Monday, October 6, 2008

Four on trial for smuggling 100,000 kg of silver into Chinese mainland

Four people have gone on trial here for smuggling more than 100,000 kg of silver from Hong Kong into the Chinese mainland and evading nearly 55 million yuan in taxes , a court source said on Monday.

Guo Bailiang and Huang Zhiqiang, both Hong Kong long-haul drivers, were accused of transporting the silver, hidden in secret compartments of container trucks, to an auto repair garage in Shenzhen in the southern Guangdong Province.

Hu Yunpeng, owner of the garage, and a man named Wu Peijia who distributed the silver in the mainland, were also arrested, according to the Shenzhen Intermediate People's Court source.

The scam, which started in November 2006, was uncovered eight months later when Guo was caught by Shenzhen custom officers while trying to transport 32 silver blocks weighing nearly 500 kg.

Source: Xinhua

Changes and challenges with China's 30 years reform and opening up

This autumn was a season of revelry and national pride for the Chinese. Not yet recovered from the spectacular summer Olympics in August, the whole nation had something else to celebrate as its first taikonaut waved a Chinese flag in a maiden spacewalk.

Through the live broadcast of the mission, tens of millions of Chinese saw, at around 4:40 p.m. on Sept. 27, Zhai Zhigang, strenuously open the hatch of Shenzhou-7. You could hear the wheezing sound as he floated around in the four million dollar China-made Feitian EVA suit. The 42-year-old, squarefaced taikonaut stayed in space for about 20 minutes, accomplishing China''s first extravehicular activity in space.

Zhai''s spacewalk marked incredible progress in the country''s ambitious space program. This was just the third time China launched manned spacecraft. The first manned space flight was in 2003. A second flight with two astronauts followed in 2005. The only other countries to successfully stage a spacewalk are Russia and the United States.

China''s rapid development in space, science and technology, is attributed to growing industrial strength, a booming economy and vast scientific potential, experts said.


The Shenzhou-7 story is but one example of China''s extraordinary transformation over the past three decades.

After realizing the old system of a highly centralized, planned economy and a semi-closed country did not work, the Chinese people resolutely embarked on a historic journey of reform and opening-up in the late 1970s.

The initiative was made by late Chinese leader, Deng Xiaoping as well as other senior leaders who gathered for the Third Plenum of the 11th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in 1978.

The plenum introduced a series of important decisions on reform which represented a turning point in the history of the CPC and New China since its founding in 1949.

Since then, several events have taken place which have shaped the country.

In December 1978, 18 farmers in Xiaogang village, east China''s Anhui Province, signed a secret agreement to divide community-owned farmland into pieces for household contract.

The move was supported by late leader Deng Xiaoping, chief architect of China''s reform and opening. It was also recognized by the government, which then initiated the system of contracted responsibilities based on the household in rural areas.

On July 15, 1979, the CPC Central Committee and the State Council changed policies regarding foreign economic activities to make them more flexible. Special economic zones were also set up in the cities of Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Shantou, and Xiamen.

The construction and development of special economic zones and opening-up zones prompted the creation of a group of regional economic growth centers.

During his tour to South China in 1992, when China''s reform and opening-up drive came to a crucial juncture, Deng Xiaoping set about defining socialism as the pursuit of common prosperity. Deng delivered a series of speeches to define and clarify what was and how to build socialism in response to doubts as a result of the developing special economic zones. Some people thought the zones were a road to capitalism.

"Practice of a planned economy is not equivalent to socialism because there is also planning under capitalism; Practice of a market economy is not equivalent to capitalism because there are also markets under socialism," said Deng in one of his most repeated quotes.

Experts believe Deng''s simple but penetrating paradox paved the way for China''s switch from a planned economy to a market economy.

That economy has grown rapidly as a result of foreign trade. In 1996, China''s total foreign trade volume accounted for 35.5 percent of its GDP. Now, it accounts for nearly 70 percent of the GDP.

Twenty-three years after the launch of the opening-up policy and 52 years after the founding of People''s Republic of China, the country entered the World Trade Organization in 2001 to become its 143rd member.

"China''s negotiations for the accession to the multilateral trading system over the past 15 years have been an integral part of the process of its reform and opening up from the beginning to the end," said the then Chinese foreign trade minister Shi Guangsheng.

The Chinese government launched reforms of the exchange rate system on July 21, 2005, introducing a managed floating foreign exchange rate system after discontinuing the former foreign exchange regime pegged to the U.S. dollar.

The goal of the exchange rate reform is to build a managed, floating exchange rate mechanism based on market supply and demand. It should also maintain the yuan''s basic stability at a reasonable equilibrium, said the central bank.

China opened its financial sector to foreign banks in December, 2006. Before that, China had dropped tariffs, canceled non-tariff measures and opened up its market in accordance with the pledge it made when joining the WTO.

Beijing restarts personal license plates

China's capital readopted a program on Monday allowing car owners to have personalized license plates, but clamping down on the flashy and crude picks such as "UFO", "SEX 001" and "FBI 007" produced by some people six years ago.

A Beijing resident became the city's luckiest car owner when he secured the plate reading "NV8888" at 8:30 a.m. Monday after queuing for three days with his family at a car registration center of the Beijing Traffic Management Bureau.

He was followed by another Beijinger, Du Fei, who got "NA9999."

Many Chinese have demonstrated their fervor over lucky numbers as usual, picking as many eights, sixes or nines as possible in their license plates.

Eight in Chinese is pronounced in the same way as "fortune," six is associated with "smooth" or "propitious," while nine has the same sound as "eternity."

Chinese traditionally avoid the numbers three and four, which sound like "dissolve" and "die" respectively.

The seven car registration centers opened at 8:30 a.m., but at the registration headquarters in southern Beijing alone, at least 130 new cars had lined up along a police cordon that had been set up over the weekend. Many had waited for at least 48 hours. "I came here on Friday and my whole family took turns to wait here," said Du Fei at the head of the queue.

Retired Chinese soccer team striker Gao Hongbo was also among the early birds, picking his desired license plate reading "N168B0."

The registration headquarters alone issued nearly 400 plates in two hours. Several thousand will be issued across the city on Monday.

Beijing introduced the "pick-your-own" license plates for the first time in 2002. The system lasted for only 10 days. About 23,000 plates were issued before it was suspended amid complaints over picks that were rude and crude, including "USA 911" and "TMD"-- representing the first letters in a common Chinese swear word.

The Beijing Traffic Management Bureau says such picks won't be possible under the new system, which limits car owners freedom to only four digits and one English letter.

The first two slots in the seven-digit plates are set with the Chinese character for Beijing, followed by "N" for automobiles in the eight urban districts, or "Y" for those registered in the outer districts and counties.

Beijing's automobile fleet has exceeded 3.4 million, with more than 1,000 new cars hitting the road daily.

Source: Xinhua

China's Cabinet lays groundwork for dairy industry recovery

Calling China's dairy production and circulation "chaotic" and admitting government supervision "gravely absent," the State Council is planning an overhaul and recovery of the nation's dairy industry.

The State Council, China's Cabinet, held an executive meeting Monday on the nation's milk powder industry and approved draft regulations on quality control for dairy products.

State Councilors on Monday heard that the authorities had conducted across-the-board checks on liquid milk and dairy products and investigated food safety. All efforts had begun to pay off.

They noted that the Sanlu baby formula scandal had been a major public health incident and tarnished the reputation of China's dairy sector and the food industry at large.

The direct cause of the incident was illegal production, greed and ignoring of people's lives, the State Council said in a statement. "It is also exposed that China's dairyy production and circulation order has been chaotic and supervision has been be gravely absent."

Premier Wen Jiabao presided over the meeting. This was the second conference on the issue since the tainted baby formula scandal that broke in earlier September. The previous meeting was held on Sept. 17.

The State Council on Monday stressed that efforts should be made to scrutinize every link, from farm to dinner table, of food processing, so as to "restore the reputation of the nation's food industry, enhance consumer confidence and ensure public health."

They underscored the principles of the scrutiny: to put the people first, ensure safety, prescribe responsibilities clearly, intensify supervision, monitor the whole process, realize information disclosure, improve institutional systems and criteria and ensure accountability.

Follow-up work should be done properly. Free examinations and medical treatment should continue to be provided for infants at risk from the problematic milk powder, with examinations and hospitalization to be enhanced in rural and remote areas.

Those responsible for the contamination, including producers, traders and officials, should be penalized in accordance with laws and regulations, the State Council said.

The normal order of the domestic dairy market should be restored, with the suspension of production at enterprises that recorded poor product quality and imperfect quality guarantee systems. Milk collecting stations should be overhauled, and the threshold for the milk market should be raised. Quality criteria for the wider food industry should be improved.

Meanwhile, dairy farmers in major areas should be supported financially.

The meeting approved draft regulations on quality control for dairy products. The regulations stipulated stricter and detailed rules on animal husbandry, fresh milk collection, dairy production, domestic sales and import and export of dairy products.

The Sanlu Group, a leading dairy producer based in northern Hebei Province, admitted on Sept. 12 that it had found some of its baby milk powder products were contaminated with melamine.

Contaminated baby formula has killed at least three infants and left more than 53,000 with urinary tract problems, including kidney stones. About 13,000 infants are still being treated in hospitals.

The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine has already sent 1,644 teams and 387 working groups across the country to inspect the production processes of dairy plants.

Quality sample checks have been conducted on the products of other major brands including Mengniu, Yili, Guangming and Sanyuan.

The administration said on Sunday that latest tests on dairy products nationwide had found no traces of melamine.

The Ministry of Health has dispatched more than 1,600 medical teams, involving more than 8,000 people, to deal with the problem. More than 4,500 medical institutions nationwide have helped with medical tests.

Source: Xinhua

Chinese scoops UN awards for its harmonious cities

Chinese cities may have some of the best solutions to be found anywhere in the world at a time when the global financial crisis has left everybody worrying about their housing financing and mortgages in the United States and other developed countries.

It is not by coincidence that this year for the first time, the highest award conferred by the United Nations system in this field-- the Habitat Scroll of Honour Special Citation -- goes not to an outstanding individual, but to a Chinese city, Nanjing.

According to a news release from the UN-HABITAT, at the next level, the cities of Shaoxing and Zhangjiagang were given the Habitat Scroll of Honour Award, along with the Rwandan capital, Kigali, the Tatarstan city of Bugulma, in the Russian Federation, and Ciudad Juarez a major Mexican city on the United States border.

"The Awards this year show us that we can learn from the great strides made by all of these Chinese cities, especially at this time of global financial crisis," said Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of UN-HABITAT and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations.

"Indeed, all of our winners this year have some answers when it comes to the financial crisis. All show that Government has to take the lead and show commitment when it comes to affordable housing."

She also commended Angola for its national reconstruction program and the delivery of new roads, bridges, railways and other infrastructure either damaged or destroyed during the war.

In holding the global celebration of World Habitat Day in Luanda, Tibaijuka cited the importance that the Angolan government attaches, among other priorities, to the delivery of social housing and basic services, like water and energy for Angolan families.

The World Habitat Day prizes are conferred upon cities, governmental and non- governmental organizations, local authorities, public, private and research bodies, or individuals for outstanding achievements in the cause of sustainable human settlements.

The prize, granted in person each year by Tibaijuka, constitutes global recognition of a city's achievements.

The 2008 Habitat Scroll of Honour Special Citation is awarded to the Nanjing Municipal Government for its bold, distinct, exemplary and comprehensive redevelopment, revitalization and improvement along the Qinhuai River which runs through the Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu Province.

In November, Nanjing will host the fourth session of the World Urban Forum, the world's premier conference on cities. In response to a growing public outcry over the health dangers posed by industrial and human pollution of the river, the municipal government backed a comprehensive Improvement and Redevelopment Program.

It delivered affordable housing for many thousands of people, new flood prevention measures, the relocation of business and industries to better sites, a new waste management system with pipelines to keep all effluents directed at new treatment plants away from the river.

It also provided new conservation measures for the city's historic sites, and new landscaping with recreation facilities blending in with the natural environment.

It further provided alternative decent accommodation for those who lost their land to the new developments.

UN-HABITAT's Water for Asian Cities Program worked with the city to improve its water and sanitation systems with a 100-million-U.S. dollar Asian Development Bank loan.

The ancient canal city of Shaoxing in Zhejiang Province, eastern China, gets the Habitat Scroll of Honour Award for preserving a unique cultural and historical heritage at a time of rapid urbanization.

The city which dates back to 490 BC is known variously as the City of Waters, the City of Bridges, the City of Calligraphy, the City of Tea, and the City of Scholars.

Despite rapid urbanization, the urban conservation program has enabled this city to present itself as an elegant, peaceful and cultured place with a decent quality of life.

The award recognizes the restoration of its seven historic communities where buildings have been restored or renovated, the rivers cleaned up, and the streets spruced up to show off its traditional mix of white walls and black roofs.

The bustling port city of Zhangjiagang in Jiangsu Province, also in eastern China, gets the Habitat Scroll of Honour Award for setting a new trend in integrated urban-rural development and management through an initiative by the city's authorities to improve the quality of life for farmers and other residents in its hinterland.

Zhangjiagang, just half an hour's drive from Shanghai along a new super-highway, is the first Chinese city to explore a system of reallocating urban and rural resources so that people living intown or the countryside can derive the maximum benefit.

With a reputation for showing the way as one of China's cleaner and safer cities, its new shopping malls and high rise apartment blocks, in many ways symbolize the country's modernization.

Notable is its modern state-of-the-art community resource centers, the hub of the city's new found harmony.

The city of Bugulma in the Tartarstan Republic of western Russia gets the Habitat Scroll of Honour Award for transforming its contaminated water system into cheaper, safer water for its citizens. Founded in 1736, the city at the confluence of the Bugulminka and Stepnoy Zay rivers, is the center of petroleum mining in Tatarstan.

Other economic activities in the city include machinery production, the processing of agricultural products, and construction, all of which contributed to pollution of the river.

Such was the toxicity, that many people became ill. In 1996, the Clean Water Program was initiated under the guidance of the Bugulma's mayor and with the support of the Tatarstan's president.

It has since improved the standard of living and contributed towards the sustainable development of the city and its outlying districts.

Residents now enjoy high quality water. The use of many underground springs allowed for a considerable reduction in chlorine treatment, thus reducing the risk of cancer.

The capital of Rwanda, Kigali, gets the Habitat Scroll of Honour Award for many innovations in building a model, modern city symbolized by zero tolerance for plastics, improved garbage collection and a substantial reduction in crime.

Starting from 1998, the authorities in Kigali began restoring the city's lost glory. They targeted garbage collection, and banned the use of plastic bags.

The streets and pavements were beautified, and public transport was upgraded. Other areas included improvement of the sewage system and slum upgrading.

In just one decade, Kigali has been transformed into a place to which people come from all corners of the world to see and learn how they can replicate the Kigali modernization and urban conservation model at home.

Ciudad Juarez, a major Mexican city on the United States border, gets the Habitat Scroll of Honour Award for the innovative steps taken to help thousands of flood victims rebuild their homes and lives after the Arroyo del Indio burst its banks following heavy rains in 2006 largely believed to have been brought on by climate change.

Since these floods first started in 1990, an estimated 80 people lost their lives and 11,000 people have lost their homes and property.

In the last two years, the city's Municipal Planning Institute put the Arroyo del Indio Project into action and helped build 250 new homes for 1,050 people, while transforming the flood zone where they had previously lived into an attractive city park.

Source: Xinhua

Chinese, Australian premiers discuss relations, international issues

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and his Australian counterpart Kevin Rudd, in a phone conversation on Monday, exchanged opinions on relations between their two countries as well as the international financial crisis and climate change.

Wen spoke positively of the development of the mutually beneficial cooperation between China and Australia.

He said China is willing to work with Australia to intensify coordination and cooperation, and meet the complicated global challenges in a bid to promote harmonious and sustainable development of the world.

The Australian prime minister lauded China's position and active role in handling the international financial crisis.

Rudd said the international community should strengthen cooperation to establish and improve the mechanism to guarantee the transparency and consistency of the international financial system.

Australia would like to work with China to reinforce exchanges and cooperation in international finance and in multilateral and bilateral fields, he added.

Source: Xinhua

Taiwan's ex-intelligence chief detained for alleged money-laundering cover-up

Taiwan's former intelligence chief Yeh Sheng-mao was detained after appearing at a court hearing in Taipei on Monday morning for hiding documents allegedly implicating a money-laundering case related to ex-Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian.

The local Taipei court was holding the first public hearing of Yeh's money laundering cover-up case, an accusation he denied at the hearing.

He insisted he was just performing his duty as director of Taiwan's investigation bureau when he passed relevant documents from the international anti-money-laundering organization Egmont Group to Chen, then Taiwan leader.

The panel of judges, however, decided to detain him for allegedly hiding official documents, leaking secrets and seeking illegal gain.

Yeh, who served as director of Taiwan's Investigation Bureau from Aug. 2001 to July 2008, was indicted by prosecutors on Aug. 28 for involving in the cover-up of the money-laundering case.

The Taipei court planned to summoned Chen and Yeh for interrogation on Wednesday to let them face each other in court.

Three other suspects have been detained in the high-profile money-laundering case, including one former aide of Chen, a former cashier at his office and an associate of Chen's wife Wu Shu-chen.

So far, nine people have been named as defendants in the case. These include the above mentioned three under detention, Chen, his wife Wu, son Chen Chih-chung, daughter-in-law Huang Jui-ching and brother-in-law Wu Ching-mao, and Wu's associate's brother.

Taiwan's Investigation Bureau reportedly received information from Egmont on Jan. 29, indicating that Chen's daughter-in-law, Huang Jui-ching, had set up a bank account in the Cayman Islands and was suspected of money laundering.

Yeh didn't submit the information to prosecutors in accordance with official procedure.

Taiwan prosecutors launched an investigation and confirmed Yeh's involvement in the alleged cover-up.

Prosecutors found Chen's family had remitted large sums of money amounting to nearly 1 billion New Taiwan dollars to accounts in Switzerland, Singapore, Cayman Islands and other places.

Source: Xinhua