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
  9-15.2.2013, No. 462  
Startseite / Homepage   Archiv / Archives
Table of contents

DPRK and South Korea


^ top ^


Foreign Policy

China 'firmly' opposes DPRK's nuclear test; Yang summons ambassador (Xinhua)
China "firmly" opposes the latest nuclear test conducted by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), according to a statement issued by the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Tuesday. "On Feb. 12, 2013, the DPRK conducted another nuclear test in disregard of the common opposition of the international community," said the statement, adding that "the Chinese government is firmly opposed to this act." Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi also summoned DPRK ambassador to China Ji Jae Ryong later on Tuesday to lodge a solemn representation. Yang said China was "strongly dissatisfied with" and "firmly opposed to" DPRK's third nuclear test, according to a press release issued by the Chinese Foreign Ministry. The press release quoted Yang as saying, "China always supports the denuclearization on the (Korean) Peninsula in an aim to safeguard the peace and stability of the peninsula," and that China will still work to address the concerns of all the involved parties under the framework of the Six-Party talks through dialogue and consultation in a balanced way. Yang also urged the DPRK to refrain from any words and actions that may further worsen the situation and return to the right track of dialogue and consultation at an early date. [...] The Foreign Ministry said in the statement that it is the firm stand of the Chinese side to bring about denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, prevent nuclear proliferation and safeguard peace and stability in Northeast Asia. "We strongly urge the DPRK to honor its commitment to denuclearization and refrain from any move that may further worsen the situation. To safeguard peace and stability on the Peninsula and in Northeast Asia serves the common interests of all parties," said the statement. It added, "The Chinese government calls on all parties to respond in a cool-headed manner and persist in resolving the issue of denuclearization of the Peninsula through dialogue and consultation within the context of the Six-Party Talks." [...]. ^ top ^

Chinese netizens blast official Beijing stance on North Korea (SCMP)
Chinese social media users berated authorities on Wednesday for their relatively mild response to North Korea's widely condemned nuclear test, likening Pyongyang to a “crazy dog” that had humiliated Beijing. The aggression toward China's defiant neighbour contrasted with the official response from Beijing – expressing “firm opposition” but reiterating calls for calm and restraint and not mentioning any reprisals or sanctions. [...] “If you pursue an unjust long-term diplomatic policy, then people will dare to explode a stinkbomb at your door while you are on holiday,” said Yu Jianrong, a director at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. “You are inviting your own humiliation,” he added on Sina Weibo, China's hugely popular Twitter-like service. [...] Beijing fears instability would bring refugees flooding across the border, a US-led escalation in the region or even ultimately a unified Korea with a US military presence next door. But an online commentator using the handle Wuyuesanren slammed the idea that North Korea's nuclear programme boosted China's security, likening Beijing's policy to “keeping a crazy dog to guard the house”. North Korea “simply doesn't trust China and is not willing to be inhibited by China”, wrote Weibo user Zhuanshengben. “For China alone to emphasise China and North Korea's so-called friendship, this is the ultimate stupidity.” Another user called Long Can declared that “if America mobilises troops against North Korea, I will give its government my entire year's salary”. Meanwhile on Twitter – which is blocked in China – one of the country's most prominent dissidents, Hu Jia, called it and North Korea “the most despicable big rogue and ruthless little rogue”. He posted a recording of a phone call he said he made to the North Korean embassy in Beijing, in which he told them: “I just want to say, I am Chinese citizen Hu Jia, and I want to express my opposition to your carrying out a nuclear test.” “What?” came the response from the embassy. “Are you out of your mind?”. ^ top ^

U.S. sanctions disrupt international trade order: MOC (Xinhua)
The United States' sanctions on Chinese enterprises have harmed international trade order, China's Ministry of Commerce (MOC) said Wednesday. Shen Danyang, an MOC spokesman, said that China strongly opposes sanctions that have been imposed on Chinese military firms and individuals based on U.S. domestic regulations and without any evidence for them. Unilateral moves of this kind have happened more than once, not only harming Chinese enterprises, but disturbing international trade order, Shen said. The Chinese government demands that the U.S. corrects its wrongdoing and create a sound environment for healthy economic ties, he added. The announcement came after a similar one on Monday by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that asked the U.S. to lift sanctions on Chinese enterprises and individuals, including a leading Chinese military defense company. Poly Technologies Inc., a subsidiary of the state-owned China Poly Group Corporation, voiced its opposition on Monday immediately after the sanctions were announced. It rejected accusations that the company has been involved in business related to banned weapons with countries or regions that are under United Nations Security Council sanctions.. ^ top ^

Chinese envoy urges efforts to better protect civilians in armed conflicts (Xinhua)
A Chinese envoy said on Tuesday that the deployment of UN peacekeeping forces alone cannot provide a fundamental solution to the problem of civilian protection, calling for more efforts including preventative diplomacy to better protect civilians in armed conflicts. The statement came as Wang Min, the deputy Chinese permanent representative to the UN, was taking the floor at an open Security Council debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflicts. China supports the Council in its efforts to strengthen the civilian protection in armed conflicts, he said, voicing his deep concerns with the fact that civilians are the most vulnerable group in wars and armed conflicts. However, "we should realize that relying solely on the deployment of UN peacekeeping operations cannot fundamentally address the issue of the protection of civilians," Wang told the 15-nation body. "In order to fundamentally address the objective of the protection of civilians, more must be done in the areas of preventing and controlling conflicts," he said. At the same time, Wang noted, efforts should be made to put the protection of civilians in armed conflicts into the overall framework of peaceful settlement of conflicts. According to the Chinese envoy, the Security Council should as a priority urge the parties concerned to cease hostilities and achieve a ceasefire. [...] "Military means, more often than not, result in bigger crises, more bloodshed and more civilian causalities," Wang said. The ambassador also underlined that actions to protect civilians must comply with the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, especially the principle of respecting the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of countries. The Security Council mandates should not be arbitrarily interpreted in the name of protecting civilians, nor should they be exploited as pretext for "regime change", Wang said. [...]. ^ top ^

China and Japan to hold talks over North Korean nuclear test (SCMP)
A senior Japanese diplomat will visit Beijing next week for talks on the nuclear test carried out by North Korea on Tuesday. Shinsuke Sugiyama, director general of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Asian and Oceanian affairs bureau, will arrive with tensions between Beijing and Tokyo still running high over a territorial dispute in the East China Sea. He will be the first Japanese official to visit China since Tokyo alleged last week that People's Liberation Army Navy frigates had locked fire-control radar on a Japanese military helicopter and destroyer in separate incidents last month. Sugiyama spoke by telephone with Wu Dawei, China's special representative for Korean Peninsula affairs, on Tuesday, with both sides vowing to step up co-operation to ensure the removal of nuclear weapons from the peninsula, Kyodo News reported. Wu said China had made diplomatic efforts to stop Pyongyang from conducting the nuclear test "until the last second". Sino-Japanese ties have deteriorated since September, when the Japanese government announced it was buying three of the five uninhabited Diaoyu Islands - known as the Senkakus in Japan. Tensions escalated after last week's allegations, with Beijing saying they were fabricated by Tokyo to spread the "China threat" theory. But both countries condemned Pyongyang's nuclear test, with Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi summoning North Korean ambassador Ji Jae-ryong in Beijing and Japan mulling unilateral sanctions against North Korea. Yang also had telephone conversations with US Secretary of State John Kerry and his South Korean counterpart Kim Sung-hwan on the issue. Analysts said the nuclear test provided common ground of co-operation between Beijing and Tokyo, but tensions over the disputed islands would remain high. "The visit of Sugiyama shows that the nations still have some communication channels when their relations are tense," said Professor Lian Degui, of the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies. "China, Japan and the US have common interests on the Korean Peninsula, where they can co-operate." Meanwhile, Professor Da Zhigang, of the Heilongjiang Academy of Social Sciences, said the international community's attention had been diverted from the territorial dispute to the nuclear test, but added that China would not join hands with Tokyo to launch bilateral measures to exert pressure on Pyongyang. Chinese state media reports about PLA drills during the Lunar New Year holiday emphasised the tensions between Beijing and Tokyo. China has also sent maritime surveillance vessels to waters around the disputed islands over the past few days. Japan's Ministry of Defence said yesterday that three Chinese warships had sailed through international waters between Okinawa and Mayakojima after training in the Western Pacific. Lian said he expected Sugiyama would discuss the radar allegations next week, and the two countries would seek ways to create the environment for a bilateral summit meeting, which Tokyo suggested last month. "Japan will not abandon the plan to purchase the islands, and China will not stop patrolling around," Lian said. "But the two sides will keep talking to each other to see if they can reach a middle ground.". ^ top ^

China eyes closer cooperation with IFAD over poverty reduction (Xinhua)
Over the past 35 years, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has been active in raising fund, promoting global agricultural cooperation, supporting grain production in developing countries and improving nutrition for the poor, Chinese Vice Premier Hui Langyu said here on Wednesday. Attending the opening ceremony of the 36th session of IFAD's Governing Council, Hui said the IFAD has made important contribution to the global endeavor for grain production and poverty reduction. "The Chinese government applauds IFAD for its untiring efforts and fruitful work," he said. The vice premier also recalled the agricultural cooperation between China and international community. "China has taken an active part in international exchanges and cooperation in agricultural development and poverty reduction and enjoyed sound cooperation with other developing countries as well as IFAD and other international organizations," Hui said. "Many countries and international organizations have supported us in developing agriculture and reducing poverty, and helped us in the wake of serious natural disasters. We have also provided help to other developing countries within the realm of our capabilities through bilateral and multilateral channels, " He told the IFAD meeting. [...] On Wednesday, Hui also attended an agricultural cooperation roundtable meeting including delegations from China, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain. Agricultural cooperation, as an important part of China's cooperation with the six countries, has kept expanding in recent years, he said. "Our agricultural trade grew from 510 million U.S. dollars in 2000 to 2.75 billion U.S. dollars in 2012, an average annual increase of 15 percent. Your quality products such as olive oil, wine and cotton have entered numerous Chinese households," Hui said, referring to food sold to China from the six countries in Southern Europe. "The export of olive oil to China has taken up 90 percent of our total annual import of olive oil. Thanks to our frequent information exchanges and mutual visits in the agricultural field, we have maintained good communication and coordination on major issues and further deepened the agricultural cooperation between the two sides," Hui told agriculture ministers from the six southern European nations, all the European Union member states. Hui arrived in Rome on Tuesday and his three-country tour will also take him to Slovakia and Switzerland. ^ top ^

Beijing ramps up propaganda war to bolster Diaoyus claim (SCMP)
Beijing has stepped up its propaganda efforts to show its sovereignty over disputed islands in the East China Sea as tensions between China and Japan linger. In a rare move, state-run China Central Television broadcast live footage on Thursday of three Chinese maritime surveillance vessels operating in waters around the Diaoyu Islands, known as the Senkakus in Japan. The three vessels sailed into the waters at around 5am on Thursday and sent warnings in Chinese and English to Japanese patrol boats, asking them to leave. CCTV reported that the vessels encountered strong winds, but that visibility was the best it had been over the Lunar New Year holiday. A CCTV reporter on one of the vessels, the Haijian 50, said it sailed to within 13 nautical miles of the disputed islands, and similar patrols would be made in the future. "The Diaoyu Islands are the inherent territory of China," the reporter said. State media have run high-profile reports of drills by the People's Liberation Army and patrols by the State Oceanic Administration in recent days, stressing that crew members and soldiers had sacrificed their Lunar New Year family reunions to protect the nation's sovereignty. [...] In remarks that are likely to heighten tensions, Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera said on Thursday that Japan had the right to develop the ability to make a pre-emptive strike ahead of an imminent attack given a changing security environment - although it had no plan to do so now. Onodera made the remarks after North Korea conducted a nuclear test - its third - on Tuesday, but the remarks could upset China and South Korea, which have reacted strongly in the past to such suggestions. "When an intention to attack Japan is evident, the threat is imminent, and there are no other options, Japan is allowed under the law to carry out strikes against enemy targets," Onodera told Reuters in an interview, adding that Japan still observed peace-oriented diplomacy. Onodera also called for the setting up of a hotline between China and Japan to prevent any accidental clashes over the disputed islands. [...]. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

Chinese government's NGO funding peaks in 2012 (Xinhua)
In 2012, the Chinese central government for the first time allocated 200 million yuan ($ 32.08 million) to finance non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Xinhua has learned. With this fund, 377 social work projects and more than 120 training programs were carried out, with 17,700 people trained and 1.85 million directly benefited, according to the country's NGOs administration under the Ministry of Civil Affairs. Besides the central government input, these projects involved a total investment of 320 million yuan, said the administration. In recent years, the Chinese government has rolled out measures to boost the development of social organizations and better bring their roles into play. In 2011, the central government started a pilot project designed to simplify registration for social organizations. Under the pilot, social organizations may directly register with civil affairs authorities. They do not need to find an administrative sponsor to supervise their activities as a precondition for registration, as was previously stipulated. The previous rule made it difficult for social organizations to register, since administrators were often reluctant to assume the responsibility of sponsorship. As a result, many social organizations ended up operating without registering. So far, the practice of "direct registration" has spread to 19 provinces. Moreover, some provinces have also loosened control over registration for non-public offering foundations, non-indigenous chambers of commerce and private non-enterprise units concerning foreign affairs. ^ top ^

China's coal mines less deadly, still dangerous (Xinhua)
China reported fewer coal mine deaths last year but safety hazards still abound in the country's coal production, a work safety regulator has said. Mine accidents killed 37 workers for every 100 million tonnes of coal produced in 2012, said Huang Yi, chief engineer of the State Administration of Work Safety. That was down from 56.4 deaths per 100 million tonnes of coal output in 2011, but still well above the US level of 1.9 in 2011, according to the administration's data. In total, 1,384 people were killed in coal mine accidents last year, declining from 1,973 in 2011, Huang said. "The work safety situation at coal mines remains grim and we can not be blindly optimistic," he said. The administration last month put into effect rules that hold coal mine managers accountable for protecting workers' lives. Managers are required to guarantee proper licenses of operation, ventilation and better trained workers. Illegal coal production at mines without valid licenses accounted for 43 percent of major accidents that occurred in the past decade, according to Huang. Meanwhile, 93 percent of major gas explosions at coal mines were caused by ventilation system problems, he said. ^ top ^

People's Daily denounces Valentine's Day 'debauchery of decadent cadres' (SCMP)
On the eve of Valentine's Day, as businesses in big cities across the mainland geared up to cash in on the romantic occasion, the Communist Party's mouthpiece newspaper warned yesterday that in recent years it had turned into a "breeding-ground" of corruption and debauchery for a minority of party members. A four-paragraph story in People's Daily said Valentine's Day had become a hatchery of decadent ideology, indulgent lifestyle, fraud and corruption for some party members who squandered money indulging their lovers. It went on to say that such a trend had been seen among some senior party members, including disgraced former Chongqing party secretary Bo Xilai, former railways minister Liu Zhijun and former Shanghai party secretary Chen Liangyu, who all kept mistresses or had illicit affairs with many women. The writer then asked why such a romantic holiday in the West, where lovers presented flowers, offered chocolates and sent greeting cards, had transformed into a breeding ground for corruption when it reached the mainland. The problem was cadres who had abandoned communist beliefs, the article said, breaking their party oath and betraying the cause. It said that while the problem afflicted only a minority of party members, there would be severe consequences if such behaviour was not curbed. [...] One microblogger said the problem did not lie with party members either. He said political reform was the only way to stamp out corruption in an officialdom without effective checks and balances, and it was wishful thinking to believe that corruption could be kept in check by relying on the good deeds of individuals. ^ top ^

Public sceptical over safety assurances after North Korea nuclear test (SCMP)
As northern China choked in lingering smog last month, residents hoped for strong winds to sweep the filth away. Now they have another reason to wish for a strong breeze: to send potential radiation from North Korea's nuclear test this week away to the southeast. The Ministry of Environmental Protection said on Wednesday it had increased radiation monitoring in northeastern China following Tuesday's nuclear test and had found no immediate abnormalities. But even if there were any, it said, it would affect only Japan and South Korea. "The evaluation … based on weather forecasts from the National Meteorological Centre shows that even if radiation is released, it will move southeast, and won't impact China at this stage," the ministry said on Wednesday in a statement accompanied by a diagram showing possible radiation patterns passing across Japan. Mainland internet users, however, were sceptical. "Why do I feel so pathetic to be a Chinese?" one microblogger wrote. "There is no sense of security or respect. And [you] have to face endless hurt, humiliation and deceit - all by your own people. The nuclear test is only kilometres away [from Chinese territory]. While the US, Japan and South Korea all said their security was threatened, the ministry said there is nothing to worry about." Actor Sun Haiying commented: "The statement from Ministry of Environmental Protection definitely represents government, but which one? North Korea?" The ministry's statement was issued after a rumour that radiation readings had surpassed safety levels in northeastern provinces bordering North Korea spread widely on microblogging services and through text messages on Wednesday. An editor from the Southern Metropolitan Weekly questioned the environment ministry on his blog, asking why it had moved only in response to increasing public pressure from the public, instead of taking immediate action, and how it could ensure the data it released was accurate. [...] Zhang Zhiyong from the China Institute for Radiation Protection, said the impact on the mainland would be limited even if there was some radioactive fallout from the nuclear test. "Test facilities are usually constructed in regions with a stable geology, so the amount of radioactive particles released into the air is very limited," he said. He said underground water sources around the test site could be contaminated, but that would not pose a large threat to China because the test happened about 100 kilometres from the border. ^ top ^

Nation to see travel rush, again (China Daily)
China's transport system is being put to the test, as the world's largest annual human migration comes to a peak with the Spring Festival holiday wrapping up. More than 6.5 million trips were made on Chinese railways on Thursday, with more passengers expected to flood railway stations on Friday, which will witness the first rush of people returning to work after the seven-day Spring Festival holiday, the Ministry of Railways said. A total of 4,550 train services were operating on Wednesday, completing nearly 5.8 million trips for passengers, the ministry said, adding that 629 temporary, extra train trips would be made on Thursday to help handle the surge in travelers. Also on Wednesday, nearly 50 million trips were made in private cars and buses, the Ministry of Transport said, noting about 987,800 passengers traveled through 7,291 flights on the day. From Thursday to Saturday, major expressways will witness a rapid increase in private cars and congestion is expected on Friday, the last day of the toll-free period for this Spring Festival holiday, according to traffic management officers with the Ministry of Public Security. Most of the country's expressways are toll free during four national holidays, such as National Day and Spring Festival, for passenger cars with fewer than seven seats. [...] Most office workers will have returned to cities where they work before Saturday, when most employers begin to reopen. Highways in the Chinese capital of Beijing handled more than 1.2 million trips on Thursday, a 50 percent increase compared with the same period last year, the municipal commission of transport said, forecasting the busiest traffic of the seven-day holiday will appear on Friday. More than 184,000 passengers arrived on Thursday at the Beijing West Railway Station and Beijing Railway Station, the two busiest stations in the city, local railway authorities said. About 300,000 passengers will return to Beijing on Friday, they added. [...]. ^ top ^

Datong residents kneel down to plea for mayor to stay on (SCMP)
While it is not unusual to see villagers in China sometimes kneeling to petition for their rights or to seek justice from senior officials, Datong residents have gone down on their knees to plea for a popular mayor to remain in office. Geng Yanbo has been mayor of Datong - a coal-producing city in northern Shanxi province - since 2008. But on Friday, he was ordered to step down and become vice-mayor following a decision by a regional government committee. It is still unclear what prompted the decision. When news of his demotion was announced, thousands of residents took to the streets to petition for Geng to remain mayor, reported. In video clips and photos uploaded online, people are shown carrying posters saying: “Please stay, Mayor Geng,” and “Datong needs you.” Some residents claim they have gathered as many as 10,000 signatures on one of their banners. Dozens of residents then knelt and chanted: “Mayor Geng, please come back, Datong is your home.” Datong news centre director Gu Shengming said several officials even wept during Geng's farewell party. “I was also having a hard time, simply because Geng was such a fine mayor,” Gu added. Geng, who has an MBA diploma, was known for his strong leadership, efficiency, and charisma, according to Over Geng's five-year-term, he carried out a series of urban re-developments. These included building roads, planting trees and restoring ancient cities. This was part of a strategy to promote tourism and end the region's heavy reliance on coal. Despite criticism of Geng for forcibly relocating some residents and the high cost of his building projects, many greatly admire his diligence, chinanews reported. There have been other achievements. Statistics show Datong's air pollution underwent significant improvement during Geng's term. In 2005, city's air quality was ranked 115th out of 117 cities monitored. By 2012, it was ranked 47 out of 120 cities, according to data from the Ministry of Environmental Protection. ^ top ^

Mainland editorial declares war on water pollution (SCMP)
Air pollution levels may be as scary as the Sars virus, but the prospect of having to drink, wash and bathe with bottled water could be more worrying. Authorities must find a way tackle the problem of groundwater pollution urgently or face an acute shortage of clean water in future, a forceful editorial in the Beijing News said on Wednesday. Beijing's official mouthpiece called for a “declaration of war” in the new Lunar Year on “unscrupulous enterprises” engaged in the illegal and often secretive discharge of untreated waste into waterways. It urged the public and netizens to help. There has been speculation on microblogging site Sina Weibo recently about companies using high-pressure wells to pump chemical discharge directly into the ground and sometimes into underground caves. A massive cadmium spillage in Guangxi province last January was allegedly caused by a mining company pumping chemical waste directly into underground caverns. Tap water supplies were shut off to nearby cities after more than 20 tonnes of toxic chemical seeped into the Longjiang river. The editorial said local governments were only compounding the problem by upholding lax environmental regulations and shielding “superstar" companies, deemed too important, from punishment. “The reason why groundwater pollution has long been ignored is that the vast majority of contamination cases occur in rural counties, where farmers lack the right to speak out,” it said. The editorial said the fundamental problem lay in governance - or lack of it - and encouraged the public to “take action to investigate and expose any of those unscrupulous companies”. It also called on “the relevant parties” to encourage supervision and ensure citizen activist channels are unimpeded”. Official estimates put the number of water pollution accidents in China at 1,700 a year. Close to 70 per cent of the mainland's lakes and rivers and over 90 per cent of the groundwater in urban areas too contaminated for even animals to drink from. ^ top ^



2015 deadline for Beijing's coal-fired furnace retrofits (China Daily)
China's capital of Beijing has set a target of completing environmentally friendly renovations on all its coal-fired heating furnaces by 2015. Inefficient coal burning is considered one of the major causes of lingering smog in the city, which is dependent on fossil fuels for centralized heating during its four-month-long winter. The municipal commission of city administration and environment said on Monday that Beijing has conducted energy efficiency retrofits on 266 coal-fired furnaces, which supply heating for 72 million square meters of residential areas. The reconstruction has improved their heating efficiency, reducing the amount of coal they cumulatively consume each year by 500,000 tons, and the amount of sulfur dioxide, nitric oxide and soot they discharge annually by 86.5 tons, 650 tons and 43.5 tons, respectively, said a spokesman with the commission. He said there are still 30 more coal-fired furnaces located within the city's fifth ring road waiting for the technical transformation. The work is expected to be fully completed before 2015. [...]. ^ top ^

Beijing's air quality rated 'hazardous' as smog returns to eastern regions (SCMP)
Air quality in Beijing turned "hazardous" while pollution in Shanghai was rated unhealthy as hazy weather was forecast across eastern regions. Concentrations of PM2.5, fine air particulates that pose the greatest health risk, rose to 297 micrograms per cubic metre at 12pm near Tiananmen Square from an average of 195 in the past 24 hours, Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Centre reported. The rating is the second-worst behind "severely polluted". The US Embassy also graded air quality in Beijing as "hazardous," reporting its reading of PM2.5 at 344 micrograms per cubic metre at 12pm. [...] Pollution in Beijing rose to a record on January 12 with PM2.5 surging as high as 993, sparking criticism of the government's environmental management. The capital's daily average last month, of 196, was similar to that in an airport smoking lounge. [...]. ^ top ^

Fireworks sales down in Beijing during holiday (Xinhua)
Sales of fireworks and the number of people injured due to fireworks setting off in Beijing have dropped significantly during this year's Spring Festival holiday, which began on Feb. 10. A total of 313,000 cartons of fireworks had been sold from Feb. 9, the Lunar New Year's Eve, to Feb. 14 in the capital city, down 45 percent from the 564,000 cartons sold during the same period last year, according to the statistics from the Beijing municipal government on Friday. A total of 165 people were injured due to fireworks setting off during the same period, down 22 percent from the previous year, it said. No death or cases of eyeball extraction were reported, it said. The drop of fireworks sales is attributed to people's rising awareness of environment protection as the city had been shrouded in smog for a long period of time last month. Beijing mayor Wang Anshun visited a fire-fighting command center on Thursday and expressed his gratitude to the cadres and citizens who did not set off fireworks or reduced the amount of fireworks during the holiday. ^ top ^



Fireworks send Shanghai pollution levels soaring again (SCMP)
Haze and more Spring Festival firework celebrations pushed Shanghai air pollution levels to new highs early on Thursday, despite “good” air being recorded throughout most of the previous day. The level of PM2.5 – air particles small enough to directly enter the lungs – fluctuated between 70 and 100 micrograms per cubic metre on Wednesday but rose to 651 at 1am the next morning, according to the Shanghai US Consulate's air quality monitor – a level beyond register on the index which only goes up to 500. Pollution levels subsided to a "moderate" level of 90 at 10am. The World Health Organisation recommends average 24-hour exposures of less than 25 micrograms per cubic metre. Following the eve of Spring Festival fireworks on Sunday, the city's PM2.5 levels doubled to 523 after the celebratory firecrackers deluged the city in particles and dust. ^ top ^



Tibetan burns himself to death in China in 101 self-immolation (SCMP)
A Tibetan man burned himself to death in protest against Chinese rule, reports and Western rights groups said on Thursday, bringing the total to have set themselves on fire to at least 101. US-based Radio Free Asia said the man, Lobsang Namgyal, who it described as a former monk from the Kirti monastery, self-immolated last week near a police station in Aba prefecture, a Tibetan area of Sichuan province in southern China. “He ran toward the police station, calling out slogans with his body on fire, and died at the scene,” it cited exiled Tibetan monks as saying. “Police then cremated his remains and handed them over to his family.” The 37-year-old was one of a family of four brothers and four sisters and was detained and harassed last year by police, it cited the exiles as saying. The Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet described him as a monk and said he was “known as a serious and exceptional scholar”. The first Tibetan to set himself on fire was also from Kirti monastery, it added. Later on Thursday, police in Nepal say a Tibetan protester who set himself on fire in Nepal's capital to protest against China has died at a hospital. Police spokesman Keshav Adhikari said the man died on Wednesday night, hours after he self-immolated. He says police are still trying to identify the man, who appeared to be about 21 years old. No one has claimed the body yet. The man set himself on fire and chanted anti-China slogans in the Boudhanath area of Katmandu on Wednesday. [...] The earlier report takes the number of ethnic Tibetans to have set themselves on fire since 2009 to 101. At least 84 have died, tallies show. Stephanie Brigden, director of the London-based campaign group Free Tibet, said: “This grim milestone should be a source of shame to the Chinese authorities who are responsible and to the world leaders who have yet to show any leadership in response to the ongoing crisis in Tibet. “China employs brutal repression, propaganda and bribery to no avail: protest and resistance will continue as long as the Tibetan people are denied their freedom.” [...]. ^ top ^



Hong Kong feels strain of influx from mainland China (SCMP)
A rapid jump in mainland arrivals has stretched hotel and tourism facilities to the limit, with Ocean Park suspending ticket sales two days in a row and a group of tourists who refused a substandard guest house opting to sleep on the tour coach. The good business pleased hoteliers and tourism executives, but a legislator urged the government to put a cap on the number of tourists allowed from the mainland market of 1.3 billion. Immigration Department figures show that inbound mainland tourists in the first three days of the Year of the Snake numbered more than 380,000, a 33 per cent increase from 286,000 in the same period last year. Yesterday, for the second day in a row, Ocean Park suspended ticket sales for part of the day as the theme park neared its legal maximum of 36,000 people. "Generally we work at 10 per cent less than the optimum for safety's sake, to ensure that everyone doesn't spend the day lining up for the rides," park chairman Allan Zeman said. Disneyland meanwhile recorded its second-highest patronage level ever. But Travel Industry Council chairman Michael Wu Siu-ying said the city was not at its limit. "This is not saturation," he said, adding that both tourists and the businesses that catered to them needed to plan well. The cumulative number of mainland visitors under the individual travellers scheme - established in 2003 and allowing mainlanders to visit Hong Kong without joining a group - surpassed 100 million in December, according to Tourism Board data. [...]. ^ top ^

CY's disapproval rating at record high (SCMP)
Public confidence in Leung Chun-ying continues to slide, with his disapproval rating at an all-time high and his popularity hovering barely above its lowest point. The latest poll conducted by the University of Hong Kong's public opinion programme shows the chief executive has failed to arrest the decline in his popularity amid allegations of dishonesty from a former supporter. Programme director Robert Chung Ting-yiu said there was room for it to fall further. Leung's record disapproval rate, 52.7 per cent, is above 50 per cent for the fifth time since he assumed office in July last year. His popularity rating, at 46.3 points, fell 1.8 points from the previous poll and is now barely 0.3 points above the lowest level registered in September. More than 1,000 people were interviewed between February 1 and February 6 for the poll that reflects the impact of allegations by Leung's former staunch ally, Lew Mon-hung, in an interview with iSun Affairs magazine, but not Leung's threat to sue over an article on the issue by Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist Joseph Lian Yi-zheng. "That means there is still downward pressure on the chief executive's popularity," Chung said. Meanwhile, Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung saw his rating fall 2.5 points to a record low at 47.8. Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor was the most popular of the three top officials, with 60.6 points, followed by Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, on 57.8. [...]. ^ top ^



Taipei urged to get serious about acquiring new fleet of fighter jets (SCMP)
The US senator leading a drive to persuade President Barack Obama to disregard Beijing's concerns and sell new F-16 fighters to Taiwan faulted the island for what he said was a failure to push hard enough for the planes. "When it comes to Taiwan's military capabilities, there seems to be a puzzling sense of complacency in Taipei," said Senator John Cornyn. Cornyn, a Texas Republican, is responsible for rounding up his party's votes in the Senate. He has sought to force the Obama administration to sell Taiwan the 66 F-16C/D models it has sought in the past. The planes are produced at a Fort Worth, Texas, plant by Lockheed Martin. Cornyn voiced disappointment that Taiwan "seems to have backed off of its pursuit for new F-16s". Taipei has agreed to a US offer to upgrade its fleet of 145 older-model F-16 fighters as part of a projected US$3.7 billion deal. "Without aggressive and consistent advocacy by Taiwan for its own interests, it will be nearly impossible for its friends in Congress to push through the sale of F-16s or other advanced weapons," he said in remarks read in his absence at a panel discussion on Friday at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research group. [...] Taipei must find the political will to boost its defence budget, according to Cornyn. He said it had been cut each year from 2009 to 2011. Some Taiwan officials have shown interest in leapfrogging the F-16C/D models to buy Lockheed Martin's next-generation, radar-evading F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The F-35 is in early production. [...]. ^ top ^

Trips to mainland China eye-opening experiences for many Taiwanese (SCMP)
James Wang, a Taiwanese engineer who was recently stationed to work at his company's mainland office, said it had been an eye-opening experience since moving to Suzhou, Jiangsu. "I thought that while it might be scenic, it would be a relatively backward place, without even a gym where I could exercise after work," he said. "But before I even reported to work, some of my mainland colleagues there had already helped me find a list of local fitness centres after learning from my boss that I go to the gym often after work." Wang, who returned home to Taipei for the Lunar New Year holiday, was one of the many Taiwanese with deep-seated stereotypes about the mainland and its people. It's only after a visit to the mainland that they realise how ignorant they have been. Some Taiwanese who lived in Beijing more than a decade ago are under the impression that it's important to dress humbly, so as to avoid becoming the target of robbers and pickpockets. Taiwanese friends and relatives are sometimes advised to never wear nice clothes if they visit the mainland. Jasmine Fang, a Zhejiang native now studying journalism at Shih Hsin University in Taipei, said she was shocked when some of her classmates asked her whether there were high-rise buildings in Shanghai. "For God's sake, it's Shanghai," she said, lamenting that so many Taiwanese have backward views of the mainland, despite it becoming one of the world's top economic powers. [...] Wang, who will return to Suzhou after the holiday, said he was surprised to discover that mainlanders "enjoy having a relaxing meal, like many of their Taiwanese counterparts". "At first, I thought that eating out on the mainland must be like going into battle, as I thought that mainlanders tend to finish their meals in a rush, like in 10 to 15 minutes," he said. [...] According to the Taiwan Affairs Office, close to eight million people from Taiwan and the mainland visited the two sides of the Taiwan Strait in 2012, with 5.35 million coming from the island. The disparity is largely because of some restrictions still placed on mainlanders visiting the island.. ^ top ^



China plans $19b transport infrastructure investment (China Daily)
The Chinese government plans to allocate 120 billion yuan ($19.11 billion) to fund local transport infrastructure construction in 2013, the Ministry of Finance has announced. According to the budget target set by the central government, the fund will be allocated from vehicle purchase tax incomes and mainly used to improve highway networks of trunk lines and rural roads. Authorities have increased efforts to boost infrastructure investment over the past few months in a bid to bolster the slowing economy. They approved massive construction projects worth about a trillion yuan in the second half of last year. External economic woes and domestic tightening to tame inflation have bit into the world's second-largest economy, which last year saw growth drop below 8 percent for the first time since 1999. ^ top ^

China's personal income tax revenue slows sharply (Xinhua)
The Chinese government saw its fiscal revenue from personal income tax drop 3.9 percent year-on-year in 2012, sharply down from the 25.2-percent growth seen during the previous year, according to latest data from the Ministry of Finance. It showed that money collected from personal income tax last year totaled 582.02 billion yuan ($92.69 billion), accounting for 5.8 percent of total fiscal revenue. The government's tax reduction measures, including hikes in exemption thresholds for personal income tax and adjustments in taxation rates, have affected the revenue, said an official from the ministry. Price corrections in used homes also decreased the revenue from property transfer income tax last year, according to the ministry. The data showed the tax revenue from wage-earners dropped 8 percent year-on-year, while that from individual business owners declined 12.5 percent. In contrast, combined revenue from income tax on interests, dividends and bonuses grew 14.7 percent. The government raised the exemption threshold for the personal income tax to 3,500 yuan from 2,000 yuan starting September 2011, scrapping the tax for around 60 million people. ^ top ^

China's foreign trade still smaller than US (Xinhua)
China's combined export and import volume in 2012 still ranked behind that of the United States when using the same method to measure, the Ministry of Commerce (MOC) said Wednesday. The ministry expects the country's total international goods trading to be 15.64 billion US dollars less than that of the United States according to the measurement adopted by the World Trade Organization (WTO). The announcement is in response to a previous report that China, with its foreign trade amounting to 3.867 trillion US dollars in 2012, has overtaken the US as the world's biggest goods trading nation. The US Commerce Department has released two sets of figures for its international goods trading -- 3.82 trillion US dollars (based on international balance of payments) and 3.882 trillion US dollars (based on the measurement which is similar to the WTO's measurement), said an MOC official. The WTO usually adopted the latter figure in its annual international trading report that is due to be released late February or early March, the official added. China's export and import volume increased 6.2 percent year on year to 3.867 trillion US dollars in 2012, according to the data issued last month by the General Administration of Customs. ^ top ^

Chinese oil refiners grow steadily (China Daily)
China's oil refining industry grew steadily in 2012 as a result of rising domestic consumption, according to a report from the country's top economic planner. Chinese oil refiners processed 467.91 million tons of crude oil in 2012, up 3.7 percent year-on-year, said a report posted on the website of the National Development and Reform Commission. Domestic demand has basically been met, with consumption of gasoline and kerosene rapidly rising, according to the report. Buoyed by the expansion of both the auto market and aviation industry, the apparent consumption of gasoline and kerosene in 2012 rose 12.2 percent to 86.84 million tons and 14 percent to 20.95 million tons, respectively, whereas diesel consumption stayed almost flat at 169.73 million tons, the report said. The NDRC said imports of refined oil dropped 16.9 percent to 7.16 million tons last year due to abundant domestic supplies, while exports shrank 3.3 percent to 12.23 million tons due to tighter controls over outbound oil products. ^ top ^


DPRK and South Korea

North Korea will never bow to 'unreasonable' nuclear resolutions (SCMP)
North Korea insisted on Tuesday it would never give in to “unreasonable” international resolutions against its nuclear arms programme, insisting the prospects of denuclearising the Korean peninsula were deteriorating in the face of US hostility. “The US and their followers are sadly mistaken if they miscalculate the DPRK (North Korea) would accept the entirely unreasonable resolutions against it,” Jon Yong Ryong, the first secretary of North Korea's mission in Geneva, told the UN Disarmament Forum. “The DPRK will never be bound to any resolutions,” he said. [...] Jon hailed the test, which he said was “conducted in a safe and perfect way,” and which he insisted was “part of practical measures as counter-action to defend the country's security and sovereignty in the face of the ferocious hostile act of the US”. The test, he said, would “greatly encourage the army and the people of the DPRK in their efforts to build a thriving nation... and offers an important occasion in ensuring peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and the region.” As for international diplomatic efforts to turn the arms race around, Jon insisted “the prospect for the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula has become gloomier due to the US hostile policies to the DPRK that have become ever more pronounced.” He also criticised the European Union for not working impartially to bring an end to the nuclear stand-off. If the “EU truly wants peace and stability on the Korean peninsula, it should urge the US first to terminate its hostile policy towards the DPRK on an impartial basis,” he said. Jon was especially searing in his criticism of Japan, whose Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was quick to condemn the nuclear test as “extremely regrettable.” The North Korean envoy said the criticism stemmed from “the base nature of the Japanese (to dislike) when things go well in other countries,” calling Japan a nation of “fault-finders whose way of thinking is not normal.”. ^ top ^



Shareholders meeting on Oyu Tolgoi rescheduled (
Cabinet Ministers gave brief summary about the shareholders meeting on the Oyu Tolgoi issue during a press conference. OyuTolgoi LLC shareholders` meeting would be organized in the Ministry for Mining, but due to official statement by Minister for Economic Development, N.Batbayar the shareholders` meeting was held between the Government of Mongolia and representatives of Rio Tinto Group in Ikh Tenger complex where representing the Government of Mongolia were Minister for Mining, D.Gankhuyag, Minister for Economic Development, N.Batbayar, Minister for Finance Ch.Ulaan, Minister for Nature, Environment and Green Development, S.Oyun, Executive Director for OyuTolgoi LLC, Ts.Sedvanchig and Rio Tinto group represented by Cameron McRae, President and CEO of OyuTolgoi LLC in Ulaanbaatar at 14.00 pm on Wednesday. Four ministers representing the Mongolian Government at the meeting raised the following six points to Rio Tinto. These requests are to make clear the conflict of interest between the advisor company and the Mongolian Government on the project Compliance of the terms with Mongolian rule of law; the total cost excess of the project and realization of feasibility study; the exploration license owned by Entrée Gold and the management service charge and respect of Mongolian laws. In return investors suggested to get back the 250 million US dollar that the Mongolian Government had borrowed in advance for the project and next investment of the project. The shareholders meeting that started on Wednesday continued for the second day after a break. ^ top ^

Presidential election date to be scheduled by spring session (
The Presidential Election date is expected to be scheduled by the next spring Parliament session. Presidential election law says that the date of the voting day should be scheduled on any day of the last quarter of June. The date should be scheduled by Parliament less than 65 days before the voting day according to a law passed last December. Therefore the election would be scheduled on April 25. The Presidential Election voting day will be a public holiday. Mongolia will vote for the seventh president this year, even though the voting will be the sixth time for Mongolians. The first President, Ochirbat Punsalmaa, was elected by the People`s Parliament in 1991 and the first public voting for the Mongolian President was organized in 1993. ^ 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.
Page created and hosted by SinOptic Back to the top of the page To SinOptic - Services and Studies on the Chinese World's Homepage