Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Roundup - 27/01/2010

  • Four more people have been sentenced to death for their roles in violent protests in Xinjiang last July. One other person was sentenced to death with a two year reprieve, usually commuted to a life sentence, and eight others received jail terms. The names of the four who received death sentences suggest that they are all ethnic Uighurs. 26 people have now been executed or sentenced to death in connection with the riots. Uighurs began to protest in response to the murder of two Uighur migrant workers in southern China. On July 5th the protests turned violent and government figures say almost 200 Han Chinese were killed. Two days later gangs of Han Chinese were seen roaming the streets seeking revenge, the Uighur death toll has not been officially counted.

  • Five pro-democracy legislators who resigned in an attempt to spark a referendum on democratic reform have been denied the chance to make their final speeches. Pro-Beijing legislators staged a mass walk-out before they were due to speak, forcing an adjournment until next week. The resignations take effect at the end of the week. Beijing has forced Hong Kong to slow its move towards democracy, its says that a fully elected legislature cannot come into place until 2020.

  • China's State Council has set up a National Energy Commission to oversee China's energy security. China's energy need have grown enormously alongside its economic rise prompting the PLA to consider it a question of national security. The new commission will be headed by Premier Wen Jiabao and Vice-Premier Li Kaqiao will act as deputy.

  • 14 people have been killed in an avalanche in Xinjiang. The avalanche occurred yesterday in Yili, a region mostly inhabited by ethnic Kazakhs. 13 other people have died in Xinjiang after a cold snap led to an increase in snowstorms and avalanches.

  • At least five people have been killed in an explosion at an illegal fireworks factory in Inner Mongolia. The factory in Hohhot had been operating without a license, hoping to cash in on the demand for fireworks during the new year holidays which start on February 14th. 10 more people were injured in the blast.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Roundup - 26/01/2010

  • Five legislators in Hong Kong have resigned their seats in a bid to promote democratic reform. The legislators, from the League of Social Democrats and the Civic Party, hope that the five resulting by-elections will be viewed as a referendum on democratic reform in Hong Kong. Currently Hong Kong's legislature is only partly elected and its Chief Executive is elected by a committee appointed by Beijing. China has said that the chief executive should not be directly elected until 2017 and the legislature until 2020. However, the pro-democracy parties want the reforms to be in place by 2012.

  • Envoys of the Dalai Lama are to meet Chinese officials in Beijing tomorrow for the ninth round of talks since 2002 on the future of Tibet. The talks have a continuous history of going nowhere. Chinese officials are expected to demand that the Dalai Lama renounce violent separatism while the Dalai's envoys will reaffirm his commitment to a peaceful road to semi-autonomy for Tibet.
    China is beginning a new ten-year plan for Tibet which will continue to further open up the plateau and develop the economy. Tibetan exiles say that this increases ethnic tensions due to the huge influx of non-Tibetan Chinese. However, China hopes that tensions will be diffused if it succeeds in its plan to raise the incomes of rural Tibetans to the national average.

  • Associated Press has reported that the Obama administration has decided to continue with controversial arms sales to Taiwan. The new sale is said to include UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters and Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles. However, the sale will not include F-16 fighters as these were deemed to be too provocative. The sale of arms to Taiwan is a major thorn in the side of Sino-US relations.

  • China's Ministry of Environmental Protection has announced that it will exceed its targets for the reduction of two key pollutants. The 11th five year plan (2006-10) prescribed cuts of 10% of sulphur dioxide and chemical oxygen demand, a major indicator of water pollution. They say that, by the end of the year, they will have reduced an additional 400,000 tons of SO2 and 200,000 tons of COD.
    The 12th five year plan (2011-15) will contain similar targets with the addition of nitrogen oxide and ammonia nitrogen to the list of chemicals set to be reduced.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Roundup - 25/01/2010

  • China has said accusations that it was behind the recent attack on Google were 'groundless.' An official spokesman for the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said that the accusations were designed to denigrate China and that the government had no explicit or implicit role in the attacks. He also pointed out that China is the largest victim of internet attacks with 42,000 website hacks last year and over a million IP addresses taken over by overseas attackers.
    Meanwhile the People's Daily has hit out at the US in an editorial accusing it of using the internet to stir up unrest in Iran. The editorial claims that unrest which followed elections last year in Iran only begun because of 'online warfare' via You Tube and Twitter.

  • Three batches of products from three companies have been withdrawn from sale after it was found that they were tainted with Melamine. The companies, all of which sell their products in Guizhou, said that the contamination was due to a batch of powdered milk which they bought as an ingredient for their products in early 2009. A government official has suggested that this batch of powdered milk may have been left over from the 2008 Sanlu scandal. Sanlu's products caused illness in thousands of babies and six deaths.

  • Four senior Communist party officials have signed an open letter criticising the trial of Liu Xiaobo. Liu was sentenced to 11 years in jail in December. He Fang, from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Dai Huang, a former Xinhua senior reporter, and Li Pu, former deputy chief Xinhua were co-signatories on a letter written by Hu Jiwei, former editor of the People's Daily. The officials are all in their 80s and 90s, a fact which may allow them to get away with more than their younger counterparts.

  • Xie Zhenhua, WenJiabao's special representative on climate change, has caused consternation by saying that more scientific research needs to be done to prove the global warming is man made. Speaking at a meeting of the Basic group (China, India, South Africa and Brazil) he said that while the mainstream view was that global warming was caused by unrestrained emissions of greenhouse gases, there were alternative theories and that governments should remain open to these theories. Xie later assured reporters that this would not cause any delay in responding to the threat of man-made global warming.
    The meeting of the Basic countries is meant to coordinate negotiating positions before the climate summit in Mexico City later this year. The delegates pointed to the delivery of US$10 billion of aid to the least developed countries in the world by the end of the year as a key indicator of developed countries commitment to combating climate change.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Roundup - 23/01/2010

  • China has responded to US criticisms of its internet censorship by saying that the issue could hurt diplomatic ties and calling the internet a 'shot in the arm for US hegemony.' Hillary Clinton was unusually critical of China in a speech she gave on Thursday where she suggested that internet freedom could become a major plank of US foreign policy. However, she did stop short of issuing a formal diplomatic request for an investigation into Google's hacking claims.
    An article in China's state media calling the internet a tool for US hegemony has pointed to US control of the domain name server system and a plot by the CIA, uncovered by the British press in 2002, which planned to steal information from government organisations, banks and businesses, as a sign that the US is using the internet to boost its global position.

  • China and Taiwan are engaged in a competition to give the most aid to Haiti. The PRC first sent a plane with US$2 million of medical supplies very quickly after the tragedy occurred, Taiwan then responded with US$5 million of aid. China has now added an additional US4.4 million. Taiwan and China have used aid and development loans to vie for recognition for decades. However, an informal truce was called after Ma Yingjiu came to power in Taiwan. However, fears that Haiti, one of the few remaining countries who still recognise Taiwan, may switch sides appears to have provoked a strong response from Taiwan.
    The conflict between China and Taiwan has also been used by many developing states, particularly those such as the Central African Republic which have very little source of income. By switching sides from time to time they can ensure that aid is always forthcoming from one side or the other.

  • The dissident Gao Zhisheng is 'where he should be' a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official has said. At a press conference a spokesman, Ma Zhaoxu, said that he did not know exactly where he was but that 'relevant judicial authorities have decided his case.' Gao's brother said last week that a policeman had suggested that Gao had gone missing, raising fears tat he may have died in custody. Gao was previously arrested in 2007, during which time he has said he was tortured. He has consistently campaigned for political reform since he played a central role in demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

  • An online poll to choose a date for a new 'national tourism day' has been plagues by widespread fraud. A total of 4.2 billion votes were cast, significantly more than the 1.3 billion strictly possible. Allegations have been made that many provincial governments sent in fake votes so that the day would fall on the particular days, for example, Hunan wanted it to fall on Mao Zedong's birthday. The poll has been rejected and the date will now be chosen by the state council.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Roundup - 21/01/2010

  • China's National Bureau of Statistics has released above-target figures for GDP growth in 2009. They say that GDP rose 8.7% over the year with a 10.7% rise in Q4 compared with 2008. This means China is likely to replace Japan as the world's second largest economy by the end of the year. China has now declared itself the first major economy to recover from the economic crisis and PriceWaterhouseCoopers has released a report suggesting China could overtake the US as the world's largest economy as early as 2020. China has said that it will maintain its stimulus policies until demand or its exports recovers fully.
    However, statistics also showed a spike in inflation. While in November inflation was at 0.6% year on year, in December this rose to 1.9%. Attempts to reign in lending by the People's Bank of China are therefore likely to accelerate over the coming months.

  • Compensation is still being sought for people infected with HIV after blood transfusions in the 1990s, it has emerged. More than 80 people in Daye, Hunan, were infected with HIV after being operated on at the Daye No.2 Hospital. In the 1990s it was common for rural Chinese to sell their blood to hospitals to supplement their income. Some victims are angry at the disparity in compensation offered. One victim who claimed compensation early on is said to have received 190,000RMB, a 500RMB monthly stipend and a promise to allow his child to work at the hospital. Now compensation usually amounts to 90,000-100,000RMB and life-long free healthcare. The hospital says the initially high compensation was offered before it was realised how many people had been infected.

  • An additional 300,000 people will have to be moved from their homes due to the Three-Gorges Dam project. The government said that the moves were necessary to stop pollution from building up in the dam's reservoir and to protect the people from earthquakes. According to state media, 1.27 million people have already been moved to make way for the worlds largest dam. When the dam reaches full capacity, it is expected to produce 100 billion kilowatt hours a year of electricity.

  • China has placed its J-10 fighter jet on the international arms market. The fighter, China's counterpart to the US's F-16, is likely to prove a popular choice among countries who cannot buy US fighters or who are looking for a cheap alternative. Pakistan has already put in an order for 36 fighters for US$1.4 billion. This puts the individual price at US$40 million per plane, half the price of an F-16, however, it is not clear whether this includes spare parts, maintenance, training, etc.. State media has named Iran and the Phillipines as likely future buyers.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Roundup - 20/01/2010

  • In a move which many analysts suggest is linked to the Google affair, Chinese search engine, Baidu, is suing an American company for negligence after its site was hacked. Baidu says that, Inc. was guilty of gross negligence after Baidu was hacked by a group calling itself the Iranian Cyber Army on January 12th.
    Baidu has been largely reported as being the dominant search engine in China. However, this dominance is in crisis as loss of market share and the loss of key managers are revealed. Analysis International has followed recent announcements by by releasing figures that give Baidu a 58.6% share of China's online search market in the last quarter, a 5.3% drop on the previous three months.
    Baidu has also lost both its chief technology operator, Li Yinan, and its chief operations officer, Ye Peng, in the last ten days.

  • Google has delayed the launch of two new phones using Google's Android software. The phones, made by Samsung and Motorola, were to have used the China Unicom network. Insiders have suggested that Google did not want to launch a product utilising its Gmail and web search functions if the companies presence in China was uncertain.

  • China's banking Regulatory Commission has set China's lending target at 7.5 trillion RMB (US$1.1 trillion). In 2009 Chinese banks lent a total of 9.5 trillion RMB (US$1.4 trillion) and has led to fears over the creation of bubble in China's economy.
    Meanwhile, Chinese stocks fell 3% on Wednesday due to fears of further interest rate hikes.

  • Zhou Yongjun, a former democracy activist, has been sentenced to nine years in jail on charges of fraud. Zhou came to prominence during the protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989 during which he knelt on the steps of the Great Hall of the People to plead with Chinese leaders.
    He was controversially handed over to China by Hong Kong after he attempted to enter Hong Kong on a fake passport. He was reportedly put on a money laundering watchlist by Hang Seng bank after the signature on a transfer for HK$6 million (US$773,000) did not match the original.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Roundup - 19/01/2010

  • Reuters and the Wall Street Journal have cited unnamed sources saying that the cyber-attack on Google which has recently made headlines may have had inside help. Analysts have suggested that the reason the attack was so sophisticated was not because of the software used but because they knew exactly who to attack. Google has declined to comment on the reports.
    Meanwhile, the Foreign Correspondents Club of China has warned its members that the gmail accounts of at lest two reporters have recently been hacked into and their emails forwarded to an unknown address. Although the two accounts are not named the Associated Press has said that one was an account belonging to one of its journalists.

  • The Irish company Statcounter has suggested that Google's market share in China was much greater than previously reported. Reports that suggest Google had barely more than 30% of he market are based on figures from last July. Statcounters new figures show that over the last few months Google has increased its share to 43% while Baidu has fallen to 56%. The figures suggest that Google's low market share in China compared with elsewhere is not a primary motivator for its recent actions.

  • Huang Songyou, former vice-president of the Supreme People's Court, has been handed a life sentence for accepting bribes totaling 3.9 million RMB (US$571,000) and embezzling 1.2 million RMB (US$176,000). The sentence comes as part of major crackdown on corruption after Hu Jintao declared it to be a major threat to the legitimacy of the Communist party.
    Meanwhile, Chen Shaoyong, former secretary-general of Fijian's provincial party committee, was also given a life sentence for taking properties worth 8.19 million RMB (US$1.2 million) as bribes.

  • Two criminal gang leaders, Yang Tianqing and Liu Chenghu, were executed today in Chongqing. Chongqing's campaign against organised crime has resulted in a number of high profile cases involving police and judges as well as gang leaders. The campaign has been a major boost to the career of Bo Xilai who is tipped to be a major player in the next generation of Chinese leaders.

  • The China Film Group has decided to stop showing the 2D version of James Cameron's Avatar according to Hong Kong's Apple Daily. This is said to be a reaction to fears that it may encourage unrest. The film depicts a people whose local life is threatened when people arrive to exploit their planets natural resources, a situation which many in China could sympathise with. Due to the rarity of 3D cinemas in China, and their prohibitive ticket prices, the decision will mean that only China's urban middle class will be able to see the film in cinemas.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Roundup - 18/01/2010

  • China has confirmed the deaths of eight missing officers in Haiti. The four members of the UN peacekeeping force and four officials from the Ministry of Public Security were killed after the UN headquarters in Port-au-Prince collapsed during last Tuesdays earthquake. 18 Chinese nationals are now believed to have been killed in the earthquake. It is feared that the total death toll may rise to 100,000.

  • A small earthquake in south west China has triggered landslides which killed 7 people. The earthquake struck 100km south west of Guiyang, Guizhou on Sunday afternoon. One person is still missing and nine others are in hospital.

  • Two Chinese engineers have been kidnapped along with four Afghans in northern Afghanistan. The team were working on a road project with a Chinese company in Qaisar district. Afghan Islamic Press has reported that the kidnapping was conducted by the Taliban. Qaisar was previously considered one of the safest areas of Afghanistan but the war has been spreading over the last year and in October the Taliban attacked the police station in Qaisar's Faryab, kidnapping eight police officers.

  • Yahoo has been criticised by its Chinese partner, Alibaba, over its stated support for Google. Yahoo announced that it was 'aligned' with Google on the dangers of hacking at the weekend. Alibaba, which runs and, said that Yahoo's statement was 'reckless.'
    Yahoo has, like all other foreign internet companies in China, bowed to the will of the PRC. A source for the Straits Times says that China knew about the cyber attacks on foreign companies before being told by Google, but had taken the decision to remain silent on the issue.

  • Texting services have been restored to Xinjiang more than six months after riots left almost 200 people dead. The July riots led to texting, the internet and international phone calls in the province being stopped in an effort to prevent the organisation of mobs and the circulation of photos which could inflame ethnic tensions in the region. These service have finally been restored over the last few weeks.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Roundup - 16/01/2010

  • Gao Zhisheng, a prominent advocate of religious freedom, has 'gone missing' his family have said. Gao Zhisheng was detained on the 4th February 2009 and was believed to be in police custody. However, an officer told his brother that he 'lost his way and went missing.'
    Gao Zhisheng, a former soldier and coal miner, came to prominence as a dissident after representing underground Christian churches and helping to organise a hunger strike by Falun Gong supporters. He had previously been in custody in 2007 during which time he said he was tortured with electric batons and toothpicks through his testicles.
    Geng He, Gao's wife, said in her new home of New York that she was stunned by the news that the authorities did not know the whereabouts of her husband. She has asked the authorities, 'if he's alive, let us see him, if he's dead, tell us where the body is.'

  • China has criticised the plans of five Hong Kong legislators to resign en-masse to provoke a 'referendum' on democratic reform. The Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council has said that any referendum would be a violation of the Basic Law. Hong Kong's Chief Executive, Donald Tsang, has also come out strongly against the move saying that the Hong Kong government would not recognise it.
    The legislators, members of the opposition Civic Party and League of Social Democrats, are heavily critical of the delays to universal suffrage which have been imposed from Beijing with the support of the Hong Kong government. They plan to resign on January 27th.

  • Police in Beijing shut down China's first gay pageant an hour before it was due to start. The Mr Gay China pageant was supposed to be a sign of China's gradual acceptance of homosexuals. Homosexuality was a crime until 1997 and classified as a mental disorder until 2001. Since then public homosexuality and gay bars and clubs have slowly been growing in China's cities. However, the closing of this pageant shows how far China still has to go.
    Police said that the event was cancelled because of inadequate paperwork, although they are said to have commented that the pageant was a 'sensitive issue.'

Friday, 15 January 2010

Roundup - 15/01/2010

  • China's Ministry of Public Security has announced that its director of equipment and finance and deputy director of the international cooperation department are among eight Chinese missing inside the collapsed UN headquarters on Haiti. A total of four of the missing were officials from the ministry visiting the UN mission according to Xinhua. The other three men and one woman were police officers serving with the UN mission.
    UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday that a total of 22 peace keepers had been confirm dead but that figure is likely to rise as around 150 are still missing including around 100 in the collapsed headquarters.
    A Chinese rescue team is said to be working 24 hrs a day in an attempt to save as many lives as possible within the crucial first 72 hours.

  • The US has responded to the response to the attack on Google has been hindered by a lack of concrete evidence according to a report in the International Herald Tribune. The reports shows that while most hold the opinion that the attacks came from the Chinese state, concrete evidence of this is not available. The White House did not ask for the Chinese government to investigate the attacks and President Obama has declined to personally take on the issue in public. However, the report quotes a senior official as saying that there would be greater diplomatic action in the coming days.
    The attacks have now been shown to have affected at least 33 different institutions including a research institute closely link to Washington and the US defence contractor Northrop Grumman.
    Meanwhile, Microsoft has admitted that it was a weakness in its Internet Explorer that allowed the attack to happen.

  • The China Internet Network Information Centre reports that China's online population has grown to 384 million. The figure increased almost 29% since the end of 2008 when China already had the worlds largest online population.

  • China has chosen a new governor for Tibet after the resignation of Qiangba Puncog. Padma Choling is an ethnic Tibetan who has served 17 years in the People's Liberation Army before becoming a government official. Although the Tibetan governor is often an ethnic Tibetan. The most powerful official, Secretary of the CPC Tibet Committee Zhang Qingli, is Han Chinese.
    No reason has been given for the sudden resignation of Qiangba Puncog. He was 62, three years shy of the mandatory retirement age of 65.

  • A court in Beijing has begun the trial of the most senior judicial official ever arrested. Huang Songyu was vice-president of the Supreme People's Court when he was dismissed after accusations of accepting bribes and embezzlement. Mr. Huang is now on trial for accepting more than 8 million RMB in bribes and embezzling 1 million RMB from a court in Guangdong. A Xinhua report also suggested that he was known for being 'sexually corrupt' with an interest in 'underage girls.'

  • Kang Rixin, formerly head of the China National Nuclear Corporation, has been removed from the Central Committee and stripped of his Communist Party membership. Mr Kang was dismissed from his post at CNNC after suspicions of corruption. Although no charges have yet been brought he has been linked to bribes paid in return for construction contracts on China's nuclear infrastructure and also to an alleged multi-million dollar bribe from a leading French nuclear company.

  • In economic news, China's FDI rose 103% year on year in December to reach US$12.1 billion. This brings FDI for 2009 to US$90.03 billion. A slight decrease of 2.6% compared with 2008.
    Meanwhile China's foreign exchange reserves grew 23.28% to nearly US$2.4 trillion.