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
  13-17.1.2014, No. 508  
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DPRK and South Korea


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Foreign Policy

China, US move towards co-operation in space (SCMP)
China which until now has worked alone as it pursues an ambitious space program seems more open to international co-operation, especially with the United States, European and American experts say “There is a change in the Chinese attitude, with a call for cooperation in space. And Americans aren't reticent on the contrary,” said Jean-Yves Le Gall, head of the French space agency CNES. Le Gall spoke Thursday as he left a meeting in Washington of high-level envoys from 30 space-faring nations discussing ways to pool efforts to explore the stars. The conference continued Friday with space agency chiefs. The space race started as an intense Cold War competition between the United States and the former Soviet Union. But with budgets shrinking, the United States is relying more on private companies and looking to keep costs down with multinational collaborations and other countries that are emerging as future major players in space. The participants at the conference, which included Brazil, China, India, Japan and Russia, “showed a strong desire for coming together” in space exploration activities, Le Gall said, noting that the Chinese showed up in force, with a large delegation. “The big question for the next three years is whether China will join the International Space Station,” which currently includes the United States, Russia, Japan, Europe and Canada, he said. “That's the challenge,” the CNES chief said, recalling that the United States had just extended the orbiting space lab's mission by at least four years to 2024. John Logsdon, former director of the the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University and a NASA consultant, shared Le Gall's sentiment. He noted that China has recently indicated its willingness to participate in the International Space Exploration Coordination Group, which currently has 14 members including NASA. Beijing has also openly invited other countries to join it in its own ambitious project that aims to put a Chinese space station into orbit within 10 years. “Every indication is that China is eager to become part of the inner circle of space countries, rather than going its own path,” Logsdon told AFP. […]. ^ top ^

China welcomes agreement to implement Geneva deal (China Daily)
China welcomed an agreement to begin implementation of the Geneva deal on Iran's nuclear program on January 20, a Chinese spokeswoman said on Monday. In November, Iran and the P5+1 group, which includes the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany, reached an interim agreement whereby Iran would freeze part of its nuclear program in exchange for limited ease of sanctions, which have hurt its economy. Spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China appreciates the diplomatic efforts of Iran and the P5+1 group and it hopes all sides will make joint efforts to ensure a thorough implementation of the deal. China expects all sides to continue consultations on an equal footing and reach a comprehensive deal at an early date, she added. China has always advocated seeking a solution for safeguarding the international non-proliferation regime as well as peace and stability in the Middle East through dialogue and negotiation, she said, noting that China has actively participated in relevant consultations and negotiations, helped accommodate all sides' concerns, properly handled differences and made efforts for the progress of the dialogue. Hua said China is willing to maintain close communication and coordination with all sides to promote peace and negotiation. ^ top ^

China Voice: Abe's conduct goes against his dialogue request (Xinhua)
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's willingness to seek dialogue with China and the Republic of Korea (ROK) went against his act of visiting a controversial war-linked shrine and raising defense spending, Chinese experts have said. Last month, Abe visited the controversial Yasukuni Shrine that honors Japan's war dead, including 14 class-A war criminals of WWII. The criminals include former prime minister Hideki Tojo, who launched the attack on Pearl Harbor and started the war in the Pacific that cost millions of lives. He was also a commander of the Nanking massacre in China in which some 300,000 people were killed. Abe said at a press conference last week that he wanted to explain the intention of his visit directly to China and the ROK, and that the door to dialogue is open. "Abe's dialogue request with China and the ROK was nothing but to win the support of domestic public opinion and gain the initiative in international diplomacy," said Liu Jiangyong, vice head of the Institute of Modern International Relations of Beijing-based Tsinghua University. Abe's visit came on the first anniversary of him assuming office. It was also the first visit by a serving Japanese prime minister since Junichiro Koizumi went to the shrine on Aug. 15, 2006, the day commemorating Japan's unconditional surrender to Allied Forces in 1945. "On the one hand, Abe shows initiative to seek dialogue in order to cover up his dangerous acts, on the other hand, he stresses enhanced military presence via raising the military budget," Liu said. In December, the Japanese cabinet approved a record-high 95.88 trillion yen (about 926.87 billion U.S. dollars) budget for the fiscal year. Defense spending was up 2.8 percent, marking the second straight year of rises. "Abe is on a course of building Japan into a country capable of fighting that walks away from the path of peaceful development," said Gao Hong, vice head of the Institute of Japanese Studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Gao added that Abe's rhetoric on dialogue is deceptive, and his thoughts are to strengthen Japan's military. Chinese ambassadors to a number of countries have voiced their anger. "China, together with the international community, will resolutely prevent Japanese right-wing forces turning back the wheel of history," Cheng Yonghua, Chinese ambassador to Japan, was quoted as saying in a Monday article in the People's Daily, the flagship newspaper of the Communist Party of China. Cheng added that China will work together with the international community to safeguard international order. The dispute over Abe's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine is about more than symbolism because it reveals his real intention for Japan's future and casts doubt upon his willingness to build an atmosphere of trust, respect and equality in East Asia, said Cui Tiankai, Chinese Ambassador to the United States, in an opinion piece published Friday on The Washington Post website. "There might be the possibility of relations easing between China and Japan, but only if Abe scraps his position on history and comes back to the table," Gao Hong added. ^ top ^

China hails first test of hypersonic nuclear missile carrier (SCMP)
China has flight-tested a hypersonic missile delivery vehicle capable of penetrating any existing defence system with nuclear warheads, according to the Pentagon. The hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV), dubbed the "Wu-14" by the United States, was detected flying at 10 times the speed of sound during a test flight over China on Thursday, a Pentagon official told the Washington Free Beacon, an online newspaper. A Pentagon spokesman later confirmed the report but declined to provide details. "We routinely monitor foreign defence activities and we are aware of the test," Marine Corpsc spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jeffery Pool told the Beacon. Chinese military experts yesterday hailed the test as a breakthrough. It makes China the second country after the US to have successfully tested a hypersonic delivery vehicle capable of carrying nuclear warheads at a speed above Mach 10. Such a weapon has long been seen as a game-changer by security experts as it can hit a target before any of the existing missile defence systems can react. Once deployed, it could significantly boost China's strategic and conventional missile force. […] Russia and India are also known to be working on such a weapon. In 2010, the US tested the Lockheed HTV-2 - a similar delivery vehicle capable of reaching speeds of up to Mach 20. Last week's test shows that China has managed to close the gaps with the US. […] The Chinese Academy of Sciences, for instance, has recently built one of the world's largest and most advanced hypersonic wind tunnels to simulate flights at up to Mach 15 at the Institute of Mechanics in Beijing. Professor Wang Yuhui, a researcher on hypersonic flight control at Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, said she was not surprised by the test last week because China was technologically ready. […] "Many technical issues have not been solved and no country has made it ready for use in the field," he said. "But it is a challenge we must surmount, and we are throwing everything we have at it." Ni Lexiong, a Shanghai-based naval expert, said China might still need some time to catch up with the US but the day could arrive sooner than many expect. "Missiles will play a dominant role in warfare and China has a very clear idea of what is important." ^ top ^

Chinese ambassador urges Japan to learn from Germany over wartime history (Xinhua)
Chinese Ambassador to Germany Shi Mingde on Tuesday urged Japan to learn from Germany on attitude toward its wartime history in order to win trust of other countries. In an article published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper, the ambassador called Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine last month "a flagrant provocation against the international order after World War II." "My German friends always ask me why China and Japan could not reach reconciliation as Germany and France did," wrote Ambassador Shi. "The future could be created only by those who correctly face up to their history." The Yasukuni Shrine, which honors 14 Class-A war criminals of WWII, is a spiritual symbol of Japanese militarism, aggression and colonialism, Shi pointed out. Abe's visit to the shrine showed that nearly 70 years after the war, Japan is still unable to look squarely at and repent its wartime aggression. The Japanese militarism inflicted huge losses on China as over 35 million Chinese were killed during Japan's aggression. The Japanese army massacred more than 300,000 Chinese in the notorious 1937 Nanjing massacre. "Abe refuses to take historical responsibility for his country's wartime past, and even dares to honor war criminals... His move is taking Japan toward a dangerous road," warned the ambassador. It seriously harmed the regional stability and world peace, and damaged the political foundation of China-Japan relations. "That is the root reason why Japan can not be trusted by its neighbors." Shi added. "The attitude of the Japanese government contrasts sharply with that of Germany. We appreciate Germany's courage to face up to its history and treat historical issues correctly," he wrote, adding if Japan could behave like Germany, it would win trust from countries in Asia and around the world. ^ top ^

China, Russia to boost security cooperation (Global Times)
Chinese State Councilor Guo Shengkun vowed on Wednesday to facilitate closer cooperation between the security departments of China and Russia. Guo, also minister of public security, made the remarks while meeting with a Russian delegation led by Sedov A. S., deputy director-general of the Russian Federal Security Service. Guo hailed the stable development of China-Russia cooperation in law enforcement and security in recent years, saying it had played an important role in safeguarding national stability and protecting the legitimate rights of the two peoples. He called for closer bilateral cooperation in law enforcement and security in order to make new contributions to the growth of the China-Russia partnership. ^ top ^

Mainland, Taiwan should jointly safeguard Diaoyu sovereignty: spokesman (Global Times)
A Beijing spokesman on Wednesday said that the mainland and Taiwan should work together to safeguard China's sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands. "People across the Taiwan Strait should bear responsibility for China's sovereignty and territorial integrity," said Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council. Relations between China and Japan soured after Tokyo's unilateral "nationalization" of some of the islands in September 2012. Ma reiterated China's stance that the islands have been Chinese territory since ancient times. People across the Taiwan strait, as well as the international community, are clearly aware of Japan's deliberate provocating disputes, intensifying conflicts over the islands, and threatening regional peace and stability, Ma added. ^ top ^

Chinese FM meets Mongolian counterpart (Xinhua)
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met here Thursday with visiting Mongolian counterpart Luvsanvandan Bold, emphasizing China's commitment to ties with neighboring nations. It marks Wang's first meeting with a foreign minister in 2014. Wang said the talks showcased the importance China attaches to Mongolia and also the neighboring region. TRIPLET CELEBRATION - "China and Mongolia will witness a triplet of celebrations in bilateral ties this year," Wang said. This year marks the 65th anniversary of the establishment of the bilateral relationship, the 20th anniversary of the Treaty on Friendly Relations and Cooperation between Mongolia and China and the China-Mongolia Friendship and Exchange Year. China will not only be a friendly and good neighbor but also a trustworthy partner of Mongolia, Wang said. Bold, for his part, said Mongolia makes developing its relationship with China the priority of its diplomacy, and stands ready to deepen cooperation of mutual benefit. The two sides agreed to support each other on issues concerning respective core interests and push ahead high-level contacts. China and Mongolia will also further annual two-way trade volume to reach the goal of 10 billion U.S. dollars, and explore the feasibility of building a free-trade zone. Meanwhile, the two sides agreed to expand cultural cooperation and facilitate people-to-people exchanges. In order to protect common interests, the two ministers gave consent on joint activities to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II next year. After the one-hour talks, the two officials signed an arrangement for celebrating the China-Mongolia Friendship and Exchange Year. NEW OPPORTUNITIES FOR NEIGHBORS - At a press briefing after the talks, Wang highlighted important opportunities China will bring about this year for neighboring nations, or even the whole region. "China will launch a new series of reform in 2014. Transformation of China's economy and exploitation of its market potential will bring new opportunities for the world," Wang said. "We expect to have China's friendly neighbors as the first batch of 'passengers' onboard the express of China's new-round of reform and development," he said. Noting China's latest proposals on regional cooperation, such as building the Silk Road economic zone, the Maritime Silk Road, the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor, and upgrading its free trade agreement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Wang said regional countries' economic development will benefit. Furthermore, China in this year will host summits of APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) and CICA (Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia). He also expressed China's will to handle disputes with neighboring countries through talks with good-will and in a candid manner, on the basis of safeguarding sovereignty and territorial integrity. Bold kicked off his visit to China on Thursday. During the six-day tour, he will also meet with Vice President Li Yuanchao and State Councilor Yang Jiechi, and visit northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

Fire destroys most of ancient Tibetan town of Dukezong in Shangri-la (SCMP)
A blaze that raged for nearly 10 hours has destroyed most of a 1,300-year-old Tibetan town in Shangri-la, in Yunnan province. Hundreds of buildings, including one with monument status dating to the early 17th century, were destroyed in the fire which began early yesterday in Dukezong Ancient Town. No injuries were reported but at least 1,000 people were evacuated. The cost of the damage was initially put at more than 100 million yuan (HK$128 million). "My entire 10-year-old guest house with 47 beds was burned to ashes," said guest-house owner Zhou Peng. "This is the biggest fire we have ever seen. There were at least six gas-tank explosions." The fire broke out at 1.30am and was brought under control by 11am, CCTV reported. Firefighters struggled to navigate the area's narrow streets and find water for their hoses. The town had only one water tank, with a supply of just 800 tonnes. That was exhausted after 10 minutes. The next nearest source was 1.5 kilometres away. Sub-zero temperatures froze the fire engines' water. Winds fanned the flames. Locals estimated that more than 70 per cent of Dukezong was destroyed, including the town's central Sifang Street and a white Tibetan prayer tower. The fire began at the Ruyi guest house, next to the prayer tower. It spread west. Two houses with monument status were destroyed, one of which was 379 years old, CCTV said. The flames stopped 30 metres short of a a guest house owned by Sangjee Yangzom. "Many firefighters are still trying to cool the burned debris because strong winds are bringing back the fire. We are also busy removing gas tanks from restaurants and continue to dump water everywhere," she said. Dukezong, which means "town of the moon" in Tibetan, was built during the Tang dynasty. It became a landmark on the ancient Tea Horse Road, sometimes called the southern Silk Road. Its traditional dwellings have become tourist attractions. Zhou said: "We hope whoever is responsible for the fire will take responsibility and that the government will give compensation." Police secured the area as authorities investigated the cause. More than 2,000 firefighters, soldiers, police, officials and volunteers responded to the fire. On Thursday, in Sichuan province, a blaze broke out at the Serthar, or Larung Gar, Institute, one of the largest Tibetan Buddhist institutes in the world and home to 10,000 monks and nuns. There were conflicting reports about damage. ^ top ^

China's chief justice urges judicial reform (Xinhua)
China's chief justice Zhou Qiang urged efforts to deepen judicial reform and promote transparency in a bid to safeguard equity and justice. Zhou said that courts at all levels should uphold the idea of justice and stick to judicial justice, according to a statement released Monday after an annual conference on China's judicial work for 2013. "Judges across the country should be firm in promoting judicial reform to speed up the building of a fair, efficient and authoritative socialist judicial system," Zhou said at the conference. ^ top ^

Chinese firm to replicate the Titanic for 1 billion yuan for inland theme park (SCMP)
A Sichuan company intends to spend one billion yuan (HK$1.27 billion) building the world's first full-scale replica of the Titanic as part of a theme park in the southwestern province's Daying county.The company, Seven Star Energy Investment, announced in Hong Kong on Sunday that it would fund the construction while a US partner would design the ship. The replica would be permanently docked on the Qi River, and become the main attraction of a planned theme park. "When the ship hits the iceberg, it will shake, it will tumble," Su Shaojun, chief executive of the investing firm, was quoted by Reuters as saying. "We will let people experience water coming in by using sound and light effects … They will think: 'The water will drown me; I must escape with my life'." The project is not the first attempt to recreate the famed ship that stuck an iceberg in the North Atlantic on its maiden voyage in 1912 and sank, killing more than 1,500 people. Australian billionaire Clive Palmer announced a plan to build a serviceable Titanic II cruise ship in 2012. Wuchang Shipbuilding Industry in Hubei will build Seven Star's replica. Construction was expected to last two years, but the report did not say whether work had begun. They will base the design on the Titanic's sister ship, the Olympic. Curtis Schnell, a Hollywood production designer engaged in the ship's design, was quoted as saying historical materials about the Olympic and preserved furniture would be used for reference. Schnell said the design team would copy the floors, mooring ropes and decoration to ensure the attraction was as authentic as possible. The Olympic was launched in 1910 and remained in service until 1935. A report by Sichuan-based West China City Daily in October said the plan was first announced at the 14th Western China International Fair in Chengdu, Sichuan's capital. The local newspaper reported that a museum about the Titanic would also be constructed. Bernard Hill, who played the captain in the Titanic movie, flew to Hong Kong to show his support for the project, Reuters said. He said the theme park would be respectful of the tragedy. "It's been approached in a very delicate and a very sensitive way and they're very aware of the extent of the disaster in 1912. I don't think it will belittle that disaster." Daying is famous for its saltwater lake, known as China's Dead Sea. ^ top ^

Corrupt officials expelled from national political advisory body (Global Times)
Leaders of China's national political advisory body on Tuesday adopted a motion to expel three corrupt officials, including Li Chongxi, former local top political advisor. The chairman and vice chairpersons of the National Committee of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), decided to remove Li, along with Huang Fengping and Yang Gang, from their posts as national political advisor at a meeting. Yang was also dismissed from the post as deputy director of the Committee for Economic Affairs of the CPPCC National Committee. Li, former top political advisor in southwest China's Sichuan Province, was removed from his office for suspected severe violations of discipline, the Communist Party of China's (CPC) organization department announced on Jan. 2. Huang was a former Shanghai health and family planning official. He was arrested by police on Dec. 18 for "suspected crimes." On Dec. 27, the CPC's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection announced that Yang was investigated for "suspected serious law and discipline violations." The decision on Tuesday will be submitted to the fourth meeting of the Standing Committee of the 12th CPPCC National Committee for acknowledgement, according to the meeting, which was presided over by Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the CPPCC National Committee. The meeting also reviewed the work of various special committees under the CPPCC in 2013 and reported major work of the CPPCC National Committee for 2014. ^ top ^

Police probe fatal Guizhou explosion (China Daily)
Police have begun a further investigation into Monday's fatal explosion at a gambling den in Kaili, Southwest China's Guizhou province. Fifteen people were killed in the blast, which occurred at 2:40 pm at the gambling den on a remote mountain slope in Kaili's Laoshan Village, police said. Eight people were injured. As of Tuesday afternoon, they were all in stable condition. The casualties were people who had gathered at the site to gamble, police said. Police and rescue staff are collecting evidence and identifying the bodies. The eight people injured are being treated at two hospitals in Kaili, and one may have lost his eyesight. Five are receiving treatment at the Qiandongnan Prefecture People's Hospital for injuries to their faces and heads, said Jiang Xiaohai, a doctor at the hospital. "My husband called and said he was dying and had been blinded. He said, 'I have only my last breath', and he asked me to take care of our child," said Pan Shasha, the wife of a 26-year-old survivor who sustained injuries to both of his eyes in the blast. Pan said she went to the blast site immediately after receiving the call. She found her husband with blood on his face, and other bodies nearby. "I heard that they were playing the Gundilong gambling game in the den," she added. Gundilong is played using a big box and dice. Gambling games have been found in remote areas in Guizhou and some other regions in China. According to a villager who wished to remain anonymous, the gambling den was set up in the first half of last year and was generally frequented by out-of-towners who had driven to the site. "They used to gamble at a neighboring village, but they moved here several months ago. I heard that their bets were big," she said. Some local villagers told Xinhua that there were often many cars gathered near the gambling den with up to two dozen people inside. Police have detained eight suspects. A working team from the Ministry of Public Security arrived at the scene early on Tuesday to help with the police investigation. ^ top ^

Secret video of jailed Nobel winner's wife screens in New York (SCMP)
Rare video showing what life is like under house arrest for Liu Xia, the Chinese artist and poet married to jailed Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, was screened for the first time on Tuesday in New York City to an audience of Chinese and American writers and activists who have pushed for her release. Organisers said the two video clips of Liu Xia reciting two poems into a camera held by an unknown person at her apartment in Beijing were shot last month. Liu, wearing a sweatshirt and with her head shaved, gives a thumbs-up sign after reading the second poem. Liu Xia has been under house arrest for the past three years. In 2009, her husband, Liu Xiaobo, was convicted of subversion and sentenced to 11 years in prison for his activism after he wrote and disseminated the Charter '08 document calling for democracy. In 2010 he was awarded the Nobel peace prize, a move the Chinese government denounced and saw as an embarrassment. Since then, authorities have kept Liu Xia isolated to prevent her from becoming, on her husband's behalf, a rallying point for Chinese people seeking democratic change. Liu's younger brother was sentenced to 11 years' imprisonment for fraud. Liu Xia has decried the conviction and sentencing as a vendetta against the whole family. Liu has been confined to her apartment and hasn't been allowed to interact with most of the outside world, except for supervised errands and monthly visits with her husband and brother, according to Bei Ling, president of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre. Bei said the visits have become more restrictive, including her being forced to communicate through plastic dividers. “She's very depressed,” Bei said. The video clips were shown before organisers aired a short documentary called The Wife Outside the Barred Window about the saga of her detention. The documentary includes footage of advocates sneaking into her Beijing apartment past security guards to give her a hug and exchange a couple of private words before being escorted out. Newly translated poetry by Liu Xia, a founding member of Independent Chinese PEN Centre, was also read in both English and Chinese at Tuesday night's event. The readings at one point got emotional as one of the readers broke into tears while reading a 2009 poem written by Liu Xia for her husband. In December, her supporters said Liu was suffering from depression and that she demanded a normal life, where she could see a doctor independently, read her husband's letters and have a job. “This just makes me want to ask Chinese authorities: will you only be happy if you drive Liu Xia crazy, or drive her to death,” her close friend, Xu Youyu, said last month. ^ top ^

China's New Year travel rush starts with 3.62 bln trips expected (Global Times)
China kicked off its annual Lunar New Year travel rush period on Thursday, with more than 3.62 billion trips expected to be made on roads, and via trains, planes and ships in the next 40 days. The staggering figure of passengers is set to make Chunyun, which literally means Spring Festival transportation, the largest seasonal human migration on the globe. Chinese authorities have taken contingencies to ensure a smooth beginning of the 40-day travel period around the Chinese Lunar New Year, which falls on Jan. 31 this year. About 3.62 billion trips will be made across the country, including more than 258 million people who are expected to travel by rail. On Thursday, signs about the holiday travel period could be seen in bus and train stations up and down the country, with more members of staff and volunteers on hand to maintain order. Beijing railway authorities arranged 31 more passenger trains, with an estimated 620,000 passengers expected to depart the capital on Thursday. A total of 124 fare gates were open to cut queuing times. Large shelters have been built in front of Guangzhou Railway Station, a transportation hub in the populous Pearl River delta region. Under them, hundreds of passengers slowly streamed into the station under instruction. With a large migrant population in the region, the railway station expected to handle 130,000 passengers on Thursday, according to Yi Jianbo, head of the Guangzhou Railway Station. Newly opened high-speed rail lines will help tackle the travel rush in Guangzhou, including the world's longest linking Beijing and the Guangdong capital. About 2.4 million passengers will travel on the Beijing-Guangzhou line, up 21.5 percent from the same period last year, according to Zhang Zhe, head of Guangzhou South Railway Station. During the period, many Chinese will travel by road. Officials and experts said the country's road transport network will be put under great pressure, especially with heavy smog which has frequently affected China this winter. Cao Rongxiang, a Beijing-based researcher of climate policy, said smog and icy weather would pose challenges. "Government departments should have emergency plans in place to deal with situations like road closures and accidents," said Cao. A total of 860,000 coaches will be traveling on roads and 21,000 ships will be sailing, according to sources with the Ministry of Transport. More than 400,000 flights will take people to destinations during the period. Spring Festival is the most important holiday for the Chinese to travel for family reunion. "There is nothing more joyful than going home to celebrate the new year with my family," college student Zhang Shuai said on Thursday while waiting for a home-bound train at Xining Railway Station in the capital city of northwest China's Qinghai Province. ^ top ^

Top leaders urge more efforts to promote "mass line" campaign (Xinhua)
Top leaders of the Communist Party of China (CPC) have called for more efforts to promote a campaign to boost ties between the Party and the people. The "mass line" campaign was launched in June 2013, with aims to boost ties between CPC officials, Party members and the people, while cleaning up four undesirable work styles -- formalism, bureaucracy, hedonism and extravagance. President Xi Jinping and six other members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee are in charge of supervising campaign implementation in designated provincial-level regions. They have attended provincial Party leadership meetings, conducted study tours and given instructions during past months, with achievement made, particularly in cleaning up undesirable work styles. Official figures released on Thursday showed 22,457 official cars and 519 government building projects had been canceled in the seven provinces by the end of 2013. Meetings held by provincial Party committees or governments have been reduced by 35 percent and official documents decreased 15 percent. Public spending on official receptions, overseas trips, and vehicle purchases and maintenance in the seven provinces has decreased by 3.373 billion yuan (556.9 million U.S. dollars). A total of 6,820 officials in the provinces have been punished for violating the "eight-point" anti-bureaucracy rules as of the end of 2013. Results in streamlining administration and delegating power to lower levels have also been seen in these provinces. A total of 1,193 items of administrative approval have been canceled or delegated to lower levels. Since the campaign started, Xi Jinping, also General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee, has joined Hebei provincial Party leadership sessions during which the officials self-checked the work to promote the "mass line" campaign. Premier Li Keqiang attended sessions in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Top legislator Zhang Dejiang joined in a Jiangsu Province leadership session and top political advisor Yu Zhengsheng attended a session in Gansu Province. Liu Yunshan, Wang Qishan and Zhang Gaoli joined sessions in Zhejiang, Heilongjiang and Sichuan provinces respectively. During the sessions, key members of provincial Party committees examined their own conduct, laid out major problems and their causes, and set down plans for correction. The top leadership urged efforts to deepen the "mass line" campaign in order to better promote overall reform across the country. ^ top ^



Beijing orders shutdown of 'secret' clubs, restaurants within public parks (SCMP)
The Beijing city government has issued an order to close down all private clubs and high-end entertainment venues set up at the city's spacious public parks, amid efforts to curb officials' lavish lifestyles and crack the whip on corruption. It is an open secret that many high-end restaurants and clubs, taking advantage of the scenic views and wide spaces, have been operating at these parks -- even in protected zones for cultural relics. With luxurious interior decor and guaranteed privacy, these establishments have attracted a sizeable clientele of government officials -- although their tab is often covered by businessmen friends.“In the past years, some dining enterprises in Beijing have been [looking to provide] high-end luxury and privacy, and they developed into private clubs," Zhao Yuqi, a senior official with Beijing's discipline inspection commission said at a press conference on Wednesday, according to China News Agency. "Some of those high-end restaurants are located in cultural-relics protection areas or public parks, which trigger strong dissatisfaction among the public. “We need to take effective measures to curb this bad trend immediately,” Zhao said. Local media reports say that costs per person at such park-view restaurants range from 988 yuan (HK$1,260) to 1,680 yuan. To protect their clients' identities, some restaurants would even help cover up their cars' licence plates. Zhang Yahong, a director at the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Landscape and Forestry, said at Wednesday's press conference that 24 restaurants and clubs were discovered in Beijing parks during an initial investigation. One of them is the Imperial Court Club, located in a 270-year-old building at Beihai Park, one of the best-preserved imperial gardens in the capital. The club was operated by a high-end restaurant chain called Yi Shi Liu. The club and another restaurant at Beihai Park have been ordered to suspend operations. Rui Chenggang, a presenter on state broadcaster China Central Television, disclosed in 2011 that a hall within the Forbidden City had been converted into a private club with just 500 members. A membership for the club costs 1 million yuan per year. After public pressure, the club was later suspended. Amid a campaign launched by President Xi Jinping to curb corruption and strengthen the party's discipline, officials have been banned from entering private clubs. The Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development already issued an order last May forbidding exclusive clubs, restaurants and tea houses from being established in public parks. But the order had not been properly implemented until the municipal government's latest crackdown. Zhang, from the landscape department, said restaurants at other Beijing parks had lowered their charges significantly, cancelled private-room services and started to offer medium-priced dishes to tourists and residents. However, two other restaurants run by Yi Shi Liu, in Ditan Park and Honglingjin Park, were still open for business on Wednesday, the Post confirmed by telephone. Officials with the park management and the Landscape and Forestry Bureau did not provide any explanation. ^ top ^

Blanket of smog in Beijing hits start of Lunar New Year getaway (SCMP)
Pollution readings in Beijing soared off the scale again yesterday, with levels of one pollutant reaching 26 times the safe level recommended by the World Health Organisation. Visibility was reduced to 500 metres, shutting roads and causing huge traffic problems as the peak travel season for Lunar New Year began. Residents were warned to wear masks as the density of PM2.5 fine particles - considered most hazardous - reached 671 micrograms per cubic metre at 4am. The reading, taken by the US embassy, was the highest for a year. The choking smog will linger in the city today, with the Beijing meteorological bureau upgrading the blue alert for smog - the lowest of four levels -to yellow last night.The pollution levels began to rise at 9pm on Wednesday. The official Air Quality Index (AQI) issued by the Beijing environmental monitoring centre went beyond the upper limit of 500mcg briefly at midnight. It remained above 400mcg all yesterday morning, meaning pollution was "hazardous". Yang Heng, who works in Beijing but was heading home to Sichuan province for the holidays, said: "It's so weird that the air suddenly turned acidic and visibility reduced so quickly on Wednesday night. "Where has it come from? I'm lucky I'll escape the city today." The choking smog also blanketed nearby cities in Hebei province, with AQI readings in Xingtai, Dingzhou, Shijiazhuang and Baoding remaining off the scale for most of the day.Highways linking Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei were partly shut, putting more pressure on local traffic bureaus at the start the holiday travel season. A yellow smog alert was also issued in Shenyang, Yingkou and Dalian in Liaoning province. Flights at Beijing Capital International Airport were not affected. Still, pilots, even of small commercial aircraft, are receiving training in "blind landing" - or instrument-guided landings - for when they fly between Beijing and other big cities including Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen due to the rising frequency of smog. Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner Huang Wei said heavily polluted days were more likely in the first two months of the year in Beijing as pollution from central heating was exacerbated by stagnant air conditions. Last year, the city had 15 days when PM2.5 went beyond 600mcg, 10 of which occurred in January and February, said Huang. In January alone, the city had 26 smoggy days, with PM2.5 density hitting a record high of above 1,000mcg. The mayor of Beijing, Wang Anshun, has announced that the city intends to reduce the average level of PM2.5 by 5 per cent this year. It is a step towards meeting the city's longer-term target of bringing the annual average density to 60mcg by 2017, even though this is still more than twice the upper limit recommended by the WHO. ^ top ^



China reports two human H7N9 cases, one death (Xinhua)
Two new cases of human H7N9 were reported Thursday in south China's Guangdong Province, and another avian flu patient died on Wednesday after treatment failed, according to a statement from the provincial health authorities. The new cases are a 59-year-old man surnamed Fu in the provincial capital of Guangzhou. He is in stable condition, the statement from provincial health and family planning commission said. Another patient is a 76-year-old woman surnamed Wan, who is in serious condition and is receiving treatment at a hospital in Foshan city, it said. One patient in the city of Yangjiang, who was reported on Jan. 6, died on Wednesday due to respiratory failure, the statement said. So far, Guangdong has confirmed 18 human H7N9 cases since August. Two of them have died. ^ top ^



Tibetan courts deal 'heavy blow' against separatists (China Daily)
Courts in the Tibet autonomous region heard 20 cases last year in which defendants were accused of endangering national security, as this southwestern region pushes forward the rule of law. Sodar, Tibet's top judge, released the figure as part of an annual work report to the regional people's congress on Sunday. Comparison with previous years is not possible, as no such figures were made available in previous reports. Sodar said judicial authorities last year dealt "a heavy blow" to separatist activities and those that sought to sabotage and threaten national security. He said local authorities have established a leading team to handle criminal cases that relate to issues of stability, without disclosing details. Zhang Peizhong, chief prosecutor of Tibet, also said during his work report to the legislature on Sunday that prosecution departments in the region have waged a war against crimes related with national security. The country's top political adviser, Yu Zhengsheng, has called for the improved enforcement of the rule of law in Tibet. Lobsang Jamcan, chairman of the Tibet regional government, said on Friday that the general situation in the fight against separatism remains "grave" - and the task of safeguarding stability is "tough and heavy". This year, Sodar said judicial authorities will crack underground organizations that make use of religious influence as well as organized gangs, and they will "leave no room for separatists to facilitate the society's long-lasting and comprehensive stability." Karmu, a legislator and village head from Sharma, Nagqu prefecture, reiterated that stability means happiness while chaos means tragedy for the people. "Without stability, ordinary people's daily lives would be affected and the economy choked." Chodron Pema, another legislator and village head from Tachi, Tanang county, said he supports the efforts of authorities to strike hard against crime. "Tibetan and Han people are brothers who live together peacefully. No one can destroy that." The top judge also said in his report that courts across the region had handled 1,104 lawsuits and sentenced 1,320 people for crimes involving violence, organized gangs and frequent sexual assaults. Courts in Tibet last year also investigated 39 officials, up by 150 percent year-on-year, for job-related crimes, prosecuting 16 of them, according to the report. It said the prosecutions saved the country more than 14 million yuan ($2.31 million). ^ top ^



Beijing detains prominent Uygur academic (SCMP)
China has criminally detained a prominent Uygur academic and outspoken critic of government policy towards the mostly Muslim minority for “violating the law”, it said on Thursday. Ilham Tohti was taken to an unknown location by several dozen police on Wednesday along with his mother, his wife Guzaili Nu'er said, adding that police had confiscated their mobile phones and computers. China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said that Tohti had been “criminally detained” because he was “under suspicion of committing crimes and violating the law”, suggesting he is likely to face criminal charges. No details were provided. Tohti, 45, is an economist at a university in Beijing and has been critical of China's policies towards Uygurs, who are concentrated in the far western region of Xinjiang, which is regularly hit by unrest. Police did not carry out any legal procedures while forcibly detaining Tohti in front of his two young children, his wife said. “I asked (the police) where they had taken him, but they didn't say a word,” she said. “It had a big impact on my kids, they have been upset and crying since last night, now I don't even have a mobile phone.” Police combed through the family house, confiscating several computers and other items including phones and academic writings, she said. It was not clear what triggered the police action, but Tohti has recently expressed fears on his website and in interviews with foreign media about increased pressure on Uygurs following a deadly attack in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in October. Officials blamed the attack on suspects from Xinjiang. China has for years cracked down on prominent intellectuals who speak out on issues deemed sensitive by the ruling Communist party, including the treatment of minorities and challenges to its grip on power. Tohti has been detained on a number of occasions in the past few years, including for more than a week in 2009 after his website ran reports on riots in Xinjiang which killed around 200 people. His website, Uygurbiz, was offline on Thursday after it published a story about his detention. Tohti, who lectures at the Central University for Nationalities in Beijing, did not answer his personal phone on Thursday and Beijing police were not immediately available for comment. The vast Xinjiang region, which borders central Asia, has been hit by a series of violent clashes in the past year, which have killed dozens and which China's government has sometimes blamed on “terrorists”. Rights groups and outside scholars say unrest is spawned by cultural oppression, intrusive security measures and a wave of immigration by China's Han majority China heavily restricts reporting in Xinjiang and it is hard to obtain independent accounts of events in the area. ^ top ^



Hong Kong triumphs world's freest economy for 20th consecutive year (Xinhua)
China's Hong Kong defended its status as the world's freest economy for the 20th consecutive year, announced by the 2014 Index of Economic Freedom report on Tuesday. Singapore and Australia were ranked as the second and third freest economy respectively. According to the report, Hong Kong was scored 90.1, 0.8 point higher than last year, well above the world's average score of 60. 3. There are 10 specific categories to evaluate the economic freedom, and Hong Kong outperformed among all economies in the category of business freedom, financial freedom and trade freedom. The world average score of 60.3 is the highest average in the two decades history of the Index. Among the 178 economies ranked, scores improved for 114 economies and declined for 59 economies. The Index, published annually by The Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation, is well known for its authority among all assessments of global economic freedom index. Launched in 1995, the Index evaluates economies in four broad areas of economic freedom: rule of law, regulatory efficiency, limited government and open markets. There are 10 specific categories including property rights, freedom from corruption, fiscal freedom, government spending, business freedom, labor freedom, monetary freedom, trade freedom, investment freedom and financial freedom. ^ top ^



Taiwan to allow more individual mainland tourists (Xinhua)
Taiwan will lift its daily quota for individual tourists from the Chinese mainland to 4,000 in the first half of 2014, compared with the previous ceiling of 3,000, the local tourism bureau has announced. The island is also considering increasing the number of mainland cities from which citizens are able to travel to Taiwan as individuals after the Spring Festival, the bureau revealed on Monday. Currently, only tourists from selected mainland cities, such as Beijing and Chongqing, are allowed to travel across the Taiwan Strait as individuals. There is no limit set on tourists traveling in tour package groups. The mainland has been the biggest source of Taiwan tourists, according to the bureau, which added that mainland tourists have injected new vigor for the island's economic development. ^ top ^

Nearly 2 tonnes of drugs confiscated in mainland, Taiwan police cooperation (Xinhua)
Border police from the Chinese mainland and Taiwan Coast Guard have nabbed 126 suspects and confiscated 1,790 kg of drugs since they signed an agreement on mutual judicial assistance in 2009, according to the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) Tuesday. Police also seized about 850 kg of drug ingredients and 1,055 cases of smuggled cigarettes during the same period, a spokesman from the Border Control Department of MPS said at a press conference. Since the two sides signed the Cross-Strait Agreement on Joint Crime Crackdown and Mutual Judicial Assistance in April 2009, practical cooperation has been carried out on information exchange, joint crackdown on crimes and rescue operations, according to the spokesman. Altogether 19 ships and 139 people were salvaged from accidents in the past four years, he added. ^ top ^

Taobao accused of 'forcing' unification with 'Taiwan province' profile option (SCMP)
The Chinese e-commerce giant Taobao, flexing its muscles in Taiwan, has alarmed some of its newly wooed Taiwanese buyers, who suspected that Alibaba was advancing a much bigger political agenda. Some Taiwanese Taobao users were upset that they had to register as buyers from "Taiwan province" on their profile instead of the Republic of China. Since "Taiwan province" was the only option Taobao offered on its user registration page, many feared it was a ploy by Alibaba to "force" the Taiwanese into accepting China's "unification" scheme."Will Taobao succeed in unifying Taiwan with mainland China even ahead of President Ma Ying-jeou?" a Taiwanese Taobao buyer, after observing its increasing popularity on the island, said on Taiwan's PTT forum last week. The post became an instant hit. "Taiwanese retailers who used to buy in bulk from Taobao are losing business since more individuals are now buying directly -- especially as shipping is much cheaper now," added the blogger, citing his own experience. Taobao launched its "International Forwarding Service" months ago. This significantly reduced shipping costs for packages sent to Southeast Asian destinations by allowing buyers to consolidate their purchases into a single shipping order. 'You are sacrificing your national dignity by buying these cheap stuff from Taobao," a Taiwanese blogger responded. "This is all a conspiracy of the Chinese Communist Party," another warned, "Don't fall into their trap." But many others disagreed. "So what? Would you rather embrace your 'local ideology' and starve?," another blogger said. "To be honest, some made-in-China products are not inferior to Taiwan-made goods," one blogger wrote. Many others who joined the back-and-forth seemed to like Taobao and urged the e-commerce giant to soon accept the "payment upon arrival" option in Taiwan. In the mainland, "Taobao to unify Taiwan and China" became a trending topic on Tuesday after mainland media picked up the discussion. "It seems only globalisation can solve the China-Taiwan issue," a microblogger wrote. "There's really nothing to gloat about," another blogger wrote, "I would not object to calling Taiwan a country if it could save me money in online shopping." Different promotions were being advertised on Taobao Taiwan's homepage on Tuesday. One promotion offered a free medium latte for buyers who opt to pick up their Taobao packages in any Familymart stores in Taiwan. "It costs 20 yuan (HK$25) to ship the first 1kg, " read the ad."And it arrives within two days. " Alibaba's Hong Kong office did not return inquiries sent by the South China Morning Post on Tuesday. ^ top ^



China's finances weaker than data show, IMF report says (SCMP)
The mainland's fiscal position is weaker than official data shows but not significant enough to cause alarm, the IMF said in a report released yesterday. The International Monetary Fund also warned that the mainland was now "more vulnerable to a macroeconomic shock" because of its higher debt and bigger deficit. It estimated that the mainland's augmented fiscal debt, which mainly refers to borrowing by local governments, rose to about 45 per cent of its 51.9 trillion yuan (HK$66.6 trillion) gross domestic product in 2012. "The rise in augmented fiscal debt, however, is indicative of underlying challenges in local government finances," the report said. The biggest challenge for the central government, it added, was setting up a better framework to manage and monitor local government borrowing in order to prevent the accumulation of additional risks and ensure adequate financing for priority social and infrastructure spending. Other challenges included reducing local governments' reliance on land sale revenues to pay off their debts. Local government borrowing shot up between 2008 and 2010 as the central government implemented a massive stimulus package to ward off the impact of the global financial crisis. However, some local governments have been unable to repay their debts. The latest statistics from the National Audit Office show that total local government debt had risen to 17.9 trillion yuan by last June compared with 10.7 trillion yuan at the end of 2010. The National Development and Reform Commission said last month the debt risks of local governments were under control in general, but conceded that "there are potential risks in some places". The IMF report said the mainland's augmented fiscal debt was still at a manageable level, but added that the report's estimates excluded the local governments' contingent liabilities and the liabilities of state-owned enterprises. "China has already started the reforms to strengthen fiscal management, especially over local government finances. … There is still room to use fiscal policy to support demand as needed while following a path of gradual adjustment of its augmented fiscal deficit," the report said. Mainland authorities have taken various steps to contain local government fiscal risks. State media have reported that the Ministry of Finance is working on a credit rating system for local governments, which is expected to help the State Council issue the first management regulations on local government debt. ^ top ^

China US investment talks enter 'substantive period' (Global Times)
The 11th round of Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) talks between the world's two largest economies, China and the US, wrapped up in Shanghai on Wednesday. The talks, which experts say could still take a year or two to finalize, are expected to knock down existing hurdles and further open up the markets to both sides. "Negotiations are going smoothly, though disparity of opinion exists," Li Chenggang, director of Department of Treaty and Law of Ministry of Commerce, was quoted as saying by China National Radio on Wednesday. Both parties had reached a consensus to take a proactive, pragmatic and cooperative attitude to push forward the negotiations, out of respect for investor protection and government regulation, Li said. Gao Hucheng, the minister of commerce, said that BIT had entered into "substantive negotiations," according to China Central Television on Wednesday. "Bilateral trade value between China and the US has reached $500 billion, which was hard to imagine a dozen years ago. Having different opinions, contradictions or even conflicts between such large economies is normal," Gao said. BIT made major progress in July last year when China adopted a globally-recognized approach to talks on the basis of pre-establishment national treatment with a negative list. A pre-establishment national treatment indicates that foreign investors are entitled to treatment no less than those of domestic firms in establishment and development, while a negative list approach means that investors can invest in any sectors not explicitly stated on the list. This new round of talks came after China's new leaders pledged to introduce significant economic reforms to further open its market and let the market play a decisive role. Differing from the negotiations in the past, this round of talks addresses details such as which sectors will be granted equal market access to foreign investors, said He Weiwen, co-director of the China-US-EU Study Center under the China Association of International Trade. "BIT is aimed at providing a legal system protection for a fair and transparent investment in both countries," he said. However, talks are not expected to reach a final agreement any time soon, he noted. The US needs to guarantee the fairness and transparency in national security scrutiny on Chinese firms, Yang Yu, a CCTV commentator wrote on his Sina Weibo Wednesday. A number of Chinese companies including Huawei and Sany had encountered setbacks in the US for allegedly threatening national security. Difficulty remains in intellectual property rights protection and fair competition policies, said Huo Jianguo, director of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation under China's Ministry of Commerce. In terms of market access, the service sector, and specifically financial service, insurance, education and healthcare might be the focus of the talks, Huo said. Currently China has a list of sectors in which foreign firms cannot invest, or have to do so in a joint venture with a Chinese company, including autos and much of financial services. China's investment in the US reached $3.65 billion, growing 232.2 percent in the first 11 months of 2013 from a year earlier, meanwhile US investment in China is $3.16 billion, up 8.6 percent year-on-year. ^ top ^


DPRK and South Korea

New bridge connects China, DPRK this year (Global Times)
A new bridge over the river border between China and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) is expected to open this year, local authorities said on Tuesday. About 80 percent of work on the Yalu River Bridge is complete, according to the Transport Department of northeast China's Liaoning Province. Construction began on the 3 km bridge at the end of 2010, and will cost 2.22 billion yuan (356 million US dollars). A joint project between the two countries, the bridge will have four two-way lanes upon completion, according to an agreement signed in February 2010. The new route is expected to boost communication and economic cooperation. The only bridge connecting the nations was built in 1937. Trucks weighing more than 20 tonnes are not allowed on the one-way bridge, considerably restricting trade volume. ^ top ^

DPRK warns ROK and US over drills (China Daily)
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea has demanded the Republic of Korea and the United States halt their annual military drills due in February and March, saying they were a direct provocation to Pyongyang, in a statement that suggested a re-run of a sharp escalation in tensions last year. In 2013, Pyongyang said it would retaliate against any hostile moves by striking at the United States, Japan and the ROK, triggering a military buildup on the Korean peninsula and months of fiery rhetoric. The DPRK has regularly charged that annual drills such as "Key Resolve" and "Ulchi-Freedom-Guardian" staged by the ROK and United States are a prelude to invasion. "We sternly warn the US and the ROK's authorities to stop the dangerous military exercises which may push the situation on the peninsula and the north-south ties to a catastrophe," state news agency KCNA quoted a body in charge of the North's efforts to promote Korean unification as saying. Similar rhetoric from the DPRK set the ROK, the United States and Japan on edge a year ago. As a result, Washington flew Stealth bomber missions over Seoul and strengthened its military presence in the South. Analysts say the DPRK cannot risk igniting a conventional military conflict it would almost certainly lose. ^ top ^



AF Country Director Ms. Lindberg awarded (Montsame)
The Country Director of the Asia Foundation (AF) for Mongolia Ms Meloney C.Lindberg has been awarded the AF's Presidential Award for Exceptional Performance for her contributions during the foundation's financial year of 2013. About it published one of the Mongolian sites Monday. "The AF in Mongolia has taken a long-term and comprehensive approach to support Mongolia's democratic development process for two decades by advising on drafting the Constitution in the early 1990s, organizing study visits and exchange programmes to provide exposure for Mongolians to new ideas and approaches in the USA and Asia, and offering technical and financial assistance for the pioneers of Mongolian civil society. "Ms Lindberg has been working for more than a decade for the AF and last four years she has been serving as the Country Director of AF to Mongolia. Today's AF's main programmes are focusing on strengthening good governance and promoting transparency, improving urban service delivery, fostering civil engagement, promoting environmental rehabilitation of artisanal mining, implementing national anti-trafficking mechanism and supporting the access of information.” ^ top ^


Mrs. Ludivine Candiotti
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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