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
  31.1-6.2.2015, No. 559  
Startseite / Homepage   Archiv / Archives
Table of contents

DPRK and South Korea

^ top ^


Foreign Policy

China, France pledge to boost "strategic" cooperation (Xinhua)
Chinese President Xi Jinping met with French Prime Minister Manuel Valls in Beijing on Friday and they pledged to boost the "strategic" cooperation between the two countries. Hailing the increasingly strategic significance of the China-France relationship, Xi said the two sides should make joint efforts to further advance bilateral ties in a stable way with more political "wisdom and willingness." The two sides should always respect each other's core interests and major concerns and firmly maintain the direction of the bilateral relationship, Xi said, calling for "strategic thinking" to deepen practical cooperation on nuclear energy, aviation, finance and sustainable development, and an open mind to establish a closer community of interests between the two countries. The two sides should make use of their High-level Mechanism for Dialogue on People-to-People Exchanges, especially to increase exchanges between the youth of the two countries, said the president. On international affairs, Xi said China will support France's efforts to host the United Nations climate change conference in France late this year and that the two countries should join hands to safeguard the outcomes of World War II as well as the post-war peace order, and to establish a new-type of international relationship featuring win-win cooperation in the world. With this year marking the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Europe, Xi said China and Europe face great opportunities to develop their bilateral relationship. Xi hopes France will continue to play a positive role in negotiations on investment deals, the feasibility study on free trade and an agreement to facilitate people-to-people visits between China and Europe. During their meeting at the Great Hall of the People, Valls said the French side attaches great importance to ties with China and both sides are willing to boost their strategic cooperation in various fields. France hopes to cooperate with China on aviation, nuclear electricity, automobile, finance and other sectors, improve market entry and investment protection, and re-balance two-way trade through development, said the prime minister, also welcoming investors, students and tourists from China. […] The French prime minister said he looks forward to cooperation with China to address climate change and make the Paris climate change meeting a success. Valls said France looks forward to closer cooperation with China to fight terrorism. He said the world should hold commemorations to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII this year to reaffirm their commitment to world peace and security. France will also make continued efforts to develop the China-Europe relationship, said the visiting prime minister. ^ top ^

Angry relatives of flight MH370 victims reject Malaysia's findings, turn down payouts (SCMP)
[…] The Malaysian authorities on Thursday formally stated for the first time that all 239 passengers and crew onboard the lost Malaysia Airlines plane, two-thirds of whom were Chinese, were presumed dead. "We call on Malaysia to withdraw their statement. It lacks a basis in evidence," said Jiang Hui, whose mother was on the plane. "They gave up searching for survivors after 40 days." More than 100 Chinese relatives of the lost passengers are requesting Malaysia take back their statement, according to posts in an online group they use. Family members, some of whom burst into tears as they spoke to reporters near a Buddhist temple in Beijing on Friday, said they had received little advance warning of the announcement, echoing complaints from distraught relatives in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday. "Malaysia ignored the right of relatives to know the news first," Jiang said. Furious accusations from Chinese relatives that Malaysia had covered-up information about the loss of the flight during the 10-month investigation drew Beijing into the fray, straining bilateral ties. Malaysia's official declaration that MH370 was an "accident" opens the door for compensation payments, but several relatives said they were not interested in compensation without further investigations. […] Officials in Malaysia said the recovery operation for the missing aircraft was ongoing. The plane's whereabouts is still unknown despite a massive international search in the southern Indian Ocean. The relatives in China have formed a loose-knit group to express their demands, but the government is wary of any unofficial organisations and they have met with harassment from police. About a dozen policemen on Friday surrounded relatives of MH370 passengers outside the temple, telling them not to speak to reporters and ordering journalists to leave the scene. "The police stop us from speaking out and threaten us," said Dai Shuqin, whose younger sister was on the plane. "They bully us, that's what Chinese police are like." Mainland media reported on Friday that the father of an MH370 passenger died suddenly at his home just three hours after hearing the plane was missing. Li Xiaohui, 60, whose son was on board, had no known serious medical problems at the time of his death, media outlet The Paper reported. ^ top ^

Chinese, Indian FMs hold talks (Xinhua)
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj held talks on bilateral ties in Beijing on Sunday. As two large developing countries, China and India pursue an independent foreign policy of peace, and both countries attach priority to developing relations with their neighbouring countries, Wang said, noting that China cherishes the strategic and cooperative partnership with India. […] Wang made some suggestions on bilateral ties in 2015. He said China and India should continue to keep high-level visits and strategic communication and China welcomes Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to visit China this year. Wang said China and India should focus on promoting pragmatic cooperation in the fields of railway, industrial park, smart city, tourism, education, culture and new pilgrimage route. Wang said China is willing to make joint efforts with India to promote the process of negotiations over border issue so as to maintain peace in border area. Xi and Modi have met with each other three times since last year, Swaraj said, adding that it shows a high-level development of bilateral ties. She hopes that her current visit to China will show positive signals of India-China friendly and cooperative relationship. Swaraj is paying an official visit to China from Saturday to Tuesday as a guest of Wang Yi, and it is her first visit to China since taking office. As the second largest economy, China is the largest neighbouring country of India, Swaraj said, noting that India and China have broad common interests and both countries can benefit from each other's development. Swaraj said that India attaches great importance to bilateral ties and Modi is willing to pay a visit to China at an early date within this year. India would like to make joint efforts with China to strengthen understanding and mutual trust, properly handle the differences, advance comprehensive cooperation and sound coordination in international and regional affairs, Swaraj said. ^ top ^

Work may start on second aircraft carrier (Global Times)
Reports of a company's successful bid to provide equipment to China's second aircraft carrier, issued via a local government's Weibo account and one newspaper, have been widely seen as the first confirmation that China is going to build a second aircraft carrier. A wire and cable company in Changzhou, Jiangsu Province, which provided equipment for China's first aircraft carrier, succeeded in its bid to provide equipment for China's second aircraft carrier, according to the Changzhou government's official Sina Weibo account and the Changzhou Evening News on Saturday. "Shangshang Cable Group, ranked as the number one company of its kind in China and 10th in the world, successfully bid for China's second aircraft carrier and will replace overseas companies in supplying equipment for frigates and submarines," read the report by the Changzhou Evening News. This has been seen as an official confirmation that China's navy is going to be equipped with a second aircraft carrier in addition to the Liaoning, which became operational in 2012 after being bought from Ukraine in 1998. Li Jie, a naval expert based in Beijing, told the Global Times that it is inaccurate see this announcement as the first official confirmation that a second aircraft carrier will be constructed, since only announcements made by the military can be called "official." The Sina Weibo post and the Changzhou Evening News report were later taken down. The publicity department and information office of the Changzhou government could not be reached on Sunday while the Changzhou Evening News declined to make any comment. However, the report published on the Changzhou government's Sina Weibo was widely shared online. […] "A regional power needs three aircraft carriers in general, two at least, if it attempts to maintain control of the air and seas," Li noted. "Only when a country simultaneously readies one carrier for combat, deploys another one for training and the third one for maintenance, can it guarantee that it will have one carrier ready for military operations at all times," Li added. Yang Yujun, a spokesman for the Ministry of National Defense, said in 2013 that the Liaoning Aircraft Carrier is the first, but would not be the only one operated by China. […] Li Xiaojian, a military expert, said that the new aircraft carrier is probably designed already, as usually this process is completed before tenders are invited. ^ top ^

UN rejects China's move to black out NGO criticism (SCMP)
China has been forced to drop a measure at the UN that targeted NGOs seeking to be heard at the world body. China had proposed for the United Nations to refrain from naming countries that criticise non-governmental organisations during meetings of a committee that decides which groups will be accredited to the UN. The information blackout would have allowed China and other countries distrustful of NGOs to air their opposition without being singled out in any UN public report. The United States had sharply criticised the Chinese proposal at the UN's NGO committee, saying it would be a setback for transparency and openness. But UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said that after talks between US and Chinese officials, the committee would continue to report on the stance of countries. "The UN will continue its standard practice in terms of how press releases are written for committee works, which summarises the position of different countries," Dujarric told reporters on Friday. Hundreds of NGOs accredited to the UN are allowed to present recommendations on the many issues tackled by the world body, from development to peacekeeping in all 193 countries. A UN diplomat said China had shocked delegations when it proposed to restrict information on the committee's decisions. "China has long been pushing to restrict NGO and press access to the committee proceedings. However, they have never made a motion like they did this morning," said the diplomat who asked not to be identified. "In an era of global crackdown on civil society, the UN's NGO committee must set an example for openness and transparency," US Ambassador Samantha Power tweeted on Thursday. The Chinese mission at the UN declined to comment. The move to restrict openness at the UN committee came as China prepared to take the monthly presidency of the Security Council for February. The agenda-setting position in one of the UN's six principal organs will allow Beijing to highlight some of its concerns at the 15-member council. ^ top ^

New regional system set up [China, India, Russia FM meeting] (China Daily)
China, India and Russia call for early talks under mechanism China, Russia and India decided to set up a consultation mechanism for Asia-Pacific affairs on Monday, with their foreign ministers calling for the first round of talks on the mechanism to be held soon. Their call was issued in a joint declaration after the three-way meeting in Beijing, which followed US President Barack Obama's high-profile visit to India last week. And in a rare meeting with a visiting Indian foreign minister on Monday, President Xi Jinping relayed encouraging signals. Differences should be approached patiently and not affect overall ties, to allow the gradual settlement of related issues, Xi told Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. “I have full confidence in the future of China-India relations and I believe that progress will be achieved in growing this bilateral relationship in the new year,” he said. Swaraj also adopted an encouraging tone. She called for both countries to handle the border issue properly and for more Chinese investment. Observers said the rare consultation mechanism will focus on the coordination of issues in the Asia-Pacific region, whose structure is at the core of their shared interests. Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at a news conference, “As nations in this region, the three countries have realized it is a great responsibility and obligation to maintain stability and seek common progress when old and new mechanisms coexist in the region.” […] Sun Shihai, director of the Chinese Association for South Asian Studies, said the three countries are seeking to rely on and support each other in boosting their global impact. The Asia-Pacific is a global economic engine, and there is great potential to be tapped out from the trilateral cooperation, Sun said. Ye Hailin, a researcher of South-Asian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the three countries have differing views on the region's future and each other's role. Ma Jun, a researcher of Indian studies at the Academy of Military Science under the People's Liberation Army, said India, with fast economic development, has been especially active in seeking a bigger role in regional affairs. China is India's top trading partner, but mutual suspicion still hangs over ties, in large part a legacy of a brief conflict in 1962. Such suspicion flared again during Obama's visit to India, during which the two sides referred to the South China Sea issue, in a veiled reference to China. ^ top ^

Enemy infiltrators targeting China's students and teachers, education chief says (SCMP)
Young university teachers and students have been targeted by foreign infiltrators, posing a growing problem on the country's ideological front line. So wrote Education Minister Yuan Guiren in the latest edition of influential Communist Party journal Qiushi, just days after igniting controversy by insisting that textbooks that promote Western values should be kept out of classrooms. Yuan's comments were in response to a joint directive from the State Council and the party Central Committee's General Office on ideology in universities. Calling universities the "front line of ideology", Yuan said there were some trends on campus that required closer attention. "Young teachers and students are key targets of infiltration by enemy forces," he wrote. "Some countries have seen China's development as a challenge to their system and values and have stepped up infiltration in more discrete and diverse ways, resulting in a more difficult task to manage publicity and ideology." He said classroom guidelines would be drafted to put "Marxism at the forefront" and textbooks that spread incorrect Western viewpoints would be steadily barred from campus. Controls over philosophy and social science forums would be stepped up to stop "wrong talk". The article comes hard on the heels of Yuan's meeting with university chiefs last week, where he urged the institutions to exert tighter control over the use of imported textbooks "that spread Western values" and keep classrooms clear of remarks that "defame the rule of the party, smear socialism or violate the constitution and laws". Zhang Xuezhong, former associate professor at East China University of Political Science and Law, said Yuan's remarks were a clear reflection of President Xi Jinping's ideological campaign. Zhang, who was sacked from the university's law school last year for criticising the mainland's political system, said Xi was much stricter than his predecessor. Zhang said Xi had not been satisfied with the ideological efforts at universities in the past two years and the detailed measures indicated that the institutions would work harder to gag young teachers. Hu Xingdou, an economist at Beijing University of Technology, said the push was a "revival of the Cultural Revolution". "Opposition to all foreign thoughts and culture - this is the most leftist ideological trend since the reform and opening up," Hu said. Hu said a tough ban on Western values would mean an end to some social science courses because many concepts, especially in economics, came from the West. "This will trigger more conflicts in ideology," Hu said. Zhang said the campaign would not work because "times have changed" and teachers and students had access to other sources of information. ^ top ^

Fraud suspect extradited to China from Italy (Xinhua)
An economic fraud suspect was returned to China under police escort on Tuesday after 10 years on the run in Italy, marking the first extradition of its kind from a European country. The suspect, surnamed Zhang, is alleged to have stolen more than 1.4 million yuan (223,700 U.S. dollars) from clients while she worked for a securities company in north China's Hebei Province between Jan. 2000 and Jan. 2005, according to a statement from the Ministry of Public Security. Zhang escaped to Italy in Oct. 2005. The ministry released an international alert via Interpol and began to arrange law enforcement cooperation with Italy over her case. The fugitive was arrested by Italian police in Oct. 2014, and the country officially agreed her extradition on Jan. 16, 2015. "The extradition showcases the determination of Chinese and Italian law enforcement departments," the statement said. Zhang's case is seen as a key step in China's hunt for economic fugitives, including many officials suspected of graft, as the country looks to enlist help from more countries. The ministry revealed that "a series of criminal fugitives will be handed over by related countries to the Chinese police in the near future." It said it has established law enforcement cooperation with 189 countries, with 49 police liaison officers sent to 27 countries. Last year, "Fox Hunt 2014", the operation targeting suspects in economic crimes hiding overseas, saw 680 such offenders brought to task. The ministry vowed to deepen the cooperation between Chinese police and foreign law enforcement agencies and "try its best to seize suspects at large through various channels" such as repatriation, extradition and persuasion. ^ top ^

China: Norway violates rights of Chinese scholar (Xinhua)
China on Tuesday accused Norway of violating the rights of a Chinese scholar, who was ordered by Norwegian police to leave Norway before Jan. 23. Ma Qiang, a political counselor at the Chinese embassy in Norway, took the issue up with the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday about the Norwegian police decision to send the Chinese PhD student working at the University of Agder. After his visit to the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, Ma told Xinhua that he asked the Norwegian government to take tangible measures to protect the academic freedom and the rights and interests of the Chinese scholar and to avoid similar cases in the future. The Chinese Foreign Ministry and the Chinese embassy in Norway were highly concerned over the issue and believed the action taken by Norwegian police against the Chinese PhD student, who had been working on a wind power project at the university for two years, was totally baseless and unreasonable, said Ma. "It is an infringement on the scholar's rights, which has a damaging affect on Norway's reputation and image in the international academic world and a negative impact on the bilateral ties between China and Norway," said Ma. The University of Agder's management also saw no grounds for the expulsion of the Chinese student, and his academic supervisor was likewise surprised by the police decision. Norwegian broadcasting company NRK said Norwegian authorities made the move out of fear that the student's expertise could be used "for military purposes in other countries." Both the professor and the Chinese student have denied the allegations. ^ top ^

Minister's ROK visit 'to pave way for hotline' (China Daily)
Defense Minister Chang Wanquan began a three-day official visit to the Republic of Korea on Tuesday, a trip that observers said will help to strengthen stability in Northeast Asia. Chang, making the first visit to the ROK by a Chinese defense minister since 2006, is scheduled to take part in a meeting with his ROK counterpart Han Min-koo on Wednesday. Yonhap News Agency quoted an ROK military official as saying the meeting agenda will include setting up a military hotline between the two ministers. China will be only the second country that has such a hotline with the ROK, after the United States. A statement from the ROK defense ministry said both countries also plan to exchange views on the security situation on the Korean Peninsula and in the region, and explore ways to boost bilateral exchanges and cooperation, the report said. A memorandum of understanding on setting up a direct telephone line between the defense ministers was signed when China and the ROK held their fourth Defense Strategic Dialogue on July 23 in Beijing. Discussions on establishing the hotline began in 2007. They were followed by telephone hotlines between the two countries' navies and air forces being set up in 2008, aimed at avoiding accidental clashes in the East China Sea. Wang Junsheng, a researcher of East Asian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the leaders of China and the ROK have attached unprecedented importance to strengthening the bilateral relationship and maintaining regional stability since taking office in 2013. During President Xi Jinping's visit to Seoul in July, both countries agreed to further promote the bilateral strategic partnership, including defense. Shi Yongming, a researcher of Asia-Pacific studies at the China Institute of International Relations, said, "An agreement on the direct telephone line will mean that China and the ROK have established a certain level of mutual trust." Shi said that in the past Washington had tried to curb Seoul's security cooperation with Beijing, while Beijing had been constrained by concerns about the regional balance of power. "The meeting marks a step by both sides to push forward such cooperation," he said, adding that it is also an effort to bring about an early dialogue between the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the US amid the current deadlock. ^ top ^

Chinese troops warned on espionage (Xinhua)
Chinese military authorities have ordered servicemen to be on guard against infiltration and espionage by "hostile forces". The People's Liberation Army Daily (PLA Daily) on Wednesday carried the full text of a guideline issued by the Central Military Commission (CMC) stressing the need to run political background checks on officers and soldiers to "prevent penetration, sabotage by hostile forces or erosion by corrupt ideas and cultures." The guideline encouraged other measures to improve management of servicemen, including better psychological services. Psychological evaluation and counseling should be conducted regularly, and officers and soldiers suffering severe psychological problems need to get timely treatment, it said. The CMC also ordered tighter management over mobile phones and the Internet, forbidding personnel from blogging, online chatting or job hunting in an official capacity. The guideline banned officers from imposing corporal punishments on soldiers, encroaching on soldiers' interests and taking bribes from them. It identified training, political and ideological education, as well as building grassroots Communist Party organizations as other measures to improve the army. Officers and soldiers were ordered to sharpen risk awareness, and to stay prepared for combat at any time. To help make way for this workload, the guideline instructed governing bodies to organize fewer and briefer meetings, and to simplify inspections of officers. Higher-ranking institutions should not "whimsically" borrow personnel or demand written reports from grassroots units, according to the guideline, which took effect on Sunday. Chinese President Xi Jinping, also chairman of the CMC, called for the building of a stronger army when addressing troops in southwest China on Jan. 22. ^ top ^

China, Argentina pledge closer comprehensive strategic partnership (Xinhua)
Chinese President Xi Jinping held talks with his Argentine counterpart Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner here on Wednesday and they decided to further enhance the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries. Recalling his visit to Argentina in July last year, Xi said the important consensus reached then between the two presidents was being implemented and progress had instilled a strong driving force into the relationship. During the July visit, Xi and Fernandez announced a comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries. "I am even more confident of the outlook for China-Argentina relations," Xi said during Wednesday's talks. He said China and Argentina, both as important emerging markets, should boost exchanges and cooperation, share development opportunities and work together to address their common challenges. Xi said the two countries should give full play to the intergovernmental permanent committee, make use of the Strategic Dialogue on Economic Cooperation and Coordination, and implement the joint action plan approved by the two governments. […] Xi said the two sides should ensure the success of the ongoing railway and hydropower projects in Argentina, boost cooperation on infrastructure, agriculture, energy, mining, equipment manufacture and other sectors, and give special attention to nuclear power in the next phase. The Chinese president also looked forward to closer cooperation on customs, product quality, finance and currency swap as well as stable growth of two-way trade between the two countries. […] China will also strengthen coordination with Argentina in international organizations and other multilateral mechanisms including the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Group of 20 (G20) and the Group of 77 (G77) plus China. During the talks, Fernandez said Argentina attaches great importance to deepening comprehensive strategic partnership with China and she hoped that the bilateral cooperation will yield fruitful results. […] Argentina hopes to boost cooperation with China on nuclear energy while the two sides are working together to build two hydroelectric dams, namely the Nestor Kirchner and Jorge Cepernic in pursuit of energy diversification, according to Fernandez. She told Xi that Argentina hopes to increase the amount of currency swap with China, welcomes Chinese automobile and telecommunications companies to build factories in the country, and looks forward to more Chinese businesses' participation in exploiting potassium and lithium resources there. […] The two presidents also discussed the cooperation between China and Latin America as a whole and pledged more efforts to boost the cooperation. After the talks at the Great Hall of the People, Xi and Fernandez signed the joint statement on deepening the partnership and witnessed the inking of a string of deals. […] ^ top ^

Maldives gov't begins technical discussions with China on FTA: report (Xinhua)
The Maldivian government has started technical discussions with China regarding the feasibility of a free trade agreement between the two nations, local media reported on Thursday. A technical committee consisting of experts from both countries engaged in discussions over what would be the Maldives' first free trade agreement with a single country. Local media outlet Haveeru quoted Economic Development Minister Mohamed Saeed as saying that the committee is tasked with determining the feasibility of such an agreement and identifying any potential difficulties. "The truth is we want to set up the free trade agreement as soon as possible," he told the paper. Saeed said the two main reasons in pursuing a free trade agreement with China were duty-free exports of fisheries products, and an increase in air travel between the countries which will bring more Chinese tourists to the Maldives. Fish accounts for 98 percent of the Maldives' exports, while Chinese tourists make up 30 percent of all visitors to the Indian Ocean nation. Minister at the President's Office Mohamed Shareef has previously said free trade talks were initiated by the Maldives, and that China has taken a flexible approach with regards to the final agreement. The government's decision to engage in free-trade with China was stated in December 2014 after the cabinet's economic council visited China to hold discussions on Chinese-assisted projects in the Maldives. December also saw the Maldives officially sign up to the Maritime Silk Road project, which will provide a trade route between China and east coast of Africa and the Mediterranean. ^ top ^

Islamic State kills Chinese militants (Global Times)
The Islamic State (IS) has killed three Chinese militants who tried to leave the group, an official from the Kurdish security force in Iraq told the Global Times. The Kurdish security official said Wednesday that in the past six months, IS has executed 120 of its members who attempted to escape from the group and leave Iraq and Syria. Among the 120, three were Chinese citizens and were members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a terrorist organization that is also known as the Turkistan Islamic Party. One of the Chinese militants was seized and executed last September, according to the official. He became disillusioned with IS after arriving in Syria, but was later caught and executed after an unsuccessful attempt to flee to Turkey. The official said the other two Chinese militants were executed last December in Iraq along with 11 other IS members from six countries. They were executed for "treason." Foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei on Thursday said China opposes all forms of terrorism, and is willing to cooperate with the international community in fighting terrorist forces, including the ETIM, to safeguard global security. Singapore-based Chinese news portal earlier reported that around 300 Chinese extremists were fighting for IS in Syria and Iraq after travelling to the two countries via Malaysia. ^ top ^

Beijing defends coastguard (SCMP)
China yesterday defended the actions of a coastguard vessel in the disputed South China Sea after the Philippines accused it of ramming three fishing boats and urged Manila to increase "indoctrination" of its fishermen. The Philippines said on Wednesday that a Chinese coastguard ship rammed three Philippine fishing boats in the disputed Scarborough Shoal area last week and Manila had protested to Beijing over the incident. The news drew a stern rebuke from the foreign ministry, which said that last Thursday, many fishing vessels from the Philippines were "illegally lingering" in the waters surrounding the Scarborough Shoal and did not abide by China's management. "China's coastguard sent a dinghy to drive them away and slightly bumped one of the fishing vessels," foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said. "We ask that the Philippines strengthen education and indoctrination of its fishermen to prevent such incidents from happening again." China seized control of the area after a three-month stand-off with the Philippine coastguard in 2012. Beijing lays claim the entire South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and natural gas deposits. Hong said the Chinese ship that was sailing in the waters of the Scarborough Shoal was maintaining "normal order" to safeguard the waters in accordance with the law. The Philippines' foreign ministry said the "intentional" ramming of three local fishing boats put the lives of fishermen at risk. ^ top ^

Obama tribute to Dalai Lama risks Beijing's wrath (SCMP)
President Barack Obama yesterday hailed the Dalai Lama as a "good friend" during a symbolic first public encounter between the two men that is sure to enrage Beijing. Speaking at a high-profile Washington prayer breakfast, Obama heaped praise on his fellow Nobel peace laureate, who is reviled by China as a separatist. "I want to offer a special welcome to a good friend," Obama said, describing the Dalai Lama as "a powerful example of what it means to practise compassion." He "inspires us to speak up for the freedom and dignity of all human beings," Obama said before an audience of around 3,000 people. It is the first time the two men have been seen together in a public setting. Three previous encounters have been held behind closed doors - and outside the White House Oval Office - to avoid risking relations with China. There had been much speculation about whether a meeting would actually take place, with the White House keen to play down talk of any formal sit-down. Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of seeking to split Tibet from the rest of China and has called him a "wolf in sheep's clothing". It vigorously lobbies against foreign leaders meeting the Dalai Lama "in any form". But during Thursday's prayer breakfast, Obama and the Dalai Lama saluted each other across a plush ballroom. Wearing his familiar saffron and maroon robes, the Dalai Lama was not seated at the head table with Obama and other speakers, but was a short distance away from the dais. The Buddhist leader put his hands together, bowed and made a peace sign with his fingers as he was acknowledged by his hosts. Obama placed his hands together in response. Even before the encounter, China had decried US interference in its domestic affairs. "We hope that the American side will act upon its commitment on Tibet-related issues and properly deal with relevant issues in keeping with the overall interests of bilateral relations," a foreign ministry spokesman in said. The government-run China Daily newspaper said: "Should a president of the United States meet with the Dalai Lama, it will unquestionably step on China's toes and therefore cast a shadow over US-China relations. "Obama is acquiescing to the Dalai Lama's attempt to split Tibet from China." Since becoming president, Obama has made a "pivot to Asia" a cornerstone of his foreign policy. Although Thursday's meeting will certainly draw China's opprobrium, the concrete consequences remain unclear. The Dalai Lama has lived in exile in India since 1959 after a failed uprising in Tibet. More than 130 ethnic Tibetans have set themselves on fire since 2009 in protest at Beijing's rule. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

Top political advisor stresses rule of law in managing religious affairs (Xinhua)
Chinese top political advisor Yu Zhengsheng has called for efforts to administer religious affairs in accordance with the law. Yu, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, made the remarks during an inspection tour in Baoding City in north China's Hebei Province between Jan. 29 and 31, with religious work as one of his focuses. "Religious work should be advanced along the legal track and in accordance with religious laws," Yu said while visiting the city's churches and temples. He encouraged religious circles to contribute to economic and cultural development, and social harmony. The Communist Party of China's (CPC) religious policy of respecting religious freedom must be carried out. The rights and interests of religious circles must be protected, he said. Underscoring the importance of adhering to the principle of independence and self-governance, Yu asked Catholic circles to "withstand the infiltration of overseas-based forces to ensure that the leadership of religious organizations is firmly in the hands of people who love the country as well as their religion." He also called for better efforts to foster a team of patriotic clergy, especially the young and middle-aged, to promote healthy development of Catholicism in China. During his tour, Yu also visited companies and factories. He asked them to shift gears to adapt to the economic "new normal" of slower speed, higher quality and more innovation, while promoting development in a more sustainable and low-carbon way. The central government has issued a regulation forbidding county authorities in poverty-stricken areas from building lavish office buildings, a senior official said on Friday. ^ top ^

Most Chinese cities below air quality standard (Xinhua)
Only eight of the 74 major Chinese cities subject to air quality monitoring met the national standard for clear air in 2014, official figures showed on Monday. Six of the eight cities are on the eastern or eastern coast. Haikou, Zhoushan, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Huizhou and Fuzhou are joined by Lhasa and Kunming elsewhere in the country, according to the Ministry of Environmental Protection. China began to include an index of PM2.5, a key indicator of air pollution, and ozone in a new air quality standard at the beginning of 2013. The 74 cities have been chosen as pilots for the new standard. In 2013, only three of the 74 met the standard. The ministry said the general condition of serious pollution has changed little, though the average number of days with heavy smog in the 74 cities decreased by about 11 days from the 32 days in 2013. The metropolitan area centered on Beijing and Tianjin was the most seriously polluted, with eight of the 13 cities in the area featuring on a list of the 10 smoggiest cities. The average number of days with standard air quality in the area in 2014 was 156, 85 days fewer than the national average. The annual average intensity of PM2.5 in the area was more than 1.6 times stronger than the standard figure, according to the statistics. ^ top ^

Web portals called in for rumormongering, unlawful reporting, pornography (Xinhua)
China's Internet watchdog on Monday accused Netease, a major web portal, of providing unlawful reporting services, spreading pornography and rumormongering that violated relevant regulations. The regulator, Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), issued a statement late on Monday in which it urged Netease to rectify such problems and strengthen internal management, or would see its certification to provide online news services revoked. According to the statement, Netease said it would actively strive to spread positive energy and provide news services. The Beijing branch of CAC also called in persons in charge of Sina, Sohu, Baidu and Hexun, all major web portals in China. CAC said web portals were the key targets of its management of the Internet in recent days and welcomed Internet users to continue to supervise portals such as Sina, Sohu, Netease, Tencent and ifeng, and submit details of their problems to the authorities. "Some websites take a lax attitudes towards the content published for the sake of profit and sometimes spread pornography, vulgar content and bad information, which has disrupted the orderly flow of online information and damaged the public interest," said the statement. ^ top ^

Cult members executed for woman's death in Shandong (Global Times)
Two cult members were executed in East China's Shandong Province Monday for beating a woman to death at a fast food restaurant in May 2014, local justice officials confirmed. The Intermediate People's Court of Yantai city ordered the execution of Zhang Fan and Zhang Lidong for intentional homicide and practicing heresy, after the Supreme People's Court approved the death sentence. The two men were members of a cult called "the almighty god" or in Chinese "quannengshen." In May 28, 2014, the two, together with four other cult members including a 12-year-old boy, tried but failed to get the phone numbers of customers at a McDonald's outlet. Zhang Fan and another member then branded Wu Shuoyan as an "evil spirit," and started beating her with chairs and tables at the restaurant. Zhang Fan stomped on her head and repeatedly jumped up and down and asked other members to do the same. He also ordered Zhang Lidong and the other five to assault Wu. She died at the scene from brain damage. The cult was established in 1989 in Henan Province. It claims that Jesus was resurrected as the wife of the founder. The couple fled to the US in 2000. ^ top ^

China to limit cash transfers to regional governments to curb public spending (SCMP)
The government in China is making it harder for its regional governments to get cash transfers from the central authorities in another step to reform its fiscal system and reduce wasteful public spending. The central government regularly transfers cash to regional authorities through fiscal transfers to ease their financial burden as they are responsible for nearly 80 per cent of all public spending, but get only half of the fiscal income. These transfers are sometimes abused by local governments, which submit unnecessary investment projects to the central government for approval to get the money that is disbursed under special transfers. The central government dispenses cash to regional authorities through either special or general transfers. To reduce such malfeasance, general transfers will now account for more than 60 per cent of all fiscal transfers, the cabinet said in a statement released on the government's website on Monday. It did not say the amount of transfers made under general transfers in the past. The document was dated December 27, but only made public on Monday. No date was given for when the new rule would be effective, but China's parliament is scheduled to hold its annual meeting from March 5 and a host of new regulations will be passed then. Controlling government spending and cutting waste is a cornerstone of China's fiscal reforms. Regional and local governments are heavily indebted, having borrowed to pay for the construction of public works. A government audit at the end of 2013 showed local governments owed a total US$3 trillion as of the end of June 2013. ^ top ^

China Focus: China eyes sustainable, strong agriculture (Xinhua)
[…] With the new drive to steer agriculture on a sustainable path, the country has seen an increasing number of high-productivity farms. The "No. 1 Central Document", recently published by the central government, outlines their goal to accelerate the transformation of agricultural development to build a strong and modernized industry. […] China should develop agriculture with a balanced emphasis on quality and quantity instead of pursuing high output at the cost of resource depletion, the document says. […] The nation also prides itself on feeding more than a fifth of the world's population on only 10 percent of arable land worldwide, despite water scarcity and scattered fertile land. However, this commendable feat now faces grave challenges. Experts point out that behind the surging crop yields is an excessive reliance on pesticides and chemical fertilizers. National chemical fertilizer use amounts to around a third of the world's total consumption. Chinese farmers apply 70 percent more chemicals to crops than the world average. The practice, while boosting output, has taken its toll on the land and consequences are beginning to take shape. Land fertility falls, with around 40 percent of workable land degenerating, data from the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) showed. Unsustainable practices need to come to an end, says Zhu Lizhi, a research fellow with the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences. "Quantity should not be the only measure and the comprehensive competitiveness should prevail," he said. To address the problem, the new plan vows to promote green cultivation, create "high-standard arable land" with better facilities, protect arable land, build irrigation works and promote water conservation. MOC official Tang Ke said the country will encourage targeted fertilization, step up integration of water and fertilizer and promote green disease and pest control to ensure the chemical fertilizer and pesticide consumption stop increasing by 2020. […] Reforms are badly needed to break the restriction of outdated practices and will bring vitality to the sector, said Ye Xingqing, head of the agricultural economy department of the Development Research Center under the State Council. One measure written into the recently published outline suggested the government should guide the transfer of land use contracts and encourage rural households to expand their operation to build big family farms. Currently, Chinese farmers hold land contracts for their own patch of land, slowing the mechanization process. Other reforms include more agricultural restructuring, strengthening the role of science and technology and more efficient distribution. ^ top ^

Protesters in Henan block railway line as anger flares over property dispute (SCMP)
Dozens of people blocked a railway line and stopped a train from coming through in northern China amid angry scenes over a property dispute. Police said six people were arrested and 22 faced punishment after the protest in Xixia county in Henan province on Monday morning. Twenty-eight people got on the track and stopped the train heading to Xi'an in neighbouring Shaanxi province, a statement from the county government said. The train was blocked for 20 minutes before the crowd was removed, the China News Service reported. One of the protesters told the Huashang Daily newspaper that hundreds of people went to petition the county government on Monday morning, alleging they had been swindled out of cash by a developer after paying for apartments. Another protester told the newspaper that the attempt to block the train came out of anger and frustration. “We went to protest to the government, but they didn't help solve the problem, only detained some of us,” he said. “We didn't have another option but to go for the trains.” The protester, who was not named, said he had paid more than 200,000 yuan (HK$251,000) three years ago for an apartment, but construction was never completed and the property developer refused to return the money. He said more than 300 people who had bought homes in several projects in the area near Nanyang were affected. The county government said on Monday that a court had frozen the assets of the property company and a special team had been set up to handle the case. Property and land disputes are one of the main sources of protest in China, with complaints that local governments either do little to settle grievances or are in league with developers. ^ top ^

China's gender imbalance narrows (Xinhua)
China's high gender imbalance continued to show signs of relief, with 115.88 baby boys born in 2014 for every 100 girls, the sixth successive decrease. A normal sex ratio at birth is commonly ranged between 103 and 107 baby boys for every 100 girls. China for a long time has had a sexual disparity of more than 110, according to the National Health and Family Planning Commission.. The ratio for 2014 is the lowest level since 2008, when there were 120.56 baby boys for every 100 girls. According to the commission, the lowering ratio signifies that sexual disparity has been curbed but achieving a balanced sex ratio structure still takes time and effort. ^ top ^

Spring Festival's labor exodus begins (China Daily)
With the early tide of migrant workers streaming out of Beijing and coastal cities for Spring Festival, some industries are already facing a labor shortage. The bad news for some migrant workers is that weaker economic growth in the past year and industrial restructuring may leave them in dire straits when they return after the holiday, especially in the coastal regions. Guangdong province, for example, has plenty of laborers to fill Spring Festival vacancies, according to Feng Xiliang, a labor rights expert at Capital University of Economics and Business. "Slower economic growth and the restructuring in some industries are major reasons for weaker labor demand after the holiday," Feng said. Another factor affecting migrants is the relocation of labor-intensive companies, said Zhao Wei, a researcher in Labor Studies Center of Beijing Normal University. […] "Labor-intensive industries like catering, housekeeping services and delivery will take a harder blow from the absence of migrant workers over the holiday," said Feng, the labor expert, adding that shortages of holiday labor have been seen since 2010. This year, the exodus of migrant workers from major cities began much earlier than in the past, according to a survey released in December by a domestic services booking website in Shanghai, Around 5 percent of respondents left their working cities 50 days ahead of the Feb 19, the survey said, based on company reports covering 350,000 individuals in the housekeeping services industry in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. ^ top ^

Document clarifies procedure in civil actions (Xinhua)
The Supreme People's Court (SPC) issued its lengthiest ever judicial explanation on Wednesday to clarify civil procedures. The document, with 23 chapters and 552 provisions, orders excluding illegally obtained evidence and gives criteria by which judges must withdraw themselves from cases. A whole chapter is devoted to circumstance in which judges must withdraw from a case, giving various definitions of conflict of interest. The explanation also clarifies the definition of "illegal means" in the context of obtaining evidence, namely it must not seriously harm any other person's legal rights and must not be against the law, public order and social morals. Online chat records, blogs, microblogs, mobile phone text messages, digital signatures and domain names may be used as legitimate evidence in civil cases, according to the explanation. The explanation bans the recording or broadcasting of trial proceedings without permission. The explanation also sets a deadline of seven days for courts to decide whether to hear a case or not, further clarifies simplified procedure for small claims and public interest litigation. ^ top ^

Internet regulator to outlaw 'malicious' usernames, avatars (Global Times)
The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) on Wednesday issued a regulation banning the use of malicious contents in netizens' account usernames, avatars, and personal introductions across all Internet services. The 10-clause CAC regulation stipulates that avatars and account handles should not include information that violates the Constitution or the country's laws, subverts State power, undermines national security and sovereignty, or is deemed to be rumor-mongering. In the personal signatures of blogs, social media accounts such as Sina Weibo or other Internet services, one should not post "malicious content," which includes the promotion of cults and the dissemination of pornography or extremism among others, according to the regulation. The regulation says that all avatars and account handles registered on blogs, microblogs, instant messaging services, online forums, comment sections as well as other services should be monitored. Chinese Internet observers believe the new regulation is a part of the CAC's continuous efforts over the past two years to reorder the online expression system and strengthen Chinese people's sense of responsibility in cyberspace. Xu Feng, the head of the CAC's mobile Internet bureau, emphasized that the regulation would not take away netizens' freedom to choose a personalized username. […] A document passed by Chinese lawmakers in December 2012 stated that Internet service providers should ask their users to provide proof of their identity. The CAC has noticed the phenomenon of netizens using the names of officials and celebrities to defame or spread rumors, he said, adding that some usernames will indicate a sex business, gambling, terrorism or secessionist activities. Some accounts use monikers such as "Arms merchant" or "Countryside casino." Such account information has severely polluted cyberspace, and this kind of "freedom" should be regulated, Xu said. Internet service providers should shoulder the main responsibility of regulating their users and they are the main target of the new regulation, according to Xu. Before the regulation formally takes effect on March 1, Internet companies should prepare to inspect their users, assign employees to monitor accounts and encourage users to report harmful account handles. Internet companies should take measures, including warnings and suspending or shutting down accounts if they are discovered to have violated the regulation, Xu said. […] ^ top ^

Study: PM2.5 kills like smoking (China Daily)
Some experts skeptical of results, say health effects take more time to quantify Premature deaths related to PM2.5 pollution in 31 major Chinese cities reached 257,000 in 2013, making it a major killer equivalent to smoking, according to a yearlong study released on Wednesday. The study, conducted by Greenpeace, the environmental protection group, and Peking University's School of Public Health, took each of the 31 major Chinese cities' average PM2.5 concentration and applied a World Health Organization model to estimate health effects. It focused mainly on four conditions, including lung cancer and stroke, which have been tied to exposure to the fine particulate matter. The WHO model is authoritative, said Pan Xiaochuan, professor of public health at Peking University and one of the study's authors. The study said there were around 90 premature deaths for every 100,000 people from PM2.5 pollutants, which are airborne particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter that can penetrate the lungs. That means, for example, that in Beijing, pollution-related deaths would have exceeded 18,000 in 2013. The rate was higher in heavily polluted cities like Shijiazhuang, Hebei province, and Jinan, Shandong province, the study said, adding that the number of deaths caused by PM2.5 pollution may equal those from smoking. Some public health experts were skeptical of the claim, saying that because PM2.5 pollution affects human health over time, it may take a decade or two to quantify its effects accurately. […] ^ top ^

Cancer places 100b yuan strain on nation's economy (China Daily)
Cancer cases are rising rapidly in China and are estimated to cost the country 100 billion yuan ($15 billion) a year, according to health organizations and experts. The World Health Organization, marking World Cancer Day, which falls on Feb 4, said more than 3 million Chinese develop cancer each year and 2.2 million of them die. In large cities like Beijing, the average medical cost for each cancer patient is up to 300,000 yuan. Many patients abandon treatment because they cannot afford it. […] Lung cancer is the most common type diagnosed among Chinese men and the leading cause of cancer deaths in China. Among women in the country, breast cancer is the type most commonly diagnosed and one of the deadliest. Bernhard Schwartlander, the WHO representative in China, said, "The growth of cancer in China is ferocious. We must do all that we can to prevent cancer and spare as many Chinese families as possible the heartache, pain, suffering and financial hardship of a cancer diagnosis." […] He attaches great importance to early detection, saying awareness is the first step to early detection and improving cancer outcomes. […] Schwartlander said, "Improving early diagnosis and treatment services must continue to be a focus of cancer control efforts, given that two-thirds of cancer cases are not preventable." For those that are preventable, "improving cancer prevention in China would save many millions of lives every year," he added. Reducing social and environmental risk factors for cancer and empowering people to make healthy choices are key to combating the disease, according to medical experts. ^ top ^

China Focus: China solicits grassroots opinion for government work report (Xinhua)
The public have been invited to participate in this year's government work report, which the central government put online on Jan. 22. It has been common practice for the Chinese government to take advice from all walks of life when drafting the work report. However, this is the first time the general public have been given the opportunity to take part online. The report will be delivered by the premier at the upcoming annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC) in early March. Premier Li Keqiang met with representatives from universities, research and financial institutions, as well as business leaders on Jan. 26 to hear their feedback. He also listened to opinions on education, science and technology, culture, health and sports at another meeting held the next day with representatives from the Internet, information technology and venture capital sectors. As of the end of January, nearly 10,000 suggestions had been collected under 18 different topics, including macro-control, income distribution, education, social security and anti-corruption, the latter three receiving the most feedback. […] Unlike previously, when Internet users were invited to comment on governments policies online, this time good opinions and suggestions will be directly dealt with by the drafting team, according to organizers. Other valuable suggestions, which cannot be included in this year's report, will be sent to the relevant government departments, they said. […] In recent years, the Internet has become an important channel for citizens to exercise their rights to know, participate, be heard and supervise, and has become an important tool for the government to hear public opinion. ^ top ^

Party mouthpiece accuses artists of colluding in graft (SCMP)
A signed commentary in People's Daily warned that an increasing number of celebrated artists and cultural intellectuals were using their fame to collude in corruption with the powerful and the wealthy. The warning by the Communist Party's flagship newspaper on Monday could point to a widening of the anti-graft campaign to include the cultural and entertainment sectors. It said that some famous cultural intellectuals and artists were acting as co-conspirators in corruption scandals. "They use their names to befriend both the powerful and the wealthy, and make themselves middlemen," it said. "That is co-conspiracy among the powerful, the wealthy and the cultural intellectuals," it added. Recent reports have suggested that cultural products, such as modern and traditional artworks, were becoming popular "gifts" to buy corrupt officials. Analysts said the cultural and show business sectors had come under the spotlight after party investigators discovered that famous calligraphers, musicians and artists had been tied to corruption scandals. A number of officials under investigation were involved in the arts. President Xi Jinping recently ordered officials throughout the government to sever their ties to cultural circles, such as calligraphy associations and other art groups. Xigen Li, an associate professor at City University's department of media and communication, said that when the pursuit of money became the common goal of a society, the drive to root out corruption would no longer be restricted to the government. Li said the extension of the campaign to the world of culture and arts reflected the widespread exchange between power and money. Noting that some people might use sales of artworks as a way to bribe officials, the article said a drawing, a work of calligraphy, a song, a drama script or a show could be an instrument for corruption. […] The commentary in People's Daily asked leading cultural intellectuals and artists to use their fame properly to serve society and engage in philanthropic activities such as fundraising activities for Aids patients, indirect praise for first lady Peng Liyuan. Peng, a famous folk singer, is a goodwill ambassador for tuberculosis and HIV/Aids, for the World Health Organisation. ^ top ^



Beijing schools told to teach children winter sports as city bids to host Winter Olympics (SCMP)
Children are to be encouraged to learn winter sports at schools in Beijing as the city bids to host the Winter Olympics in 2022. It is part of a general initiative to strengthen sports education in the capital, the Beijing Times reported. The Beijing Education Commission has ruled that the number of hours devoted to sport in schools should be increased, the report said. Primary and middle schools should make a greater effort to develop winter sports, the authorities ruled. Beijing is jointly bidding with the city of Zhangjiakou in Hebei province to host the 2022 games, competing against Almaty in Kazakhstan. The International Olympic Committee is due to announce the winning venue at a meeting in July. Low snowfall and air pollution weigh against the Chinese capital's bid, but analysts have suggested it is the front runner because of solid government support for the venture and strong infrastructure after the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Schools in the capital will also emphases the development of soccer training in the coming year, the Beijing Times reported. Beijing kicked off a series of initiatives in 2014 to improve football standards in schools, including hiring more foreign coaches. The city's education commission said it would also hire sporting venues from sports clubs if needed to ensure children get access to the right facilities and equipment. In a separate development, the city's education and finance authorities are setting aside cash to hire more foreign English teachers. Universities will also be given allowances of up to 350,000 yuan (HK$440,000) a year to hire each foreign teacher. ^ top ^



Tibet offers reward to anti-terror tip-off (Xinhua)
Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region will offer up to 300,000 yuan (48,003.8 U.S. dollars) to whistle blowers with clues concerning violent terror attacks in a move to promote stability in the region, local authorities said Saturday. According to a document published by the regional public security department, the reward will cover tip-offs on overseas terrorist organizations and their members' activities inside China, the spreading of religious extremism, terror related propaganda, those producing, selling and owning weapons, activities that help terrorists cross national borders and terror activities via the internet. People can report tips through the "110" emergency line or go to the police department to report in person. Awards will vary based on the significance of the tip-offs. Anonymous tip-offs will not be rewarded and the safety of the tipsters will be protected, the officials said. The document said people who falsely accuse others and spread fabricated information will be investigated for legal responsibility. ^ top ^

Collaborators with separatists targeted (China Daily)
Tibet authorities will strengthen the discipline of Party officials who hesitate to fight separatists - and who even collude with them - a senior official from the Tibet autonomous region discipline inspection commission said on Tuesday. Tibet is regarded as a major battlefield in the fight against separatists loyal to the Dalai Lama. Stricter Party rules will play an essential role in eliminating the problem, Wang Yongjun, director of the commission, said. "Party officials should make the adherence to political discipline and Party rules their top priorities in regulating themselves," he said. "To maintain Tibet's safety and stability, we will vigorously investigate those who break the rules and collude with the Dalai Lama's separatists." In recent years, a number of Party and governmental officials in Tibet allegedly joined separatist organizations, provided intelligence to the Dalai Lama's separatist group or colluded with separatists to split the country. Figures provided by the commission show that 15 officials in Tibet were punished last year for "serious violations of Party rules". "Some of the 15 investigated are suspected of participating in underground Tibetan separatist organizations, offering intelligence information or funding activities that endanger national security," said Wang Gang, secretary-general of the commission. No details about the investigations were disclosed. At the end of January, the commission issued a notice requiring officials in Tibet to strictly adhere to political discipline and Party rules. The notice said that disciplinary authorities will "seriously investigate Party officials who hold religious faith, collude with Dalai Lama separatists to split the country, undermine national unity, participate in illegal activities of organizations or spread reactionary remarks". […] Between July and September, inspectors were sent to Tibet to conduct a special inspection focusing on corrupt Party officials. "Through the inspection, we found that some officials do not have a firm political stance to fight Tibetan separatists, and we are still facing a tough task in maintaining the stability of the region," said Ye Dongsong, director of the inspection team. Wang, the director of the Tibet inspection commission, said the commission will cover inspections of Party and governmental officials, including local Party chiefs, while senior governmental officials should bear the responsibility to supervise lower-level officials. ^ top ^



Hundreds of Xinjiang officials probed over their loyalty, not for corruption (SCMP)
The authorities in Xinjiang investigated 355 Communist Party cadres for breaches of party political discipline last year, a six-fold increase over 2013, in a greater attempt to root out disloyal members. The news came days after 15 party officials in Tibet were said to have been punished for joining independence groups and providing intelligence to the Dalai Lama in "activities deemed a threat to national security". The probes in Xinjiang were a result of stepped-up efforts to uncover breaches of party discipline in the region last year, state-run Legal Daily reported, citing the region's discipline regulators. The 355 cadres investigated were involved in 323 cases. Among them, 333 received unspecified punishments, it said. An office to specifically inspect issues of political discipline was set up last year to target party leaders and members, it said. President Xi Jinping has said that wavering on core issues, openly opposing the party line, and secretly working against central government decisions constitute violations. Among those taken in were 32 officials for alleged graft linked to pilgrimages by Muslims to Mecca. They included the former director of the pilgrimage affairs office under the Xinjiang Ethnic Affairs Committee, as well as the head of Kizilsu prefecture's public security bureau, and the mayor of its biggest city, Artux. Jiang Zhaoyong, a Beijing-based ethnic affairs expert, said "political" - as opposed to corruption - was the key word. "It is not clear what the rest of the 300-odd officials have done, but it is clear that in one way or another they threatened the safety of the party," he said. James Leibold, an ethnic studies scholar at Australia's La Trobe University, said the expanded probe was a sign from Xi that even party members would be thoroughly examined in the fight against what the party called religious extremists or separatists. ^ top ^



Hong Kong democracy movement back on road, but turnout down (SCMP)
Turnout for the first major pro-democracy march of the post-Occupy era fell well short of expectations yesterday - but organisers rejected suggestions people were growing less determined about the fight for democracy. Rather it was a sign Hongkongers no longer had faith in "conventional ways" of protesting, Civil Human Rights Front convenor Daisy Chan Sin-ying said. She said more "alternative" forms of civil disobedience could emerge unless the government heeded public opinion on "genuine democracy". The front put turnout for the march from Victoria Park in Causeway Bay to Central at 13,000. Independent academics put the turnout at 11,000 to 12,000, while police said 6,600 left the park, with a peak turnout of 8,800. Chan had expected 50,000 people to show up. About 30,000 turned out for the New Year's Day march last year, the front said. The march was pushed back to coincide with a consultation on reform, which pan-democrats are boycotting as the government refuses to budge from Beijing's limits on nominations for the 2017 chief executive election. "This [turnout] only shows that Hongkongers are no longer satisfied with conventional ways of protest," Chan said. "If people are tired of marches, it's not the front which is in trouble but the government." Chinese University political scientist Ivan Choy Chi-keung also said the turnout could be a sign the protest was "too moderate" for supporters fired up by the 79-day Occupy street blockades. "They may also need more time to rest [after Occupy] … or do not feel the urgency to take to the streets again," Choy said. Occupy co-founder Benny Tai Yiu-ting agreed supporters might need some "rest" after the street protests, but said "it doesn't mean they are no longer fighting for democracy". Tai led the march with his two co-founders Dr Chan Kin-man and Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, veteran Democrat Martin Lee Chu-ming and Daisy Chan. As the crowd waved yellow umbrellas and other Occupy symbols, the five held a banner which read: "Reject fake democracy; we want real universal suffrage." About 2,000 police lined the route and stopped at least three groups from setting up stalls. […] Some Occupy veterans said they chose not to march as they doubted its effectiveness. In response, a government spokesman urged citizens "to adopt an accommodating, rational and pragmatic approach" to forge consensus on political reform. In Tai Po, meanwhile, there were clashes between democracy supporters and a group staging a pro-police protest. Police threatened to use pepper spray and issued warning notices telling the crowd to disperse. A 13-year-old boy and two men, aged 22 and 39, were arrested. […] The Facebook page of the rally organiser, the Civil Human Rights Front, was flooded with comments saying protests would not work. Others wrote that they were disappointed the front did not organise a rally on New Year's Day, like it had been doing for years. Those who took part in the rally yesterday had a more optimistic view. […] ^ top ^

Hong Kong businesses hurt by democracy protests to get relief in budget (SCMP)
Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah will use his budget later this month to unveil one-off relief measures - such as reductions or waivers of certain fees and charges - to help industries affected by the Occupy Central protests, a person familiar with the situation told the South China Morning Post. Logistics and catering are among the sectors that are expected to benefit from the government giveaways. Tsang said early last month that he would look into ways of helping businesses that were hit by the 79-day mass sit-ins in his budget speech on February 25. The relief measures would be across the board rather than specifically targeting companies operating in districts where the Occupy protests took place. Tsang had said the government must compensate businesses in a timely manner to minimise the negative impacts on the city's economy. The source said the relief measures would not specifically target companies located in districts affected by Occupy protests as it would be difficult to implement such measures. "If companies located in certain districts benefitted from relief measures, others in other districts would ask why they are left out," the source said. "But the scale of the reduction or waiver of fees will not be large. The government wants to use this opportunity to respond to the concerns of sectors hit by the Occupy protests," the source said. […] In December, the Federation of Restaurants and Related Trades, which represents about 6,000 restaurants and bars, blamed the Occupy movement for a loss in business of more than HK$3 billion since it began in late September, when main roads in core commercial areas of Mong Kok, Admiralty, and Causeway Bay were blocked. […] The loss was roughly 3 per cent of the turnover of the sector in a year, and the federation said it could take affected establishments up to two years to make it up, given thin profit margins. But the impact on the retail sector during Occupy was not as big as some expected. While the protests were under way, retail sales increased by 1.4 per cent year-on-year for October and were up 4.2 per cent on the same period in 2013. It fell 3.9 per cent year-on-year for December. […] Wong Po-keung, chairman of the Taxi Owners Association, which led an alliance of buses, taxis and trucks that objected to Occupy, said the group wrote to the financial secretary asking him to exempt payment of licence fees for commercial vehicles. […] The Post reported yesterday that Tsang was planning more than HK$20 billion in sweeteners for the public amid global economic uncertainty and a big government surplus. ^ top ^

China's man in Hong Kong Zhang Xiaoming hits out at democracy protests (SCMP)
Instilling a sense of national pride and belonging in young people should be a priority for the education system in the wake of Occupy Central, Beijing's top official in Hong Kong said yesterday. In a high-profile speech at the spring reception of the central government's liaison office, director Zhang Xiaoming also warned the city to be wary of attempts to advocate independence or confront Beijing by illegal means. Last year's 79-day civil disobedience sit-ins dominated Zhang's keynote speech to more than 4,000 guests as he warned against using the city's high degree of autonomy as a pretext to reject Beijing's authority. He said Occupy had brought a "deep wound to Hong Kong society", but praised the response of the government and police. "Hong Kong enjoys a high degree of autonomy, but this does not mean that it … could disrespect the central authority's power, that includes the decision-making power on important political issues such as universal suffrage," Zhang said, in reference to the spark for the protests - Beijing's stringent rules on nominations when Hongkongers elect the chief executive for the first time in 2017. While the city's young people deserved more "love and care", they also needed "positive guidance" to help them understand the nation. Referring to comments President Xi Jinping made on the youth of Macau in December, Zhang added: "Priority should be given to the history, culture and national conditions … in the education of the young people." Zhang also told his audience - including many Beijing loyalists and business leaders - that there was no need to fear the city being marginalised as the nation's economy developed, as the city's development remained part of the national strategic interest. Zhang was joined on stage by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and former leader, Tung Chee-hwa. However Tung's successor, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, was in the audience. Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing said Zhang "blurred the boundary" of "one country, two systems" by commenting on issues that were a matter for local leaders. A handful of pan-democratic lawmakers were invited. The Civic Party's Kwok Ka-ki was denied entry as he held a yellow umbrella - an Occupy emblem. ^ top ^



Taiwan tells China's Communist Party to 'stop exaggerating' its forces' role in second world war (SCMP)
Taiwan urged the Communist Party yesterday to honestly examine the role it played in resisting Japanese aggression during the second world war, instead of just demanding that Japan reflect on its wartime actions. The island's defence ministry spokesman Major General David Lo said the Communist Party had taken an "irresponsible" attitude in addressing the issue and accused it of twisting historical facts, such as exaggerating the contributions made by the communist forces. "I sincerely urge the Communist Party to honestly face up to history so it won't humiliate the army and the masses who helped fight the war," he said, referring to the party's argument that it led the Chinese people in the eight-year war of resistance against the Japanese invaders. Lo said those with a basic knowledge of the second world war knew that it was mainly forces loyal to the then ruling Kuomintang that took on the Japanese, with the communists playing a lesser role. The communists later fought a civil war with the KMT, forcing it to retreat to Taiwan in 1949. Regardless of what celebrations the party would hold this year to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the war's end, Lo said it could not whitewash the contributions of the KMT forces. To mark the 70th anniversary, Beijing has arranged a series of celebrations this year, including a grand military parade. While Taiwan plans a series of low-key activities to mark both the war's end in 1945 and the island's liberation from Japanese colonial rule, KMT legislator Lin Yu-fang has called for a military parade, a proposal defence minister Kao Kuang-chi said he would convey to President Ma Ying-jeou. Beijing regards self-ruled Taiwan as a renegade province and has threatened in the past to invade if it declares independence. Relations have improved since Ma came to power in 2008, but the two sides still view each other as political rivals. ^ top ^

Chen Shui-bian has medical parole extended for a further three months (SCMP)
Taiwan's judicial authorities yesterday extended the medical parole for disgraced ex-president Chen Shui-bian for three more months, after finding he is still too ill to return to prison. Chen, aged 64, was allowed home to recuperate after the Agency of Corrections granted him medical parole for one month due to his frail health. It was due to expire yesterday. "We have decided to extend his medical parole for three more months after accessing the medical report compiled by a medical team and checking his actual conditions at home," the Ministry of Justice said in a statement. It said the Agency of Corrections recently sent officials to Chen's home in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan to check his health, only to find that he had not made sufficient improvement to return to jail. "His conditions are complicated and hard to control, and there is also a risk that he could die if without proper care at the prison," the agency said. Chen, president between 2000 and 2008, has served more than six years of a 20-year sentence for corruption. His health has been deteriorating over time while serving his jail term. A 15-member medical team had initially recommended that he be granted medical parole and sent home for medical treatment. He was seen leaving prison last month in a wheelchair and reportedly has lost some motor control. The extension allows Chen to celebrate his first Lunar New Year holiday outside jail since 2008. Chen is barred from taking part in political activities but is allowed to have visitors and earn money from writing articles, which analysts say could help bolster his political influence, which remains strong within the pro-independence camp. However, Taiwanese prosecutors last month indicted Chen on an additional charge of laundering NT$10 million (HK$2.5 million) through his brother-in-law. Prosecutors said it was a bribe offered by a businesswoman to help her secure a position when he was president. ^ top ^

31 confirmed dead in TransAsia plane crash (Xinhua)
At least 31 people were confirmed dead and 12 others are still missing in Wednesday's TransAsia Airways plane crash, the island's response authority said late Thursday. Another 15 people onboard the plane were injured when the ATR-72 aircraft crashed in the Keelung River at 10:56 a.m. on Wednesday after its wing clipped a taxi on an elevated freeway 10 minutes following takeoff. […] According to Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, 22 of the dead were from the Chinese mainland. Altogether 31 passengers from the Chinese mainland, including three children, were onboard Flight GE235 which was heading for Kinmen from Taipei. […] Rescuers operating underwater and in rafts and helicopters are on Thursday scouring the crash site and along the Keelung River as well as its banks. The cockpit and tail of the plane have been hoisted out of the water, while some segments of the fuselage remain submerged. The Taiwan Aviation Safety Council said it has invited accident investigators from the Chinese mainland to take part in the accident investigation. […] Meanwhile, TransAsia decided on Thursday to hand out compensation of 200,000 new Taiwan dollars (about 6,356 U.S. dollars) to each injured victim (including the two in the taxi), and compensation of 1.2 million new Taiwan dollars to the family of each identified fatality. As of present, 44 family members of the mainland victims have arrived in Taiwan. […] According to the authority, TransAsia had already completed two flights using ATR-72 aircraft on Wednesday before the crash, with flight and maintenance reports of these flights featuring no record of malfunction. […] A cross-Strait emergency response mechanism has been launched to deal with the accident. According to Taipei authorities, the crashed plane had been in service since April 2014 and was subject to a routine safety check last month. TransAsia announced on Thursday that passengers who wanted to cancel their bookings would have their usual commission fees waived. This is not the first time that an ATR-72 aircraft has crashed in Taiwan. On July 23, 2014, TransAsia Airways flight GE222 crashed on Taiwan's Penghu Island, killing 48 people […] In a separate development, Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office on Thursday said a planned visit by Zhang Zhijun, head of the office, to Kinmen has been delayed, as "both sides need to focus on the aftermath of the accident," Ma said. Zhang was originally scheduled to meet with Taiwan's mainland affairs chief Wang Yu-chi on Feb. 7-8. The updated date of the meeting was not revealed immediately. ^ top ^



China top spot for FDI in world in 2014 (China Daily)
China was the top destination for foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2014, according to a new United Nations report, despite concerns of the nation's economic slowdown. And the main engine of the economy is no longer manufacturing but the service sector. The Chinese mainland is estimated to have attracted $128 billion of FDI in 2014, followed by Hong Kong with a $111 billion FDI, according the latest Global Investment Trends Monitor report released on Jan 29 by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). "There's an increase of FDI into the services sector, and a slowdown of growth into manufacturing," James Zhan, director of UNCTAD's investment and enterprise division and lead author of the annual report, told Reuters. "Within manufacturing, investment into high tech is growing while labor intensive FDI has been declining." Foreign money's flow into the Chinese service sector grew 7.8 percent and constituted 55.4 percent of the overall FDI, according to the Ministry of Commerce. Meanwhile, foreign investment into capital-intensive industries dropped 12.3 percent last year and made up only 33.4 percent of the total FDI. China's inbound FDI grew 1.7 percent last year, much slower than the 5.3 percent of 2013, suggesting a transition in the structure of the Chinese economy, according to the Ministry of Commerce. In 2013, Chinese inbound FDI dropped 3.7 percent, the first full year drop since 2009. The fluctuations reflect the slowing-down of China's economic expansion and a transition of China's economic structure. China's GDP grew 7.4 percent in 2014, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. China's traditional advantage in the manufacturing sector is decreasing, as labor costs keep rising and many manufacturers shift their production to Southeast Asia and other places with cheaper labor. Some manufacturers have decided to shift their operations back to developed economies because high-end manufacturing is driven by technology not by labor costs. […] ^ top ^

Energy tycoon China's richest (Global Times)
The head of a Chinese solar energy giant has dethroned Alibaba founder Jack Ma Yun as the country's richest person, and bested real estate and Internet tycoons, a report released on Tuesday by the Hurun Research Institute showed. Li Hejun, the founder and chairman of the Hanergy Holding Group, saw his wealth nearly triple from a year ago with a fortune of 160 billion yuan ($26 billion), slightly higher than Wang Jianlin, the founder of Wanda Group, and Jack Ma, the Chairman of Alibaba, the Hurun Global Rich List 2015 said, which ended the wealth calculations on January 17, 2015. Li's global ranking rose to 28th, up 108 notches from last year. Li holds most of the shares in the group's Hong Kong-listed subsidiary Hanergy Thin Film Power Group, which is worth about 80 billion yuan, and some unlisted industries including hydropower and solar energy, the report said. Jack Ma was also overtaken by property baron Wang, whose net worth was estimated at 155 billion yuan. Jack Ma dropped to third with 150 billion yuan. Jack Ma topped Hurun's China rich list in late September last year, shortly after Alibaba's successful IPO at the New York Stock Exchange that raised nearly $22 billion. Wang was listed second. Another e-commerce tycoon, Liu Qiangdong, the founder of, was the biggest gainer, his wealth rising four-fold to 41 billion yuan from last year. Also rising fast was Lei Jun, the founder of smartphone maker Xiaomi, whose fortune tripled from last year to 85 billion yuan, 74th in the world. The rest in the top 10 include the top executives of beverage producer Wahaha, search engine Baidu, and Internet service provider Tencent. […] ^ top ^

China seeks to stabilize yuan amid depreciation (Xinhua)
China's central bank seems to have moved to stabilize the yuan despite mounting market sentiment that the currency has been toward the upper limit of its daily trading band for the past week. The reference rate the People's Bank of China (PBoC) announces on the morning of each trading day to guide onshore trade of renminbi has risen 66 basis points since last Monday, while spot trading has been testing the limit to which the yuan is allowed to weaken daily. Renminbi traded in the onshore market is allowed to rise and fall by 2 percent against the central parity rate each day. The spot trade's divergence from the official guidance suggests growing market pressure to see the yuan weaken to the greenback. But economists have interpreted the reference rate's resilience as a move to prevent the yuan from a sharp decline that would exacerbate capital outflow and undercut financial stability. The official gauge of China's manufacturing activity in January came in below the threshold separating expansion from contraction for the first time in more than two years, adding to concerns that the world's second-largest economy is losing momentum. "The midpoint rate speaks very clearly to the central bank's stance -- a sharp fall in the yuan will not be tolerated," said Liu Dongliang, a Shanghai-based analyst with China Merchant Bank Co. […] But pressure for the yuan to weaken is mounting, as more central banks around the world kicked off their own monetary easing programs. Yet the yuan's reference rate has hardly budged. "The central bank is using the reference rate to stabilize the yuan," said Xu Gao, chief economist of China Everbright Securities Co., Ltd. […] Proponents of the yuan's depreciation argue that a weaker yuan will add to the competitiveness of China's exports, but economists say that its impact is likely to be very limited. […] Though the spread between the reference rate and spot trading has repeatedly widened to the daily limit of 2 percent, analysts say a further widening of the yuan's trading band is also unlikely in the near term. "If the central bank does so, the market will misinterpret it as allowing the yuan to weaken further," according to China Merchant Bank's Liu. China widened the yuan's trading band to 2 percent on either side of the reference rate in March, a move that snapped the yuan's rising trend against the dollar and changed the perception that the currency is a one-way bet. […] It is the reference rate, Zhao [of the China Financial Futures Exchange] said, that authorities should work on going forward to bring more transparency and better reflect the market's opinion on the currency. China has been promoting the yuan's global use and a stable yuan would gain more acceptance in global trade. […] ^ top ^

China's RRR cut not start of strong stimulus (Xinhua)
The universal reserve requirement ratio (RRR) cut starting on Thursday is not the start of a strong stimulus for the economy, a senior official of China's central bank told Xinhua on Thursday. The cut was an ordinary policy operation by the People's Bank of China (PBOC) based on liquidity conditions and the economic situation, Lu Lei, head of the PBOC's research department, said in an interview. The central bank on Wednesday decided to lower the RRR, the minimum level of reserves banks must hold, by 50 basis points from Feb. 5, the first universal RRR cut since May 2012. The upcoming Spring Festival is a factor, as funding shortages occur every year around this time in China due to strong cash demand. Taking the current position of foreign exchange reserves into account, open market operations alone are not adequate to fill the funding gap, he added. Lu denied that the RRR cut represented a policy shift: The central bank conducts operations by sticking to the principle of a balance between tight and loose, in line with economic indicators, Lu said. The PBOC also increased support to targeted areas, cutting the RRR by an extra 50 basis points for qualified banks lending to small firms, the farming sector and major water projects. Lu noted that the targeted RRR cut reflects the government's desire to restructure the economy. The move comes days after the purchasing managers' index, a gauge of manufacturing activity, fell below 50 for the first time since October 2012, a sign of a weakening economy. The world's second largest economy grew at the slowest rate for 24 years in 2014. China's producer price index (PPI) has been declining for 34 months in a row, indicating enormous pressure on the real economy, especially on small businesses, Lu noted. The structural RRR cut is meant to guide more financial resources to the most demanding sectors in the real economy. The central bank cut benchmark interest rates for the first time in more than two years in November 2014. As to whether the liquidity released by the moves has flowed into the real economy, Lu said a study by the central bank showed that the weighted average interest rates of renminbi loans had dropped significantly from the second quarter of 2014 to the fourth. The research chief admitted that small firms suffer higher financing cost than large ones, not an exclusively Chinese phenomenon. Lu wants more reform to encourage private companies to enter the financial sector and a multi-tier financial market promoted. As to whether the new liquidity has hit the stock market as many experts supposed, Lu said the financial market normally reacts faster than the real economy and the real effect on the real economy takes a longer time to show. ^ top ^


DPRK and South Korea

Pyongyang urges Seoul to take practical measures for dialogue (Global Times)
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on Wednesday urged South Korea to show their will to improve inter-Korean ties by taking practical measures and avoid escalation of tensions. South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman Lim Byeong-cheol on Monday told a press briefing that if the DPRK really has a will to resolve pending issues and improve inter-Korean relations, it should come to the dialogue table without repeating its wasting claims any more. South Korean media outlets also expressed concerns that north-south dialogue may be hard to materialize thanks to no response from Pyongyang to Seoul's talks offer. "This is an intolerable insult to the DPRK's sincere efforts to bring about a great change in the north-south relations in this significant year," the official KCNA news agency quoted an unnamed spokesman for the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea as saying. "The South Korean authorities should not just pay lip-service to 'dialogue' and 'confidence' but make a bold decision to settle national issues and reunification issue with their fellow countrymen through frank discussions, free from the US control, and show the will for the improvement of the relations by taking practical and trust-based measures," the spokesman stressed. He also called on Seoul to stop acts that harm fellow countrymen and escalate tensions "by toeing to the US policy." ^ top ^

Senior US official urges DPRK to act in 'good faith' (China Daily)
A senior US diplomat on Wednesday called on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to show sincere intentions and take concrete steps toward denuclearization. "We will negotiate with the government that exists in North Korea (DPRK) if they will negotiate in good faith consistent with their commitments under the six-party talks and the UN Security Council resolutions," Daniel Russel, US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said at a press conference in Washington. Russel stressed that the US has been consistent in making clear that it is open to dialogue with the DPRK, adding that it does not have a "hostile policy" toward Pyongyang. The US is always seeking indicators of seriousness of purpose on the DPRK's part that is prepared to come to the negotiating table and ready to take irreversible steps necessary to denuclearization, Russel said. "We are not seeing it yet, but we are not stopping our careful monitoring of their messaging," he added. The DPRK on Wednesday warned the US of stronger counteractions to shatter its anti-Pyongyang campaigns, saying that it is no longer willing to "sit at the negotiating table" with Washington. "Now that the brigandish US imperialists' hostile policy toward the DPRK is getting extremely ferocious, the army and the people of the DPRK will take stronger counteractions of justice to shatter it," said a statement issued by the National Defense Commission (NDC), the country's top military body. In response to the statement, Russel said the US will not take one pronouncement from Pyongyang as "the last word", but is well aware of the potential for DPRK's provocation. ^ 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.
Page created and hosted by SinOptic Back to the top of the page To SinOptic - Services and Studies on the Chinese World's Homepage