Sunday, October 19, 2008

Gov't to provide sustainable living environment for HK, says official

The Hong Kong SAR government will continue its endeavors to provide a quality and sustainable living environment for the people of Hong Kong, the Secretary for Development of Hong Kong Carrie Lam said Saturday.

Lam was speaking at the plenary session of an international symposium organized by the Skyscraper Museum in New York City, said a press release of the Hong Kong Information Service Department.

She said that Hong Kong's high density development had accommodated the city's population increase at one million per decade in the latter half of the 20th century and propelled its economic growth, while preserving the countryside for public enjoyment.

However, Lam admitted that in recent years, both the civil society and members of the public had voiced concerns about the height and bulk of buildings and their environmental and visual impact, and expressed strong aspirations for preserving heritage buildings, ceasing harbor reclamation, creating quality open space and preserving community networks and local characteristics in urban regeneration.

In response to these aspirations and to pursue a sustainable development in Hong Kong, the Government was committed to finding the right balance between economic benefits and benefits to culture, the society and the environment.

During the speech, Lam outlined in her presentation the various initiatives in reviewing development density, promulgating clear development control parameters in statutory plans, preserving and revitalizing heritage buildings, undertaking area-based revitalization projects, promoting green buildings.

Lam said that to achieve the vision of Hong Kong as Asia's world city, the Government would focus on three broad areas in working out the future blueprint of Hong Kong, namely improving a quality living environment, enhancing economic competitiveness, and strengthening links with the Chinese mainland.

Lam arrived in New York City on October 16 for a 3-day official visit.

Source: Xinhua

Training of high quality, loyal police stressed

Senior Communist Party of China official Zhou Yongkang on Saturday called for more efforts on providing the country with a high-quality police force through improved education and training.

The member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee made the remark here at a forum marking the 60th anniversary of the Chinese People's Public Security University.

He spoke highly of the achievements the institution had made and urged those involved to turn it into a "cradle" of loyal guardians of the Party and the people and the "frontier" of promoting the development of public security theory.

The public security organs must "stick to the path of strengthening the police capability through science and education" and strive to build a force of high quality.

Zhou also asked the university to enhance exchanges and cooperation with their international counterparts and constantly innovate in their teachings.

The university, under the Ministry of Public Security, has so far trained more than 170,000 police.

Source: Xinhua

Top China political advisor proposes more attention on grain security

Jia Qinglin, chairman of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee, addresses the conclusion of the third meeting of the CPPCC National Committee's Standing Committee in Beijing, on Otc. 18, 2008.
China should pay more attention to its grain security in rural reform, said Jia Qinglin, the country's top political advisor, here on Saturday.

It should be a top priority to maintain grain production when the country develops modern agriculture, said Jia, chairman of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee, when the third meeting of the CPPCC National Committee's Standing Committee concluded here.

"China should stick to the most strict system to protect farming land."

During the four-day meeting, senior political advisors reviewed the decision on rural development and reform made at the third Plenary Session of the 17th Communist Party of China Central Committee.

They exchanged views and presented valuable ideas on rural reform, said a statement issued after the meeting.

"We should realize new situations and problems China faces in rural economic and social development, as well as urgency and responsibility to push forward rural reform," Jia said.

The CPPCC would work on proposals on system building, agriculture and public service development in rural areas.

He also asked political advisors to watch and study the global financial turmoil's impact on the domestic economy and contribute their talent to the administration.

Source: Xinhua

Czech's Lower House president denounces "Tibetan flag incident"

President of Czech's Chamber of Deputies Miloslav Vlcek has denounced the action by a few Green Party deputies of unfurling a Tibetan flag in front of the visiting Chinese parliamentary delegation last month.

During an interview with Xinhua on Thursday, Vlcek said the unwarranted action by a few individuals represented neither the parliament nor the government, much less the general Czech public. Their action had undermined relations between the two countries, and had been criticized by most parliamentarians and the Czech people.

On Sept. 25, a few Green Party deputies unwrapped a Tibetan flag in a gesture to support the so-called Tibetan independence while a Chinese delegation from the Ethnic Affairs Committee under the National People's Congress, China's parliament, was visiting Czech's Lower House. The delegation immediately left the Lower House in protest.

Czech and China have always enjoyed a long history of friendship, said Vlcek. Their bilateral relations, however, were affected by changes of ruling parties in Czech in recent years, he noted.

As president of the Lower House and leader of the left-wing Social Democratic party, Vlcek said he has always been an active advocate for friendship and cooperation between Czech and China. He said he hoped this incident wouldn't harm the overall development of bilateral relations, Vlcek said.

He also presented to Xinhua a presidential statement of the Czech's Lower House, in which he said the Lower House would take measures to prevent the recurrence of similar incident.

Source: Xinhua

China's first ambassador to Niue presents credential to Niue PM

Zhang Limin, China's first ambassador to the South Pacific island nation of Niue, presented the credential to Niue Prime Minister Toke Talagi in the capital of Alofi on Friday local time, according to news reached here on Saturday.

Niue's cabinet ministers, government officials and members of parliament attended the ceremony.

Talagi welcomed Zhang, who also serves as the Chinese ambassador to New Zealand and the Cook Islands. Talagi said China is the first country which established formal diplomatic ties with Niue, and it was also the first time for Niue to hold a ceremony on receiving credential from a foreign ambassador.

He said Niue attached importance to developing ties with China and thanked China's assistance in expanding Niue's airport and housing rebuilding project.

The Chinese ambassador conveyed Chinese President Hu Jintao's regards and said bilateral ties have witnessed sound development since they established diplomatic ties in December 2007.

Zhang, who is based in Wellington, New Zealand, said China and Niue supported each other in regional and international affairs, with increasing friendship between the two peoples.

Source: Xinhua

China, Africa see closer cooperation since Beijing Summit

China and Africa had witnessed closer cooperation in various field since the Beijing Summit in 2006, a Chinese Foreign Ministry official said in an interview with Xinhua.

Xu Jinghu, director-general of the ministry's Department of African Affairs, said progress had been made in carrying out the eight measures for China-Africa practical cooperation, announced by Chinese President Hu Jintao at the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation .

The eight measures included China's pledge to double its assistance to Africa by 2009, provide 3 billion U.S. dollars of preferential loans and 2 billion dollars of preferential buyer's credits, as well as establish a development fund of 5 billion dollars to encourage Chinese firms to invest in Africa. Debt cancellation was another major measure.

During the two years after the Beijing summit, "China has increased its aid to African countries, and made great accomplishment in debt relief and tariff exemption for African countries", Xu said.

She said the China-Africa Development Fund was launched in June 2007 and projects helped by China had been advancing steadily in Africa, including the Africa Union Headquarters Center project, the largest built with Chinese assistance. Construction of the AU headquarters was started in May 2007.

Up to August of this year, China had trained 8,627 African personnel, sent 100 Chinese agriculture experts and 113 young volunteers to work there, Xu said.

Centers for malaria control and prevention, advanced agricultural techniques centers and rural schools were under construction in Africa with the help of China, Xu added.

China-Africa trade has been growing. The volume totaled 73.3 billion dollars in 2007, an increase of 32.2 percent over that of 2006.

With respect to educational cooperation, Xu said the Chinese government granted almost 2,700 scholarships for African student last year, 700 more than the figure of 2006.

"Cooperation in culture, sports, finance, science and technology, civil aviation and tourism has enhanced the development of China-Africa new type of strategic partnership," she added.

The FOCAC was jointly proposed and established by China and more than 40 African countries in 2000.

The Beijing summit of the FOCAC was held in 2006, marking the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the People's Republic of China and African countries. The summit called for the establishment a "new type of strategic partnership" between China and Africa.

Source: Xinhua

Official: China's new foreign media rules reflect determination to remain open

China's new rules on foreign media reflected the country's determination to carry on the policy of opening up to the outside world, a senior information official said here Saturday, hours after the issuing of the new rules.

Wang Chen said this in a ceremony for the establishment of "Israel Epstein Research Center" of Qinghua University.

Wang pointed out that the new rules draw on the experience of providing service and managerial assistance for foreign correspondents during Beijing Olympics, and they will make foreign correspondents reporting activities in China more convenient.

"Chinese government welcomes foreign media and reporters, and we hope more stories about the country will be told to the world. We will spare no effort to provide help and service to them," he said," meanwhile, we hope foreign media and reporters could abide by Chinese laws and professional morals, to report unbiasedly and justly, so to promote understanding and cooperation between China and the rest of the world."

According to the new rules, foreign reporters wishing to interview organizations or individuals in China no longer need to be received and accompanied by the Chinese organizations.

An item in the old version was also cancelled, which asked foreign reporters to get approval from the local government's foreign affairs department when they wanted to do reporting in the regions open to them.

Seymour Topping, a famous journalist from the United States and the former administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes, told Xinhua that the removal of the restrictions on foreign correspondents may mark an important progress of China,

China should learn to tolerate the judgement of the outside world, be it positive or negative. That will show a more confident China, he said.

Huang Youyi, deputy director-general and editor-in-chief of China International Publishing Group, said:" Sadly some foreign media reported inaccurately about China. But I believe with more foreign reporters coming, the proportion of accurate reports will increase."

"How great it is!" Wang Yu, who lives in Haidian District of Beijing smiled when she heard about the new rules," the foreign reporters will see that the world is a family, and Chinese people do have speech freedom."

A backpacker named Wang Shaofei from Hainan Province in the south of China said:" if any foreign reporters come to me, I will tell them the new development and changes of my hometown. Maybe I could know more about the cultures abroad, too."

Source: Xinhua

Late journalist Epstein's books donated to library

More than 6,000 books collected by late famous journalist Israel Epstein, known as "a true old friend of the Chinese people," was donated to a library of Tsinghua University here on Saturday.

His works, photos and scripts were also donated to the university by his wife Ai Huanghuanbi, who said it was the will of Epstein to donate the books to a public library so as to benefit more people.

"My wife and I were moved when we saw Epstein's scripts. He kept detailed records of all his interviews, which has become historical materials that witnessed the changes of China," said Lin Wusun, former head of China International Publishing Group.

The Israel Epstein Research Center was inaugurate in the university by Wang Chen, head of the Information Office of State Council, and Tsinghua Vice President Xie Weihe.

Born to a Jewish family on April 20, 1915, Epstein came to China with his parents at the age of two. He began to work for China's revolution in 1933 and became a Chinese citizen in 1957. The noted journalist and writer once served as editor-in-chief of China Reconstructs magazine.

"It's no surprise that Epstein stayed in China for his whole life," said former administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes Seymour Topping on the sidelines of the ceremony. "China has experienced a lot on the past decades, and Epstein's responsibility as a reporter to seek for truth makes him stay to document Chinese people, Chinese revolution and the development of China."

From 1983 on, Epstein served as an elected member of the Standing Committee of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the top advisory body in China.

When serving as a correspondent of the United Press and the Allied Labor News of the United States, Epstein visited northwest China's Shaanxi Province and Shanxi-Suiyuan Anti-Japanese Base Areas, and interviewed Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai and other leaders of the Communist Party of China.

His major books include "The People's War in China," "The Unfinished Revolution in China" and "My China Eye-Memos of a Jew and a Journalist."

He died in Beijing at age 90 on May 26, 2005.

Source: Xinhua

Chinese diplomat: Ties with Africa advancing in all-round way

A senior official of Chinese Foreign Ministry said here Saturday that the new China-Africa strategic partnership is moving forward in an all-round and coordinated way.

Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Zhai Jun made the remarks at the sixth senior officials meeting of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation opened Saturday in the Egyptian capital of Cairo.

Addressing the meeting, Zhai said the success of the FOCAC Beijing summit two years ago turned a new page in the history of China-Africa relations.

"We are happy to see that progress has been made in implementing the follow-up actions to the Summit," said Zhai, adding China and Africa now enjoy closer political relations, deeper practical cooperation, diversified cultural exchanges and stronger partnership in international affairs.

Egyptian Assistant Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ali Hassan, on behalf of Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit, said Egypt strongly believes that the FOCAC is a unique example of cooperation between two partners, who are equal in rights and obligations, bound by common goals and interests.

In the two-day meeting, delegates from the 50 FOCAC members will review the implementation of the follow-up actions, make preparation for the fourth ministerial conference scheduled for 2009.

The meeting will also discuss cooperation between China and Africa in agriculture and food security and infrastructure construction.

The FOCAC was jointly proposed and established by China and more than 40 African countries in 2000. It consists of meetings at three levels: the ministerial conference, senior officials meeting, and negotiation between the Chinese Follow-up Committee of the Forum and the African Diplomatic Mission in Beijing.

During the Beijing summit of the FOCAC in 2006, commemorating the 50th anniversary since China started forging ties with African countries, the Forum members agreed to establish a "new type of strategic partnership" between China and Africa.

Source: Xinhua

ACFTU down path of building trade unions with Chinese characteristics

After being a sweeper for most of her working life, entering the Great Hall of the People proved quite a change of routine for Fan Xiping.

The 48-year-old from Lanzhou, capital of the northwestern Gansu Province, was in Beijing to attend the ongoing 15th national congress of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions .

Having swept roads for more than 20 years, Fan was now among 47representatives of the country's massive migrant workforce for the congress.

Most are employed in the manufacturing, construction, urban sanitation and restaurant sectors.

To safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of the 210 million farmers-turned-migrant workers has become a new mission of trade unions nationwide.

According to ACFTU chairman Wang Zhaoguo, top priority has been given to the task.

"When I went into the Great Hall of the People, I was so excited. In the past, I did not know who I could rely on when facing difficulties," Fan said. "Now I hope I can speak for migrant workers like myself on the platform provided by the congress."

"My biggest dream is to own a home. I hope work safety will be ensured for me when I sweep roads every day and that I can get a pension after I am retired."

The large population of migrant workers, of them about 66 million are now members of the federation, has become one of the Chinese characteristics in the country's urbanization and unionization process.

Wang said in his working report on Friday when the congress opened trade unions nationwide should search for a path of strengthening the organizations with Chinese characteristics.

In his report, the concept of "trade unions with Chinese characteristics" embraced the principles of sticking to the leadership of the Communist Party of China over the unions, as well as to putting the workers first and protecting their rights and interests in line with laws and in a scientific manner.

Over the past five years, unions nationwide helped win back more than 43 billion yuan in delayed payment owed to migrant workers, according to Sun Chunlan, ACFTU vice-chairwoman.

Currently, unions provide free legal advice to workers nationwide via a network of 6,178 legal aid agencies, which had handled more than 29,000 labor dispute cases through 2007.

Sun said unions had established 2,761 job agencies across the country and found employment, completely free of charge, for 7.1 million people, through last year.

They had also built 2,924 vocational training agencies and helped 3.4 million laid-off workers find new jobs, she added.

In the eyes of Han Xingwang, a 54-year-old owner of a private business in Xunhua Salar Autonomous County of the northwestern province of Qinghai, a trade union is not only the "protector" of employees' legitimate rights and interests, but also a "driving force" behind the development of an enterprise.

To better solve labor disputes, Han has introduced trade-union leaders into his board of directors.

"When my business unionized two decades ago, I did not know if it could make any differences in the enterprise. But it has justified my decision," said Han, who is also attending the congress.

In pursuit of harmonious labor relations is another requirement of building trade unions with Chinese characteristics.

Helping employees with multinationals in China to safeguard their legitimate rights and interests is also important work of the unions.

A Walmart store in the northeastern city of Shenyang had employers and employees reach agreements on monthly pay for grassroot workers on July 14. Another 108 unionized Walmart stores across the country followed suit in the ensuing two months.

Wang Yayun, union head of a Walmart store in Jinjiang of the southeastern Fujian Province, said her union would strive for better employee welfare in the next year, such as establishing a kindergarten for the workers.

The congress, which is attended by more than 1,600 representatives across the country, runs until Tuesday.

Source: Xinhua

HK gov't strengthens support to SMEs

The Hong Kong SAR government is considering merging the loan guarantee for two sub-schemes under the small and medium enterprises funding schemes to ease the economic difficulties, a government spokesman said on Saturday.

The spokesman said with a view to strengthening support to the SMEs in the midst of the current financial turmoil, the government has proposed to introduce the some enhancement measures to improve the SME Funding Schemes.

The enhancement measures includes extending the maximum guarantee period for Working Capital Loan from 2 years to 5 years, increasing the indicative ceiling of guarantee exposure for each participating lending institution from 1.25 billion HK dollars to 1.5 billion HK dollars.

The government will also propose to allow each SME to recycle the guarantee once after it has fully paid up the loan backed up by the guarantee.

For Export Marketing Fund, the government proposes to increase the overall grant ceiling for each SME from 100,000 HK dollars to 150,000 HK dollars.

The spokesman added that the government will further elaborate the details of the enhancement measures in the Legislative Council Panel on Commerce and Industry to be held next Tuesday.

Subject to Members' views, the government will proceed to seek Finance Committee's approval to the aforesaid recommendations. Subject to the approval of Finance Committee, the government will implement the enhancement measures as soon as possible upon completion of the necessary legal procedures with the PLIs.

Source: Xinhua

Former Beijing vice mayor given suspended death penalty for bribery

Beijing's former vice mayor Liu Zhihua was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve for taking bribes, local media reported Sunday, citing a Saturday court ruling.

Liu, 59, was charged with taking bribes of about 6.97 million yuan when he was vice mayor of Beijing and director of the management committee of Zhongguancun Science Park from 1999 to 2006, according to Hengshui Intermediate People's Court in neighboring Hebei Province.

The court said the bribes were pocketed by Liu and his mistress Wang Jianrui. Liu abused his power to get contract projects, loans and offer promotions for others in exchange for profits.

Liu's lawyer Mo Shaoping said Liu did not decide whether to appeal or not.

Liu was removed from the post of Beijing vice mayor in June 2006 and expelled from the Communist Party of China six months later.

He had been head of the Beijing labor bureau, secretary of the CPC Committee of Xicheng District in Beijing and secretary general of Beijing municipal government. In 1999, he was elected vice mayor of the capital, a job that oversaw construction, real estate, sports and traffic projects around the city.

Source: Xinhua

China liberalizes farmers' land use right to boost rural development

The Communist Party of China issued a landmark policy document on Sunday to allow farmers to "lease their contracted farmland or transfer their land use right" to boost the scale operation of farm production and provide funds for them to start new businesses.

The Decision on Major Issues Concerning the Advancement of Rural Reform and Development was approved by the CPC Central Committee on Oct. 12 in a plenary session.

According to the full text of the document, markets for the lease of contracted farmland and transfer of farmland use right shall be set up and improved to allow farmers to sub-contract, lease, exchange and swap their land use rights, or joined share-holding entities with their farmland.

Such transfers of land-use rights must be voluntarily participated by farmers, with adequate payment and in accordance with the law, the CPC Central Committee said.

According to domestic law, farmland is collectively owned, but meted out to farmers in small plots in long term leasing contracts. The new measures adopted are seen by economists as a major breakthrough in land reforms initiated by late leader Deng Xiaoping 30 years ago to avail farmers of opportunities to conduct scale management and new business operations.

Source: Xinhua

Gas poisoning kills 3, sickens 11 in central China plant

Three workers died and 11 others were injured in a steel plant accident in central China's Hubei Province on Saturday, local authorities said.

The workers were poisoned by gas at about 3 p.m. while repairing a boiler in the heating power workshop at Echeng Iron and Steel Co., Ltd. in Ezhou City, said a city government spokesman.

They were hospitalized immediately, but three later died despite medical efforts. Another seriously poisoned person was in critical condition, doctors said.

Rescuers turned off the boiler valve in time so no more gas escaped.

Provincial Governor Li Hongzhong ordered the provincial health department assist in the medical efforts and asked them to do all they could to save the workers.

An investigation is underway.

The company, under Wuhan Iron and Steel Group, is on the southern bank of the Yangtze River, about 40 km from the provincial capital Wuhan.

Source: Xinhua

Beijing dangles bonus for firms to cease high-pollution production

Beijing enterprises could get a government bonus ranging from 500,000 yuan to 2.3 million yuan for ceasing high-pollution production, the city's finance bureau announced on Sunday.

The move is to stimulate the replacement of high-pollution industries with environmentally-friendly economies, according to the Finance Bureau of Beijing.

"Companies such as small cement and paper producers will be on the top of our list," the department said.

Bureau officials said fiscal incentives would be granted in accordance with the amount of energy, water and emission the companies saved or cut.

The municipal government would conduct verification on the related industries who stopped production activities before giving out the bonuses.

The policy was the latest effort of the capital to cut pollutant emissions and save energy. On Monday, up to 800,000 cars were taken off local roads as a traffic restriction officially began. The ban was considered a major step to reducing gas emissions in addition to improving traffic.

Source: Xinhua