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
  10-16.1.2015, No. 556  
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Table of contents

DPRK and South Korea

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Bilateral Issues

Top-level delegation going to Davos forum (China Daily)
China will send its highest-level delegation since 2009 to Davos, Switzerland, to attend the annual World Economic Forum as part of its effort to boost its presence in global affairs and woo international investors amid an economic downturn. Premier Li Keqiang will be in Davos for the forum from Jan 20 to 22, a Foreign Ministry spokesman announced on Tuesday. Li will deliver a speech and meet with representatives of the International Business Council. He will also meet Klaus Schwab, chairman of the forum, spokesman Hong Lei said at a daily news briefing. According to Hong, the Chinese premier will elaborate upon his views on global affairs and introduce China's economic situation, including measures on deepening reform. Li will be the first premier to attend the annual economic meeting since 2009, when former premier Wen Jiabao visited Davos weeks after he greenlighted China's 4 trillion yuan ($640 billion) stimulus to counter the global crisis. "At the start of a crucial year for China's reform, the forum offers China a good opportunity to make its voice heard on a global stage," said Chen Fengying, director of the World Economy Institute at China's Institute of Contemporary International Relations, a foreign policy think tank. "Li bears great responsibility in answering the world's questions concerning China's development. The international community is keenly interested in China's ongoing reforms, both economically and diplomatically," she said. The forum, which is scheduled to run from Jan 21 to 24, will draw more than 300 heads of state and other government leaders, along with 1,500 business leaders from more than 140 countries. "Global investors and analysts have different predictions for the economic performance of China, and the world, in 2015. China should take advantage of the forum and make the rest of the world know and understand its future plans," Chen said. The International Monetary Fund predicted that China's growth would slow to 7.1 percent in 2015. According to Hong, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, Li will also pay a working visit to Switzerland, where he will meet Swiss Confederation President Simonetta Sommaruga. They will discuss bilateral cooperation on free trade and finance and exchange views on international and regional issues of common concern. The visit coincides with the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Switzerland. ^ top ^

President of Mongolia to pay a state visit to the Czech Republic from January 18, 2015 (infomongolia)
President of Mongolia Mr. Tsakhia ELBEGDORJ will be paying a state visit to the Czech Republic upon an invitation of the President Mr. Milos Zeman on January 18-20, 2015. Following the visit, President of Mongolia will attend the 45th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on January 21-24, 2015. During the state visit to the Czech Republic, President Ts.Elbegdorj will have an official talk with his counterpart Milos Zeman and to meet with the Czech Prime Minister, the President of the Senate and the Chair of the Chamber of Deputies. He will address the Mongolia-Czech Business Forum and visit the Center for Mongolian Studies at the Charles University of Prague. The President will also meet with Mongolian citizens living and studying in the Czech Republic. The visit is coinciding with the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Mongolia and the Czech Republic and it will give impetus towards deepening and expanding the bilateral relations and cooperation, namely the cooperation in the field of economics, trade, investment, social welfare and infrastructure as well as intensifying cooperation in the multilateral fora. During the World Economic Forum 45th annual meeting, President Ts.Elbegdorj will attend Mining Metal Governors Meeting, Events of Partnering Against Corruption Initiative, the 2015 World Water Program and participate an informal gathering of World Economic Leaders. On the sidelines of the Forum, President of Mongolia will have bilateral meetings with some Heads of States. ^ top ^


Foreign Policy

Premier Li calls for upgraded China-Latin American cooperation (Global Times)
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Friday called for upgraded cooperation between China and Latin American countries, and a fair competition environment for Chinese goods. "The two sides should innovate; promote cooperation in such areas as trade, investment and finance; and upgrade the current substantial cooperation to realize reciprocity," Li said in a meeting with delegates to the first ministerial meeting of the China-CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) forum. He said China has the advantage of capacity in areas including infrastructure and equipment manufacturing. China was ready to cooperate with Latin American countries in these areas. Li called on Latin American countries to provide a fair competition environment and impartial legal protection for Chinese goods such as equipment entering local markets. "China can maintain economic growth of medium-to-high speed. This will provide more opportunities in the market, investment and growth for other countries," he said. The premier also called for more exchanges and cooperation between China and Latin American countries, saying the people-to-people communication is conducive to both sides, as well as regional and world's development and prosperity. The chief delegates thanked for China's successful host of the first ministerial meeting, saying the meeting laid foundation for Latin American countries and China to establish a new partnership in the new era. They said the progress of Latin America-China relations brought concrete benefits for the two peoples. They also voiced willingness to further promote the relations and cooperation with China. ^ top ^

China, Kenya pledge to deepen ties, cooperation (Xinhua)
China and Kenya have pledged to further deepen bilateral relations and practical cooperation, visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Saturday. "We have agreed to make further progress in the comprehensive cooperative partnership between our two countries featuring equality, mutual trust, mutual benefit and win-win outcomes," Wang told media after meeting with his Kenyan counterpart Amina Mohamed. The two sides also agreed to continue to support each other on issues regarding their core interests and major concerns, so as to lay even firmer foundation for the development of bilateral relations, he added. Wang said China is willing to transform bilateral traditional friendship into impetus for common development, and work with Kenya to convert its potential in human and natural resources into economic strengths. The Chinese foreign minister stressed that both sides would further cooperation in seven priority areas of agricultural modernization, infrastructure development, industrial relocation, renewable energy, ecology and environmental protection, people-to-people exchanges, and peace and security cooperation. Meanwhile, the two sides also signed a memorandum of understanding on establishing a bilateral steering committee, Wang said. Kenya is China's important partner in Africa, Wang said, adding that he chose Kenya as the first stop of his trip to Africa to implement the important consensuses and agreements reached by the leaders of both countries. During his visit, Wang expected to "hear the views and suggestions of African friends for the preparation of the 6th Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation to be held in South Africa this year." For her part, Mohamed said she "is very glad and feel privileged" that Wang had chosen Kenya as his first stop in Africa. She said that the relationship between Kenya and China is broad and deep, and Wang's visit will provide opportunities to strengthen friendship and mutual trust between the two countries, as well as to facilitate the implementation of cooperation programs. The Chinese foreign minister arrived here on Saturday. After a two-day official visit in Kenya, Wang will continue his Africa trip, which will also take him to Sudan, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and the Democratic Republic of Congo. ^ top ^

China 'will never be colonists' in Africa, says foreign minister (SCMP)
China will not follow the path of “Western colonists” in Africa, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at the start of a five-nation tour of the continent, parrying criticism that his country's hunger for resources had led to one-sided policies and damaging projects. China is Africa's biggest trade partner, and has sought to tap the region's rich resources to fuel its own economic growth over the past two decades. But Beijing's involvement has been called “neo-colonial” by some African leaders, who fear many of the projects bring little benefit to local people, with materials and even labour being imported from China. “We absolutely will not take the old path of Western colonists, and we absolutely will not sacrifice Africa's ecological environment and long-term interests,” Wang Yi told Chinese Central Television while in Kenya. His comments were published on the ministry's website late on Sunday. Beijing has previously said its cooperation with African nations covered farm, health and infrastructure-related projects. In July, China said more than half its foreign aid, worth more than US$14 billion between 2010 and 2012, went to Africa. China says there are no strings attached to its aid, but some of its projects have drawn attention for their support of governments with poor human rights records and lack of transparency, such as Zimbabwe, Sudan and Angola. Wang's trip includes stops in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Speaking to reporters in Sudan on Sunday, Wang defended China's mediation efforts in South Sudan, rejecting the idea they were intended to safeguard its own oil interests. China is the biggest investor in the oil industry in South Sudan, which split from Sudan in 2011. It has played an unusually large diplomatic role in the country and committed about 700 UN peacekeepers amid a civil war that has killed more than 10,000 people. “China's mediation of South Sudan issues is completely the responsibility and duty of a responsible power, and not because of China's own interests,” Wang said in comments posted to the Foreign Ministry's website on Monday. ^ top ^

News Analysis: China's efforts bring hope for peace in South Sudan (Xinhua)
China's newest efforts to broker peace in South Sudan have created new opportunities for the African country. China on Monday mediated consultations in Khartoum on the conflict in South Sudan with the participation of foreign ministers of China, Sudan, South Sudan and Ethiopia, representatives of South Sudanese rebels and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD). The consultations have reactivated international efforts to reach a peaceful settlement of the violent conflict in South Sudan, and have won appreciation of South Sudan's conflicting parties, which welcomed China's role in bridging the gap between them and ending the violence in the newborn state. Analysts say the special consultations in support of the IGAD-led South Sudan peace process represented a model for what Beijing could do to bridge the differences between the South Sudanese rivals and support IGAD efforts with no need to open a new negotiation forum. "There is a firm belief that the Addis Ababa negotiations are suffering from some difficulties and that they have taken too much time without reaching tangible results," Abdul-Rahim Al-Sunni, a Sudanese political analyst, told Xinhua. The new push by China, he said, is timely. […] As a main result of the consultations, the conflicting parties in South Sudan reached a five-point agreement on pushing forward the peace process, which has laid a foundation for the country's reconciliation and stability. The agreement included immediate cessation of hostilities, acceleration of the formation of a transitional government, concrete steps to relieve the humanitarian situation in the conflict zones and to facilitate delivery of international humanitarian assistance to South Sudanese citizens. […] Meanwhile, IGAD, which also mediates between the South Sudanese rivals, further urged the leaders of its member states, the African Union, the United Nations, the European Union and China to put further pressure on the warring parties, so as to end hostilities as soon as possible. IGAD chief mediator Seyoum Mesfin has lauded China's efforts to realize peace in South Sudan, pointing out that the agreement reached by the conflicting parties in South Sudan is an important step to build upon at the forthcoming IGAD summit. An extraordinary IGAD summit is scheduled for Sunday in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa to discuss the situation in South Sudan. Noticing that China's help is effective and significant for concerted endeavors to stop the bloodshed in the world's youngest state, observers believe that South Sudan will see very good chances to practically advance its peace and development process in 2015. […] ^ top ^

China and Japan restart talks on system to avert Diaoyu Island clashes (SCMP)
China and Japan yesterday resumed talks on a long-halted maritime crisis management mechanism to prevent clashes around the disputed Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea. Representatives from both countries are expected to finish this round of negotiations today and aim to launch the mechanism by the end of the year. Japanese officials have said the two countries agreed on the basic framework of the mechanism in previous talks, which broke off in 2012 after Tokyo purchased the islands, and one or two rounds of negotiations were needed to finalise details. Both countries have strengthened their forces around the islands, known as the Senkakus in Japan, prompting concerns that any clash could spark a more serious conflict. The latest round of talks involves representatives from both countries' defence ministries and navies, according to Tetsuo Kotani, a senior researcher at the Japan Institute of International Affairs who took part in preparatory talks to restart the talks. Kotani said the two sides would seek to finalise details such as which of the defence ministries' personnel would man a hotline and whether the mechanism would also initially apply to military aircraft. The hotline between the two defence ministries would be part of the mechanism's three-pillared structure, Kotani said. The two other key elements are the use of common signals between naval and government-owned vessels as well as regular consultations between the two countries' navies. China has been keen to include air force flights in the mechanism, but Kotani said Japan preferred to focus on maritime operations first and expand the system to the air later. The Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea, a non-binding international agreement that both China and Japan have endorsed, will be used as the common signalling system between the two countries' naval vessels near the disputed islands, according to Kotani. A more general set of navigation rules, the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, would also be used and could be applied to naval and civilian ships, he added. ^ top ^

Japan unveils record defense budget (China Daily)
Japan announced its biggest defense budget on Wednesday as it prepares plans to scrap the constitutional ban on military operations overseas. The 4.98 trillion yen ($42 billion) budget was announced as talks took place between China and Japan on maritime crisis management. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Cabinet approved the budget - an increase of 2 percent on last year's and the third consecutive rise after a decade of military spending cuts. Managing a military budget per capita four times higher than China's, Japan's defense minister accused Beijing in a new year address of being a major maritime threat. Abe is determined to introduce "collective self-defense" this year, reinterpreting the Constitution to allow Japanese forces to be deployed overseas. China said on Wednesday that Japan's military and security policies have long attracted consistent attention from its Asian neighbors and the international community, and the development of the policies is a "prominent indicator" of its intentions. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said, "We hope that the Japanese will regard history as a mirror and follow the path of peaceful development and play a constructive role to promote regional peace and stability." Zhou Yongsheng, a professor of Japanese studies at China Foreign Affairs University, predicted that Abe will not put the brakes on Japan's military buildup and that Tokyo will "court and contain China" simultaneously. British newspaper The Guardian said on its website that the budget increase is in line with Japan's more assertive defense policy under Abe, "as he seeks to counter Chinese influence and remove the postwar legal shackles from his country's military". […] Tokyo also plans to buy 30 amphibious assault vehicles and an early-warning aircraft. On Wednesday, the Japanese Cabinet also approved a budget for the country's Coast Guard, a move widely interpreted as countering regular patrols by Beijing in waters off China's Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, according to Japan's Kyodo News Agency. The Japanese Coast Guard confirmed this month that six new large patrol vessels will be put into use this year and a special squad of 12 patrol boats and 600 personnel will be established to deal with the islands issue. […] ^ top ^

Commentary: Against the abuse and truncation of the freedom of expression (Xinhua)
As the latest issue of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo hits newsstands on Wednesday, the first after its editors were gunned down by extremists in Paris last week, the world is still embroiled in a heated debate about what was behind the appalling terrorist attack. The Jan. 7 carnage, the first and deadliest of a series of dramatic episodes that left a total of 17 killed in addition to three murderous extremists, was deplorable and inexcusable. No grounds whatsoever, whether religious or moral, could justify such heinous crimes. The thinking, of course, should not stop there. In order to ensure that the 17 lives did not perish in vain, soul-searching is needed and indeed imperative, particularly in the West, where sense of supremacy and even chauvinism are not difficult to find. To many, the onslaught against Charlie Hebdo was also one against free speech, and the assailants were attempting to muffle free press by massacring journalistic cartoonists. The rationale is simple: Despite the controversy swirling around it, the magazine is part of the press community, and it was attacked because of what it printed. That is a sound argument. And at a moment of shock and confusion like now, all members of the international community need to speak in one voice loud and clear that they stand against all assaults on the freedom of expression, not least those in the form of barbarous killings of journalists. However, that is not all there is to it. Although there is no "but" in the articles enshrining the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press in constitutions, there is always one between the lines. Words have consequences, and in a variety of cases what one says cannot be warranted by free speech. For example, in most countries shouting bomb onboard a plane constitutes a crime, so is "Heil Hitler!" in a public place in many European countries. Certain appellations are deemed highly inappropriate in many societies. That aspect of expression is especially true in mass communication, given its public nature. While the press should be encouraged to be diverse so as to cater to the different needs of the general audience, they all shoulder an innate responsibility of promoting the general good of humanity. Needlessly offensive reportage that only worsens misunderstanding between cultures and exacerbates mistrust between civilizations is in no way conducive to the well-being of mankind, and thus is in all its forms on the wrong side of the baseline. Given that, basic prudence on the parts of the speaker and the press is essential. For starters, it is easily deducible that provocatively caricaturing the Prophet Muhammad would only feed what is described as Islamic radicalization, a dangerous trend many in the West include in the causal links to the Paris massacre. Thus as far as free speech is concerned, the Charlie Hebdo bloodbath should serve as a mobilization order to defend the freedom of expression, both against the curtailment and the abuse of it. ^ top ^

China, U.S. discuss economic fugitives (Xinhua)
Judicial authorities from China and the United States on Thursday discussed cooperation in the hunt for fugitives and asset recovery. The discussion was organized by China's Ministry of Public Security and brought together representatives from China's Supreme People's Procuratorate; its ministries of supervision, foreign affairs and justice; and the U.S. Department of Justice; and Internal Revenue Service of the Department of the Treasury. The meeting aimed to step up efforts to capture Chinese fugitives hiding in the United States. It will last until Friday, with a focus on laws and evidence hand-over. China has reinforced its hunt for economic fugitives, including many corrupt officials suspected of graft. Last year's "Fox Hunt 2014" operation saw 680 such offenders brought to task. However, China has yet to pen an extradition pact with either the United States or Canada, two very attractive places for suspected economic fugitives to hide. The Ministry of Public Security said it would conduct more talks with U.S. law enforcement authorities this year, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ^ top ^

China hopes for a comprehensive deal on Iran (Global Times)
China on Thursday expressed willingness to facilitate a comprehensive agreement in the upcoming Iranian nuclear talks in Geneva. Wang Qun, director-general of the Department of Arms Control of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will lead a delegation to the Geneva talks on Jan. 18, the ministry's spokesman Hong Lei said at a daily briefing. Iran and the P5+1, including China, France, Russia, Britain, the United States, and Germany, will continue to negotiate a comprehensive deal on resolving the Iranian nuclear issue. Resolving the Iranian nuclear issue at an early date will have a far-reaching positive impact on maintaining international non-proliferation and the situation in the Middle East, Hong said. Hong said negotiators from Iran and the P5+1 are hastening their talks on a comprehensive agreement through bilateral and multilateral channels. "China is willing to work with all parties involved to focus on major problems and facilitate a package solution and a win-win comprehensive agreement in a step by step manner," the spokesman said. Western states suspect Iran has been developing atomic weapons under the cover of its civilian nuclear plan, while Iran dismisses the allegation, saying its nuclear program is solely peaceful and the allegation is baseless. Under an interim deal between Iran and the P5+1 on Nov. 24, 2013, Iran said it would suspend some sensitive nuclear activities in exchange for limited relief of sanctions, with all sides seeking a comprehensive deal by July 20. But talks throughout the year failed to reach a comprehensive agreement. Tehran and world powers have agreed to extend the negotiations to July this year. ^ top ^

China plays mediator in Afghanistan (China Daily)
China on Wednesday announced that it has been mediating between the Afghan government and the Taliban as the United States withdraws troops to end its 13-year war there, the longest in US history. "As a friendly neighbor of Afghanistan, China values its relationship with Afghanistan and hopes to see Afghanistan achieve long-lasting peace, stability and development at an early date," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a daily briefing in Beijing. He said China supports the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process and stands ready to play a constructive role. The United States began to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan last month to end its 13-year war there, the longest in US history. Reports show that 10,800 US military personnel were in Afghanistan at the turn of the New Year, and half those troops are expected to remain until the total withdrawal by the end of 2016. While the war has killed several thousand American soldiers, many times more Afghan military elements and civilians have been killed. As the US role declines, China has become more active diplomatically trying to stabilize the war-torn nation, which shares a short mountainous border with China. China had for the first time hosted the fourth Foreign Ministerial Conference of the Istanbul Process on Afghanistan in Beijing last October to facilitate peace and stability there, with the presence of new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Ghani expressed his hope for a greater role by China in his country's peace, stability and development. The first briefing will cover the development of the economy and society in 2014 and highlight the relevant policies. […] ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

Disciplinary watchdogs seek to fight factionalism within the Party (Global Times)
A total of 68 provincial-level officials were put under investigation last year by China's top disciplinary watchdog, the Communist Party of China's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) announced on Wednesday. In total, the CCDI investigated more than 71,000 officials who violated Party regulations nationwide in 2014, and more than 23,000 officials received Party or administrative penalties. […] The authorities have discovered networks of corruption during investigations into certain high-profile cases, and are launching an education campaign as part of an updated anti-graft movement. "Political discipline should be further enhanced and factions within the Party that are organized for group interests are absolutely not tolerated," a meeting of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee said on December 29. […] Party leader and Chinese President Xi Jinping made an earlier reference to factionalism in a CCDI meeting in January 2014, saying that factionalism is a big problem within the CPC and that there should be zero tolerance of intra-Party cliques that pursue their own interests. As high-ranking officials fall one after another, together with their circles of power-abusing officials, authorities and Party media outlets have intensified their criticism of factionalism, which has attracted attention to the role fighting factionalism plays in the anti-graft campaign. When some "big tiger" corrupt senior officials have been caught in recent years, networks of other officials connected to them have often been revealed. These officials gathered into "gangs" or "cliques" which have been either open or hidden, tight or loose, the Xinhua News Agency said. The Xinhua article also identified some cliques including a faction composed of the secretaries of high ranking officials, a clique of officials in the oil industry and a faction of officials based in coal-rich Shanxi Province. […] Some members of the clique have already been sentenced or probed for corruption […] Corrupt officials set up networks to transfer power between each other, which changes public power into private power, the commentary added. […] [T]he factionalism is a type of political corruption. "Such corruption may be more serious than economic corruption. Factionalism leads to the rule of man and could make regulations and law dead letters," Xu said, professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance. […] China has adopted rules to discourage the culture of cliques, such as requiring officials to move between different administrative regions. "This factionalism and systemic corruption is mainly a result of the centralization of power," Gao said. […] ^ top ^

Chinese spy chief Ma Jian detained in corruption crackdown (SCMP)
Ma Jian, one of the mainland's top spy chiefs, has been detained over alleged corruption as part of President Xi Jinping's ever-widening crackdown on graft, sources with direct knowledge of the situation have told the South China Morning Post. The sources also revealed that several of Ma's close relatives were under investigation. It is not clear what triggered the probes, but it is believed to be linked to a high-profile anti-graft investigation into activities at the top of Founder Group, a Peking University-owned technology conglomerate. Ma, the executive deputy minister of the omnipotent Ministry of State Security and who sources say was in charge of the mainland's massive counter-espionage operations, is believed to be close to Founder chief executive Li You who allegedly financed hugely profitable securities trades carried out by one of Ma's relatives. Founder has been involved in a high-profile spat with Beijing Zenith, a property developer with a mysterious background, but which is also the second-biggest shareholder in the conglomerate's Founder Securities unit. Beijing Zenith publicly accused Founder executives of insider trading and misappropriating company assets to the tune of several billion yuan. Group chairman Wei Xin, CEO Li and president Yu Li were taken away to "assist the authorities with their investigations", Founder said last week. Ma's removal makes him the highest-ranking national security official to be investigated since the downfall of Zhou Yongkang, the country's former security tsar, and signals a likely wave of high-level changes at the key intelligence agency. […] According to sources, Ma is also closely linked to Ling Jihua, the one-time chief of staff to former president Hu Jintao who retired in 2013. Ling was detained last month. Sources said that Li had paid large bribes to Ling's family, including his wife and his son, who died in a Ferrari crash in March 2012. They said the investigation into Ma could also be tied to the one into Ling and his family. There is little public information about Ma except that he worked at the spy agency for more than 30 years. In 2006, he was reportedly promoted to a deputy minister of counter-intelligence operations, making him one of the mainland's most powerful officials. At one time, he was seen as a strong candidate to head the ministry. […] ^ top ^

Chinese city lashes PetroChina unit over chemical leaks (SCMP)
Lanzhou Petrochemical, a subsidiary of oil and gas giant PetroChina, has agreed to fix its problems "immediately" after a rare public rebuke for a string of serious pollution leaks. The Lanzhou city government in Gansu province demanded on Friday that Lanzhou Petrochemical apologise to the city's 3.6 million residents for four serious air and water contamination incidents in the past few months, according to China National Radio. The Lanzhou authorities said that since August, the company - the biggest petrochemical enterprise in western China - had been responsible for leaks of ethylene and ammonia and two machinery failures at one of its plants that had resulted in plumes of black smoke. It is rare for a local government to take a state-owned enterprise to task because the companies are usually key taxpayers and contributors to local economies. In a statement released to some state media outlets on Saturday night, Lanzhou Petrochemical said it "sincerely accepted the supervision of the government and the public", pledging to implement about 20 new rules to monitor its plants and equipment, the China News Service reported. It is the first time a local government has publicly challenged a state owned giant over pollution since the country's revised Environmental Protection Law became into effect on January 1. The law makes local governments at or above the county level responsible for enforcing its provisions. Companies that violate the law face fines that accrue for every day that they fail to rectify problems. […] China Business Journal cited an unnamed company source as saying that the local government wanted to move the operations further out of the city, but the company was resisting the move because it would cost billions of yuan. Lanzhou Petrochemical can process 10.5 million tonnes of crude oil and produce 700,000 tonnes of ethylene a year. ^ top ^

Xi stresses role of county Party chiefs (Xinhua)
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday lauded the role of county level governments, however, he underscored the integral role officials played in ensuring efficiency. Xi, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, was speaking with participants of the first seminar for county-level Party chiefs at the Party School of the CPC Central Committee. Xi said county-level governments had taken on more responsibility in the implementation of reform measures, the promotion of rule of law and the enforcement of strict Party discipline. Thus, Party chiefs must acknowledge their authority and exercise self-discipline in their work. Counties are the joints that link the higher and lower levels of the Party and the government, Xi said, adding that county-level CPC committees were the "front-line headquarters" and county Party chiefs the "front-line commanders in chief". […]Loyalty to the Party, Xi stressed, is the most important criterion for assessing county Party chiefs and key posts at this level must be filled by those committed to the Party. […]Xi also asked county officials to continue to study Marxist Theory and maintain a firm stance on matters of principle, including on the system of "Socialism with Chinese characteristics". […] Furthermore, Xi asked county officials to put the people first and to avoid being preoccupied with the selfish interests of reputation and rank. The president recalled that when he was a party chief, he would often cycle to villages to conduct research in the field. He said he sometimes had to carry the bike to cross rivers and that it was "a little bit toilsome", but it brought him closer to the people. Xi urged officials to be modest about their work and accomplishments, and always respect and listen to public opinion. […] Xi noted that power should only be used to serve the Party, the nation and the people -- not any individual. […]"Being an official and making a fortune are two different roads. You want to be an official, then you must forget any aspirations of becoming rich," Xi said. […]Chu Songyan, a professor with the Chinese Academy of Governance, said the seminar aimed to strengthen governance from the ground up. "There is a Chinese saying that goes 'to run the country well, you must first start at the county'. Which is similar to the] adage: 'A stable country comes with the stability of counties and prefectures'," said Chu. […] ^ top ^

About one million Chinese couples ask to have second child after easing of one-child policy (SCMP)
About one million Chinese couples have applied for permission to have a second child since China's decades-old one-child policy was relaxed, the mainland's health authority said today. This figure was in line with official expectations after the Chinese government's decision to ease the restriction in late 2013, Mao Qunan, spokesman for the National Health and Family Planning Commission, said. Authorities expected the change would lead the extra number of births to peak at two million births each year, Mao said. The number of additional births would rise this year owing to the natural time delay since the policy had been relaxed. […] Couples can now apply for permission to have a second child if one of the parents is an only child. Local governments have been adopting the decision to relax the regulations since March. China's health authorities have also been keeping a close watch on the bird flu outbreak in the country, which “remained stable at present”, Mao said. “We cannot exclude the possibility that certain areas will have individual cases [of highly pathogenic avian influenza] and we will devote special attention to these cases,” Mao added. In a response to media reports of a five-year-old girl in Fujian province, who had contracted HIV through a hospital blood transfusion, Mao said a preliminary investigation showed the child might have become infected during a period when the virus had been undetectable. China's government was now promoting the use of a nucleic acid HIV test, which should shorten the test period from 20 days to about 10 days. ^ top ^

Censored Chinese report links mystery coal tycoon Zhang Xinming to political elite (SCMP)
Mainland censors yesterday pulled a media report that alleged links between mysterious Shanxi coal-mining tycoon Zhang Xinming and a number of high-powered political figures. The report by mainland business magazine Caijing described how Zhang, once the richest man in Shanxi, was allegedly mired in a world of murky coal mine deals, corruption and illegal financing. The article went viral online and was pulled because it alluded to several high-ranking officials and relatives with close ties to Zhang. Among them were three retired Shanxi leaders: former provincial party bosses Tian Chengping and Wang Maolin, as well as a former deputy party boss Yun Gongmin. The cadres were not named in the original report but other media outlets published the names when they reprinted the story, sources said. The Caijing report also said Zhang had close ties to the son of a major political figure, a reference understood to be to He Jintao, son of former anti-graft commission head and Politburo member He Guoqiang. The South China Morning Post previously reported that He Jintao was under house arrest amid the investigation into former China Resources chairman Song Lin. Zhang was detained six months ago after Song was also taken into custody. Zhang is the founder of Shanxi Jinye Coking Coal, the company at the centre of a controversial deal with CR offshoot China Resources Power. CRP was accused of hugely overpaying for three coal mines and related assets from Jinye. […] The Caijing report said Zhang acquired the rights to the field through a company he set up with two co-founders, each with a 20 per cent stake in the firm. According to Caijing, Tian and Yun were behind the co-founders. Zhang beat out two competitors to obtain the rights, and within one day had all the documentation needed to mine the field, the report said. […] The report said that Zhang built his coal mine empire in part by conspiring with police to launch investigations into coal mine owners. He would then step in to "help" the owners in return for shares in the firms or by fleecing them through his Macau operation. ^ top ^

China to push for "comprehensive" real identities on the Internet (Xinhua)
Chinese people's activities online will be subject to reinforced scrutiny as authorities expand the real-name registration system across more social networks and websites. China's Cyberspace Administration (CCA) will "comprehensively" promote the management of real identities online, with social networks -- including microblogging platforms, forums and instant messaging services -- all having to enforce a real-name registration system, CAA official Xu Feng said at a press conference on Tuesday. Real names will only be seen by backend administrators and users may still choose a screen name. Chinese Internet authorities have been pressing for a real identity system since 2011, and new users of WeChat and other instant messaging apps have, since August, been required to provide their real names. Xu was quoted as saying in a China News Service report that his administration checked instant messaging services at the end of last year, and found more than 80 percent of the WeChat users had already registered with their genuine identities. China has more than 275 million users on microblogs with Sina Weibo leading the pack, and 459 million users of mobile instant messaging apps, led by WeChat. The CCA also announced on Tuesday that over the last two months it had shut down 17 public WeChat accounts that masqueraded as government organs or media, and 33 websites involved in the circulation of pornography. ^ top ^

Son of former premier Li Peng hands over anti-graft duties in Shanxi (SCMP)
Princeling governor Li Xiaopeng, of coal-rich Shanxi province, is to become the latest governor to share more power with his deputy as the Communist Party moves to contain the influence of top local leaders. Li would no longer be in direct charge of state-owned enterprises, anti-graft operations or auditing in the province, the provincial government website said yesterday. Instead, he will focus on the overall management of Shanxi's government. Li, son of former premier Li Peng, is a rising star who has been closely watched by political pundits since he was appointed governor in 2013. A governor is usually in charge of all powerful organisations in the provincial government. Analysts said that reducing the number of bodies a governor oversaw helped to balance power and reduce the chance of corruption. […] Governors of at least four other provinces have made moves to share power with their deputies. Li's anti-corruption, auditing and state-enterprise duties will be taken over by executive deputy governor Gao Jianmin. He will also oversee many other sections, including finance, taxation, land resources and major government building projects. Li, former head of China Huaneng Group, began his political career in Shanxi in 2008 and was promoted to governor in 2013. An outsider to the province, Li is not seen as part of the Shanxi clique being dismantled in the corruption crackdown that has brought down many senior officials with deep roots in the province, including Li Zhengce, who was vice-chairman of the province's political advisory body and Ren Runhou, a former provincial vice-governor. ^ top ^

Xi Jinping paves the way for leadership reshuffle (SCMP)
The first change of personnel involving a Politburo member since the 18th party congress suggests that President Xi Jinping has kick-started his preparation for the semi-leadership transition at the 19th party congress when a large number of top officials are expected to retire. Analysts said the recent secondment of Politburo member Sun Chunlan from the post of Tianjin party secretary to be the head of the party's United Front Work Department was the first such step since November 2012, and paved the way for a major reshuffle of personnel in 2017. Sun took over the party portfolio from Ling Jihua one week after the aide to former president Hu Jintao was placed under investigation for graft. Sun's post was taken by Tianjin mayor Huang Xingguo, 60, an ally of Xi's since their days working together in the coastal Zhejiang province. Huang's promotion suggests he is likely to be elevated to the Politburo as the Tianjin party post usually comes with a seat in the 25-person body. Analysts expect Xi to make the reshuffle his priority this year, as the upcoming congress will see five of the seven Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) members - all except Xi and Premier Li Keqiang - retire due to age. Another six members in the Politburo, the second most powerful body, will also step down by then as they will all pass the compulsory retirement age of 68 in 2017. The remaining 12 Politburo members, excluding Xi and Li, will compete for the five PSC seats, the party's innermost cabinet, while about 250 Central Committee members will compete for one of 11 Politburo seats. Steve Tsang, from the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies, University of Nottingham, said top-level changes at the 19th Congress were required by retirement rules and Xi was more aware of this than anyone else. Heading into his third year in office, Xi appears more confident with his status, having emerged as the most powerful leader in the post-Deng Xiaoping era. […] Hong Kong-based analyst Johnny Lau Yui-siu said Xi would shift his focus to personnel matters this year and next, with only two plenary sessions of the Central Committee left before 2017. […] But Lau said Xi had probably already made a shortlist of candidates for both bodies, though he might take some time to test "the ability and loyalty of these guys". "President Xi might take this year and next to decide who he likes in 2017," Lau said. Lau said that Xi would focus on consolidating his influence in the Central Committee, the panel that selects the Politburo, by stacking it with supporters. Analysts said Xi would use his anti-graft campaign to dismantle vested interest groups and tighten his grip on power. […] ^ top ^

China unifies pension system (China Daily)
Public institutions will have to start contributing 20 percent of employees' salary to their pension fund and develop an annuity arrangement, according to the country's latest reform. The current dual pension system has reached its final stage, the official website of the Chinese government unveiled. The new reforms are expected to "increase fairness" in the pension system the website wrote. This is the first time that the public sector has shared a unified pension system with enterprise retirees. According to the guideline, employees of public institutions need to pay 8 percent of their salary as a pension premium. China has the largest senior population in the world, with 194 million people at or above the age of 60, according to the China National Committee on Aging. Pension reform was first launched in 2008 as a pilot program in various provinces and municipalities including Guangdong province and Shanghai. ^ top ^

CCDI plenum confirms dismissal of 2 senior officials from CPC (Xinhua)
The decision to expel two former senior officials from the Communist Party of China (CPC) was confirmed at the fifth plenary session of the 18th CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) on Wednesday. The meeting confirmed expulsion of Shen Weichen, former Party secretary and executive vice president of China Association for Science and Technology, and Liang Bin, former head of the Organization Department of the CPC Hebei Provincial Committee. Liang was also former member of the Standing Committee of the CPC Hebei Provincial Committee. Shen was found to have taken advantage of his post to seek profits for others and accepted "a huge amount in bribes" by an investigation launched by the CCDI in April 2014. His case has been handed over to prosecutors.h Liang has been under probe since November for serious violations of CPC discipline and he is suspected of breaking the law. Both men were members of the 130-strong CCDI. ^ top ^

China Focus: Senior officials, state firms, fugitives to be anti-graft priorities in 2015 (Xinhua)
China's top corruption eradication authority on Wednesday put forward seven priorities for 2015, including tighter scrutiny of senior officials and intensified efforts to track down corrupt fugitives hiding abroad. A communique, issued after the fifth plenary session of the Communist Party of China's (CPC) Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), which ended on Wednesday, listed the priorities as follows: -- The top task for 2015 will be the tightening up of internal management and ensuring central leadership policies are implemented. The CCDI demanded that senior officials "toe the line" and that cronyism, fakery and sycophancy would not be tolerated. -- All state-owned enterprises (SOEs) under the care of the central government will be subject to inspections and supervision will be tightened on SOEs across the board. -- The heads of Party and government departments, and state-owned enterprises will be held accountable for any serious corruption cases that happen under their charge. -- The rooting out of harmful working practices, including abuse of public money and bureaucracy, will continue. -- Officials in key positions who use their influence in infrastructure projects and public land deals, embezzle state-owned assets, or buy and sell government posts will face serious penalties. -- Disciplinary inspection organs will strengthen international cooperation in the hunt for fugitive officials and asset recovery. -- The CCDI will build a loyal, clean, responsible discipline inspection team. Incompetent inspectors will be replaced and those who look the other way would be punished. The session, which was attended by 125 CCDI members, reviewed and passed a report presented by Wang Qishan, the CCDI chief. President Xi Jinping also addressed the assembled members, which included many senior Chinese leaders, about the country's corruption eradication efforts. The session evaluated that the achievements of 2014 were made possible thanks to the Party's firm leadership, joint efforts by all Party organizations and members, the public's support and the hard work of discipline inspectors. The communique said the campaign required political composure, restraint and patience, but stressed that it was not just a "whirlwind campaign" and efforts should not spur "mass movements" that disturb social order. "The anti-corruption campaign should continue forward steadily, step by step," the document said. […] According to the CCDI, cases involving 68 high-level officials are under investigation or have been closed. A total of 71,748 Chinese officials were punished in 2014 for violations of the eight-point anti-graft rules. ^ top ^

China to enhance court trial openness: official (Xinhua)
China work to make court trials more open, a senior judge said Wednesday. Courts should actively innovate the manner of publicizing trials and trial processes through video, audio, pictures, text and microblogs, Liu Xuewen, a senior official of the Supreme People's Court, said at a meeting. Videos of trials should be comprehensively promoted, he added. Courts at all levels should keep working on the litigation system, which he said is decisive for confirming evidence, establishing facts and reaching fair judgements. All litigation should focus on the trial, he said. Liu asked courts to better guarantee the rights of all litigants, reminding judges to adhere to judical etiquette and dress and behave appropriately in court. ^ top ^

More taxi drivers strike in China over increasing competition of car-rental drivers using apps (SCMP)
More taxi drivers have held strikes across China as their frustrations grow over poor pay and increasing competition from car-rental drivers using smartphone applications to offer unlicensed taxi services. Thousands of drivers in the cities of Chengdu, Changchun, Jinan, Nanjing and Shenyang have stopped work, with some gathering on the streets. The strikes first started in Shenyang on January 4 and lasted for several days. Taxi drivers in Chengdu held strikes on Monday and Tuesday. Tensions rose during the strikes as passengers failed to find taxis. […] Taxi drivers feel increasingly threatened by car-rental drivers offering taxi services by using smartphone apps. The apps allow drivers without taxi licences to directly pick up passengers. Often they offer cheaper prices than regular taxi services. The licensed taxi drivers said they had no control over the levels of charges imposed on customers because they needed to pay rent of several thousand yuan each month to their taxi companies, with a large part of the fees going on state taxes. Despite the continuous taxi strikes, experts said drivers using car-rental apps tended to provide a better service, such as free Wi-fi and phone charging services. The added competition could force reforms within the taxi industry, including the lowering of prices and also making taxi drivers provide a better service, they said. Qu Hongbin, chief economist for Greater China at HSBC, told China News Service that breaking the monopoly in sectors related to people's livelihoods, such as the taxi industry, was an important starting point in the country's social reform. […] Yesterday the Chengdu Municipal Transport Committee announced a ban on private cars and rental cars providing unlicensed taxi services. It also provided hotline telephone numbers for people to call to report cases of illegal car rental taxi services, West China City Daily reported. ^ top ^

Article alleges Zhou linked with Bo (China Daily)
Zhou Yongkang, China's ex-security chief who is under investigation on allegations of seriously violating Party political, organizational and confidentiality discipline, once formed a clique with Bo Xilai, the former Party chief of Chongqing who was sentenced to life imprisonment for corruption, according to a report by Phoenix Weekly, a magazine run by Hong Kong broadcaster Phoenix Television. An article in the latest edition of the magazine said Zhou and Bo, both former members of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, the top Chinese leadership body, had an off-the-record talk in Chongqing. During the talk, the article said, Zhou and Bo agreed that a theory proposed by Chairman Mao Zedong that the contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie is the principal contradiction in Chinese society is correct and that the policy of reform and opening-up, proposed by the former top leader Deng Xiaoping, should be adjusted. The pair celebrated their political rapport and said they would "play a big game", the article said. The report did not attribute the reported conversation to anyone or provide any official confirmation. Given that China's reform and opening-up was decided at the Third Plenary Session of the 11th Communist Party of China Central Committee in 1978, Zhou and Bo's objections to the policy cannot be tolerated by the Party, the article said. It added that Zhou did not report his talk with Bo to the Central Committee but told close associates that Bo could help him "charge forward". The article said Zhou, as the former security chief, had access to top-secret information about the country and the Party. Zhou's alleged violation of confidentiality may suggest he gave his accomplices advance information on personnel arrangements that would be announced during the 18th CPC National Congress and leaked economic secrets to others for huge profits, the article said. It also alleged Zhou informed Bo when Wang Lijun, Chongqing's former deputy mayor and ex-police chief, entered the US consulate in Chengdu in an attempt to defect in 2012. ^ top ^

President Xi confident of China's nuclear power future (Xinhua)
President Xi Jinping on Thursday pledged that China will sharpen the competitive edge of its nuclear industry, which has seen healthy growth over the past six decades. The country will adhere to peaceful and safe use of nuclear power, said Xi in written comments marking the 60th anniversary of the beginning of China's nuclear projects. Nuclear industry is "an important foundation for national security", Xi said. The industry has contributed a lot to economic development and national security, he said. Currently China has 22 operational nuclear power units, with a total generation capacity of 20.1 million kw, while 26 are under construction, which -- once operational -- will have an additional capacity of 28 million kw. Premier Li Keqiang commented that the government encouraged domestic nuclear power equipment producers to explore the overseas market. The government will keep a close eye on the safety of nuclear facilities and related policies, Li said. "We will work hard to build the country into a powerful nuclear industry player," he said. In January 1955, China kicked off a number of nuclear projects. In 1964, the country successfully tested its first A-bomb and then the first H-bomb in 1967. Since the late 1970s, the focus of nuclear projects shifted to civilian use. In 1991, the first nuclear power plant started operation in east China's Zhejiang Province. ^ top ^

China reports over 100,000 new HIV/AIDS infections in 2014 (Global Times)
China reported 104,000 new HIV/AIDS infections in 2014, up 14.8 percent from the previous year, the country's central health authority revealed on Thursday. Wang Guoqiang, vice head of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, said that the overall rates of infection and number of HIV/AIDS cases have stayed at a low level. China has provided anti-viral treatment for an additional 85,000 HIV/AIDS patients last year, an increase of 21.2 percent compared with 2013, Wang said at a national conference on disease control. Wang said despite the low pandemic situation, the spread of the disease in certain areas is still high. Moreover, while mother-to-child and drug needle infection rates remain at a relatively low level, sexual transmission has become the main infection channel. The official also noted that infections among elderly people and young students in China are on the rise. Wang urged full coverage of virus monitoring at the country's blood collection stations and full prevention to cut mother-to-child transmissions in 2015. He also pledged to encourage more social organizations to take part in prevention work among high-risk groups and establish an effective intervention system to curb sexual transmissions. China has pledged to control new HIV/AIDS infections while increasing detection of the disease. Also at Thursday's conference, Wang called for enhanced monitoring efforts, timely reporting and quick response to prevent possible outbreaks of other infectious diseases, such as H7N9 bird flu, measles, dengue and Ebola. ^ top ^

PLA names graft suspects in elite ranks (SCMP)
The military made a rare move yesterday by listing 16 senior commanders to come under investigation for graft over the last year. The People's Liberation Army has singled out corrupt individual officers over the past two years but never so many at one time. The list includes familiar names as well as new additions, including two from the logistics department, a PLA unit that oversees military spending. Lieutenant General Liu Zheng, who replaced Gu Junshan as the department's deputy director in late 2012, has been investigated since November, according the PLA Daily's microblog. Gu was also charged with bribery and embezzlement in March. Prosecutors have also detained Major General Fu Linguo, the deputy political commissar of the department's general office, since May. Yu Daqing, former deputy political commissar of the Second Artillery Corps, China's missile force, has been investigated since December. The other generals on the list include Lieutenant General Fan Changmi, deputy political commissar of Lanzhou Military Area Command; former deputy commander of the Chengdu Military Area Command Yang Jinshan; and various officials and academics rumoured of involvement in the corruption scandals of Gu and former Central Military Commission vice-chairman Xu Caihou. Macau-based military observer Antony Wong Dong said the list was just "the tip of the iceberg" of widespread graft in the PLA. "[President Xi Jinping ] was forced to wage such a massive war on graft in the army because corruption has deeply corroded the PLA's morale," he said. A PLA Daily commentary hailed the list as a sign of the army's determination to weed out corruption: "It is shocking, but also encouraging." Zhejiang Television also reported that Guo Zhenggang, 45, son of former CMC vice-chairman Guo Boxiong, was promoted to deputy political commissar of the province's military region. He was promoted to major general. The announcement comes amid intense speculation that Guo Boxiong may be implicated in Xu's downfall. Military experts said Guo Zhenggang's promotion did not mean his father - or even he - was "out of the woods". "Xi has broken a lot of game rules that set by his predecessors," a retired senior navy colonel said. "But the arrests of Xu and former security tsar Zhou Yongkang reflect that everyone can be targeted, irrespective of whether they are retired or incumbent officials in the government or the army." ^ top ^

Pesticide levels 'excessive' in a third of Guangzhou vegetables: study (SCMP)
Pesticide levels that exceeded national safety limits were found in a third of vegetable samples taken from Guangzhou markets in a new study by the environmental group Greenpeace. One sample of cowpeas, at a market in Tianhe district, was found to have levels of the insecticide omethoate that were 64 times the national standard. Vegetables sold in Beijing and Shanghai markets were much safer than those in Guangzhou, said the study, released this week. Unlike Beijing and Shanghai, which import more than half their vegetables from other provinces, Guangzhou produces more than 90 per cent of the vegetables it consumes. Most are grown by individual farmers in suburban Zengcheng and Conghua districts. Greenpeace said individual farmers tended to use pesticides more intensively and mixed different pesticides "purely out of experience or based on introductions by pesticide dealers". Beijing and Shanghai relied more on "production bases", where technical staff would calculate the amount of pesticides used. Pesticide use in Guangzhou increased by almost 12 per cent every year between 2007 and 2011, the report said. Beijing registered an annual rise of a little over 1 per cent and Shanghai saw an annual drop of nearly 6 per cent during the same period. The group bought 133 vegetable samples from supermarkets and wet markets in the three cities between September and December last year, and sent them to an independent institution for testing. It found that vegetables in Shanghai were the healthiest, with only one in 42 samples found to have excessive levels of pesticide residue. About 6 per cent of samples from Beijing had residues above the national standards. Greenpeace praised Shanghai for establishing a tracking system for all vegetables sold in the city, which enabled local consumers to use a serial number to check where their vegetables were grown. It noted that the city had also recommended pesticides with lower toxicity to its producers within and outside the city. Wang Jing, a Greenpeace campaigner, said: "Shanghai's experience shows cities can improve vegetable safety and reduce pesticide residues if governments take serious moves in strengthening supervision and establishing tracking systems." The Ministry of Agriculture has said the country aims to halt the increase in its use of pesticides and fertilisers by 2020. The strength of fertilisers used in the country is among the highest in the world. ^ top ^



Shanghai nixes famed lantern festival after deadly stampede (SCMP)
China's financial hub of Shanghai said Sunday it was canceling its famed Lunar New Year lantern festival in the wake of a stampede that left 36 people dead. The announcement illustrates the spreading effects of the January 1 disaster, in which surging crowds trampled people along the city's legendary Bund riverfront walkway. Events as far away as in Beijing have been canceled and security tightened in subway stations and other crowded public spaces. The upcoming three-day festival in the city's Yuyuan Garden, a warren of narrow alleys and ancient buildings in the heart of the ancient walled Chinese city, drew more than 1.3 million people in 2013. The lantern festival comes on the 15th day of the Lunar New Year marking the close of the annual festivities. The festivities typically draw massive, sometimes unruly crowds and in 2004, 37 people were killed in a stampede in the Beijing suburb of Miyun. The company that runs the Yuyan Garden and the Shanghai city government said in separate statements that the event was being canceled out of “safety concerns.” Neither directly mentioned the stampede, pointing to official worries over continuing public outrage over security lapses and a lack of government explanations. Authorities allowed only one day of tightly-controlled public mourning at the site, which has since been fenced off on the pretext of making aesthetic improvements. Some victims' family members and others have reported being followed and harassed by security personnel, a typical tactic by authorities who tolerate little criticism and fear any chance of unrest coalescing around sympathy for those killed. ^ top ^

Officials' alleged banquet on night of fatal stampede investigated (Xinhua)
Shanghai authorities are investigating allegations of an opulent banquet held for district officials on New Year's Eve, the municipal disciplinary watchdog said Wednesday. The investigation was sparked by reports by media outlets that at the same time as a fatal stampede, which left 36 dead and 49 others injured, Huangpu District officials were dining at a high-end restaurant in the same district. A spokesman with the Communist Party of China's (CPC) Shanghai Municipal Commission for Discipline Inspection confirmed that an investigation was underway. According to media reports on Tuesday, the officials had eaten at a Japanese restaurant, where private room patrons spend on average 3,000 yuan (484 U.S. dollars) per person. ^ top ^



Xinjiang legislature approves burqa ban (Xinhua)
The legislature of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region has approved a regulation banning the wearing of the burqa, an Islamic garment that covers women's faces, in public places in the regional capital of Urumqi. Burqas are not traditional dress for Uygur women, and wearing them in public places is banned in countries such as Belgium and France. The regional People's Congress told Xinhua Saturday the regulation will go into effect after being amended. It was drafted by the municipal legislature of Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang, last year. The regulation is seen as an effort to curb growing extremism that forced Uygur women to abandon their colorful traditional dress and wear black burqas. ^ top ^

Defense Minister stresses improved ability to ensure stability in Xinjiang (Xinhua)
Chinese State Councilor and Defense Minister Chang Wanquan has called on the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC) to contribute more to social stability in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Chang asked the XPCC -- a paramilitary force that combines the functions of production, administration and defense -- to fulfil its fundamental role in maintaining social stability and border defense during a recent inspection tour in the XPCC. While lauding the XPCC's contribution to Xinjiang's stability and prosperity in the past 60 years, Chang urged the XPCC to reform, develop, and play an exemplary role in promoting coordinated development and ethnic integration. The XPCC must be "the stabilizer" of frontier security, "a melting pot" of all ethnic groups, and "a demonstration zone" for advanced productive forces and culture, Chang said. ^ top ^

Six 'militants' shot dead by Chinese police in Xinjiang as they allegedly try to detonate bombs (SCMP)
Chinese police have killed six alleged “militants” who tried to set off bombs in a shopping district in the restive far-western Xinjiang province this morning, the local official news website Tianshannet reported. No other casualties were reported in the region, which is home to about nine million ethnic minority Muslim Uygurs. Residents in the area contacted police after reporting that they had seen a man carrying explosives in a shopping area in Shule County, near Kashgar. Police shot dead the man, who was allegedly wielding an axe, before he had time to set off the explosives or attack the officers, the website reported. Five of his alleged co-conspirators, who had also reportedly tried to set off explosives they had been carrying, were also shot dead by the police, Tianshannet reported The local authorities gave no further details about the suspects. Xinjiang has been the scene of deadly clashes between members of the Uygur ethnic minority and security forces in the past few years. The Uygurs have complained about religious and cultural repression. ^ top ^

Xinjiang to require real names for firework purchases (Xinhua)
Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region will require people who buy fireworks and firecrackers for Chinese New Year to register using their real names, authorities said Tuesday. The move is meant to reduce safety risks caused by illegal firework outlets and poor quality fireworks on the market, and to prevent terrorists from obtaining raw materials to make explosive devices, said Li Jianghui, an official with the region's work safety department. Customers should register with their ID cards if they want to purchase fireworks or firecrackers, he said. The work safety department has demanded all firework retail outlets install a system to track the flow of commodities and record the type and quantity of products purchased by each customer, he said. Xinjiang has selected 19 fireworks manufacturers from dozens across the country to sell products in the region this year, said Guo Zhirong, head of the regional fireworks industry association. Sales of fireworks in Urumqi, the region's capital, will be allowed starting February 4. Sales times in other areas vary. Chinese people traditionally light fireworks and firecrackers to celebrate the Spring Festival, China's lunar new year, which falls on Feb. 19 this year. The noise from the fireworks is meant to scare away evil spirits and bad luck. During last year's Spring Festival holidays, Beijing required customers purchasing more than five boxes of fireworks at a time to register using their ID cards. Media reported that Urumqi implemented the real-name fireworks purchase policy in the city last year. ^ top ^

Turks, Uyghurs held in smuggling, terrorism scheme (Global Times)
Chinese authorities have made arrests in a stowaway case involving 10 Turkish suspects and nine Uyghur suspects from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, authorities told the Global Times on Tuesday. Ten Turkish suspects were arrested for organizing illegal border crossings. Other Uyghur suspects, including a wanted Uyghur terrorist, are being held for organizing, leading and participating in terrorist organizations, authorities said. Police in Shanghai's Public Security Bureau captured the suspects in November when nine Uyghurs attempted to sneak out of China with altered Turkish passports with the help of two other Chinese suspects. The investigation showed that the suspects, including a Uyghur living in Turkey and a Turkish suspect, charged 60,000 yuan ($9,680) per person for nine stowaways departing from Shanghai Pudong International Airport. They also paid $2,000 each to nine Turkish people to get visas with fake invitation letters at the Chinese Embassy in Turkey. The passports were later sent overseas for forgery and alteration after the nine Turkish citizens entered China with the authentic ones. Terrorism-related videos were found on the suspects' phones, with one suspect having repeatedly spread audio and video recordings meant to incite discrimination and ethnic hatred, according to police. Some confessed that they planned to go to Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The case remains under investigation, and has drawn attention from Chinese security authorities for its well-structured planning, rigorous organization, and trans-national collaboration. Some suspected Uyghur terrorists have reportedly left China illegally to make their way to join jihadists in Syria, Iraq and other places via Turkey, with the intent of later committing terrorist acts within Chinese territory, authorities said. ^ top ^



CY Leung repeats claim of 'external forces' influencing Occupy - but provides no evidence (SCMP)
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying claimed yesterday there was significant information indicating that foreign powers were behind the organisation of the Occupy Central movement, but he did not provide substantial evidence to support the claim. At the height of the pro-democracy protests in November, Leung said he had proof foreign forces had long been meddling in the city's politics and he would substantiate his claims with evidence at an appropriate time. "The interference of external forces into Hong Kong's politics - including a large-scale and illegal public movement such as Occupy Central - should have drawn [more] attention in the society," Leung said ahead of the Executive Council meeting yesterday. "In the past few months, large amounts of materials have been revealed … and those people concerned did not deny the validity of such documents." Leung did not specify what those materials were, but he was apparently referring to the leaked emails that showed Occupy co-founder Benny Tai Yiu-ting, a legal scholar at the University of Hong Kong, had forwarded HK$1.45 million in donations from at least one anonymous donor to his employer over several months last year to cover some of the expenses incurred by the Occupy movement. In an event on Monday that was open only to two pro-government newspapers - Ta Kung Pao and Wen Wei Pao - Leung reportedly said the leaked emails showed "the trace of external forces" in the Occupy movement. Those "external forces" included foreign governments, their subsidiary organisations or foreign-based non-governmental organisations, Leung said. In that meeting, Leung also reportedly pointed out that the donations to Tai last year were made via cashier's cheques issued by an HSBC branch in Kwun Tong - the same bank branch from which Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai Chee-ying allegedly made donations to pan-democrats over the past few years. But Leung has so far failed to explain how the donations were actually related to the foreign interference. A spokesman for Leung's office said no further information would be provided. "Leung's allegations were completely groundless. Maybe it is part of his game plan to canvass public support for the political reform," Tai said. He reiterated yesterday the donations were from a local donor, but declined to reveal the donor's identity. An internal HKU document last month showed the university's management was satisfied that Tai's donations complied with the institution's rules. But a source close to the government said that as Benny Tai had denied receiving financial support from external sources, he should reveal the identity of the real donors. ^ top ^

Two-thirds of young Hongkongers unwilling to work in mainland China: survey (SCMP)
Two-thirds of young Hongkongers do not want to work across the border in China as many have doubts over the mainland's quality of life and rule of law, a survey has found. And of those who were willing to make the move, just under 15 per cent have actually tried to look for work there. Only about 2 per cent were very keen to look for work on the mainland. The latest survey shows little has changed from the last decade, when a similar survey by the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups in 2009 found only about one-third of young people would consider working in the Pearl River Delta. The Bauhinia Foundation Research Centre commissioned the Chinese University's Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies to conduct a telephone poll of 1,001 Hongkongers aged 18 to 29 from August to September last year. None of them had actual experience of working on the mainland. The survey found that 46.3 per cent were "unwilling" and 18.4 per cent "very unwilling" to seek employment on the mainland. In contrast, 30.9 per cent were "willing" and 2.3 per cent "very willing" to do so. The remainder did not know how they felt. […] Of those unwilling to work across the border, 22.8 per cent lacked confidence in the rule of law; 15 per cent held a negative image of mainland society and quality of life; and 18 per cent said they were not used to the way of life there. Some 17.2 per cent did not want to leave their families. According to a 2011 Census and Statistics Department report, about 175,100 Hong Kong residents worked on the mainland, with 88.9 per cent of them literally just over the border, in Guangdong. […] ^ top ^

CY Leung's policy address targets housing supply, the retired poor and attracting talent (SCMP)
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying pledged to boost long-term land supply to ease the housing crunch and announced new measures to attract talent from the mainland and overseas in his third annual policy address. Those measures include a pilot scheme “to attract the second generation of Chinese Hong Kong permanent residents who have emigrated overseas to return to Hong Kong” and the suspension from tomorrow of the capital investment entrant scheme. […] The scheme had attracted nearly 40,000 people, of whom more than 90 per cent were from the mainland, official data showed. Leung also promised to do more for more retired needy citizens, earmarking HK$50 billion for such future needs. In a speech that went over many initiatives on housing already spelt out earlier, Leung hinted that the government may also have to reconsider country parks as it scours for more developable land. […] On public housing, Leung announced a new type of subsidised housing […]. A key plank of Leung's speech was on the poor and elderly and their need for enhanced welfare measures. Earmarking HK$50 billion for elderly retirement needs […]. On youth, and the controversial issue of national education, he said that authorities “will renew the curriculum content of Chinese history and world history and enrich the learning experience of students. The training of teachers will also be enhanced. The objectives are to reinforce students' interest in and understanding of Chinese history and culture and broaden their global outlook.” He also spelled out a shift in strategy as he announced a subsidy for students to join at least one mainland exchange programme each in the primary and secondary stages, and financial and professional support to double the number of primary and secondary sister schools in Hong Kong and the mainland to about 600 pairs within the three years. […] Leung said the government will set up a HK$300 million youth development fund to support innovative activities not covered by existing schemes, including subsidy in the form of matching funds for NGOs to assist young people in starting their own business. […] Leung arrived at the Legislative Council amid tight security this morning, as he made his first visit to the building since the end of the 79-day Occupy protests last month. But his speech was delayed by 10 minutes as about 20 pan-democrat lawmakers made further calls for genuine universal suffrage. They opened yellow umbrellas – the symbol of the Occupy movement – then walked out of the chamber, unfurling two yellow banners repeating the call for Leung's resignation. “Shame on you,” they said while raising their fists in the air. People Power's Raymond Chan Chi-chuen and Albert Chan Wai-yip waved posters saying “CY Leung step down” and “We want true universal suffrage” as they shouted pro-democracy slogans. Both were carried out of the chamber by members of Legco security staff. […] ^ top ^

'It's better than nothing': British Foreign Office backs Beijing's reform framework for Hong Kong (SCMP)
Britain's Foreign Office says it believes Beijing's framework for electoral reform offers a "genuine choice" in the 2017 chief executive election. Stephen Lillie, the Foreign Office Asia-Pacific director, said the decision of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress meant a fair choice of candidates could emerge from the proposed 1,200-member nominating committee. "Is it possible to devise detailed arrangements within the terms of the [committee's] decision that allow up to three candidates to emerge from the nominating committee, who do not all look exactly the same with the same range of policies and the same political affiliation, from the pan-democrats to pro-Beijing parties?" he asked the British parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee. "Our assessment is that it is still possible to come up with arrangements that would allow that." Britain's welcoming of a "genuine choice" of candidates shows London is throwing its full weight behind the current reform proposals, in its clearest attempt yet to heal a diplomatic rift with Beijing over Hong Kong. Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire told the Foreign Affairs Committee he had urged members of the Legislative Council to look at Beijing's proposals. "What we are saying is we want a package, to the benefit of all people of Hong Kong, to be endorsed because we very much want to see this road to a purer form of democracy undertaken by 2017 and then ultimately in 2020," he said. "That's the stark choice because if two-thirds don't agree with Legco, none of this is going to happen." While the framework "may not be perfect" or "pure", Swire said, "something is better than nothing" and it did represent a genuine improvement. However, the Foreign Affairs Committee criticised the vagueness of the Foreign Office stance. "One can't help but feel the [Foreign Office] is being intentionally ambiguous in order to avoid taking a clear stance on this," said Conservative MP John Baron earlier in the hearing. Despite the committee's scrutiny of the Foreign Office stance, Swire insisted: "I think we are on a journey to greater democracy and accountability." However, Swire agreed with the committee that "proper democracy" wasn't yet an option available to Hongkongers. Veteran Hong Kong democracy advocate Martin Lee Chu-ming expressed disappointment with London's stance. "I think I can sum up the foreign policy of the British government in three words: more China trade," Lee said. ^ top ^

Few migrants who joined suspended investor visa scheme got Hong Kong ID cards: source (SCMP)
Most of the 25,000 people granted entry to Hong Kong under a now-suspended investment visa scheme stayed too briefly to help the economy, a government review found. "Only very few of them obtained a Hong Kong identity card in the end," a government source familiar with the study into the Capital Investment Entrant Scheme told the Post yesterday. Other sources said many of the investors were Chinese nationals interested only in taking advantage of the city's beneficial visa arrangements with other countries. The scheme was suspended yesterday, a day after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying announced in his policy address that it would be put on hold. Set up in 2003 to help the economy after the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak, the scheme offered residency to people who invested HK$10 million in government-approved stocks, bonds, insurance and, until 2010, real estate. It was open to people with right of abode anywhere apart from four rogue states and the mainland. But Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok said 92 per cent of applications approved under the scheme were from Chinese nationals with residency elsewhere - most often three African countries, which gave out residency even to people who never lived there. Lai said more than 12,500 applications were still being processed. Some HK$206 billion was invested under the scheme as of September. But "the situation has changed from that in 2003", Lai said yesterday. "What we want now are investors who will establish businesses … which subsequently offer job opportunities." The government source said the review found that "very few" investors obtained identity cards, though it could not establish how many remained in the city. The financial impact of the suspension would be minimal, the source added. An Immigration Department spokesman confirmed Gambia and Guinea-Bissau were two of the countries used by mainlanders to join the scheme. Both offer residency for modest sums with no need to visit; the process is handled by mainland agents. Professor Zhuang Deshui, a Peking University anti-corruption expert, said scrapping the scheme would bolster President Xi Jinping's "tigers and flies" crackdown on corrupt officials. In particular, it would help with the Operation Fox Hunt campaign to pursue officials who took cash overseas. […] Immigration consultant Eddie Kwan said the nation's capital controls meant mainlanders inspired by Hong Kong's positive investment climate could not simply move to the city. Rather than investors, Hong Kong will focus on attracting entrepreneurs and talented workers. […] ^ top ^



New mainland air routes pose risk to planes serving Taiwan-held islands, says Taipei (SCMP)
Taiwan has strongly criticised an announcement by the mainland authorities to set up four new air routes close to the island's territory, saying they pose a danger to its aircraft. Beijing took a decision to begin operating the routes in March without the agreement of Taipei, a move in breach of international aviation practice, according to Jean Shen, the director general of Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration. One of the routes runs roughly north-south up the middle of the Taiwan Strait and is just under 8km from Taiwanese airspace. The other three routes head east from the mainland to join the north-south flight path. The new routes would interfere with Taiwanese flights to Quemoy and Matsu islands under Taipei's control off the east coast of the mainland, Shen said yesterday. Taiwanese airlines operate about 56 round-trip flights each day to the islands, known as Kinmen and Mazu on the mainland. Shen said that under international aviation regulations neighbouring areas must be consulted over proposed air routes and agreement reached. Beijing had mentioned new routes in talks in Taipei last year, but had gone ahead without approval, informing the Taiwanese authorities that the new flight paths would come into use on March 5, according to Shen. […] Taiwan says it wants further negotiations with the mainland because of its concerns over flight safety, but the island's air force said the new routes would not stop it from sending jets if aircraft strayed into its airspace. "If necessary, we will appropriately increase the magnitude of our air defence capability to tackle any emergent event," the ministry said in a statement. George Tsai Wei, a political science professor at Chinese Culture University in Taipei, said he did not think the spat would lead to serious conflict between the two sides. "What Taiwan hopes is to continue to negotiate with the mainland so that flight safety between the two sides can be upheld and the security of Taiwan can be ensured," he said. […] ^ top ^

New flight route over Taiwan Strait negotiated: Mainland office (Xinhua)
The Chinese mainland said Wednesday that a new flight path over the Taiwan Strait was agreed upon through negotiations between the aviation authorities of the two sides. Spokesman for the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office, Ma Xiaoguang, said at a regular press conference that the M503 flight route, which can be used from March 5, was designed in cooperation with the United States and other countries, and approved by the International Civil Aviation Organization. M503's three connecting flight lanes are necessary linking passageways, Ma said, adding that air control authorities will strengthen communication with neighboring areas to ensure flight safety. The new route is designed to relieve the pressure of increased flights around Shanghai and the Pearl River Delta in south China. Ma said he hoped the residents of Taiwan understood the need for such an important route. The mainland's civil aviation agency, Ma said, ensured clear communication with its Taiwanese counterpart. The two sides have held two rounds of negotiation on the route and will continue to do so after M503 is put into service. ^ top ^

Taiwan's Eric Chu faces balancing act as he tries to revive fortunes of unpopular ruling KMT (SCMP)
Eric Chu will take over as leader of Taiwan's ruling Kuomintang (KMT) on Saturday – inheriting an unpopular party seen as favouring big business and the mainland at a time of growing scepticism about ties with Beijing. Chu, 53, who was elected as New Taipei City mayor in November's local elections, faces a balancing act. He must be seen to distance himself from the mainland to win back domestic support, but not so much as to alarm Beijing's leaders and damage burgeoning commercial ties. […] Chu, a former KMT lawmaker, appears to be trusted by China. Yet if he cannot improve the KMT's image and convince young and middle-class voters that cross-strait ties do not just benefit the wealthy, the party's candidate for the presidency – who could well be Chu – faces defeat in next year's election when President Ma Ying-jeou steps down. […] Chu was the only top politician who met two high-level visiting Chinese officials last year – a sign that China is betting he will be the island's leader. “[President] Xi Jinping is very happy to meet Chu and he is waiting,” said a KMT source with knowledge of the situation, referring to the Communist Party general secretary. Chu was unavailable for comment. […] “[Mainland] China has not been pleased with President Ma because his [mainland] China policy has led to Taiwan people's discontent toward the mainland,” Tuan Yi-kang, of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, said. “Now, Eric Chu needs to consider how to deal with the impressions the KMT is overly leaning toward [mainland] China.” ^ top ^



China's central bank vows prudent policies in 2015 (Xinhua)
China's central bank on Friday said it will continue with its prudent monetary policies in 2015 with better coordination of tight and loose monetary measures and proper fine-tuning. The central bank will adapt to China's economic "new normal" of slower growth but higher quality and highlight industrial transformation and restructuring, said the People's Bank of China (PBOC) at a meeting on its work in 2015. The central bank will strengthen support for the real economy and cut fund-raising costs, said a statement on the PBOC website. Zeng Gang, researcher with Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said monetary policy should support the real economy and structural adjustment amid increasing downward pressure.He expects more liquidity in 2015. The growth of M2, a broad measure of money supply that covers cash in circulation and all deposits, slowed to 12.3 percent on a year-on-year basis by the end of November. "Economic growth can not rely on money supply," Guo Tianyong, professor of Central University of Finance and Economics, "but policies with better coordination of tight and loose measures can stabilize the economy." The meeting said various tools should be used flexibly to maintain the reasonably rich liquidity in the bank system. The PBOC implemented new tools to tackle changing situations in 2014, including Medium-term Lending Facility (MLF) and Pledged Supplementary Lending (PSL). The new tools are more flexible and targeted to ensure sufficient liquidity, support the real economy and facilitate structural adjustment, Zeng said. Traditional measures like adjustment in interest rates and reserve requirement ratio (RRR) still remain an option. The central bank lowered interest rates in November, fanning speculation on further moves, including RRR cuts. The PBOC said lending and private financing should grow in a steady and moderate way. Macro-control measures in a targeted approach will be continued and lending support will be given to key or vulnerable links. The meeting also reiterated the establishment of a bank deposit insurance scheme. Zhao Xijun, deputy director of Finance and Securities Institute under Renmin University of China, expects the scheme to be carried out this year and lower risks while improving banks' capacity to serve the real economy. In addition, the meeting said financial reforms will be boosted, including reforms on interest rates, the yuan exchange rate formation system and foreign exchange management. And more efforts will be spent on promotion of cross-border use of the yuan. ^ top ^

Foreign trade poised to grow faster in 2015 (China Daily)
China's foreign trade growth fell far short of its target last year, but figures for December beat expectations and a new round of government policies are expected to help lift the world's second-largest economy's trade performance this year. This improvement is anticipated because the government has taken another round of decisive measures to upgrade the industrial structure and increase trade with more emerging markets through new routes, a customs official said on Tuesday. China's foreign trade rose by 3.4 percent year-on-year in 2014, said Zheng Yuesheng, spokesman for the General Administration of Customs. The country's combined annual exports and imports grew by 4.9 percent in 2014 to 14.39 trillion yuan ($2.32 trillion), while imports fell by 0.6 percent to 12.04 trillion yuan. The foreign trade surplus widened to 2.35 trillion yuan last year, an increase of 45.9 percent from a year earlier, according to the customs administration. "A slowing recovery of the global economy, weak domestic investment and demand, and falling commodity prices are the major reasons behind the weak foreign trade growth in 2014," Zheng said at a news conference held by the State Council Information Office. Zheng said other factors, including geopolitics, the fluctuation of global financial markets, and declining demand in Europe and Japan, all contributed to a reduction in the volume of Chinese exports last year. Meanwhile, trade with the European Union, China's biggest trade partner, rose by 8.9 percent year-on-year to 3.78 trillion yuan in 2014. Trade with the United States, China's second-biggest trade partner, rose by 5.4 percent year-on-year to 3.41 trillion yuan last year, while trade with Hong Kong declined by 7.2 percent, to 2.31 trillion yuan. Zheng said, "The central government, eager to put trade growth on a firm footing, has put forward a number of measures." These include accelerating the pace of a nationwide industrial upgrading and providing more financial assistance to small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as developing the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century." […] ^ top ^


DPRK and South Korea
China enlists civilian militia to patrol border with North Korea (SCMP)
China is deploying civilian militia to beef up border security in Jilin province after a North Korean army deserter allegedly killed four elderly villagers in the city of Helong during a robbery last month, a state-owned military newspaper said. The China Defence News reported on Wednesday that the government would set up a neighbourhood watch system to guard border towns, and put a "security system" in place for every 10 households. "China and North Korea are both keeping guard on the border," the report said. "The situation is complicated and relying on just one party would make it difficult to achieve effective control." The deaths in Helong's Nanping village come amid repeated outbreaks of crime in the area blamed on North Koreans and an exodus of residents from the border towns for jobs elsewhere, which has left vulnerable elderly in its wake, according to a report by Southern Weekly, also known as Southern Weekend. The report quoted residents as saying that tighter controls were essential along the 1,420km-long porous border, which stretches from the Yalu River in the west, through Paektu Mountain and to the Tumen River in the east. Since 2000, there had been at least 14 murder cases by North Koreans crossing the border, Southern Weekly said. In January 2003, North Korean soldiers stormed into Banshi in the city of Hunchun and fired ammunition before retreating. A month later, another North Korean soldier crossed the Tumen River into Dasucun and cut telephone lines to police before stabbing a couple to death. The Tumen River near Nanping village freezes regularly during winter, allowing North Koreans to walk across the border into China. Nanping had more than 3,000 people in the 1980s but the population had since dropped to fewer than 30 elderly residents, the report said. The primary school was completely deserted, its buildings bare and doors stolen. The rest of the town, the mayor, vice-mayor, as well as staff at the post office, power supply and petrol stations all left the town at night, it said. China and North Korea maintain that their diplomatic relationship remains friendly, despite three nuclear tests and leader Kim Jong-un's decision to execute his uncle Jang Song-thaek, who was an advocate of Sino-North Korean trade. ^ top ^



Defense Minister meets the DPRK Ambassador to Mongolia (infomongolia)
On January 13, 2015, Minister of Defense Ts.Tsolmon received in his office the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the DPRK to Mongolia, Mr. Hong Gyu. During the meeting, Defense Minister emphasized that the bilateral relations, particularly in defense sector has been successfully developing and expressed his interest to organize a joint training among athletes and exchange science experts as well as invite physicians from North Korea under contracts. In respond, Ambassador Hon Gyu mentioned that cooperation in the defense sector between the two countries can be developed in many ways and affirmed to support above initiations proposed by the Minister. At the end of meeting, Ambassador briefed on the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asian security issues. ^ top ^

Mongolia is authorized to utilize 7 ports in North China to improve the country's economic efficiency and facilitate railway transportation (infomongolia)
At the regular Cabinet meeting held on January 12, 2015, some intergovernmental agreements established between Mongolia and the People's Republic of China during the state visit of the President Xi Jinping to Mongolia in August 2014 were approved. These documents signed are “Intergovernmental Agreement on Transit and Freight Transportation to the Sea and Back through Mongolian and Chinese territories” and “Intergovernmental Agreement on Cooperation in Railway Transit Transportation”. In the scope of implementation of above agreements, Mongolia will be enabled to export its mineral products to the third party under concessional term delivered through the territory of China to the seaport. Moreover, China grants beneficial circumstances for Mongolia on railway transportation regarding the routes, volume, tax and tariff concessions that would be increase the number of seaports authorized to use by Mongolia. These sea ports open to foreign trade and that were reflected in the intergovernmental documents to utilize are Dandong, Daliyen, Jinjou, Yingkou, Qin, Huangdao, Huanghua and Tianjin ports. ^ top ^

Mongolia and France to collaborate closely in energy sector (infomongolia)
On January 14, 2015, Minister of Energy Mr. Dashzeveg ZORIGT received in his office the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the French Republic to Mongolia, Mr. Yves Delaunay. At the beginning of meeting, Ambassador Yves Delaunay mentioned there are plenty works to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries that marks in 2015, and said the second Mongolia-France intergovernmental working group meeting focused on economic partnership was successfully held in Ulaanbaatar last year, where French leading companies in energy industry had attended. In this regard, French Ambassador invited the Energy Minister D.Zorigt to participate in the third working group meeting to be hosted in France in the second quarter of this year. Minister D.Zorigt noted that the GDF Suez S.A., a French multinational electric utility company, won the bid to construct the Thermal Power Plant No.5 in Mongolia and expressed his hope the project would be successfully accomplished. In addition, the GDF Suez is participating in the "Tavan Tolgoi Power Plant" mega project, a 450 MW coal-fired power plant in the Tavan Tolgoi area in Umnugovi Aimag. Furthermore, Energy Minister D.Zorigt expressed his interest to collaborate with France to receive short and medium term scholarships on preparing engineers and technical staff in energy sector, besides, to involve French public and private entities in new projects to implement in Mongolia as well as to acclimatize modern and efficient cost techniques and technology in renewable energy industry. In response, Ambassador Yves Delaunay pledged to consider proposals and work closely with the Ministry to undertake above mentioned issues. ^ top ^


Mrs. Petra Salome Merki
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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