ongoing] residential development nearby, which could turn into a 100-metre tall luxurious private apartment complex upon completion," Wong said. "So the biggest problem is whether there is any collusion between the government and property tycoons." There are rumours that the site of the development was originally government land and it was unclear how it became a private project. Wong also raised questions about what he called the "mysterious" motivation of the association, because they often "write articles in support of the government, but not in a style familiar to people in the city". Another reason why the pillbox should not be torn down is that it could be of historical significance, according to Wong. [...]. ^ top ^



Taiwan deploys US-made advanced early warning radar (SCMP)
Taiwan has put into service a US-made billion-dollar early warning radar system capable of giving more than six minutes' warning of a mainland missile attack, a senior officer said on Sunday. The radar, on top of a mountain in the northern county of Hsinchu, started providing surveillance information after a ceremony presided over by the chief of the general staff, air force General Yen Ming, on Friday. “The radar is able to provide us with more than six minutes' warning in preparation for any surprise attacks,” air force Lieutenant General Wu Wan-chiao said. The Liberty Times newspaper said the phased array warning system, which cost NT$40.9 billion (HK$10.7 billion), is capable of detecting flying objects up to 5,000 kilometres away. “The system enabled Taiwan to have comprehensive surveillance controls when North Korea launched a rocket in December and the mainland tested its anti-missile system lately,” it quoted an unnamed military officer as saying, speaking of the radar's trial runs since late last year. Critics say the radar is too costly given that it will provide only an additional few minutes of warning, and would itself be vulnerable to any mainland missile attacks. However, analysts say the system – which could be accessed by the United States with Taiwan's approval – highlights Taipei's position as a strategic ally of Washington despite a lack of diplomatic ties. “Through the sharing with the United States of the information it collects from the radar system, Taiwan becomes a critical link in the US strategic defence network in the region,” said Kevin Cheng, editor-in-chief of the Asia-Pacific Defence Magazine in Taipei. “This is more important than the extra few minutes the system may give.” [...] “This is the most advanced system of its kind in the world... it is crucial as the [mainland] communists are aiming more than 1,000 ballistic missiles at Taiwan,” Chao Shih-chang, then deputy defence minister, told parliament in 2011, adding it was also capable of detecting cruise missiles. ^ top ^

Taiwan under fire over executions (SCMP)
Taiwan's executions of six prisoners in December has prompted fresh criticism of the island's president, Ma Ying-jeou, and his government from international and domestic human-rights groups. To show the administration is serious about protecting human rights, the Justice Ministry has invited nine international experts to visit Taiwan this month to examine an annual human-rights report it has compiled in line with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which the Ma government ratified in 2009. It would be Taiwan's first human-rights report on the implementation of the two United Nations covenants. But before the arrival of the experts - two of whom had written to Ma asking him to guarantee that no executions would be carried out before their visit - the Justice Ministry authorised the execution of six inmates on December 21. Amnesty International condemned the "cold-blooded killing" and local rights groups accused Ma of making a mockery of his oft-stated commitment to protecting human rights and his repeated appeals for the mainland to do the same. But while capital punishment is increasingly falling out of favour around the world, Taiwan remains a society in which the concept of "an eye for an eye" still prevails. The families of murder victims demand that killers be put to death so that their victims can rest in peace. How to handle those on death row has been a vexing problem for Ma since he became president in 2008. He has long stressed the protection of human rights, including those of prison inmates. But he faces pressure from a majority of the public take a tough stand on crime. [...] The December 21 executions followed a public uproar over the brutal murder of a 10-year-old boy by a 29-year-old jobless man on December 1. The killer, who said he wanted to go to jail for life to avoid having to find a job, found his victim in a games parlour in the southern city of Tainan, picking the boy out at random and slitting the child's throat in the parlour's bathroom. The December executions once again prompted angry condemnation from Amnesty International. "It is abhorrent to justify taking someone's life because prisons are overcrowded or the public's alleged support for the death penalty," it said. [...] Opinion polls have shown that more than 75 per cent of Taiwanese are opposed to the abolition of capital punishment, a level relatively unchanged for the past decade or so. Taiwan has executed more than 500 criminals in the past 25 years. ^ top ^

Taiwan's envoy to US defends 'shield' of strategic ambiguity (SCMP)
Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou startled friends and rivals by making his closest adviser "ambassador" to the United States on a mission to prove that the island is still a key ally. King Pu-tsung is considered the power behind the Taiwanese throne as Ma's election strategist and former head of the ruling Kuomintang party. But he has never been a diplomat, and the appointment surprised the US and China - the rival powers who underpin Taiwan's security and economy. King has highlighted the importance of the "strategic ambiguity" that the island of 23 million people maintains with its neighbour, on one side, and protector, on the other. That ambiguity does not help counter US observers who say Taiwan has become a "strategic liability" because of the harm that US arms sales to Taiwan - about US$180 billion since 2008 - do to relations with China. "We have our own pragmatic approach to survive," said the envoy who cannot call himself ambassador, as the US broke formal ties with Taiwan in 1979 when it recognised China. "We need strong support from the United States, but we also have to deal cautiously with mainland China because now they are the number one partner of Taiwan. It is a very strategic ambiguity that we have. It is the best shield we have." [...] His links to President Ma are important. "What I say can probably represent what he is thinking in the future," he said. Ma wants advanced US weaponry. [...] "We still need to have a very strong defence capability to protect Taiwan," said King, who has his eyes on American F-22 or F35 fighter jets and submarines. Such a sale would anger Beijing. "Even if it is just a symbolic gesture, it is very important to us. It shows strong US support to Taiwan," said King. [...] US-Taiwan relations are "the best they have been in the past 30 years", King, who took up his post in December, insisted. However, the US encourages Taiwan to have good relations with China. "But like a lot of people in the think tanks, they are worrying that probably Taiwan is leaning toward mainland China too much," King said. He said the message he got was: "'You have cordial relations, beneficial relations with mainland China, but don't go too far'." [...]. ^ top ^

Taiwanese officer gets 12 life terms for spying for mainland (SCMP)
A former Taiwanese air force officer has been given 12 life sentences for spying for the mainland, adding to a long list of espionage cases that have rocked the island. Lieutenant Colonel Yuan Hsiao-feng was convicted of passing unspecified military secrets to the mainland between 2001 and 2007. He handed the secrets to the mainland via retired colleague Chen Wen-jen. Both men were sentenced on Tuesday, with Chen receiving a 20-year jail term. Yuan was found guilty of 12 counts of leaking secrets, each of which carries a mandatory life term. The duo, who can appeal against the ruling, have been detained since last year when they failed to recruit two junior colleagues, who turned them in to the authorities. The Taipei-based China Times said Yuan was paid NT$7.8 million (HK$2.04 million) by Beijing for the secrets he collected. [...] Taiwan has been rocked by a string of spying scandals in recent years, reflecting the fact that intelligence gathering has continued despite warming ties with the mainland. [...]. ^ top ^

Beijing and Taipei plan exchange of government officials (SCMP)
Taipei and Beijing plan to exchange government officials and station them in representative offices in the near future, a unimaginable move not long ago for the political rivals, who are still technically at war. The two sides would also not rule out the possibility of issuing travel permits and granting each other's representatives something similar to the immunity from prosecution enjoyed by foreign diplomats, a senior Taiwanese official said on Wednesday, but that would be the next step for discussion after the establishment of the offices. Wang Yu-chi, chairman of the island's top mainland policy planning body, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), told a news conference in Taipei on Wednesday: "Under our initial plan, as soon as the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) sets up a representative office on the mainland, the Mainland Affairs Council will also post officials there at the same time." That would be based on the principle of dignity and equality, he said, given that most mainland officials who dealt with Taiwan did so in a semi-official or non-official capacity. Some staff at the mainland's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (Arats) are also government officials at the mainland State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office. Arats and SEF - nominally private - were set up in Beijing and Taipei respectively in the early 1990s to represent their governments in cross-strait matters in the absence of formal relations. [...] With the rapid increase in the number of non-political exchanges, the two sides found the need to set up more authoritative offices. They finally touched on the issue late last month, when Beijing sent senior Arats officials to Taipei to discuss the issue. If the two sides needed to discuss the issuance of travel documents, that would be possible, Wang said, adding that he believed representative office officials would enjoy immunity status similar to foreign diplomats "in order to facilitate their work in each other's place". [...]. ^ top ^



Steady economic growth continues (China Daily)
The non-manufacturing purchasing managers' index last month climbed to 56.2 from 56.1 in December, reaching its highest level since September, the National Bureau of Statistics and the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing reported on Sunday. "Stable growth of the non-manufacturing sector is strengthening," said Cai Jin, vice-chairman of the CFLP. The index surveys 1,200 randomly selected enterprises in 27 industries. A PMI of above 50 indicates expansion and below 50 indicates contraction. The civil engineering construction industry saw its fastest growth in January since March, the data showed. "Economic growth driven by infrastructure construction investment will be more important this year," said Cai, adding that the Ministry of Railways will invest 650 billion yuan ($104.39 billion) in 2013 — the third-largest amount in a decade. The push for urbanization will increase demand for rail lines, roads and housing, he added. According to the NBS, the retail industry developed at the fastest rate among the 19 consumer service industries, with a PMI reading that rose to 71.1, up from 66.6. "It indicated that China's social consumption ability still has huge potential," Cai said. "The income distribution reform should be pushed to sustain the economic growth from domestic consumption." On Friday, the NBS and the CFLP revealed the manufacturing PMI in January was 50.4, compared with 50.6 in December, and suggested the external market still remained a risk factor while domestic demand is holding up. "China's growth recovery remains on track, but it is not yet on a solid footing," said Chang Jian, an economist with Barclays Capital. A moderate recovery, rather than any sharp rebound, will drive up the GDP growth at a pace of 7.9 percent, compared with the 13-year low of 7.8 percent last year, a research note from the investment bank said. [...]. ^ top ^

Chinese premier stresses logistics during MOC visit (Xinhua)
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Monday stressed the role of logistics in expanding domestic demand. The global economy has been through ups and downs in the past 10 years, with China increasingly integrated into the worldwide economic system and now the country needs to balance domestic growth and opening-up, Wen said while visiting the Ministry of Commerce (MOC). It is crucial to transfer the growth pattern of foreign trade and optimize the structure of foreign trade products, market structure and regional structure, Wen said. He highlighted stable market supply and prices around the Spring Festival, which will fall on Feb. 10 this year. Programs must be upgraded to channel reserves into the market at a proper time, according to Wen, who added that in adverse weather and over the Spring Festival holidays, key cities in northern China should release vegetable reserves to the market. More work should be done to monitor prices, cracking down on illegal hoarding for speculation or rumor-spreading to inflate prices, the premier said. He also called for logistics to be streamlined to cut fees. ^ top ^

Credit risks persist for local govts (China Daily)
The default risk of some sub-provincial governments in China and their financing platforms could rise significantly during the next two years, Standard & Poor's said in a report on Tuesday. The report, entitled "No Major Default So Far; So Are Chinese Local Government Debts Now Safer?," says the debt profile of some local and regional governments (LRGs) remains risky. The cash flow needs of many LRGs and their financing platforms will remain high in the next few years. Moreover, many LRGs may have weakening liquidity positions, which, combined with a perception of more modest future extraordinary government support, could rein in new borrowing. "The risks are particularly high for county-level governments that have incurred high-cost, short-term borrowing from non-bank financial institutions," said Standard & Poor's credit analyst Kim Eng Tan. "Some LRGs may find themselves trapped in a cycle. They may have to spend more on infrastructure to generate higher receipts from land sales. And that's just so they can reap enough profits from such sales to repay the debt incurred earlier for infrastructure investment." The report estimates that the growth of broad LRG debt has fallen in line with other economic trends and poses low systemic risk to China's financial system. "We believe China can avoid any systemic economic risk from LRG debt because key supporting factors from the past are still in place. These include the central government's strong financial strength, its commitment to preventing systemic risk, and China's strong economic fundamentals," Tan said. [...]. ^ top ^

Central bank warns of inflation (Xinhua)
China's central bank on Wednesday warned of inflationary pressure, saying the influence of rebounding demand, labor supply changes and global monetary easing on prices must be watched closely. The recovery in the economy and in demand may translate into consumer price movements very quickly and "particular attention needs to be paid to the effect of changing expectations on future prices," the People's Bank of China (PBOC) said in its quarterly monetary policy report. "During the stage of economic transition, the prevention of inflation risks should always be a highlight in financial macro-control," the report said. [...] Although prices are relatively stable now, uncertainties are building up, the PBOC warned in the report. As China's working-age population grows slower, prices of labor-intensive farm produce and services will trend up, it said. Meanwhile, the ultra-loose global monetary supply will last for quite a long period, making it necessary to look out for potential imported inflation, according to the report. The central bank reiterated that it will continue to implement a prudent monetary policy and make it more forward-looking, targeted and flexible. It pledged to maintain a reasonable level of market liquidity and keep credit and social financing growing steadily and properly. Credit support will be strengthened for key national projects, the rural sector, small enterprises, modern services and emerging industries, the PBOC said. Speculation and investment demand in real estate will continue to be curbed, according to the central bank. [...]. ^ top ^


DPRK and South Korea

DPRK denounces U.S. for double standards on rocket launches (Xinhua)
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on Saturday criticized the United States for employing double standards on the DPRK's space program and South Korea's rocket launch. "The U.S. unconditional criticism of our satellite launch and its unconditional approval of a satellite launch by the South are at the height of double standards," an unidentified foreign ministry spokesperson was quoted by the state-run KCNA news agency as saying. The accusation came three days after South Korea successfully launched its first space rocket, the Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1, putting a satellite into orbit. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Thursday that there was no basis for comparing the rocket programs of the DPRK and South Korea, given that South Korea "has developed its technology responsibly." [...] The DPRK on Jan. 24 vowed to conduct more rocket launches and a higher-level nuclear test targeting its "sworn enemy," the United States. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Wednesday that China opposes any moves that might escalate tensions and are not conducive to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Beijing also calls on all parties to work together to safeguard the peace and stability of the peninsula. ^ top ^

DPRK top leader calls for stronger military (Xinhua)
Top leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) Kim Jong Un called for strengthening the military to defend the country's security and sovereignty, the official news agency KCNA reported Sunday. Kim made the appeal at an enlarged meeting of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) Central Military Commission, which discussed ways to enhance military capability and some organizational issues. Participants included members of the WPK Central Military Commission, staff members of the supreme command of the Korean People's Army (KPA) and commanding officers of the large combined units grouping the navy, the air force, the anti-air force and their strategic rocket force. Kim urged them to further strengthen the KPA into "a matchless revolutionary army." The participants were determined to "unconditionally and thoroughly" implement their military tasks, the KCNA said. ^ top ^



Mongolian officials to continue talks with Rio Tinto (Xinhua)
Mongolian officials ended their first shareholders' meeting with Rio Tinto officials on Thursday without reaching agreements and criticizing the mining giant's unpreparedness. The meeting began Wednesday afternoon to discuss Oyu Tolgoi LLC, a Mongolia-Tinto joint venture developing a large gold-copper mine in the south Gobi region of Mongolia. The two sides agreed to meet later this month. Mining Minister Gankhuyag Davaajav said at a press conference after the meeting that the Rio Tinto manager working for Oyu Tolgoi LLC did not read the investment agreement or feasibility study. "Therefore, I told them to change the situation in the next talk," the minister said. Batbayar Nyamjav, the economic development minister, also warned the investors to "respect Mongolian customs and traditions and follow Mongolian laws and regulations." In response, Rio Tinto Copper Chief Executive Andrew Harding said in a statement that the project construction was finished "ahead of schedule and in line with the budget submitted to the Oyu Tolgoi board and government shareholder representatives". "We produced our first copper concentrate last week, and remain on schedule for commercial production in the first half of 2013," Harding said. He said, though, that "substantive issues about the ongoing development have been raised by shareholders." [...] Rio said that the remaining construction of the project cost 6.2 billion dollars, which was in line with the budget submitted to the Oyu Tolgoi board and government shareholders in December 2010. The Mongolian government claims initial investment has exceeded the budget. [...]. ^ top ^

Delay in Oyu Tolgoi copper production will have severe macroeconomic effect (UB Post)
At a press conference on Monday 'The Report: Mongolia 2013' was unveiled at the Kempinski Hotel Khan Palace. The Report: Mongolia 2013 sheds light on Mongoia's foreign investment laws that are causing current concerns. The Report also provides key information on the state of Mongolian infrastructure, capital and expertise to investors. Regional Editor Paulius Kuncinas said that Mongoia's exports of coal, copper and iron should rise on the back of a favorable global outlook for commodities. “This should help stabilize government finances, whilst increasing foreign reserves and also play a part in improving fragile investment confidence. The most significant milestone in 2013 remains the launch of commercial production at Rio's copper mine, set to become the second largest in the world.” On the question on TavanTogloi and Chalco during the press conference, Peter Markey of Ernst & Young commented: “The heart of the TavanTolgoi and Chalco problem is that they don't have the money at TavanTolgoi that Chalco had paid.” He notes that although it may seem that this responsibility lies in Mongolia's previous Government, he highlighted that:“From an outsider's perspective, a Government is a Government and the Government of Mongolia must have some kind of continuity. TheProblem at TavanTolgoi was that the Government regarded it as an extension of its treasury department. When it has some cash, it [the Government] said 'give it to us.' What we need to see is proper structures in place.” Paulius Kuncinas stated: “I don't want to take sides in the renegotiation. It has happened in other countries. It is taking place in Indonesia it did take place in Papua New Guinea.” He emphasizeson the risk that every plan or forecast assumes that the copper production will start –even the reason the USD 1.5 billion was such a big deal was that everybody assumes that copper production will not be suspended for any reason. If it does, it will have “severe macroeconomic effects on currency and capital flows”. ^ top ^

Wu Bangguo: Mongolia and China should deepen their mutual economic cooperation (UB Post)
Chinese top legislator, the chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress of China Wu Bangguo, arrived in Ulaanbaatar for an official visit at the invitation of Speaker of the Parliament Z.Enkhbold. China will further expand economic and trade cooperation with the neighboring country of Mongolia, particularly in; mineral resources exploration, infrastructure construction and the financial sector, a senior Chinese leader said during the meeting with his Mongolian counterpart Z.Enkhbold. Wu arrived in Ulan Bator on Wednesday for the first visit by a top Chinese legislator to Mongolia in 16 years. He said bilateral relations have entered a new stage of development since China and Mongolia established a strategic partnership in 2011. During the meeting with Speaker Z.Enkhbold Mr. Wu Bangguo said “Politically, China and Mongolia should strengthen their; strategic mutual trust, continue to support each other on issues concerning their core interests, and carry out close cooperation in law enforcement and in the field of non-traditional security. Economically, the two countries should deepen mutually beneficial cooperation in such areas as; mining, infrastructure, construction and finance. Culturally, the two countries should intensify people-to-people exchanges in a bid to strengthen mutual understanding and consolidate their traditional friendship. China and Mongolia also should beef up their cooperation on multilateral issue and support each other in global and regional issues while safeguarding their common interests. ^ top ^


Fabian Eng
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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