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Shanghai Daily Nation
Updated: 8 hours 51 min ago

Fire burns out on tanker but fears of sea pollution

Mon, 01/15/2018 - 08:01
THE fire from a sunken Iranian oil tanker in the East China Sea had burned out, a Chinese transport ministry spokesman said yesterday. However, concerns remain about possible major pollution to the seabed and surrounding waters, added the spokesman surnamed Zhao. The fire ceased around noon, he said. Earlier footage showed huge clouds of thick smoke rising from the oil slick that had been burning for more than a week. Just three bodies from the oil tanker Sanchi’s crew of 32, comprising 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis, have been recovered. The cause of the January 6 collision between the Sanchi and the Chinese freighter CF Crystal, which happened 257 kilometers east of Shanghai, remains unclear. All 21 crew aboard the freighter were safe. The Sanchi, carrying 136,000 tons of light crude oil from Iran, went under on Sunday after a new and massive fire erupted, sending a cloud of black smoke as high as 1,000 meters above the East China Sea. Zhao said new photos and video footage showed the fire had gone out entirely and said an investigation into the disaster would be conducted according to the “strictest international standards.” The search and rescue effort was canceled and a clean-up began after the fire on the sea surface was finally extinguished yesterday, state broadcaster CCTV reported. Cause under investigation Two ships were on the scene spraying foam detergents to dissolve oil remaining on the surface. “This (clean-up) work is one of our focuses. It is also a priority area of our efforts. No one wants to see a large-scale secondary disaster,” said foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang, adding that the cause of the accident was under investigation. The ship was carrying a type of hydrocarbon liquid known as natural gas condensate and left a 10-square-kilometer area contaminated with oil, according to Chinese authorities. Condensate is highly toxic but readily evaporates or burns off in a fire. If trapped underwater, however, it could seriously harm the marine environment, while the ship’s fuel source also poses a major threat. The ship’s voice data recorder, which functions like a “black box” on aircraft, was reportedly recovered on Saturday, possibly helping to shed light on how the collision and resulting fire occurred. Ma Jun, director of the private Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs in Beijing, said the degree of environmental damage caused by the disaster depends on how much fuel was left in the tanker and the direction of winds and currents. “The key issue is how much exactly the condensate oil has been left after all the burning and explosion, and how much of that sank together to the bottom of the sea,” Ma said. “We need to keep an eye to prevent (toxins) being transferred to the fishing ground.” 13 ships to the rescue Chinese officials blamed poor weather for complicating their rescue efforts. Thirteen ships, including one from South Korea and two from Japan, had joined in the rescue and cleanup effort. Alaska-based oil spill consultant Richard Steiner called the accident “the single largest environmental release of petroleum condensate in history.” Given the poor condition of the hull of the ship after a week of explosions and fire, “it is my assumption that none of the cargo holds or fuel compartments remain intact, and thus all of the condensate and fuel has been released,” Steiner said. Even if only 20 percent of the vessel’s cargo was released into the sea, it would still be an amount about equivalent to Alaska’s disastrous 1989 Exxon Valdez crude oil spill, he said. Unlike crude, condensate does not form a traditional surface slick when spilt. Instead, it generates a toxic underwater plume of hydrocarbons invisible from the sea surface. Whales, porpoises, seabirds, fish, and plankton in contact with these hydrocarbons in the East China Sea will either die quickly or develop “sub-lethal injuries” such as physiological impairment, reproductive failure and chronic diseases, said Steiner. The region is also a crucial spawning site for many large fish species, whose eggs and larvae have “undoubtedly been exposed” to the toxic compounds, he said. “Just because there is no traditional surface slick does not mean there is minimal impact. While the toxic phase of the spill may only last a few months, the injury to populations could persist much longer,” he said.

Officials ‘tampered with smog readings’

Mon, 01/15/2018 - 08:01
CHINA has punished officials in the provinces of Jiangxi and Henan for tampering with pollution monitoring equipment in order to reduce smog readings, according to the environment ministry. China has been waging a “war on pollution” since 2014 in a bid to reverse the environmental damage done by more than three decades of economic growth. The Ministry of Environmental Protection said on Sunday that officials in the cities of Xinyu in Jiangxi and Xinyang in Henan, sought to reduce emissions readings by spraying water on their air quality sensors. Both cities are major producers of polluting and energy-intensive nonferrous metals such as aluminum and copper. The two local governments said the officials responsible were dismissed or subjected to “administrative” punishments. “Regardless of whether they deny deliberately tampering and whether or not it has an obvious impact on emissions data, spraying water on air quality monitoring sampling points disrupts the normal operations of air quality monitoring,” said the ministry, which has tried to establish a real-time nationwide emissions monitoring system to help fight against pollution and ensure its rules are being enforced throughout the country. But it has also been forced to crack down on the falsification of data, with some local officials accused of trying to evade responsibility by misusing or disabling monitoring equipment. Some firms have also sought to evade monitoring by operating only at night. The ministry has sought to reduce “administrative interference” in its emissions data by bringing all its 1,436 monitoring stations under central government control and denying local authorities access to the equipment. Some companies in Henan were also castigated last March for failing to maintain the integrity of air quality data. The ministry accused them of providing fraudulent emissions figures.

Dinosaur that lit up its world

Mon, 01/15/2018 - 08:01
THERE’S not a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. There’s an iridescent dinosaur. Scientists yesterday announced the discovery of a crow-sized, bird-like dinosaur with colorful feathers from northeastern China that lived 161 million years ago during the Jurassic Period. They named it Caihong, the Mandarin word for rainbow. Microscopic structures in the exquisitely preserved, nearly complete fossil unearthed in Hebei Province indicated that it boasted iridescent feathers, particularly on its head, neck and chest, with colors that shimmered and shifted in the light, like those of hummingbirds. The discovery “suggests a more colorful Jurassic World than we previously imagined,” said evolutionary biologist Chad Eliason of the Field Museum in Chicago, one of the researchers in the study published in the journal Nature Communications. Using powerful microscopes, the scientists detected within the feathers the remnants of organelles called melanosomes responsible for pigmentation. Their shape determines the color. Caihong’s feathers had pancake-shaped melanosomes similar to those of hummingbirds with iridescent feathers. Much of its body had dark feathers, but ribbon-like iridescent feathers covered its head and neck. While it possessed many bird-like characteristics, the researchers doubted it could actually get airborne. Its plumage could have attracted mates while also providing insulation. Caihong was a two-legged predator with a velociraptor-like skull and sharp teeth, probably hunting small mammals and lizards. It had crests above its eyes that looked like bony eyebrows. Many dinosaurs possessed feathers. Birds evolved from small feathered dinosaurs near the end of the Jurassic Period. Caihong had fuzzy feathers and ones that look like writing quills. It is the earliest-known creature with asymmetrical feathers, a trait used by birds to steer when flying. Caihong’s were on its tail, suggesting tail feathers, not arm feathers, were first utilized for aerodynamic locomotion. “It is extremely similar to some early birds such as archaeopteryx,” said paleontologist Xing Xu of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, referring to the earliest-known bird, which lived 150 million years ago. “Its forelimbs were configured like wings. To be honest, I am not sure what function the feathers have, and I don’t think that you can completely exclude the possibility that the feathers helped the animal to get in the air.” Asked what someone might say upon seeing Caihong, University of Texas paleontologist Julia Clarke said, “‘Wow!’ And if they are anything like me, they might want one as a pet. Not suitable for children.” The dinosaur’s full scientific name, Caihong juji, means “rainbow with a big crest.”

Online fraud ‘accounts for a third’ of all crime cases

Mon, 01/15/2018 - 08:01
Cyber security is a major concern for China, with booming money loss figures being reported.The country has the world’s biggest online market by Internet population, but industry regulators and top dot-com firms say a third of crime cases in China are related to Internet crimes, a figure that’s rising 30 percent a year, according to Tencent, the country’s leading dot-com company.Last month, Chinese Internet regulators received 4.39 million cases nationally, up 22 percent from a year ago, the Cyberspace Administration of Shanghai said yesterday.Internet crime has become a top social problem — covering fraudulent phone calls and short messages, phishing websites, ransomware viruses and privacy invasion, industry experts said.New technologies and a new ecosystem with both industry and regulator powers should be adopted to fight online crime, said Pony Ma, chairman of Tencent, which has more than 1 billion users signed up to messaging app WeChat and its popular games.Tencent cooperated with government regulators, including the public security officials, last year to crack down on 160 top Internet crime cases, involving money losses of 3.2 billion yuan (US$485 million).Reports to the regulators have been transferred and processed with top dot-com firms including Tencent, Sina, Baidu and Alibaba, said the Shanghai cyberspace administration.Chip-level security flaws also need investigating to improve online security, industry experts said. Two chip-level flaws, dubbed “Meltdown” and “Spectre,” have been discovered recently, which may affect billions of smart devices produced in the past decade. This means both Windows and Mac computers could be affected, as well as iPhones, iPads, Android phones and cloud service providers.

Ivory carvers try to find ways to keep skills alive

Mon, 01/15/2018 - 08:01
For Weng Yaoxiang, the “ivory ball” he is working on is definitely not his most complex piece, but may be the most memorable.It is a farewell gift, signaling the end of his 40-year career on elephant ivory carving. “It won’t be and can’t be sold. It’s just something about my lifelong passion,” he said.Standing in stark contrast to Weng’s sense of loss, China’s State Forestry Administration announced that the country had ended the commercial processing and sales of ivory at the end of 2017 as planned, calling it China’s “new year gift to the elephant.”Under the trading ban, the fate of Weng’s last work will be determined by his employer, the Daxin ivory carving factory in southern Chinese city of Guangzhou.The ban affects 34 processing enterprises and 143 designated trading venues, with all of them suspending businesses, according to the administration.“While most senior carvers are near retirement age, young technicians have to consider their future,” said Mo Junhao, deputy head of the factory, which was founded in the 1950s. “The factory can’t earn money any longer.”Ivory carving requires high standards of craftsmanship. Weng’s son has learned ivory carving for the past four years, but is still not ready in his father’s eyes.Listed as state-level intangible cultural heritage since 2006, China’s traditional ivory carving art peaked in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).In the early Qing Dynasty, Guangzhou was a rare Chinese port allowing foreign trade. Foreign merchants brought ivory to the city, boosting local carving business.The “ivory balls” Weng specializes in are representative of Guangzhou-style carving. A hollowed-out ivory ball is carved into multiple layers, with each layer able to rotate.Weng’s last work has 41 layers, while his record is 51 layers. “Each layer is less than 1 millimeter thick,” said Weng.“A layer can’t be too thin or too thick. Or it will be too fragile or not exquisite enough.”Despite their sorrow, carvers said they support the ban and understand the significance of elephant protection.According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the population of African elephants declined by 111,000 over the past 10 years.In 2015, China joined global efforts, announcing it would phase out the ivory trade and ban imports of ivory and ivory products.Mo said the factory only processed legally imported ivory and coded each tusk.“For an ivory piece, we clearly recorded how much material was used and how much was left,” Mo said.“The statistics were reported to the State Forestry Administration, and any use of illegal ivory would be immediately detected.”Carvers worry the art will become a thing of the past, as the market vanishes.A 2016 document issued by the State Council said, “Cultural authorities should help with the transformation of ivory carving masters and other practitioners in the business.”Some carvers are finding substitutes for elephant tusks, such as mammoth ivory.“Many mammoth tusks were buried for more than 10,000 years underground and have lost their properties,” Weng said.Despite the difference, Weng and his son have switched to mammoth ivory carving.

Beautiful Shanxi vista is result of both hard graft and afforestation

Mon, 01/15/2018 - 08:01
WITH winter temperatures nearing minus 20 degrees Celsius, a green belt of pine trees stands out on what used to be barren land near the bay of Qiankunwan in north China’s Shanxi Province. The Yellow River, China’s second-longest waterway, traverses the province, making a giant U-turn at Qiankunwan in Yonghe County, before flowing southward. “Of the 99 turns of the Yellow River, Qiankunwan is the most beautiful,” goes a local saying. Bai Xinmin, former head of the forestry bureau of Yonghe County, knows the beauty did not come easily, but was due to generations of afforestation work on the barren land near the Luliang Mountain. The mountain is on the edge of the Loess Plateau, which was plagued by chronic soil erosion in the last century, resulting in ecological imbalance. Tens of millions of tons of mud and sand was washed into the Yellow River, making up most of the silt that gave the river its name. Bai said soil erosion had affected farming yields, making it hard for local farmers to make ends meet. Three years after China piloted a project to plant trees on former farmland, Yonghe County started afforestation work on the mountain in 2002. “While growing the trees, we had to tie ourselves to mountain rocks to avoid falling down the mountain,” said Bai. To keep the trees alive, farmers had to bring barrels of water up the mountain for irrigation. Forest coverage in the county had quadrupled to nearly 27,000 hectares by 2016, meaning every resident in the county has planted nearly 0.3 hectares of trees on average over the past 15 years. The green mountain adorned by the Yellow River has drawn tourists as well as investment. Figures show the fiscal revenue of the county surged more than 30 times to 158 million yuan (US$24 million) in 2016. The provincial government has combined the afforestation project with the battle against poverty, encouraging poor families to plant trees to earn a salary from the government. The county government has organized nearly 300 cooperatives specializing in afforestation and poverty alleviation, with more than 11,000 people from poor families recruited for tree planting. “By planting trees nine hours a day for six months, my husband and I made more than 30,000 yuan in 2017,” said Du Guixiang, 60, from the county’s Lijiawan Village. China has prioritized the environment, with afforestation one of its major projects. A report delivered at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China last October said China would expand the project to plant trees on formerly cultivated land. According to the State Forestry Administration, the country aims to cover 667,000 hectares of farmland in trees every year by 2020. Over the past five years, 23 impoverished counties have spent 2.14 billion yuan to plant 380,000 hectares of trees in the Luliang Mountain area, with the forest coverage rate reaching more than 14 percent. By 2020, the province plans to further expand forest coverage to 26 percent. “Luliang Mountain, formerly known for soil erosion, has become an example for ecological rehabilitation,” said Zhang Jianguo, Party secretary of Linxian County.

Oil tanker sinks ‘with no hope of saving the crew’

Sun, 01/14/2018 - 08:01
THE stricken Iranian oil tanker off the coast of Shanghai burst into flames from end to end and sank yesterday, eight days after it caught fire following a collision with a cargo ship. Earlier, a Tehran official said there was no hope of saving some 30 missing crewmen before the ship sank, amid concern over an oil spill. The Sanchi, carrying 136,000 tons of light crude oil from Iran, had been burning since colliding with the CF Crystal, a Hong Kong-registered bulk freighter, about 300 kilometers east of the Yangtze River estuary on January 6. At around midday yesterday the ship “suddenly ignited,” with the entire vessel burning fiercely and a pall of smoke between 800 and 1,000 meters high, China’s transport ministry said, releasing dramatic pictures of the entire vessel obscured by thick black smoke. China’s State Oceanic Administration said that it had detected fires and dense black smoke in a large area around the Panama-registered oil tanker at around 10am yesterday and the entire ship sunk at around 3pm. A large amount of spilled oil is still burning on the surface around the site, the administration said, adding it will monitor the oil spills and evaluate the accident’s impact on the marine environment. “There is no hope of finding survivors among the members of the crew,” Mohammad Rastad, spokesman for the Iranian rescue team dispatched to Shanghai, told Iran’s state broadcaster in Tehran before the tanker went down. Rastad said information from members of the Crystal crew suggested all the personnel on the Sanchi died in the first hour of the accident “due to the explosion and the release of gas.” “Despite our efforts, it has not been possible to extinguish the fire and recover the bodies due to repeated explosions and gas leaks,” Rastad said. The Sanchi, which had been headed to South Korea to deliver its cargo, had a crew of 32, all Iranians except for two Bangladeshis. Only three bodies have been recovered. Scenes of anger and grief erupted in Tehran as news of the deaths reached dozens of family, friends and colleagues of the crew, who were waiting desperately for information about their loved ones at the National Iranian Tanker Company headquarters. Chinese rescuers on Saturday recovered the tanker’s “black box,” China’s transport ministry said, without specifying exactly what had been retrieved. A reporter with China’s state television CCTV aboard a plane from the State Oceanic Administration reported seeing wreckage from the Sanchi, oil on fire, and spilled fuel covering a 10-square-kilometer area. “The oil spill situation is very serious,” CCTV quoted the reporter as saying on social media. But the television channel earlier also cited Zhang Yong, a senior engineer with the State Oceanic Administration, as playing down fears of a spill. “Because this is a light crude oil spill, relatively speaking it has a much smaller impact than other oil spills, because this kind of oil is especially volatile — most of it has entered the atmosphere, so it’s had less impact on the ocean,” Zhang was quoted as saying. “This area should be considered the open sea, very far from places where people live, so the human impact should be minimal,” Zhang aded. Rescue efforts had been difficult because at 89 degrees Celsius, the vessel’s compartments were too hot for workers to withstand for long, CCTV quoted He Wang, an expert from Chinese oil company Huade Petrochemical, as saying.

14 Chinese hurt in Thai boat blast

Sun, 01/14/2018 - 08:01
A speedboat carrying 27 Chinese tourists exploded in front of Phi Phi Le island in the southern Thailand province of Krabi yesterday, injuring 16 people, police on the island said. The King Poseidon speedboat was ferrying the Chinese tourists from the nearby resort island of Phuket to Phi Phi before its engine caught fire and exploded, injuring 14 Chinese tourists and two crew members, police said, adding that the authority is still investigating the cause of the explosion. Five Chinese were seriously injured, according to the Consulate-General of China in Songkhla. Phi Phi hospital staff said that seven people have been sent to hospitals in Phuket for further treatment and nine have been discharged. Local media said there was a fuel leak. The captain went to check the engine and it suddenly exploded, Xinhua news agency reported. The fire quickly spread, prompting all the passengers to scramble for swimming vests and jump into the sea, Xinhua said. Beach resorts and islands in southern Thailand are major tourist attractions. The Thai Ministry of Tourism and Sports expects the country to welcome up to 38 million tourists this year, up from around 35 million last year, 10 million of whom were tourists from China.

Scholar sacked after #MeToo comes to China

Sun, 01/14/2018 - 08:01
A Chinese university has sacked a leading scholar following accusations of sexual misconduct against him by numerous women, the result of a campaign heralded by his chief accuser as the start of a Chinese chapter of the #MeToo movement.Beihang University in Beijing said in a message on its official microblog late on Thursday that an investigation found that Chen Xiaowu’s behavior had violated professional ethics and created an “odious influence on society.”It said Chen has been relieved of his duties, including as professor and deputy head of graduate students.“Morality and ability are paired; actions and talent are one. This is the demand of Beihang’s values and the school has zero tolerance for violations of professorial ethics,” Beihang said in its statement, pledging also to upgrade mechanisms and increase its attention to such issues.The China News Service said the move followed accusations of sexual misconduct against Chen by Luo Xixi, a Chinese academic now based in the United States, and at least five other women. The allegations date from up to 12 years ago.Luo hailed the school’s decision on her Weibo microblog as a “victory in the initial stage” and said she and the other women involved would continue to monitor Beihang’s handling of the matter.“Women who have awoken to themselves are even more powerful,” Luo wrote, while congratulating Chen’s other accusers who had chosen to remain anonymous.“Kindness and bravery are our most beautiful expressions,” she wrote.Chen is among a select few named by the Education Ministry to the Cheung Kong Scholars Program, considered one of the country’s highest academic honors.The program funded by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing is also known as the Changjiang Scholars or the Yangtze River Scholars.According to reports, Chen holds a doctorate and multiple honors in computer engineering. His personal profile was removed from Beihang’s website last Friday.According to a December 31 post on her official Weibo microblog using the #MeToo hashtag, Luo said she was inspired by the movement originating in the US to expose sexual predators.Luo said she was a graduate student under Chen’s advisement in 2004, when he drove her to his sister’s home, ostensibly to water the flowers. After he attempted to force himself on her, Luo resisted and Chen backed off, driving her home and telling her to keep quiet about the matter. Luo said she suffered from depression after the incident and subsequently moved to the US to continue her studies.“I know there is a risk in standing up. My family’s privacy is my biggest concern,” Luo wrote. “I know my status as being overseas might expose me to nasty attacks, so it is a double-edged sword,” she wrote.Luo’s going public with her accusations will likely stir women to come out with their own stories, said Fang Gang, director of the Institute of Sexualities and Gender at Beijing Forestry University.“This will definitely influence more females who have experienced sexual harassment to step out,” Fang said.

Sci-fi illustrator’s sick mother plea touches hearts

Sun, 01/14/2018 - 08:01
Liu Junwei posted a letter on Sina Weibo this month, seeking the help of the public to cover his sick mother’s medical expenses. The response was overwhelming.“My mother Cui Yali suffers from multiple drug resistant tuberculosis, and I am raising money to pay 200,000 yuan (US$31,000) of medical bills,” he wrote.Liu is a science-fiction illustrator with a prestigious reputation. He has drawn countless magazine covers and illustrations, and won several prizes.But science fiction remains a small business in China. According to Chinese sci-fi writer Han Song, most sci-fi writers in China write science fiction only in their spare time, and hardly anyone quits their job to focus on sci-fi writing.“Drawing is more like a hobby to me,” Liu said. “My mother encouraged me greatly.” In 2017, his mother was diagnosed with multiple drug resistant tuberculosis, an illness that is resistant to all regular medicine.Patients have to use multiple expensive and inefficient drugs with strong side-effects for years.The complaint is not covered by medical insurance in China, and for Liu’s mother, the medical expenses are expected to reach more than 400,000 yuan.Liu was forced to put down his pen and spend all his time taking care of his mother. “There would be no point in living if I lost my mother,” he said. By the end of 2017, his family had run out of money. In despair, he turned to the Internet for help.Liu’s post, with pictures of his mother, and her medical records, instantly drew public attention. By 9am on Saturday, it had been forwarded more than 10,000 times and drawn thousands of comments on Weibo. Many people donated money and suggested drugs that might help.Just 19 hours later, Liu wrote another post on Weibo, asking the public to stop donating, because he had received far more than what he asked for: 950,000 yuan. Many of the donators were from the sci-fi circle in China.His mother will soon be transferred to the best hospital for treatment, Liu said. “My mother is a lucky woman, and you have truly created a miracle for her and for our family.”

200,000 fewer smokers in the capital

Sun, 01/14/2018 - 08:01
The number of smokers in Beijing was 3.99 million in 2017, 1.1 percentage points lower than the figure before the city’s smoking ban was enforced in June 2015, according to local authorities.It amounts to 200,000 fewer smokers in the city over the past two and a half years, according to the municipal health and family planning commission.Medical institutes in Beijing offered smoking cessation services to over 7.4 million people, and 61 hospitals opened smoking cessation clinics.Beijing implemented what has been deemed the “strictest smoking ban in history” on June 1, 2015, prohibiting smoking in indoor public places, workplaces and on public transport.In 2017, 95 percent of the inspected places were operating in accordance with the regulation, much higher than the 77 percent in the middle of 2015. Medical institutions, schools and hotels had the best implementation. Internet cafes and KTVs tended to violate the regulation most frequently.“We will intensify supervision in 2018 and continue to conduct undercover and targeted inspections,” said Liu Zejun with the commission.

Controversial replica to open next year

Sun, 01/14/2018 - 08:01
A controversial replica of the Old Summer Palace will be fully open to public in July 2019, the project’s main investor Xu Wenrong said.Covering more than 460 hectares, the replica is located in Hengdian Township, in east China’s Zhejiang Province, some 1,000 kilometers from the Beijing landmark. The replica, which partly opened in 2015, cost an estimated 30 billion yuan (US$4.6 billion).“When I first visited the Old Summer Palace, I felt pain on seeing the broken walls, and I decided to make a replica,” said Xu, the retired chairman of Hengdian Group. Construction is almost finished after five years, and 84 percent of the real palace has been replicated.The project courted huge controversy when it was announced in 2012, with many accusing it of bastardizing a site associated with patriotism.The Old Summer Palace management said “a full-size replica is neither possible nor tolerable.” The original complex “is unique and cannot be replicated. The construction and development of the site should be planned by national organizations, and any replication of it should reach certain standards,” the palace’s administrative office said in 2015.The Old Summer Palace, a complex of pavilions and gardens built for Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) emperors, is regarded as a symbol of China’s historical humiliation at the hands foreign powers. It was ransacked by British and French troops in 1860, and again by an allied force in 1900.

And the winner is ...

Sun, 01/14/2018 - 08:01
Tourists snap a Russian team’s artwork that won first prize at the four-day 23rd Harbin International Snow Sculpture Competition at the city’s Sun Island International Snow Sculpture Art Expo park. The competition, which ended on Saturday, attracted 25 teams from 17 countries.

Corrupt officials and gangs key targets

Sun, 01/14/2018 - 08:01
CHINA’S top anti-graft agency will maintain a tough stance against corruption, consolidating and developing the “overwhelming momentum” in the fight against fraudulent conduct. “We will continue to see that there are no no-go zones, no stone is left unturned, and no tolerance is shown for corruption,” said a communique adopted at the second plenary session of the 19th Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party of China, which ended on Saturday. The CCDI said the fight against corruption will focus on officials who have shown no restraint and continued their wrongdoing. Priority will be given to cases involving interest groups that have both political and economic issues, the communique said. The CCDI will fight corruption in selection and appointment of officials, government approval and supervision, resource exploitation, finance, and other key areas prone to corruption. The commission stressed efforts to address corruption that occurs on the people’s doorsteps, especially in poverty relief. The fight against corruption at the grassroots level will be combined with that against criminal gangs. The “protection umbrella” behind the gangs will be removed, it said. Officials working in discipline inspection and supervision should be loyal, resolute, responsible and maintain discipline and the law, ensuring that power bestowed by the Party and the people is not abused, according to the communique. The anti-graft agency also pledged to work for a complete supervisory network over all state functionaries, under the Party’s leadership. Reform of the supervisory system will be advanced in an all-round way, said the communique. “The supervisory network will be under unified leadership of the Party,” it said. China is expanding a pilot reform of supervisory systems in Beijing, Shanxi and Zhejiang nationwide, with supervisory commissions being set up at national, provincial, city and county levels. Sharing offices and staff with CPC discipline inspectors, the new commissions will incorporate existing supervisory, corruption prevention and control agencies within government and procuratorates. Efforts should be made to create a highly efficient supervisory mechanism to ensure coordination between discipline inspection and judicial investigation, the communique said. The CCDI will closely monitor undesirable work styles. “More will be done to curb formalism and bureaucracy,” the communique said. “Those who are active only in words rather than deeds will be held accountable.” The communique stressed firm opposition to Party officials seeking privileges, and urged efforts to push leading officials to discipline themselves and their families. The CCDI will continue to dispatch inspection teams regularly and on specific missions and launch more effective education campaigns.

3 firms rebuked for calling Taiwan ‘nation’

Sun, 01/14/2018 - 08:01
CHINESE regulators have rebuked fashion brand Zara, Delta Air Lines and medical device maker Medtronic for calling Taiwan a “country” on their websites. Zara, Delta and Medtronic were ordered to remove the “illegal content” and make public apologies, airline and Internet regulators said. Other airlines were ordered to check their own websites. Delta has apologized for listing Tibet and Taiwan as “countries” on its official website and promised to take immediate measures to correct the mistakes. Delta apologized deeply for the serious mistakes that have hurt Chinese people’s feelings and it was taking immediate steps to resolve it, said a statement posted on the website of the Civil Aviation Administration of China. The American carrier said it will have a careful check for other possible errors and avoid such mistakes in the future. In the letter of apology to the CAAC and on its official website, Delta said it is fully committed to China and Chinese customers as China is one of its most important markets. The CAAC has summoned representatives of Delta, urging the company to issue an immediate and public apology, and to investigate the incident thoroughly and publish investigation outcome in a timely manner. On the Chinese version of Delta’s official website, it listed Chinese territories, including Tibet and Taiwan, as “countries” in a drop-down menu. In an online notice, the CAAC on Saturday asked all foreign airlines operating in China to conduct self-checks on their websites, mobile apps and other platforms for similar mistakes including regarding Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan as “countries.” “If there are such cases, actions should be taken immediately to rectify the mistakes,” the CAAC said. Meanwhile, Zara added a three-sentence statement to its website expressing “sincere apologies” and said it would conduct a “self-examination.” The hotel chain Marriott was ordered last week to shut down its Chinese mainland website and app for a week after it sent out a customer survey that included Taiwan, Tibet and Hong Kong in a list of countries. “Cyberspace is not an extralegal place, and multinational corporations should abide by relevant laws and regulations,” the Shanghai Cyberspace Authority said. Zara and Medtronic were required to conduct a comprehensive self-examination, it said. Marriott executives were questioned by Shanghai police in an investigation of possible violation of cybersecurity laws, according to news reports. Arne Sorenson, chief executive of Marriott International, said the company “respects and supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China.”

Arrest at HK hotel after double killing

Sun, 01/14/2018 - 08:01
A South Korean was arrested for the suspected murder of his wife and young son at the luxury Ritz-Carlton hotel on Hong Kong’s harbor front yesterday. Police rushed to the hotel after receiving a report yesterday morning that a man and a woman, both aged 42, were fighting. The woman and a boy aged 6 were found dead at the scene while the man was arrested on suspicion of murder and taken to a local hospital, police said. The suspect was believed to have consumed alcohol and appeared unconscious in the hotel suite with minor wounds to his hand and face, said police assistant district commander Chan Tsz-Leung. The woman suffered multiple cuts and wounds to her neck and wounds were also found on the throat of the boy. Police retrieved a 12-centimeter-long knife at the scene, Chan said. The motive for the killings remained unclear, with the suspect still in hospital and deemed unfit to talk to police. Local news site Apple Daily said the couple and their son had checked into the five-star hotel a few days before. A source with knowledge of the investigation said that a friend of the suspect had warned authorities in South Korea he was potentially suicidal shortly before the incident. The Ritz-Carlton is located on the top floors of Hong Kong’s tallest skyscraper — the International Commerce Centre — and offers panoramic views of the city and its Victoria Harbour. “Our thoughts are with the family of the guests involved at this very difficult time,” a Ritz-Carlton hotel spokesperson in Hong Kong said. In a separate incident, Hong Kong police are investigating the murder-suicide of a couple who were found dead at a public housing estate near the border with the Chinese mainland, local media reported.

19 pacts signed as ties strengthen

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 08:01
CHINA and Cambodia signed 19 aid and investment pacts yesterday in the latest sign of their strengthening relationship. The agreements, whose value was not disclosed, were signed after talks between China’s Premier Li Keqiang and his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen. They included one between the Overseas Cambodia Investment Corp and China Development Bank for a loan for a new airport in Siem Reap province, and another deal to build a highway from Phnom Penh to the beach resort of Sihanoukville. Cambodia’s Royal Group of Companies and China Great Wall Industry Corp also agreed to launch the Southeast Asian nation’s first communications satellite. Li and Hun Sen also discussed exports of sugar to China, and how to encourage Chinese tourists to visit Cambodia, said Eang Sophalleth, an aide to Hun Sen, adding that the Chinese premier said China had pledged aid of more than 1.2 billion yuan (US$185 million) for other projects.

China’s multibillion backing for LMC

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 08:01
CHINESE Premier Li Keqiang has announced that China will provide a further 7 billion yuan (US$1.1 billion) of government concessional loans within the framework of the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation. Li made the pledge in Phnom Penh at the second LMC leaders’ meeting, where he also announced the setting up of a US$5 billion credit line for supporting production capacity and equipment manufacturing cooperation among Lancang-Mekong countries, according to a statement released yesterday. The new offer came after China supplied other Lancang-Mekong countries with 10 billion yuan of concessional loans, US$5 billion of export credit and US$5 billion for capacity cooperation in more than 20 infrastructure and industry projects, the Chinese premier added. The deficit that China holds with Mekong countries on farm product trade will not prevent China from importing more, Li said. With a theme of “Our River of Peace and Sustainable Development,” the meeting brings leaders of China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam to the table on such issues as connectivity, water management and industrial production capacity. China is the largest trading partner of Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand and the second-largest of Laos. Bilateral trade between China and the other five LMC countries totaled US$220 billion in 2017, up 16 percent year on year. Some 80 percent of China’s rice imports are from Mekong countries. Their fruit exports to China have increased at 21 percent annually over the past decade. Initiated by China in 2014, the framework spans connectivity, production capacity, cross-border economic cooperation, water resource management, agriculture and poverty reduction, benefiting dozens of millions of people living along the waterway. The first LMC leaders’ meeting was held in Sanya of China’s Hainan Province in March 2016, when the goal of building a community of shared future of peace and prosperity for the LMC countries was endorsed. The Lancang River originates on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in southwest China. It is called the Mekong River as it flows through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Beijing warns US of retaliation over trade

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 08:01
CHINA will resolutely safeguard its interests and take necessary measures to protect the interests of Chinese enterprises if the United States sticks to unilateral protectionist trade practices, the Ministry of Commerce said yesterday. The US is disrupting the international trading order by carrying out the “Section 301” investigation under its own laws instead of through the World Trade Organization, said Gao Feng, spokesman for the commerce ministry. US President Donald Trump ordered trade officials in August to investigate Chinese intellectual property and technology transfer. A decision is expected as early as this month, though American officials have set no date. “If the United States insists on unilateral and protectionist practices that will undermine the interests of China, we will take all necessary measures and resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of China,” Gao said at a regular briefing. He pointed out that the trade imbalance between the two countries is mainly a result of different economic structures, industrial competitiveness and international division of labor, and China has never sought a trade surplus as the flow of trade is determined by the market. China saw a trade surplus of US$251 billion with the US in the first 11 months of last year, up 9.7 percent year on year, but the growth of imports from the US outpaced that of exports, according to Gao. He also said that protectionist sentiment is increasing in the US and criticized Washington for blocking a Chinese takeover of an American financial firm on security grounds. China is particularly worried about countries using national security concerns as a way to block foreign investment, he added. The planned US$1.2 billion purchase of transfer firm MoneyGram International by Ailibaba’s Ant Financial collapsed last week after a US government panel rejected the deal over national security concerns. It was the most high-profile Chinese deal to be torpedoed since Donald Trump was elected US president a year ago on promises to put America first and protect US jobs from foreign competitors. In another blow to the global ambitions of Chinese firms, Huawei Technologies Co’s planned deal with US carrier AT&T to sell its smartphones in the US also fell apart because of security concerns.

2,018 snowmen to greet the New Year

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 08:01
A 20-meter-tall snowman, among many others, is standing at the Qunli Bund theme park in Harbin, capital city of the northeastern Heilongjiang Province, yesterday. A total of 2,018 snowmen are on display to greet the New Year, attracting thousands of tourists every day.