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China President Hu Jintao USA State Visit January 19 - 21 2011

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Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA)

成功之道 武进制造 Wujin - Changzhou - Jiangsu Province - China 

  Year of the Snake - February 10 2013 -  Dance w/ Firework 

President Obama's Lunar New Year Message - Year of the Dragon

Under the Hawaii State Law "Asian Lunar New Year Commemoration Week" The one week period following the day of the Chinese New Year shall be known and designated as the "Asian Lunar New Year Week of Commemoration in Hawaii". This week is not and shall not be construed as a state holiday. [L 2007, c 48, §2] click for more details

The Hong Kong Advantages under One Country Two Systems - when most of the world want to do business with China, there is only one place that China gives 100% backing - that is Hong Kong. Quoting the former Chief Executive of Hong Kong SAR Honorable Tung Chee-hwa "背靠祖國 - 面向世界" "backed by China and engaged globally". Whether you are an international business wanting to do business with China, or just wanting to get connected with Asia and the rest of the world - Asia's World City: Hong Kong is the right and smart choice.

TED: Martin Jacques Understanding The Rise of China 马丁·雅克:了解中国的崛起 

Hong Kong Education Bureau (click on the links for details) 德育及國民教育指引 Moral and National Education Guidelines

Hong Kong Chief Executive Policy Address, please visit The website contains all the documents and official video clips (including the recording of CE's presentation at the Legislative Council, press conference and TV forum, etc.).

Be sure to visit Hong Kong on your way TO/BACK from China 

Hong Kong*:  Nov 1 2013

Lawmakers Gary Fan and Claudia Mo take disingenuous stand on housing 范國威和毛孟靜議員房屋的虛偽立場 (By Alex Lo Do we need to review our long-standing policy of one-way permits for mainlanders settling in Hong Kong? Yes, absolutely. Does its quota of 150 daily permits have an impact on our housing supply? Probably. But is it the root cause of our chronic housing shortage? Absolutely not; and it is disingenuous for pan-democrat lawmakers Gary Fan Kwok-wai and Claudia Mo Man-ching to suggest it is. In a controversial advertisement the pair ran last month in several local newspapers and one in Taiwan, they called for changes to the decades-long policy. In defending their ad yesterday, Fan said the policy was at "the root of the housing problem". Any fair-minded person knows housing is a complicated and long-standing problem with myriad causes. Chief among these has been the government's high land premium policy to keep revenue up and taxes down. It can do it because it owns all the land in Hong Kong. The ultra-low-interest environment - sometimes reaching negative real interest rates in the past few years - helped fuel the property bubble and priced many people out of the market. The Leung Chung-ying administration aims to provide 470,000 flats over the next decade, an ambitious target unlikely to be met. This is because we have voluntarily handicapped ourselves. Officials are unwilling to take on indigenous villagers to reverse the small house policy. The public doesn't want any development in country parks. Everyone is afraid to ask the People's Liberation Army and the central government to cough up land from underused barracks. Sea reclamation is controversial and the rezoning of industrial, government and public land is difficult. Given our trouble, our default position is to blame mainlanders for trying to take up space in Hong Kong. But even if we scrap all permit quotas, it's unclear what impact that might have on housing supply. But it would be against every humanitarian principle as most permits go to mainlanders seeking family reunion in Hong Kong. It's hard to avoid the impression that Fan and Mo are just exploiting populist resentments against mainlanders.

Marketing chain DCHL vows to refund customers (By Lo Wei and Phila Siu) DCHL to return HK$67,000 to each registered buyer, but gives no specifics and makes no mention of paying back remaining money - Mainland sales agents for DCHL protest in Causeway Bay. An Asian chain running a controversial multilevel marketing scheme in Hong Kong has agreed to refund its customers after a series of protests and negotiations, but has yet to give details on when and how it would do so. Yesterday, about 80 mainlanders who negotiated with Digital Crown Holdings HK (DCHL) registered for a HK$67,000 refund each, said a member of an alliance against the health and beauty products distributor. The alliance has organised several protests this month, claiming its members were tricked into buying products such as wine, jewellery, cosmetics and fragrances that had almost no resale value. They had to spend at least HK$67,000 each time, and some had made purchases up to 16 times. Those gathered at the company’s Causeway Bay centre yesterday were asked to register and told that the management would decide later on when and how they would get their money back. The chain did not say if it would refund the rest of their purchases, said a man who identified himself as a volunteer with the alliance but not a customer. “It’s totally unacceptable to me,” said the man, who wanted to be known only by his surname, Peng. “The company operated against the rules. But most of them are accepting this offer first. They have waited for three days, and this is a bit of hope for them.” There were about 20 others who joined the previous protests, but they returned to the mainland yesterday, he said, adding that it was unfair for those who missed out on the registration. At the centre yesterday was a Shenzhen customer, who wanted to be known only by his surname Zhong. He said he spent HK$300,000 on products such as jewellery and fragrances. “The company persuaded me to join the business by telling us that I could never get rich doing what I used to do,” he said. “They told me a lot of people became rich in this business.” Zhong said that to finance his purchases with DCHL, he borrowed money from his family, friends and even loan sharks. He had no idea how he would repay his debts, he said. “Even if the company is eventually willing to pay me back all the money, it just cannot compensate me mentally,” he said, adding that some of those lured into joining the scheme were as young as 18 years old. A Guangzhou customer, Xu Meikwan, said he also spent HK$300,000 on DCHL products. “The company brainwashed me by saying that some people who used to be very poor made big money through the company,” he said. The chain’s customers said they were recruited to become individual distributors during “brainwashing” sessions in Hong Kong where they were told they would be rewarded through a complex bonus system according to their seniority. DCHL is allowed to operate in Hong Kong under a law that permits multilevel marketing, but such tactics are banned across the border as pyramid selling.

 China*:  Nov 1 2013

Far horizons beckon as agencies eye Chinese (By Zhao Lei and Li Yingqing in Kunming) The China International Travel Mart attracted exhibitors from 102 countries and regions to the four-day event this year. Overseas tourism destinations are expecting more Chinese travelers and taking measures to attract them, according to participants at China's most influential travel industry event. "The number of Chinese tourists coming to Indonesia increases every year but we still lag behind Malaysia and Singapore in this regard," said Iyung Masruroh, an official with Indonesia's Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy. "We received 686,000 tourists from China in 2012 and expect 820,000 for this year." She was speaking at the China International Travel Mart, which concluded on Sunday in Kunming, capital of Yunnan province. Organizers said the Kunming mart is Asia's largest travel fair and drew exhibitors from 102 countries and regions with more than 1,000 foreign buyers mainly from South Korea, Russia, the United States and Europe. "We know our connectivity with China is not as good as Thailand's or Singapore's but we are very optimistic because Chinese people are already aware of our tourist destinations," Masruroh said, adding her country has geared up its efforts to bring more Chinese tourists with a host of "charm offensives". Masruroh said her task at the mart was to promote Jakarta, Bandung and other tourist destinations other than Bali, an island province in Indonesia that already has the largest number of Chinese travelers in the nation. Itay Friedjung, director of the Israel Government Tourist Office in Beijing, said his office invited 11 companies, including tourist agencies, hotels and even diamond merchants in Israel, to take part in the mart. "Israel is far from China, but with the globalization of the tourism industry and direct air links, Israel has become accessible to Chinese people." Friedjung said the Israeli government sponsored Lu Chuan, a well-known Beijing director in his new movie, Old Cinderella, which is a romantic comedy and will be screened around China at the end of this year. A number of scenes in the movie are set in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. "We are also strengthening cooperation in civil aviation between the governments that will allow more airlines and more places in China to open direct flights to Israel." For small nations, integrating their resources and extending a unified image seems a natural choice. "We have a uniqueness compared to many other places that have Chinese travelers, such as Japan and Thailand, when it comes to natural scenery," said Alisi Lutu, marketing officer with the South Pacific Tourism Organization, which has 17 members, including the Cook Islands, Nauru and Tonga. She said her region can offer activities most Chinese might not have tried before, such as swimming with whales. "The South Pacific is also very popular for Chinese newlyweds, both for the ceremony and enjoying the honeymoon," she said. The South Pacific Tourism Organization has launched a road show in Beijing and Shanghai and promoted local attractions to Chinese tourism agencies. Countries that already have a steady stream of Chinese tourists are also striving to ensure market growth. "Italy is now the No 1 recipient of Chinese tourists in Europe and the trend is that more and more Chinese people will come to see our country," said Autilia Zeccato, director of the Italian Government Tourist Board in China. "My office in Beijing is also working with our embassy to improve the visa issuance procedure to facilitate Chinese tourists." Lee Woo-joo, from the Liwu Tour travel agency in South Korea, said tourism operators in his country have begun to diversify their products and itineraries to attract Chinese travelers. "The number of Chinese tourists sightseeing in South Korea this year is expected to see a slight fall due to a host of reasons so we are thinking of new ways to bring them back," he said. Chinese tourists will embark on more than 90 million journeys by the end of this year, according to Shao Qiwei, director of the China National Tourist Administration, who also estimated that an unprecedented 100 million trips will be achieved by Chinese next year.

Chinese Coast Guard patrols Yongle Islands (China Daily) A China Coast Guard (CCG) vessel patrols territorial waters surrounding the Yongle Islands in Sansha city, South China's Hainan province, Oct 29, 2013. The vessel has been on patrol in waters encompassing Jinqing Island and Yagong Island, offering supplies to local fishermen. 

SUNY recruits students in China (By YU WEI Hopeful Chinese students visit with representatives from SUNY at the American state-wide university system's roadshow in China. As the US remains the top choice for Chinese students' overseas study, State University of New York (SUNY) — the largest comprehensive state-wide university system in the US — is stepping up its efforts to attract its share of students from China. From Oct 17 to Nov 5, SUNY is conducting its fourth annual recruiting road show in nine Chinese cities, including Shanghai, Hangzhou, Wuhan, Guangzhou and Beijing. Several campuses of SUNY — including Potsdam, Buffalo, Albany, Brockport, Fulton-Montgomery, Cobleskill, Old Westbury and Oswego — have joined the fair this year, as school officials answer questions and do on-site interviews of interested students. "SUNY conducts these recruiting events because we are very interested in having more qualified Chinese students attend our sixty-four campuses," said Mitch Leventhal, vice-chancellor for global affairs at SUNY. Founded in 1816, SUNY has grown to include 64 individual colleges and universities that were either formerly independent institutions or directly founded by SUNY. According to Leventhal, of SUNY's 20,838 international students last year, 4,753 — or 23 percent — were from China, making it the No 1 country of origin among international students at SUNY, followed by South Korea. EduGlobal, a China-based student recruitment firm that co-organized SUNY's recruiting event this year, said SUNY's diverse majors and high-quality teaching resources have attracted a number of outstanding international students in pursuit of advanced studies. "During the two week roadshow, SUNY has interacted with hundreds of students," said Kirsten Louise Feddersen, manager of international recruitment at SUNY. "We do anticipate that the outreach will lead to more students applying and enrolling at SUNY campuses." "The SUNY-sponsored recruitment event is one of several recruitment activities we participate in in China over the course of a recruitment cycle," said Timothy Lee, director of undergraduate admissions at SUNY Albany. "Last year we attended well over 100 events and meetings in China and we currently plan to do the same this year." Lee said his university participated in the program to support SUNY's efforts to attract talented well-prepared Chinese students to the largest, most comprehensive state higher educational system in the US. "As is the case with most selective US public research institutions, China continues to be the University at Albany's top source of enrolling international students, with over 100 Chinese students registering in the Fall and Spring 2013 terms," he said. About 194,029 Chinese students were enrolled in US schools for the 2011-12 academic year, an increase of 23 percent from the previous year and holding the spot as the top source of international students on US campuses for the third year in a row, according to the Institute of International Education. California remains the top US state for hosting international students, followed by New York and Texas. About 102, 789 international students were studying in California in the 2011-12 school year — an increase of 6.5 percent from the previous year, the report said. According to the University of Southern California (USC), for the tenth year in a row, USC accounted for more international students than any other American institution of higher education and China was the largest source of international students there, with a record 2,515 enrolled last year. The University of California, Berkeley accepted 1,228 Chinese applicants for the 2012-13 academic year, making China the origin of the largest number of international graduate students there. "We anticipate a slight increase in the number of Chinese students compared to the 2012-13 year, particularly at the undergraduate level," Anne De Luca, associate vice-chancellor for admissions and enrollment at Berkley, told China Daily. After its own road show, SUNY will continue its recruitment efforts in China by joining the 2013 China Education Expo, which will open in Beijing on Nov 2 and stop in Xi'an, Wuhan, Shanghai and Chengdu. Sponsored by China Education Association for International Exchange, the education expo is expected to welcome more than 600 overseas schools from 43 countries this year. More than 90 American universities will take part. 

Hong Kong*:  Oct 31 2013

Building safety inpectors plan strike over manpower shortage (By Lai Ying-kit) Police close a section of Nathan Road near Soy Street in Mong Kok after after a cable holding a huge neon sign snapped, leaving it hanging precariously over the road. A group of Buildings Department workers are planning to go on strike on Thursday to protest against a shortage of manpower. The workers are responsible for inspecting building safety and demolishing dangerous structures. The Association of Government Technical and Survey Officers, which is organising the one-hour strike on Thursday at lunchtime, said the department had been severely understaffed for the past two years. The planned strike comes after the department reduced the number of contract workers by 300 while launching new a new territory-wide, check-up scheme, the association said on Tuesday. The association is demanding that the department hire 500 additional survey and technical officers to deal with the increased workload. The announcement of the strike comes one day after a cable holding a huge neon sign in Mong Kok snapped, leaving it hanging precariously over Nathan Road, disrupting traffic in the busy district for more than six hours. The nightclub responsible for the sign was ordered to remove it by the department in October last year. But the club operator ignored the order, prompting a warning to be issued in August. Liu Fuk-hing, a representative of the association, said the neon sign in Mong Kok was only one of many potentially dangerous structures where no action had been taken even though removal or maintenance orders had been issued. He said that this problem was a result of the shortage of manpower. He estimated that there were about 50,000 such cases to date. “Some of the cases have remained untouched for more than 10 years,” Liu said. “The situation is very bad.”

Ex-policeman denies assaulting pair at Alpais Lam rallies (By Stuart Lau Yeung Chi-wai pleaded not guilty to three counts of common assault at Kwun Tong Court - Supporters and opponents of primary school teacher Alpais Lam Wai-sze clash at Mong Kok on August 4 this year. A retired policeman in court on Tuesday denied attacking a protestor and a journalist during competing rallies sparked by the case of a teacher who swore at police officers. Yeung Chi-wai, 58, pleaded not guilty to three counts of common assault at Kwun Tong Court. The alleged assaults took place on August 4, the day supporters and opponents of teacher Alpais Lam Wai-sze both staged rallies in Mong Kok, after a video of Lam abusing policemen over their handling of a Falun Gong protest went viral online. Police supporters came face-to-face with Lam’s backers in Sai Yeung Choi Street South in Mong Kok, the street where Lam was recorded arguing with police. The prosecution told the court that police had videoed Yeung as he dragged protestor Wan Ka-sing from behind after seeing him make a certain, unspecified hand gesture. The court did not hear which protest Wan was participating in. Amid the tussle, Yeung then hit the chest of photographer Lo Kwok-fai as he fell to the ground while trying to take pictures of the scene, causing Lo to fall to the ground. Yeung assaulted Lo again later that day, the prosecution said. The former police officer had remained silent when interviewed under caution, the court heard. When asked by Principal Magistrate Ernest Lin Kam-hung what his occupation was, Yeung initially replied: “I’m retired.” Lin pressed on, asking: “What about before?” Yeung paused, silently, as prosecutor Esther Mak Wai-ling said: “The defendant is a retired police officer.” Yeung asked for a “longer time for trial” but the magistrate told him a trial date had yet been fixed because he was still not legally represented. Yeung was told to hire a lawyer before his next court appearance on December 9. Six witnesses, including the two victims and other journalists, would be available for testimony, the prosecution said. Yeung was released on HK$5,000 bail, on condition that he does not leave Hong Kong or interfere with witnesses.

Film finds a hip-hop-tai chi connection (By CAROLINE BERG in New York Up-and-coming Hong Kong filmmaker Adam Wong Sau-ping (left) and film curator for the Asia Society La Frances Hui speak at a news conference on Friday before screening Wong's summer hitThe Way We Dance at the Asia Society in New York City. The odds were against him from the beginning. Adam Wong Sau-ping was a little-known Hong Kong film director; he made a dance movie, which is not a popular genre in the region; and his cast was not studded with even one star. "When [The Way We Dance] was released in Hong Kong, it was initially not doing so well in the box office," La Frances Hui, film curator for the Asia Society, said at a press conference in New York on Friday. "Word of mouth kept spreading, and people began to fall in love with this film." Released in Hong Kong theaters on Aug 2, the film's returns were sluggish at first, but by a month and a half later it had earned more than double its $272,000 budget, according to a report in the South China Morning Post. The Way We Dance — Wong's third feature length film — is based on Hong Kong hip-hop culture. Wong said he was inspired to write the story after spending nights on campus at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, where he was teaching as a visiting lecturer, and he encountered a group of street dancers practicing outside a 7-Eleven convenience store, according to a article. "It's not like those gangster films or martial arts films that you are more familiar with [from Hong Kong]," Hui said. "I wouldn't say that all of them are dancers in Hong Kong, but you will see the local culture, traditional things and contemporary things, as well as young people and older people." The surprise summer hit came stateside for two special screenings over the weekend, first at New York's Asia Society on Friday and then to close out the four-day Boston Asian American Film Festival on Sunday. The post-screening question and answer session at the Asia Society will be available for viewing on its website. The Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, New York (HKETONY), sponsored the two events, in partnership with the Asia Society and Asian Cinevision for the New York screening, and with the Boston Asian American Film Festival, a production of Asian American Resource Workshop in Boston. The film programs form part of the cultural programs to celebrate HKETONY's 30th anniversary. The production of The Way We Dance was supported in part by the Hong Kong Film Development Fund, which aims to engage local upcoming directors, nurture talent and promote long-term development of Hong Kong's film industry. The film's total budget was just under $684,000. "I think many Hong Kong people are accustomed to making films on a low budget," Wong said with a laugh. "Because I started my filmmaking career as an independent film director, making this movie on a low budget was nothing new to me." Wong said another thing Hong Kong people are good at is mixing different things together to invent something with their own style, whether that is blending coffee and tea to make a new drink, or in his case for The Way We Dance, bringing together the opposing forces of hip hop dance and traditional Chinese tai chi. "When I was conceiving my story, I knew that conflict is a main mechanism of pushing forward a story, so I thought, ‘What is the opposite of coolness?' " Wong said. "Then I thought of tai chi because maybe it will give young people the impression that it is something old-fashioned that doesn't belong to this age, so I thought these two things mixed together must be very interesting." Wong was born in Hong Kong in 1975, and before graduating from the Chinese University of Hong Kong's Fine Arts Department in 1998, he spent a year as an exchange student in the US at the University of Iowa in 1996, where he began making short films and videos. "I think it was my study in America which made me realize how Hong Kong movies are great and how Hong Kong movies are strange to Americans," Wong said. Wong said he encountered many questions during the years he spent hunting for investors for The Way We Dance. People he met were skeptical about how a Hong Kong-based hip-hop movie would sell and how it would compare to Hollywood counterparts, like Step Up. "I knew I had my own unique Hong Kong style and way of making this dance movie, and it turned out to be welcome in [the city]," Wong said at the press conference on Friday held at HKETONY. "So, I want to see how the American audience, who is supposed to be more familiar with hip hop dance, how they will react to my film." The film's lead and debut actress Cherry Ngan has been nominated for the 50th Golden Horse Film Awards in Taiwan for Best Actress, and Shing Mak is nominated for Best Action Choreography. The film also received the Audience Award at this year's Fukuoka international Film Festival and Wong has been commissioned to write a sequel. "You don't see very much hardship in the reality of The Way We Dance," Wong told China Daily. "In the sequel, I will tell more on that side."

 China*:  Oct 31 2013

High-powered Nicaraguan canal delegation quietly visits mainland China (By Patrick Boehler Observers say switch of diplomatic allegiance from Taipei to Beijing not in the mainland’s interest - A top-level Nicaraguan delegation - headed by the president’s son - travelled to mainland China and Hong Kong last week to discuss what could be the world’s largest waterway project, the South China Morning Post has learned. The 21 politicians, academics and leading businessmen were hosted by HKND, the Hong Kong-based developer established only last year, which has been tasked by the Nicaraguan government to build a US$40 billion (HK$310 billion) canal through the Central American country. Laureno Facundo Ortega Murillo, the son of Nicaragua’s president Daniel Ortega, led the group, which travelled to Beijing, Wuhan, Xuzhou and Hong Kong. Young Ortega is also a presidential adviser on foreign investment and, according to Nicaraguan press reports, his mediation was instrumental in completing the canal deal. He declined to be interviewed for this article when approached by the South China Morning Post through intermediaries. The Hong Kong-based company’s chairman Wang Jing, 41, insisted that his momentous canal project is strictly commercial; “I hoped this visit was relatively low-key,” he told the Post. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing was also keen to clarify earlier this year that the canal project was not government-backed. Those plans do, however, have diplomatic implications. Nicaragua is one of just 23 countries currently recognising the Taiwan-based Republic of China (ROC) as the seat of China’s legitimate government. The visit to the mainland of the Nicaraguan delegation took place only three weeks after Nicaragua’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Samuel Santos Lopez caused consternation in Taipei when he referred to Taiwan as “China-Taiwan” in a statement. The fear in Taipei is that the government in Nicaragua’s capital Managua, wooed by economic might and technical capability, may switch allegiance to Beijing. Delegation member Francisco Telemaco Talavera Siles, president of the National Council of Universities was more forthcoming. “We are in a special moment in China and in Nicaragua. We are starting a new historical phase that is going to see closer relations,” he told the South China Morning Post on Saturday. “This project opens [up] the possibility of closer relations with the government and people of China.” While insisting the delegation was not official, Arturo Jose Cruz Sequeira, Nicaragua’s former ambassador to the United States, told the Post that the visit was a sign that ties with Beijing are improving. “Without a doubt, trade [and] investment are huge components of the relationship. If the canal project goes ahead, the presence of China in all of its manifestations is going to be self-evident.” Since the canal project met with street protests and a legal challenge at the Supreme Court in Managua by representatives of indigenous and creole community groups earlier this year, Wang’s greatest challenge has been to win over sceptics in Nicaragua. HKND’s purpose of sponsoring the trip was to seek support among Nicaragua’s business community for the canal project, members of the delegation told the Post. The delegates included a member of parliament from the ruling party, the Sandinista National Liberation Front, and the head of the nation’s chamber of commerce, Cosep. “We have doubts [over] whether it is technically possible, [over] the environmental impact and [over Wang’s] economic capacity,” said Telemaco. “But now we are convinced that in China we have [found] the technical capacity [and] the economic capacity.” “There is no doubt in my mind that the canal is going to be good business,” Ramiro Gurdian Ortiz, a former head of Cosep and current head of Banpro bank, told the Post. “The companies here [in the mainland] are capable of building the canal.” HKND has hired a team of engineersfrom the state-owned China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC) to plan and design the canal, the Post reported earlier this year. The Nicaraguans visited 4th Institute, a CRCC subsidiary, which is in charge of designing the canal, and the corporation’s 11th Bureau, responsible for building the canal, in Wuhan as part of the trip, a HKND employee said. The delegates also visited the Three Gorges Dam, China’s largest civil engineering project, which was designed by the same group of engineers. “We were able to see infrastructure comparable in size and in complexity to what is going to be [required for] the canal,” said Diego Cesar Vargas Montealegre, President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Nicaragua. “I did not realise until I saw it,” said banker Gurdian after viewing the dam. “[The CRCC engineers] know that the prestige [of building the project] is going to be theirs.” In addition, the Nicaraguans met with representatives of XCMG, the third-largest manufacturer of construction equipment in the mainland, and with soybean trader VV Group, both in Xuzhou, Jiangsu province. Construction of the canal is expected to begin by the end of next year and be completed by December 2019. Wang said he was confident the project was on track. In a longer conversation with the Post on Sunday, he repeatedly stressed that that the project was a private one and his company did not follow government orders. Observers say that while the project is likely to bring substantial contracts to mainland contractors, it isn’t in Beijing’s interest to see Nicaragua switch sides. “While I believe that development of the canal will eventually result in Nicaragua changing its diplomatic recognition, […] I don’t think it makes sense for it to happen in the near future,” said Evan Ellis, the author of China in Latin America: the Whats and Wherefores. “From a Chinese perspective, it would unnecessarily call further attention to the PRC role in the canal project, and would unnecessarily complicate China-Taiwan rapprochement.” “The list of Latin American countries who want to switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to the PRC is long,” Antonio C. Hsiang, from the Centre for Latin American Economy and Trade Studies at the Chihlee Institute of Technology in Taiwan, wrote in an email. “Honduras already downgraded its relationship with Taiwan by sending only a charge d’affaires, instead of an ambassador. In terms of Nicaragua’s relations with China, it depends on Beijing, not Managua!”

Bird's-eye view of Shanghai free trade zone - The Shanghai pilot free trade zone has seen 208 newly registered enterprises since Oct. 1, 2013, the local authorities announced Monday.

Chinese and Brazilian navy warships participating in a joint drill on October 26, 2013. 

Women's congress aims to close income gap, lift status (By Yang Yao) Delegates from around China attend the opening ceremony of the 11th National Women's Congress in Beijing on Monday. The congress is expected to draw up a blueprint for the economic advancement of Chinese women in the next five years. The widening income gap between men and women was the main point for discussion among delegates on Monday at the opening ceremony of the 11th National Women's Congress. "More efforts are needed to give women more opportunities and resources, to improve their abilities in administrating national and social affairs, and to help them play a more important role in cultural development," Song Xiuyan, vice-president of the All-China Women's Federation, said at the opening ceremony. The congress is expected to draw up a blueprint for the economic advancement of Chinese women in the next five years. "We will try our best to promote gender mainstreaming in the policymaking process," she said. Though promoting gender equality was written into the Party's administrative program at the 18th CPC National Congress last year, the ever-widening income gap remains a problem. According to three national surveys by the National Statistics Bureau, economic inequality between men and women has grown in the last two decades. Surveys show that in 1990, the annual income of female urban dwellers was about 77.5 percent of that of their male counterparts. The ratio declined to 70 percent in 1999 and 67.3 percent in 2010. The situation in rural areas is worse. The ratio was about 79 percent in 1999, but in 2010, it dropped to 56 percent. "Gender inequality has become imminent, which is a direct result of discrimination," said Zhou Haibin, an official with the International Labor Organization. "The idea that men are the breadwinners and women are in charge of domestic affairs is more or less entrenched in people's minds, leading to inequality in employment, promotion and income," said Zhou. Bias in the workplace - Wang Ling, 26, who holds a master's degree, said she is lucky to have gotten her dream job in a wind power company in Shanghai, but she is assigned to do "less important and supportive work" as her boss is worried she can't handle many business trips. Some of her male classmates have been offered jobs in key posts at the same company. In 2009, the Center for Women's Law and Legal Services at Peking University surveyed 3,000 women over a year and found that 25 percent of women were denied a job simply because they are female. A human resources worker at a State-owned company surnamed Shen, and who refused to disclose her full name, told China Daily that her employer would, without any doubt, choose a male candidate over an equally qualified female candidate. Moreover, they are willing to lower their standards in order to hire more men. "I know that women are, more often than not, more capable than men; but they can only work for about five years before they get pregnant," she said. "We need more stable labor forces. It sounds cruel, but that's the reality. I am a female as well, and I empathize a lot with the girls, but biology determines everything, and there is not much I can help with." The survey also found that more than 15 percent of the women interviewed said that their income is lower than their male colleagues who do the same work, and 11 percent lost their jobs during pregnancy or after their babies were born. Chen Shujuan, a consultant with a private company in Beijing, experienced several miscarriages before she got pregnant this year in February. For health reasons, she had to ask for a longer maternity leave of 14 weeks. However, when she asked her boss, he told her she was too weak to handle the work and not to come back. Zhang Yuling, a technical writer with a US software company based in Wudaokou in Beijing expressed her frustration as a working mother. "I'm an employee, but also a daughter, a wife and a mother. Everyday, I'm busy fulfilling my different roles, responding to different tasks, both at work and at home," she said. "I never really have time for myself." The 36-year-old businesswoman said that currently, she felt stuck in her career path. "The future seems bleak," she said. Building a network - Inspired by Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg's book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, a group of female professionals in Beijing are organizing regular seminars and networking events to help other women in the workforce learn new skills and encourage self-growth. One of the organizers Charlotte Han, 25, said that the meetings are an effective way to acquire social resources as participants are all open, sharing and helpful. "It helps me to see things out of the box. It is a support network outside of the workplace and family," she said. "I also have access to a career mentor." The All-China Women's Federation has been advocating the economic development of women for more than 60 years. According to Song, in the last five years, the federation has lobbied the government to give an interest subsidy for small loans for female entrepreneurs. The total of loans from the government has reached 151.48 billion yuan ($24.89 billion), and the total interest subsidy is up to 7.76 billion yuan. The small loan policy has encouraged more than 3 million women to start their own businesses, creating millions of job opportunities. Song also said the federation would lobby the congress to establish a gender equality evaluation mechanism for a fairer social status for women in policymaking and execution.

Hong Kong*:  Oct 30 2013

Two young entrepreneurs take on plastic bag use in wet markets (By Bernice Chan Two young entrepreneurs hatch a plan to sell biodegradable plastic bags to wet markets and make businesses payfor it through advertising, writes Bernice Chan - Business partners Hanley Li (left) and Lettie Sin show off the bags made with a chemical catalyst that reacts with sunlight, heat and oxygen to biodegrade. Former Chinese University business student Hanley Li Chin-nung was startled to see how many plastic bags Egyptian vendors handed out while shopping in the markets during his three-month internship in the country. "I'd buy three items in a shop and they would put them in three separate bags," he says. Li, 23, arrived in the country last year to work as a creative consultant for an advertising agency, just as Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Mursi was elected president. "Egypt has a lot of culture, and even though the situation was kind of risky I liked being there and met a lot of nice people," he says. But the heavy use of plastic bags niggled Li to the point where he wanted to find a solution. Unable to find anyone in Egypt to work with him, Li turned his attention back to Hong Kong and a plan began to take shape. He would encourage wet market vendors to buy biodegradable plastic bags at reduced prices, while the production of the bags would be paid for by advertising on them, hence the name CarryAD. In July 2009, the Hong Kong government implemented an environmental levy scheme on plastic shopping bags that forced retailers to charge 50 cents for every plastic bag used in supermarkets and shops. However, the authorities stopped short of extending the levy to wet markets, citing hygiene concerns. CarryAD, Li says, will support wet market vendors by selling the biodegradable bags to them for much less than the price of conventional plastic bags, as low as a half or even a third of that cost. Li recruited fellow Chinese University business student Lettie Sin Wing-han, 21, as his partner. "I am an ideas person," he says, "but I don't know how to implement things because I don't have much discipline and resilience. I knew I would need help so I got Lettie to help me." Sin had never thought of becoming an entrepreneur, but she believed in Li's idea and decided to give it a shot. Biodegradable bags are not a new idea in Hong Kong. In 2006, Hong Kong's largest catering business, Maxim's Group, switched to them, as did restaurant chain Fairwood, bakery chains Yamazaki and Arome, HSBC, Standard Chartered and Towngas. Sin says the pair did a lot of research on the different kinds of biodegradable bags. Some are made using corn starch and others are produced with a technology called EPI that helps accelerate the process of degradation when the bags are exposed to oxygen and sunlight; ParknShop's bags are made this way. However, Sin and Li found that bags made of corn starch are vulnerable to humidity and heat, while bags using EPI technology have yet to be internationally certified. In the end they decided to go with the internationally recognised P-Life Oxo-Biodegradable Plastic Technology from Japan, which is produced by a Hong Kong manufacturer in Shenzhen and Dongguan. The plastic bags are made with a chemical catalyst that uses sunlight, heat and oxygen to help break down the bag to the point where microorganisms can "eat" the plastic within six months to a year. Sin says companies such as Ikea, Hung Fook Tong and The Peninsula Hong Kong are using this kind of bag. Although the pair were confident the initiative would be successful, they felt they needed to learn more. Then Li found out about a course aimed at business students. Held at the offices of Credit Suisse, the course was the brainchild of Jan Metzger, managing director and head of Asia-Pacific technology, media and telecommunications investment banking with the Swiss bank. The 39-year-old is keen to help students avoid the trials and tribulations he went through when he was 21, when he was part of a group that developed a voice-recognition program that enabled people to talk to computers. Applications included making it easier for pharmacists to read prescriptions and helping the disabled to communicate. However, the group had no business or marketing experience and the venture eventually fell through, causing Metzger stress from debts and heartache from seeing his idea fail. Now, Metzger wants to share his experiences with students so they can learn from his mistakes. Ninety teams armed with business plans vied for the chance to join Metzger's eight-week course. Only eight were chosen, among them Sin and Li's partnership. For three hours every Saturday morning they gathered to learn the basics of entrepreneurship, from how to sell and set up operations to marketing and business planning from both Metzger and his friend Chris Truax, a California-based lawyer who specialises in intellectual property and came to Hong Kong to teach. At the end of the course the eight teams had to fine-tune their business plans and present them to Metzger and Truax. Other ideas included customised candles, selling jewellery accessories and an online fine art gallery. In the end, Li and Sin's CarryAD and a web-based tutoring concept for SATs each won HK$80,000 seed funding. "CarryAD is a straightforward idea that is innovative and doesn't take a lot to start up," says Metzger. "It's environmentally friendly and it's very Hong Kong in that it supports wet markets, which are a great tradition here." Although the funding comes from Metzger, he and Truax own one-third of CarryAD, while Li and Sin own the majority of shares and run the company. "We are gently pushing them to succeed," he says. "Every Saturday morning at 8.30am we have a conference call with them for 30 minutes and then with the web-based tutoring group to gauge their progress and to give them advice. For CarryAD, they showed us designs and we helped make decisions. We don't micromanage them and they can overrule us because they are the majority shareholders. "With CarryAD, we should know within six to nine months how it will do," Metzger says. "If they can sell people on the idea, then they will have an instant cash flow business, and that's what a small business wants and needs. It's also a great experience for them to learn to sell because it's not easy." Sin and Li are targeting local companies to advertise on CarryAD bags, as most customers who patronise wet markets will also go to local shops selling household goods. "If the advertising client's store is located in Kwun Tong, then we will distribute the bags in the wet market in that area," Sin says. For now, the duo are trying to secure their first clients. If all goes to plan, perhaps CarryAD bags will be in a wet market near you soon.

Huishang Bank lands 5 cornerstone investors for Hong Kong IPO (By Ray Chan China Vanke and Chow Tai Fook are two of Huishang Bank's cornerstone investors. Huishang Bank, a city commercial lender based in Hefei, Anhui province, has captured five cornerstone investors before kicking off the roadshow tomorrow for its initial public offering in Hong Kong, a banker involved in the deal said. Shenzhen-based property developer China Vanke, Hong Kong-based jewellery giant Chow Tai Fook, state-owned manufacturing-to-pharmaceuticals conglomerate Genertec and two mainland individuals have pledged to take up 44.2 per cent of the entire offering, assuming the shares are priced at the bottom end of the range, said the banker, who declined to be named. The offer is expected to be priced on November 6. Huishang Bank is offering 2.61 billion shares in an indicative range between HK$3.47 and HK$3.88, for a deal worth up to HK$10.1 billion. Valuation of the shares has yet to be finalised, but it should be done before the lender launches the roadshow tomorrow. Huishang Bank’s long-planned share sale will follow one by Bank of Chongqing, which is seeking to raise up to US$593 million in a Hong Kong offering. BOC International, Citic Securities International, JPMorgan and UBS are arranging Huishang’s share sale.

'Sextortion' cases increase as Asian men targeted in steamy internet stings (By Samuel Chan Young men targeted in Southeast Asia-based blackmail epidemic involving webcam videos - Cases of "sextortion" increased seven-fold in Hong Kong in the first eight months of the year, but not a single arrest has been made, prompting police to contact Interpol to try to bring the overseas criminals responsible to justice. Police warned young men to be aware of the risks when chatting to attractive young women on social media. Men in their 20s and 30s with white-collar jobs who can communicate in English are particularly vulnerable. They account for almost 60 per cent of the victims being extorted after their erotic video chat sessions were recorded. "Once it's done, the victims soon receive a link to a video of them without clothes or performing indecent acts," said Chief Inspector Louis Kwan Chung-yin from the technology crime division - A total of 248 cases were reported from January to August, a seven-fold surge from the same period last year. The victims - 245 men aged between 14 and 58, and four women aged 28 to 53 - reported losses of up to HK$46,680 and totalling about HK$160,000. This was 12 times the total reported over the same period last year. The young Asian women involved were generally based in two or three Southeast Asian countries, which police did not specify. All chats were in English. Police attributed the surge in cases to a low awareness of the scam, and said it was likely that there were more female victims than have been reported because many were too embarrassed to seek police help. Only three in 10 of the victims paid up, and all were asked to transfer money to accounts in Southeast Asian countries. Paying the scammers would not solve the problem, as victims were often pressured into making further bank transfers or risk having the video clip posted online, Kwan said. He added that the cases were hard to investigate because the criminals were overseas. In addition to seeking co-operation from Interpol, collaboration with overseas law-enforcement agencies was also "in the making", Kwan said, without giving details.

 China*:  Oct 30 2013

China coastguard ups pressure in row over islands (By Agence France-Presse in Tokyo) A China Coast Guard vessel (front) sails near a Japan Coast Guard vessel near the disputed islands, known as Diaoyus in China. China on Monday kept up the pressure on Japan over disputed islands, sending its coastguard to the area following Beijing’s weekend mention of “war” after Tokyo reportedly readied to down its drones. In one of its strongest statements so far in an increasingly acrimonious spat over the islands, Beijing said if Japan fired on its unmanned aircraft it “would constitute a serious provocation, an act of war of sorts”. “We would have to take firm countermeasures, and all consequences would be the responsibility of the side that caused the provocation,” China’s defence ministry said. Those comments, published on Saturday, came after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe invoked support in Asia for a robust response to what he said was Beijing’s attempt to “change the status quo by force”. They also followed reports that Abe had given the okay to a plan to shoot down drones entering Japanese airspace if they did not heed warnings to leave. On Sunday he told troops the “security environment surrounding Japan is becoming increasingly severe”. “You will have to completely rid yourselves of the conventional notion that just the existence of a defence force could act as a deterrent.” Reports said that Japan scrambled fighter jets on Sunday for the third consecutive day, as Chinese military aircraft overflew a strait between two Okinawan islands. They did not enter Japanese airspace. On Monday, four Chinese coastguard vessels sailed into the territorial waters of the Senkaku islands - which Beijing calls the Diaoyus - shortly before 10am, the Japanese coastguard said. Chinese ships have done this dozens of times since Japan nationalised three of the islands in September last year. Each time they trade warnings and claims of sovereignty with their Japanese opposite numbers. Customarily, they stay for a few hours and then move out into the contiguous zone, a band that, under international definitions, lies outside the 12-nautical-mile territorial waters. Japan annexed what it says were the unclaimed islands in 1895. It says China’s assertion of ownership only came after the discovery of resources in the seabed at the close of the 1960s. Beijing maintains that the islands have been its territory for hundreds of years and were illegally snatched by Tokyo at the start of an acquisitive drive across Asia that culminated in the second world war. The weekend’s friction, which came as Japan readied to hold a huge drill intended to sharpen the skills of 34,000 troops in protecting remote islands, further fuelled fears that Asia’s two largest economies are skirting dangerously close to conflict. Observers say the presence of so much hardware in the area increases the risk of an armed confrontation, warning that a slip by a crew member on either side could quickly escalate.

A Long March-3B carrier rocket is being transported towards the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Southwest China, after left Beijing Sunday morning, to prepare for the upcoming launch of Chang'e-3 moon probe. The carrier rocket left the capital aboard a train and is scheduled to reach the launch center on Nov 1, said a statement from the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense. Compared with the carrier rocket of Chang'e-2 moon probe, this one has been equipped with a number of new technologies and its reliability has been further improved, the statement said. All tests on the Chang'e-3 moon probe, which has been in Xichang since September 12, are going on smoothly, the statement added. The Chang'e-3 moon probe is designed to carry China's first moon rover and soft-land on the moon. Its launch is scheduled at the end of this year. It is part of the second stage of China's three-stage lunar probe program, orbiting, landing, and analyzing lunar soil and stone samples.

5 pharmacies begin to sell baby formula (By Wang Qingyun) A pregnant woman consults a pharmacy staff member on the use of self-service machines to buy baby formula in Beijing on Saturday. Five pharmacies in Beijing started using vending machines equipped with tracking systems to sell baby formula on Saturday, but sales on the first day did not go as well as expected. Zhang Dawei, who is in charge of business operations at Yong'antang, said the store sold just six cans of infant formula on Saturday. "I hope we will have more kinds of infant formula so that everyone is able to get what they want in our pharmacy. If not, customers may not visit here again," said Song Yigang, an official with Jinxiang company who is in charge of branding and public relations. Five pharmacies from four medicine chain retailers — Jinxiang, Yong'antang, Cachet and Quanxin — became the first in the country to participate in the baby formula trial system. The International Brand Management Center, an organization under the Ministry of Commerce, encouraged more pharmacies to sell milk powder. With the exception of products for babies younger than 6 months, the infant formula sold at the five stores cost 10 percent less than the same items sold at supermarkets — a move to attract more consumers. The products were all transported from dairy companies directly to the drugstores, and are kept in cabinets that can hold up to 30 cans each. Using a vending machine near the cabinets, customers can lookup information on a product and pay for the item. Consumers must enter their cellphone number before paying for the item. "With the cellphone number, we can inform the consumers directly if we find the product they purchased has quality problems instead of posting a recall announcement in newspapers or on TV," said Yang Ping, an employee at Yong'antang. Each can of powdered milk is labeled with a code that contains information including when the item arrived and which store it was shipped to. Ubox, a company in Beijing that provided the vending machines, monitors the sales data, such as when the item was sold and where the purchase took place. This is another edge over traditional quality management, said a staff member at Jinxiang, who gave her last name as Song. "In traditional medicine management, we don't know exactly where it was sold because products with the same batch number go to various stores," she said. Eleven dairy companies have joined the trial, seven of which are domestic. "Dairy companies should first be licensed and their product quality should meet the standard. Then we chose them based on their market share," said Xu Jing, director of the International Brand Management Center. "We will carry out flight inspections on the whole supply chain of factories, including the quality of the feed and the living environment for cows," Xu said. A woman named Wu visited a Jinxiang chain store that has an infant formula vending machine to buy powdered milk for her grandson on Saturday, but she left empty-handed because the store didn't carry the kind of formula her grandson is fed. Wu said she believes the quality of products in pharmacies is better, and a 10 percent discount is attractive. "The infant formula we need is a high-end brand. We buy it mainly in franchise stores, but they are expensive, and we live far from supermarkets," she said. "I used to buy it from an online store, but the packaging was so dirty that I decided not to." However, Wang Yuanyuan, the Beijing mother of a 1-year-old son, said she will still buy infant formula from overseas. "My friends in America help mail it to me," she said. "Imported infant formula usually costs more than 300 yuan ($49) a can, while buying it abroad and having it mailed to China doesn't cost much more than this. Why not?" she said. Pharmacies can sell infant formula or other kinds of powdered milk as long as they have received government approval, said a manager at Jinxiang who declined to be named. For example, a Jinxiang store in Xidan has been selling powdered milk for more than two years. Sales have been slow, he said, because most people are used to buying the product at supermarkets.

Hong Kong*:  Oct 29 2013

Luxury flats at The Austin in Kowloon sell fast thanks to discounts (By Yvonne Liu The first batch of 185 luxury flats at The Austin sold out within seven hours of being put on the market yesterday, helped by price cuts and a stamp-duty subsidy. About 3,000 potential buyers had registered their interest in the flats, the first to go on sale at the development above the Austin MTR station in West Kowloon. The average sale price was HK$22,871 per square foot. Agents estimated that about 30 per cent of the buyers at The Austin were investors, while the rest were locals buying flats to live in. A spokesman for the developers, New World Development and Wheelock Properties, said the sales generated HK$2.1 billion. A second lot of 187 flats will go on sale at an average price of HK$25,323 per square foot. "Sales were strong as the developers were willing to accept lower prices and offered discounts," said Benny Yau, a senior sales director with Hong Kong Property Services. Yau said he expected prices would drop in the second-hand property market. "The prices of new flats such as those at The Cullinan above Kowloon Station are more than 20 per cent lower than the average second-hand flat. If owners want to sell their flats, their asking prices have to be lower than those of new flats. They're going to have to cut their asking prices by 20 per cent," he said. Meanwhile, the first batch of 40 flats at The Long Beach in Tai Kok Tsui goes on sale today. And Sino Land announced yesterday that the first lot of 90 flats at its Park Metropolitan project in Kwun Tong would go on sale on Friday. The average price has been set at HK$15,083 per square foot in terms of saleable area. The developer is offering discounts of up to 18 per cent.

Tony Ng, jailed for 1983 Seattle massacre, to be deported to Hong Kong (By Danny Lee After nearly 30 years in jail for role in Seattle gambling den bloodbath, Tony Ng to be paroled and deported to Hong Kong to be with sick dad - Tony Ng Wai-chiu is taken in by police for his role in the 1983 massacre in which 13 people were slain in a gambling den. The outside of the Wah Mee illegal gambling den from where Seattle police officers pulled out the bodies of 13 people in 1983. A Chinese who has spent almost 30 years in a Seattle jail for his role in a cold-blooded Chinatown massacre that left 13 people dead will be released and deported back to Hong Kong. Tony Ng Wai-chiu, 56, appeared before a closed-door parole hearing in August, telling the prison panel that if he was set free he would not fight deportation because his father was sick. Ng, who moved to America in 1970, will be released within six weeks on grounds of good behaviour. The board noted that Ng was "a model inmate" who demonstrated a positive attitude and work ethic in prison. He was said to be a "low risk to reoffend". Ng had no criminal record before 1983 when, at the age of 26, he was involved in the worst mass murder in Seattle, on the northwest US coast - a deadly power play for control of Chinatown. Ng insisted he played no part in the shooting or murders of the victims, and the court found no evidence to support the allegation. But he was convicted of robbery and assault. He said he was forced into the crime after receiving threats to his family. The massacre took place in the basement of the Wah Mee social club, an illegal gambling den in the heart of Seattle's Chinatown. The plan was to leave no clues or witnesses. Fourteen people were tied up, robbed of US$15,000 (HK$98,000 or HK$273,000 at current prices) and shot in the head. Police arrived to find themselves ankle-deep in blood. All of those slain were found lying face down on the floor. One man, Wai Chin, survived, despite being wounded in his neck and jaw, and managed to untie himself, crawl out of the club and call for help. Chin's survival was crucial in identifying the three assailants, including killers Willie Mak Kwan-fai and Benjamin Ng Kin, who brutally murdered 13 of his friends. Tony Ng is no relation to Benjamin Ng. Charged with murder, Tony Ng was jailed in April 1985 on 13 counts of first-degree robbery and one count of assault, after spending 18 months on the run in Canada. Two years earlier, Mak and Benjamin Ng had received life sentences without parole for multiple counts of aggravated murder. According to local US television, during his sixth and final parole hearing, Ng told the prison panel that he was now rehabilitated and had learned a lot during his incarceration. Asked to reflect on his victims, he responded: "Scared. I imagine they were scared. I am not a murderer. I have to take responsibility for what I did. "I hope they forgive me, but I know they won't. I'm so sorry. Don't judge me as a murderer." In a statement, county prosecutor Dan Satterberg said: "The Wah Mee massacre stands as the worst mass murder in Seattle history, and it seems incomprehensible that one of the participants will soon be free." The victim's families also opposed Ng's release. On hearing that Ng would soon be freed, Doris Wong-Estridge, whose father's third cousin Wing Wong was killed in the massacre, told the Seattle Times simply: "Wow." Despite campaigning for Ng to remain behind bars for the rest of his life, she was said to be relieved when she was told that he would be deported.

Hong Kong disciplined services staff want retirement age raised to 60 (By Samuel Chan and Niall Fraser) Overwhelming majority of those surveyed want choice of staying in uniform after 55; staff feel burden of keeping family while waiting for MPF - A survey of Hong Kong disciplined services staff has found overwhelming support for raising the retirement age from the current 55 to 60. The Sunday Morning Post has seen a copy of a research report that includes the survey and which calls on officials to consider raising the age at which men and women in uniform may stop working. The disclosure comes days after the government launched a public consultation on ways to solve the problem of the shrinking workforce. A later retirement age could be part of the solution. The research report was put together by the Government Disciplined Services General Union, which represents the thousands of disciplined services staff outside the police force. It calls for the retirement age to be raised in stages from January 1, 2015 so that by 2025 it would be 60. In the survey of 1,062 disciplined services union members between March and June, 96 per cent said current staff should be given the option to choose when to retire between the ages of 55 and 60, plus the opportunity to enter contractual employment after retirement. Staff associations representing the city's 28,000 police officers have already voiced their support for a later retirement age and this latest report is likely to increase the pressure on the government to consider the position of disciplined services staff. The Government Disciplined Services General Union, which represents staff associations from customs, immigration, correctional services, fire services and the government flying service, says the gradual approach will balance the interests of civil servants employed under different pension schemes and ensure smooth internal succession. Joe Chan Cho-kwong, chairman of the Junior Police Officers' Association, said his group agreed with the proposal on setting the new retirement age at 60, though exactly how to implement the change would require further study. In June, the police association had also suggested that the retirement age should be extended to 60, while giving officers the option to enter contractual employment after turning 55. Chan said that would be more "staff-friendly" than specifying a particular age for compulsory retirement. Lawmakers have expressed their concerns over the possible effect such a move might have on the promotion chances of younger civil servants. But Chan Kin-lun from the Fire Services mobilising and control group dismissed them. "We too have that extra five years," said Chan, 27, adding: "Working longer will also lessen our financial burden after retirement as our generation tends to get married late and our children will likely to still be in school if we are to graduate at 55." Setting 60 as the age of retirement could also relieve many retired officers of the economic pressure during the five years before they can collect the whole MPF pension, Chan said. A Civil Service Bureau spokesman confirmed it had received the union's report.

 China*:  Oct 29 2013

Xi sets out priorities for foreign policy (By Teddy Ng Maintaining a stable environment among neighbours is priority, says president - President Xi Jinping called for a comprehensive strategy to engage China's neighbours as he laid down foreign policy directions at a two-day conference that ended yesterday. The conference was chaired by Premier Li Keqiang and attended by party elite from all levels along with chiefs from the central bank, key financial institutes and state-owned enterprises. The State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office director Wang Guangya was also present. A conference on such a scale is rare and signals the top leadership's determination to push for a broad, all-embracing approach to improving China's ties with its neighbours, observers say. By asking so many leaders from different levels to attend, Xi was showing he wanted a more co-ordinated and comprehensive effort among state departments to push for the goal. Both Xi and Li have stepped up their regional manoeuvres in recent weeks amid growing tensions over territorial disputes. Xi has visited Indonesia and Malaysia, and Li has been to Brunei, Thailand and Vietnam. In the conference, Xi said China should proactively improve ties with neighbouring countries "strategically important to China". "Maintaining a peaceful and stable environment among our neighbours should be the aim of our diplomacy," he was quoted as saying by state-run CCTV. Maintaining ties with neighbouring countries was key to the "renaissance of the Chinese nation", and both economic and security co-operation should be stepped up with these countries. Xi reiterated his proposal to build a "maritime silk road" and tighten infrastructure connections with Southeast Asia. "China's development will be better integrated with its neighbours, and we will seek mutual development with them," Xi said. Diplomatic priorities have been reshaped since the new leadership was installed in March. Professor Su Hao of the China Foreign Affairs University said the attendance of representatives from a wide spectrum of institutions indicated that Beijing wanted all parties involved in diplomacy to look in one direction. In addition to the Foreign Ministry, a number of agencies, such as the Ministry of Commerce and the central bank, are involved in dealing with other nations. Su said the mainland's diplomatic efforts were sometimes hampered because these agencies "do things in their own way". "It is not sufficient if only the Foreign Affairs Ministry adhere to the directive. Other agencies should also bear that in mind," Su said. "This high-level directive by Xi is an indication that these agencies should work together."

Chinese drone training in line with international law, practice (By Xinhua) China said that the training and flight of its military aircraft, including drones, over relevant areas of the East China Sea are in line with international law and practice. Defense Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng made the remarks at a press briefing Saturday in response to a question on Japan's plan to shoot down drones that infringe into its airspace. "Chinese aircraft have never infringed on other countries' airspace, and China never allows other countries' aircraft to infringe on China's airspace," Geng said. Geng said that if Japan took the so called moves, it would be a severe provocation to China and an act of war, and China will take resolute measures to strike back. The Japanese side shall be responsible for the consequence. Geng also said that on Oct. 23, a Japanese fishing boat sent a distress signal from a prohibited area in the Pacific where the Chinese navy was conducting shooting training.

China relaxes company registration requirements (By Xinhua) China will streamline its corporate registration system to ease market access and encourage social investment, a fresh effort highlighting the government's administrative reform, according to a cabinet statement released on Sunday. The move will foster a market environment of fairness and competition, mobilize social capital, encourage small and micro enterprises to grow and boost employment, according to a statement released after a State Council executive meeting presided over by Premier Li Keqiang on Friday. "It is necessary that the measures be carried out across the board," the statement said, adding that the move is in line with general market expectations and conducive to expanding social investment and strengthening the steady economic trend. According to the statement, requirements for the minimum registered capital for limited liability companies, one-person limited liability companies, as well as joint-stock companies with limited liability, will be scrapped. Requirements on the site registered for business operation will also be relaxed, the statement said. To improve transparency and strengthen business credit, the current annual inspections on registered companies will be replaced by annual reports open to public inquiry, while companies that commit aberrant behaviors will also be made public. A system of subscribed capital will also be promoted in an effort to lower the cost of founding a company, said the statement. The meeting asked local governments and various departments to speed up the amendment of related laws and regulations, as well as to construct a system to display corporate credit information.

Hong Kong*:  Oct 28 2013

White Storm opens HK Asian Film Festival (By Associated Press in Hong Kong) Narcotics officers are tasked with taking down a Thai drug lord in The White Storm. The White Storm, a crime thriller starring three of Hong Kong’s most prolific actors, has opened the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival. Lau Ching-wan, Louis Koo and Nicholas Cheung star in the action film about a clash between an undercover cop and a drug lord that director Benny Chan called his most defining work to date. The three actors said at the opening ceremony of the festival on Friday night that while the movie is filled with explosions and gun fights, some of the more memorable scenes showed the trio at their quietest and most emotional. The film festival runs until Nov. 19, when it closes with South Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer, starring actors Tilda Swinton and Chris Evans. 

Right as Rhine (By Rebecca Lo in Hong Kong) Schmidt Vinothek hopes that its quality selection of beverages will help change China's perception of wine from German-speaking countries. I have to admit: Aside from riesling, which is one of my favorite varietals to drink, I think of beer when I want to enjoy a beverage from Germany. My prejudice is not uncommon. Patrick Festl, business development manager for Schmidt Vinothek, believes that it was the influx of cheap wines such as Black Tower that gave German vintages a bad name in the 1970s and '80s. Festl, along with Jackie Chan, president of Schmidt Marketing (Asia), is hoping to change that perception by bringing in a remarkable collection of sparkling, red, white and dessert wines to the Hong Kong market. At a recent wine pairing lunch held at Hoi Yat Heen in Harbour Plaza North Point, the best of the best vintages were showcased along with dishes that would accompany them. Although the fusion dishes themselves were somewhat hit and miss, the selections by Schmidt Vinothek's chief sommelier Kevin Li were worthy of independent accolades. We started off with Schloss Proschwitz 2009 Riseling Brut Sekt, Sachsen, Germany (HK$385, $50), a sparkling white made from 100-percent riesling using traditional methods on Saxon palace lands. The red-granite soil where the grapes were grown gives it a bright mineral finish, with refreshing citrus notes on the nose that makes it a good sipping aperitif. Next was Stigler 2009 Riesling Trocken F36 Ihringen Winklerberg, VDP Baden, Germany (HK$510), a light and citrusy white produced by the same family since 1881. Baden, being the lowest wine region in Germany, features volcanic soil that gives the wine a strong minerality. Its fruity nose is balanced by its low sugar content and goes well with seafood as it sets off the delicate sweetness of fish. Another excellent seafood pairing was pan-fried tiger prawn with Skoff Original 2010 Sauvignon Blanc "Royal", Sudsteiermark, Austria (HK$500). Made by the fifth generation of winemakers from Skoff in southern Austria, the father and son's efforts result in a wine that shows its limestone and sandstone origins. A popular wine with the Norwegian and Danish royal families, its notes of mango, melon, papaya and vanilla are mellowed from French oak and go well with a saucy dish. One of the top 10 red-wine producing estates in Germany is run by the family's two daughters, with pinot noir being its specialty. The Burgundy style Meyer-Nakel 2011 Spatburgunder S Trocken VDP Ahr, Germany (HK$650) was aged for 10 months in a 50-50 combination of new and old oak, yielding a full-bodied deep red wine with hints of blackberry, chocolate and exotic spices. Served with game such as duck or pigeon, the wine is robust enough to counter the poultry's richness. J. Heinrich 2009 Terra O. Trocken, Mittelburgenland, Austria (HK$580) is another deep Burgundy-style red that was served to then Premier Wen Jiabao during his state visit to Austria. He complimented his host on the well-selected Bordeaux - not the first to be beguiled by the wine's similarities. The blend mixes the region's varietals including Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, with modern tannins and pepper notes. For those so inclined, it is currently available in Lufhansa airline's first-class cabin. My favorite wine of the day was Domdechant Werner 1989 Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese Hockheimer VDP, Rheingau, Germany (HK$3,900). The dessert wine has the softness of the best ice wine, yet has a rich body that gives it weight and substance. I loved its soothing sweetness and distinctive riesling characteristics, with or without a chocolate dessert accompaniment. Many of the hundreds of wines distributed by Schmidt Vinothek will be available to sample at the upcoming Wine & Dine Festival along Central's new harbor front. I'm looking forward to trying more vintages from Deutschland there.

 China*:  Oct 28 2013

Xi stresses ties with neighbors (By By PU ZHENDONG) President Xi Jinping has vowed to build better relations with neighboring countries, with an expert saying this is the latest sign reflecting the new leadership's diplomatic policy focus. China should engage in more “advancing and proactive” neighboring diplomacy to create a favorable environment for development, Xi said at a meeting in Beijing. The meeting, held on Thursday and Friday and presided over by Premier Li Keqiang, mapped out the goals and strategy for China's diplomacy with its neighbors for the next five to 10 years, a statement said. "We should maintain and make good use of this period of important strategic opportunities, and safeguard sovereignty and development interests," Xi said. Beijing has been involved in a series of diplomatic activities, highlighting the importance of neighboring areas, since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in November. Jin Canrong, a professor of international studies at Renmin University of China, said the new leadership has been taking the approach of "friendship first, issues later" in working with its neighbors. The strategy has received a positive response, he said.

Suggestions offered for Sino-Japanese ties (By Song Wei) Tang Jiaxuan, former State Councilor, makes a keynote speech at the ninth Beijing-Tokyo Forum in Beijing, Oct 26, 2013. China and Japan should rebuild faith to overcome difficulties and strive for sound bilateral ties and the peaceful development of East Asia, former State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan said in his keynote speech at the ninth Beijing-Tokyo Forum here on Saturday. This year marks the 35th anniversary of China-Japan Peace and Friendship Treaty. Tang said the primary task for the two countries is to re-read the essence of the treaty and carry out its spirit so as to solve the current thorny issues. Suggestions offered for Sino-Japanese ties - Signed in 1978, the milestone document outlines the obligations to peacefully handle disputes and sensitive issues through bilateral negotiations. The former state councilor held facing up to history as the first step to eliminate disturbance of Chinese-Japanese ties. He also urged Japan to respect history, and find an early solution by negotiations. "I hope Japan regards China as a friend rather than a threat, and China's development as an opportunity than as a crisis," Tang added. Tang, who is also a former foreign minister and a veteran diplomat in Japanese affairs, said the core spirits of the treaty were peaceful co-existence by taking history as a mirror, long-time friendship by mutual respect, and co-development by cooperation. "A peaceful, friendly, cooperative, beneficial and win-win road is the only right choice for the two countries," said Tang. Moreover, Tang suggested China and Japan achieve a win-win cooperation by seeking common ground while reserving differences. "The peaceful development of East China is inseparable from sound China-Japan ties," Tang said. "I hope the two countries make joint efforts to improve the bilateral relations, and therefore contribute to the future of East Asia," Tang said. Tang said he is glad that the current mainstream public in China and Japan hopes for improved bilateral ties. Despite the goodwill between the two countries that has dropped to a record low in recent years, according a poll released by China Daily and Japan's non-profit organization Genron NPO in August, more than 70 percent of the public approves the importance of the China-Japan relationship. The annual Beijing-Tokyo Forum, co-sponsored by China Daily and Japanese think tank Genron NPO, has been held alternately in Beijing and Tokyo since 2005.

Hong Kong*:  Oct 27 2013

Tsang bows out of future polls citing age (By Lai Ying-kit Legislative Council President Tsang Yok-sing has cited his advancing age as reason for standing back from future elections - Legislative Council President Tsang Yok-sing said on Friday he would not seek re-election in 2016 or contest the chief executive post in 2017 because of his age. Tsang said during a seminar at Chinese University he was nearing retirement age and would like to give more opportunities to younger colleagues in his party. His supporters had, however, advised him to stand for the top job. “Some said to me: ‘You would be a very good chief executive’,” he revealed. “It was a pleasing thing to hear but [it is] something [I] must not do. If I really did do it, people would find out that actually I am not as good [as they think]. That would be embarrassing,” he said. Tsang is currently 66 years old and will turn 70 by the time Hong Kong is scheduled to hold its first poll under universal suffrage to select a new chief executive in 2017. He is a member of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), the city’s largest pro-Beijing party. He formerly chaired the the Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong, one of two parties that merged to form the DAB, for more than 10 years. The veteran politician is viewed as having friendly relations with both pro-establishment and pan-democratic members in Legco. Tsang said there was only one point in his life where he thought about standing for the chief executive job. That was when the two forerunners last year’s chief executive election – Henry Tang Yen-ying and Leung Chun-ying — were embroiled in scandals. Leung eventually won the election.

Leung to explain HKTV licence decision in court of law (By Tanna Chong) Chief executive refuses to address public rally at government headquarters on free-to-air TV licence controversy - Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said on Friday the government would explain to a court of law the rationale behind its decision to deny Hong Kong Television Network (HKTV) a free-to-air TV licence, but he would not address a public rally outside government headquarters on the controversy. Despite the Saturday deadline set by the HKTV staff who have been in a six-day sit-in since the protest began last Sunday, Leung stated he would say no more about the decision to grant licences to i-Cable’s Fantastic Television and PCCW’s Hong Kong Television Entertainment but not to HKTV because of pending legal cases. “There are two upcoming judicial reviews so I cannot elaborate on the rationale at this stage,” Leung said, referring to a challenge filed by a member of the public a day after the decision was announced on October 15. “We know the public are very concerned,” Leung said. Speaking on Friday morning after an opening ceremony at the Hong Kong Sports Institute, Leung reiterated that the proceedings “had followed justice”. “We have complied with procedural justice, having considered the consultancy reports and all criteria [in vetting the licence applications],” he said. The ongoing rally outside the government headquarters is expected to draw at least a thousand supporters tonight. It could last into the early hours, with performances arranged by staff who continue to demand the government explain clearly why HKTV’s bid was rejected. British singer-songwriter Kashy Keegan is flying in from London to show support. A song he wrote called This Is My Dream was sung by HKTV staff during its programme showcase in December last year. The highlight of the rally on Thursday was a parody of the Japanese drama sensation Hanzawa Naoki, a programme about how workers struggle with office politics at a Japanese bank. HKTV actors adopted the story to mock the lack of transparency in government proceedings in Hong Kong. Leung on Friday also spoke out on the Manila hostage crisis. “The government will report upon reaching any interim outcome. We won’t underestimate the difficulty of this issue,” he said.

 China*:  Oct 27 2013

Beijing: Aquino's claim over bus killings untrue (By SCMP - Ada Lee and Raissa Robles in Manila) Philippine President Benigno Aquino is under fire. Philippine President Benigno Aquino's claim that the Manila bus killings were not raised when he met Premier Li Keqiang recently was dismissed as untrue by the Foreign Ministry yesterday. This came as Manila councillor Bernardito Ang met and briefed the Hong Kong Security Bureau about a resolution passed by Manila city council granting Manila mayor Joseph Estrada authority to apologise to Hong Kong on the city's behalf. Aquino had earlier rejected a China News Service report that Li told him to find a way to resolve the dispute between the Philippines and Hong Kong. He said they did not talk about "Hong Kong issues". Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said yesterday: "Relevant remarks by the Philippine side are totally untrue." The meeting took place in Brunei on the sidelines of meetings of East Asia leaders in the VIP room, she said. "We once again urge the Philippine side to earnestly respect the feelings of the families of the victims, take this issue seriously and offer a fair and reasonable solution as soon as possible," said Hua. Meanwhile, Ricky Carandang, chief of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office in the Philippines, told the South China Morning Post, that no-one from Hong Kong's Chief Executive Office aired complaints about meeting arrangements when Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying met Aquino at the Apec meeting in Bali. The seating arrangements, in which Leung sat on the side with his aides while Aquino sat in the middle, were criticised as inappropriate. Leung later said he accepted the arrangement because it was the "only chance" he had. Carandang said: "I do not recall anybody expressing any kind of offence." He said the discussions went smoothly "without raised voices, in a sober manner. There was no inkling or any hint that there was anything wrong with the seating positions or anything that was said". He said the Philippine government was in charge of the protocol "because they came to us". As for the complaint that Manila reneged on an agreement to release information at the same time, Carandang said there was no such arrangement. "It was understood on both sides that we would go back to our respective media shortly afterward and make those announcements [but] there was no synchronisation," he said. Leung said after the meeting, that news arrangements "had to be consulted and discussed with each other".

Bo Xilai protests innocence as life sentence for corruption is upheld (By Keith Zhai in Jinan Disgraced politician protests, denouncing the case against him as 'false' and 'wrongful', as life sentence for corruption is upheld - A screen grab from CCTV news footage shows Bo Xilai flanked by burly guards during his unsuccessful appeal hearing in Jinan. Fallen politician Bo Xilai put on a final act of defiance yesterday after a high court in Shandong rejected his appeal against his life sentence, declaring "I am not guilty" at the final hearing of China's most explosive political case in decades. Bo, handcuffed and wearing a blue jacket for his last public appearance before going to jail, constantly interrupted the judge's reading of the ruling during the 40-minute session, according to two court witnesses. "This is a false ... wrongful case, and the officials handling it just wanted to claim credit and become 'tiger-taming' heroes," Bo said after the Provincial Higher People's Court upheld his conviction and sentence for corruption and abuse of power. Sources said an agitated Bo peppered the presiding judge's announcement with sharp and at times acerbic counter-points. The two towering court security guards standing next to him tried to push down his shoulders every time Bo uttered a protest. "I only respect facts," Bo retorted when the judge warned him to "respect the law". The high court said Bo and his defence team had submitted 11 reasons to support the appeal, filed immediately after the former Politburo member was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Jinan Intermediate People's Court on September 22. One point made by defence lawyers was that Bo's corruption case had been triggered by the failed attempt by his former aide, Wang Lijun , to defect to the US consulate in Chengdu , for which Wang received a 15-year sentence - a much lighter punishment than Bo's. "This was calling black white and white black. It was an insult to the judiciary and a regression in China's rule of law," Bo is said to have told yesterday's hearing. Bo reiterated yesterday that he received orders from the party's top law and order committee on how to deal with Wang's defection. "That was a six-item order from the central leadership," Bo said. Bo also insisted that Wang defected because his former right-hand man "felt guilty" about his "secret love" for Bo's wife, Gu Kailai . However, the high court said that after "careful deliberation" of the appeal case, it decided that the lower court's verdict was based on "clear facts, ample evidence and lawful procedure" and the sentence was "accurate and appropriate", according to the full text of the ruling posted on the court's website. Bo, who robustly denied all three charges against him during his five-day trial in August, stuck to his defence line throughout yesterday's final hearing session. "That was confession under deceit," Bo responded sharply when the judge rejected his claim that he confessed to party disciplinary officials under duress. "That was entirely a fabrication," Bo said to the high court's support of the embezzlement charge. Bo, 64, is expected to serve his term at Qincheng Prison in the north of Beijing, which houses offenders from the political elite.

China, Mongolia sign document on long-term partnership - China and Mongolia on Friday signed a document that outlines key areas of cooperation for the development of their strategic partnership in the medium and long term.

A Long March-4B carrier rocket carrying the Shijian-16 satellite blasts off from the launch pad at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan, northwest China's Gansu Province, Oct. 25, 2013. The orbiter Shijian-16, used for conducting spacial environment detection and technological experiments, was launched successfully and went into scheduled orbit on Friday. (Xinhua/Yang Shiyao)

Hainan China to host 2014 global tourism summit (By Zheng Xin) The 2014 World Travel and Tourism Council Global Summit will help draw global attention to China's tropical island of Hainan and boost the country's travel industry. As one of the world's highest profile meetings of the tourism industry, the global summit will likely enhance cooperation between China and other countries. Hainan will host the 2014 World Travel and Tourism Council Global Summit next April. "We will further cooperate with international tourism sectors to develop tourism during the summit," said Lu Zhiyuan, head of Hainan province's tourism department, at a news conference in Beijing on Friday. "It will be the second time that China will host the global summit in four years, illustrating the rising significance of the tourism industry in China," said Wu Wenxue, a senior official from the China National Tourism Administration. "The government has attached importance to the tourism industry since 2009 and considers it a strategic pillar industry that will greatly stimulate national economic development." It is estimated that the number of Chinese outbound tourists will reach 100 million by 2015. China is also expected to be the most attractive tourism destination and the fourth largest source of outbound tourism in the world by the end of 2015. The number of Chinese outbound visits is expected to exceed 400 million in five years, he said. In 2012, China became the third largest inbound tourism destination, the largest domestic tourism market and had the highest rate of consumption in the world, statistics say. China's increasing affinity for traveling and shopping holds great appeal to tourism destinations from across the globe and the global summit will provide a platform to discuss more convenient visa policies and flights. David Scowsill, president of the World Travel & Tourism Council, said he is confident about the future of the tourism industries in China and other Asian countries. "It is believed China will replace the United States and become the biggest tourism economy worldwide," he said. "The tourism industry has played a significant role in GDP contribution and job creation." It is believed the tourism industry will create 70 million new jobs by 2023, with 47 million in Asia, he said. He Xiqing, deputy head of Hainan province, said the island provides China a testing ground to improve its tourism industry. Hainan has made great achievements in developing its economy with the tourism industry playing a leading role, she said. Overnight visitors to the island increased from 22.5 million in 2009 to 33.2 million in 2012, a 13.8 percent increase, while revenue from tourism in the province rose from 21.1 billion yuan ($3.5 billion) in 2009 to 37.9 billion yuan in 2012, an increase of 21.4 percent, she said. The province has received 25.31 million visits during the first three quarters this year, with total revenue reaching 26.65 billion yuan.

Beijing airport set to become world's busiest (By Michael Barris in New York China is taking another title away from the United States. By next year, Beijing Capital International Airport will rank as the world's busiest passenger airport, ending the 13-year reign of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, according to a report from the Global Business Travel Association. "In 2012, Atlanta serviced 92 million passengers and Beijing 82 million. The relative growth in the two markets suggests that Beijing International will surpass Atlanta by 2014,"Joe Bates, the association's vice president of research, told China Daily in an interview. In a release Thursday, the Virginia-based travel association said China is "growing its business travel market faster than any other nation, and continues to close the gap on the US as the largest business travel economy in the world." Beijing's displacing Atlanta as the world's busiest airport marks the latest changing of the guard in the global marketplace. With total spending on Chinese-originated business travel expected to grow a weaker than expected 14.3 percent this year and 17.2 percent next year – more than double the US rate – China is expected to overtake the US as the world's dominant business-travel market by 2016. It overtook the US as the world's largest automotive market in 2009 and is poised to replace the US as the world's largest economy by the end of this decade. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International has been the world's busiest airport in terms of passenger volume since 2000. The primary hub of Delta Air Lines, last year it had a 3.4 percent increase in number of passengers over 2011, according to Airports Council International, the worldwide association of airports. Beijing Capital International Airport, Asia's busiest airport since 2009, came in second with a 4.1 percent increase, according to the traffic report. Bates said Beijing's rise into the world's busiest airport tells "a story of growth". "Both business and leisure travel – outbound and inbound – are outpacing the developed world,"the travel association researcher said. "It's a sign that China's business-travel market continues to move ahead but will be challenged by infrastructure constraints". The travel association, which predicts business-travel trends by tracking spending and other metrics, cut its 2013 outlook for total China business travel, citing the "protracted slowdown"in China's key trading markets in North America and Europe". China's economy also is slowing amid the nation's embrace of a consumption-driven rather than export- and investment-driven economy. Even so, the travel association expects the Chinese economy to remain "a robust engine for economic growth at home and abroad", even though its growth sources are experiencing "dramatic change". And "that means the outlook for business travel remains positive,"the association said.

Walmart has more in store for nation (By Wang Zhuoqiong Company needs long-term strategy to play up its strengths: Analyst - The world's largest retailer by sales, Wal-Mart Stores Inc, will open 110 new outlets in China within three years, senior executives said on Thursday. At the same time, the United States-based company will invest in higher-growth sectors such as e-commerce and real estate. Greg Foran, Walmart China president and chief executive officer, said that the company's focus in China will be investment and development, while quality should take precedence over quantity as the company grows in the country. The retailer has opened 30 new stores and Sam's clubs this year in China. The US retailer has closed 11 other stores and will shutter 15 to 30 other outlets in the next 18 months. Foran said the closures will represent about 9 percent of the total store portfolio and 2 to 3 percent of sales volume through next year. "It is a natural process as you expand the network [to close locations] that are not performing how you want," he said. He said that the expansion plan includes more stores in third- and fourth-tier cities from 2014 to 2016, mostly supercenters and Sam's Clubs. Walmart's high-end membership store, Sam's Clubs, has 10 stores in China, and more are coming. "The business model is ripe for the burgeoning middle-income and upper-income consumers," said Foran. According to a report by market research firm Kantar Worldpanel, strong growth is now coming from shoppers in lower-tier cities. Meanwhile, shoppers in higher-tier are buying more fast moving consumer goods. The renovation of existing outlets is another facet of the retailer's plans. It will freshen up locations that have been operating in China since 1996. That plan covers the remodeling of about 45 stores this year, 55 next year and 65 the year after. More distribution centers will be developed to ensure that all stores have access to ambient distribution networks, which handle food at room temperature, and chilled distribution networks. Both types of distribution are crucial to food quality and fresh food supply. Walmart is being conservative about opening new physical stores. The company has acquired majority control of its Chinese online store Yihaodian, and it's expecting more growth from e-commerce in China, as well as real estate. Doug McMillon, the president and chief executive officer of Walmart International, said that as to possible mergers and acquisitions in China, the company is looking for other retailers with stores - and also for those adding new capabilities, such e-commerce activity. He cited opportunities for growth in good-quality real estate. In the competitive retail sector in China, Walmart ranked fifth in the third quarter, after Sun Art Retail Group Ltd, RT-MART International Ltd, Groupe Auchan SA and China Resources Vanguard Co Ltd in terms of market share, according to Kantar Worldpanel. Wumart Stores Inc announced it has agreed to buy most of Thailand-based CP Lotus Corp's supermarkets on the mainland for HK$2.35 billion ($302 million). United Kingdom-based Tesco Plc announced it will form a joint venture with China Resources Enterprise. which operates the Vanguard stores. Jason Yu, an analyst at Kantar Worldpanel China, said Walmart needs a long-term strategy to play up its strengths and eliminate underperforming stores amid fierce competition with local rivals.

Chinatown's story told through one family (By Kelly Chung Dawson in New York Doug Lee and Sandra Lee, two descendants of a family that has been deeply involved in New York's Chinatown for 125 years, stand in front of a display at the Museum of Chinese in America's new exhibition "The Lee Family of New York Chinatown Since 1888." Since 1888, the Lee family has worked and lived at 31 Pell Street in New York's Chinatown, alternately operating a grocery and curio shop, currency exchange, film company, travel agency and insurance brokerage. Their history is now on display at the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) in an exhibition that showcases a family that flourished at a time when discrimination was the norm, rising in influence through business acumen and an ongoing civil engagement with the Chinese immigrant community of New York City. Running through April 2014, The Lee Family of New York Chinatown Since 1888 presents an assortment of authentic artifacts and photographs in a facsimile space approximating a Chinese general store, the onetime heart and hub of Chinatowns across America. "Longevity is an important thing in the Chinese community, and 125 years is an incredible accomplishment,"said Doug Lee, grandson of Harold L. Lee, the founder and patriarch of the modern day Lees of Chinatown. "I'm incredibly proud that we've been able to keep it going, and that our family remains together. Since we started researching our history, I have been awestruck and humbled by how entrepreneurial our forefathers were." Harold was the son of Lee On, who joined his brothers in Chinatown after they founded Tai Lung ("Great Prosperity") on Pell Street. All three likely worked on the US railroad, possibly alongside another Lee relative who, according to family accounts, was adopted by a Native American tribe after an attack on American railroad laborers. Today both Harold Lee and Sons Insurance and Lee Travel remain successful, representing banks, large corporations and nonprofits. Sandra Lee Kawano, CEO of the insurance company, attributes the family's success to the sense of social responsibility that has always defined the Lee legacy. During the early days, the second floor of 31 Pell Street included a desk for each business, as family members worked side by side in a venue the community came to view as more than a place of business. Immigrants trusted the Lees to send money back to their villages in China, and knew that if they were short of cash a personal item might be pawned to feed their families at home. Families whose older relatives had trouble communicating with their youngest came to the Lees for help in convincing their offspring to make wise decisions regarding money and life, Sandra recounted. Educating immigrants on the value of purchasing insurance or depositing money in a bank — concepts that were entirely foreign in the Chinese community — was difficult but important, she said. Chinese were often viewed with suspicion outside their communities in those years, and the function of family and community was largely one of protection. Providing goods and services to the Chinese of New York gave the family prominence and eventually wealth. Still, the Lees were not always immune to the difficulties of discrimination. In 1899, Doug's great-grandfather, Lee On, was stopped at the US border upon his return from a business trip to China by way of Canada. Immigration officials refused to believe that a Chinese man could be a successful merchant, despite his official citizenship papers, US birth records and repeated protestations. He was taken to Burlington, Vermont, where immigration officials detained him in service of a Chinese Laundromat. He was later cleared and discharged. "Our family's early success had a lot to do with the drive that got them out of China to begin with,"Doug said. "It was a tough time, and with maybe 1,000 Chinese in a city of 1.5 million, there weren't many like-minded people around. That was why family was so important. You could trust family, and that continues to this day." The experience of discrimination and exclusion also motivated the Lees to buy a movie theater to screen Chinese films. Later, Harold founded the New York Film Exchange, distributing Chinese-language films for production companies including the Great Wall Film Company of Shanghai, founded by Harold's uncle, Lee Kee Do. That studio's goal was to produce films that accurately and sensitively presented the lives of everyday Chinese people, in storylines that ran counter to the Hollywood stereotypes of opium dens, brothels and distressed damsels with bound feet. Also on display is a rare kinescope of Let's Take a Trip, a live CBS TV broadcast from 1956, in which host Sonny Fox and two young friends visit the Lee family during Chinese New Year. Through scenes that presented Chinese customs and food and various members of the Lee family (including Sandra and Doug's father), America got a glimpse of what life was like for Chinese people in the 1950s. For CEO Sandra, whose grandmother's only contact with other women was on the back fire escapes behind Pell Street because the Chinese community at the time largely operated as a "Bachelor Society", the women of the family have been equally inspiring. Sandy has twice been named to Crain's prestigious list of 100 most influential and powerful business leaders in New York. The artifacts on display at MOCA will soon permanently enter the National Archives, a document of one family's contributions to an ever-changing community. "In Chinatowns there's an unwritten idea of a duty to protect our neighborhood and its history, even when people move out and transition happens,"MOCA curator and director of exhibitions Herb Tam said. "That sense of continuity is an important part of life in Chinatown, and to see that history through one family is unusual and unexpected."

Hong Kong*:  Oct 26 2013

Alibaba drops share sale to revive hopes of a Hong Kong listing (By Sophie Yu in Hangzhou and Eric Ng) The online giant drops plans to list elsewhere to allow heat over its proposed structure to cool while the HKEx chief takes a sympathetic stance - Mainland e-commerce giant Alibaba has abandoned plans to sell shares anywhere in the near term in a bid to let the heat die down over its controversial share-structure proposal, chief executive Jonathan Lu Zhaoxi told the South China Morning Post yesterday, leaving the door open to a Hong Kong listing. "We decided to put down the issue after the last round of discussions," Lu said in an interview at the company's Hangzhou headquarters. "Hong Kong may need some time to understand the creative management structure for a creative company," he added, in a sign that the potential HK$100 billion share deal has not yet been permanently lost to the city in favour of an alternative listing venue. There appears to be movement on the Hong Kong side too, with Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing chief executive Charles Li Xiaojia saying in his blog yesterday that consideration should be given to "non-standard shareholding structures" for "innovative companies". In his blog on HKEx's website, Li said there were "a wide range of possibilities that could be considered" when deciding whether or not to let innovative firms' founders have extra power to influence the nomination of the majority of board members. Proponents of the structure have argued that such an arrangement would preserve the long-term vision, ideas and strategies of company founders - many of whom would have seen their interests diluted after rounds of external financing. But opponents said this could open the door for the largest shareholders to harm minority shareholders' interests when their interests were not aligned. Alibaba has been trying to convince Hong Kong regulators to permit a partnership structure allowing its top management to nominate the majority of its board members. Li, stressing that he was expressing his personal views to further the debate, said whether a partnership structure was allowed or not was not core to the issue, because regulators would look through any partnership to the underlying structure and persons involved. "You are a shareholder, director, or manager, or all three; whether or not you are a 'partner' is of little relevance," he said. "What is trickier is how to structure founders' influence on senior management appointments without encroaching on the fundamental power of directors to appoint the leadership on behalf of shareholders. "We should have a proper debate before making a decision ... we should make the decision proactively." Li also said greater concessions could be allowed for founders in markets with stronger checks and balances, such as the United States. "In a less institutionalised and less litigious market such as Hong Kong, such concessions, if given, would need to be moderate and come with checks and balances for use in the event of abuse or true conflict," he said. In the US, listed firms are allowed to have "dual-class" shares, where founding shareholders are allowed extra voting rights on key company matters. In Hong Kong, shareholders have equal rights. Li suggested that minimum market capitalisation, public float and shareholding requirements for founders should be considered if special rights were given to founding shareholders, "to maintain a healthy counter-balance of power". He emphasised that he was not representing the view of HKEx's listing committee, which has the primary role in deciding whether to reform current regulations, subject to the oversight of the Securities and Futures Commission.

 China*:  Oct 26 2013

Chinese lunar rover looks too much like Nasa's Opportunity, say scientists (By Stephen Chen Chinese design plays it safe but ends up looking too much like Nasa's Mars vehicle - The launch of China's most ambitious lunar probe, scheduled for sometime in December, will likely be a proud moment for many in the nation. But for some scientists, at least one of whom was directly involved in the project, the event will be frustrating. The rover, they say, shows little technological innovation, and borrows heavily from American and Soviet-era designs. The rover, they note, looks similar to Nasa's Opportunity, which has roamed Mars for nearly a decade. Both feature a flat back with solar panels, a long neck fronted by cameras and a robotic arm set at the front chest. Only their wheels are different. For that part, the Chinese rover seems to have borrowed heavily from the Lunokhod 1 - the first lunar rover launched by the Soviet Union in 1970. Some scientists directly involved in the rover design project said the Chinese version was derivative. "There is no denying the similarities," Professor Wen Guilin from Hunan University in Changsha told the South China Morning Post. Wen said the Chinese vehicle "borrowed heavily from other countries, in particularly the United States". "A lot of things have been drawn from the reliable and successful design of the [American] Mars rover," he said. If the Chinese design lacks originality, it is not for want of trying. In 2005, the government asked all qualified universities and institutes to propose designs for the rover. It said the winner would be chosen through a fair, transparent process. It was the first time that the secretive space agency - run by the military - had invited civilian scientists to participate in a major exploration programme. Many top universities set up special teams of their best researchers, who proposed creative rover designs. Wen's own team, for instance, offered a design with only four wheels but with a greater ability to manoeuvre over rough terrain. Civilian scientists were disappointed when authorities decided on a design they felt drew heavily on the American design. Zhu Jihong, a professor of robotics who entered the competition on behalf of Tsinghua University, said the outcome had dampened Chinese scientists' enthusiasm for innovation. "In the beginning they said they encouraged original thinking. In the end they did not even bother to make an announcement or give us any feedback," he said. "We will not participate in anything that involves the military in the future." Professor Cao Qixin, whose team from the Jiaotong University in Shanghai submitted a spider-like design, said he was not surprised by the decision. Unlike the space programmes in the US and other Western countries, China's programme was not focused on pushing technological limits, Cao said. "You see other countries have failed in their space programmes. But Chinese missions are almost always perfect," he said, "We only trust tried and proven technology and equipment. They may not be advanced, but they guarantee you success." Wen, however, defended the government's design decision. "This is a big project, where creativity has to give way to practicality," he said.

The art of tea - A competitor shows her skills at the 2nd National Professional Tea Savoring Skill competition in Wuyi, Zhejiang province on October 22, 2013. 169 people participated in the 2-day competition.

Hong Kong*:  Oct 25 2013

CY Leung meets with top officials in Beijing (By Lai Ying-kit) Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying makes a speech at the 17th Beijing Hong Kong Economic Co-operation Symposium in Beijing on Wednesday. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying discussed Hong Kong’s political reform and economic issues with two top mainland officials in Beijing – and did not mention the ongoing row over the granting of new TV licences. Leung met Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the National People’s Congress standing committee, and Wang Guangya, director of the Hong Kong and Macau affairs office in the capital on Wednesday. He said he did not discuss the free-to-air TV licence controversy with either of the two officials. “TV licensing is entirely within the scope of the Hong Kong government’s autonomy. It was not discussed at either of the meetings,” Leung said after the meetings. Instead, he said he had updated Zhang, who is responsible for overseeing Hong Kong’s constitutional development, on his government’s latest work on political reform. Leung also told Zhang that he hoped to see more mainland support for Hong Kong’s financial industry, he said. At the meeting with Wang, Leung said he discussed cross-border co-operation in the financial industry. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets on Sunday to protest against the government’s rejection of Hong Kong Television Network’s free-to-air TV licence bid. The failed applicant is also planning to challenge the government’s rejection of its licence application while some of the company’s staff members have remained camped outside central government headquarters in Admiralty for three days. The company and its supporters are demanding the government give a clear account of why HKTV lost out.

Aquino should apologise for Manila bus tragedy, say victims’ families (By Phila Siu) Manila bus hijacking survivor Yik Siu-ling (right) is accompanied by legislator James To Kun-sun after a meeting with Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok at central government offices. Even if the Philippine government is willing to apologise for the Manila bus hijacking that left eight Hong Kong people dead, families of those killed said Philippine President Benigno Aquino should say sorry too. They made the remarks on Wednesday, as reports suggested that Manila's city government had sent councillor Bernardito Ang to Hong Kong to meet the victims’ families in order to discuss compensation. The City Council of Manila earlier this week passed a resolution taking it upon the city's government to apologise for the hostage crisis. Ang has reportedly brought the resolution documents with him to Hong Kong. A staff member at Ang’s Manila office confirmed that the councillor left the Philippines for Hong Kong on Wednesday morning but she did not disclose the purpose of the visit. Tse Chi-kin, elder brother of slain tour guide Masa Tse Ting-chun, said the passage of the resolution shows that another progress was made in the Philippines. “It is progress. From the very beginning, the Philippines has owed Hong Kong people an explanation. But I hope someone who can represent the country can apologise. Aquino is a suitable person,” Tse said. He was not informed that councillor Ang was visiting Hong Kong. Some family members of the victims, as well as Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun who has been assisting them, met Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok for an hour on Wednesday. To said he reiterated the families’ four demands to Lai, which are an apology from the Philippines, compensation, punishment for the officials responsible and improved tourist safety. He was also not informed that Ang was in Hong Kong. “Even if he is really coming, he is just a city-level official … he cannot represent the whole country or the entire government,” he added.

 China*:  Oct 25 2013

Chinese President meets Indian PM (By Xinhua) Chinese President Xi Jinping met with visiting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the Great Hall of the People on Wednesday afternoon. Xi asked Singh to extend his greetings to Indian President Pranab Mukherjee and President of the Indian National Congress Party Sonia Gandhi. Xi said Singh is an old friend of the Chinese people who has made important contributions to the development of China-India relations. He also praised Singh as a senior politician of India who started the country's economic reform process in the 1990s and has helped India make remarkable progress. The president also recalled his last meeting with Singh in Durban, South Africa, during which they reached an important consensus on the development of bilateral relations. China-India ties have entered a phase of comprehensive development, Xi added. Singh echoed Xi saying he will bring his greetings to Mukherjee and Gandhi. He said the relationship with China is a "high priority" in India's foreign policy. Before the meeting, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang held talks with Singh on Wednesday morning. The two prime ministers also witnessed the signing of nine documents after talks. Singh arrived in Beijing on Tuesday night for a three-day official visit to China.

NASA: Chinese scientists are now welcome (By Chen Jia in San Francisco With an explanation but no public apology for the flip-flop, NASA told Chinese astrophysics researchers they could re-book their already canceled flights to California to attend a space telescope conference in November. "The US space agency has lifted its earlier ban on Chinese scientists attending the conference, and it could set a good precedent to protect Chinese scientists from experiencing similar unfairness in the future," Wu Yanqin, astronomy professor at the University of Toronto, told China Daily on Tuesday. Wu said she could understand if NASA banned foreign nationals from the country's application research in astrophysics, but this was a conference on basic research, which demands international cooperation. "There are no boundaries on basic research," she said, "which is why so many scientists argued against it." Wu is the tutor of Xie Jiwei, who was among six Chinese researchers whose applications to attend an international conference on NASA's Kepler space telescope at Ames Research Center in California next month were turned down. NASA spokesman Allard Beutel told BBC that the ban on Chinese scientists, announced earlier this month, was prompted by new counter-espionage legislation restricting foreign nationals' access to NASA facilities. "The initial decision was based on a misinterpretation of the agency's policy regarding foreign nationals," Mr Beutel was quoted as saying. NASA officials have earlier said the restriction policy was based on legislation signed by President Barack Obama in 2011 that prohibits government funds from being used to host Chinese nationals at NASA facilities. "We were able to clarify that interpretation and correct the decision, but it didn't happen until the federal government reopened last Thursday," the NASA spokesman said. In recent weeks, some prominent US scientists took issue with the ban and threatened to boycott the meeting in protest, including Yale astronomy professor Debra Fischer and Berkeley professor Geoff Marcy. "Every United States astronomer with whom I have spoken agrees that our colleagues from China and other restricted nations should be allowed to attend science meetings," said Fischer, whose Chinese teammate was also denied attendance at the conference. She said several people worked very hard to "find a solution" and "change the policy" and most of the legislation seems to have been sponsored by one person — Congressman Frank Wolf, who chairs the subcommittee that oversees NASA's funding and drafted the legislation on which the policy was based. "My hope is that the Chinese people understand that scientists in the United States are united and acting to make sure that this discriminatory policy ends," she added. "NASA's discriminatory practice has led to many US and European scientists boycotting the conference. The conference itself should not be politicized," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said earlier this month. 

Hong Kong*:  Oct 24 2013

Hong Kong banks seek longer-term funds to match loan duration after tightening (By Kanis Li HKMA rule tightening prompts city's banks to boost their capital to match loan books - The Hong Kong Monetary Authority says loans extended in the first eight months of the year increased 18.8 per cent. Banks in Hong Kong are seeking billions of dollars in long-tenor funding to cope with the newly tightened liquidity requirements of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority. The rules would have a greater impact on wholesale banks, which do not have a sufficient deposit base relative to their loan growth, said Andrew Fung Hau-chung, an executive director of Hang Seng Bank. "Those banks will have to increase their long-term funding either by borrowing from parent groups or issuing bonds in the capital market," Fung said. The city's de facto central bank said last week that the value of loans extended in the first eight months of this year increased 18.8 per cent. It also said it would require banks to secure funding that more closely matched their lending books. The HKMA said it expected more than 20 banks might be required to boost funds from their stable funding source, depending on their full-year loan growth. Banks with an aggressive lending strategy - that is, total loans in excess of 70 per cent of total customer deposits - would need to be proportionally funded by stable term funding with remaining maturity beyond six months, according to the authority. Paul Wong, the chief of treasury at Shanghai Commercial Bank, said he expected the HKMA to trim credit growth to the low-teens annually, from about 20 per cent or more in recent years. Lending in Hong Kong has surged to record levels as mainland companies attracted by the biggest discount over onshore financing in four years boost fundraising in the city, Bloomberg reported yesterday. Syndicated loans jumped to US$48.7 billion as the amount borrowed by mainland companies such as CNOOC and Huawei Technologies doubled. Mainland-related lending was the main target of the HKMA tightening, bankers said. Mainland and international banks in Hong Kong were the most aggressive lenders last year, according to a KPMG report last month. Six of the top 10 mainland banks had double-digit expansion last year, including China Construction Bank (Asia), the Hong Kong wholesale branches of Agricultural Bank of China, China Development Bank, China Construction Bank and Industrial Bank of China. International banks such as JP Morgan reached asset growth of 35 per cent last year, while local banks had growth rates ranging from 4 to 13 per cent, KPMG said. Tenor matching will take place next year. The three-month interbank lending rate rose to 0.38429 per cent yesterday from 0.38357 per cent the previous trading day, reflecting increased demand for the long tenor funding. Bankers said the cost of funding was likely to rise as a result of the new requirements and the scaling back of quantitative easing by the US Federal Reserve.

Leung rejects calls for greater transparency over free-to-air TV licence decision (By Johnny Tam and Tanna Chong with additional reporting by Lai Ying-kit) Chief Executive meets protesters outside government offices but denies political motivations were behind rejection of HKTV bid - Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying meets protesters on Tuesday. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying on Tuesday morning insisted the Executive Council’s confidentiality rules should be maintained despite Hong Kong Television Network (HKTV) staff demands that the government explain why the company’s application for a free-to-air TV licence was rejected. “The Executive Council is always dubbed as [an equivalent] to the cabinets of other governments around the world,” Leung said on Tuesday morning, speaking before an Exco meeting at Government Headquarters, where HKTV staff had protested to demand he give a clear account of the selection procedure. “When [other] cabinets hold meetings, they are confidential too, no matter [what] it is [on] the agendas, content of the meetings, attendees’ speaking records or the stances of their speeches ... It’s how every other government cabinet works. “We’re a transparent and accountable government but we have to maintain the confidentiality rules at the level of Exco, not only on the issue of TV licences but also other matters which are discussed and decided,” he added. More than a hundred existing and former HKTV staff members, who camped outside the government headquarters in Tamar on Monday night, were at the gate at Lung Wo Road on Tuesday morning to provide support. They were demanding the government explain why HKTV’s free-to-air TV licence application was rejected, while i-Cable’s Fantastic TV and PCCW’s Hong Kong Television Entertainment were both approved. Around 20 members of the radical People Power political pressure group joined members of the public and the HKTV staff to wait for Leung’s arrival. Lawmaker Charles Mok, who submitted a motion to invoke the Power and Privileges Ordinance to investigate the TV licence-issuing saga, was also there. There has been speculation over possible political motives behind the governments’ decision. HKTV, run by businessman Ricky Wong Wai-kay, was widely seen as the most high-profile among the three applicants and he set the company’s goal as bringing a “revolution” to the city’s TV industry, for so long dominated by the two existing players. But Leung repeated that the government had no clandestine considerations when making the decision. “We definitely have no political consideration. No political consideration. [I want to] make it clear – there’s no political consideration,” Leung insisted. “Mr Ricky Wong Wai-kay is not a politician, nor does he have any political stance. So, our consideration was well-rounded.” Leung said Exco had taken into account four reports several hundred pages long written by expert consultants. The reports listed the criteria – including financial ability, programme production and the sustainable development of the TV industry – used to evaluate the three applications. The chief executive also rejected Wong’s claim that a government official had invited him to apply for the licence, offering a guarantee that it would be granted. “It’s impossible an official would say something like this [or] make such promise. There’s no such promise on record,” Leung said. Leung did listen to the opinions of Exco members, he added, but the decision to grant the two free-to-air TV licences was made by the Exco as a whole. The government is also facing a challenge by pan-democrats seeking to invoke special powers in the Legislative Council to force the disclosure of official documents linked to the case. Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung, speaking ahead of a visit to Beijing, said complex legal problems would be involved. “The legal issues are not easy,” he said, referring to the plan to use the Legco (Powers & Privileges) Ordinance. “We hope to handle the matter with other methods.” The question is whether the confidentiality rule binding the Executive Council could be overridden by Legco’s special powers, which can summon any document to the legislature. Yuen, however, said the confidentiality rule was an established mechanism and should be upheld. Responding to Wong’s mooted legal challenge to the licence rejection, he said: “We respect [an] individual’s pursuit of legal rights.” The protest was on Tuesday entering its third day after tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered on Sunday in a march ‘to defend Hong Kong’s core values’.

 China*:  Oct 24 2013

China’s influence over the media is growing globally: think tank (By Patrick Boehler China’s government and state-owned companies are putting more pressure on media outlets around the world to prevent and punish reporting critical of Beijing, a US-based think tank has said. “These measures obstruct newsgathering, prevent the publication of undesirable content, and punish overseas media outlets that fail to heed restrictions,” the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington DC writes in a report released on Tuesday. “Indirect pressure [is] applied via proxies – including advertisers, satellite firms, and foreign governments – who take action to prevent or punish the publication of content critical of Beijing,” it said. The report by the US government-sponsored institution documented a series of efforts by Chinese government diplomats to stop critical coverage in France, Germany, Britain, Indonesia, and New Zealand. It also linked the spending of advertising revenue by Chinese companies and access to the Chinese market with publications’ adherence to the party line. Last year, the websites of the International Herald Tribune and Bloomberg were blocked in China after the two media outlets reported on the extensive family fortunes of former premier Wen Jiabao and current President Xi Jinping. The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have both traced attempts to hack their networks to China. For Sarah Cook, the senior research analyst at the think tank Freedom House who compiled the study, Hong Kong has been most affected. “The most notable change under [President Xi Jinping’s administration] has been the reportedly renewed commitment to ‘regain the Hong Kong media’ and subsequent personnel changes, both at the Liaison Office and within some pro-Beijing news outlets, where there is closer scrutiny by internal censors to what is published,” she said. Hong Kong’s standing in the think tank’s annual freedom-of-the-press index has declined over the past years, falling from 30 to 35 on its 100 points ranking, in which zero denotes completely free and 96 equates to the status of the media in North Korea. In 2008, Freedom House downgraded its assessment of the SAR’s press from “free” to “partly free”. Chinese-language news outlets outside China have also taken more advertorials and free content from Chinese state media, which have replaced Hong Kong outlets as the pre-eminent source of information, the report said. “Although living in Australia, ‘new migrants’ from China are still surrounded by the Chinese media dominated by Chinese government views and narratives,” it quoted Feng Chongyi, professor at the University of Technology Sydney’s China Research Centre. In Canada, Beijing-friendly Chinese-language papers have an inflated circulation, giving them an unfair advantage when obtaining revenue through advertising, Jack Jia, founder of the Toronto-based twice-weekly Chinese News told the researcher. For Cook, much is at stake: “Those of us outside China, are deprived of potentially important information about a major trading partner, emerging health and environmental crises, and an accurate understanding of the scale and intensity of human rights abuses.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) shakes hands with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev during their meeting in Beijing, capital of China, Oct. 22, 2013. (Xinhua) Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday. Speaking highly of Medvedev's efforts to boost bilateral ties, Xi said the current China visit is of great importance to stronger China-Russia relations. This is the fifth meeting between Xi and Medvedev since 2008. During Xi's state visit to Russia in March, they reached a broad consensus on strengthening bilateral cooperation in various fields. Xi said China and Russia are good neighbors and strategic partners, both in name and in essence. He reviewed the more active momentum of China-Russia all-round strategic partnership of coordination since the beginning of this year, saying leaders of the two countries reached agreements on the direction of bilateral relations and major cooperative projects. Xi called on the two countries to stick to the ideal of good-neighborly friendship and mutual support, acquire a deep understanding of how China-Russia relations will impact on the two countries and the whole world, step up experience sharing on state governance, seeking common development and benefit for the two peoples. Medvedev is visiting Beijing to co-chair the 18th regular meeting between Chinese and Russian heads of government with his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang. Xi said the regular meeting has promoted the pragmatic cooperation between the two countries since its inception in 1996. Xi called for joint efforts to further fulfill a consensus reached between the two countries' leaders, deepen energy cooperation in an all-round way and expand cooperation in other areas such as high technology and manufacturing, promote diversification of trade cooperation, and implement major cooperative projects of strategic significance. Besides, he urged a boost to the China-Russia cultural and youth exchanges, and to the coordination in preventing and fighting natural disasters. Xi spoke highly of fruitful bilateral cooperation in global and regional affairs, adding they had safeguarded common interests and justice. "Both countries should continue to enhance strategic coordination, maintain the authority of the United Nations and its Security Council, safeguard the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and the basic norms governing international relations, in a bid to jointly promote world peace, stability and development," he said. Medvedev conveyed to Xi greetings from Russian President Vladimir Putin. He said Russia and China enjoy broad common interests. To maintain close cooperation meets the fundamental interests of both countries and peoples, and is of significance to world peace, stability and development. Hailing fruitful bilateral cooperation in various fields, he said the close cooperation between both countries in fighting flood and disaster relief in Heilongjiang river valley, had reflected special and high-level relations between both sides. Medvedev vowed joint efforts with China to make full play of the regular meeting mechanism, step up exchanges and cooperation in such areas as trade, technology, energy, agriculture, environmental protection and culture, enhance strategic coordination in global and regional affairs, in a bid to bring bilateral ties up to a new stage. Medvedev arrived in Beijing early on Tuesday for a two-day official visit at the invitation of Li Keqiang. Apart from Beijing, Medvedev will visit east China's Anhui Province.

Xi offers support to overseas Chinese (By Cheng Yingqi But efforts to attract talent back home should be improved: experts - President Xi Jinping has urged overseas-educated experts and professionals to contribute to realizing the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation, whether they return home or stay abroad. Xi made the remarks at a gathering to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Western Returned Scholars Association, an organization formed by Chinese returnees from abroad. The gathering took place at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Monday morning and was attended by about 3,000 people. Xi said the government supports students and scholars studying abroad, encourages them to return to China and guarantees them the freedom to come and go as they wish. "You are warmly welcome if you return to China. If you stay abroad, we support you in serving the country in various ways," Xinhua News Agency quoted Xi as saying. The history of government-funded study overseas dates back to late 1840s. Since 1978, China has continually expanded the number of students sent to study abroad. Between 1978 and 2012, 2.64 million students were sent overseas, with 1.09 million (41.3 percent) returning to China. On Monday afternoon, representatives of those educated overseas gathered in the Beijing office of the Western Returned Scholars Association to offer their perspectives on the issue of foreign study. The association will compose the discussion into a report for the benefit of decision-makers. "Xi's words allow overseas-based Chinese like me see new opportunities to serve our homeland," said Gu Xuewu, a professor at the University of Bonn in Germany. Gu said that Xi's speech provided a new option for foreign-based Chinese who prefer to live abroad rather than return to China. "Take me, for example. I have stayed in Germany for so many years that I might have difficulty integrating into the new environment if I return. So it is worthwhile studying how to establish a mechanism for people like me to do something for our homeland," Gu said. Zhang Xiaoqing, also known as Shau Zhang, a tax partner in Ernst & Young's Boston office, suggested that more Chinese enterprises should open branches outside China. "The Chinese companies should recognize the importance of utilizing the local talent pool in their foreign branches," she said. In Boston, where Zhang lives, there are no less than 70,000 overseas-educated Chinese, many of whom are willing to do something for China, according to Zhang. "If our government can open industrial parks in Boston, or in Silicon Valley, it will be easier to connect this talent," she said. In addition to calls to improve opportunities for Chinese graduates abroad, some foreign-based experts say efforts to attract Chinese people back home could be improved. They say that mechanisms like the Recruitment Program of Global Experts, which aims to lure back around 2,000 high-profile scholars, entrepreneurs and finance industry workers from 2008, have had some success but remain limited. Huang Yasheng, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management, said that policies for attracting talented young scholars back home could be improved. "For example, the RPGX program filters out some young talent in their 20s or 30s who have not received tenure," said Huang. "But the 10 years between 20 and 30 is one's most productive period in scientific research, and their innovation and efficiency will diminish with age. So the government should adjust the selection standards to attract young talent with higher potential," he said. Andrew Yan, managing partner of private equity firm SAIF Partners, who is also a member of the RPGX program, complained that it does not include social science talent. "The RPGX program is only open to utilizable talents — talent engaged in natural science research and financial services, and entrepreneurial talent. But more social science talent is needed."

Riot police off to Libya peacekeeping mission (By China Daily) Members of China's riot police squad for peacekeeping mission in Libya pose for photos before departure in Beijing, capital of China, Oct 21, 2013. The squad, as part of 140 policemen sent by the Chinese government, will leave for Libya to take part in the United Nations peacekeeping mission for eight months. 

Hong Kong*:  Oct 23 2013

Pro-government politicians demand explanation over failed HKTV licence bid (By Lai Ying-kit Two prominent pro-government politicians on Monday urged the government to explain the rationale behind its rejection of Hong Kong Television Network’s bid for a free-to-air licence. Their call came as a protest against the controversial decision continued. About 20 staff of HKTV stayed outside government headquarters overnight following Sunday’s protest and vowed to stay there till Tuesday, when the weekly Executive Council meeting would be held, demanding an explanation from the government within seven days as to why it denied HKTV a licence. Tens of thousands of protesters marched to government headquarters in Admiralty on Sunday, claiming that the decision to deny HKTV a free-to-air TV licence and the refusal to explain the reasons for the decision were a threat to the city's core values. Starry Lee Wai-king, an Executive Council member and legislator, said on Monday she hoped that Leung’s administration could release more information to let the public know its rationale behind the decision. Lee is a member of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, the city’s largest pro-government party. Legislative Council president Tsang Yok-sing, also a DAB member, agreed that the government should offer further explanation due to growing public concern. “Not only the licence applicant, but also many members of the public and legislators are not satisfied with the government’s explanation,” he said. HKTV lost out last week when the government granted only two licences, to i-Cable’s Fantastic TV and PCCW’s Hong Kong Television Entertainment. The decision was approved by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and the Executive Council, his top-advisory body. The government stated that introducing new players in a “gradual and orderly” manner would help to maintain stability in the free-to-air market, but declined to give a detailed explanation of why HKTV’s bid failed.

Buyer rush for luxury flats breathes life into market (By Charlotte So Competitive pricing and sweeteners at The Austin and The Cullinan help ease the gloom over the sector as locals lose no time to secure deals - A long queue for viewing of a display flat at The Austin in West Kowloon yesterday is expected to encourage developers to keep up incentives for buyers. It might be well past mid-autumn but it could well be spring for Hong Kong's luxury property market, with two projects in West Kowloon well received by local buyers over the weekend, thanks to pricing at the low end of the secondary market and deal sweeteners. The 185 flats offered at The Austin, a project above the Austin MTR station co-developed by New World Development and Wheelock Properties, attracted more than 600 registrations from interested buyers over the weekend, market sources said. Buoyed by the increasing appetite for luxury property in the city, the developers raised the prices of a further 70 units at The Austin by 5.6 per cent on Friday to an average of HK$24,149 per square foot, compared with an average of HK$22,871 for the first 116 flats in the project. However, the prices were still at the lower end of those for secondary market units at nearby developments such as Victoria Towers, The Coronation and The Cullinan, which range from HK$20,000 to HK$31,000 per square foot, Credit Suisse said in a report. Registration will be open until Thursday, with flats at The Austin to go on sale from Saturday. The developers have offered discounts of up to 5 per cent on flat prices and also offered to subsidise buyers for the cost of the 8.5 per cent stamp duty, which was doubled from 4.25 per cent in February. Separately, the latest batch of 35 units offered in the sixth phase of The Cullinan, developed by Sun Hung Kai Properties (SHKP) above the Kowloon station, sold out in one day yesterday. "The buyers finished selecting all the 35 flats by 4pm while the contracts are expected to be finalised by 8pm," one agent said. Thomas Lee, director at Midland Property's Kowloon Station district, said: "Since 80 per cent of the 35 flats are restricted to Hong Kong individual residents, it reflects the buying power of locals on luxury properties after the government's [cooling] measures to discourage mainland buyers." SHKP's offer of a 70 per cent subsidy on stamp duty had seen more than 1,000 buyers register for yesterday's sales, market sources said. "The subsidy on stamp duty is crucial to stimulate the demand from those seeking to upgrade their homes after the government's doubling of the stamp duty this year," Lee said. Other developers were likely to follow after seeing the response at the two projects, he added. The flats offered in the latest Cullinan release ranged from ones with a saleable area 675 sqft, priced at slightly above HK$20 million, or HK$29,738 per square foot, to ones of 1,161 sqft, which sold for HK$37.6 million, or HK$32,434 per square foot. The average price per square foot was 6 per cent higher than the previous batch of flats sold earlier this month. Meanwhile, a residential project at Tai Hang, The Warren, developed by medium-sized developer Wing Tai Properties, also opened for sale yesterday. The saleable size of the flats ranges from 383 to 612 sqft, with prices starting at HK$10.5 million, or HK$27,000 per square foot. Market sources said two flats at The Warren were sold yesterday.

Carrie Lam: I need my husband to lean on (Phila Siu Chief secretary reveals her softer side and recounts tales from her school years - "Iron Lady" Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor showed her softer side yesterday, revealing that she had moments of weakness and had asked her UK-based husband to return to Hong Kong more often to give her some support. "I have talked to my husband and asked him to come back and be with me more. Although I know he likes to stay in Britain and do what he likes to do, I have told him about it … so I can have a shoulder to lean on," Lam said. The chief secretary, the second-highest official in the city, also recalled in the RTHK radio programme how she grew up in a poor family, in a flat so small she had to do her homework sitting on her bed. And she revealed that she wept the one time in her 13 years of primary and secondary school when she did not come top of the class. "I asked myself, why was I not number one?" she said. She eventually received three As, five Bs and a D in the Certificate of Education Examination. Lam has previously said that she considered leaving the government when her term as development chief expired last year, but she decided to become the government's No 2 official after her mathematician husband, Lam Siu-por, persuaded her to accept the job offer. Yesterday, she said she developed her desire to serve people when she was studying at the St Francis' Canossian College, a Catholic girls' school in Kennedy Road, Wan Chai. She added that when she became head prefect, she felt the weight of responsibility and turned to a teacher for advice on how to control students. "[The teacher] told me: 'You don't control, you inspire'," Lam said. The 56-year-old chief secretary also said that of all the government positions she has held, she enjoyed being head of the Social Welfare Department the most. That was because she got the chance to get directly involved in helping single-parent families and mentally handicapped children.

Energy policy will be transparent, says CLP chief Richard Lancaster (By Cheung Chi-fai Chief of largest power firm says consumers will be told implications of each mix of sources - Hong Kong's energy future will rely on an "open and transparent" public consultation that will tell people the implications of their choices in favouring a particular energy mix, says the chief of the city's largest power firm. Richard Lancaster, chief executive officer of CLP Holdings, said all relevant information, from energy security and environmental performance to costs, would be made available. "All implications should be made as open and transparent as possible so that the community has all the information needed to make a judgment," he said at the World Energy Congress in Daegu, South Korea, last week. Environment Secretary Wong Kam-sing, also speaking last week, said the consultation aimed to find out the most acceptable energy mix in terms of the proportion of coal, gas, renewable and nuclear in electricity generation by the power firms. Any decision on the future mix will have significant bearing not just on cost, but also the environment and reliability. While the mix was a matter for policymakers, Lancaster said it should be "flexible" enough to meet challenges, including the volatility of international fuel prices. "It is important we don't lose our flexibility and close all options," he said. In 2010, the Environment Bureau consulted on a climate-change strategy that proposed a plan for half of electricity demand to be met by nuclear fuel, 40 per cent by gas and 10 per cent by coal by 2020. But it decided to reconsider it last year after the 2011Fukushima nuclear disaster. The mix is now 54 per cent coal, 23 per cent from nuclear and 23 per cent from natural gas. Lancaster said to ensure supply diversity, he opposed closing all coal-fired plants. "Coal is something we can reduce. But to go to the extreme of closing down coal-fired plants, it would be a bad thing for us," he said. Lancaster also wanted to diversify local gas supply by building a liquefied natural gas terminal in eastern Shenzhen which could bring in cheaper gas from around the world when international prices dropped. On nuclear energy imports, Lancaster acknowledged there were "genuine concerns" that needed to be addressed. But he said one way of tackling these concerns was to have a Hong Kong firm involved in developing mainland nuclear stations. "We have higher transparency, modern Hong Kong management style, Hong Kong standards of governance to apply for nuclear power stations," he said. Christine Loh Kung-wai, the environment undersecretary who also attended the congress, said that while "some people" in society hated nuclear, she had heard of no one who wanted to completely drop imports from the Daya Bay nuclear station. "Instead of just telling us nuclear should not be allowed, there needs to be an objective discussion on how we look at coal and gas," she said. Loh, however, said it would be difficult for the government to tell the public exactly what future prices would be for different fuel mixes as even the most authoritative agency in the United Nations could only provide a loose range of prices.

 China*:  Oct 23 2013

Hebei, Iowa marks expanding ties (By Chen Weihua and Pei Pei in Muscatine, Iowa, Bill Aossey (center), of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, chats with Bai Runzhang (right) and Xia Wenyi on Sunday at a photo exhibition held in Muscatine, Iowa, where current Chinese President Xi Jinping first visited in 1985 as leader of Zhengding County in Hebei province and paid a return visit in 2012 when he was China's vice-president. The state of Iowa and its city of Muscatine have become well-known in China, thanks to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s return trip there in February of last year as China’s vice-president, which followed his first trip there in 1985 as Party chief of Zhengding county of Hebei province. This week, Hebei is sending some 200 people to Iowa to participate in a series of celebrations from Oct 21-23 to mark the 30th anniversary of its sister relationship with Iowa. The events include a symposium on strategic cooperation, a contract-signing ceremony, a forum on sustainable agricultural development, a photo exhibition and other cultural activities. Zhou Benshun, Party chief of Hebei province, said at a welcoming dinner in Muscatine on Sunday that the anniversary marks a new era of bilateral friendly cooperation. He praised Iowa Governor Terry Brandstad for successfully leading a delegation to Hebei in April to promote education, culture and trade. Zhou said recently that both sides should seize the opportunity to deepen bilateral cooperation and establish long-term partnerships. “The relationship between Hebei and Iowa will be a role model for Sino-US cooperation at the local level,” he said. In the past 30 years, Hebei and Iowa have sent a total of 40 groups to visit each other to deepen their relationship. Meanwhile, the Hebei provincial capital of Shijiazhuang established a sister city relationship with Iowa’s state capital of Des Moines, while Handan, Tangshan and Zhengding in Hebei also built sister city relationships respectively with Dubuque, Cedar Rapids and Muscatine. Xia Wenyi, a member of the Hebei delegation and also a member of Xi’s delegation to Muscatine in 1985, said if negotiations go well, students from Hebei might be able to pay state tuition to Iowa universities, and Hebei, also home to many universities and colleges, will also host more students from Iowa. “For those of you who think that Muscatine is maybe not as popular or well-known a place as you might think, I can assure you we are very well-known in the People’s Republic of China,” Muscatine Mayor DeWayne Hopkins said at the opening of a photo exhibition of Chinese landscapes held in his city on Sunday. “Twenty-eight years ago, a seed was planted” said Hopkins, referring to Xi’s first trip to the US in 1985. Addison Hopkins, a junior at Muscatine High School and the mayor’s granddaughter, is a good example. She and another 15 students from Muscatine went to China this summer for a program to learn Chinese language, culture and history. The program was funded by Wanxiang America, a Chinese-owned company which manufactures mostly auto parts in the US. “It’s an incredible experience,” said Addison, who has studied Chinese for nearly two years. Hebei, which ranks 6th in gross domestic product among 31 Chinese provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions, has established sistership ties with 62 states and cities in 23 countries and regions around the world. The photo exhibition which opened on Sunday in Muscatine marked the beginning of the three-day celebration of the sister relationship between Hebei and Iowa. It features 90 photos of Chinese landscape taken by Bai Runzhang, who visited Muscatine in 1985 with Xi in the delegation to study corn agriculture. Sarah Lande, who hosted the delegation in 1985, said on Sunday that Xi said in his return trip last year that the more exchanges between China and the US, the better. “The event today is the ambassador,” she said. Wang Liang, mayor of Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei, agreed, saying that the theme of the photo exhibit, titled Embracing the Land, shows Bai’s deep love for nature. He hopes such a platform will help further expand bilateral cooperation in a wide range of fields. Gazing at a photo about Xinjiang in northwest China, Carol Steinmetz, said she wants to go there. “It’s wonderful,” said Steinmetz, who presented President Xi with a gift of her watercolor painting featuring the Mississippi River, Mark Twain and Muscatine during Xi’s return visit to Muscatine in February 2012, as China’s vice president.

Xi sets up special unit to probe Zhou Yongkang corruption case (By SCMP) Xi Jinping takes unusual step of forming special unit to investigate Zhou Yongkang graft scandal, bypassing party's internal disciplinary system - President Xi Jinping has set up a special unit headed by a senior policeman and deputy minister of public security to investigate the scandal surrounding retired leader Zhou Yongkang, bypassing the Communist Party's internal disciplinary apparatus, sources say. Beijing police chief Fu Zhenghua will report directly to Xi, according to police and graft watchdog sources. Fu is the first person in the party's history to also hold the concurrent posts of head of Beijing's armed police, the Standing Committee member of the party's Beijing municipal committee and deputy minister of public security. The arrangement is unusual and reflects not only the sensitivity of Zhou's case but also Xi's personal interest in it. Corrupt officials are usually dealt with by the party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) and kept incommunicado in an extra-legal, internal system of detention called shuanggui for interrogation before being handed to police and prosecutors. But at least three separate sources with knowledge of recent interrogations widely believed to be part of a larger corruption probe into Zhou's affairs said police were taking the primary roles in these cases. It is believed that Xi and CCDI head Wang Qishan wanted police who are more experienced with criminal investigations to handle the investigation rather than the CCDI, whose abilities and methods have been questioned recently. One of the sources said the top leaders were not satisfied with the CCDI's working style and were aware of frequent abuses during inquiry processes. But it remains unclear if the new practice of having a special team headed by a senior policeman would set a pattern. "Many of the CCDI officials have been transferred from other departments and have very little experience of investigations and crime-solving," the source said. "Xi and Wang agreed to use police to lead the probes as they believe the police are more professional." Another source, quoting CCDI officials and police, said: "Xi entrusted Fu to co-ordinate the recent inquiries related to Zhou, while Wang is overseeing the cases and anti-corruption operations in general. Fu is leading a small group of police, mostly from the Beijing Police Bureau, to probe cases such as those of Wu Bing and Guo Yongxiang ." Wu, a Sichuan billionaire widely believed to have close ties with associates of Zhou's family, was seized in Beijing in early August. Guo, a former deputy governor of Sichuan who rose through the ranks as Zhou was promoted, was detained in June for "serious disciplinary violations" - a party euphemism for corruption. Fu, 58, was only promoted to deputy minister post in August after the retirement of Zhou, the former national security chief who ruled over the police and other law enforcement agencies for nearly a decade. Fu is also leading a controversial crackdown on influential commentators on the internet, a prominent plank in Xi's plan to "seize the ground of new media". A forensics expert, Fu made his name with the high-profile bust of Beijing's Passion Nightclub months after he was named the city's police chief in 2010. The massive crackdown on several prostitution operations, including the luxurious club, surprised the public as the club owner was regarded as being well-connected to military officials. Another source confirmed the shift to relying more on police than the CCDI in the Zhou case, adding: "Guo Yongxiang was arrested in Chengdu by police from Beijing." The source added that at a time when the leadership was calling for greater rule of law, it was important that a special unit investigated corruption cases to avoid the much-criticised shuanggui system. Under party regulations, discipline inspection units can hold suspects under shuanggui for up to four months. But in reality detention is indefinite and reports have emerged of party members being tortured and even beaten to death. The first source said a series of "bold reforms" of CCDI was expected to be announced after the party's keynote meeting next month. Authorities endorsed the decision to probe Zhou at the secretive annual party meeting held in August at the Beidaihe resort in Hebei , the Post reported earlier. No Politburo Standing Committee member - retired or sitting - has been investigated for economic crimes since the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976. Several of Zhou's former aides are now under shuanggui, including Jiang Jiemin , ex-chairman of the China National Petroleum Corporation, and Guo, who worked alongside Zhou for 12 years until 2002.

Hong Kong*:  Oct 22 2013

Health chiefs plan to ban adverts for overseas baby sex-selection trips (By Christy Choi As demand from parents wanting to choose the sex of their babies soars, health chiefs plan to outlaw advertising of tours to overseas clinics - Alfred Siu Wing-fung and his wife Tina Fong Wai-lam, managing director and director of package operator Eden Hospitality. Health chiefs are set to slap an advertising ban on Hong Kong businesses that offer medical tourism packages for the growing number of couples who want to choose the sex of their babies. Sex selection is illegal in Hong Kong and on the mainland, but as demand for it rises, a growing number of firms are working around grey areas in the law to arrange trips to clinics in Thailand or the United States, where the procedure is not outlawed. An investigation by the Sunday Morning Post has discovered that more and more wealthy couples from Hong Kong and the mainland want to pay to choose the sex of their children. In tandem with this there has been a growth in high-profile advertising by companies which charge up to HK$2.3 million to organise an overseas medical package. A Food and Health Bureau spokesman said it was aware of the "proliferation of advertisements in recent years, and will look to amend the ordinance … with a view to banning local advertisements or promotional activities related to sex selection through [reproductive technology], regardless of where the treatment is to be performed." The procedure is legal in Thailand, the US, South Africa and the Middle East, which are attracting increasing numbers of mainland and Hong Kong couples. Alfred Siu Wing-fung, who owns package operator Eden Hospitality, says he has 300 couples on his books - 200 of them added in the past year. Siu said: "I'm not doing anything illegal. It's like gambling. It's illegal in Hong Kong, but I can teach you how to play blackjack and take you to Macau to gamble. Casinos aren't banned from advertising in Hong Kong. This is the same." The practice of screening just-fertilised embryos for genetic diseases also allows for their sex to be identified. While the technique has been available since the early 1990s, ethical worries about its eugenic implications have led to strict controls on its use in most countries. Hong Kong's Human Reproductive Technology Ordinance of 2007 bans the use of reproductive technology to select the sex of a baby. While exceptions are made for sex-linked hereditary diseases, anyone breaking the law can be fined up to HK$25,000 and faces a six-month prison term. Legal experts say the prosecution of middlemen would be difficult as the law is unclear. But Puja Kapai, director of the Centre for Comparative and Public Law at the University of Hong Kong, said: "Outside counsel might advise that in the context of Chinese culture's preference for boys, they could be violating the United Nations treaty covering discrimination against women." Numbers from the Reproductive Partners Medical Group in Shanghai show couples from Beijing and Shanghai have 62/38 male-to-female ratios, while those in tier-two cities such as Guangzhou prefer male babies at a 79/21 ratio. But clinics in Thailand say Hong Kong parents are likely to ask for a girl, according to Emily Soo, the marketing manager for BNH Hospital in Bangkok. Among the firms offering the service in the city are Fertility-Plus Consultancy and Premier Health Services. Clinics can charge from HK$250,000 to HK$2.3 million depending on the host country. An estimated five million babies have been born using assisted reproductive technologies since 1978, according to the International Committee for the Monitoring of Assisted Reproductive Technology.

 China*:  Oct 22 2013

Britain picks up Chinese investment after Osborne trip (By Agence France-Presse in London) Finance minister George Osborne came away from China visit with range of deals - Britain has assuaged its hunger for economic ties with China after finance minister George Osborne came away from a trip to the Asian powerhouse with a range of investment deals. From easing visa restrictions to building on recent currency cooperation and winning Beijing money for investment in British nuclear power plants, Chancellor of the Exchequer Osborne can claim to have smoothed relations with the emerging economic power. He in part managed to win over a Chinese government that had rebuffed Britain after Prime Minister David Cameron met Dalai Lama - the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet - last year. The chancellor’s trip coincided with one made to China by London Mayor Boris Johnson - with the pair seen as potential rivals for the leadership of the Conservative party should Cameron come unstuck before or after the next general election in 2015. In a speech at Peking University, Osborne insisted “there is no country in the West more open to investment - especially from China” than Britain. He said: “I don’t want Britain to resent China’s success, I want us to celebrate it. I don’t want us to try to resist your economic progress, I want Britain to share in it.” Osborne on Thursday said he would allow Chinese companies to take majority stakes in nuclear power projects across Britain. The British government said the initial Chinese stakes in nuclear power stations were likely to be minority shares, but added: “Over time stakes in subsequent new power stations could be majority stakes.” The announcement comes amid reports that China General Nuclear Power and French energy giant EDF have agreed a controversial deal to build a new atomic power station at Hinkley Point, southwest England. Howard Archer, chief UK economist at IHS Global Insight consultancy, said the nuclear tie-up made sense for Britain’s indebted economy. “With the government strapped for cash, there are obvious major attractions in attracting Chinese investment into projects such as the building of the Hinkley Point nuclear station,” Archer said. “It is plainly evident that China will become ever more important as a potential market for UK firms,” he added. Also last week, Beijing Construction Engineering Group signed a deal with British firms to develop a business district around Manchester airport. The development of Britain’s third busiest airport - described as one of the largest construction projects in Britain since the last year London Olympics - will cost £ 800 million (US$1.30 billion, 947 million euros). Osborne used his trip also to announce plans to make it easier for China’s citizens to obtain British visas, as it seeks a bigger share of the multi-billion-dollar Chinese traveller market in the face of stiff European competition. Chinese tourists visiting the European Union using selected travel agencies will no longer have to file a separate application to visit Britain, which is not part of the EU’s “Schengen Area” for border-free travel. Business travellers will be able to apply for a “super-priority” visa, which will be processed within 24 hours rather than a week. Some 210,000 visas were issued to Chinese nationals last year, adding around £300 million to the British economy as designer label-hungry Chinese shoppers snapped up goods. Plans enabling Britons to invest up to 80 billion yuan (US$13.1 billion) in China’s heavily restricted capital markets - with the aim of making London a major trading hub for China’s currency - also emerged during Osborne’s trip. In June, the Chinese and British central banks signed a currency-swap deal with a maximum value of 200 billion yuan to promote bilateral trade and investment as well as the use of the yuan in global trade and finance. “A great nation like China should have a great global currency,” Osborne said, adding: “More trade and more investment, means more business and more jobs for Britain.” Kathleen Brooks, research director at trading group, said that the latest announcement was “mostly symbolic” owing to the relatively small amount of investment agreed. However, she added: “It is a step in the right direction as it is further developing Britain’s relationship with China and the timing is expedient as China may be looking for a partner to diversify out of the US and avoid their political troubles.” China on Thursday welcomed the resolution of the US debt ceiling deadlock, saying it will contribute to global economic stability, but Beijing’s official news agency poured scorn on US politicians. China meanwhile has the world’s largest foreign exchange reserves, most of them held in dollars, and is the largest foreign holder of US Treasury bills with US$1.28 trillion, according to the latest available figures from Washington.

Hong Kong*:  Oct 21 2013

South China Morning Post (SCMP) EDITORIAL: Aquino should apologise for Manila bus tragedy “南華早報” 社論:阿基諾應該向馬尼拉巴士悲劇道歉 - Philippine president Benigno Aquino has made plain he is not going to apologise for the Manila bus tragedy. Yet there is every reason he should do so, both on moral grounds and to get relations with his country and Hong Kong back on track. Pan-democrat politicians have suggested all manner of ideas to force his hand, but the proposals are either mere politicking or would fail due to our city's lack of leverage. Beijing's welcome intervention offers a real chance, though. Premier Li Keqiang entered the fray at the East Asia Summit, urging Aquino to quickly resolve the three-year-old stand-off. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and the Philippine leader agreed official-level talks would resume soon. There have since been conflicting statements by Aquino and others in his administration, giving the impression that Manila lacks the resolve to bring closure to the victims and their families. The president clearly has that ability, though. The apology to Taiwan for the shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman in disputed waters by the Philippine coastguard in May is ample proof. Taiwan was able to force the apology because of the Philippines' strong trade, tourism and employment links to the island. The threat of sanctions was enough to make Aquino break his silence. But Hong Kong, having less than one-third the population, is not in so powerful a position. Suggestions such as that made by the radical People Power party, which has called for the banning of the 160,000 Filipino domestic helpers in Hong Kong, are not helpful. Years would pass before it could take effect and employers as well as the maids and the families they support at home would suffer. Boycotting Philippine products - Hong Kong is the fourth-biggest importer - is similarly unwise due to the disruption of supply chains. Working with Beijing to pressure Aquino to see reason would be more effective. China is the Philippines' third-largest trading partner and it has ever-growing levels of tourism and investment. The importance of China to the Philippines means the country cannot do without the relationship. The Manila police gravely mishandled attempts to end the hijacking of the tour bus by a former colleague. On live television, we watched their incompetence lead to a shoot-out that left eight of the group dead and seven injured. Justice and compensation are the least that could be expected. If Aquino does not act responsibly and apologise, the best hope of changing his mind lies with Beijing.

Beauty fix: Body shaping at Sense of Touch Medi-Spa in Central (By Tessa Chan) The Sense of Touch chain has made its first step into the medi-spa market, targeting women looking for something a little more results driven. This includes everything from Ultherapy facial lifting technology and chemical peels to Botox and Restylane. Not ready to go under the needle, I opt for the Vaser Shape body shaping treatment, which sounds less intimidating. The spa describes it as being "as comfortable and relaxing … as a hot stone massage". The spa is in an office building in Central that looks more business than pleasure, and upon arriving I have lots of disclaimer forms to fill in, including details such as an emergency contact phone number. This is standard procedure but it does make you imagine the worst-case scenario. There are four treatment suites, two medical treatment rooms, and a consultation room, where I meet medical director, Dr Wally Chen Teck Meng. Chen says the treatment is not suitable for those looking to lose a lot of weight, but ideal to remove love handles and other stubborn fat deposits. He even offers to assess me and circle my "areas of concern", Once in the treatment room, my therapist puts me on some fascinating weighing scales which tell me my body water content and body fat percentage. She patiently talks me through each step of the treatment, and somehow manages to make all the measuring, weighing and photo taking - for their reference only, to measure progress - not feel half as humiliating as it sounds. Then I lie down and she gently activates my lymph nodes with a manual massage and a suction function on the machine. The first phase of ultrasound therapy, as promised, feels relaxing, and warming as the machine glides over my skin. Chen says that while other treatments simply displace fat to other parts of the body, the Vaser Shape "melts" the fat and toxins away and helps the body flush it out. The next part, using low frequency ultrasound energy, feels more intense, and causes a tingling feeling that borders on unpleasant. This doesn't last, however, and the treatment ends with a vacuum massage to get the fat moving to the lymphatic system. It takes at least five to six sessions to see real results, and while my skin feels hot afterwards, it's hard to detect any obvious change. The therapist explains it will take a few days for the results to show, as the body has to metabolise the broken down fat. 

TPG pays HK$1.66b for Murdoch unit Star’s Phoenix stake (By Reuters) Rupert Murdoch hastens exit from China media sector with sale of 12.15 per cent stake in Phoenix Satellite Television - Chairman and CEO of News Corp Rupert Murdoch at Fox Studios in California on Wednesday. US private equity firm TPG Capital will pay HK$1.66 billion (US$213.73 million) for 21st Century Fox-controlled Star Entertainment’s remaining stake in a Chinese satellite television operator. The move is the next step of Rupert Murdoch’s slow exit from Chinese media, following News Corp’s sale of controlling stakes in three mainland television channels to domestic private equity funds in 2010. In a filing to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange late on Friday, Phoenix Satellite Television said TPG China Media LP will become a “substantial shareholder” after taking over Star’s entire 12.15 per cent stake. With the sale, Star representatives will also step down from Phoenix’s board. The deal was announced on the same day Murdoch was re-elected chairman of Twenty-First Century Fox Incorporated despite protests from shareholder groups who sought to separate the chairman and chief executive positions of the family-dominated company. Murdoch split News Corp into two companies in May, with News Corp retaining the newspaper and other media assets and Fox holding the movie, TV and other entertainment properties. Star, a Fox unit, sold its 607 million shares in Phoenix at HK$2.73 per share or a 2.5 per cent discount to its HK$2.80 closing price on Friday. No other financial details were disclosed. Fox was Phoenix’s third-largest investor, according to media reports. Founded in 1992, TPG was among the first US-based private equity firms to establish operations in Asia. The firm’s other China investments include the country’s best known sportswear brand Li Ning, investment bank China International Capital Corporation and speciality packaging company HCP Holdings.

 China*:  Oct 21 2013

Hangzhou's drunken cuisine (By Pauline D. Loh Now is the right season to enjoy drunken crabs at Qiantang Garden Hangzhou Cuisine in Beijing. Beijing is huge, and sometimes you can find delightful meals in the most unexpected places. Pauline D. Loh explores Haidian district and finds some choice southern offerings. It was after a family wedding and the gathered clan had spent an exhilarating afternoon catching up on family gossip and helping our sister-in-law harvest her grapes. When it came time for dinner, we decided to eat local, quite literally. Haidian district is one of the fastest developing in Beijing, with a gathering of young technology start-ups, and the universities from which their bosses had come from. It has excellent malls selling all kinds of geek gadgets, and still enough room left over for tree-lined avenues full of 20-year-old residential estates. With such a thriving demographic mix, it stands to reason that the dining options are just as lively. The district is already known for its cafes and little coffee shops attracting a young clientele with free Wi-Fi and other 4G conveniences, but there are also excellent family-style restaurants here. Hangzhou's drunken cuisine - Qiantang Garden serves Hangzhou food, but spreads its culinary style a little wider to cater for those homesick for Jiangsu-Zhejiang dishes. The owner is one of Beijing's largest suppliers of fish, prawns and crabs from these southern shores, and migrated here from Ningbo in Zhejiang province years ago. It was just natural for him to open a restaurant next. The first thing you do when you enter is not to sit down and reach for the menu. The truly experienced make their way down a corridor that opens up into a seafood display area complete with a wall of aquariums. Here, the best catch of the day is laid out neatly on the table, with labels to guide novices. Our brother-in-law, a native Shanghainese, needs little prompting and fires off a volley of rapid-fire orders. We trot back to our dining room and sit down with anticipation. First to arrive are the usual cold dishes of tossed toon shoots with the seasonal fresh walnuts, whole bamboo tips slightly pickled in salty-sweet brine, soy-braised duck tongues and the drunken snails or huangni luo. Drunken prawns, drunken crabs and drunken snails are actually treated with yellow wine spiked with baijiu, or white spirits. The milder liqueur adds flavor while the stronger spirit neutralizes any stray bugs or germs that may lurk in the raw ingredients. The drunken crabs here are very well done, and the season's best are all bursting with golden red roe. The translucent white flesh is juicy and gelatinous and sweet with wine and its natural flavors. At our table, even those who normally shy away from sashimi were reaching out for the crabs. The prawns were another matter, however. Only the truly brave will be rewarded with firm sweet flesh from the fat river prawns with long lanky claws. They were still twitching wildly when they reached the table, and had to be subdued with a bowl firmly clamped on top. But when it comes to fresh, nothing gets any better. The secret is to wait until they are all "drunk" on the liquor and you know when that is when there are no more noises coming out from under the lid. There is also a trick to peeling a prawn. Grasp it firmly by the neck and remove the head. Then, squeeze the base of the tail, and the whole prawn pops out into your mouth. Those who fancy less primitive cuisine can enjoy the steamed and fried fishes, the most famous of which is the yellow river croaker, slightly salted for a day and then cooked in chicken broth or top stock. This is a classic southern dish often mentioned in revolutionary author Lu Xun's books, especially in his classic tome about the fallen scholar Kong Yiji. Hangzhou cuisine, or for that matter its surrounding relatives, place emphasis on fresh sea or river produce, and the seasonings are all lighter than strong northern preferences. You will never see a dish covered in sticky brown sauce, or heavily spiked with star anise or cumin. The natural flavors of the ingredients are carefully nurtured on the plate, and that is why it is such an attractive culinary choice in these days of health and safety concerns. At Qiantang Garden at least, you do not even have to worry about the source of the seafood. All you have to do is ask the boss, who have been buying from the same farmers and fishermen for the last 25 years. 

M&A aims to buoy dairy sector (By Wang Zhuoqiong) After the number of domestic dairy companies went down from 180 to 127, a new government plan for their further consolidation is likely to bring down the number to 50 in five years. The plan is expected to be released later this month. The Chinese dairy industry is expected to go from 127 producers to 50 in five years through mergers and acquisitions, an industry insider said. A draft to foster consolidation among infant formula dairy producers will be released later this month, said Song Liang, a dairy analyst from the Distribution Productivity Promotion Center. The hope is to cultivate three to five large dairy producers, each with revenue exceeding 5 billion yuan ($819 million) in five years, Song said. The plan also aims to provide policy and taxation benefits to domestic dairy companies, he said. Industry experts believe the plan will benefit domestic dairy companies that are dealing with competition from foreign rivals. With government calls to merge domestic dairy players, the number of Chinese infant and toddler formula producers has gone from 180 to 127, and the number of brands decreased from 650 to about 500. The consolidation also will bring stricter requirements for the production of infant and toddler formula milk powder. According to the plan, by the end of 2015, dairy powder producers will have to upgrade to get approval to produce. Smaller milk powder producers will be phased out if they can't meet the higher standard requiring high-cost upgrading, Song said - By 2015, of the 10 top producers, brand concentration should go to 65 percent from the current 45 percent, and milk powder companies should total about 80. In five years, there will be three to five milk powder producers, each with revenue exceeding 5 billion yuan, with industry concentration at more than 80 percent and a total of 50 companies, according to the plan. Song said the mergers and acquisitions will be aided by policy support and subsidies from central and local governments. A high concentration of brands will improve the quality of supplies and lessen the differentiation among products, Song said. According to Euromonitor, China's total dairy consumption has grown by 10 percent over the past five years, with premium dairy product consumption growing faster than the overall market and increasing its market share from 10 percent to 19 percent. This has been due, in part, to continued consumer concern over food safety and increased health awareness. Despite the strong growth, however, China's per capita liquid milk consumption is less than 10 kg per year, compared with 32 kg in Japan and 78 kg in the United States.

Banned Chinese researchers get clarification letter from NASA conference (Xinhua) Chinese researches who are banned from attending a NASA conference on exoplanet research have received a letter of clarification from the committee organizing the event informing them of a revised decision. "A few weeks ago, you received an email ... noting that we were unable to accommodate your request to attend the Second Kepler Science Conference at the NASA Ames Research Center," according to a copy of the letter obtained by Xinhua on Saturday from one of the banned researchers, who refused to be named. "We have since been able to clarify the intent of the referenced legislation and are pleased to inform you that this decision has been reversed and your paperwork is being reviewed for clearance," the letter said. "We hope you will be able to join us and celebrate the science enabled by Kepler," it added. The ban, based on a controversial law passed in 2011 that prohibits government funds from being used to host Chinese nationals at NASA facilities, sparked a boycott of the meeting from several prominent American scientists, including Professor Debra Fischer of Yale University, and Professor Geoff Marcy of the University of California, Berkeley. Last week, NASA administrator Charles Bolden blamed "mid-level managers" for the so-called misinterpretation and vowed to reconsider the applications of six Chinese researchers. In a separate letter the Chinese researchers received, the organizers said with the re-opening of the US federal government and the lifting of furloughs, the conference will go ahead as planned on Nov. 4-8 at NASA Ames Research Center. "We anticipate that foreign national registrants will be cleared for attendance prior to the conference start," it said. " All foreign national registrants will receive notification as soon as clearance has been granted." Gregory Kulacki, a senior analyst with the US-based Union of Concerned Scientists' Global Security Program, believed that recent problems arising from the ban should be served as a wake-up call for "a few individuals within the United States Congress, in particular Congressman Frank Wolf," who crafted the law. Kulacki said the language of the law is "so broad, and the legal and financial penalties associated with potential violations so threatening, that even US organizations not directly administered by NASA are afraid to reach out to colleagues in China."

Hong Kong*:  Oct 20 2013

The keepers of Shau Kei Wan's maritime past (By Joyee Chan Pockets of Shau Kei Wan's maritime past remain, but you have to dig deep. Joyee Chan meets some determined locals keen to preserve those memories - Isaac Wong King-yip called the Shau Kei Wan typhoon shelter home for the first three years of his life. He played on the deck of his family's austere wooden houseboat, while his grandparents taught his parents how to pack preserved fish for sale at a wet market. Several times he fell into the sea. "My father and grandfather had to dive in to rescue me," says Wong, 31, a pastor. When his grandparents retired in 1984, they sold their floating home and moved into a high-rise apartment. Many other families did the same, becoming dry-land neighbours. But the former boat dweller hasn't forgotten his roots, and he doesn't want others to either. Last October, Wong used his talent for design and writing to launch a free, fortnightly magazine, titled Paper Shau Kei. The aim is to help locals appreciate their vibrant culture, and each issue focuses on a different topic. It costs him HK$2,000 a month to produce. He has also recently written a book, Boat Dwellers of Shau Kei Wan, which offers insights into the fisherfolk's unique parades to celebrate sea deity Tam Kung's birthday in May, contrasts life on houseboats and hillside shacks, and delves into other local topics. "I don't want the descendants of fisherfolk to forget their traditions, chain stores to replace family-run businesses, and luxury apartments to take the place of old tenement buildings where many boat people now live," says Wong. There is a lack of historic landmarks in Shau Kei Wan, Wong says. It is the fishing culture, boat dwellers and close-knit community that give the district its character. One of the first people his editorial team approached was Wong Kwai-chuen, owner of the 60-year-old Perfect Shipyard, located on the habourfront near the wholesale market. It has been a decade since Perfect Shipyard built a fishing boat. It now repairs whatever vessels come its way, from gaudy yachts to ferries, as long as the downsized premises can accommodate them. "I don't dare take on large projects because I don't have the manpower and materials," says Wong Kwai-chuen. He has lost experienced hands to retirement and better-paid industries, and the younger generation has little interest in the trade. In the 1950s, he employed 24 workers. Now he has just a handful - all in their 50s. "On several occasions, I've had no choice but to ask boat owners to go to shipyards on the mainland," he says. One of the two trawlers under repair at the shipyard will be sold to the Agricultural and Fisheries Department. It can no longer operate in Hong Kong waters because of the trawling ban that came into effect at the beginning of the year. "The less the fishermen venture out, the less wear and tear to the vessels, and less business for us," says WongKwai-chuen, who inherited the business from his father. Shau Kei Wan's shipyards used to stand on what is now Nam On Street - about 800 metres inland. Following extensive reclamation, 12 shipyards settled near the typhoon shelter in the early 1990s. Two decades later, only half of them remain. The others have been converted into garages, car parks, travel agents and a collection point for electronic waste. It would take two months to build a 30-metre vessel, according to Wong Kwai-chuen, and every year up to eight new boats would be launched from Perfect Shipyard. Half a century ago, it could accommodate as many as three 30-metre boats at a time. Today, the business can only house one. "Our business is the product of a lifetime's effort. But the truth is, even if my two children inherit it, they will have a hard time hiring workers. I might have to lease the shipyard like the others did," Wong Kwai-chuen says. Gone too are the shops that sold nets, ropes, anchors and sampans on Main Street East. The last one, 60-year-old Wong On Kei, relocated to a two-storey house in nearby A Kung Ngam village, and is on the verge of closing down. The house's ground floor is leased out and operates as a garage; a metre-tall coil of anchor line sits at the entrance. The dimly lit second floor is packed with more lines, shackles and anchors. Store owner Wong Hin-on says he had to sell his rope-spinning machine because it couldn't fit into the house; the rest of his fishing gear is stored on his houseboat, at the wholesale fish market and on the mainland. Wong Hin-on has no idea what to do with the unsold tackle. He has already lowered his prices and makes little profit. "Some clients pay the deposit and still owe the rest of the payment after they receive my goods," he says. Lai Hing Kei Blankets, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year, is another sign of the changing times. The shop used to specialise in elaborately hand-embroidered bridal gowns and handmade blankets. "Boat-dwellers take Chinese wedding traditions seriously," says third-generation owner Mr Lai, whose two upstairs apartments used to be his home, factory and storage space. "They'd come to us for gowns, blankets, pillows and umbrellas before buying coconuts and pastries at the wet market on Kam Wah Street. Our handmade blankets are just as warm as machine-made ones, but more durable." Today, the gowns are kept in metal boxes in one corner of the shop; a bride will occasionally rent one for her big day. The majority of the space stocks modern bedding, mosquito nets, towels and straw mats. "Now that couples have turned to Western-style weddings, and people can find pillows and bedding easily at other stores, Lai Hing Kei Blankets has had to diversify to survive," Lai says. "Customers who have moved to other districts are surprised to see us still standing. Our neighbour, an old Chinese medicine shop, is gone because the landlord increased the rent. We're lucky my late grandfather bought our shop." On a brighter note, the changing face of Shau Kei Wan includes its makeover as a centre for food-lovers, thanks to the reputation of its market and numerous restaurants, Isaac Wong says. In this, the district's fisherfolk roots can still be seen. Housewives from Chai Wan and as far as Shek O and Stanley, come to the bustling open-air market on Kam Wah Street for daily grocery shopping. Fishmongers and butchers bellow out their daily specials. In the afternoon, freshly caught lobsters, shrimp and starfish are laid out in baskets on the floor. Every day for the past 10 years, fishmonger Ng Fung-ho has arrived at the wholesalers in Aberdeen at 7am to pick 300 catties (180kg) of the freshest seafood for her store on Kam Wah Street. Until 8pm, she will be busily descaling fish, opening razor clams and checking on the health of her crabs. "I don't think my job is mundane or stressful," says Ng, 52, who lived on houseboats in Aberdeen's typhoon shelter until part of the harbour was reclaimed for a private housing complex in Ap Lei Chau in the 1990s, when her family moved to Yiu Tung Estate. Seafood has been getting increasingly expensive, she says. Two catties of clams and rice shrimps plus a black porgy can easily cost HK$500. But the fishmonger tries to keep the price low to hang on to loyal customers. "We make only 20 to 30 per cent profit," Ng says. Before she rented the stall, she hawked frozen fish. "Once people of the sea, always people of the sea," she says. Nevertheless, more change is coming to Shau Kei Wan. The government has announced that Ming Wah Dai Ha public housing estate on A Kung Ngam Road will be redeveloped into 4,000 rental flats. So-called luxury apartments such as i.UniQ Grand have replaced old tenement buildings. Meanwhile, Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital is set to build a medical centre a stone's throw from the Wong On Kei fishing tackle shop in A Kung Ngam village. "Change is unavoidable," Isaac Wong says. "It's okay as long as the people of Shau Kei Wan are able to tell the positive changes from the negative, and fight for what they believe is historically and culturally important."

Apologies for Hollywood's alleged Hong Kong hustle (By Darren Wee and Ada Lee) Hongkongers go online to say sorry as two brothers appear in court charged with blackmail - Hongkongers have gone online to offer up apologies after filming of the fourth Transformers movie was disrupted by an alleged blackmail plot. Dozens of people left comments on the blog post in which director Michael Bay spoke of Thursday's incident in Quarry Bay that led to the arrest of three men, two of whom appeared in court yesterday. Ting So wrote: "I apologise on behalf of HK." Chris Yam wrote: "I feel embarrassed hearing this insane extortion as a Hong Kong citizen." Oliver Thompson wrote: "As a filmmaker in Hong Kong, I am sorry you had to deal with such idiotic behaviour." Others assured Bay that Hong Kong was a safe place. Not all of the posters felt the need to apologise on behalf of the arrested men, two of whom were shopkeepers who were said to have wanted compensation for disruption caused by the filming. One online poster going by the name of Chiupolini said: "But why apology [sic] for Hong Kong people? I have not seen any American apologising to Hong Kong people who got robbed when visiting the United States." Another questioned whether the shopkeepers had been given proper compensation. Bay seemed unperturbed by Thursday's off-screen drama. When asked how filming was going, he made a thumbs-up gesture to the press and said "good", adding that everything was fine. Hundreds gathered in Quarry Bay to watch as filming of Transformers: Age of Extinction continued yesterday. In the morning, actress Abigail Klein was filmed fleeing from a car. Around noon, Mark Wahlberg was glimpsed near the Fook Cheong Building on King's Road. His co-stars Nicola Peltz and Jack Reynor arrived three hours later in a van with tinted windows. Crowds were kept at bay by black-clad security guards, and two dozen men in orange T-shirts stood by to move props between scenes. Brothers Mak Chi-shing, 27, and Mak Chi-hang, 28, appeared in Eastern Court yesterday charged with blackmail and assaulting a police officer. The court heard that the pair, owners of Hang Fat Air Conditioner and Water Electrical Company, demanded HK$100,000 from stage manager Cheung Ngo-yeung. The brothers were also accused of attacking two different police officers. The men were remanded in custody until next month. Their bail conditions will be reviewed next week. The third man arrested had been wanted over a separate wounding case and so far no charges over Thursday's incident have been laid against him.

Taxihero – Hong Kong's upcoming taxi-hailing app reverses the business model (By Anna Healy Fenton) I love tech startups. Where else, except in cyberspace could you start a company, that’s free to both customers and suppliers, with no planned revenue stream? And be taken seriously enough to get backers? Add that it’s not even really launched yet, but you’ve generated so much advance buzz and publicity that you have not needed to pay one single public relations pixie. Just as well, because you have not yet decided how to make the money you’d need to pay them. Welcome to But don’t rush off to download the app that rain or rush hour, locates a taxi for you, for free, and sends it racing to wherever you are. Well you can try, but they have not signed up enough of Hong Kong’s 18,000 taxis yet. But it’s happening, apparently. Taxihero’s business development director Lars Maehler says they don’t really plan to be up and running much before Christmas. When it starts for real, you will download the app, select where you are going via google maps and GPS on your trusty smartphone and hey presto, your personal taxi hero will message you: “Congratulations, you’ve found your taxi!” He or she will then come and pluck you from the pavement. Maehler and his colleague Kara Ng are infectiously enthusiastic and very confident. But hey do admit that usually it’s the other way around. “Usually the product is finished and then marketing starts,” he says. “But with us, it’s completely in reverse, we have the exposure, but the product isn’t there yet.” It’s just sort of soft operational. First, they told their friends to use the Taxihero app, then they started a social media site, then they did the Apple and Google stuff. No traditional marketing at all. And that was enough. “The numbers of growth have been just astounding," he says.

Transformers director attacked by 'zombie' triad wielding aircon unit (By Clifford Lo Michael Bay calls police after brothers demand HK$100,000 to shoot scene in Quarry Bay - American director and producer Michael Bay has described how he was attacked by suspected triads as he shot his latest Transformers movie in Quarry Bay. The director fought off the attackers, one of whom was wielding an air conditioning unit. It followed an attempt to extort HK$100,000 from his Paramount Pictures crew. Two brothers, aged 27 and 28, approached Bay on the set at 8.30am as the crew prepared to shoot a scene from Transformers: Age of Extinction in a ground-floor open space behind the Fook Cheong Building in King's Road. The older brother, a technician, uses a ground-floor shop in the area as his office. "The younger brother was accused of moving goods in and out of the shop and walking around in the area to cause disruption," a police source said. The brothers, who also put some bricks on the ground to cause obstruction, claimed the shooting was affecting their business and demanded HK$100,000 compensation. Bay recounted details of the incident on his website, while warning that “the story... being passed around is not all true!” Bay said in the statement on his website: “Some drugged-up guys were being belligerent asses to my crew for hours... One guy rolled metal carts into some of my actors trying to shake us down for thousands of dollars to not play his loud music or hit us with bricks. The police were called, and while they were making their inquiries the older brother walked up and bumped into Bay, 48. The two brothers then scuffled with police, injuring three officers, before being overpowered. The younger brother was arrested on suspicion of blackmail and assault, while the older brother was arrested on suspicion of assault. Hong Kong police said Bay received minor injuries. The film’s studio Paramount said in a statement: “Contrary to several erroneous news reports... Bay did not get hurt in a fight on set.” Calling the attack a “bizarre encounter with a man... wielding an air conditioning unit as a weapon” it added that Bay’s quick action prevented “what could have been a serious accident”. At the scene, officers also arrested another suspected triad member - a friend of the two brothers - in connection with a wounding last week. Wellington Fung, secretary general of the Film Development Council, said the Film Services Office had guidelines for location filming and normally film companies would negotiate with landlords of private properties and would not begin shooting without agreeing rental charges for their premises. A notice at the Fook Cheong Building says preparation and filming there would take 19 days and that the film company would pay the owners' corporation HK$20,000 a day. Lee Ching-har, of the corporation, said shop owners negotiated compensation individually. The owner of a beauty parlour in the space used for filming said she was not told much she would be paid. "They only said they would give me a lai see," she said. It is understood the Transformers crew will be filming around Hong Kong for the next two weeks at locations including the Legislative Council building in Central and Sham Shui Po. The film is set for release in June.

 China*:  Oct 20 2013

Xi Jinping's mother praises father's influence on their children in article (By Zhang Hong in Beijing Xi Jinping with his mother in December. President Xi Jinping's mother has praised her late husband, revolutionary hero Xi Zhongxun , in a lengthy article carried by state media, attesting to his influence on the couple's children and his devotion to the Communist Party and economic reforms. Such a personal statement by a high-profile figure is rare in mainland politics, and political analysts said it would help shore up support for the president among powerful revolution-era families. The People's Daily devoted a full page to the article, which is more than 10,000 characters in length. There have been several events held across the nation over the past week to commemorate the birth of Xi Zhongxun, including one at Beijing's Great Hall of the People on Tuesday. Xi Jinping is the first leader of communist China to have come from the "princeling" class. In her article, Qi Xin portrayed the family as adopting a frugal and austere lifestyle. Throughout his childhood, Xi Jinping often wore the shoes of his two elder sisters. His father dyed the shoes for Xi so they did not appear girlish, Qi said. The article also quoted a letter from Xi Jinping to his father in 2001, when he was the governor of Fujian and was too busy to attend his father's 88th birthday celebration. In the letter, Xi Jinping vowed to learn from his father's honest and tolerant character and his loyalty to the Communist Party. "This letter is not only an expression of how Jinping, as a child, felt about his father, but it is also a promise by the offspring of a revolutionary to adhere to the spirit of the ancestors," Qi said. Commentators said the letter was aimed at putting a human touch on Xi's image. "By disclosing these details, Qi Xin is helping to increase Xi Jinping's charisma to the masses and further strengthen his power base," said Zhu Xueqin, a professor of history at Shanghai University. Qi sidestepped the political differences between Xi senior and other prominent leaders of his time, to focus instead on striking a tone of reconciliation. Qi avoided mention of Mao Zedong's role in initiating the series of internal party struggles in the 1960s that saw her husband purged and persecuted for most of the Cultural Revolution. Neither did she mention the years after the fall of liberal leader Hu Yaobang in 1988. Hu was swept aside by Deng Xiaoping , although Xi senior continued to support Hu. Instead, she cited comments by Mao praising the elder Xi's peaceful resolution of a Tibetan uprising in Qinghai . Qi also highlighted the help the family received from other party leaders during the years when Xi senior was purged. The article stressed how Xi senior won support from Deng Xiaoping and spearheaded the special economic zones in the late 1970s. "This echoes Xi Jinping's previous remarks on the continuity of communist China's history since 1949, namely no break between the first and the second 30 years. Defending Mao's legacy is in the interest of the princelings," said Zhang Lifan , a political affairs analyst in Beijing.

Galeries Lafayette opens new store in Beijing after 15-year hiatus (By Celine Sun in Beijing) After shuttering its first and only China store 15 years ago, the French high-end department store operator Galeries Lafayette has made a strong comeback by opening a new store in Beijing on Friday. The European retailer has formed a 50-50 joint venture with Hong Kong fashion brand management company I.T. Limited to run the Beijing store, which it says cost 42 million euros to build and three years to complete. “Beijing is a totally different place compared to 15 years ago,” said Laurent Chemla, chief executive of Galeries Lafayette (Beijing) Limited. “The fashion market has been evolving very fast for the past five to six years and people here have become more trendy and fashionable.” Covering a gross area of 47,000 square metres, the six-floor store is located in Beijing’s Xidan, a popular shopping area for young people - “We have luxury brands, but not only luxury brands. We’d like to call ourselves a fashion store.” Chemla said. “Our aim is to bring more new and different fashion choices to Chinese consumers. To differentiate itself from the competition, Lafayette has hired buyers to introduce high- to mid-end niche brands such as Delvaux, Maje and The Kooples to the new store to cater to Chinese shoppers’ increasingly sophisticated taste. Chemla said more than 200 of the total 500-plus brands sold in the store are available for the first time in mainland China. Aside from fashion, cosmetics, accessories and leather goods, there are also French and Asian-style restaurants including the renowned Café Angelina and a Bordeaux wine library. Lafayette met its Waterloo in China soon after it opened the first China store in Beijing’s popular Wangfujing shopping district in 1996. The store was closed down a year later due to poor performance. However, it did not ruin the 119-year-old French company’s appetite for the world’s largest consumer market. “We are now exploring opportunity to open more stores in other mainland cities,” said Chemla. Despite the slowing economic growth and recent frugality campaign initiated by leader Xi Jinping, China has remained the most attractive destination for foreign high-end retailers to roll out new stores. Multi-brand chain store operator Lane Crawford re-entered Shanghai last month and opened a flagship store in the heart of the city. Six years ago, the company withdrew from the city after closing its only store there. Founded by Theophile Bader and his cousin Alphonse Kahn in Paris in 1895, Galeries Lafayette has become one of the world’s largest upmarket department stores. Its 10-storey flagship store on Boulevard Haussmann in Paris is a major attraction for shoppers and tourists from around the world. The company now runs 65 stores worldwide and posted a sales revenue of 3.7 billion euros last year. 

China's gross domestic product growth accelerated to 7.8 percent in the third quarter, up from 7.5 percent in the second quarter, the National Bureau of Statistics announced on Friday. Growth in the first nine months stood at 7.7 percent, which is in line with market expectations and was above the government's full-year target of 7.5 percent. "China's economy has maintained a steady growth with major indicators staying within the rational range," Sheng Laiyun, a spokesman for the NBS, said at a press conference. According to the NBS data, the GDP totaled 38.68 trillion yuan (6.3 trillion U.S. dollars) in the first nine months. "Major economic indicators are in favour of promoting economic restructuring and pushing forward reforms," Sheng said, adding that the authorities would let the market play a better role to bring out the economy's intrinsic vigor. The latest GDP figures headed a string of other data showing a rebound in the world's second-largest economy after China's full-year annual growth eased to 7.8 percent last year, its weakest since 1999. Industrial output increased 9.6 percent year on year in the first nine months of 2013, while the growth of fixed-asset investment, a measure of government and private spending on infrastructure, stood at 20.2 percent during the period, up 0.1 percentage points over the first half of the year. Retail sales, a key indicator of consumer spending, increased 12.9 percent from a year earlier. The growth rate picked up by 0.2 percentage points from the first half, according to the NBS. Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed confidence in China's economic future while addressing the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO summit on the Indonesian resort island of Bali earlier this month. "Impetus comes from reform, regulation and innovation," he said, adding that the slowdown is an intended result of China's own regulatory initiatives.

Hong Kong*:  Oct 19 2013

China's central bank likely to lift yuan conversion limit for Hongkongers (By Kwong Man-ki Central bank likely to scrap conversion limit of 20,000 yuan-a-day for Hongkongers, in boost for denomination's investment products in city - The People's Bank of China is likely to scrap the 20,000 yuan-a-day limit on currency conversion for Hong Kong people, Hong Kong Monetary Authority chief executive Norman Chan Tak-lam says. The central bank had been actively considering such a move, which would boost the development of yuan-denominated investment products in Hong Kong, Chan said in Beijing yesterday after meeting officials from the central bank and the State Administration of Foreign Exchange. "I hope the daily conversion limit can be removed as soon as possible," he said, although no time frame had been set at the meeting. While the limit on converting yuan into Hong Kong dollars and vice versa would be scrapped for individuals, the daily remittance limit of 80,000 yuan (HK$102,000) - which affects money transferred through banks across the border - would not change. Chan said yuan business in Hong Kong had developed significantly in the past two to three years, with demand from individual investors for yuan-denominated products increasing. The removal of the daily conversion limit would make it easier for individuals to buy yuan-denominated products, such as gold certificates and exchange-traded funds, he said. "Hong Kong banks will benefit from selling yuan-denominated wealth management products," Chan said. "We see increasing demand for these products. Currently, if you need to buy an investment product for 500,000 yuan, you will need more than 20 days to convert the funds. It's not convenient." The pool of offshore yuan funds in Hong Kong, including yuan deposits and certificates of deposit, stood at about 900 billion yuan, sufficient to support the increase in currency conversion, Chan said. Chan is leading a Hong Kong Association of Banks delegation on a three-day visit to Shanghai and Beijing. The group's chairman, Benjamin Hung Pi-cheng, the Hong Kong chief executive of Standard Chartered Bank, said removing the daily conversion limit would help the personal banking business grow. He said if that happened, more diversified yuan investment products would probably be launched for individual investors if there was a demand for them.

Poly Culture Group plans US$100m Hong Kong IPO (By George Chen and Ray Chan) State owned Poly Group's culture and auction subsidiary plans to raise around US$100 million in projected Hong Kong IPO - The culture and auction business unit of the powerful state-owned company Poly Group is preparing to choose Hong Kong for its public listing soon after it abandoned its planned IPO at the Shanghai Stock Exchange earlier this year amid regulatory uncertainties on the mainland. The Poly Culture Group, whose parent company is the Poly Group – a state-owned conglomerate with business in arms export, real estate and mining, among other things -- plans to raise around US$100 million via an initial public offering of shares in Hong Kong, sources familiar with the situation say. If successful, Poly Culture would become the first major Chinese auction house to go public outside the mainland, helping it raise its international profile after the Beijing-headquartered firm has been engaged in rapidly increasing competition over recent years with global players such as Christie’s and Sotheby’s. “If everything goes smoothly, Poly will be able to have its listing hearing in Hong Kong as early as in November,” said one source. “This is the preliminary schedule. Of course, if the market environment suddenly changes, the deal might be delayed until next year.” Poly Culture has three core business lines: art auction and management, theatre management, and investment in the movie and television business. It is a rising star in the global art auction industry. The company became famous worldwide after its museum in Beijing became the new home for historic bronze sculptures of ox, tiger, monkey and pig heads looted from the Old Summer Palace in Beijing by British and French invaders in 1860. The thefts took place during the Second Opium War, in which the Qing dynasty government was defeated. Poly’s ambition for an IPO for its cultural and auction business began about three years ago but little progress was made. China’s domestic A-share IPO market has been de facto suspended for around a year as the securities regulator works on new rules to make public listings fairer and more efficient. Initially, Poly was very keen to list its cultural and auction business on the Shanghai Stock Exchange and it hired CITIC Securities, the mainland’s No1 brokerage, to help it prepare, the sources said. “But later the senior management of Poly changed their mind. They say they simply can’t wait forever and nobody can clearly tell when the IPO business on the mainland will be resumed and by how,” said one of the sources. “There are still a lot of regulatory uncertainties, so to go public in Hong Kong naturally becomes a very good Plan B for Poly.” Poly Group was founded in early 1980s by the People’s Liberation Army and several big state-owned enterprises including China International Trust and Investment Corporation, later renamed CITIC, as one of China's largest state-owned arms traders. The Poly Culture Group culture and auction business was established in the early 2000s. The group also operates a real estate business, already listed in Hong Kong and Shanghai.

 China*:  Oct 19 2013

Washington not budging on its arms restrictions on China (By Chen Weihua) Though this week's announcement that the United States government is loosening controls over military exports has raised a few eyebrows, there is no sign that the US is changing its existing arms embargo on China. Thousands of parts for military aircraft — such as propeller blades, brake pads and tires — will be available to almost any country in the world with minimal oversight, even to countries under arms embargos by the United Nations, the news website ProPublica reported this week. Previously, military equipment manufacturers and exporters in the US had to register with the US Department of State and get a license for each planned shipment. US officials then scrutinized each proposed deal to ensure that the importing nation was not in violation of human rights and that the shipment did not end up in the hands of terrorists or questionable groups. The new system will move whole categories of equipment from the US State Department to the US Commerce Department, where oversight is expected to be far more lax. Military equipment such as fighter jets and drones will remain under the tighter scrutiny of the State Department. The new move is regarded as a victory for defense firms. US administration officials have also argued that the new rules, part of US President Barack Obama's Export Control Reform Initiative, will help the country's economy. Critics, however, have blasted the new rules as contrary to Obama's call at home for tougher gun controls. While some US military equipment may now be available to China, advanced arms systems that China needs will not be available because of the embargo. Bonnie Glaser, senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the decision to ease restrictions on the export of military technology applies to some dual-use categories and spare parts, not major weaponry systems. "Under the new regulations, it is possible that China might be able to secure the spare parts for the Blackhawk helicopters that it procured from the US many years ago, but (it) has been barred from obtaining spare parts to maintain (them)," she said, referring to the Blackhawk helicopters China bought in the 1980s when the US eased its restrictions on arms exports to China. The US imposed tighter restrictions on arms sales to China later that decade. "This does not open the door to the sale of US weapons to China nor is it a precursor to a lifting of the (European Union) arms embargo on China," Glaser said. Douglas Paal, vice-president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the US arms embargo on China is unlikely to be repealed. "And the EU arms embargo has effectively morphed into a set of agreed standards on arms-related transfers that would continue to preclude most arms-related transfers to China," he said.

Missile deal with Turkey highlights China rising Middle East presence (By Reuters in London) Missile deal with Turkey highlights China's increasing ties to Middle East with defence, energy and rail projects augmenting diplomacy - Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government will spend US$3.4 billion for CPMIEC-made missile defence system. China's likely sale of sophisticated missiles to Turkey over the objections of its Nato allies might have angered Washington and other capitals, but it should not have been a surprise. Even as the US has spent billions of dollars and lost hundreds of lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, Beijing has been quietly upping its presence in the Middle East. Militarily, the US - which maintains a permanent aircraft carrier presence near the Gulf as well as dozens of other warships and major bases in Turkey, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates - is by far the dominant foreign power in the region. China has tended to follow Russia's lead on the Middle East, sometimes appearing sidelined on issues such as Syria. Beijing's economic, political and diplomatic clout, however, is growing fast. The Ministry of Commerce said last month China-Arab nation trade now reached US$222 billion a year, 12 times its 2002 level. That would outstrip US-Middle East trade, valued at US$193 billion in 2011. Militarily too, China's footprint is rising. As well as maintaining a three-ship anti-piracy task force in the Indian Ocean and occasionally sending ships to the Mediterranean, the PLA has deployed soldiers to be part of United Nations peacekeeper missions in Lebanon. Turkey's decision to spend US$3.4 billion to acquire the Chinese FD-2000 missile defence system rather than rival US or European systems may be a sign of things to come. "It is a wake-up call," said Christina Lin, a former US official and now a fellow at the Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies who last year briefed the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs on the issue. "China is looking to get a lot more involved in the Middle East and is being increasingly accepted there." China's interests in the region, she said, ranged from energy and investment to countering the spread of jihadist militancy, a major worry for Beijing in regions with big Muslim populations. The firm that makes the missile system, China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corp, is under US sanctions for violations of the Iran, North Korea and Syria Non-proliferation Act. While Turkish officials said the deal was not yet officially finalised, it was likely to go through. Some Nato officials complain the system may not be compatible with other Nato systems and may increase the risk of cyberattack or other interference across the alliance. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Western states were overreacting to what was essentially a commercial decision. Mixing commerce and geopolitics, experts say, is at the heart of Beijing's approach. Chinese officials have become regular visitors to most Middle East states while Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan's King Abdullah have all visited China. The aftermath of the Arab spring and Washington's abandonment of longtime proxies such as Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, some analysts say, has left some governments keen to find alternative allies. Even longtime US partners feel the draw. "I personally have close friendly relations with various Chinese leaders, current and former," Jordan's Abdullah told Chinese media last month. "We are interested in building on this relationship ... because China plays a vital role in promoting world peace and stability and has an influential role in regional issues." Beijing has long been a major supplier of small arms to the region. Still, the Turkish deal is seen as a major breakthrough for China's advanced weapon sales. China's soaring energy needs are seen as a major motivator, coming just as the US gets closer to energy independence and budget constraints and public reluctance hit its military presence. The International Energy Agency expects China's Middle East oil imports to grow from 2.9 million barrels per day in 2011 to 6.7 million in 2035, a projected 54 per cent of total Chinese oil imports. Already, Chinese national oil companies are amongst the biggest players in Iraq and Iran and Beijing is Saudi Arabia's largest trading partner and the biggest single purchaser of Iran's crude. That purchasing power has effectively allowed China and other Asian powers to determine how successful US and European sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme can be. In the long run, some analysts suggest Beijing's oil needs could actually bring it closer to the West, particularly on Iran. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute says Chinese defence sales to Tehran have already notably fallen. "If Washington [were to] substantially reduce its military presence in the region, oil security concerns might compel Beijing to play a larger role in defusing the primary threat to the free flow of oil - the closure of the Strait of Hormuz," former CIA energy analyst Erica Downs told a congressional investigation into Chinese trade practices earlier this year. China's regional ambitions, however, go well beyond defence deals and oil. While some 75 per cent of US-Middle East trade remains energy-related, China has deliberately diversified and says more than half its regional trade is now non-energy-related. Last month, China hosted a five-day China-Arab States Expo in the northwestern Ningxia Hui autonomous region. "Though the trade growth is fast, there is still room for improvement," Zhu Weilie, director of the Centre for China-Arab States Co-Operation Forum Studies told Xinhua. "The two sides should enhance mutual trust to improve communications in political, economic and cultural fields." Infrastructure projects have been a major focus. Port operator Cosco owns part of Egypt's Port Said container terminal. Chinese companies are involved in ventures linking Medina to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, the Mediterranean to the Red Sea in Israel, and Ankara to Istanbul in Turkey. In the longer term, there is also talk of linking Turkey and Central Asia to China by rail, providing Chinese goods access to Europe through what some analysts call "a new Silk Route". But China's attempts to befriend everybody may prove unsustainable - its stance on Syria has irritated some Gulf states and prompted an angry protest at its embassy in Libya. For now, however, China remains broadly welcomed. In July, a Pew Centre survey showed China viewed more positively than the US in every Middle East state except Israel. "If you talk to diplomats in the Gulf, they are very impressed," former US official Lin said. "Chinese ambassadors in the region tend to speak very good, classical Arabic while the Americans still expect everyone to talk in English."

Hong Kong*:  Oct 18 2013

Two new free-TV licences approved, but backlash over HKTV's exclusion (SCMP) Demand for explanation after HKTV network is denied licence despite earlier recommendation, while online supporters plan weekend protest - Secretary of Commerce Greg So Kam-leung said Exco considered a "basket of criteria" before making its decision. PCCW's Hong Kong Television Entertainment and i-Cable's Fantastic Television won approval for new free-to-air television licences on Tuesday. Two new free television licences were yesterday awarded to i-Cable's Fantastic TV and PCCW's HK Television Entertainment Company. But the government decision drew fire for failing to explain why the application of Ricky Wong Wai-kay's Hong Kong Television Network was rejected. Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Greg So Kam-leung said the chief executive and Executive Council had approved in principle the issuing of the two licences. The stations are expected to start two new channels in a year after securing their licences. A senior government source said a consultant's report had shown HKTV, previously known as City Telecom, to be the weakest applicant, and that Exco approved the licences "on merit with no political considerations". But the rejection of HKTV's application, which was against the Broadcasting Authority's earlier recommendation that all three licences be granted, prompted a swift backlash. By 1.30am today, a Facebook page calling upon the government to issue a licence to HKTV had attracted some 256,000 "likes". Internet users were also preparing a protest on Sunday. Asked if the deviation from the Broadcasting Authority's recommendation would be against procedural justice, So said the authority made recommendations not decisions. He said Exco had considered "a basket of criteria" including programme planning, technical soundness, investment and public opinion. But he refused to explain why HKTV was considered inferior to its competitors. HKTV can't appeal to Exco against the decision, but it can file a judicial review in court, he said. HKTV said it needed time before it would comment, while TVB and ATV asked the government to spell out its reasoning in granting the licences. The door is not completely closed on Wong's HKTV, said the government source, adding that there was no "ceiling" on new TV licences, and the government could consider whether there was a need for more in the future. According to proposals filed to the government, i-Cable and PCCW pledged to put in more than HK$1 billion in the first six years and HK$600 million in the first three years of operation respectively. In 2010, the then-City Telecom vowed to invest HK$1 billion in six years, but had already spent at least HK$300 million on programme production. A poll by the University of Hong Kong's public opinion programme in June indicated that 63.1 per cent of 514 respondents supported issuing a licence to HKTV, the highest approval rate among the applicants. So said the decision reflected a "gradual and orderly approach" to introducing competition to the TV market by a "fair, transparent and just" process.

 China*:  Oct 18 2013

China's first trans-provincial subway opens - Passengers await buses outside the Huaqiao Station in Kunshan along the newly opened Metro Line 11, Oct 16, 2013. China's 1st trans-provincial subway opens - China's 1st trans-provincial subway line, linking Shanghai with Kunshan City in neighboring Jiangsu Province, opened on Wednesday.

Overseas M&A deals reach record high in 1st half (By Chen Jia) Chinese companies' overseas merger and acquisition (M&A) activities reached a record high in the first half of the year, and the deals may continue to increase rapidly in the coming 12 months, a report from Deloitte China said on Tuesday. From January to June, there were 98 outbound M&A deals from Chinese companies, worth a total of $35.5 billion, compared with 97 agreements worth $22.9 billion in the first six months of 2012. Mega deals, which are those worth more than $1 billion per transaction, accounted for 13 percent of all successful deals, also a record high since 2005, according to Deloitte. "The rising deal valuation suggests that Chinese investors are becoming more confident at M&As in the overseas markets," said Patrick Yip, the national M&A leader of Deloitte China. As the United States, European countries and China have shown signs of better economic conditions this year, "it is no surprise that Chinese companies are becoming more optimistic of late, and are making larger overseas investments as a result", Yip said. This report showed that about 30 percent of M&A deals from Chinese companies were within the energy and resources industry, and 23 percent were from the consumer business sector. The US saw the largest increase in investment from Chinese companies in terms of transaction value, climbing to $11.4 billion from $6.2 billion. The Deloitte report also showed that about 72 percent of survey respondents said they were looking to acquire overseas assets over the next three years, and 74 percent of them believe that the level of overseas M&A activities will increase in the coming 12 months.

Hong Kong*:  Oct 17 2013

Two new free-to-air TV licences approved (By Lai Ying-kit PCCW’s Hong Kong Television Entertainment and i-Cable’s Fantastic Television won approval for new free-to-air television licences on Tuesday. The Hong Kong government has in principle approved two pay television operators to open new free-to-air television channels, but rejected one similar application by a third company. The two applicants set to get the new licenses – the first in 40 years – are i-Cable’s Fantastic Television and PCCW’s Hong Kong Television Entertainment. A third application by City Telecom-owned Hong Kong Television Network, run by Ricky Wong Wai-kay, was dismissed by the Chief Executive and the Executive Council. Wong has been the most high-profile of the three applicants. He has invested more than HK$300 million in TV-related businesses and his Hong Kong Television Network has started its own production company and signed a team of actors and actresses. PCCW and i-Cable have so far been operating as pay TV channels. Tuesday’s decision on the two companies is still subject to a final approval by the Chief Executive and the Executive Council. If they get final approval, this will double the city’s number of free-to-air TV operators to four. ATV and TVB currently hold free-to-air licences. PCCW is expected to invest HK$600 million over the next three years, while i-Cable will invest HK$1 billion over the next six years. Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Greg So Kam-leung said on Tuesday the government preferred to introduce new operators in the free-to-air market in a “gradual and orderly” manner. “We believe this is a prudent way to introduce competition in the market,” he said at a press conference. He also said that according to a consultancy report, Hong Kong’s market could not sustain more than four free-to-air operators. But So added that the government might still approve more license applications in the future. Tuesday’s developments followed a three-year stalemate in the government’s handling of these applications, which were filed between December 2009 and March 2010.

Sarah Lee brings curtain down with gold medal at East Asian Games (By Chan Kin-wa in Tianjin Star cyclist beats Chinese champion in women's sprint, while Wu Siu-hong strikes gold in tenpin bowling - Sarah Lee Wai-sze at the presentation of medals. Tenpin bowler Wu Siu-hong stopped a clean sweep by the South Koreans. Hong Kong saved their best for the last, winning two gold medals on the final day of East Asian Games in Tianjin on Tuesday. Sarah Lee Wai-sze landed the first gold for the cycling team with her victory in the women’s sprint at the Velodrome, while tenpin bowler Wu Siu-hong wrapped the Games up with a gold medal in the men’s masters at Tuanbo Bowling Alley. The result took Hong Kong’s gold medal tally to 10 in the 10-day event, but the figure lags far behind the 26 gold they won at home four years ago. Hong Kong Olympic Committee president Timothy Fok Tsun-ting, who presented both athletes with their gold medals at the victory ceremonies, was not disappointed with the result. “We were the hosts last time and enjoyed a lot of home advantages,” he said. “Some adjustments have been made in the programmes in Tianjin, while many of the teams also sent top players because this is the last opportunity to win medals at the East Asian Games, making it more difficult for Hong Kong athletes.” Introduced in Shanghai in 1993, the existing East Asian Games format now comes to an end after six editions, with the next Games in 2019 to be staged as a youth competition for athletes aged between 14 and 18. After her defeat in the 500-metre time trial the previous day, Lee was determined to make up for the loss and her victory over Lin Junhong of China in the sprint final meant a lot to the Hong Kong rider. “She is the newly crowned National Games champion in the event and the victory has boosted my confidence in the discipline,” said Lee, who is now preparing for the first leg of the track World Cup in Manchester at the end of the month. Wu’s gold was the only one not won by South Korea out of 13 tenpin bowling events. “I am happy to have broken the dominance of the Koreans in the sport here,” said Wu, now 29. “My first international gold medal was also won at the EAG in Osaka 12 years ago. “It’s very sweet to do it again after so many years.”

London to become next offshore yuan trading centre after Hong Kong (By Reuters in Beijing) Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne (left) shakes hands with Chinese Vice Premier Ma Kai after a signing ceremony in Beijing on Tuesday. China will give London-based investors the right to buy up to 80 billion yuan (HK$101.2 billion) worth of mainland stocks, bonds and money market instruments, making it the next offshore yuan trading centre after Hong Kong. The agreement, announced by Britain and China in a joint statement on Tuesday, falls under the Renminbi Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor plan, or the RQFII. This is the first time the RQFII has expanded outside Hong Kong to give investors more avenues to invest yuan and more incentives to hold the currency – an outcome desired by China which wants to turn the renminbi into a widely-traded currency some day. In return for the RQFII, the British government has agreed to start talks to allow Chinese banks to set up wholesale units in the United Kingdom, the two governments said. “The renminbi will now have a firmer footprint in the European market,” ANZ analysts said in a note. “With the increasing presence of Chinese banks in London, the granting of the RQFII license will strengthen and widen the platform for London to develop the offshore RMB (renminbi) bond market.” Under the agreement, London and Beijing will also allow for the yuan to be traded against sterling directly, as opposed to going through the dollar, thereby markedly reducing transaction costs. A handful of countries including Singapore, Frankfurt, Taiwan and Kenya are vying for Beijing’s approval to be a designated centre for clearing yuan trades outside of China in the hope of offering what may be a lucrative financial service. But Chinese analysts have said London is a natural choice given it is as a major centre for global currency trades. Started in 2011 as a way of enticing investors to hold the yuan, the RQFII now has a global quota of 350 billion yuan, of which 134 billion yuan is utilised. “Today we agreed the next big step in making London a major global centre for trading and now investing the Chinese currency,” said UK Chancellor George Osborne, who is in Beijing. Tuesday’s agreement comes after Britain and China agreed to set up a currency swap line of up to 200 billion yuan in July in a move aimed at boosting trade and financial stability. China last week also signed a 300 billion yuan swap agreement with the European Central Bank in the second-largest of such deals to date.

 China*:  Oct 17 2013

Fifth China-UK Economic and Financial Dialogue held in Beijing - Participants attend the opening ceremony of the fifth China-UK Economic and Financial Dialogue in Beijing, capital of China, Oct. 15, 2013. Chinese Vice Premier Ma Kai and UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne co-chaired the dialogue. 

Row over NASA's China ban should be wake-up call (By Xinhua) The row over a decision by US space agency NASA to ban Chinese researchers from a forthcoming conference on exoplanet research should be served as a wake-up call for some US legislators, a US expert said Monday. The rejection based on a controversial law, initially crafted in 2011 by Frank Wolf, chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA, sparked a boycott from several prominent American scientists, including Professor Debra Fischer of Yale University, and Professor Geoff Marcy of the University of California, Berkeley. Last week, NASA administrator Charles Bolden vowed to reconsider the applications of six Chinese researchers to enter the Second Kepler Science Conference on exoplanets at California's Ames Research Center scheduled for November 4-8, but organizers of the meeting said there would be little chance for the Chinese researchers to pass security clearances in time due to the ongoing government shutdown. "Congressman Wolf may finally be waking up to the unintended negative consequences of his actions," Gregory Kulacki, a senior analyst with the US-based Union of Concerned Scientists' Global Security Program, said in an interview with Xinhua. "But until the legislation he insisted on injecting into US disputes over the federal budget is removed, these kinds of incidents will remain a constant feature of US-China relations in space," he said. NASA officials have said the restriction was based on a law passed in 2011 and signed by President Barack Obama that prohibits government funds from being used to host Chinese nationals at NASA facilities. Kulacki said the language of the law prohibiting NASA from engaging Chinese hers is "so broad, and the legal and financial penalties associated with potential violations so threatening, that even US organizations not directly administered by NASA are afraid to reach out to colleagues in China." Wolf himself has sought to correct an article on the matter, as well as NASA's stance, according to a letter issued by Wolf's office to Bolden on Tuesday. "Unfortunately, the article is riddled with inaccuracies, as is, it appears, the guidance provided by NASA Ames staff to the attendees," said the letter. Wolf claimed in the letter that the law "primarily restricts bilateral, not multilateral, meetings and activities" with the Chinese government or Chinese-owned companies. He also said it " places no restrictions on activities involving individual Chinese nationals unless those nationals are acting as official representatives of the Chinese government." Kulacki, however, believed that Wolf is to blame for "this embarrassing and unfortunate incident." He said that Wolf made it "fairly clear" in the letter that his objections to cooperation "have little to do with" concerns about technology transfer, but are largely motivated by political concerns. "Hopefully this incident will make it clear to him that the law he enacted" caused negative consequences, Kulacki said. Despite the fact the distrustful atmosphere persists, the expert said he remained hopeful that US-China cooperation in space science and exploration is possible. "There are only a few individuals within the United States Congress, in particular Congressman Frank Wolf, who are standing in the way of that happening," Kulacki said. "Chinese scholars should understand that their colleagues at NASA are anxious to work with them on a variety of space science projects," he added.

Hong Kong*:  Oct 16 2013

Siobhan Haughey caps East Asian Games debut with 7th swim medal (By Chan Kin-wa in Tianjin Teenager adds silver and bronze on last day, pipping Hannah Wilson's tally from 2009 - Hong Kong's 4x100 metre medley relay team (from left) Stephanie Au Hoi-shun, Sze Hang-yu, Siobhan Haughey and Kong Man-yi won bronze. Hong Kong's Siobhan Haughey capped a successful debut at the East Asian Games by winning her seventh medal in the swimming pool at Tianjin on Monday. Haughey, who turns 16 later this month, added a silver and a bronze medal to her tally on the final day of the swimming competition at the Olympic Centre, surpassing Hannah Wilson's two silver and four bronze medals won at the Games in Hong Kong four years ago. Haughey had earlier won a silver and four bronze medals as Hong Kong swimmers racked up 10 medals in all - three silver and seven bronze. "This is the first time I have represented Hong Kong at a multi-sport event and I never expected such a result," Haughey said. "The results have really surpassed all my expectations." Haughey, who won the 100-metre freestyle at the world junior championships in Dubai last month, claimed silver in the 50-metre freestyle yesterday and a bronze in the 4x100-metre medley relay. But she missed the podium with a fourth-place finish in the 400-metre individual medley. "Competing in three events in a night is really tough and although there was a 40-minute break between each event, I was very tired. But it's been a great challenge and now I must learn from this experience." Her next target will be the Youth Olympics in Nanjing next summer and the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea. In cycling, a minor mistake cost Sarah Lee Wai-sze the gold medal and she was forced to settle for silver in the women's 500-metre time trial. The Asian record holder finished the two-lap sprint in a disappointing 34.540 seconds, more than half a second off her personal best set in Australia this summer. A lapse of concentration at the start saw Lee's bike hit a sponge, which coach Shen Jinkang said cost his rider about 0.3 seconds. Zhong Tianshi of China, one of Lee's major potential rivals at the 2014 Asian Games - and possibly the 2016 Rio Olympic Games also - snatched the gold in 34.224 seconds. Shen said the result was one of Lee's worst at an international event. "She hit the sponge, which upset her rhythm," he said. Lee said she was surprised by the result. "It was quite windy at the venue, which may have affected my performance," said Lee, who will compete in the semi-finals of the sprint today. "I did clock under 34 seconds during training, so I'm disappointed with this result. Still, I hope to make up for it in the sprint." Cheung King-wai won a bronze medal in the men's 4,000-metre pursuit, beating teammate Leung Chun-wing in the race for third place. Meanwhile, the men's soccer team were thrashed 6-0 by South Korea, costing them the chance of winning a bronze medal. "It has been a big test for the boys as they had to play four matches in eight days," coach Liu Chun-fai said. "But hopefully, they will take on board the lessons they have learned here. Their opponents were better in every department - controlling the tempo, the speed. They were also much more skilful than us." Hong Kong, who were the defending champions, managed only two draws in the five-team tournament. In karate, Hong Kong bagged two more silver medals through Lee Ka-wai and Ma Man-sum in the men's under-75kg and women's under-55kg respectively.

Hong Kong capable of coping if US fails to raise debt ceiling, Tsang says (By Jeanny Yu Hong Kong watchdogs would be able to cope with "very bad" scenarios involving a sudden shock to the city's economy if the debt-ceiling crisis in the United States is not resolved, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah said yesterday. The US is in the third week of a federal government shutdown, with little progress on the political front and no clear pathway to reach a compromise and solve the debt-ceiling problem. If the US debt ceiling is not raised by Thursday, the US Treasury will run out of money and could begin defaulting on its obligations. Market watchers are worried that the shutdown will continue and that the US Treasury will have exhausted all extraordinary measures to forestall a default, which would cause risks to the world economy and financial markets. Tsang, who returned from annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in Washington yesterday, urged the US government to take quick action. "The two parties [Democratic and Republican] should reach an agreement as soon as possible and give the public a clear plan on how to cut [domestic] deficits," he said. "The debt-ceiling crisis is inevitably affecting Hong Kong." He said local regulators had conducted a stress test based on a worst-case scenario for the US debt-ceiling problem. "The stress test shows local watchdogs are able to cope with very bad situations," Tsang said, though he did not provide specific details. The most recent showdown over the debt ceiling, in 2011, turned out to be a particularly nasty affair, culminating in Standard & Poor's downgrading America's sovereign credit rating. Apart from the likely impact from the debt-ceiling showdown, Tsang also expressed concern about the city's housing market. Hong Kong should maintain its curbs on home prices to prevent the housing market from becoming more volatile, he said.

Hong Kong's third runway may stymie Shenzhen's big cargo vessels (By Anita Lam Shenzhen port fears height restriction could restrict navigation of massive cargo vessels - A proposed third runaway at the Hong Kong International Airport could cost port terminals in western Shenzhen millions of dollars a year in lost business. The project, already criticised for its HK$136 billion price tag and potentially adverse impact on the environment, may also hurt relations between the neighbouring cities. The problem comes in the form a height restriction on shipping passing close to the runway. The restriction would extend beyond Hong Kong waters and into Shenzhen's marine territory and could mean a new generation of massive cargo ships could not access western Shenzhen ports like Chiwan and Shekou without a huge detour. The Hong Kong and Shenzhen governments are understood to be in talks over a solution. But people with knowledge of the discussions say the initial proposals from Hong Kong do not address long-term sea traffic demands and may compromise the competitiveness of port facilities in western Shenzhen. According to a document seen by the South China Morning Post, the Airport Authority proposes to extend marine restrictions in place around the existing runways into Shenzhen waters to accommodate the third runway. That would mean vessels standing 53 metres or taller out of the water could not use the Lunggu West Fairway, the most direct of the three routes into the western Shenzhen port terminals, at a time when shipping lines are increasingly using huge vessels standing 25 storeys or more. Shenzhen authorities and port bosses fear the restriction will damage the ability of ports in western Shenzhen to compete with Hong Kong, eastern Shenzhen and the Nansha area of Guangzhou, which is benefitting from massive investment in improved access channels. Large ships would have to take a detour through the less direct Tunggu Channel, or use Hong Kong's busy Ma Wan Channel. China Merchant Holdings (International), the largest shareholder of Chiwan and Shekou ports, said such a restriction would have a "serious impact" on Lunggu West Channel's use. The Hong Kong side is trying to convince Shenzhen the impact would be minimal. They say the height limit for the area of the channel falling directly beneath the flight path would be closer to 100 metres - much higher than any ship. The height limit elsewhere would exist on paper only. Shenzhen, for its part, wants Hong Kong to stop flights to and from the third runway when a huge ship passes. Former Hong Kong civil aviation chief Peter Lok Kung-nam said that idea was a non-starter. "If there's only one large vessel passing by each month, accommodating it is not a problem, but if there is one passing every day, of course there will be a problem," Lok said. One Hong Kong marine officer said most of the ships passing through the channel now were below 50 metres, but the Shenzhen government hoped to expand the channel to accommodate bigger ships. Professor Zheng Tianxiang , a veteran scholar studying cross-border infrastructure in the Pearl River Delta, said although Shenzhen authorities had no influence over the third runway, Hong Kong officials should ensure the expansion did not come at the expense of its neighbour. "Hong Kong will need Shenzhen's help in many future projects like the high-speed rail line to Guangzhou and the rail line connecting Hong Kong's airport to Shenzhen's," Zheng said. "They should co-operate with each other with diligence and consideration." The government is expected to make a final decision on the third runway in 2015. An Airport Authority spokeswoman said plans for the third runway were not finalised. The authority is understood to be conducting an impact study to be completed next year.

Entrepreneur Lizette Smook loves Hong Kong, healthy innovation, and the environment... as Shangri-la, Maxims, Lan Kwai Fong , and the Hospital Authority can attest to (By Annemarie Evans Lizette Smook, chief executive of Innovasions, shows off some her firm's environment friendly bowls and shopping bags, Lizette Smook fell in love with Kai Tak Airport when she came to the city from South Africa on a buying trip 17 years ago. She engineered her career so that she could get a post here and had a successful career working for, among others, Nike and Next. She was known in the corporate world for her technology know-how but by 2007 felt that something was lacking and that she’d like to strike out on her own. She was appalled by the waste in the fashion industry, and wanted to create a company that created products that were good for our health and made with biodegradable products. Smook founded her company, Innovasions, and introduced dinner plates made from rice husks – they’re microwave safe and far better for you, she emphasiSes, than Melamine or polystyrene. “I was determined to get plastic out of the food chain, and at the same time to get companies to rethink their [carbon] footprint.” Smook found it bizarre how recently with the Melamine in baby milk powder scandal on the mainland there was widespread concern about the poisonous affects on children “and yet people eat on it and cook with it every day, so what does that do to our health long term?” And don’t get her started on the detrimental effects of polystyrene not only to our health but also the poisons that it will create in our landfills and leaking into reservoirs. It was a tough start for Smook. The economic downturn hit shortly after she set up the business, but then Shangri-La Hotels decided to take Melamine out of their canteen. “This was a turning point for Innovasions,” says Smook, as she went on to supply dinner services for staff canteens at many of their hotels. For Maxims, Smook, who has a science background, created takeaway biodegradable boxes made out of bagasse, the fibre from sugar cane, “which is usually burnt in Southeast Asia, putting loads of carbon into the air”. Smook also works with the Hospital Authority and one of the hospitals has now replaced its plastic trays with ones made with wheat straw. “This concern of mine,” she says, “does not come from tree hugging, this comes from a real concern about health, about what we are doing to ourselves. We have huge increases in cancer and asthma and we are not connecting the dots. Our health is all we have. “We are very innocent, believing that our governments are taking care of us. We have this incredible subconscious trust that anything we buy is ok, that it’s safe. It’s not. There needs to be a lot more education on billboards in MTR stations.” Smook believes that there needs to be more company responsibility for waste, but also easier ways for people to get money back to encourage them to recycle. “If you go to Switzerland or the United States there are actually machines where you feed your bottles [glass or plastic] in and the waste is separated and the cash comes out. If ParknShop or Lan Kwai Fong had a dispenser like that, imagine how many kids and people would do that. We have to change the way we think. Maybe Hong Kong will wake up soon.” We can change Hong Kong, we can make it better - Technology is always evolving, says Snook. These days you can take existing plastic, and by putting additives in it, it will become biodegradable. The Lan Kwai Fong Association are now buying bags from Innovasions “that will not stay in landfills for 400 years, they will be gone in 18 months”. Four English Schools Foundation schools are also using the bags, and Smook hopes it will take off throughout the foundation. Hopewell Holdings are buying biodegradable umbrella bags from Smook – “think how many plastic bags are used for umbrellas throughout Hong Kong when it rains” and usually for one use only, so at least these will break down. The tableware can be used for years, and then when the dishes and cutting boards made of the skin of rice husks, bound with bio-resin and heat-compressed, are finally thrown away, the heat and the bacteria will break the materials down – a compost effect. Smook also uses bamboo fibres to make fabric for bed sheets. (Bamboo only requires a third of the water needed to grow cotton.) She also makes airline blankets made out of recycled water bottles, and towels made out of organic cotton and recycled plastic bottles. The entrepreneur is confident Hongkongers can change their mindset. One example, she says, is a meal delivery company that manages to save 80 per cent of its disposable cutlery simply by asking the customer if they are eating the meal at home. “We all have that drawer at home filled with unused wooden chopsticks, plastic forks and napkins,” says Smook. “We can change Hong Kong, we can make it better,” says Smook, though perhaps it will be changes in weather pattern creating havoc that will finally persuade people.

 China*:  Oct 16 2013

Come on in, Britain tells Chinese visitors as it eases visa rules (By Agence France-Presse in Beijing) Britain to ease visa rules in a bid to scoop up larger pile of big-spending mainlanders' cash - Britain will make it easier for Chinese citizens to obtain visas, as it seeks a bigger share of the multibillion-dollar Chinese traveller market against stiff European competition. Finance Minister George Osborne, who is in China leading a British trade delegation, promised the measures would help tens of thousands of Chinese visitors hoping to visit Britain. Chinese tourists visiting the European Union using selected travel agencies will no longer have to file a separate application to visit Britain, which is not part of the EU's "Schengen Area" for border-free travel. Business people will be able to apply for a "super-priority" visa, which will be processed within 24 hours rather than a week. About 210,000 visas were issued to Chinese nationals last year, adding an estimate £300 million (HK$3.7 billion) to the British economy. Peking University student Chen Xiao said the British visa application process was "a nuisance and time consuming". "The amount of forms needed to obtain a British visa isn't small compared to other countries," she added. "Also, they require you to show proof of assets. So this is a challenge for those who come from less wealthy backgrounds." Analysts say Britain has missed out on Chinese tourists' spending power, partly because of its visa rules. According to the UN's World Tourism Organisation, China has become the world's most valuable source of tourists, with expenditure on overseas travel reaching US$102 billion last year. Among western European countries, Britain comes behind France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Spain when it comes to Chinese visitors. Osborne is trying to win over a Chinese government that has rebuffed Britain due to a meeting last year between Prime Minister David Cameron and the Dalai Lama. In a speech at Peking University, Osborne insisted "there is no country in the West more open to investment - especially from China" - than Britain. "There are some in the West who see China growing and they are nervous," he said. "I don't want Britain to resent China's success, I want us to celebrate it. I don't want us to try to resist your economic progress, I want Britain to share in it." Osborne is in China with London mayor Boris Johnson. "When Chinese tourists come to London, classically they spend [a lot] - it's good news for the city," Johnson said. "If it doesn't happen it's a missed opportunity and I don't want to see that business going to Paris." Foreign Ministry spokeswoman welcomed the changes. "We see this as a positive development," she said.

NASA's China policy faces mounting pressure (By Kelly Chung Dawson US space agency NASA announced that it would review the applications of six Chinese scientists who were denied access to an upcoming conference on the agency's space telescope program, blaming middle management for misinterpreting an earlier moratorium that had placed restrictions on visits to NASA facilities by Chinese citizens. With 97 percent of NASA employees currently on furlough due to the government shutdown and the conference scheduled to begin Nov 4, the scientists are unlikely to pass security clearances in time unless the conference is moved to a non-NASA-affiliated location, according to organizers. "It is unfortunate that potential Chinese participants were refused attendance," wrote NASA chief administrator Charlie Bolden in a publicly released e-mail late last week. "Mid-level managers, in performing the due diligence they believed appropriate following a period of significant concern and scrutiny from Congress about our foreign access to NASA facilities, meetings and websites, acted without consulting NASA HQ. Upon learning of this exclusion, I directed that we review the requests for attendance from scientists of Chinese origin and determine if we can re-contact them immediately upon the reopening of the government to allow them to reapply." NASA faces the tricky task of navigating national security issues in a field in which Chinese scientists are valuable contributors. Chinese national and former NASA employee Bo Jiang was indicted earlier this year for failing to declare a NASA laptop on a flight to China from Dulles Airport. He was later cleared when officials failed to find sensitive information on his laptop, save for pornography he had downloaded in violation of agency rules. But Jiang was already under investigation at the time for having previously taken a NASA laptop to China, and had been fired from his position at the National Institute of Aerospace before he was stopped in March of this year for the same offense. Congressman Frank Wolf, who spearheaded a 2011 law to prevent NASA funds from being used in cooperation with China, spoke out last week against the most recent developments. In a publicly released e-mail, Wolf wrote that the exclusion of Chinese scientists from the Kepler conference mischaracterizes the spirit of the law, which "primarily restricts bilateral meetings and activities with the Communist Chinese government or Chinese-owned companies. It places no restrictions on activities involving individual Chinese nationals unless those nationals are acting as official representatives of the Chinese government." NASA's China policy faces mounting pressure - The scientists rejected from the conference are researchers and academics, and as such do not fit the criteria for exclusion from NASA conferences or facilities, Wolf argued. He went on to describe the agency of having become "a rat's nest of inappropriate and possibly illegal activities that appear to have occurred with the concurrence of the center's leadership". But Wolf also accused NASA of not doing enough to fight supposed espionage tactics on the part of the Chinese government, and in March of this year, had unsuccessfully called for the exclusion of Chinese citizens from a meeting of the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites, citing the 2011 law he helped draft. NASA is under great pressure to safeguard against potential espionage from a number of countries, but must also avoid discriminating on the basis of ethnicity or background. In an interview with the AFP, George Washington University space policy expert Pascale Ehrenfreund said that China-US friction in science has been growing in recent years.

Premier seeks talks over dispute (By ZHANG YUNBI in Beijing and LI XIAOKUN in Hanoi, Vietnam and Premier Li Keqiang (left) shakes hands with Vietnamese General Secretary of the Communist Party Nguyen Phu Trong at the Party Central Committee Office in Hanoi on Monday. Li will return from his visit to Vietnam on Tuesday. Vietnam signals willingness to handle sea issues with China properly - Premier Li Keqiang said in Hanoi on Monday that peacefully handling the South China Sea issue matters in the big picture of economic cooperation between China and Vietnam. Observers said Li has sent a clear signal during his three-day visit to Vietnam that bilateral negotiation is the "only worthy way" for resolving disputes, and worsening the situation will only harm the interests of Vietnam itself. "Whether the South China Sea issue is properly handled or not is not only an emotional matter between the two peoples, but also a matter of politics and security circumstances for expanding large-scale cooperation, including infrastructure investment," Li told General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nguyen Phu Trong. Trong said Hanoi is willing to maintain frequent contact with Beijing, firmly support the relationship, and properly handle disputes to ensure the healthy, stable development of relations between the two countries. When meeting with Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang, Li said the two sides have the full capability and wisdom to overcome difficulty and "cement the basis of the two countries' shared interests". Sang said Vietnam is "deeply satisfied" with the fruits of the Chinese premier's visit and has both the determination and confidence in effectively implementing the recently reached bilateral consensus — deepening the partnership simultaneously in maritime, onshore and financial cooperation. The relationship between Vietnam and China has been overshadowed by maritime frictions in the South China Sea, but the two countries have made efforts to maintain frequent high-level exchanges this year. The Vietnamese president, prime minister and deputy prime minister visited China earlier this year. Qu Xing, president of the China Institute of International Studies, said Beijing has stressed unchanged emphasis on the relationship with Hanoi and recently Hanoi has delivered more positive signals and acted "more proactively" for improving the relationship. The Chinese premier has seen a fruitful result during the trip, as he and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Tan Dung told reporters after their talks on Sunday that the two countries will establish three working groups on maritime joint development, onshore infrastructure and financial cooperation. Regarding onshore cooperation, the two countries need to improve strategic planning with the establishment of a work group on infrastructure cooperation, and promote practical cooperation in such areas as interconnectivity, trade and investment. On the financial front, the joint work group on financial cooperation should lead the two to signing a bilateral currency swap deal and a local currency settlement agreement, so as to help safeguard the economic development and financial stability of both countries and the region at large. Wu Shicun, head of the National Institute of South China Sea Studies, said Li's trip was made to boost mutual trust and demonstrate consensus that the two neighbors are breaking ground in economic cooperation. Given lessons learned from the Asian financial crisis in the 1990s, both countries vowed to build a financial security network to fend off potential risks to their economic stability. China's economic role will not be ignored by Hanoi because China is Vietnam's "largest trade partner", and China's increased investment is particularly helpful at a time when the Vietnamese economy is suffering turbulence, Wu said. In the first half of 2013, total bilateral trade reached $23 billion, an increase of 19.7 percent over the same period last year, according to the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry. "China has been among the top 15 out of 101 countries and territories investing in Vietnam with a total of 933 investment projects and a registered capital value of $4.79 billion," Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh told China Daily before Li's visit. Every year, some 3 million tourists travel between the two countries, and many key projects are ongoing for the 2012-16 period, Minh said. Vietnam's location on China's border is also a geopolitical advantage for further tapping into the full potential of the connectivity projects, Qu Xing said. The Chinese premier said he and Dung believed the common interests and consensus between the two countries far outweigh their disputes and differences. "We agreed that we should place priority on economy and livelihood so that both economies will consistently develop and prosper to ensure our citizens a good quality of life," Li said.

Canton Fair to promote yuan use (By Qiu Quanlin and Yao Jing in Guangzhou) A buyer examines garments at the China Import and Export Fair in Guangzhou, Guangdong province. The fair, also known as Canton Fair, opens on Tuesday for its autumn session. Transactions during the China Import and Export Fair, the country's largest trade event, will be for the first time announced in the form of yuan settlement, organizers said on Monday. "The move is part of an effort by the organizers to help accelerate the yuan's internationalization," said Liu Jianjun, spokesman for the fair and deputy director of the China Foreign Trade Center. The 114th session of the twice-a-year fair, widely known as the Canton Fair, will open on Tuesday in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province. "Transactions conducted with yuan-denominated settlement will also help promote the yuan business of Chinese exporters during the fair. It will help avoid losses caused by a stronger yuan," Liu said. The yuan strengthened to a 20-year high after the central bank set the currency's reference rate at a record high. The People's Bank of China raised its daily fixing by 0.08 percent to 6.1406 per dollar, the strongest since a peg to the greenback was lifted in July 2005. A growing number of Chinese companies, such as Gree Electric Appliances Inc, one of the country's biggest home appliance manufacturers and exporters, have become keen on using yuan settlements. "Yuan settlements in trade are welcomed, as they help avoid risks caused by the stronger yuan. We are going to use more yuan settlements in overseas markets," Zhang Zhenghu, deputy general manager of the overseas sales branch of Gree, told China Daily. Guangdong-based Gree conducted its first overseas yuan-denominated deal, valued at $500,000, in Brazil in 2011, according to Zhang. "Deals conducted using yuan settlement are still small for us. But we are going to promote more use of yuan payments in overseas markets in the years ahead, given that the value of the currency is still rising," Zhang said. The stronger yuan, combined with a complex global trade situation, has squeezed profits for a growing number of Chinese companies, according to Zhang. "Yuan appreciation is a heavy burden for most Chinese exporters. We had to increase prices to make a sustainable business profit in overseas markets," said Zhang. Zhang Xialing, deputy director of the foreign trade department at the Ministry of Commerce, said at an earlier financing forum in Guangzhou that Chinese exporters need to conduct more deals using the yuan to avoid currency risks. Not many trades were settled in yuan during the last session of the Canton Fair, according to the event's organizing committee. "More use of yuan settlements in trade will help Chinese exporters reduce risks and hasten the currency's internationalization," said Zhang. Some 17,000 companies in Guangdong, which make up about a quarter of the country's foreign trade, have conducted yuan settlements with counterparts from 169 countries and regions since China launched the payment system in July 2009, according to the Guangzhou Branch of the People's Bank of China. "Yuan settlements also play an important role for Chinese companies in their industrial upgrading, as it helps reduce business losses," Zhang from the Ministry of Commerce said. Despite China's shrinking exports in September, a sign of lower global demand, the fair will still be a busy event. The number of booths will be 59,539 at the fall session and 24,517 companies have confirmed participation, 229 less than in the spring session, the organizers said. Liu Jianjun said the decline in the number of participants is mainly because of the weakening global economy. The fair's organizers are adjusting their strategies and trying to help more brand-name and big companies. "China's foreign trade is undergoing a tough transition period, and we hope to support more potential companies to lead the whole upgrading of Chinese manufactures," said Liu. "The number of buyers from emerging markets is expected to remain at the same level as the spring session," Liu said. As for developed markets, Liu noted that the US economy has improved, so there will be somewhat more buyers from the US. Meanwhile, as China's trade with Japan has shown signs of picking up recently, there will be more buyers from Japan.

Hong Kong*:  Oct 15 2013

Hong Kong peg 'could last another 20 years', says its designer John Greenwood (By Nick Edwards The economist behind the local currency's link to the US dollar says mechanism still needed and that a tie to the yuan is unlikely soon - The Hong Kong dollar's peg to the US dollar could easily be in place for the next 20 years with a potential switch to the yuan an unlikely prospect, according to John Greenwood, the economist who designed the currency board system that marks its 30th anniversary this week. "A number of people take the view that the [yuan] could become fully convertible and a competitor international reserve currency with the US dollar and in that case, it might make sense to peg to the [yuan], but, in my view, that is many, many years away," Greenwood told the South China Morning Post. Asked if he thought the peg could feasibly mark 50 years of operation, he said: "Given current conditions in China, I think that is true. "It will take China a very, very long time to achieve that sort of status for its currency and so I don't envisage any near-term factors that would render the linked exchange rate system past its sell-by date." The Hong Kong dollar's peg was created on October 17, 1983, after a slide in the value of the currency on growing investor concern at the time over talks between Beijing and London on the return of the city to mainland rule. The currency had fallen as much as 32.5 per cent between January and October, triggering an inflation spike as the price of goods rocketed. It culminated in the so-called "Black Saturday" crisis that forced the Hong Kong authorities to intervene and introduce the peg on Monday, October 17. Greenwood's analysis of the options available was the basis for the peg's introduction and remains core to why it is likely to persist. Hong Kong's lack of a central bank meant the economy was operating without a mechanism to control either the price or quantity of money. Creating a central bank was not viable, as making major institutional changes in the run-up to the handover had been ruled out. Greenwood's brainwave was to opt for a peg that would anchor the price of money, while leaving the flexible Hong Kong economy to adjust to the new pricing level. Launching an independent Hong Kong central bank now is arguably as unlikely as it was back in 1983, which means an external monetary anchor is still needed. "It might conceivably become redundant if Hong Kong ceased to be an export-oriented economy with a very large financial centre, but that is inconceivable so I don't envisage any near-term change in those fundamentals," Greenwood said. Greenwood, the British-based chief economist of fund firm Invesco, credits the work of others - particularly former Hong Kong Monetary Authority chief Joseph Yam Chi-kwong and his successor, Norman Chan Tak-lam - for strengthening the mechanism to help it weather batterings of emerging markets in the 1980s and 1990s, the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98 and, more recently, the global financial crisis of 2007-08. And he is confident that the current troubles facing India and Indonesia, which have borne the brunt of concerns about deficits and capital flight ahead of an anticipated ending of the US Federal Reserve's quantitative easing programme, will not affect Hong Kong. "They have maintained the discipline," Greenwood said, citing Hong Kong's use of so-called macro-prudential controls to adjust to the capital flows unleashed by quantitative easing.

Hong Kong to collaborate with WHO to measure success in pollution fight (By Cheung Chi-fai City's new 'globally important' partnership with WHO to measure success in pollution fight and improvements in public health hailed by official - Hong Kong is to be the focus of a "globally important" link-up with the World Health Organisation to monitor the success of clean air policies in the city. The aim is to develop a mechanism to measure changes in air quality and the public's health. The idea comes as the city plans to introduce what could be the world's biggest diesel vehicle replacement scheme to improve roadside pollution at a cost of nearly HK$12 billion. It is one of a series of measures included in a comprehensive seven-year blueprint to tackle Hong Kong's environmental problems that was launched in March. Dr Carlos Dora, a co-ordinator at the WHO's Department of Public Health and Environment, said: "We are interested in documenting what policy measures are introduced and what follows in terms of changes in air quality. "It is about connecting different data sources over time and creating a system to track changes in policy and improvements in the quality of the air and people's health." Dora, who met Hong Kong officials during a visit last week, added: "The WHO believes it is important globally and we see Hong Kong has a reason and the means to do that." Dora said the clean air plan rolled out by the government was a "very good" one as it clearly identified problems. He also suggested that the wider benefits of some clean air policies be taken into account in evaluating new policies. The benefits could include reductions in noise pollution and traffic injuries and an increase in people's physical activity. Dora also dismissed worries that the pending introduction of a new health-based air pollution alert system could hamper the city's competitiveness by revealing how frequently it suffered from poor air quality. The city's Air Quality Objectives were updated this summer to tighten air quality standards first agreed in 1987 and will become effective next year. WHO targets, which were updated in 2005, are included in the new objectives, most significantly those measuring and reporting the type and concentration of pollutants. Dora said the mainland had demonstrated it was not afraid of releasing its fine particle pollution data, and such disclosure showed a commitment to accountability and improvement. "To be clear, 'transparent' and 'accountable' in my dictionary is good," he said. Estimates by the Environmental Protection Department show the number of days when a very high pollution level is indicated will increase several times under the new system.

 China*:  Oct 15 2013

Global public opinion poll reveals an increasingly negative view of China (By Kate Whitehead China could do with an image makeover, judging by the increasingly negative perceptions of the country revealed in a global public opinion poll, writes Kate Whitehead - Chinese workers walk past a "Chinese Dream" promotion billboard in Beijing. First up the good news for China: around the world people increasingly see the country as an emerging superpower, or indeed a superpower already. The bad news? They don't much like China. Public opinion, especially in the US, towards China is at an all-time low. That's according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Centre, which surprised Bruce Stokes, director of the global economic programme at the Pew Research Centre's Global Attitudes Project. "This duality - seeing China as a superpower and yet the declining favour - seems to contradict itself, but maybe not. Maybe people see it, but they don't like it." The survey throws up another seeming contradiction - the Chinese are the most optimistic people in the world, confident about the economy and their future, yet when pressed they reveal a host of worries and concerns - but more of that later. Listing the countries that like China and those that don't sounds like schoolyard politics: the Russians, Pakistanis, Chileans, Venezuelans, Brazilians and many in Africa are all fairly well disposed towards China, while the US leads the pack of countries with an increasingly negative perception of China, a club that includes Germany, South Korea, the Philippines and Japan. The Japan figure is especially low, with only 5 per cent having a favourable opinion. On the face of it, economics seems to explain some of the favourable views. China buys a lot of copper from Chile, soya beans from Brazil and oil from Venezuela. But it does not explain everything. China is a big importer of German goods and yet only 28 per cent of Germans have a favourable opinion of the country. Stokes, who was in Hong Kong recently to give a talk to the Asia Society, suggests this is because the Germans, like many in Europe where public perception of China is falling, place a high value on human rights. "We think one of the reasons that favour towards China is declining in Europe is because people believe that Chinese do not respect their own people." The survey interviewed 37,000 people in 39 countries from March to May this year and found a marked shift in perception of the balance of power resulting from China's economic rise. Interestingly, four of the largest European countries - France, Germany, Spain and Britain - believe that China has already overtaken the US. Stokes attributes this to China's economic trajectory. It's generally thought that, having grown so far, so fast, the country will keep going in that direction. In Asia, there's a growing concern about China's military power, and territorial disputes with Japan, South Korea and the Philippines are fuelling negative opinion. Stokes is at pains to point out that public perception doesn't necessarily equate with fact. "More and more people around the world say China is the world's leading economic power, but we know that's factually not true: the US economy is bigger, the per capita income in the US is bigger." But perception is in part reality, and there is no denying the perceived shift from the US to China. Twenty of the countries in this year's poll also took part in 2008. Comparing figures from the two surveys reveals that the number of those that view the US as a superpower has fallen from 47 per cent to 41 per cent, while the number of those that see China as a superpower has risen from 20 per cent to 34 per cent. An interesting anomaly in the findings was that attitudes towards China reveal a huge generation gap. Young people (18 to 29 years old) the world over have a much more positive view of China than those that are over 50. This cuts across all countries, from Turkey to the US, and accounts for big differences. More than three times as many young Turks as older Turks look favourably on China, as do more than twice as many young Americans than older Americans. In Britain the generational split is 58 per cent to 42 per cent and in Poland its 59 per cent to 35 per cent. That pattern is reversed in South Korea, where 58 per cent of young people have an unfavourable view compared to 42 per cent of older South Koreans. Stokes has two theories about this anomaly, neither of which can be substantiated: the first is that people under 30 have grown up in a global world and are more open and less critical of others; the second is that young people could simply be naive and will become more cynical as they get older. "I think it's positive at this juncture that young people are fairly favourable towards China, and they may carry some of those attitudes with them as they age. That would be a good sign," says Stokes. Japan saw a huge drop of 29 percentage points in how favourably it viewed China. The animosity of the Japanese towards the Chinese and the Chinese towards the Japanese is at a very high level, driven in part by the attitudes of young people. At the root of the friction is the second world war. One question asked across the region was: Do you think Japan has adequately apologised for the second world war? Overwhelmingly, the Chinese and Koreans say no, while in Japan 63 per cent of people said yes, including 18 per cent who say there is nothing to apologise for. This has sown seeds of distrust between China and Japan. That the distrust is greatest among young people, says Stokes, suggests that it is something to do with the education system or is fuelled by the media. "The fact that it's the young people in China and Japan holding these emotions is really depressing," he says. "If it was old people they will die off and the memories will fade, but it's young people stirring the pot and this doesn't just happen by accident. It's stuff on the internet or being taught in schools. It could be fixed and it's not being fixed. That's a problem." As for the outstanding optimism of the Chinese, no matter how the pollsters phrased the question the Chinese come out looking confident. They believe the economy is doing well and will continue to improve, that their children will be better off than their parents and their personal situation is rosy. Yet that optimistic outlook is held hand in hand with some very real concerns about inflation, inequality between the rich and the poor and worries about the safety of food and medicine as well as air and water pollution. Stokes suggests these concerns are a sign of the country's evolving middle class that is no longer willing to put up with the things that their parents put up with, but they could hint at trouble ahead. "It may simply be that people feel more at ease voicing their concerns about China - that's a good thing, that people are more outspoken - or it could be that these problems are getting worse." There's no way of knowing whether the government in Beijing pays any attention to research like this - which is freely available online at It would doubtless be pleased to see the rapidly increasing global perception of China as a superpower, but what about the unfavourable public opinion, the discovery that becoming a superpower also alienates you from people? When the centre conducted its first study in 2002 it was expecting to learn something about the impact of globalisation. Instead, the shock finding when the results were released in 2003 was the surge in anti-American sentiment, in a large part due to involvement in Iraq. The US government responded by setting up a new department focused on public diplomacy. "It would make total sense that if the Chinese see this data - and their own surveys must show the same thing - that they would say 'we need to fix this, we need public diplomacy,'" says Stokes. There are a couple of obvious things China could do to boost its global image, he says, such as having fewer territorial disputes with its neighbours and improving its human rights record. What helped the US bounce back from poor image ratings during the Bush administration, when only 30 per cent of Chinese had a positive attitude towards George W. Bush, was the election of Barack Obama. "It shot up dramatically, and six out of 10 people had a positive attitude towards Obama. It's been downhill ever since," says Stokes. Time will tell whether China will be the world's next superpower. In the 1980s the sure bet was Japan to overtake the US. "Japan kind of imploded and the US found its mojo again," says Stokes. "If you look at the studies that have been done by the National Intelligence Council and other people that project ahead to 2030 and 2050, they all predict that China will surpass the US. We'll see."

China, Vietnam to set up group to explore disputed South China Sea (By Teddy Ng in Hanoi) Chinese Premier Li Keqiang held talks with his Vietnamese counterpart, Nguyen Tan Dungl, in Hanoi. China and Vietnam have agreed to set up a working group to jointly explore their disputed waters in the South China Sea as the two nations vowed to move beyond the territorial row and enhance bilateral ties. The agreement was announced after Premier Li Keqiang held talks with his Vietnamese counterpart, Nguyen Tan Dung, yesterday after arriving in Hanoi for a three-day visit, the last leg of a Southeast Asian tour. The two leaders also witnessed the signing of 12 business deals aimed at boosting cooperation in trade, infrastructure, energy and maritime affairs. At a joint press conference after the talks, Li said the two nations had achieved "a breakthrough" in enhancing their "comprehensive partnership and mutual trust" by establishing the working group concerning the joint exploration of the South China Sea. Both nations aim to make "concrete progress" in jointly exploring the Gulf of Tonkin, a northern arm of the South China Sea, but no other details were released. "The development tells the international community that China and Vietnam have the capability and wisdom to keep the South China Sea peaceful, expand their common interests and narrow their disputes," Li said. The natural-resource-rich sea, which is claimed in part by mainland China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei, has become a cause of friction between China and its maritime neighbours. Vietnam and the Philippines have taken the strongest stance against Beijing's assertiveness. Dung yesterday described China as a "neighbour" and said the two nations had agreed to look for a long-term solution that is "acceptable to both sides" through friendly negotiations. "For the time being, the two nations will proactively seek transitional solutions that will not affect the stance of either side on the issue," he added. China has been spearheading the effort to seek joint exploration of the disputed waters as it strengthens its influence in Southeast Asia. Professor Su Hao of the China Foreign Affairs University said the joint exploration agreement between China and Vietnam indicated that Beijing didn't want to see tensions over the territorial disputes continuing to flare up, because that would cause Beijing to lose leverage over its strategic rivals. "Beijing sees that Vietnam may become part of the China containment policy of Japan and the United States," he said. However, whether a similar agreement could be made between China and the Philippines was a big question, Su said, as Manila still stuck to a hardline approach towards Beijing. In addition to the South China Sea agreement, the nations also vowed to boost annual bilateral trade to US$60 billion by 2015. Li will visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum today, and have talks with President Truong Tan Sang, National Assembly chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung and Communist Party general secretary Nguyen Phu Trong.

Working group to discuss sea issues (By LI XIAOKUN in Hanoi and ZHANG YUNBI in Beijing and Premier Li Keqiang and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Tan Dung chat as they walk in the garden of the Presidential Palace in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Sunday. The two countries announced the establishment of a joint working group on sea development. 'Breakthrough' could help China, Vietnam handle disputes - China and Vietnam will establish a bilateral working group to discuss joint maritime development, a move analysts said is a "breakthrough" for the neighbors to peacefully handle disputes. The countries will establish two other working groups regarding infrastructure and financial cooperation, Premier Li Keqiang and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Tan Dung told reporters at a news conference after their talks on Sunday. The operations of the three working groups will start this year, and the establishment of the maritime joint development working group "in particular sends a positive signal of the bilateral readiness for solving difficult problems through cooperation", Li told Dung during the talks. "We are satisfied with the contents of the talks and speak highly of them," Dung told reporters at the news conference. The relationship between Vietnam and China has been overshadowed by maritime frictions in the South China Sea. Jia Duqiang, a Southeast Asian studies expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said seeking a solution to maritime disputes has been a "major headache" in the past few years for not only China but also for some members of ASEAN such as Vietnam and the Philippines. "Hanoi has already realized that it is unrealistic to count on Washington to give public support to its claims on some islands. "Therefore, putting aside bickering on sovereignty and sitting at the table for joint development is a pragmatic choice," Jia said. The two countries have already established a preliminary joint working group to push forward joint development in the waters outside the mouth of the Beibu Gulf. The first round of talks of the group began in May last year. Li is on his first Southeast Asian tour after he became premier in March. The trip has taken him to Brunei and Thailand. The China-Vietnam joint development plan was released just two days after China and Brunei vowed in a joint statement to encourage closer joint exploration and exploitation of maritime oil and gas resources in the South China Sea. Also on Sunday, China and Vietnam signed cooperative documents and agreements in fields including economy, trade, investment, transportation and shipping, finance, and science and technology. China and Vietnam also signed a memorandum of understanding to construct a cross-border economic cooperation zone. Despite ups and downs over the sea, Beijing and Hanoi have maintained frequent high-level exchanges this year. Li's tour followed the trip by the Vietnamese president, prime minister and deputy prime minister to China earlier this year. Wu Shicun, head of the National Institute of South China Sea Studies, said the visit shows the world that "policymakers of the two countries have already reached consensus to jointly control the South China Sea crisis and nurture mutual trust". China is Vietnam's largest trade partner and China has increased investment on infrastructure construction in Vietnam. "The two countries will further underscore the cooperation and play down maritime frictions," Wu said. China and Vietnam are important neighbors linked by land and sea, as well as being socialist countries, and "both sides attach great importance to developing China-Vietnam relations", Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Liu Zhenmin told reporters before the premier's tour. Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang visited China in June, and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung traveled to Nanning for the 10th China-ASEAN Expo last month. Qu Xing, president of the China Institute of International Studies, said "joint law enforcement, connectivity building and infrastructure construction" will make sure the onshore cooperation between China and Vietnam bears considerable fruit. 

Hong Kong*:  Oct 14 2013

Hong Kong fencers stun China to win gold at East Asian Games (By Chan Kin-wa in Tianjin) Nicholas Choi earned himself a gold medal. Hong Kong fencers stunned China for their first-ever victory over the mainlanders with an emphatic 45-40 win in the men’s team foil final at the East Asian Games on Saturday. Cheung Siu-lun, a quarter-finalist in the individual epee at this year’s world championships, took six points in a row after trailing 39-40 against Li Chen in the final bout to bring home the biggest win for Hong Kong in Tianjin. It was the city’s eighth gold of the Games and one of the most important, as the Chinese foil team are one of the top sides in the world, having won silver at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and gold at the 2010 world championships. “This is the first time we have beaten China in an international competition. It’s so amazing,” said 28-year-old Cheung, the eldest member of the quartet, which also comprises Chu Wing-hong and two promising youngsters, Nicholas Choi and Yeung Chi-ka. “It’s a team effort, although I am very happy the coach trusted me by assigning me the job of competing in the final bout. In fact, I did not do very well early on and left the venue to refocus on the task ahead. When I came back for the final bout, I was fully recharged and ready for the fight. Mental preparation is always important at such a crucial stage and I just went all out for the victory.” Cheung, a silver medallist in the individual foil at the 2010 Asian Games, said the gold medal came at the right time as the team are preparing for next year’s Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea. “We have two young members in the team and this victory will boost their self-belief,” said Cheung. “Although China, Japan and South Korea did not send their top fencers to Tianjin, there is only one year to go to the Incheon Games, and if we can make progress within this period, we can promise another strong performance next year.” Choi, who also won a bronze medal in the individual foil, added: “This is a team event, everyone gets a medal and it’s a gold. It’s has been a great year for me as I also won a bronze medal at the National Games. Hopefully, we can keep up the good form as we build towards the Incheon Asian Games.” Hong Kong beat South Korea 45-35 in the semi-finals, while China reached the final by thrashing Japan 45-28. In the women’s team epee, Hong Kong won a bronze after losing to South Korea 45-26 in the semi-finals.

Parents and children line up as preschool interviews begin Sheung Shui (By Ada Lee A couple and their child line up for their preschool interview in an attempt to secure a place at Fung Kai Kindergarten in Sheung Shui on Saturday. Hundreds of children and their parents crowded outside Fung Kai Kindergarten in Sheung Shui on Saturday as the first round of pupil interviews for the popular preschool got under way. Last week parents formed long queues and waited for days to pick up application forms for the school, with some camping overnight. Kindergartens in places such as Sheng Shui and Fanling are under increased pressure because of an influx of Hong Kong-born mainland children seeking places in competition with local children. On Friday, the Education Bureau announced measures to address local parents’ concerns, including one that requires them to produce a letter issued by the bureau when they register for a kindergarten. The ruling, which only applies to schools in North District or Tai Po, is intended to stop parents registering at many preschools at the same time. A Ms Yu, who applied to eight kindergartens for her daughter, said the government should have planned better for the situation. “It was only thinking about money when it allowed mainland mothers to give birth in Hong Kong,” she said. “It did not think about issues after that.” The Tin Ping Estate resident said her daughter could not speak Cantonese although both parents were local. “My mother, who speaks only Putonghua, takes care of her and I have to work, so I don’t have time to teach her Cantonese,” she said. She complained that some kindergartens only conducted interviews in Cantonese, limiting the chances for children like her daughter. “Even children born to non-local parents have the right to study here. It’s discrimination.” A Ms Fu said the new measure, under which kindergartens would let parents know if their applications were successful before mid-December, relieved her worries. In the past, the admission process could take as long as a year. The Shenzhen resident said she was not too concerned about her daughter commuting when school started. “It won’t be too hard for [my daughter]. It takes 20 minutes to go to Hong Kong and once she’s used to it, there won’t be any problem,” she said. Local parent Mrs Chung welcomed the policy that children living in the district would be given priority. “We pay taxes, and the non-local parents don’t. They should shoulder the higher travel costs,” she said. She became worried when she saw the long queue last week near her home in Tin Ping Estate and joined it for two nights. “I feel really bad about the fact that we needed to obtain a form that way,” she said. Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim told RTHK listeners Satureday that the situation this year emerged surprisingly quickly when a caller criticised him for not doing his job well. “It’s not a matter of responsibility,” he said, adding that he expected the number of mainland children enrolling in Hong Kong kindergartens next year would be fewer.

 China*:  Oct 14 2013

Chinese premier urges further amity, practical cooperation with Thailand (By Visiting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (L) and his Thai counterpart Yingluck Shinawatra attend a joint press conference after their meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, Oct. 11, 2013. Visiting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang stressed further amity and practical cooperation with Thailand in a joint press conference here on Friday with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. He and Yingluck have had extensive and effective talks, Li told reporters, and they jointly witnessed the signing of several important bilateral agreements. "We agreed that China and Thailand share traditional friendship, practical foundation for cooperation, as well as broad prospects and huge potential in wide-ranging, deep-level, and all-around cooperation," Li said. Noting that the development and prosperity of China and Thailand offer each other abundant opportunities, Li called on both sides to step up political mutual trust and push forward practical cooperation in such fields as economy and trade, transportation, energy, finance, technology, culture and defence. Moreover, the two sides should also enhance cultural and people-to-people exchanges to consolidate the social basis of bilateral relations, Li added. China and Thailand have been in talks for a memorandum of understanding on visa exemption for regular passport holders, a move believed to provide more convenience to people-to-people exchanges, Li said. The Chinese premier said the two sides also exchanged views on international and regional issues of common concern. China commends Thailand's positive role as the country coordinator for China-ASEAN relations, Li said. The Chinese government is ready to work with Bangkok to push for new progress in their comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership, Li said. He also expressed hope that traditional familial affection between the two nations will be cemented by new bond and that bilateral cooperation will benefit people in the two countries and the region. Yingluck, for her part, said Li's visit has yielded fruitful results, and has mapped out the long-term development of China-Thailand relations. Thailand is ready to work with China to boost cooperation in trade, investment, connectivity, energy, agriculture and people-to-people exchanges, and strive to fulfill the target of increasing bilateral trade to 100 billion U.S. dollars by 2015, said Yingluck. Thailand welcomes Chinese participation in the construction of its high-speed railway system, and supports China's proposal to establish an Asia infrastructure investment bank, she said. Thailand is willing to make efforts with China to achieve further progress in relations between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, she added. Li arrived here earlier in the day for an official visit to Thailand, the second leg of his maiden trip to Southeast Asia since taking office in March. Before Bangkok, Li has just wrapped up a tightly-scheduled visit to Brunei, where he also attended a series of meetings with East Asian leaders.

Voyage to Taipei marks start of new route (By Sun Li and Hu Meidongin Pingtan county, Fujian and The Haixia makes its inaugural voyage to Taipei from Pingtan in Fujian province on Wednesday. There are now five sea passenger routes between Fujian and Taiwan. High-speed cruise liner Haixia made its inaugural voyage to Taipei on Wednesday, marking the opening of a new sea route across the Taiwan Straits. Hailed as the world's fastest roll-on, roll-off ship, Haixia left Aoqian wharf in Pingtan county at 9 am and arrived at Taipei harbor three hours later. Wu Kuo-sheng of Taipei was on deck waving goodbye to the cheering crowds on shore before the ship sailed. The 54-year-old businessman, whose wife is from Pingtan, said he has been waiting a long time for such a day. "The Haixia initially only traveled between Pingtan and Taichung in Taiwan, and I had to take a high-speed train to get to Taipei," Wu said. He said the new route will save him more than two hours' travel time. "The trip makes it much more convenient for our family." Hsueh Ching-te, a businessman from Taichung, who travels between Fujian and Taiwan regularly, said the route further bridges the geographical gap between the mainland and Taiwan. In addition to the Pingtan-Taichung route, previous direct sea services linking Fujian province and Taiwan operated between Xiamen and Taichung, Xiamen and Keelung, and Xiamen and Kaohsiung. With Haixia's maiden trip to Taipei, the number of sea passenger routes between Fujian and Taiwan has reached five, with 17 voyages every week, Hsueh said. Ai Jun, a finance worker in Fuzhou, capital of Fujian province, said he was so excited about the voyage he could not sleep the previous night. "It is a dream come true, because Taipei has always been on the top of my tourist destination list," he said, adding that he will start a weeklong journey to the island. Wu and Ai were among about 300 passengers who made Wednesday's trip. Bought from Canada for 300 million yuan ($49 million), the blue-and-white vessel is 97 meters long and weighs about 6,500 metric tons. With an average speed of 65 kilometers an hour, it has four decks that can carry 760 passengers and 260 cars. Zhang Bin, a manager of the Fujian Cross Straits Ferry Corp, the mainland-Taiwan joint venture that runs the ship, said the round trip between Pingtan and Taipei will operate on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The usual ticket price is 1,200 yuan, but for the first month passengers only need to pay 640 yuan. Lin Shuqing of Pingtan, who witnessed Haixia's departure, said the price could add to the allure of the boat trip. "Compared with a plane, Haixia costs less and has more space. I would consider boarding the ship someday to have a relaxing trip," Lin said. Gong Qinggai, director of the Pingtan Comprehensive Pilot Zone, said Haixia has played a constructive role in facilitating cross-Straits travel. On Nov 30, 2011, Haixia made its first direct trip to Taiwan, carrying more than 500 passengers from Pingtan to Taichung. The trip took two hours and 50 minutes. The ferry made a trial voyage to Taipei on May 22 and the Taiwan authorities approved the route in August. Since its launch, the ship has transported more than 190,000 passengers, as of mid-September. Gong said the Pingtan government plans to let Haixia carry cargo on the Pingtan-Taipei route in the future, as it does now on the Pingtan-Taichung route. He added authorities also hope to open more routes to link Pingtan and Taiwan, enhancing Pingtan's role as a forerunner in cross-Straits exchanges.

China, Thailand eye waiving visas (By By ZHAO SHENGNAN and GUO YALI in Bangkok and WANG WEN in Beijing) The elephant show in Thailand is one of the biggest attractions for Chinese tourists. Neither Thai nor Chinese tourist operators were surprised at the two governments' decision to discuss waiving visas for both sides' visitors on Friday. "Waiving visas is inevitable because the number of Chinese tourists to Thailand is really big," said Vichit Prakobgosol, honorary director for the Thai-Chinese Tourism Alliance Association and chairman of CCT Group, a travel service consultancy. Lower costs and more convenience will encourage more Chinese tourists and investors to visit Thailand, said Vichit, whose company estimates it will receive 300,000 Chinese tourists this year. Vichit said he believed about 5 million Chinese will visit Thailand next year if such a policy can take effect in 2014. China is now the biggest source of tourists to Thailand, with about 3.22 million Chinese visiting in the first eight months of 2013, up 88.42 percent over the same period of 2012, according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand. If 2 million Chinese tourists come to Thailand per year on a 15-day visa that costs $25, Thailand could earn more than 1 billion baht ($32 million) a year in visa fees alone, according to the Bangkok-based TTR Weekly. Wang Dong, a Chinese businessman in Bangkok, said what's more important than saving money is the time saved, with better scope for business. "The Thai visa is not as difficult or expensive to get as many other countries, but for a frequent visitor who lives in a small city, I have to hire a travel agency to help me mail my documents to the consulate in Shanghai. It's troublesome," said Wang. Currently, only the Thai embassy in Beijing and consulates in seven other big cities including Shanghai and Guangzhou can process visa applications in China. The young generation nowadays enjoy spontaneous and independent trips. A visa exemption will give them another excuse to do this, said Zhang Guangrui, director of the tourism research center with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Song Meidan, a manager of a Beijing-based travel agency, echoed Zhang's views, but added the package tour business will benefit less from the policy because Thailand already offers visas on arrival and China's newly released tourism law has dampened the booming trend. China's first tourism law that took effect on Oct 1 bans travel agencies, which heavily rely on package tours, from offering rock bottom prices but adds hidden costs such as mandatory shopping outings. In response, travel agencies raised tour package prices and lost many potential clients. "One reason for Thailand's popularity among the Chinese is its low cost. If it was as expensive as a trip to Europe, which do you think people would choose?" Song asked. However, Vichit said most Chinese still prefer group tours when they travel to a country for the first time. "Only 20 million Chinese tourists visited Thailand over the past two decades, while 400 million Chinese can afford to travel overseas now. For Chinese in second- and third-tier cities, package tours are still the top choice," he added. Kanjana Boonsopa, a Thai hotel staff member in Bangkok, said she would like to see more Chinese visitors. "It's good for business," she said. Chutinunta Agukrikul, marketing director of the Bangkok-based Central Department Store Ltd, said, "We would certainly welcome even more Chinese shoppers to our store." Pu Yue, production manager of Ctrip's tourism department, predicts more than 20,000 Chinese travelers will visit Thailand using its services this year. The agency does not feel pressure regarding supply because the tourism industry is optimistic that Thailand's tourism resources, such as flights and accommodation, will continue to grow. Vichit from Thai CCT Group said Thailand has to better prepare itself to welcome more tourists through such methods as developing high-speed trains and strengthening security and sanitary works. "Waiving visas is not just a technical procedure but shows a high-level of trust and friendliness between two countries, which will make the two peoples feel comfortable in each other's country," he said.

Hong Kong*:  Oct 13 2013

Hong Kong Monetary Authority keeps close eye on United States debt crisis (By Benjamin Robertson The Hong Kong Monetary Authority says it is closely monitoring the US debt ceiling crisis, while fears about a potential default have sparked the biggest rise in a key measure of risk aversion since the financial crisis. "While the market generally assesses the chance of a US debt default is small, we have reminded banks to manage their liquidity risk properly. In the unlikely event of a US debt default, we will watch the markets closely and consider appropriate measures as required," the HKMA said. Any default would have ripple effects across the globe. However unlikely it may be, the prospect of default - coupled with the US government shutdown - has seen a run on money market funds and a spike in the yield on one-month US Treasury bills. One indication of this is the so-called "TED spread", the difference between interest rates on Treasury bills and interbank lending rates. In recent days this has widened by 25 basis points, its biggest movement this year, according to research by Jefferies, a securities trading and research firm. On Wednesday, Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing asked brokers to increase the collateral they and their clients put up when they use short-term US Treasuries. The US government has until next Thursday to reach an agreement on raising its debt ceiling. Should it fail, it is likely to start defaulting on short-term debt first, hence the spike in the yield on one-month Treasury bills. Unlike the 2008 financial crisis when there was a rush to Treasuries, this time the money flow is in the opposite direction. About US$42 billion has been withdrawn from money markets over the past fortnight, says Jefferies. "Equity markets alongside other financial assets have shown a remarkable sang froid towards a possible US Treasury default. It seems investors have been given a hurricane or typhoon warning but have discounted [it] assuming it will leave the equity markets unscathed," said Sean Darby, chief global equities strategist at Jefferies.

Hong Kong film fest features John Woo-style cop thriller (By Associated Press in Hong Kong) The 10th annual Hong Kong Asia Film Festival opens later this month with the world premiere of Benny Chan’s "The White Storm" - The 10th annual Hong Kong Asia Film Festival opens later this month with the world premiere of Benny Chan’s “The White Storm.” The lineup at the Hong Kong film festival will be bookended by an action movie inspired by director John Woo’s works and a South Korean sci-fi action thriller featuring Hollywood stars Tilda Swinton and Chris Evans. The 10th annual Hong Kong Asia Film Festival opens later this month with the world premiere of Benny Chan’s “The White Storm,” a classic cop thriller reminiscent of the days of John Woo’s “A Better Tomorrow” and which stars three of Hong Kong’s most prolific actors — Sean Lau, Louis Koo and Nick Cheung. The festival said on Friday it will close with director Bong Joon-ho’s “Snowpiercer,” a South-Korean sci-fi action thriller starring Swinton and Evans. Chan said he was honoured that his film was chosen to open the festival, calling cop-themed crime thrillers unique to Hong Kong cinema. Other notable films chosen include Tsai Ming-liang’s “Stray Dogs,” singer/actor Juno Mak’s directorial debut “Rigor Mortis,” and “Bends,” directed by first-time director Flora Lau. 

 China*:  Oct 13 2013

Chinese scientists claim EU snub over jobs on nuclear fusion project (By Stephen Chen In new case of perceived bias, experts say country is not fairly represented on nuclear project in France despite paying its share - Nasa administrator Charles Bolden. While Beijing has criticised Nasa's "discriminatory" decision to bar Chinese researchers from a conference, the country's scientists are fuming over another perceived slight they feel could be far more consequential. Many Chinese scientists are frustrated over what they see as the country's disproportionately low participation in what has been hailed as one of the world's most important scientific projects: the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). Only 4 per cent of the scientists and other staff are Chinese, although the country has pledged 9 per cent of the funding. "The discrimination against Chinese [at ITER] is an open secret," said Liu Huajun , a nuclear fusion scientist with the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Plasma Physics (IPP). The experimental nuclear fusion reactor in Cadarache, France, could potentially deliver clean, safe and inexhaustible nuclear energy one day. Dubbed by some as an "artificial sun", the reactor would mimic the energy-generating process of a star, fusing small atoms into larger ones and harnessing the energy released. In 2006, China joined six other parties - India, Japan, Russia, South Korea, the European Union and the United States - in a co-operative bid to develop the groundbreaking technology. Since no party wanted to shoulder the project's initial €10 billion (HK$105 billion) cost on its own, each agreed to put up a share of the money, with the understanding they would be able to send a proportionate share of the scientists and other staffers employed by ITER. The EU provided the lion's share of the funding, 46 per cent. The other countries, including China, each contributed 9 per cent of the cost, which has since been increased to €16 billion. As of January, however, only 18 Chinese nationals had been hired to work on the project, or 4 per cent of the 452-strong staff, according to the organisation's website. Most were working in non-core sectors or administration. In contrast, two-thirds of the staff are from European Union. Japan accounts for 7 per cent, India, South Korea and the US 6 per cent each and Russia 5 per cent. Some Chinese scientists say the result could deprive the country of expertise needed to harness any breakthroughs that come about during the research. "Even India has sent more people than we do, and India barely provides any significant hardware to the project," Liu said. Chinese scientists have become increasingly frustrated about their exclusion from sensitive international projects. This week, Beijing criticised the US space agency for barring Chinese representatives from next month's Kepler conference on exoplanets in California. The US space agency has since vowed to reconsider the applications of Chinese scientists who were denied access to the conference on security grounds. Nasa administrator Charles Bolden said the situation was "unfortunate" and pledged to take a fresh look at the applications. The ITER said its hiring process was fair and in keeping with the procedure set by the parties. Spokesman Dr Michel Claessens said allegations of discrimination were "totally false". Professor Chen Wenge , another IPP fusion scientist who participated in the project at an early stage, said China's expertise in the field had improved dramatically. Chen blamed the lack of Chinese staff at ITER on officials at the Ministry of Science and Technology, who had not "fought hard enough" to make sure the country was better represented.

Hong Kong*:  Oct 12 2013

Firm of tourism chief Peter Lam to build hotel at Ocean Park (By Emily Tsang, Yvonne Liu and Ng Kang-chung) Development company owned by Peter Lam, also a tycoon and government ally, generates talk of conflict of interest with its winning bid - An illustration of the hotel that will be operated by Marriott International. The 1.7-hectare site at the park where the hotel will rise up. A property development company owned by government ally and Tourism Board chairman Dr Peter Lam Kin-ngok has won a tender for a HK$4.1 billion project to build a long-awaited hotel at Ocean Park. Capital Court is said to have beaten six other bids received in the January exercise, but its appointment raised concerns over a possible conflict of interest. Ocean Park said Capital Court, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lai Sun Development, was found to be the "most preferred proponent" for the project after a six-month study of the bids. The theme park's chief executive Tom Mehrmann sought yesterday to dispel the concerns. "Lai Sun was selected because it has achieved and exceeded the passing scores under the technical evaluations on design excellence, financial strength and management credentials, and has proposed the highest premium amount out of all the tender submissions," Mehrmann said. Lai Sun teamed up with Marriott International in the bidding. Lai Sun offered about HK$1.6 billion in land premium. The construction cost is estimated at HK$2.5 billion. The 495-room hotel will sit on a 1.7-hectare site at the park's main entrance in Aberdeen. It will be operated by Marriott. Ocean Park is to seek final approval for the development from the Town Planning Board. The project is expected to break ground in the first half of next year and is due to open by early 2017 - some four years behind the original schedule as it should have opened this year. The plans lapsed in 2011 because of a lack of interest from developers, which were reportedly discouraged by the high land premium sought by the government. A revised tender in January eased some of the requirements and attracted seven bids. Lai Sun Development falls under the Lai Sun Group, which Lam chairs. The pro-government tycoon is known to be a fan of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. He was appointed early this year to chair the Tourism Board, and this week he was named to a new government advisory committee on trade co-operation with the mainland. Lam also sits on the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. Another of his subsidiaries, Lai Fung, faced a public outcry in June for demolishing two historic buildings in Guangzhou, one of which was the home of late "King of Cantonese opera" Sit Kok-sin. Tourism-sector lawmaker Yiu Si-wing warned of a possible conflict of interest. "The details of the winning bid and the tender screening mechanism should be revealed to the public and the bidders who lost," Yiu said. Ocean Park said: "During the tender process, declarations of interest were made by all relevant board members of Ocean Park. Those board members with any interest in any of the parties submitting tenders did not take part in any deliberation, assessment or scoring of the tenders, while the [Independent Commission Against Corruption] was engaged to provide input on and review the tender procedures and observe the scoring process." Lai Sun Development deputy chairman Chew Fook-aun said: "We joined the tender … as we planned to increase our leasing portfolio." He said Lam knew the company was planning to bid, but did not take part in any meeting on the project led by Chew. The Tourism Board said it was not involved in the tender and that the project was a private business under Lam's group.

Li pressures Aquino to resolve the bus hostage row (By Phila Siu Families of victims say Li's call for resolution is a 'breakthrough' - Philippine President Benigno Aquino (left) and Premier Li Keqiang are said to have moved the dispute to a new level. Premier Li Keqiang has urged Philippine President Benigno Aquino to resolve the row over the Manila bus hostage crisis as soon as possible, taking the impasse to a new diplomatic level. Families of the victims and political analysts described it as a "breakthrough" and believed it would put pressure on the Philippines. But one observer noted that given the tensions between the two countries over territorial claims in the South China Sea it might not have an immediate impact. According to a report by the China News Service, Li had a brief conversation with Aquino in a VIP room during the East Asia Summit on Wednesday. Li said the incident had "dragged on for long" enough and had "affected the feelings of the people in China, especially the compatriots in Hong Kong", the report said. Li said he hoped the Philippine government would resolve the incident reasonably and fairly. Aquino said a probe carried out by the Philippines was continuing and the Philippines would strive to handle the incident properly. Li also explained to Aquino China's principles and stance over their sovereignty dispute in the South China Sea, the report said. The conversations took place after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying told Aquino during a 40-minute meeting on Monday night that unless the matter was resolved properly it would continue to stand in the way of normal relations between Hong Kong and the Philippines. Aquino agreed that ministerial meetings should take place as soon as possible to discuss how to follow up the matter, but refused to apologise. The hostage tragedy happened in August 2010 when policeman Rolando Mendoza took 22 Hongkongers hostage on a tour bus and shot eight dead before being killed himself. Tse Chi-kin, elder brother of slain tour guide Masa Tse Ting-chunn, said it was a breakthrough that the premier talked to Aquino in a forceful way. "It is definitely a good thing. In the past three years, the president [Aquino] has not respected us at all," Tse said. Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun, who has been assisting victims' families, interpreted Li's remarks as a warning to the Philippine government.

 China*:  Oct 12 2013

Li Keqiang pushes for Asian free trade pact inside two years (By Teddy Ng in Brunei Premier urges regional co-operation to build a 'bigger and better economy', while expressing concern over threat of debt default by the US - Premier Li Keqiang has reaffirmed Beijing's desire to complete negotiations on a sweeping regional free trade pact within the next two years. In separate speeches to two regional summits in Brunei yesterday, Li urged Asian nations to stick to their plan and complete talks on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) by the end of 2015. While attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and the East Asia Summit in Bandar Seri Begawan, Li also raised concern about the prospect of the US defaulting on its debt, much of it held by China, Xinhua reported. Li mentioned his worries while meeting US Secretary of State John Kerry on the sidelines of the events. Li's remarks about the RCEP deal reflected Beijing's ambition to play a big role in integrating the fast-growing Asia-Pacific region. Those efforts were bolstered by the absence of US President Barack Obama, who was forced to stay in Washington because of continued wrangling over the federal government shutdown. The RCEP talks include the 10-member Asean bloc and its six free trade partners, Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. The participants agreed in May to finalise the pact before 2016. "It has become the clear consensus among countries in the region to build a bigger and better economy by following the path of regional co-operation," Li told Asean nations. The US is pushing its own regional free trade pact, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which does not include China. Stressing China's support for economic integration under the principals of openness, inclusiveness and transparency, Li suggested that there could be interaction between the RCEP and the TPP. Li said China and East Asian nations must work to improve their mutual trust and unity, but remain cautious against interfering in the internal affairs of other nations. He offered a metaphor to illustrate the importance of co-operation. "He whoever has had experience with chopsticks understands that one single chopstick won't do the work of putting food in the mouth," Li said. "To do the work, a pair of chopsticks are needed. And when a bunch of chopsticks are tied together, they won't break easily." Observers said Li's push for the RCEP indicated Beijing's fear that its role in regional economic affairs might be diminished should the TPP be launched. ANZ Bank's Raymond Yeung said: "By stressing the RCEP, Li sends a signal that China should be a player in regional economic affairs. The influence of the US in the region will be boosted when the TPP is done." Yeung said it was possible the trade deal could be finalised in 2015, but added that Japan may be hesitant because of its own strained ties with China. Beijing and Tokyo have been engaged in a diplomatic row over the disputed Diaoyu, or Senkaku, islands in the East China Sea. Jin Canrong , an international affairs specialist in Renmin University, also said the finalisation of the deal "does not only depend on China". He said Japan may not be willing to fully open its industries for trade. China's efforts to forge a regional trade deal have also been complicated by its territorial disputes with Asean nations in the South China Sea. Li reiterated Beijing's desire to settle the matters through two-way talks and urged Southeast Asian nations to "mutually understand and respect" China.

90%-plus US firms make profits in China: Report (By MICHAEL BARRIS in New York More than 90 percent of survey respondents reported that their China operations are profitable, the highest percentage reported since the United States China Business Council began surveying its members, said a report released on Thursday by the Washington-based nonprofit organization - USCBC said that while slowing economic growth, rising costs and "persistent operating challenges" continue to "moderate corporate optimism toward the China market", companies are "not pessimistic". Still, the report said, fewer companies in this year's survey said that their profit margins in China are better than that of their global rates and fewer companies reported double-digit revenue increases compared with previous years. While a growing number of companies place China as one of the top five global market priorities, the number of companies that cited China as the top priority declined, according to the survey. Just over half of survey respondents said they plan to commit more resources to China in the next year, down from 67 percent in the 2012 survey, the USCBC said. The USCBC, which represents 220 US companies selling goods and services in China, surveys its member companies each year to gauge the business climate in China. The report said that as China's economy has slowed in the past year, "many companies face business and market access issues in a market that for the past five years has been a rare bright spot in a difficult global downturn". Although it remains a magnet for foreign investment, China's rising labor costs, crowded marketplace and "challenging" business-approval processes are bumping the country down the priority list for US investors, it said. The report — which comes a week after a free trade zone in Shanghai went into operation, ostensibly allowing foreign investment into a wider range of industries — urged China to follow what it called the US practice of equal treatment for both homegrown companies and US-incorporated foreign companies. USCBC said problems with licensing "occur at the central, provincial and local levels and affect almost every aspect of doing business in China". Meanwhile, US and Chinese regulators hold divergent views on investment and market access restrictions which "continue to be a priority concern for US companies operating in China", according to the survey. The report said China's value for US investors would be even larger without market barriers. Despite an economic slowdown tied to the nation's embrace of domestic consumption and movement away from investment and exports, China attracted $8.38 billion of foreign direct investment in August, up 0.62 percent from a year earlier, the Ministry of Commerce said last month. The figure was below the previous month's growth rate. In the first eight months of this year, China attracted $79.8 billion of FDI, up 6.4 percent from the same period in 2012, but below the economy's overall growth rate. Analysts said China still offers advantages to investors despite the issues identified in the report, but one analyst called the survey "biased from an American point of view". Ann Lee, the author of the book What the US Can Learn from China, said corporate discrimination abounds in the US but the perpetrators are "just more discreet about it", for instance, in "awarding government contracts that are not even open to bidding". China's slip in optimism, she said, "may be nothing more than American companies becoming less naive about doing business in China rather than an actual deterioration in the business environment in the nation; if foreign companies don't like the rising labor costs in China, then they can move their operations elsewhere". Lee predicted that market barriers in China will "likely decrease" over time. "Today they need them to protect their infant industries that are not yet competitive," she said. Sophii Weng, an economist with Standard Chartered Bank, said that despite China's rising labor costs, it will remain a "target market for many US companies, thanks to its massive population of middle-level skilled workers as well as a large supply network that very few competitors can match". "Red tape has been a particular barrier for foreign investors" in China, Weng said. If it were to streamline its administrative processes, "US companies might be more inclined to invest" there, she said. 

Currency swap signed with the EU a 'landmark' (By Li Xiang in Paris and Zhang Chunyan in London and Largest deal outside Asia is big step toward yuan internationalization - China and the European Union signed a currency swap agreement to boost trade and financial stability in a move that also marks a landmark step for the yuan's internationalization. The three-year swap line with a maximum value of 350 billion yuan ($57 billion) is the largest the People's Bank of China has signed with a foreign central bank outside of Asia, higher than the 200 billion yuan agreement with the Bank of England. The People's Bank of China said in a statement on Thursday that the deal can help provide liquidity support for the yuan market in Europe and promote overseas use of the renminbi. It is also beneficial for facilitating trade and investment. Experts said that the agreement with the European Central Bank is a significant step forward for the internationalization of the yuan and is a reflection of the increasing demand for the Chinese currency in financial transactions in the eurozone. "The amount of the currency swap is significant, and it is an important step to develop the renminbi transactions in the euro area," said Philippe Mongars, deputy director of the market operation department at the Bank of France. "All the banks based in the euro area will benefit from it and we see it as a backstop to maintain confidence in the Chinese currency in the euro area," he said. "What is also important to bear in mind is that the arrangement is bilateral so it is also a reassurance for banks in China when they need to access the euro," he added. The European Central Bank said in a statement that the agreement has been established in the context of rapidly growing trade and investment between the eurozone and China. The swap is intended to serve as a backstop facility to ensure the yuan's liquidity and financial stability in the eurozone. "The agreement showed that the ECB is very interested in contributing strongly to the internationalization of the renminbi," said Arnaud de Bresson, chief executive of Paris Europlace, a professional association that promotes Paris as an international financial center. De Bresson said that the swap is likely to significantly boost the yuan-denominated bond market in Europe and will help consolidate Paris' position as a major platform for yuan trading and transactions in the eurozone. Paris played a leading role in pushing the European Central Bank to sign the agreement as France has been keen on developing its capital into a major yuan trading center. Yuan deposits in Paris amount to 10 billion yuan, making the French capital the second-largest pool for the Chinese currency in Europe after London. Nearly 10 percent of Sino-French trade is settled in yuan, according to the French central bank. Michael Moore, a professor of Finance at Warwick Business School in the UK, said that the swap reflects China's ambition to raise the international profile of its currency. "If China's aim is to make the yuan an international currency of choice, this is a good start," he said, noting that both sides need to replenish the deal to meet market demand. Since 2008, China has signed currency swap agreements with 23 regions and countries with the total value reaching 2.48 trillion yuan, according to the People's Bank of China.

Hong Kong*:  Oct 11 2013

Hong Kong win three golds in wushu (By Chan Kin-wa in Tianjin Leung Cheuk-hei, Cheng Chung-hang and Leung Ka-wai in action on their way to retaining their gold. Hong Kong enjoyed huge success in wushu at the East Asian Games, clinching three gold, two silver and one bronze medals in Tianjin on Wednesday. Heading the winning spree at Normal University Arena was Geng Xiaolin, who was crowned the women’s daoshun and gunshu all-around champion, followed by the men’s duilian team. The third gold was captured in sanshou by Li Sone-wai in the men’s 60kg category. Geng, who withdrew from the changquan on Monday night due to illness, was delighted after making a quick recovery to successfully defend her title. “I wanted to preserve my energy for the all-around as this is my pet event,” said the gold medallist. “But still it was a big test on the state of my fitness as there was limited time to recover. “I have to thank my teammates for their support, as they gave me a lot of encouragement when I was sick.” Although there were only three entries in the event, Geng had to overcome Sun Xiaomei of the hosts in the two-round competition. Both players were tied at 9.70 points after the gunshu, but Geng gave an excellent performance in the daoshun when she scored 9.70 points again on Wednesday morning, whereas the mainlander managed only 9.61 points to settle for second place. Hong Kong also won the duilian four years ago as hosts; the trio of Cheng Chung-hang, Leung Ka-wai and Leung Cheuk-hei retained the gold medal after the sudden withdrawal of favourites China. They managed 9.71 points, while second-place South Korea were just 0.01 points behind. Wushu has captured a total of three gold, three silver and four bronze medals at these East Asian Games, but the haul still falls short of their five gold, four silver and seven bronze medals as hosts four years ago. In badminton, the Hong Kong women’s team were beaten squarely by Taiwan 3-0 in the semi-finals and had to settle for bronze, the same as they got four years ago. Head coach Tim He Yeming said number one singles player Yip Pui-yin needed to improve psychologically if she wanted to make more of an impact on the international arena. Yip was no match for Taiwan number one Tai Tzu-ying, losing 21-10, 21-15, while second singles player Chan Tsz-ka and women’s doubles pair Poon Lok-yan and Tse Ying-suet also lost in straight games.

Hong Kong listings may rebound this year (By Gao Changxin in Hong Kong) Activity in Hong Kong's new offering market will pick up in the remainder of the year, with 12 initial public offerings set to raise 72.1 billion yuan ($11.77 billion), according to local media. Assuming all these IPOs proceed, they will make up for some of the action that Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd might have lost recently by possibly losing Alibaba Group Holdings' massive offering estimated at more than $75 billion. The Hong Kong Economic Journal reported on Monday that among the 12 companies are Bank of Chongqing Co Ltd, Huishang Bank Co Ltd, Jingrui Properties Group, Fu Shou Yuan Group and Hong Kong Electric Co. Hong Kong's stock market began a rally in mid-July, and it's risen about 12 percent since. Many new shares floated earlier this year have recovered some of their losses, improving market sentiment for more debuts. Helped by China's economic boom, Hong Kong was the world's biggest IPO market from 2009 to 2011. But it fell out of the top five this year, affected by slower growth in China and talk of the United States phasing out its quantitative easing program. Many companies changed plans amid weak market sentiment. For example, Nexteer Automotive Group, a car-part supplier formerly owned by General Motors Co, delayed in June an IPO in Hong Kong that could raise as much as HK$2.5 billion ($322 million). Casino operator Macau Legend Development Ltd also reduced its listing plan by half to raise $800 million. One major upcoming IPO is that of Hong Kong Electric Co, one of Hong Kong's two main electricity generators, which could raise up to $5 billion. The utility serves 568,000 customers on Hong Kong Island and one outlying island. Bank of Chongqing and Huishang Bank, two of the mainland's city commercial banks, plan to raise 7.8 billion yuan and 11.6 billion yuan, respectively. Jingrui Properties Group, a mainland property developer, plans to raise 1.56 billion yuan to 2.34 billion yuan in an IPO scheduled at the end of this month. Mainland regulators' reluctance to reopen the IPO pipeline helped drive many mainland companies to Hong Kong for IPOs. Many expected regulators to allow new listings in July, but no timetable has been made public so far as to when IPOs will resume. Mainland regulators have blocked IPOs since October last year as they work on reforms that will overhaul China's scandal-ridden stock market.

 China*:  Oct 11 2013

Li Keqiang calls for ‘peace’ in South China Sea at Brunei summit (By Agence France-Presse in Bandar Seri Begawan) Premier Li Keqiang attends the 16th Asean-Korea summit on the sidelines of the 23rd summit of Asean in Bandar Seri Begawan on Wednesday. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang called on Wednesday for a South China Sea of “peace, friendship and co-operation” as he extended a hand to Southeast Asian leaders wary of Beijing’s territorial claims in the strategic waters. “A peaceful South China Sea is a blessing for all,” Li told the leaders during a summit in Brunei. “We need to work together to make the South China Sea a sea of peace, friendship and co-operation.” Li made the comments in a meeting with the heads of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations during an annual series of summits held this year in the sultanate. Some Asean members who hold various claims to the South China Sea have voiced increasing alarm at perceived provocative acts by Beijing in asserting its belief that most of the body of water is Chinese maritime territory. But China has sought to portray a friendlier face more recently – while holding its ground on the issue – including during an Asia-Pacific summit on the Indonesian island of Bali earlier this week. In sharp contrast to the often icy tone China takes with perceived rivals like the United States and Japan, Li showered his Asean counterparts with promises of friendship and deeper economic integration. He called for the two sides to ramp up efforts to more than double China-Asean trade to US$1 trillion by 2020, from about US$400 billion last year. Li’s appearance in Brunei comes after Chinese President Xi Jinping dominated the Bali economic summit in the absence of US President Barack Obama. Obama had to stay home due to the budget paralysis back in Washington and was represented in Bali, as well as in Brunei, by his secretary of state, John Kerry. 

In Bali, they relax in local fashions (By Olivia Rondonuwu in Nusa Dua, Indonesia) President Xi Jinping, wearing a shirt made from a silk-like Balinese fabric called endek, and his wife, Peng Liyuan, attend a dinner during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on Monday night. After falling out of favor during the global economic turmoil, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation's propensity for dressing up its leaders in "silly shirts" returned with gusto on Monday as Indonesia's guitar-strumming president led a stylish parade of Balinese design. US President Barack Obama was a notable absentee, perhaps relieved that a budget shutdown kept him home after he axed the annual fashion show when he chaired the APEC summit in Hawaii two years ago. US Secretary of State John Kerry was there instead, sporting a purple shirt made of a silk-like Balinese fabric called endek. While the fabric was woven in Indonesia, it came from China, a win-win outcome given APEC's stated goal of tearing down trade barriers. President Xi Jinping came in red while Russian President Vladimir Putin — who also dispensed with the APEC shirts tradition in Vladivostok last year — wore green. The shirts and blouses were on display as the heads of government trooped in to greet Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the start of a summit dinner. "After an already busy first day, and tomorrow's tight schedule, let us relax, enjoy the dinner and cultural performance tonight," Yudhoyono said before a gala performance that featured barefoot Balinese dancers and, later, a full-throated rendition of Psy's Gangnam Style by two male singers. The Indonesian leader had already leavened the mood earlier on Monday in a break from somber discussions about risks to the global economy. Yudhoyono, who has a series of albums of love songs to his name, brought out his guitar when he learned it was Putin's 61st birthday. Cheered on by Xi, he strummed Happy Birthday as Russia's tough-guy leader smiled broadly. The last APEC fashion show occurred in Singapore in 2009, when relatively restrained shirts by a local designer were the order of the day. It has seen its share of fashion disasters, sometimes leaving leaders looking grim-faced in group photos. Former US president Bill Clinton started the tradition in 1993, handing out leather bomber jackets in Seattle. Blue-and-gold South Korean silk overcoats called durumagi were the bold choice in Busan in 2005. The next year, then-US president George W. Bush and Putin were required to don flowing silk ao dai tunics in Hanoi. Peru topped that with brown ponchos that unkind fashionistas said resembled potato sacks. Yudhoyono, however, was undaunted when he brought out traditional dress at a separate East Asia summit in Bali in 2011, and followed up with the best of the island's artisanal design on Monday night. Bali is a Hindu outlier in Muslim-majority Indonesia, and endek is a tie-dyed cloth usually used for Hindu rituals, made by hand on wooden looms. By tradition, the ability to weave the cloth signifies a Balinese girl's coming of age. The Balinese designer who made the APEC shirts, Ida Bagus Adnyana, said that the particular pattern used for the leaders "symbolizes harmony and balance".

Sun Li receives first Emmy nomination (By China Daily) TV serial drama "Legend of Zhen Huan". Chinese actress Sun Li recently was nominated for an International Emmy in the Best Actress category for her role in the television drama The Back Palace: Legend of Zhen Huan. The 76-episode series, adapted from the novel of the same name by Liu Lianzi, centers on the stories of Emperor Yongzheng‘s concubines in the Imperial Palace during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). The female protagonist, Zhen Huan, played by Sun, is selected to join the emperor's harem at the tender age of 17. She gets caught in the fierce battle for the Emperor's love amongst the empress and other concubines. Zhen soon realizes that the Back Palace is a place for the beautiful and witty. She quickly grows out of her innocence and learns to survive on her own, even if she does so through unscrupulous means. She succeeds in the end, while losing both her friends and enemies. Legend of Zhen Huan has been a Chinese mainland hit since it first aired on television. Aside from the storyline, many fans of the series originally were drawn to it because of its rich usage of Chinese poetry, beautiful wardrobes, and the depiction of court etiquette and traditional Chinese medicine. The refined and traditional dialogue spoken in the series has also become a popular favorite among the drama's Internet followers. Sun, born in 1982, first fell under the spotlight through her work in the TV series Jade Goddess of Mercy. Ever since then she was seen as a young and promising actress in China, but her popularity skyrocketed when Legend of Zhen Huan made its television debut. This is Sun's first International Emmy nomination. The International Emmy, cousin to the primetime US Emmy Awards, is more than four decades old and focuses on rewarding outstanding international and non-American television programming. Nominations from 19 countries will be competing for the award this year. The winners will be announced on November 25 in New York.

Hong Kong*:  Oct 10 2013

The city's mediators help avoid lengthy and costly court battles (By Elaine Yau Despite a growing pool of mediators, Hong Kong is yet to fully embrace the idea of dispute resolution - From left: mediators Maureen Chu, Denys Look, Annita Mau and Steven Chan. A bank, under siege from elderly customers over losses on risky investment schemes that it sold, offers mortgages at special rates to their families to resolve the claims. In another dispute, a businessman agrees to accept unsold goods from an erstwhile partner as reparation for a reneged deal. Both settlements came about through mediation, which the government has been promoting in recent years to help ease pressure on the courts. But while the government initiative has spawned a cottage industry to provide mediation training as well as several mediators' groups, the process has yet to gain currency among many residents and organisations. This has left the mediators with little to do. There's a lot to be said for bringing parties together to talk things out, not least of which is avoiding the cost and stress of legal battles. "While a court case is a zero-sum game with a winner and loser, parties in mediation can think outside the box, discuss and agree on a settlement that is acceptable to both sides," says Denys Look Ting-wah, president of the Hong Kong Mediation Alliance, a company grouping 340 mediators. Government organisations have yet to really embrace the concept. A prime example is the Hospital Authority, which declined to meet patients and mediators in several disputes over medical procedures that had gone wrong. In one instance, a man wanted to sue because he felt negligence on the part of medical staff had led his father to fall after surgery. Another case involved a mother who believed a hospital had botched her daughter's dental operation, causing difficulty swallowing. "The [authority] said it would only take action when patients filed a writ," says alliance vice-president Annita Mau Siu-kwan. Chan Bing-woon, a solicitor and experienced mediator who sits on the board of the Hospital Authority, acknowledges "there are more and more disputes" between patients and the authority, but says "we need to study how it can embrace mediation". Still, the authority has been sending its frontline staff, including doctors and nurses, for training, and 240 people have completed the programme since last year. Hospital Authority culture has been such that medical staff are often inflexible and reluctant to explain more to patients and their families, says Chan. So a major part of training is about learning to listen, communicate and direct their dialogue. "The mindset of staff is: 'If you are dissatisfied, so be it; we will wait for the court to make a judgment.' We want to change this [passive] culture. Staff should know how to communicate with patients and their relatives and try to defuse problems before it gets to formal mediation, arbitration or lawsuits." Whether it's conflict over improperly sold insurance or mobile phone packages, opposing parties do not want for mediators if they are willing to come together to work out a solution. There are now about 500 specialists in mediating family conflict and more than 2,000 accredited mediators, who can be contacted through the Joint Mediation Helpline Office. Based out of the High Court complex in Admiralty, the helpline was set up in 2010 by the Hong Kong Mediation Council, the Hong Kong Bar Association, the Law Society and five other organisations. But the number of mediators means there aren't enough cases to go round, says Chan, a former mediation council president. "It is estimated that Hong Kong now covers around 3,000 mediation cases annually. But there are 2,000 mediators. How many cases can each one get each year?" This surfeit is perhaps most acute at the Financial Dispute Resolution Centre, which has 55 mediators. Opened last year, the centre was set up partly in response to the Lehman Brothers debacle of 2008. Tens of thousands of residents who bought minibonds linked to the US investment bank saw their savings vanish with its collapse. The centre is charged with providing arbitration in financial disputes between customers and banks, brokers and fund managers under the oversight of the Securities and Futures Commission and the Hong Kong Monetary Authority. But by the end of June, just 36 cases had gone to mediation, well below the 2,000 cases the centre was projected to handle. The centre's chairwoman, Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah, attributes the low rate to people's lack of awareness of its services. More than half of the cases handled by the centre involve alleged misrepresentation of investment schemes sold by financial services companies. "[Consumers] might go to the monetary authority to lodge complaints, but many don't know they can come to us for help and seek a solution through mediation," Cheng says. In 2012, a new clause was added to the licensing conditions for companies selling financial products, requiring them to inform consumers of the centre's services whenever disputes arise. The financial services companies are also obliged to participate in mediation if a client seeks the centre's help. Its mediation services cost between HK$300 and HK$550 per hour and there is a ceiling of HK$500,000 on claims handled; but small investors with valid grievances could find that taking their case to the centre may be the most efficient route to realising their claims. "Our success rate for mediation is 80 per cent and it takes an average of four hours for a case to reach settlement," Cheng says. Although the mediation ordinance, which sets out the obligations of mediators, only came into force at the start of this year, the practice in Hong Kong dates back to the 1990s, when the airport was being built. It was one of the first Asian cities to adopt mediation. "Given this long history, Hong Kong is well-placed to become a mediation and arbitration hub in the Asia-Pacific region as [championed by the Department of Justice]," says Cheng, a lawyer who has also served as a mediator for two decades. "Construction contracts for the airport stipulated that all disputes, such as those about cost overruns and project delays, must first go through mediation. So the earliest mediation cases here were all in the field of construction. I was among the local mediators who went to Singapore and Malaysia to teach them about mediation in the late 1990s," says Cheng. In 2000, the Family Court of Hong Kong started to encourage embattled spouses to seek mediation before arguing their cases in front of a judge. And three years ago, the High Court and Court of First Instance began advising litigants to first try mediation. The Department of Justice's push for mediation is aimed at lessening judges' caseloads. Civil cases coming before the Court of First Instance have risen in the past two years, from 15,966 in 2011 to an estimated 17,210 this year. At the same time, the wait between application for a hearing and the start of the trial has grown steadily longer, from 215 days in 2010 to 231 days in 2011 and 244 days last year. While the mainland and Taiwan embrace evaluative mediation that allows the mediator to recommend solutions after hearing from both parties, Hong Kong has adopted the facilitated approach in which the mediator acts in a neutral capacity. "Parties in facilitated mediation are more involved in the settlement. The mediator helps find common ground. Parties are more likely to stick to the settlement because it's due to their own efforts," says Look. Mau, a media consultant and mediation trainer, believes in negotiated settlements, having seen the toll lawsuits can take on litigants. "One of my clients felt she received poor chiropractic treatment from a private doctor. She sued him for compensation and found a specialist to testify that her condition was worse than before she sought treatment. But the doctor also got a medical expert to say he was not in the wrong. From her doctor's visit until the scheduled court date, it lasted six years. She was distressed and angry throughout," Mau says. "In the end, she opted for mediation. It was resolved after two three-hour sessions." As Cheng explains, mediation allows cooler heads to prevail. "Opposing parties in a lawsuit usually get more entrenched in their views as the hearing progresses, losing their usual rational thinking. A mediator can help them handle their emotions better and prompt them to consider other options." However, mediation veterans such as Chan worry that the drive towards mediation without ensuring oversight of the training and accreditation of mediators has created a confusing scene with uneven quality of service. "A decade ago, there was only one training provider. Now there are over 30 institutions providing mediation training and several organisations doing accreditation," he says. "There are a number of substandard mediators." Time, perhaps, for a cooler look at the mediation explosion.

Hong Kong, Manila to hold talks on bus hostage crisis (By Teddy Ng in Nusa Dua, Indonesia, Samuel Chan and Agencies) Aquino maintains Philippines was not to blame for deaths of eight Hongkongers but agrees to ministerial discussions after meeting C.Y. Leung - Leung Chun-ying and Hong Kong officials are seen meeting President Benigno Aquino (right) in a video clip. Hong Kong and the Philippine authorities have finally agreed to begin official talks over the Manila bus hostage crisis that left eight Hongkongers dead more than three years ago. But neither Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying nor victims' families expect an early resolution while Philippine President Benigno Aquino has insisted that he will make no apology, saying the lone gunman was to blame. "We're taking a small step in the right direction," Leung said in Bali during the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit. "[But] I don't think anyone should overpromise the results of further dialogue between Hong Kong and the Philippines." He said Aquino had agreed to his suggestion that ministerial meetings should take place "as soon as possible" to discuss how to follow up on the matter. "The Philippine side, in the beginning, took the position that the matter has been resolved. I did not agree. I believe, and I made the case to the Philippine side, that this matter, unless it is resolved properly, will continue to stand in the way of the normal relationships between Hong Kong and the Philippines," Leung said. At a 40-minute meeting on Monday night, attended by two senior Hong Kong officials and seven Philippine officials and ministers, Aquino reiterated, according to Philippine media, that his government had the "deepest regret" for the victims, but stressed that it did not mean that "we are at fault as a country, as a government, as a people". Leung was quoted as citing the government response to last year's Lamma ferry disaster as an illustration that Hong Kong officials would apologise for tragedies for which they were not directly responsible. "That's your culture," Aquino was reported as replying. "But in our system … we cannot admit wrongdoing if it's not ours. From our perspective, there is one lone gunman responsible for this tragedy." However, Aquino agreed to send Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to brief victims' families on the Philippine judicial processes and status of cases. The Hong Kong government did not announce the meeting had taken place until Philippine media uploaded video clips. The Hong Kong side took no photos or videos at the meeting. Tse Chi-kin, whose younger brother Masa Tse Ting-chunn was killed, said it was "unacceptable" that Aquino put all the blame on the gunman and that he had lost faith in whatever promises the Philippine government might make. "We met with the Philippine secretary of justice on the first anniversary of the incident in Manila but we have heard nothing ever since and the promises made are yet to be honoured," Tse said. He urged the Hong Kong government to follow up closely on any future promises the Philippine side made as they tend to "say one thing and do another". Legislator James To Kun-sun urged the central government to take sterner measures in its engagement with Manila to ensure Hongkongers' safety abroad.

Soaring superhero makes debut at city's Disneyland (By Phila Siu Iron Man Experience sees Hong Kong as first of Disney’s parks to feature a Marvel star, giving visitors chance to fly and battle alien invaders - Fans will be able to go for a "flight" with Iron Man in the attraction set in Hong Kong. Marvel superhero Iron Man will take his fight for justice to the city's streets - recreated at Hong Kong Disneyland - in a first for any Walt Disney theme park across the world. The Iron Man Experience would be up and running in late 2016, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts chairman Tom Staggs announced yesterday. Its completion is set to follow on the heels of Shanghai Disneyland, due for completion in 2015. Staggs did not reveal how much the new themed attraction would cost, but said Disney did not need funding from the Hong Kong government, its majority shareholder, as the revenue it had generated would foot the bill. Hong Kong Disneyland last year made a profit for the first time - of HK$109 million - since its opening in 2005. "The Walt Disney Company is firmly committed to continued growth and success of the Hong Kong Disneyland," Staggs said. The Iron Man Experience marks the first time any of the world's six Disneylands, including the Shanghai destination, has built a themed area based on a Marvel character. Iron Man, also known as Tony Stark, will take visitors on adventures to battle alien invaders, including journeys on an Iron Man-themed ride against the city's backdrop. "You can go for a flight with Iron Man and take part in one of his epic adventures," Staggs said. "The story will be set in and above the streets of Hong Kong." Fans can also pose for photographs with their superhero or buy Iron Man merchandise. The themed attraction will be built as an extension of Tomorrowland. Staggs said the park had been discussing further expansion with the government, including the possibility of building more hotels. "The expansion that it has just undergone, the Mystic Point, has allowed us to generate record attendance and strong growth in profitability," he said. "We feel confident we can manage this investment." Expansions in the past few years, including Toy Story Land and Grizzly Gulch, have enlarged the park by about a quarter. Staggs declined to say whether the expenses chalked up by the Iron Man Experience project would translate into pressure to raise ticket prices, saying only that he would "ensure the price reflects great value". "The most important thing that we can do to ensure the success of Shanghai Disneyland is to ensure that the Hong Kong Disneyland is as successful as it can be," Staggs said. That was because when the business was successful in one location, it would help drive success in another location, he said. A spokesman for the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau believed the new themed area would further enhance Disneyland's appeal to visitors, especially young adults.

John Leong Chi-yan named as new Hospital Authority chairman (By Lo Wei, Gary Cheung and Tanna Chong) Open University president John Leong replaces accountant Anthony Wu - The Hospital Authority’s new chairman, Professor John Leong (left), with Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man. The president of the Open University, a doctor by profession, has been appointed chairman of the Hospital Authority to replace nine-year veteran Anthony Wu Ting-yuk. John Leong Chi-yan, 71, will in December succeed the accountancy-trained Wu, 59, who has led the public medical sector since 2004, the government said yesterday. The change comes as the government starts a review of the authority, including its management and resources allocation. Wu has identified the manpower shortage as a problem he failed to solve. A discussion about possible candidates had dragged on for months as the administration was split by different views, a source said. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying had favoured executive councillor and former Chinese University vice chancellor Professor Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, while Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man preferred Leong, the source said. "Ko disagreed with appointing Li because he was not comfortable with Li's domineering style. Eventually the chief executive heeded the health minister's views," the source said. Leong was dean of medicine at the University of Hong Kong, teaching for 38 years, before he moved to lead the Open University. He also practised at Queen Mary Hospital in Pok Fu Lam. He was chosen as the most suitable among several candidates, a bureau spokesman said. "I believe that with my deep knowledge in the structure and operations of Hong Kong's public medical sector, I can contribute in this area," Leong said. "As for issues such as long waiting times and the lack of beds, these I can comment on only after I take part in the review committee." His elder brother Leong Che-hung, who once headed the authority himself, called the appointment "fantastic". He identified financing of the medical system as the first and foremost challenge for the new chairman. "The resources are limited but the demands are unlimited." Age would not be a problem, he said. "[John] has never had any specific health issues. Age is just a number." However, lawmaker Dr Kwok Ka-ki said Leong's age meant he would not be in the position for long and could not be expected to bring about any reform. Leong's term will be for two years. Medical sector lawmaker Dr Leung Ka-lau urged the new chief to outline his vision. "I have never heard his views about the public medical sector," Leung said. "He should brief all the stakeholders soon." Leung said the authority's biggest problems were the uneven allocation of resources and government-imposed constraints. Both Public Doctors' Association president Dr Kenneth Fu Kam-fung and Patients' Rights Association spokesman Tim Pang Hung-cheong said Leong was a good choice because of his experience in medicine and public administration. After taking up the position in December, Leong will continue to preside over the Open University until April, when Professor Wong Yuk-shan takes over. Fu thanked Wu for his contributions, saying that although he was not a medical professional, he had always gone to the front line to understand their work. Wu said: "I can never forget how we sailed through the rough waters together with the unwavering support of a visionary board and a dedicated workforce."

 China*:  Oct 10 2013

Asian dishes, from penis hotpots to snake blood, claim to boost libido (By Agence France-Presse in Beijing) A cook prepares a dish of animal penis in the kitchen of a hotpot restaurant in Beijing. Holding aloft a half-metre long horse penis, chef Xiao Shan confidently declares it “the most delicious” of the ingredients in a Chinese hotpot of male genitalia, one of many supposed Asian remedies to boost the libido. Penises and testicles from donkey, goat, dog, bull and deer, the other contributors to the US$200 feast, are laid out on a kitchen table, like a sorry-looking row of odd-sized sausages and veiny, oval vegetables, all waiting to be sliced up by his looming, intimidating cleaver. “The (horse) texture and the flavour are both very good. It is also good for one’s health,” said Xiao, who has been preparing male organs since he was 13, using skills handed down in his family for several generations. Sourced from some of Asia’s wildest and most rugged terrains, the organs are chopped up before being arranged on a bed of lettuce around an elaborate glass stand, more akin to something that might display fairy cakes or scones in a high-class cake shop. The unique dishes at Guolizhuang, China’s only penis speciality restaurant chain, are popular among business parties and government officials, Li Yanzhi, manager of the Chaoyang branch, said. The vast majority of customers are male, she added, many of them searching for increased potency and sexual prowess at the restaurant, which also serves organs from ram, yak, seal and snake - which have two penises each. “Chinese people believe we can replenish different parts of our bodies by using the same ingredients, which means whatever you eat is nutritious for that part of your body,” said Li. “Eating penises and testicles can make a man stronger and enjoy a wonderful sex life.” There is no orthodox scientific evidence for such claims, but across Asia there are various versions that come with similar boasts. In Pakistan’s business capital Lahore, Takatak - a dish whose name is derived from the sound of the clanging knives used to make it - consists of chopped goat and sheep hearts, brains, kidneys and testes. “Basically men eat it so that they can be potent in bed,” said Faher Hayat, a chef whose roadside restaurant serves the speciality with onions, tomatoes, ginger, pepper and coriander. “The brains give energy to the head, while the testicles have a power of their own.” On the side of traffic-clogged roads in Jakarta’s old town, men looking to improve their sexual performance flock to stalls to drink snake blood. Customers pick out a snake, which go for 70,000 rupiah (US$6) each, before a vendor carefully hauls out the selected serpent, hacks off the head with a meat cleaver and grips the snake’s headless body vertically to allow its blood to drip into a teacup or glass. A spoonful of honey is added to sweeten the bitter mixture, seen not only as a virility booster but also as a remedy for diabetes, high blood pressure and other ailments. At the Beijing penis restaurant, customer Wei Jingsheng, 47, is a devoted believer. “It does work very well,” said the 47-year-old construction businessman. “After I took it, my hair stopped falling out, and now I feel very energetic the whole day. Before, I needed to sleep at noon to not get tired, now I don’t need to. Every aspect of my life has become fantastic.” The restaurant’s nutritionist says that its most popular dish is deer, seen as particularly effective due to each breeding male having scores of sexual partners. “One deer penis has the same potency as three bull penises,” said Du Yuemei, who goes to each table to enlighten guests on the supposed health benefits of the dishes and regale them with tales of the animal’s vigour in the wild. With a hint of a smile, she admits to being asked embarrassing questions by some customers, but is immune to attempts to make her feel uncomfortable. “I know my job is kind of unusual, but it makes me feel good though, that I am involved in dietary therapy for men. It’s very unique,” she adds, before curtseying and leaving the room, a signal for the waitress to begin placing the ingredients into the boiling soup, made up of deer heart, duck stock and Chinese medicine. The first to emerge - steaming hot and the slices slightly shrivelled compared to their earlier appearance - are the goat and bull penises. The bull, having curled into a squid-like ring from the heat, had a familiarly beefy flavour, but with a firm texture not easy to swallow. The goat was tendon-like, rubbery and slightly stringy, like a flavourless, flaccid stick of liquorice. Both donkey and horse penis were presented in bacon-like strips, but the neutrally flavoured donkey was dark, while the intense, meaty horse was easily the most distinctive ingredient of the meal. In contrast, the testicles had lighter textures, varying from flaky to somewhere between tofu and pâté, and often delicate tastes. The deer penis was slightly frayed and another rubbery offering, while the wild Russian dog had a spicy, almost zesty flavour, despite looking like slices of undercooked pig-skin. It was the only imported dish on the menu and the only animal to have a penis bone, ceremonially presented in a red gift box at the end of the meal for good fortune - albeit not the original owner’s.

Post office for Liaoning carrier opens (By By Xie Chuanjiao in Qingdao, Shandong and Zhao Lei in Beijing and People wait to buy postal products at the post office serving China's first aircraft carrier in Qingdao, Shandong province, on Sept 29. The first post office to serve China's aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, has been opened in Qingdao. Located in Huangdao district, the facility already has three workers and handles letters and packages sent by crewmembers. Qingdao, a coastal city in eastern Shandong province, has many important naval bases, including China's first and only aircraft carrier bay. "Since Sept 29, when we began operation, we've handled about 100 letters and packages daily from the carrier," said manager Meng Qingbing. He said the post office is also responsible for developing stamps, postmarks and other philatelic products about the carrier. The Liaoning has served for a year in the People's Liberation Army navy, after being commissioned on Sept 25 last year. It marked China as the 10th country to have an aircraft carrier in active service. During the past year, the carrier has taken part in a number of military training and test operations. In November, China's first carrier-borne fighter jet, the J-15, successfully conducted its first takeoff and landing. Three months later, the Liaoning launched its first weapons test and then docked at its new home, the naval port in Qingdao. The carrier finished its third test operation last month. This is not the first time China has opened a post office dedicated to a specific theme. A deep-sea post office was established in Qingdao in June last year to honor the commencement of the 7,000-meter dive tests for the Jiaolong, a manned deep-sea submersible. China Post also opened a space post office, and appointed as its head Yang Liwei, the nation's first astronaut, who went into space in 2003. 

Hong Kong*:  Oct 09 2013

White diamond sells at Sotheby's Hong Kong for record US$30.6 million (By Ng Kang-chung Bids for The Premier Blue fail to make grade, but 118.28-carat stone nets record US$30.6m - A rare blue diamond believed to be the largest of its type ever graded by the Gemological Institute of America failed to sparkle at a Sotheby's Hong Kong auction. Dubbed "The Premier Blue", the rare 7.59-carat round, brilliant-cut, vivid blue diamond remained unsold at the Wan Chai sale last night. The bids put in by jewellery lovers failed to reach the pre-sale estimate of US$19 million, the auction house said. The highest bid for the stone was US$16.12 million. What stole the limelight instead was an unmounted, oval, brilliant-cut diamond weighing 118.28 carats. It sold for US$30.6 million - a world record for any white diamond to go under the hammer, beating the pre-sale estimate of US$28 million. It is also the biggest diamond ever sold at auction. The successful buyer was a phone bidder, Sotheby's said. The auction firm described last night's sale as having concluded "with stunning results". A spokesman said: "We are pleased with the response. The venue was packed with interested bidders." All eyes had been on the blue diamond before the event. Blue diamonds are greatly admired and eagerly sought after by collectors and gem connoisseurs. The blue colour is caused by the presence of extremely minute quantities of the element boron. Only a few blue diamonds have an even and saturated pure blue hue, and The Premier Blue diamond is one such rare gem. The lot was a top item on offer at Sotheby's "Magnificent Jewels and Jadeite" autumn sale held at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai, one of a series of auctions that is marking the company's 40th anniversary in Asia. More than 300 items of fine and highly sought-after jewellery and jadeite went on offer, fetching a total of US$95.4 million, the highest ever for a jewellery sale in Asia, the auction house said. Sotheby's achieved the record sales despite failing to sell 84 of the lots. Today, the auction house will put more than 400 pieces of Chinese ceramics and artworks, with pre-sale estimates totalling more than US$96 million, up for sale. One of the highlights is the Cunliffe Musk-Mallow Palace Bowl from the Chenghua period (AD1465 to AD1487) of the Ming dynasty. It is expected to fetch more than US$10 million.

About 2,000 Hong Kongers grasped the last chance to dive before winter in the 2013 New World Harbour Race across Victoria Harbour at Sai Wan Ho.

Double happiness as squash aces open Hong Kong’s gold account (By Chan Kin-wa in Tianjin) Joey Chan and Max Lee win singles titles at East Asian Games in Tianjin and now look forward to adding to their haul in team events - Max Lee and Joey Chan display their gold medals. Hong Kong are on the board after winning their first two gold medals in squash at the East Asian Games in Tianjin yesterday. Joey Chan Ho-ling drew first blood in the women’s final after a hard-earned 3-1 win over Li Dongjin of China at the Tianjin Sports Centre, followed by Max Lee Ho-yin’s straight-games victory over Huang Cheng-yao of Taiwan in the men’s event. Chan was leading 2-0 before the mainlander clawed back one game, but the second seed, who repeatedly studied video of Li’s semi-final victory over Hong Kong’s top-seeded Annie Au Wing-chi the previous night, dug deep to hold her nerve before wrapping up the title with a 12-10, 11-5, 6-11, 11-9 victory. It was the first gold medal for the 300-member Hong Kong delegation. As hosts of the 2009 Games, the squash team made a clean sweep of all seven gold medals, but this year only four golds are on offer in this sport. A delighted Chan said the victory was a huge relief. “I haven’t done very well so far this year with a lot of ups and downs, and all I wanted was to win the gold medal to prove myself,” said the 25-year-old, who won two golds at the last Games in the team and doubles events. “But I wasn’t really thinking about winning Hong Kong’s first gold because Li put me under a lot of pressure. She beat our top seed [Au] in the semi-finals and continued her good form today with a lot of support from the crowd but, fortunately, I was able to hang in there and finish the job.” Lee then scored the double for Hong Kong in the men’s final, thrashing his Taiwanese opponent 11-6, 11-5, 11-8. “I usually fail at the last hurdle so I am very happy today because I proved I can do it at a major games,” said the top seed, who lost to teammate Lau Siu-wai in the final at the last Games in Hong Kong. “The victory confirms our dominance in the region and also serves as good preparation for the 2014 Asian Games, which is my next target. Today’s success is all down to the support of my parents, wife, coaching staff and friends, so I’d really like to say a big thank you to them.” Coach Tony Choi Yuk-kwan was full of praise for Chan and Lee. “Everybody was saying that winning gold here would be a piece of cake, but they couldn’t possibly have imagined the pressure the players were under,” said Choi. “We all know Joey is a better player than Li, but she still had to prove this on the court. “Today she was under huge pressure to win and I am happy she could deliver. Max has been in good form and although he was a bit tense in the final, he still came through.” The team events start today with Hong Kong the favourites to win both titles. Chef de Mission Kenneth Fok Kai-kong thanked squash for making the breakthrough for Hong Kong, but would not predict how many golds the city would win at the Games. “We don’t want to put pressure on our athletes,” said Fok. Meanwhile, Hong Kong took silver in the women’s changquan through wushu exponent Zheng Tianhui. Sun Xiaomei of China captured gold on 9.72 points, while Zheng was second on 9.67. Yu Chih-hsuan of Taiwan was third. Hong Kong also added two more bronze medals yesterday – fencer Ho Siu-in in the women’s individual sabre and diver Sharon Chan in the women’s one-metre springboard. The Hong Kong men’s soccer team, the defending champions, take on China in their opening match at Tuanbo Stadium tonight. Coach Yeung Ching-kwong warned the hosts, who lost their opening match to South Korea 2-1, would be out to make amends. “China will probably play an attacking game in order to revitalise their hopes,” Yeung said. “We must stay composed in defence and cannot afford giving away any cheap goals.”

Taiwan's 'first daughter' Lesley Ma joins West Kowloon arts hub (By Vivienne Chow Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou's eldest daughter, Lesley Ma, has joined the West Kowloon visual culture museum M+ as ink art curator. Ma, a museum studies graduate who has worked for Chinese artist Cai Guoqiang in New York, reports for duty today. A West Kowloon Cultural District Authority spokesman said Ma would be working part-time for M+ , but gave no further information. She will be responsible for the development of the museum's collection, exhibitions and other ink art programmes. Ma, described as the "first daughter of Taiwan", is perpetually in the spotlight because of her family. Earlier this year, news of her marriage to Harvard classmate Allen Tsai Pei-jan, who works for a financial institution in Hong Kong, caused a stir in Taiwan as the media accused her father of keeping it a secret. The wedding took place in New York last year. Born in America in 1980, Ma was raised in Taiwan. She received a bachelor's degree in history and science, followed by a master's degree in museum studies at New York University and lived a low-profile life in the US. In 2005 she joined the studio of Cai, a prominent contemporary artist famous for his works with gunpowder, as project director until 2009. M+ executive director Lars Nittve said last week that half of the curatorial team should come from Hong Kong and the rest from elsewhere. The museum earlier appointed New York's Museum of Modern Art curator Doryun Chong as chief curator. The HK$5 billion museum, set to open in 2017 in a building designed by Swiss firm Herzog & De Meuron, now has curators for the main areas of visual culture including contemporary art, ink art, architecture and design, but has yet to appoint a moving image curator.

President Xi takes firm line on political reform in Hong Kong in talks at Asia-Pacific summit (By Teddy Ng in Nusa Dua, Indonesia and Jeffie Lam of SCMP) City bound by mini-constitution and NPC view, president tells chief executive at Apec summit - Leung Chun-ying with President Xi Jinping in Bali. President Xi Jinping took a firm line yesterday on political reform in Hong Kong, telling Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying the city must strictly follow the Basic Law and decisions of the NPC's Standing Committee. After a closed-door meeting in Bali, where both men are attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit, Leung said: "President Xi gave a clear view on political reform. "All issues related to political reform must be in accordance with the stipulations of the Basic Law and the decisions of the NPC Standing Committee. In addition, as Hong Kong is a society that upholds the rule of law, the SAR government and the whole of society should act in accordance with the law." Veteran analyst Johnny Lau Yui-siu said Xi's remarks indicated Beijing was standing firm on reform and would not make concessions easily. In a separate meeting, Xi told a Taiwanese envoy that the two sides should resolve their political disagreements and that Beijing was willing to hold talks with Taiwan on an equal basis. Leung said he had reported on a range of issues affecting Hong Kong, but he did not say clearly if he had mentioned the Occupy Central movement or the idea for the public nomination of chief executive candidates. Article 45 of the Basic Law mandates the selection of the chief executive "by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures". The standing committee said in 2007 that the formation of the nominating committee "could be modelled on that of the election committee". Leung was elected by a 1,193-strong election committee after three candidates met its nomination threshold. Beijing has promised universal suffrage for Hong Kong by 2017. Activists plan to occupy Central next year if proposals fall short of international standards. Last month Zhang Xiaoming , director of Beijing's liaison office in Hong Kong, rejected the idea of public nominations, saying it violated the Basic Law. Leung also mentioned the Manila hostage killings in which eight Hongkongers were shot dead on a hijacked bus. Survivors and relatives want a formal apology from the Philippine government and compensation. "On the spot, President Xi instructed relevant officials of the nation to continue following up the matter with the Philippine government," said Leung. Nine staff working for Hong Kong broadcasters had their Apec media passes revoked after reporters were called "impolite" for firing questions at Philippine President Benigno Aquino. Analyst Lau said Xi's pledge on the Manila tragedy was a gesture. "Xi just wants to pacify Hongkongers and show Leung has done something in order to improve his low popularity rating." But lawmaker James To Kun-sun, who assisted the survivors and families, hoped Xi's action would finally bring progress. Xinhua reported that Xi gave recognition to Leung's work.

Banks concerned by HKMC's new name and role (By Kanis Li Corporation's expanded product range after renaming fuels concerns over competition - Raymond Li says the HKMC is going to help close the gap left by banks, not compete with the private sector. Banks in Hong Kong are casting a wary eye over the Hong Kong Mortgage Corporation's (HKMC) plans to develop products that go beyond its mortgage-insurance-focused business. Come January, the government-backed institution will have a new name - Hong Kong Mortgage Credit & Guarantee Corporation - that is also helping to feed concerns within the financial services industry that a well-connected new competitor is waiting in the wings. The HKMC is keen to provide an expanded range of credit and guarantee services to the public after the renaming. One of the firm's core aims is to "enhance the stability of the banking sector by offering a reliable source of liquidity" under a goal "to promote wider home ownership in Hong Kong". Bankers are now concerned about where any changes in this complementary role to the industry may be heading. "Business growth at the firm was sluggish and it had to think about including more products and services," said a senior executive of a bank, who declined to be named. "One day, if the HKMC will provide services and products to individuals, without banks acting as the intermediary, then it will compete with us." The HKMC carries out its role of providing liquidity to banks by buying loan assets during times when the supply of capital is tightening. But, with the banking system flush with funds, asset purchases by the HKMC from banks have been declining. Set up in March 1997, the HKMC is wholly owned by the government through the Exchange Fund. The firm bought HK$82 million in loan assets in the first half of this year, compared with HK$495 million last year. Assets sales from banks have been shrinking since 2011 as the US Federal Reserve's quantitative easing boosted the funding pool for lenders. "The HKMC works as a complement of the banks currently, but if it will expand widely in terms of services provided, that might cause some conflicts with banks and we don't really want to see that," said a local commercial banker, who is monitoring the HKMC closely. The HKMC's chief executive Raymond Li Ling-cheung has sought to hose down such concerns. "We are not going to compete with the private sector," said Li, adding that the banks had nothing to worry about. "When there is a need from the society that the private sector is yet to fulfil, we will be there to help close the gap. The new name will reflect the business more appropriately." Li said he did not expect the firm's new businesses to contribute any quick returns. Another source familiar with the firm's accounts said: "The HKMC planned to buy HK$3 billion of loan assets in the business plan this year, but now it seems that it will reach only HK$2 billion." The source, who declined to be named because the business plan was internal information, said the HKMC completed a purchase worth more than HK$1 billion last month. It also aims to pursue its goal of promoting wider home ownership in Hong Kong and facilitate the growth and development of the debt securities and mortgage-backed securities markets in the city. However, the corporation's mortgage insurance business has shrunk in line with the slide in property transactions. New loans drawn down under that insurance dropped to HK$7 billion in the first half from HK$10.5 billion last year. The firm's usage rate, which measures the amount of mortgage-insurance-protected loans out of the total new mortgage loans drawn down in the city, has been declining since it reached 18 per cent in 2009. It fell further to 8 per cent in the first half from 13 per cent a year earlier. The HKMC launched reverse-mortgage services in 2011 and a microfinance scheme in 2012 as part of efforts to enlarge the scope of its offerings to the market, in addition to its financing guarantee scheme for small and medium-sized enterprises. The company forms a partnership with banks when launching such products and services, with banks acting as the platform of sale and the HKMC bearing the risk.

 China*:  Oct 09 2013

China must sacrifice faster growth for reform, Xi tells Apec summit (By Teddy Ng in Nusa Dua, Indonesia President reassures leaders at Apec summit he is 'fully confident' in economy despite slowdown - President Xi Jinping speaks at the Apec Summit in Nusa Dua on Indonesia's resort island of Bali on Monday. President Xi Jinping has reassured Asian business and political leaders that China's economic growth remains healthy and robust despite its recent slowdown. Xi told a conference on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum that Beijing was willing to sacrifice the pace of growth for structural economic reform. But he said the country could not afford to make "fundamental mistakes" and would introduce reform in a systematic way. "Any such mistakes will be beyond rectification," Xi said. "We must be bold enough to explore and make advances, but sufficiently prudent and careful in planning our action." His comments came ahead of next month's Communist Party plenum, which is expected to roll out his administration's reform programme. Xi said the slowdown was a result of "controlled adjustments" and that the Chinese leadership did not fear that the economy was heading for a hard landing. Economic growth pulled back in the first half of the year to 7.6 per cent, from 9.3 per cent in 2011 and 7.7 per cent last year. But Xi said annual economic growth of 7 per cent was enough to achieve the goal of doubling both GDP and per capita income by 2020. "Everything is within our expectations and there are no surprises," he said. Xi said China was aware of the challenges resulting from the country's weakened demand, excessive production capacity, local government debts and shadow banking, as well as the impact from the global economy. He said hesitation about reforms would not only lead to failure, but jeopardise earlier gains. "China must undergo structural reforms even though it will sacrifice faster growth," Xi said. But he acknowledged China "cannot afford drastic mistakes on issues that are fundamentally important". At the closed-door summit session yesterday, Xi said China was open to all regional economic integration initiatives. "Any [integration] arrangement should lead to a cooperative relationship, not a confrontational one, an open mindset, not an exclusive one," he said. Raymond Yeung, China economist of ANZ Bank, said Xi's message was intended to allay fears among Asian countries about China's economic prospects. "It is important for President Xi to make such reassurances because China does not want to be left out when some nations in the region are negotiating with the United States for a transPacific trade partnership. China needs to send a message that it can co-operate with the region," he said. Beijing-based political commentator Zhang Lifan said that while the Chinese leadership would continue to pursue economic reform, political reform was unlikely. "By stressing 'avoiding mistakes on fundamental issues', Xi means that the context of all reforms is that the power of the Communist Party will not be shaken," Zhang said.

Firming friendships (By China Daily) (Left to right) Peng Liyuan of China, wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping, holds hands with Rosmah Mansor of Malaysia, wife of Prime Minister Najib Razak, and Ani Yudhoyono, the Indonesian president's wife, during their visit to the Bali Safari and Marine Park in Gianyar, on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on Monday. 

Nasa's banning of Chinese scientists from conference angers US colleagues (By The Guardian) Scientists in US and elsewhere outraged agency has closed planetary conference to researchers from China on national security grounds - The Ames Research Centre. Nasa is facing an extraordinary backlash from US researchers after it emerged that the space agency has banned Chinese scientists, including those working at US institutions, from a conference on grounds of national security. Nasa officials rejected applications from Chinese nationals who hoped to attend the meeting at the agency's Ames research centre in California next month citing a spending bill, passed in March, which continued to prohibit anyone from China setting foot in a Nasa building. The law is part of a broad and aggressive move initiated in 2011 by congressman Frank Wolf, chairman of the House appropriations committee, which has jurisdiction over Nasa. It aims to restrict the foreign nationals' access to Nasa facilities, ostensibly to counter espionage. But the ban has angered many US scientists, who say Chinese students and researchers in their labs are being discriminated against. A growing number of US scientists have now decided to boycott the meeting in protest, with senior academics withdrawing individually or pulling out their entire research groups. The conference is being held for US and international teams who work on Nasa's Kepler space telescope programme, which has been searching the cosmos for signs of planets beyond our solar system. The meeting is the most important event in the academic calendar for scientists who specialise in the field. Alan Boss, co-organiser of the Kepler conference, refused to discuss the issue, but said: "This is not science, it's politics unfortunately." Geoffrey Marcy, an astronomy professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who has been tipped to win a Nobel prize for his pioneering work on exoplanets, or planets outside the solar system, called the ban "completely shameful and unethical". In an e-mail sent to the conference organisers, Marcy said: "In good conscience, I cannot attend a meeting that discriminates in this way. The meeting is about planets located trillions of miles away, with no national security implications." "It is completely unethical for the United States of America to exclude certain countries from pure science research," Marcy told the Guardian. "It's an ethical breach that is unacceptable. You have to draw the line." Debra Fischer, professor of astronomy at Yale University, said she became aware of the ban only when a Chinese post-doctoral student in her lab, Ji Wang, was rejected from the conference. When Nasa confirmed that Wang was banned because of his nationality, Fischer decided to pull out of the meeting. She told her students: "I cannot say don't go, but I'm boycotting the meeting." Her team followed suit and has withdrawn. The law allows Nasa to apply for a waiver of the ban in special circumstances, but any appeal would have been rejected under a moratorium that has been introduced by the agency's administrator, Charles Bolden. Chinese working at US institutions were barred under a broader law passed in July that prohibits Nasa funds from being used to participate or collaborate with China in any way. The law has raised fears among some Nasa-funded scientists that they will have to sever ties with their Chinese collaborators, and no longer take on Chinese students. Marcy said the law would damage relationships built up between US and Chinese researchers that could be valuable lines of communication if conflicts arose between the two nations. Martin Rees, a British astronomer, said he "fully supported" Marcy's position and called the ban "a deplorable 'own goal' by the US". Chris Lintott, an astronomer at Oxford University, called for a total boycott of the conference until the situation had been resolved. "I'm shocked and upset by the way this policy has been applied. Science is supposed to be open to all and restricting those who can attend by nationality goes against years of practice, going right back to cold war conferences of Russian and Western physicists," Lintott said. "The Kepler team should move their conference somewhere else."

Xi Jinping says efforts must be made to close the China-Taiwan political divide (By Teddy Ng in Nusa Dua, Indonesia President tells island's envoy resolving the cross-strait split can't keep being passed to next generation - Security forces patrol ahead of the Apec forum, on the sidelines of which Xi Jinping pushed political talks with Taiwan. Beijing and Taipei must begin taking steps to close the political divide between them, President Xi Jinping told a senior Taiwanese envoy yesterday. The president's remarks to former Taiwanese vice-president Vincent Siew Wan-chang on the sidelines of a regional economic summit are the first time Xi has publicly indicated a desire to tackle the six-decade political split during his tenure. Many in Beijing see political talks as the next step towards eventual reunification between the mainland and Taiwan, which have been ruled separately since Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist forces fled across the strait in 1949. The two sides remain military rivals. "The issue of the political divide that exists between the two sides must step by step reach a final resolution and it cannot be passed on from generation to generation," Xinhua quoted Xi as saying during a 30-minute meeting with the Taiwanese delegation at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia. "We have already said many times that [we are] willing to have equal consultations with Taiwan on cross-strait issues within the framework of the one-China principle and make reasonable and fair arrangements for this." Increasing "mutual political trust" across the Taiwan Strait and jointly building "political foundations" were crucial for ensuring the peaceful development of relations, he said. A series of economic and cultural pacts negotiated by Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou have helped make ties between Beijing and Taipei the strongest they have been since the civil war. But the prospect of political talks with the Communist Party remains controversial in democratically ruled Taiwan. Siew, who attended the Apec summit on Ma's behalf, said the political split would take a long time to resolve. "It is a problem that has lasted for more than 60 years, and because of that, it cannot be fixed in just a few years," Siew said. "It is not known how long it will take to fix the problem. Both sides need greater understanding." After the talks between Xi and Siew, Wang Yu-chi, minister of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, met his mainland counterpart, Zhang Zhijun , and suggested establishing a better communication mechanism between officials handling cross-strait affairs. Xi's remarks were seen as evidence the new leadership in Beijing will push for a cross-strait political solution in the 10 years before another generation of leaders takes over. "There is no doubt the Chinese leadership wants to make some progress," said Yang Lixian , a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of Taiwan Studies. "But the lack of political trust would be a major sticking point." Li Jiaquan, another researcher with the institute, said Beijing hopes Ma can further improve the political environment before his term ends in four years, laying the ground for his successor to strengthen communications with the mainland.

Disney's new heights (By China Daily) A simulated image of the Shanghai Disney Resort, which will be the first such on the Chinese mainland when it opens in 2015. At first glance, it has the look of a cutting-edge, high-tech exhibition. There's a digital showroom that positions viewers into a 3D experience, an electronic wristband that can be used as your admission pass, and a talking robot that looks like a fortune-teller. These exhibits were just a part of the Walt Disney Imagineering open house at the Disney D23 Expo held from Aug 9-11. The weekend-long event took consumers behind the scenes to experience the company's many franchises through a mix of traditional storytelling and new technologies. The exhibit for D23, the official Disney fan club, was the third bi-annual event held at the Anaheim Convention Center in Southern California. Fans arrived from 48 states and 21 countries and formed long queues or waited anxiously in their tents to get a ticket. But the fans who will have to wait even longer to interact with Disney's new technological gadgets and exhibits might be from China. Many of the company's new technologies on display at the D23 Expo might make their way to the Disney resort in Shanghai when it opens in 2015. During his frequent trips to China, Bob Iger, chairman and CEO of the Walt Disney Co, reiterated that he will give Chinese customers a resort that is 'authentically Disney and distinctly Chinese'. The Shanghai park will be distinctive because 'every single thing we put in the Shanghai park will have been rethought, reimagined, or even re-engineered, to respond and make sure that we tailor everything for our Chinese audience,' he said. 'It is going to be the best of Disney but designed specifically for the people of China.'

China refutes Japan's concern over maritime security (By Xinhua) BALI, Indonesia - A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman on Sunday rejected concerns raised by the Japanese side on the so-called maritime security and China's maritime activities. Qin Gang made the remarks when asked by press ahead of the 21st informal economic leaders' meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in the Indonesian resort island of Bali, slated for Monday and Tuesday. During an informal breakfast meeting of foreign ministers from APEC's sovereign members on Saturday, Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida reportedly raised concerns over maritime security and China's maritime activities. Qin said China's Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodong responded at the scene that the APEC is an economic and trade cooperation forum, holding the tradition for many years of not introducing issues concerning political security and sensitive disputes. An individual country made the hype solely for its own political objectives, which cannot be accepted by others and is doomed to fail, Qin quoted Li as saying. Qin said there has been no problem with the freedom of navigation and maritime security in the region. The Chinese government always adheres to the position that the maritime security of all the countries should be safeguarded. China has vigorously participated in maritime security cooperation in the region, which is clear for all to see, he said. The hype of the so-called maritime security issue is not conducive to the true efforts of safeguarding navigational freedom and security, Qin said.

Hong Kong*:  Oct 08 2013

Silk industry's demise marked start of domestic helpers' rise in Hong Kong (By Danny Lee SCMP) The history of foreign domestic helpers traces the changing face of households in the city - Hong Kong's association with foreign domestic helpers goes back nearly a century to the early 1920s, when the Japanese industrialisation of silk production decimated China's industry and put many of its women out of work. Agriculture and domestic services were other sources of jobs, but this was no longer the case. So many of the women headed for Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia in search of opportunity. Local historian Jason Wordie says women moved with the changing times. "Women used to making a living and supporting themselves had to go and find something else, so they went to Southeast Asia or Hong Kong in the 1920s and '30s." By the 1950s, Hong Kong had stepped into the industrialised age, which brought an abundance of factory jobs. Wordie says the textile industry was a boon for women. "You had younger women - some refugees and the children of earlier refugee families growing up - who didn't go into domestic work because there was factory work." Lifestyle choices also had a bearing on employment decisions. "Younger women preferred working in a factory because it was a 12-hour day and it gave them a more independent life," Wordie says. This had a big impact on Chinese families who wanted to hire a domestic helper, and bigger changes in the dynamics of households were still to come. "By the early '70s you had women going out to work and two-income families," Wordie says. "But they still needed to look after the children and old people." With the expanding demands of the Chinese household, Hong Kong turned to Southeast Asia to plug a shortage of domestic workers. By 1974, then president Ferdinand Marcos introduced new labour laws in the Philippines designed to promote the migration of workers overseas. This helped keep unemployment low at home and boosted remittances from abroad to help economic development. In the 1980s, a booming population and rising living standards meant households could pay for an extra pair of hands. By the 1990s, the number of foreign maids had swelled. Indonesians, hit hard by the 1997 Asian financial crisis, began arriving in Hong Kong. Wordie says Indonesia had not been a major exporter of labour but decided it could do what the Filipinos had been doing for years, and so started sending workers overseas, By 1997, more than 30,000 Indonesians were working as domestic helpers in Hong Kong. Within five years that number grew to 80,000 - and over the next 10 years the number soared about 90 per cent. Now on Sundays, foreign domestic helpers can be seen occupying every inch of available public space - in parks, squares, on footpaths and under flyovers - mingling with friends and relaxing on their day off. According to Immigration Department data, there are 319,320 foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong. About 160,000 come from the Philippines and 150,000 from Indonesia. Despite this, there is a shortage of helpers in the city. Eman Villanueva, spokesman for the Asian Migrants' Co-ordinating Body, says the shortage will only get worse because of the low pay. He was "very disappointed and angered" by the 2.3 per cent rise.

 China*:  Oct 08 2013

Scientists boycott NASA's ban (By Xinhua) Several prominent scientists in exoplanet research have decided to boycott a NASA conference after learning Chinese researchers are barred from attending by the space agency, which cited national security as its reason. The meeting is scheduled to take place at the space agency's Ames Research Center in California this November and will include both U.S. and international teams who work on NASA's exoplanet-hunting Kepler space telescope program. But Chinese researchers, including those who worked at U.S. universities and other institutions, were denied the opportunity to attend the meeting. NASA officials reportedly said the rejection is in accordance with a law passed first in March 2011 that prohibits government funds from being used to host Chinese nationals at NASA facilities. Now, NASA is facing a backlash as several big names in exoplanet research, including Debra Fischer, who leads a research group at Yale University, and Geoff Marcy, an astronomy professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who has been tipped to win a Nobel prize for his pioneering work on exoplanets, announced that they will pull out of the meeting in protest. Fischer told Xinhua that she learned about the legislation when her Chinese postdoctoral fellow, Wang Ji, had his application to the Kepler Science meeting rejected. "After contacting the scientific organizing committee and confirming the reason for the rejection, I believed that it was not fair that some of our colleagues were barred from the meeting based on their country of origin," Fischer wrote in an email. "The meeting is about science and planets around stars, not about national defense. There is no classified information -- it is all publicly available data," she said. "I sent notice that my team at Yale University was formally boycotting the meeting. Some of my esteemed colleagues in the community agreed with this position, including Prof Geoff Marcy at UC Berkeley." Fischer said that many people are waiting to see if an alternative location can be found so that the meeting is open to everyone but the U.S. government closure right now makes discussion difficult. "It is unfortunate that my colleagues who work on the Kepler mission are caught in the middle," she added. In an interview with British newspaper, The Gardian, Marcy called the ban "completely shameful and unethical". "It is completely unethical for the United States of America to exclude certain countries from pure science research," Marcy said. "It's an ethical breach that is unacceptable. You have to draw the line." "In good conscience, I cannot attend a meeting that discriminates in this way," Marcy said in an email to the conference organizers. "The meeting is about planets located trillions of miles away, with no national security implications." Chris Lintott, an astronomer at Oxford University, told the newspaper that he was "shocked and upset" by the way this policy has been applied. "Science is supposed to be open to all and restricting those who can attend by nationality goes against years of practice, going right back to cold war conferences of Russian and western physicists," Lintott said. "The Kepler team should move their conference somewhere else -- and I hope everyone boycotts until they do." The Congressional law has raised fears among some NASA-funded scientists that they will have to sever ties with their Chinese collaborators, and no longer take on Chinese students, the report added.

Hong Kong*:  Oct 07 2013

Rita Fan: January 'good timing' to start electoral reform consultation (By Tanna Chong SCMP) The government should kick-start the consultation process for constitutional reform in January, said Beijing loyalist Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai. Fan, a member of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, said the consultation document should be published around the time of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying annual policy address in January allowing Hongkongers sufficient time to discuss the document. Her remarks came amid piling pressure on the government to start the electoral reform process to guarantee universal suffrage in 2017. On Saturday, Chief Executive Leung said there was “still enough time”. “We will kick start the consultation at suitable timing…there would be sufficient time to discuss the various details of our electoral reform,” he said before heading to Bali, Indonesia, for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit. Speaking at a RTHK radio programme on Saturday morning, Fan, a former Legislative Council president, said: “Some of my friends are already annoyed with waiting [for a consultation].” Getting into the heated debates over the arrangements for the poll in 2017, Fan said it was not feasible for Beijing to refuse appointing a chief executive-elect, as advocated by some pro-Beijing politicians. “It would be too subjective for Beijing to refuse appointing a winner of an open and fair election,” said Fan. “Even if the winner holds values which substantially differ from Beijing’s, you still have to let him to try.” Fan said she would not rule out the pan-democrats’ public nomination proposal – to allow voters to nominate candidates – but warned that such public nominations could collide with the responsibilites of the nominating committee as prescribed in the Basic Law. “We cannot force the nominating committee to endorse any candidate simply because the person has been nominated by a certain number of voters,” said Fan. “I see no room for the public nomination proposal within the structure of the Basic Law.” She has also accused foreign diplomats of having a “hidden agenda” when commenting on the city’s constitutional reform. “China has been growing more influential hence some global powers would naturally want to do something to drag on China’s feet,” said Fan. “As some Hong Kong people are so concerned with the 2017 election and the Occupy Central movement, it is a perfect timing for these foreign countries to chip in the debate." But she said all these “support” are “merely rhetoric”. “Don’t be so naïve and exploited by the others,” she said. In a newspaper opinion piece last month, British Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire said it was important for Hong Kong voters to have a real choice in selecting the next chief executive. "Britain stands ready to support in anyway we can,” he wrote. Clifford Hart, the new US Consul General to Hong Kong, also expressed his backing for full democracy.

 China*:  Oct 07 2013

Film competition fosters talent (By Huang Ying - China Daily) Initative targeted at students aims to address shortage of high-quality professionals in the movie industry across the country. Huang Ying reports. For the first time, Zheng Xiaoyun is a bit closer to achieving her dream of becoming a film director, thanks to a student video competition. The intense five-month BRAiN iT ON! competition, which was launched by the Jebsen Industrial in March, offered contestants a chance to shoot their own films with the most advanced digital camera in the market - the Arri Alexa camera. The initiative is one of the ways to tackle a shortage of movie-making talent in China, industry observers said. All the contestants received training to learn how to use the equipment and technology support from Jebsen Industrial, a major filmmaking and shooting equipment supplier in China. "The most important lesson I learned from this contest is that technology matters in the filmmaking process, but it still is not as important as the ideas behind a film," said Zheng, a junior student at the Communication University of China, and a member of one of the five teams that made it into the finals. The theme for the short video competition was related to Jebsen Industrial. Contestants had to combine their artistic visions with commercial demands. "This was quite different from the usual work we do on campus, in which we only care about the art and give no consideration to commercial elements," said Pan Jiahui, the director of the team from Shanghai Theatre Academy. This was the first time that Jebsen Industrial held a similar competition, in a bid to promote the long-term development of China's film industry. The members of the jury panel included Lorenz Zimmermann, Jebsen Industrial's director, and people who have worked behind the scenes for movies such as Cape No 7, Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Hero. "This experience makes us have a better knowledge of the whole process of film production, including post-production, editing and special effects. In addition, we have realized how important team work and time management are," said Leung Zi Hong, a student from the Hong Kong Design Institute. "For undergraduates like us, the opportunity to take part in the entire film production process is extremely precious. Even though we had to sacrifice our summer holidays, we felt it was completely worthwhile," said Lu Yi, a student at the China Academy of Art and the winner of the competition. Jebsen Industrial, a sales agent for film and TV shooting equipment, takes up about 40 percent of the Chinese market. "More than half of the movies that are shown in theaters in China are shot with Arri Alexa cameras, and 90 percent of them are sold by us," said Yang Juanyi, general manager of Jebsen Industrial's engineering and science and technology unit. For the company, the sales of equipment in the Greater China region doubled from 100 million yuan ($16.28 million) in 2010 to 200 million yuan in 2012, according to Yang. "Most of our clients are equipment-leasing companies, but I think that an increasing number of colleges and universities are buying high-end filmmaking equipment," said Yang. "Although innovation in science and technology is the engine for a Chinese films' boom, the key point lies in a high-quality practice program that helps students to achieve breakthroughs," said Gao Hongming, a professor at Shanghai Normal University, who was also on the jury panel. "What we are lacking is a complete system or platform that gets people together and offers them the opportunity to use their talent fully," said director Clement Cheng, whose film Gallants has won the best movie award at the Hong Kong Film Awards in 2011. Speaking of the difference between Hong Kong film teams and those in the mainland, Lin Tiangui, who participated in the production of Cape No 7 and Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale, said that Hong Kong crews have comparatively high execution styles and work with great efficiency. Filmmakers on the mainland are still in a development stage, and there hasn't been an upgrading process after the famous directors of the fifth and sixth generations, film industry observers said.

Sky-high ambition on a plate (By Wang Wen - China Daily) Flight attendants serve meals on a Shandong Airlines flight from Qingdao in Shandong to Guilin, the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. Food companies are trying to improve the quality of inflight food to cater to the taste of passengers. 'Chicken rice or beef noodle?" It may be the most familiar question for passengers on flights in China, and most frequent flyers are sick of the dull in-flight food. The poor taste of airline food is coming under renewed criticism. "I did not even want to smell the in-flight meals, during the period I traveled a lot," said Li Qi, a 28-year-old businessman who usually travels in North China. Business insiders attribute the bad taste to the cold-chain processes, as the meal must be made in conditions below 20 degrees Celsius. "It is very hard to make the in-flight meal delicious, because of the production process," said Liu Zhiqiang, general manager of HNA Group's food business division, which is the largest shareholder of E-food Group Co Ltd, the only listed in-flight meal maker in China. Hot food is cooled to below 20 degrees as soon as it is cooked and reheated by an oven in the air for service. "The oven-heated meals taste worse than the fresh, definitely," Liu said. Oven-heated is even worse than the microwaved food. But the microwave oven cannot be used a lot in the airplane, as it may interrupt the communication systems, he added. Imperial Airways, the predecessor of British Airways, introduced meals on its flights in May 1927. Chinese airlines prepare their meals following Western processes, which is not suitable for Chinese food, Liu said. "Most Chinese food needs to be reheated, which will destroy its good taste," he said. But airline food is set to improve, as food manufacturers are experimenting with normal-temperature processes to keep the meals fresh. The life of meals, which will be irradiated through high temperature and pressure facilities, can be prolonged. "But the facilities will cost a lot, therefore normal-temperature processes cannot be a popular method," Liu said. The civil aviation industry has to consider cost, since the industry's margins have been dropping. All Chinese airlines made 388.98 billion yuan ($63.56 billion) in revenue in 2012, a 9.1 percent year-on-year increase, but their total profit was only 21.1 billion yuan, decreasing by 6.21 billion yuan during the same period, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China. The drop in airline income also affects the meal manufacturers. E-food Group, which has seven in-flight meal factories across the country, received only 368.75 million yuan from the in-flight meal arm of their business in 2012, down 4.59 percent year-on-year, despite the group producing 10.39 percent more in-flight meals, according to its financial report. "Some of the airlines cut backups and some of them just cut the whole budget directly," Liu said. The civil aviation authority also released a new policy in January stating that flight attendants are only allowed to begin work 20 minutes after take off and must stop work 30 minutes before landing. The new policy means flights under two hours in length no longer have time to serve meals. In-flight meal manufacturers have to search for other ways to expand their business, although their market share is relatively stable. The growing market in chartered business flights and budget airlines provides opportunities for in-flight meal providers. In the next six years, Jebsen Industrial will continue to hold the competition every two years, with a total investment surpassing HKD$5 million ($645,000). "I never though that one day I would be able to use the Arri Alexa camera myself, and the practical results were really fantastic," said Zheng. "Also, in the future I can put in my resume when hunting for a job, that I have used that camera, and I think it will give me a lot of advantages in the employment market," she added. Meanwhile, Jebsen Industrial plans to widen the scope of the competition. "We chose contestants from 12 universities in the maiden contest, but we will expand the scope later and we hope that more companies will join us in making a commitment to cultivating young moviemaking talents for China," Yang said. The interaction in China between film and TV institutes and industry players, including directors, scriptwriters, and supervisors, is rather limited, unlike in the United States, which is one of the critical barriers for the development of talent, said Yin Hong, director of the Center for Film and TV Studies at Tsinghua University. In the US, veteran moviemakers and producers usually fund the education of young people in academies and institutes, or reach out to them in classrooms when they give lectures, said Yin. Another drawback of the domestic educational system for the film and television sector is that it's not international enough, he added. China is now the world's second-largest movie market, according to figures released by the Motion Picture Association of America in March. Following the US, China took up 8 percent of the global film market with annual box office revenue of $2.7 billion in 2012, the MPAA said. In 2012, China's box office revenue increased 30.18 percent year-on-year to 17.07 billion yuan, according to data released by the film bureau under a new administration formed in March, which falls under the auspices of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television and the State Press and Publication Administration. Domestic films accounted for 48.46 percent of the total market with ticket sales of 8.27 billion yuan. Meanwhile, the number of deals and partnerships in the film sector involving Chinese and US companies is increasing in recent years. Last year, Dalian Wanda Group Corp Ltd, the owner of China's largest theater chain by ticket sales, completed the acquisition of the second-largest theater chain in the US - AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc - for $2.6 billion. Such deals have created huge demand for talent with a background in the domestic and international film industries. 

Chinese tourists see more, spend more (By CCTV) A new breed of Chinese tourists are emerging. They're better-educated, better-off and ever more adventurous. They're also traveling more, seeing more and spending more. One of the most popular destinations for Chinese tourists these days is Thailand. Chinese holidaymakers learn to scuba dive in Thailand. The Chinese abroad are more adventurous than ever before seeking out 5-star hotels, designer-shopping and adventure sports. Chinese tourism to Thailand has hugely taken off. Up to 4 million visitors are expected this year. In 2012, Chinese were the world's highest-spending tourists, handing over $102 billion worldwide. In Thailand, they spend on average $160 every day - well up from the $95 a day spent just a few years ago. Thailand works hard to bring Chinese tourists here. The Thai tourism authority has three offices in China and all extol Thailand's virtues. However in China, Thailand is still seen as a low-cost destination. The next challenge, say travel agents, is to convince holidaymakers that if they pay more for a better hotel they'll receive better service, better quality. When they're not donning oxygen-filled helmets to walk on the sea-bed, they're hitting the shops. Just five years ago, the Chinese had only $25 to spend on holiday gifts - now it's between 100 and 155 dollars. Little wonder they're among the visitors Thailand most wants to attract. 

Buddhist art at the gateway of the Silk Road (By China Daily) "Buddhist Art at the Gateway of the Silk Road" at China Institute in New York will be closed on on Oct 6. The exhibition presents sculptures, scrolls, and other objects dating back more than a thousand years from Dunhuang -- an oasis city on the edge of the Gobi Desert and home to the Mogao Caves or the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas. 

Hong Kong*:  Oct 06 2013

Peter Mathieson confirmed as new head of HKU (By Tony Cheung Professor Peter Mathieson and Dr Leong Che-hung. The University of Hong Kong officially appointed its first expatriate chief in a decade yesterday despite reservations expressed by students, alumni and at least four senior academics, one of whom called him "ignorant and incapable". Professor Peter Mathieson of Britain, the only candidate shortlisted, received the "unanimous" blessing of HKU's governing council. Council chairman Dr Leong Che-hung acknowledged there were dissenting voices and said: "No one can be perfect." He said Mathieson admitted lacking understanding of China and Hong Kong but would "try his best to make up for that". Leong said Mathieson was a suitable candidate since he met the five selection criteria: a track record of excellent academic standing, integrity, vision, management capability and communication skills. Both men thanked the outgoing vice chancellor, Professor Tsui Lap-chee, for his 11 years of service. Tsui's term expires in February; it is not clear when Mathieson will take office. Mathieson's day started with separate meetings with about 300 members of the university's staff, students and alumni, who had dozens of questions for the British scholar, previously dean of the University of Bristol's medicine and dentistry faculty. In a session with the alumni, Mathieson suggested that his vision for HKU was that the 102-year-old institution should seek to maximise its potential research achievements. "I think the excellence of the staff, the students and the alumni can lead the university to even greater heights," Mathieson said. Responding to criticism about his lack of experience in Hong Kong and China, Mathieson said he saw this as an advantage because he would be able to "start afresh with no predefined standpoint or baggage". Mathieson appeared cautious when asked his view of the Occupy Central campaign for democracy, saying merely that he respected both freedom of speech and the law. He also declined to weigh into the debate about universal suffrage. On Thursday, Mathieson's mission statement, which said he would do his best "to assist Uganda", was questioned by journalism professor Chan Yuen-ying as appearing to indicate he had applied for another job. Mathieson said this was not true - he had 14 years' experience in Uganda and was committed to helping the country. Professor Lo Chung-mau, head of surgery and a selection committee member, described Mathieson as "ignorant and incapable", while Professor Enoch Young, director emeritus of HKU's school of professional and continuing education, also expressed reservations. Chan remained unimpressed by the Briton after the meeting, and former pro-vice chancellor Professor Cheng Kai-ming said Mathieson lacked clear vision. "He might be a good administrator ... But that would be like just getting the job done. A university shouldn't be like that," Cheng said. Dean of science Professor Sun Kwok suggested Mathieson should be supported. A source familiar with the operations of HKU said Mathieson was likely to be paid HK$3 million to HK$4 million a year, with medical and dental insurance, a car and a residence.

'Clean and beautiful' Hong Kong delights world's best open water swimmers (By Alvin Sallay World's best open water swimmers delighted with Repulse Bay and the city itself as they prepare for today's final leg of World Cup - The world's top open water swimmers and the sport's governing body praised "clean and beautiful" Hong Kong on the eve of the Panasonic Fina Marathon World Cup at Repulse Bay today. The event is the finale of the eight-leg World Cup series and will offer double points to the field of 83 - 66 from 20 overseas countries - taking part in the 10km race. "The water is good, warm and clean, and I always like taking part in Hong Kong," said pre-race favourite Thomas Lurz, of Germany, a winner in 2010. "And to make it even more interesting, this time it is the finale so there is even more at stake," World series leader Lurz, silver medallist at the London Olympics (10km open water) and double gold medallist at the recent world championships in Barcelona, will be making his fifth appearance at Repulse Bay. Fina executive director Cornel Marculescu was impressed with the Repulse Bay venue, saying: "I visited the race site this morning and the quality of the water is superb. It is a fantastic place to host the final leg of the series and we are thankful to all the support we have got from Hong Kong." American Emily Brunemann, who is leading the standings in the women's series, said: "This is definitely my favourite leg in the calendar. The venue is beautiful and I just love this city. This is my fourth year in Hong Kong and I cannot wait to get back." Fina vice-president Dennis Miller, who has attended races in Hong Kong since 2000, said the fact that a world-class field had turned up was testament to the quality of the Hong Kong event. "This is one of the most competitive fields taking part and they are here not only because there is a lot at stake but also due to the fact that everyone likes Hong Kong. I think it will be an exciting race." The race is the last of eight legs which included stopovers in Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Israel, Canada and China. While leaders Lurz and Brunemann have a healthy gap over their rivals, they both know they cannot afford to take it easy, with a top-quality field packed with a number of medal winners at the world championships in Barcelona in August, as well as the Olympics, taking part. "I know I have to only finish in the top seven to win the overall title, but I cannot relax as there is strong competition out there," said Lurz said. "Anyway my goal always is to win, and I won't be taking it easy although I will try to swim a risk-free race." Brunemann said: "There are two girls capable of beating me to the overall title. If Brazilian Ana Marcela Cunha wins and I finish out of the top six, or if Italy's Martina Grimaldi wins and I fail to come in the top seven, I miss out on winning the World Cup series. "Winning this series is important to me. I missed out on qualifying for the recent world championships by just half a second and it would be nice to win this event. I won here in 2011 and I'm confident I can repeat," said the 27-year-old from Michigan. Dr Ng Kin-sun, chairman of the organising committee, said credit should be given to the government for its support. "They have given us some funds, but more crucially have made available this public site for our use. I believe with more support, this race can get bigger next year," Ng said. 

Hong Kong’s handcarts keep the city on a roll (By Agence France-Presse in Hong Kong) An elderly woman pushes a handcart in Hong Kong. It’s a simple contraption – an iron frame, foldout handle and four rubber wheels – but in Hong Kong the old-fashioned handcart is what keeps the city rolling. In the shadow of skyscrapers, Hong Kong’s working class trolley pushers transport everything from crates of live seafood to appliances, financial documents, furniture and mail. But among the street cleaners, market traders and removal men, it is probably the city’s elderly scavengers who best highlight how vital handcarts are to the city. Lee Cheung-Ho, 78, spends all day pushing her cart, and says she even goes out when there is a typhoon. “I have to go out and make a living,” she said without stopping. “It helps even if I can only earn a few dollars.” The estimated 10,000 scavengers in Hong Kong collect cardboard, tin cans and scrap metal, selling it on for a few dollars to recycling centres to ship to mainland China. With Hong Kong’s landfill sites set to reach capacity by 2020, this is seen as one way of addressing a looming environmental crisis. But scavenging is also a means for many of the city’s poor to scrape by. The Hong Kong government said last month said that 1.31 million of its citizens were living in poverty. Almost one in five is classified as poor and for the elderly the proportion rises to one in three, according to government data. The scavengers fell well within that bracket, earning as little as HK$20 (US$3) a day. Handcarts can be seen everywhere in the city. On a 10 minute walk around one neighbourhood, a reporter counted 103, many stacked head-high with cardboard, others rattling with empty office water cooler cannisters, one carrying an air conditioning unit, another a fridge-freezer. Adam Bobbette, an expert on the urban environment at Hong Kong University, said handcarts were at the smallest end of a transport scale that includes the city’s vast cargo ships, trade lorries and red taxis. And they are a necessity in a city with narrow streets and alleyways, and restricted parking. “One of the best ways to think about trolleys in Hong Kong is as a kind of elementary unit within the broader urban metabolism of the city,” he said. “That older way of life has found a way to persist within the city because of its functional value. “Should the trolley be celebrated within Hong Kong? Absolutely.” But rather than being celebrated, some people complain that the trolleys, often locked to railings like bicycles, take up space on the pavement and could cause accidents. They are often pushed along on the side of roads, forcing traffic to carefully overtake. There were 11 accidents involving pushcarts recorded in the first half of this year, according to a transport department spokeswoman. And of two trolley-related fatalities last year, one cart pusher was hit by a bus and the other by a taxi. Both were in their 70s. The spokeswoman did not offer any praise for the handcart when asked about its value to the city. “Pedestrians using a handcart... should take extra care to protect their own safety and the safety of others,” she said in a statement. The future of the handcart may not be under threat but like much else in Hong Kong it is still subject to the influence of mainland China. Sparks flew as Mackey Li, 46, welded the axle of a broken trolley in his workshop. Li says his business – inherited from his father and running for 60 years – is the last on the island where handcarts are built from scratch. But his son and daughter are both at university and will not be following in their father’s footsteps – meaning that when he retires in a few years most handcarts will come from the mainland. “Most of the trolleys are made in mainland China nowadays – but they don’t last very long. “They can beat you by selling the handcarts at a very cheap price.” He added that without trolleys the city would be clogged with even more traffic. Hong Kong is already choked with pollution – much of it from roadside emissions – that kills more than 3,000 residents a year, according to a study by Hong Kong University. But Li shrugged off suggestions the handcart could symbolise the city’s wealth gap, one of the world’s greatest. “It’s just a tool,” he said. “And even rich people need to carry things.” Nearby, a 90-year-old woman scavenger with a bent spine collected two bin liners of cardboard from a coffee shop, where a cappuccino cost more than her daily earnings. But she said that pushing the cart was also a chance to do some exercise and fill her time. “What would I do if I didn’t go out?” she asked. “Do you just want me to stay at home and wait to die?”

Need for harbour authority put up for debate (By Lai Ying-kit The Harbourfront Commission on Friday launched a consultation to determine whether there is a need for an authority to oversee the planning and steering of Victoria Harbour development. The consultation was announced at a symposium at government headquarters in Admiralty on Friday with Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah saying it would be an important part of the city’s strategy to “unleash the full potential” of the waterfront. It was now a good time to study this matter as the last phase of reclamation necessary to build the Central-Wan Chai Bypass was almost complete, said Tsang. Also at the symposium where experts from Auckland, Vancouver, Sydney and Singapore who talked about the development of waterfronts in their cities. Tsang took the four cities as examples of internationally renowned harbours and said they all had a dedicated body to plan the development of their waterfronts. The three-month consultation will focus on questions of whether to establish a harbour authority, and its possible duties and structure. Last year, a proposal to turn the Causeway Bay typhoon shelter into a world-class yacht racing facility was stalled by the commission. It found such a plan would require a greater authority to better co-ordinate different parties.

Business activity stops slowing in Hong Kong, PMI shows (By Reuters in Hong Kong) New orders grew in September after five months of declines. Business activity in Hong Kong’s private sector ended five months of contraction in September as the HSBC purchasing managers index (PMI) reached 50 for the first time since March. A PMI above 50 indicates expansion, while a figure below 50 denotes contraction. Last month’s reading was a slight improvement from the 49.7 in July and August. New orders received by companies expanded marginally in September, following five months of declines. However, a further reduction in new business from mainland China weighed on the overall rise in new orders. Employment contracted for the seven consecutive month, although at a modest rate. Total operating costs faced by firms rose for the 14th consecutive month in September, and the rate of inflation was the fastest in four months. The latest rise in costs reflected higher purchasing prices and salaries. “Business activities in Hong Kong are stabilising, as the September headline PMI ended the previous five consecutive months of contraction thanks to gradual improvement in new orders and output,” Hongbin Qu, HSBC’s chief economist, China and co-head of Asian economic research, said in a statement. “Hong Kong’s economy should find support from the ongoing recovery of the mainland economy, improving global demand and steady local labour market conditions,” The PMI is based on data collected for HSBC by Markit, based on a survey of about 300 Hong Kong companies in sectors including manufacturing, services, retail and construction. 

Snowden hunt led to shutdown of secure e-mail service Lavabit (By The New York Times in Dallas) Owner of a secure e-mail service used by NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden closed his business after FBI sought access to all its users - Secure e-mail service Lavabit was forced to close over the Snowden enquiry. One day last May, Ladar Levison returned home to find an FBI agent's business card on his Dallas doorstep. So began a four-month tangle with law enforcement officials that would end with Levison shutting the business he had spent a decade building and becoming an unlikely hero of privacy advocates in their escalating battle with the government over internet security. Prosecutors, it turned out, were pursuing a notable user of Lavabit, Levison's secure e-mail service: Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked classified documents that have put the intelligence agency under sharp scrutiny. Levison was willing to allow investigators with a court order to tap Snowden's e-mail account; he had complied with similar, narrowly targeted requests involving other customers some two dozen times. But they wanted more, he said: the passwords, encryption keys and computer code that would essentially allow the government untrammelled access to the protected messages of all his customers. That, he said, was too much. "You don't need to bug an entire city to bug one guy's phone calls," Levison, 32, said in a recent interview. "They wanted to break open the entire box just to get to one connection." On August 8 Levison closed Lavabit rather than, in his view, betray his promise of secure e-mail to his customers. The move, which he explained in a letter on his website, drew fervent support from civil libertarians but was seen by prosecutors as an act of defiance that fell just short of a crime. The full story of what happened to Levison since May has not previously been told, in part because he was subject to a court's gag order. But on Wednesday, a US federal judge unsealed documents in the case, allowing the technology entrepreneur to speak candidly for the first time about his experiences. Spokesmen for the US Justice Department and the FBI said they had no comment. Levison's battle to preserve his customers' privacy comes at a time when Snowden's disclosures have ignited a national debate about the proper limits of surveillance. Much of the attention has been focused on internet giants like Microsoft and Google. Lavabit, with just two employees and perhaps 40,000 regular users, was a midget by comparison, but its size and Levison's personal pledge of security made it attractive to users like Snowden. Levison, who studied politics and computer science at Southern Methodist University, started Lavabit in April 2004, the same month Google rolled out Gmail. On occasion, he was asked to comply with government requests for specific e-mail accounts, including that of a child pornography suspect in the state of Maryland this year. Levison had no qualms about co-operating with such demands, but the latest request was far broader. The FBI agent who left his business card last May did not mention at first who the government was pursuing. The name was redacted from the court order unsealed on Wednesday, but the offences listed are violations of the Espionage Act, and the timing of the government's case coincides with its leak investigation into Snowden, which began last May when he fled Hawaii for Hong Kong carrying laptops containing thousands of classified documents. By then, Snowden's Lavabit e-mail address was already public. He was still using a Lavabit address this July, when he summoned reporters to a news conference at the Moscow airport. That e-mail invitation proved to be an unintended endorsement for Lavabit's security. Before that, Levison said that, on average, Lavabit was signing up 200 new users daily. In the days after Snowden's e-mail, more than 4,000 new customers joined each day. But a month before the news conference, court documents show, Levison had already received a subpoena for Snowden's encrypted e-mail account. The court order required Levison to log Snowden's account information and provide the FBI with the private encryption keys that unlock communications for all users, he said. "It was the equivalent of asking Coca-Cola to hand over its secret formula," Levison said.

'No Cantonese' policy never existed, says punished broadcaster TVB (By Stuart Lau Television station denies banning its stars from speaking the language when they appeared on rival channels, despite watchdog's report - Canto-pop singer Eason Chan apologised in 2004 for speaking Putonghua on Cable TV, a TVB rival. The leading free-to-air broadcaster TVB has flatly denied that it was ever station policy to ban its actors and singers from speaking Cantonese on rival channels. In a "policy clarification" issued yesterday the station insisted it had "no control" over what languages its stars used on other stations. The Communications Authority last month reported that there was "an implicit understanding" that TVB celebrities must not speak Cantonese when they accepted interviews with other TV stations, which hampered understanding and impaired the rivals' ability to compete with the broadcaster. Three years after it launched an investigation following a complaint by rival station ATV, the authority found TVB had abused its dominant position in the market to prevent competition. The authority handed TVB a HK$900,000 fine for imposing unreasonable contract terms on actors and singers. "TVB clarifies that the 'no Cantonese' policy does not exist," the station's statement said yesterday. "TVB's position is that there has been no policy, not now and not in the future, forbidding artists or singers on contract with TVB to speak Cantonese when they appear in programmes of other TV stations." It says the "no Cantonese policy" is not encapsulated in any contractual provisions, a situation confirmed in the authority's report. "TVB wishes to reiterate that [these] artists and singers are always free to use the language of their choice according to individual circumstances, over which TVB has no control." TVB had earlier rejected the authority's findings as "disappointing, regrettable and without merit", and said it would consider an appeal. In more than 300 TV interviews featuring TVB artists on rival station Cable TV from 2010 to 2011, almost all the singers spoke Putonghua. In a notable incident in 2004, Canto-pop singer Eason Chan Yik-shun made a public apology after speaking Putonghua on Cable TV. Although the rule was not written into contracts, singers and record company representatives interviewed by the Communications Authority spoke of a fear of retaliation if they spoke Cantonese. They said there was a risk of being denied opportunities to appear on TVB shows and being given fewer music awards. The Communications Authority said in its report that there was not enough evidence to prove that such a "retaliation policy" existed, but it was a genuinely held perception. An online commenter yesterday mocked TVB's latest announcement: "The contract has no specifics, but if you dare speak in Cantonese, you're immediately banned." A TVB spokeswoman refused to comment on whether any form of pressure - other than contractual terms or explicit policies - was exerted on celebrities who spoke Putonghua outside of TVB. The "policy clarification" was issued by TVB after the deadline requiring it to act upon recommendations from the Communications Authority that arose from the case.

Henderson stake buy shows Lee Shau-kee's confidence in Hong Kong (By Peggy Sito Flagship firm of city's second-richest man raises stakes in subsidiaries even as Li Ka-shing moves to cash out in HK so he can invest in Europe - Lee Shau-kee's decision to raise his flagship Henderson Land Development's stake in its subsidiaries is being widely seen as a reaffirmation of his faith in the Hong Kong market that fellow tycoon Li Ka-shing appears to be deserting. Henderson Land has agreed to buy HK$2.96 billion worth of shares owned by Lee and other shareholders in Hong Kong & China Gas (Towngas), Hong Kong Ferry, Miramar and Henderson Investment. Analysts said that while the move could be a restructuring exercise to streamline the investment portfolio of Hong Kong's second-richest man, it is also a vote of confidence in the city. "If Lee wanted to sell off his assets, he would have sold to outsiders, not to his flagship company in which he has a 60 per cent stake," said Nichole Wong, regional head of property research at CLSA. Wong said the short-term prospects for utilities stocks such as Towngas might not be promising given the possibility of interest rates rising. "But Lee may be taking a longer-term view. He is probably confident about the company in the long run." Lee is tipped to use the money from selling the shares to buy farmland from Henderson Land for donation as a way of supporting the Hong Kong government's housing policy, or for buying more Henderson Land shares. Lee has spent an estimated HK$12 billion buying back 240 million Henderson Land shares this year. In August, Lee said he was confident of reaching a deal within three months with the Housing Society to donate farmland in Yuen Long to provide more than 1,000 small homes for about HK$1 million each. Lee's decision to use Henderson Land to buy stocks in the subsidiary companies comes amid Li's ongoing efforts to cash out of Hong Kong. Asia's richest man, chairman of Cheung Kong (Holdings) and Hutchison Whampoa, is expected to raise more than HK$100 billion by spinning off Hongkong Electric and Watsons to fund buying telecoms companies in Europe. Eddie Hui Chi-man, a professor at Polytechnic University's building and real estate department, said Li's move reflected his view that the business environment overseas was more attractive than Hong Kong's. Li's network abroad also allowed him to invest in a way that may not suit Lee, he said.

 China*:  Oct 06 2013

Frustration and shabby behaviour mark travellers' experience three days into 'golden week' (By Adrian Wan in Beijing Three days into 'golden week', tales of travel woes and crude behaviour grow at home and abroad - Tourists crowd Nanjing Road in Shanghai. An underpass outside the Palace Museum in Beijing. Major tourist spots across the nation were swamped with holidaymakers in the first three days of "golden week", leaving many sights in chaos and prompting internet users to mock the annual rush as a "national celebration - Chinese style". Managers of Jiuzhaigou national park apologised to more than 4,000 travellers who were left stranded for up to 10 hours and forced to walk several kilometres in the dark to catch buses out of the world-famous valley in Sichuan province. The park - known for its pristine ravines, lakes and beautiful forests - was accused of selling far more tickets to visitors than it could accommodate. The management said in a statement that a small group of people had tried to stop buses driving away after they failed to get on one, causing a succession of problems. Photos posted on microblogs showed thousands of angry visitors gathered near the ticket office demanding refunds on Wednesday night. A 64-page rulebook recently issued by the government on proper tourist etiquette seemed to have had little effect, as further cases of "uncivilised" behaviour were posted by Web users during the week-long holiday to celebrate National Day that started on Tuesday. "Happy National Day holidays, everybody. This is the time of year when the big nationwide party is thrown in different parts of our country," a blogger wrote.Other internet users said having a quiet week at home was preferable, while some complained about a lack of orderly queuing. One said: "If only people would queue and be patient … It's going to take some time before the country sees the universal benefits of a queue." The crowds at Jiuzhaigou persisted yesterday, but the park's management said on its official microblog that the situation was under control, and denied the reports of chaos. In Beijing, people left heaps of rubbish and scrawled graffiti at major sights such as the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace and Great Wall. A cleaner, holding a big plastic bag, told China Central Television: "I just picked up about 3,000 cigarette butts. They're all over the place, and smell really bad." Elsewhere in the country, graffiti was found scrawled on walls and on bamboo trees at the former residence of late premier Zhou Enlai in Huaian , Jiangsu province, Xinhua reported. Hangzhou's scenic West Lake was visited by millions of visitors, who left behind 7,000 cigarette butts. Disorder was also reported in Thailand, where Chinese tourists were said to have ignored signs in Chinese saying "no photos" and "no touching" at a temple in Pattaya, and posed for photos while sitting on statues, the Southern Metropolis Daily reported. The National Tourism Administration has issued guidelines urging holidaymakers travelling overseas to "abide by the norms of civilised tourist behaviour". Tips include not spitting on the street, not shouting in public areas, not forcing locals to help take photographs, not throwing rubbish and not picking one's nose. Timed to coincide with the National Day holiday, the new guidelines come after growing frustration among some people around the world over unruly conduct by some mainland tourists.

Xi Jinping holds Malaysia talks in regional charm offensive (By Agence France-Presse in Kuala Lumpur) Xi Jinping 'has the floor to himself' as Obama cancels Asia trip - President Xi Jinping (right) stands with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak during a photo call at the top steps of the prime minister's office in Putrajaya, Malaysia, on Friday. President Xi Jinping met Malaysia’s leader on Friday as part of a Southeast Asia charm offensive ahead of key regional summits, with analysts saying he “had the floor to himself” after Barack Obama scrapped his Asia tour. Xi’s visit to Malaysia and an earlier stop in Indonesia have taken on added significance with the White House’s announcement that the US president had cancelled plans to visit the region to focus on a budget impasse in Washington. During Xi’s stay, Malaysia and China plan to sign a five-year programme for further economic and trade co-operation, after similar pledges were made during Xi’s stop in Indonesia. With Beijing and Washington vying for influence in the strategic region, Obama had planned to get face time with regional leaders and rub shoulders with Xi at an Asia-Pacific summit in Bali next week. Obama also was to visit Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines. But the White House has announced Obama would send US Secretary of State John Kerry in his place so he can stay at home to focus on a budget gridlock in Washington that triggered the first government shutdown in 17 years. Analysts said the developments deal a potential blow to the Obama administration’s stated intention to concentrate more on Asia, where unease is rising over China’s growing might. “Now, Xi has the floor to himself and it makes the US as a country, its political system and democracy look weak,” said Ian Storey of Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. “Meanwhile, China looks flush with cash and full of confidence, and it is relatively stable at home.” Xi is making his first trip to Southeast Asia since he took China’s helm in March. The journey will culminate in his inaugural appearance at the summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) bloc in Indonesia on Monday and Tuesday. Premier Li Keqiang will represent China at an East Asia summit in Brunei on the following two days. Obama also had been scheduled to attend the Brunei summit. Xi’s Southeast Asian trip underscores growing Chinese economic influence in a region nonetheless wary of his country’s territorial ambitions. Some countries in the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) have expressed increasing alarm over Beijing’s assertive claims to waters and islands in the South China Sea. In Indonesia, Xi told Indonesia’s parliament that territorial disputes should be resolved in a “peaceful manner”. “China is ready to increase maritime cooperation with Asean,” said Xi, while offering no new proposals. China-Malaysia bilateral trade has grown tenfold since 2002 to top more than US$94 billion last year. China is now Malaysia’s biggest trading partner, overtaking the United States in recent years.

China's elderly fare well in global report (By Zhuang Pinghui China does well in new UN-funded study of older people's living conditions around the world, but some say findings are too rosy - The growth of the ageing population on the mainland has been accelerating. The report comes amid debate on the mainland over changes to the retirement age, a widening gap in its pension financing system, and a rapidly greying of the population. In determining its ranking, the "Global Agewatch Index" looked at how the elderly fared in four general areas: income security, health status, education and social environment. Nordic nations, Germany and Canada dominated the top five, with China ranked 35th. The report noted recent efforts to strengthen the basic security net. "Bold initiatives to extend social protection and healthcare insurance to urban and rural areas have significant potential to change the outlook for older Chinese people," said the report by HelpAge International, a non-governmental organisation. But when the score was broken down, China slipped to the bottom third of nations in terms of income security, which included pension coverage and the poverty rate in old age. "China has made significant progress in reducing overall income poverty, lifting nearly 700 million people above the poverty line between 1981 and 2010. However, rates of poverty among older people remain high in comparison with other age groups," said the report, which used data from the UN and other global agencies. China ranked 51st when measured solely on health status, which took into account life expectancy at 60 and psychological well-being. Japan, which has the world's highest proportion of elderly people relative to population, ranked fifth in this area, and came in tenth overall. A country's overall wealth was not a reliable indicator of how well it ranked. The BRICS nations - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - all scored lower than Uruguay (23) and Panama (30), for instance. Researchers said better-off older populations were most often the result of an early adoption of progressive social welfare policies. One area in which China scored highly was in the social environment, which includes such factors as relationships, safety and access to transport. Some Chinese researchers disagreed with the findings. "I am not confident that China deserves such a ranking," said Liang Zhongtang , a leading demographics and family planning expert at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. Liang acknowledged the expansion of the public health insurance scheme and a pilot pension programme among rural residents. But most elderly people living outside of cities were still dependent on their children to care for them, Liang said. Yang Tuan , a professor with the Institute of Sociology at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the government should strengthen home-based care. "The issue of maintaining the well-being of the elderly is not simply money but providing long-term care service and training people for such jobs. Expanding social welfare will not solve the problem and current policies are not addressing it," she said.

Xi Jinping outlines US$1tr trade target with Asean states (By Kristine Kwok Chief Asia correspondent) President pledges more investment to improve ties in historic speech to Indonesian parliament. Xi Jinping addresses the Indonesian parliament, becoming the first foreign leader to do so. Xi Jinping shakes hands with Indonesian parliament Speaker Marzuki Alie. President Xi Jinping yesterday became the first foreign leader to address the Indonesian parliament, pledging more investment initiatives to bolster ties with the region while sidestepping territorial disputes over the South China Sea. Xi said China was ready to enhance political and strategic trust with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) members. The president's overture was aimed at mending regional ties overshadowed by recent tension involving the South China Sea. The approach was described by some Chinese analysts as an indication of Xi's new foreign policy initiatives. While the territorial disputes have not hindered trade links, Xi is using the trip to reinforce China's role as a major regional trading and investment partner. He told the Indonesian lawmakers China would strive to ensure the trade volume with Asean countries reaches US$1 trillion by 2020. He also restated the proposal to establish a regional infrastructure investment bank, an initiative he raised during a visit to the region in March. Xi later travelled to Malaysia on the second stop of his trip. Ian Storey, a senior fellow with the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, said trade links with China had grown rapidly regardless of the maritime tensions. "The establishment of an infrastructure investment bank will not redefine the growing trade ties we've seen in the last few years," Storey said. "It will show that China is not only an important trade partner, but also an important investment player in Southeast Asia." Professor Zhang Mingliang , a specialist in Southeast Asian affairs at Jinan University, said Xi's speech was symbolic as it underlined China's significance in the region. "Even if [US President Barack] Obama were to be invited to give a speech to the parliament, he would be the second one to do so, not the first one," he said. Indonesia has played an active role in raising disputes with China through the Asean platform and it has dismissed as illegal the "nine-dash line" Beijing has drawn around most of the South China Sea to mark its territorial claims. As the region's biggest economy and population, Indonesia has also served as an intermediary on important issues. Storey said Indonesia had helped to restore consensus among Asean states and sought to reduce damage after a contentious meeting among Asean foreign ministers in Phnom Penh last year. At the meeting, the foreign ministers failed to issue a joint communiqué for the first time in its 45-year history. Member states failed to reach an agreement on whether to include in the communiqué a diplomatic row between China and the Philippines over the Scarborough Shoal. Observers attributed the failure to Beijing's efforts to divide the body. Xi made no direct reference to the South China Sea in his address. Instead, he said China and "certain Southeast Asian countries" must use peaceful methods and friendly talks to address disagreements over territorial sovereignty and maritime rights. Zhang, from Jinan University, said the territorial issue would not be a priority in future regional meetings as China had agreed to engage in discussions with Asean member states on the Code of Conduct (COC), a set of guidelines Asean countries hope to introduce as a legally binding document. A working group meeting on the COC was held last month in Suzhou , Jiangsu province. However, Storey said the meeting in Suzhou had yielded no substantive agreements, while Asean countries had allowed China to set the pace and scope of the discussion. "Asean wants an early conclusion [to the COC negotiations], but China doesn't want it, and there is not much Asean can do."

Hong Kong*:  Oct 05 2013

Fewer shoppers among flood of mainlanders visiting Hong Kong for 'golden week' holiday (By Phila Siu and Stuart Lau) Retailers say sales have slumped, despite surge in number of holiday visitors from across the border as 'forced shopping' law begins to bite - Shoppers from the mainland queue up outside a store in Tsim Sha Tsui on the second day of the "golden week" holiday. The number of mainland visitors coming to Hong Kong on the first day of the "golden week" National Day holiday is up 60 per cent from last year. Figures from the Immigration Department show that 159,681 mainlanders visited the city on Tuesday, the first day of the holiday, which runs until next Monday. Travel Industry Council chairman Michael Wu Siu-ieng said that although a new mainland law that seeks to combat "forced shopping" had led to a slight drop in tour groups visiting the city, many more mainlanders were coming through the individual travellers' scheme. But many retailers said they had had fewer customers compared to last year, possibly because tour groups were spending more time seeing the sights instead of shopping because of the new law. The law was approved in April and took effect on Tuesday. It bans travel agencies from bringing tour groups to designated shops "unless prior consensus has been reached" with group members. Travel agencies charge mainlanders who join "forced shopping" groups very low tour fees as they make their money from commissions paid by the stores. "We received many complaints [about forced shopping] in the past," said Wu. "We always said we wanted to do something to improve people's impression of tourism in Hong Kong. The law is now helping us do so." The council initially said 250 mainland tour groups - down 30 per cent from last year - came to the city on Tuesday. But revised figures show the number was 315, down a more modest 12.5 per cent. Ben Yeung Po-sing, of luxury watch retailer Unique Timepieces in Causeway Bay, said business on Tuesday was half what it was last year. "It started to get better today, but there were not as many customers as last year," he said. "Many tourists are spending time sightseeing." Charlie Leung Wai-kee, manager of Kam Kau Jewellery & Goldsmith's Hennessy Road branch in Wan Chai, said business was down 20 to 30 per cent. The popular shopping district of Canton Road in Tsim Sha Tsui remained quieter than last year on the second day of the "golden week", according to drinks vendor Wong Yiu-wah, now in his fifth year doing business there. While big brands might be suffering from a loss of business, big spenders were nevertheless in a bullish mood. "I don't have a limit on my budget," said a Shenzhen businessman surnamed Peng, who was carrying six big high-end shopping bags of goods worth HK$50,000 as he queued in front of the seventh store he had visited in an afternoon. There were queues at most of the well-known shops in Canton Road yesterday but they occasionally melted away, suggesting a lower rate of patronage than in the past years, when there were long lines of shoppers throughout the afternoon. 

 China*:  Oct 05 2013

China recycling clean-up jolts global industry (By Associated Press in Beijing) Discarded television sets pile up in a scrap yard awaiting recycling in Zhuzhou city in south China's Hunan province. China for years has welcomed the world’s trash, creating a roaring business in recycling and livelihoods for tens of thousands. Now authorities are clamping down on an industry that has helped the rich West dispose of its waste but also added to the degradation of China’s environment. The Chinese campaign is aimed at enforcing standards for waste imports after Beijing decided too many were unusable or even dangerous and would end up in its landfills. Under the crackdown dubbed Green Fence, China has rejected hundreds of containers of waste it said were contaminated or that improperly mixed different types of scrap. It is abruptly changing a multibillion-dollar global industry in which China is a major processing centre for the world’s discarded soft drink bottles, scrap metal, electronics and other materials. Whole villages in China’s southeast are devoted to processing single products, such as electronics. Household workshops break down discarded computers or appliances to recover copper and other metals. Some use crude smelters or burn leftover plastic and other materials, releasing lead and other toxins into the air. Green Fence is in line with the ruling Communist Party’s pledges to make the economy cleaner and more efficient after three decades of breakneck growth that fouled rivers and left China’s cities choking on smog. Brian Conners, who works for a Philadelphia company that recycles discarded refrigerators, says buyers used to visit every week looking for scrap plastic to ship to China for reprocessing. Then Beijing launched its crackdown in February aimed at cleaning up the thriving but dirty recycling industry. “Now they’re all gone,” said Conners, president of ARCA Advanced Processing. American and European recyclers send a significant part of their business to China and say they support higher quality standards. But stricter scrutiny has slowed imports and raised their costs. The decline in the number of traders buying scrap to ship to China has also depressed prices American and European recycling companies can get for their plastic and metals. “While we support Green Fence, it has increased our cost of doing business,” said Mike Biddle, founder of MBA Polymers, a plastics recycler with facilities in California, Europe and southern China. “It takes longer and there are more inspections.” At the same time, people in the industry say recyclers that invest in cleaner technology might be rewarded with more business as dirtier competitors are forced out of the market. The crackdown also might create new opportunities to process material in the United States and Europe instead of shipping it around the globe. China’s recycling industry has boomed over the past 20 years. Its manufacturers needed the metal, paper and plastic and Beijing was willing to tolerate the environmental cost. Millions of tons of discarded plastic, computers, electronics, newspapers and shredded automobiles and appliances are imported every year from the United States, Europe and Japan. But environmentalists have long complained the industry is poisoning China’s air, water and soil. And Beijing, ever vigilant about possible threats to the legitimacy of one party rule, now wants to be seen as addressing increased public awareness and concern over pollution. “The waste recycling system in China really needs to be updated to reduce pollution,” said Lin Xiaozhu, head of the solid waste programme for the Chinese group Friends of Nature. In 2011, recycled scrap supplied some 21 per cent of the nearly 100 million tons of paper used by Chinese industry, according to the state-run newspaper China Daily. It said that resulted in a savings of 18.7 million tons of wood. In Europe, electronics recyclers recover about 2.2 million tons of plastic and metal annually and send about 15 to 20 per cent of that to China, according to Norbert Zonnefeld, executive secretary of the European Electronics Recyclers Association. Its 40 member companies include electronics manufacturers and copper smelters. European recyclers welcome China’s tighter enforcement because it will help them comply with European Union rules on tracking waste and ensuring it is properly handled, said Zonnefeld. Still, he said, some traders have run into trouble. “I have heard material has been sent back,” said Zonnefeld. “Of course, they should have known. They were just gambling.” The United States relies even more heavily on China to recycle its waste. Americans threw away 32 million tons of plastic in the form of packaging, appliances, plates and cups last year, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. About 1.1 million tons was collected for recycling. About half of plastic soft drink and water bottles collected in the United States for recycling are sent to China, according to Kim Holmes, director of recycling for the Society of the Plastics Industry in Washington. She said nearly all plastic from US electronics waste is exported to Asia. “The export market is a major component of the broader US recycling industry,” said Holmes in an email. China allows waste shipments to contain no more than 1 per cent unrelated material. But Customs officials say some were found to be up to 40 per cent unrecyclable trash. “Some unscrupulous traders, in order to maximise profit, smuggle medical and other waste inside shipments, a direct threat to everyone’s health,” said a Shanghai Customs Bureau statement in April. Despite a ban on imports of used tires, inspectors intercepted a 115-ton shipment of them in March, the bureau said. They were labelled “recycled rubber bands”. ARCA Advanced Processing dismantles about 600,000 refrigerators a year and recovers 80 tons of plastic a week, plus copper, aluminium and other metals, according to Conners. He said those still are sold to traders who ship much of it to China, but the number who can satisfy Beijing’s requirements to separate and clean waste has plunged. “There used to be guys who would come to our facility probably once a week to buy our plastic to take back to China,” he said. “That has gone down to where I have two vendors who still are able to do business to get it into China.” In a reflection of more stringent controls, customs data show Chinese imports of waste plastic fell 11.3 per cent in the first half of this year compared with a year earlier to 3.5 million tons after soaring over the past decade. MBA Polymer’s facility in the southern city of Guangzhou, in the heart of China’s manufacturing industry, can process 40,000 tons of plastic a year, according to Biddle. It transforms waste into pellets to be used as raw material for new products. Buyers include Chinese manufacturers that work for companies such as computer maker Hewlett-Packard and consumer electronics giant Philips. Biddle said he welcomes Green Fence despite the disruption of imports because higher standards will favour more responsible companies. “We’ve had to compete for raw materials with people who treat the materials not in ways that protect workers or the environment,” Biddle said by phone from California. “I see China moving toward encouraging companies like ours to develop.” Conners said that by raising the cost of dealing with China, Green Fence might make it profitable for more Western companies to conduct the whole recycling process themselves. He said his company is looking at possible ventures to do that with partners. “The advantage China had has been reduced considerably. That advantage was low-cost processing,” he said. “This is going to spur investment in the United States to process materials here.”

A really big snack (By China Daily) Several top chefs cook rice noodles in a big pot with a diameter of 3 meters in Nanning, capital of Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, on Tuesday. The pot of snack food required 150 kilograms of rice noodles, 10 kg of pork, 10 kg of sour bamboo shoots and other ingredients. 

Little room for growth among high-end hotels (By Wang Wen) The InterContinental Hotel in Zhabei district, Shanghai. The average daily rate of InterContinental Hotels Group Plc in China fell by 1.2 percent in the first half, its interim results show. The high-end hotel market has become saturated in China, with industry-wide declines in average occupancy and daily rates this year. In the first quarter, the average daily rate for five-star hotels slid 6.15 percent year-on-year, while the average occupancy rate was down by 7.8 percentage points, according to the National Tourism Administration. "This year is very challenging for the industry," said Sun Jian, chief development officer for China of InterContinental Hotels Group Plc. The group's average daily rate in China fell 1.2 percent in the first half, its interim results show. "We worked very hard to hold the decline to only 1 percent, but it was still a surprise, as we never saw a decline in the China market before," he added. There are simply too many high-end hotels in the nation, industry sources said. In the first half, the supply of hotel rooms went up, as did demand. But demand only increased 1.4 percent while supply increased 4.3 percent, said He Wen, business development manager in China for STR Global, an international hotel industry data and analysis provider. High-end and luxury hotels will account for the largest part of the future new supply in China, He said. A slowing domestic economy is weighing on the sector. "The hotel industry is directly affected by the macroeconomic situation," said Zhu Chaolun, vice-president of the China hotel and tourism real estate department of Jones Lang LaSalle Inc, a real estate services firm based in Chicago. Zhu said that business travel declines as economic growth decelerates, which cuts demand for hotel rooms, especially at the higher end. Most luxury hotels in China cannot attain an occupancy rate of 70 percent, which is the break-even point for the hotel industry, he said.

Hong Kong*:  Oct 04 2013

Hutchison Whampoa may list Watsons, says report (By Reuters in Hong Kong) Li Ka-shing, chairman of Hutchison Whampoa and Cheung Kong, and Asia's richest man. Hutchison Whampoa, controlled by Asia’s richest man, Li Ka-shing, is planning to float its healthcare and beauty retail business Watsons with in the next 12 to 18 months, a Hong Kong newspaper reported on Wednesday. The Chinese-language Hong Kong Economic Times, quoting market sources, said the initial public offering could raise between US$8 to US$10 billion (HK$62 to HK$77.5 billion). The report did not specify whether the listing is related to A S Watson Group, which is the retail arm of Hutchison, or just the chain stores operated under the Watsons brand. Hutchison Whampoa shares rose more than 3.2 per cent to their highest since February 2011 on Wednesday, compared with a 1.1 per cent rise in the benchmark Hong Kong share index by late morning with some traders attributing the rise to the media report. A Hutchison spokesman declined to comment on the report. Hutchison is currently undertaking a strategic review of its ParknShop supermarket business and has set an asking price of between US$3 to US$4 billion. Li’s business empire spans across ports to telecom to real estate and his shrewd business dealings have earned him the nickname “superman”. His other retail operations also include electronics chain Fortress. Hutchison earned about 53 percent of its 2012 revenue from the retail sector. Li plans to use the sale proceeds to expand Hutchison’s health and beauty retail operations, which have a bigger global footprint and offer higher margins compared with the supermarket business, Reuters previously reported.

TMT firms drive the Hong Kong and Beijing office rental markets (By Peggy Sito Technology, media and telecoms sector the biggest driver of demand for space, say property agents, as growth in investment banking slows - Hysan Place is among the office developments to have attracted new technology, media and communications tenants. The fast-growing technology, media and communications sector is taking a significantly larger share of the total office leasing market both in Hong Kong and Beijing, according to property consultants. "The trend started in Hong Kong in the second half of last year, and the sector has become a new demand driver as expansion by investment banks slows," said Andy Yuen, director of office agency for property consultancy DTZ. "Apart from recent expansion by the popular names, there are some new names coming as well. The sector has become strong, particularly as others grew weak," he said. According to DTZ, the TMT sector accounted for 15 per cent of office take-up in Hong Kong in the first three quarters. Total space taken up by the sector in nine leasing deals concluded in the first three quarters amounted to more than 190,000 sq feet . In Beijing, the TMT sector only began to emerge as a major occupier of office space last year , according to DTZ. In the first three quarters of this year, TMT tenants took up 77,000 square metres of space, or 20 per cent of the total office leasing space taken up over the period. "There were a total of 29 deals, some of which were large. But there were also several small deals," said Andrew Ness, DTZ's head of research, North Asia. Leasing deals done in Hong Kong included the relocation by French global mobile phone manufacturer Alcatel Lucent into an 8,600 sq ft flat in Prosperity Millennium Plaza, Quarry Bay; and search engine Google, which took a three-year lease on an expanded 19,600 sq ft space in Times Square, according to international property consultant CBRE. Networking websites relocated from a business centre in Causeway Bay to a 16,481 square foot floor in Hysan Place in Causeway Bay, according to Knight Frank. Sources said some of the space was let for more than HK$70 per sq ft per month. CBRE said in a report that activity in the TMT sector pushed up average rents in Causeway Bay by around 9 per cent quarter-on-quarter. "These companies have been expanding faster than any other sector. As is the case in overseas markets, they have become the demand driver in the office sector," said Paul Yien, regional director of property consultancy Jones Lang LaSalle. Yien said the TMT sector would continue to grow and would help boost the potential for rental growth in the Wan Chai-Causeway Bay area and in Quarry Bay, rather than Central, where rents are already higher than new tenants are willing to pay. At the end of August the average office rent in Central was HK$89 per sq ft, versus HK$55 per sq ft in Causeway Bay, and HK$41.80 per sq ft in Quarry Bay, Yien said. TMT companies are paying monthly rents ranging from HK$30 to HK$50 per sq ft for offices in the Wan Chai-Causeway Bay area and Quarry Bay.

Chinese ban on 'forced shopping' trips adds to costs for tourists (By Mandy Zuo Ban on 'forced shopping' trips means agencies must pay guides more - A new mainland law that bans 'forced shopping' has prompted sharp rises in prices for outbound tours. A new mainland law that bans "forced shopping" has prompted sharp rises in prices for outbound tours. A five-day tour to South Korea organised by the China International Travel Service a year ago cost 4,000 yuan. This year the price is more than 7,000 yuan (HK$8,800). The law, which took effect at the start of the seven-day National Day "golden week" holiday, substantially raises tourist agency costs, especially the salaries for tour guides, who formerly got commissions for herding tour groups into designated shops. Hong Kong and Thailand are among destinations that have seen the biggest price rises, with the cost of tours to the latter more than doubling, several mainland agencies said. As a result, sales of such tours have fallen, even at what is a peak period for holidays. There has been an outcry on the mainland in recent years about extremely cheap tours tied to forced shopping. The new law decrees that "travel agencies shall not arrange tours and attract tourists by unreasonably low prices". Agencies and tour guides are prohibited from arranging for tourists to visit specific shops, or organising other activities that tourists have to pay for on top of the tour fee. Li Shuang , deputy general manager of BTG Outbound Tours, said his company had raised the prices of all its tours. "A pay rise for our tour guides is a major factor in the increased costs," he said. "Before, they could get a lot of commission from shopping and optional activities." Tour bookings for this "golden week" had dropped by 40 per cent compared with the same period last year, he said. Diao Shuang , a deputy manager at the China Youth Travel Service, said business for his firm had also been affected. Media reports had given substantial coverage to the law, the first dealing with tourism, and many people were adopting a wait-and-see attitude, he said. He said his company would normally see a 10 to 15 per cent rise in outbound tours this week, but numbers had stayed flat last year. Despite the price rises, consumers were not actually spending more on such tours, said Shi Yu, an experienced guide in Beijing who has taken tourists to a variety of countries. "The price rise actually just covers the loss of tips and extra charges for optional activities which we used to have," she explained. "For consumers, the only difference is that they used to spend the money during the tour, and now it's included in the tour fare." Dun Jidong , a sales manager in the tourism department at Ctrip, China's leading online travel-service provider, said that the new law was a good opportunity for travel agencies to return to a more benign competitive environment. "In the past, we simply competed for low prices. Now, serious players in this industry should do something about innovating their products and services," he said. China's middle classes are spending a growing portion of their cash on travel. Official data showed that tourists made more than 80 million cross-border trips last year, up 15 per cent from a year earlier. China has also become the biggest driver of growth in international tourism, said the World Tourism Organisation.

 China*:  Oct 04 2013

Xi pledges to boost ties with Indonesia (By Wu Jiao in Jakarta and Zhang Yunbi in Beijing) Countries ink deals on fisheries, defense as well as aerospace - President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan pose with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his wife Ani before a meeting at the Merdeka Palace in Jakarta on Wednesday. Xi is making his first visit to Southeast Asia since taking office, arriving in Indonesia to boost ties and economic partnerships with the region's biggest country. President Xi Jinping pledged on Wednesday to set up an Asian investment bank to help facilitate regional connectivity as he visited the Southeast Asian region. The bank will provide capital support to infrastructure construction in regional developing countries, including Association of Southeast Asian Nations countries, Xi said. It is the first time that China has proposed such an Asian investment bank to aid regional connectivity. The bank will collaborate with the existing multilateral development banks within or outside the region, complementing each other and ensuring the sustained stability of development of the Asian economy, Xi said. "Boosting connectivity is now a necessary step for China and the Southeast Asian Nations to deepen their cooperation, and relevant projects are in desperate need of funding from such an investment bank," said Zhang Yunling, a senior research fellow of Asia-Pacific studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The meeting between Xi and his Indonesian counterpart Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Wednesday afternoon saw them ink a trade plan for the next five years and also agree to upgrade their bilateral cooperation to the level of a comprehensive strategic partnership. "We have once again made history by agreeing to forge a comprehensive strategic partnership," Yudhoyono said after the presidential talks. Currency swap deal - Among cooperation agreements inked on fisheries, aerospace and defense, the two countries also announced a 100 billion RMB-Rupiah currency ($16.3 billion) swap deal on Wednesday to fend off financial instability due to the fragility of developed economies. The deal is a renewal of the one signed in 2009, and Xi said the two countries "are actively considering enlarging the scope of the deal". The agreements demonstrate the "strong will and the urgent demand" from both sides to upgrade trade and investment ties, said Zhang. "In the past, Chinese businesses focused more on trade and contracting services than investment in Indonesia. But now the investment part is being enlarged to make a stronger industry chain," Zhang said. Indonesian ambassador Imron Cotan said prior to Xi's visit that the original swap arrangement, signed in 2009, was designed to stabilize the Indonesian economy amid the 2009 economic and financial crisis, sustaining two-way trade and investment. "It successfully achieved its objective," he said, adding that "coupled with prudent fiscal and monetary policies taken by the Indonesian government as well as by high domestic consumption, the swap agreement managed to stir the Indonesian economy away from turbulence". The two countries have also agreed to build a industrial park in Indonesia, but offered no details in the Wednesday news conference. The park will help more Chinese firms invest in Indonesia, especially in the energy sector, as Indonesia recently introduced a ban on the export of raw mineral resources, said experts. "The new industrial park will help employ more local workers and is greatly beneficial for both sides. Such investment takes better care of the interests of Indonesia and local people," said Zhang. China-Indonesia trade has been growing rapidly in recent years, developing from $26.6 billion in 2009 to $66 billion by 2012, with China becoming Indonesia's second largest trade partner. Bilateral trade in the first half of 2013 hit $33.84 billion, up 4.6 percent from the same period last year, according to the Chinese embassy in Indonesia. However, bilateral trade only ranks fourth among trade between China and ASEAN countries. Indonesia's strength is on the rise in the regional and international arenas, and the improvement of the China-Indonesia relationship is "tightly linked to the relationship between China and ASEAN", said Chen Shiqiu, former Chinese ambassador to Indonesia. Ruan Zongze, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies, said Indonesia is home to the headquarters of the 10-member ASEAN, and is widely known for its third largest population in Asia, which means "an enormous strategic significance" for China in the economic and political dimensions. "Strengthening and upgrading the strategic partnership with such a regional power will further facilitate China's neighborly diplomacy and future policies toward the entire Southeast Asian region," Ruan said. Xi Jinping will make a special address to the People's Representative Council of Indonesia on Thursday, the first such honor for a visiting Chinese politician. His speech will elaborate on China's vision to promote bilateral ties and China-ASEAN relations as well as China's peaceful development, vice-Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said on Sunday. After Indonesia, Xi will visit Malaysia and attend the 21st leaders' meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in Indonesia's Bali.

Chinese invest in Vermont (By Yu Wei in San Francisco As the governor of America's second-least populous state -Vermont, Peter Shumlin is making a big push to seek investment from the world's most populous country, China. Shumlin returned on Sunday from leading his first trade mission to China. The delegation of businessmen visited Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, seeking investors to help finance a series of development projects in northern Vermont. The governor's most powerful tool to lure Chinese investors to put money into the Green Mountain State is the EB-5 (Employment Based Visa, Category 5) program, which grants special visas to foreigners who invest $1 million in the US, or at least $500,000 for specially defined areas, and create or preserve at least 10 full-time jobs. "Governor Shumlin's main goal for the trip was to raise awareness of the Vermont EB-5 Regional Center in support of state project like Jay Peak ski resort and other Vermont projects," said Lawrence Miller,secretary of the Vermont agency of commerce and community development. "We also wanted to raise awareness of Vermont as a business location, center of higher education, and tourism destination." Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin (right) takes questions from a panel during a business mission in Shanghai on Sept 28. Miller, who was traveling with the governor, said they met with many agents and potential investors and had very good conversations. He noted that the main advantage of the Vermont EB-5 program is the state actually owns and operates the EB-5 Regional Center. This means that the state government evaluates each project before it's accepted into the regional center and monitors the projects as they proceed. "The Vermont difference is that the state has a long term interest in having a strong regional center, and that means the state's interest is well aligned with the investor interest in making sure each project is successful in creating jobs and providing a return to the investor, not just benefit to the managers and promoters of the projects," Miller said. According to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, of the 7,641 EB-5 visas issued in fiscal year 2012, 80 percent went to Chinese investors. Miller said investors from 74 different countries have invested in Vermont EB-5 projects, including many Chinese. Jay Peak co-owner Bill Stenger, who went along on Shumlin's trip to China, was satisfied with the results of their mission, which he said was specifically aimed at meeting agents and investors and making sure they had complete information about their projects. Stenger and his partners announced the largest economic revitalization investment project of its type in the history of Vermont last year, which encompassed seven projects in four towns. Stenger, who is currently raising $600 million in EB-5 investments to support the project that he claims will create 10,000 jobs in the area, said he was extremely pleased with the quantity and quality of the people he met in China, as well as the interests of those people have and the value they bring in to his projects. "We have several very diverse EB-5 projects," he said. "Of the six successful projects that we have already implemented, about 25 percent of our investors come from China." Stenger said he has already been advised by people in China that Vermont could welcome 50 new Chinese investors by the end of October. "And more we will follow, as we get closer to the end of the year," he added. "We are going to be aggressively working to enhance foreign trade opportunities in China for Vermont companies. At the minimum, we expect our EB-5 programs to continue to have at least 25 percent of our investors coming from China," Stenger said, adding that he and the governor were already planning their next trip to China sometime in the first quarter of next year. China has moved up rapidly in the ranks of overseas export markets for Vermont in the past decade. Exports in 2012 reached $584 million, a $552 million increase from $32 million in 2003, making China the state's second-largest export market, according to the latest US-China Business Council report. "There are many opportunities for trade and business between China and Vermont, and we look forward to expanded partnerships," Miller said, adding that located in the highly developed Northeast of the US, and near the major Canadian cities of Montreal and Toronto, Vermont offers a great location for Chinese companies that want to open US locations. "We have several Free-Trade Zones which could provide significant advantages for companies that want a US location that serves multiple markets," he said. "This could be especially powerful combined with a location in Shenzhen or the new free trade zone in Shanghai."

Lavish wedding ebbs under luxury ban (By Xinhua) With no expensive banquet or rituals, Li Yefei and her husband held their wedding ceremony in a meeting room at a cost of 500 yuan (about $81). Li, 28, a civil servant in North China's Hebei province, put her wedding to bed in just 15 minutes with no firecrackers, wedding planner or banquet for dozens of family members and colleagues. "This marriage is a novelty and simple. It saved our time and freed others from the obligation of buying things that no one needs," Li said. The forthcoming week of national holidays has been seen as a perfect time for Chinese young couples to get hitched, but increasingly, or at least for those who work in government, a rather low-profile approach is the order of the day, at least during the national frugality campaign. In China, there has been an amazing growth in sectors which didn't even existed twenty years ago and lavish weddings have become almost de rigueur in China. According to a wedding planning agency, the average cost of a wedding in China is around 100,000 yuan, although the company has handled weddings that have cost a staggering 10 million yuan. The craze to vie with others with grand ceremonies has become an excuse for superfluous waste and heavy "red envelope" obligations, which have just become another way for bribes to be taken and delivered. In Shijiazhuang, capital city of Hebei, the cost at wedding banquets has hit 700 million yuan annually, while each cash gift floats from 100 to many thousands, reports said. Lavish wedding ceremonies funded by officials or coal barons who marrying off their daughters by spending millions or even hundreds of millions have made headlines recently, breeding grumbling discontent among the public. "We are promoting thrifty wedding ceremonies to put a brake on extravagance and waste," said Xu Zhenke, director of the discipline office in Hebei's civil affairs department. Disciplinary authorities of the Communist Party of China (CPC) have repeatedly barred officials from inviting subordinates to social events, holding luxury banquets and receiving large cash gifts, or other presents.Such moves chime with the central government's call for elimination of the four "evil winds" -- formalism, bureaucracy, hedonism and extravagance -- a expansion of the CPC leadership's "eight-point" rules on bureaucratic reform issued late last year. In July, the CPC head of a poverty stricken township in Hebei was sacked over his daughter's extravagant wedding which cost as much as 200,000 yuan for the wedding banquet and generated 1 million yuan in gifts from others. A deputy procurator general of Ruicheng county in North China's Shanxi province was fired for hosting a banqueting with over 100 tables over four days and accepting a large sum of money. Gu Huaipu, head of Hebei provincial civil affairs department, said the wedding should be a solemn testimony of the start of a marriage, which has gradually been converted by "covert" conduct. The frugality campaign will help the wedding to return to its traditional meaning, according to Gu.

Hong Kong*:  Oct 03 2013

Jockey Club clamps down on careless riding after charges reach 'unacceptable' levels (By Michael Cox Suspensions and fines will be increased from today - Director of racing Bill Nader and chief steward Kim Kelly announce the Jockey Club's new penalty structure for careless riding. Jockey Club stewards will be armed with harsher penalties when they crack down on jockey safety, starting at today's National Day meeting at Sha Tin. Stipendiary stewards cited careless riding charges that had reached "unacceptable" levels in recent seasons as the catalyst for change. The minimum penalty for careless riding will be raised from a two-meeting suspension to three under the revised structure and the maximum penalty lifted from six meetings to eight. Officials have also been granted the power to fine jockeys amounts up to 50 per cent greater. Chief steward Kim Kelly was as forthright as ever when announcing the new penalty structure, which also incorporates some incentives for good disciplinary records. "Careless riding offences during recent seasons have reached an unacceptable level," Kelly said. "Jockeys were advised at the start of this season that we would review the situation and report back to the racing committee whether amendments should be approved, and this revised structure will hopefully lead to a reduction in the incidences of careless riding." Kelly pointed to statistics that revealed there had been a 68 per cent increase in careless riding charges since the 2003-04 season, corresponding with a 10 per cent rise in the amount of races run. Also of concern to officials were the amount of "repeat offences". No jockeys have been suspended during the first five meetings of this season and Kelly said the changes were being implemented with one goal in mind: "safer racing". "As stewards, we don't get any pleasure out of suspending jockeys and we are happy that we have walked out of every meeting this season without charging a jockey with careless riding," he said. "We didn't recommend an increase in penalties for any other reason than to improve the safety of racing. "We want to ensure riders go home to their families safely at night and to make sure horses, wherever possible, go back to their boxes safe and sound after a race meeting." If a rider can maintain a relatively clean record of a ratio of one careless riding charge per 150 rides, he will be eligible for a one-meeting reduction in the severity of a suspension, bringing the minimum charge back from three meetings to two. The "good disciplinary ratios" will be measured from the start of this season and will then flow into the 2014-15 season. Jockey Club director of racing Bill Nader said the racing committee had considered applying the good-record ratio retrospectively, but had settled on starting with a clean slate from the September 8 season opener. "It's been good fortune that no one has been suspended so far. We have a fresh start for everybody and we thought it was the fairest way forward," Nader said. "We do carry the ratio through to the next season and hopefully we have a few jockeys in that situation, that will show that the changes are working. "It's about having good, competitive racing, but racing where jockeys are riding safely and getting suspended less," Nader said. Maximum fines will increase from HK$40,000 to HK$60,000, but the minimum fine will remain at HK$10,000 in order to consider the earning capacity of all jockeys.

French fragrance marketing scheme under fire for leaving customers 'out of pocket' (By Emily Tsang and Minnie Chan) Fragrance maker says complex bonus system delivers big profits to those at top of sales chain - Mainlanders repackaging products in Causeway Bay as part of the under-fire scheme. Customers who buy French fragrance oil from an Asian distributor in Hong Kong using a complicated multi-level marketing scheme may be paying hundreds of dollars more than the usual retail price. The oil's maker, Lampe Berger Paris, says its product is sold for HK$299 a bottle in shops but more than HK$400 through the controversial scheme operated by Digital Crown Holdings (HK). John Vullierme, director of LB Hong Kong, whose company commissioned an independent investigation of its former distributor last year, said he believed the discrepancy was a result of the scheme's complex system of bonuses given to members according to their seniority. He said not everyone who joined the chain managed to make big money out of its bonus scheme. "Only the very top layer of the chain, say like 20 to 30 per cent of the members, is making big money, at the expense of the others," he said. The South China Morning Post reported yesterday that LB had stopped supplying its fragrance products to DCHL after finding it had exaggerated claims for its brand and used sales tactics the Paris company had not authorised. In Hong Kong, DCHL encourages members including mainland travellers to make large purchases and become distributors themselves in order to receive bonuses based on the sales of new recruits. On repeated visits to DCHL's sales centres, P o st reporters found them filled with mainlanders visiting Hong Kong as tourists. In the Causeway Bay centre, instructors were seen telling new members how they made more than HK$60,000 a month under the system just a few months after signing up as distributors three years ago. Individual distributors from DCHL are divided into seven levels of seniority. At the bottom are the individual distributors who sign up as members to the scheme and then have to recruit other members. If they recruit five members, who then each recruit five more in turn, they move up the ranking system to become a Baron. This is followed by Count, Marquis, Duke, Arch Duke and Majesty Duke. Each rank is at least five times bigger in terms of membership than the one below it. At Count level - with accumulated purchases of about HK$100,000 or having developed a structure of three Barons below them - a distributor can form his or her own company. Such welling systems are banned on the mainland and elsewhere including Macau, Australia and the European Union. In August, a Hong Kong couple who were individual DCHL distributors were arrested in Shaoguan , Guangdong, for illegal sales activities, including encouraging distributors to recruit salespeople aggressively and collecting big membership fees. DCHL chain was founded in 1989 by its director Kim Huynh, also called Valery Huynh, a businessman from Guangdong who now holds a French passport. Huyhn's wife, Mary Lim Huynh, another director of DCHL, is a Singaporean who once entered the Miss Singapore contest before emigrating to France. On its website, DCHL says Huyhn "is a gentleman who had high taste in art appreciation", and dedicated his life to introduce "the elegance of French art work to Chinese counterparts." One of the main items sold is LB fragrance oil, which has a history dating back 115 years. It was invented by a French pharmacy dispenser called Maurice Berger, who created a lamp to remove odours from hospitals in 1898. But when the brand was brought into the Asia market by DCHL a decade ago, the chain said it could "improve the quality of indoor air, decompose second-hand smoke and kill bugs". Vullierme said: "It is most definitely not a magical lamp. The lamps are beautiful to look at, and have a special catalytic diffusion system to clear away odour. But there is no health benefit."

 China*:  Oct 03 2013

Qianhai bypassed as firms head for Shanghai Free-trade Zone (By George Chen New free-trade zone attracts ventures planned for Shenzhen base, raising concern in HK - Shanghai's new free-trade zone is seen more attractive than other planned zones as it is expected to get more high-level support and wider policy coverage. Qianhai first, Hong Kong next? While Hong Kong officials have been concerned about the impact of Shanghai's free-trade zone, it seems it is already stealing business from Qianhai. Financial industry sources said several domestic and global firms that had originally planned to set up shop in Qianhai - the smaller special economic zone only an hour's drive from Hong Kong - were seriously considering the 29 square kilometre free-trade zone in Shanghai instead. China Taiping Life Insurance, one of the mainland's biggest and oldest life insurers, and China Petroleum & Chemical Corp (Sinopec) are among the firms rethinking their options. The sources, who asked not to be named, said the two companies originally planned to set up a pension fund management joint venture in Qianhai but later decided to base it in the new Shanghai zone, which was officially launched on Sunday. "The Shanghai free-trade zone has definitely attracted more attention than Qianhai from the financial industry mainly because people believe Shanghai gets far more high-level support and wider policy coverage than Qianhai," said one of the sources. "The impact of Shanghai will be felt in the whole of China or even the rest of the world, but Qianhai's impact will be limited to Hong Kong-related businesses." Senior executives at Taiping Life and Sinopec had several rounds of meetings with Qianhai officials, who invited them to pick Qianhai as home for their new ventures. According to the sources, Qianhai officials recently told them the two companies might not be in a rush to set up their ventures there as they believed Shanghai would offer a more open business environment and wider industry access. Just about a year ago, Qianhai, the 15 square kilometre special economic zone in Shenzhen, was named by the central bank as the testing ground for full yuan convertibility. Qianhai officials and the central bank have said Qianhai would focus on its financial ties with Hong Kong, which is already the biggest offshore yuan centre. The creation of the free-trade zone in Shanghai has already led to questions about how different it would be from Qianhai as both the zones are to experiment with yuan-related reforms. Analysts have also been wondering just how free the new Shanghai zone would be. On Monday, the government issued a "negative list" of sectors, including media and publishing and gambling, in which foreign entities will not be allowed to participate. With the launch of the free-trade zone in Shanghai, which ANZ China chief economist Liu Ligang said would be "just another offshore yuan trading centre after Hong Kong that will compete with Hong Kong in some aspects", some analysts, investors and Hong Kong politicians have been getting increasingly concerned that Hong Kong's leading role in the region's financial industry may be undercut.

Hong Kong*:  Oct 02 2013

Causeway Bay to lose an urban oasis as I.M. Pei's Sunning Plaza faces wrecking ball (By Lo Wei and Ng Kang Chung) Demolition of I.M. Pei's Sunning Plaza and rest of block paves way for upscale shops and offices - Innside Out, at the back of Sunning Plaza, had Causeway Bay's only spacious, open bar-restaurant area at street level. Tenants of Sunning Plaza in Causeway Bay are bidding farewell to the 31-year-old I.M. Pei-designed building, which is to be torn down for redevelopment. A bar-restaurant, cake shop and office tenants had to move from the site yesterday. "I feel like the sky today - crying," said John Palis, operations manager of the Inn Side Out bar and restaurant. He started working there when it opened in 1999, but now he has had to close it. "This place is one of a kind in Hong Kong - a big outdoor area with four palm trees." The restaurant will reopen at the South China Athletic Association next month for association members and their guests. A bigger, mixed-use office and retail complex with more retail space will be built on the site and in place of adjacent apartment building Sunning Court, which will also be demolished. It has not yet been decided whether the open area used for the Inn Side Out's outdoor tables will be kept, said a spokesman for landlord Hysan Development. Palis said he has heard that the outdoor area will be enclosed. "It's depressing because this place is an oasis in the urban area for people to feel what life is," said architect Joseph Tang Chun-sing, one of the restaurant's regular customers. "Making money is important, but you should maintain some integrity to society. Humans need this kind of space." The building was Pei's first project in Hong Kong before his only other - the Bank of China Building in Central. Chun said it was a shame that such a precious building would be torn down. He said very few buildings of its class were left in Hong Kong. Another customer, magazine food writer Brian Chung, had strong words for the developer. "I hope they lose money," he said. "It's a shame - this is an oasis in the business district of Causeway Bay for people to unwind. Greedy landlords like this are not helping Hong Kong or diversifying Hong Kong." Palis said he has asked Hysan not to cut down the four palm trees. He told them Inn Side Out would try to take them to its new location. Italian restaurant Da Domenico, next door, has already closed and was moving out yesterday. Hysan has said the demolition is mainly to create offices for tenants moving out of Central. According to plans, the gross floor area will increase by about a quarter after the project is completed in 2018.

HKU could get first expat vice-chancellor in more than four decades (By Johnny Tam and Jeffie lam) Peter Mathieson earned praise from committee selecting new vice-chancellor and would be first expatriate to get job in over four decades - The University of Hong Kong may soon have its first expatriate vice-chancellor in a decade. Professor Peter William Mathieson - currently dean of medicine and dentistry at the University of Bristol - has been recommended by an 11-member selection committee to succeed Professor Tsui Lap-chee. Mathieson told the Post that he was honoured and excited to be a candidate for the post. "If I am appointed, I will do my utmost, together with the university community, to take the university to new heights," he said. Tsui quit as head of the city's oldest university amid controversy over heavy-handed security arrangements during the visit of then Vice-Premier Li Keqiang in August 2011 that overshadowed the university's centenary celebrations. If approved by the university council Mathieson, 54, would become the university's 15th vice-chancellor and the first non-Chinese since Professor William Ian Rees Davies, who headed the 102-year-old institution from 2000 to 2002. Mathieson has been active in teaching and medical research with his main clinical interest lying in autoimmune renal diseases. Dr Leong Che-hung, chairman of the selection committee, said that candidates' nationalities were never part of their considerations. "HKU is an international university; we just want to choose the best person for the job," he said. "Mathieson has experience heading a big faculty and carrying out school reform. I am sure he could take the helm and lead HKU to the next stage." HKU Students' Union president Laurence Tang Yat-long, another committee member, said Mathieson was the best of the candidates. During the interview process the committee had asked Mathieson to comment on core values including freedom of speech and academic research, and members had found his answers "satisfactory", Tang said. He hoped the new vice-chancellor would firmly defend the university's core values. "A vice-chancellor doesn't just need academic achievement, but also great communication, management and fundraising skills," Tang said. Tsui apologised to students and alumni at least four times after three students were detained by police during Li's visit to the Pok Fu Lam campus. A review committee subsequently found that police used "unjustifiable" and "unreasonable" force to contain some student protesters.

Li Ka-shing bets on Israeli science institute to build new technology school in Guangdong (By Danny Mok Li met President Shimon Peres on his first visit to Israel. Mogul's charity fund helps to bankroll building of Israeli science institute campus in Guangdong - Tycoon Li Ka-shing has donated US$130 million to a top Israeli science institute to help build a campus in his home town in Guangdong province in a joint project with Shantou University. The donation offered to Technion - the Israel Institute of Technology - from charitable organisation the Li Ka Shing Foundation is the largest ever to the institute and "one of the most generous in the history of Israeli higher education", a statement from the foundation and the 101-year-old institute said. It was also one of the biggest one-off donations made by the foundation. The statement said the new school, dubbed the Technion Guangdong Institute of Technology (TGIT), would represent "unprecedented co-operation" between Technion, Shantou University, Guangdong's provincial government and the Shantou municipal government. The two governments will set aside 900 million yuan (HK$1.1 billion) to fund TGIT's construction and initial operations, and a 330,000 square metre site for a campus next to Shantou University. TGIT will begin offering undergraduate programmes in civil and environmental engineering and computer sciences in the 2014 academic year. By 2020, it will offer programmes in other engineering-related fields, from mechanical to aerospace engineering. An innovation centre will be involved in the establishment in Shantou, to connect industries in Guangdong with Israel's technological creativity and to promote joint research and innovation, the statement said. The tycoon has several investments in Israel, including app developer Waze Mobile, which created GPS navigation app Waze. The profit on the recent sale of Waze to Google became part of the donation to Technion. Li said yesterday that the collaboration "combined the start-up nation with the nation of endless opportunities". Israel is seeking to boost exports to new markets such as China and India as Europe, long its primary market, struggles with the euro-zone debt crisis.

ASB Biodiesel keen to conquer local market with new plant (By Ernest Kao ASB Biodiesel set to fire up generators and churn out 100,000 tonnes of fuel a year - ASB Biodiesel's new plant at Tseung Kwan O fires up next month. The operator behind what is soon to become the city's biggest biodiesel factory is setting an ambitious target to capture the domestic market for turning gutter and waste oil into feedstock. ASB Biodiesel will fire up the generators at its processing plant on the Tseung Kwan O Industrial Estate next month. The firm expects it to churn out 100,000 tonnes of biodiesel a year, st for export to Europe. "In a few years there's no reason why [most] of what we produce won't be consumed domestically," CEO Anthony Dixon said. The firm is backed with US$165 million of capital from the Bahrain-based Al Salam Bank. The plant will refine 257,000 tonnes each year of grease trap waste into pure "B100" biodiesel blends for construction, transport and, later, petrol companies. About 95 litres of biodiesel can be produced with every 100 litres of waste oil. That will be enough to offset 3.6 per cent, or 260,000 tonnes, of greenhouse gas emissions from transport each year, according to the company. But vehicle emissions of nitrogen dioxide and coarse pollutant particles (PM10) are only slightly lower for biodiesel than for regular diesel. Wastewater generated by processing can be refined into bio-gas, which will power most of the plant's operations. Dixon said producing biodiesel from waste oil, such as that retrieved from restaurant grease traps, was more environmentally friendly and more economically feasible than regular diesel and even crop-based diesels, which most biodiesels were made of. "Everywhere in the world cooks with a lot of oil and that needs to be disposed of. We have a way of converting it into something that is economically and environmentally valuable," he said. "Very few people are producing biodiesels with waste oils." Biodiesel from waste oil is fractionally cheaper than crop-based biodiesels made of palm or soy as it is sourced at almost no cost and does not require vast tracts of land to produce. Dixon urged the government to implement a mandatory blend ratio for diesel vehicles. "Unlike electric vehicles, no charging stations are needed and no engine modifications are required, he said. "The benefits would be instantaneous."

 China*:  Oct 02 2013

HSBC final China PMI edges up to 50.2, as domestic demand stays subdued (By Reuters in Beijing) September reading falls short of preliminary estimate, but export orders make up slack - China’s factory sector grew in September after rising foreign orders made up for a subdued domestic market, a private survey showed, suggesting Asia’s economic powerhouse is starting to turn the corner, though a firm rebound remains elusive. The final HSBC purchasing managers’ index (PMI) edged up to 50.2 in September from August’s 50.1, although that was below last week’s flash reading of 51.2, with domestic orders proving to be weaker than preliminary estimates suggested. New export orders picked up the slack, climbing above the 50-point mark – which separates expansion from contraction – to 50.7, from 47.2 in August. After seasonal adjustments, however, the expansion was slight, HSBC said on Monday. Still, the data should support financial markets and comfort investors eager to see China’s economy stabilise, even if the revival is likely feeble and perhaps even short-lived. Qu Hongbin, an HSBC economist, said stronger manufacturing growth was driven by firms replenishing their stocks, albeit slowly. “Growth is bottoming out on Beijing’s mini-stimulus,” Qu said, noting however that growth in domestic demand was unchanged from August. Beijing’s policy action and a firmer economy in the United States – the world’s second-biggest buyer of Chinese exports after Europe – have put a floor beneath China’s economic growth, which has slowed in 12 of the last 14 quarters. To reinvigorate growth, the central government has fast-forwarded infrastructure investment, lowered taxes for small companies and sustained spending in public housing. But analysts warn that the mild pick-up in China’s economy could fizzle if Beijing keeps its promise and enacts financial reforms that include curbing state investment, a move that would hurt growth in coming months. There are also signs in parts of the PMI poll that the economy is not out of the woods yet. The survey showed factories cut jobs for the sixth consecutive month in September as workers resigned and firms downsized. And although output and new orders were shown to have grown in September, HSBC noted that expansion was fractional after seasonal adjustments. In fact, it said some firms reported a contraction in output, citing unstable economic conditions.

Hong Kong*:  Oct 01 2013

Professor putting a price on protest 教授有一個抗議價錢 佔領中央肯定會產生巨大的成本。一個謹慎的估計為港幣1.6億元。Occupying Central would incur a huge cost for sure. A prudent estimate is HK$1.6 billion. (By Tanna Chong SCMP) Silent Majority founder and economist Francis Lui is all about numbers when it comes to Occupy Central - Most mainstream economic theories share a common assumption on human nature - that we are rational actors who narrowly pursue our own self-interests. For Professor Francis Lui Ting-ming, an economist on the front line of opposition to next summer's planned Occupy Central pro-democracy campaign, it is this train of thought that guides his views on the movement as well as economics. Lui, head of the economics department at the University of Science and Technology, is the mastermind behind Silent Majority for Hong Kong - a group seeking to counter the Occupy movement, which aims to blockade the business district next year if the government doesn't offer a satisfactory plan for universal suffrage in the 2017 chief executive election. "I have zero interest in politics but [Occupy] goes against the ethos of economics - private ownership," Lui says. "Occupying Central would incur a huge cost for sure. A prudent estimate is HK$1.6 billion. I have formulated this from different perspectives, but there are many uncertainties pending the outcome." Lui says that despite claiming to be the saviours of those seeking democracy in Hong Kong, the organisers of Occupy Central are in fact simply acting out of their narrow self-interests. The academic says his figure for losses that would be incurred by the city from the movement comprised a long list of items including forgone rent, labour costs, and long-term impact on tourism, and was "based on the experiences of the political uprisings in Thailand and Egypt". "But the actual amount of monetary loss is not important. I hate people who think they are saviours but are really just imposing their view on others." Lui believes those "others" are the so-called silent majority that his movement seeks to represent. "I named the movement as such because there is really a silent majority opposing Occupy Central. I have surveyed people from a lot of circles, including the academic community," Lui says. To back up his claim, he says that there are 5.5 million ordinary residents in Hong Kong, of which 3.4 million are registered voters. In by-elections in 2010 billed by some pan-democrats as a de facto referendum on universal suffrage, about 1.8 million of these people cast a vote. That left 3.7 million people as a silent majority not supporting the path to democracy espoused by the lawmakers who resigned from their seats to trigger the polls. Lui also says Occupy Central would be counterproductive to democratisation. "The movement is built on the premise that it can threaten Beijing to achieve universal suffrage. But I don't think so, and many others share my views." Despite founding Silent Majority, Lui says he is not one of the 40 members of the group, which was formed in August and has since splashed out on four newspaper adverts. "Anyone who wants to join the group has to donate at least HK$5,000. I never donate to a political cause - regardless of how hard people lobby me for it." But although not a member of the group, Lui remains a devoted force against Occupy Central. "Hong Kong's economic development is being obstructed by the political struggle," he says. Addressing economic arguments against Occupy Central such as those put forward by Lui, the core organiser of the civil disobedience movement, Benny Tai Yiu-ting, has said that the democracy the movement was pushing for could benefit everyone. That included the business sector, which may bear the cost of any disruption but would benefit in the longer term, he said. But for Lui, "the ends do not justify the means … Democracy means everyone's view should be seen with equal weight. Why can somebody act on my behalf?" Occupy organisers say they will conduct a public vote to obtain a mandate for the civil disobedience action, but Lui says: "In economics, scholars have established that any opinion [gathering] mechanism has inherent flaws." He says the sight of vocal protests on the streets is not a credible sign of the will of the majority. "The voices heard in society are usually from the minority. Logically, exactly because you are on the inferior side, you want to shout louder to be heard." Some have turned Lui's arguments that democracy campaigners are self-interested on their head and directed them back at Lui, saying the tag he has earned himself as a "pro-Beijing academic" can win him public titles, influence and other benefits. But Lui says, with flaring pride: "I don't lack any of these. "If you are talking about public titles, I say advisory body positions are donkey work. They involve tedious meetings ... only silly people would covet these titles. He also says he is not in need of recognition or money. "I have fame too. If you Google my name there are thousands of entries … Anyone who attacks my support of Silent Majority by arguing that I have an agenda to gain public office must have run out of arguments." Lui, who began his permanent professor tenure at HKUST 20 years ago and has since become known for his work on the economics of corruption, says he lives a frugal life. "My savings can feed me for several hundred years. I save over 85 per cent of my salary." Spending HK$20 on lunch at a university canteen, he says, "is already a luxury. I sometimes fill my stomach with bread or biscuits I store in the office". Brought up in humble surroundings, Lui graduated from the University of Chicago before obtaining his doctorate degree from the University of Minnesota, also in the United States. In Chicago, he studied alongside Professor Chan Ka-keung, who is now secretary for financial services and the treasury. On his former schoolmate, Lui says: "Everyone thought he was crazy to join the government. Don't underestimate him; he is smarter than everyone imagines." Lui says he works on average 80 to 90 hours per week, filling the time with a heavy teaching and administration schedule and contributing over 30,000 words for newspaper columns. He would not disclose his age, but Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, who turned 61 this year, was Lui's schoolmate at primary school and at Wah Yan College secondary school. Talking about his friend Cheung's work on the property market, Lui picked up a pen and started drawing a demand-supply diagram illustrating "how politics obstructs economics". "The stamp duty rules are not the real solution. They reduce both supply and demand and cause market stagnation," he says, referring to recent rises in the tax. "I do not want to criticise Cheung too much, he was my classmate … but those policies cannot solve the problem." Lui is less reserved when talking about Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. "Years ago he tried lining me up [for office], but we are not very compatible ideologically. He is a socialist but I am market-oriented … but regardless, I feel he has a complex personality which cannot be fully comprehended." 
Francis Lui
Wah Yan College, Hong Kong
University of Chicago
University of Minnesota
Head of the Department of Economics, University of Science and Technology
Public titles
Member, Steering Committee on Population Policy
Member, Working Group on Long-term Fiscal Planning
Member, Academic and Accreditation Advisory Committee of the Securities and Futures Commission

K Wah joins the frenzy over Shanghai zone (By Daniel Ren in Shanghai SCMP) Developer banks on residential project to drive expansion but plays down free-trade area's threat to HK's role as regional financial centre - K Wah International chairman Lui Che-woo says there are plenty of opportunities around the world. Hong Kong developer K Wah International has jumped on the bandwagon of the free-trade zone in Shanghai, hoping its upcoming residential project near the zone may anchor its expansion plans in the mainland's commercial hub. K Wah plans to start construction soon of a residential complex with a ground floor area of about 30,000 square metres at Jinqiao, which is just a few kilometres from the free-trade zone. The zone is envisaged by Shanghai as a "mini-Hong Kong" that will further integrate the city into the global economy. The development at Jinqiao would benefit from the fanfare surrounding the free-trade zone, K Wah said. It also said it would continue to boost its land bank in Shanghai should opportunities arise. The plan to build the mainland's first free-trade zone - an area where goods can be processed and re-exported without the intervention of the custom authorities and free cross-border capital flows are allowed - has stoked concerns among some critics that Shanghai would eventually dent Hong Kong's role as the regional financial and trade centre. But K Wah founder and chairman Lui Che-woo played down these concerns and encouraged Hong Kong residents to take a global perspective and grasp opportunities worldwide. "Opportunities abound around the globe," Lui told reporters last week. "Hong Kong people don't need necessarily to compete in just Hong Kong because, after all, it's a small place." Peter Wong Tung-shun, the chief executive of HSBC Asia-Pacific, said the free-trade zone in Shanghai, a copycat of Hong Kong, would not generate a zero-sum game of competition between the two metropolises. Rather, the zone would create more opportunities, helping the mainland to attract a bigger amount of assets, which, in turn, would benefit Hong Kong, Wong said. K Wah has 270,000 square metres of developments under construction in Shanghai. They are expected to rake in sales of 22 billion yuan (HK$27.8 billion), according to chief financial officer Herbert Hui. An additional three projects in Shanghai including the one in Jinqiao are in the pipeline. K Wah described the businesses in the city as a new growth engine despite the austerity measures imposed by Beijing to curb the property market. Property stocks and prices of apartments related to the Shanghai free-trade zone have shot up since Beijing officially endorsed the plan in July. Property service firm DTZ said in a research report the zone would have a "positive effect" on Shanghai's property market, with an increasing demand for office space and high-end dwellings as global financial institutions and manufacturers ramp up their operations to take advantage of new business opportunities. The free-trade zone is restricted to an area covering nearly 30 square kilometres initially, but it is believed that the zone will be considerably expanded if the trial run is successful. K Wah shares last traded at HK$4.18.

Shoppers hit Hong Kong early before tour prices rise (By Tiffany Ap Mainlanders arrive in city well before start of golden week, with regulations set to double the cost of organised visits from tomorrow - The majority of outbound mainland tours are shopping trips, with an average of 420 groups visiting Hong Kong each day. Golden week has come early for favoured haunts of mainland shoppers as some of the more price-conscious visitors have been taking to their tour buses to get in before a jump in prices for organised trips to Hong Kong. The higher prices for Hong Kong tours, to take effect tomorrow, flow on from a regulation on the mainland forbidding tour agencies from collecting commissions from shopping tours. Timed to coincide with the National Day holiday, the ban - imposed by the China National Tourism Administration - comes in response to a growing number of complaints from mainlanders taking tours to the city. The measure applies to all mainland outbound tours. For Hong Kong and Macau, the prices of some tours will triple. For example, today is the last day Wing On will offer a three-day tour of Hong Kong from Hangzhou for 1,399 yuan (HK$1,770). The same trip will cost 4,020 yuan after that. China Comfort Travel, which offers a one-day tour of Hong Kong from Shenzhen for 38 yuan, said it would halt that promotion from next month. The price rises have given a nudge to more than a few mainland shoppers, it seems, to seize on the last two weeks of September and beat the tour group price rises. At DFS Galleria in Tsim Sha Tsui East, which caters almost exclusively to mainland tour groups brought in by buses, a saleswoman at the Ralph Lauren store said the week leading up to the Mid-Autumn Festival was abnormally busy and last week was "overwhelming". "We just didn't expect it," she said. Travel agencies' cut-rate tour prices typically count on commissions earned from the tour group's shopping at partner merchants to supplement their income, industry insiders say. "The main concern is that of course. With the new regulation banning commissions, tour fares will definitely increase," said Travel Industry Council director Joseph Tung Yao-chung. "For example, travelling from the main cities, before it was about HK$2,000 to come to Hong Kong but after the ban, it's about HK$5,000. Tour fares to Bangkok from Shanghai or Beijing will be HK$2,000 to HK$7,000." Despite the higher cost, Tung said the new regulation was positive overall in that it would help protect consumers. Travel agents have resorted to tactics such as locking tourists in shops, and last year a video of an agent berating tourists for not spending enough went viral on the internet. "The new purpose is to really look at the outbound market and make sure the growth is a healthier arrangement," Tung said. "They have to realise that this is not the way of arranging tours when the cost itself [for the tour] is about HK$5,000 and you are selling it at HK$2,000. They cannot depend on shopping commissions." Tung estimates that 80 per cent of all outbound mainland tours are shopping tours. "When the new law comes into effect, there will be definitely a great impact," he said. An average of 420 tour groups visit Hong Kong each day. "As the new tourism law comes into force, the HKTB expects an initial increase in tour fares by mainland operators, which will deter tourists wanting to come to Hong Kong in tour groups," a spokeswoman for the Hong Kong Tourism Board said, predicting a 5 per cent drop in tourist numbers. 

Beijing reassures Hong Kong on Shanghai free-trade zone (By Daniel Ren in Shanghai SCMP) [Shanghai Free-trade Zone is the first Hong Kong-like free trade area in mainland China. The plan was first announced by the government in July and it was personally endorsed by Premier Li Keqiang who said he wanted to make the zone a snapshot of how China can upgrade its economic structure. Other mainland cities and provinces including Tianjin and Guangdong have also lobbied Beijing for such approvals. The Shanghai FTZ will first span 28.78 square kilometres in the city's Pudong New Area, including the Waigaoqiao duty-free zone and Yangshan port and it is believed it may eventually expand to cover the entire Pudong district which covers 1,210.4 sq km of land.] The free-trade zone is a test bed for regulatory and financial liberalisation on the mainland. Beijing was quick to soothe concerns in Hong Kong about its rivalry with Shanghai after the mainland's commercial capital officially launched its free-trade zone yesterday. Yin Zonghua, director of the international trade department of the Ministry of Commerce, told reporters the pilot run of the zone would have no negative impact on Hong Kong's future. He said the leadership would make further arrangements to deepen the economic relationship between the mainland and Hong Kong. "Hong Kong has its own advantages that can help it play a big role in the Shanghai free-trade zone," Yin said. "The upcoming arrangements to consolidate the economic partnership will be of benefit to Hong Kong's long-term prosperity and stability." The free-trade zone, modelled on Hong Kong, is a test bed for regulatory and financial liberalisation on the mainland. However, the absence of top leaders at yesterday's opening, such as Premier Li Keqiang , a strong advocate of the zone, raised some eyebrows. Vice-Premier Wang Yang had been expected to officiate but he was also absent. A no-show by top officials at the launch of the zone could be a sign of ambivalent support for the planned reforms from senior bureaucrats. Li had fought opposition to the zone from ministries and regulators overseeing trade and financial markets. Also surprising by its absence was a widely expected reduction of corporate income tax for firms in the zone, which the national taxation authorities said yesterday would not be forthcoming. A first batch of 36 firms, including Citibank and DBS, have received approval to set up business inside the zone. The People's Bank of China said it would publish a detailed operating guide on major financial liberalisation in the zone, including full convertibility of the yuan and a market-based interest rate mechanism. Among details released yesterday, Liao Min, head of the China Banking Regulatory Commission's Shanghai branch, said loan-to-deposit ratios and other regulatory requirements would be adjusted, and banks in the zone could receive deposits from abroad. 

Carrie Lam proposes one-stop agency to take stigma out of claiming benefits (By Phila Siu and Jennifer Ngo SCMP) Carrie Lam's idea intended to end shame many people feel when applying for CSSA payments - The government is studying how people can overcome the stigma they experience by claiming social security allowances, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said yesterday. A day after the government announced an official poverty line for Hong Kong, Lam suggested on the Beautiful Sunday radio programme that a neutral "one-stop" organisation could means-test and distribute allowances to those on low incomes who did not apply for Comprehensive Social Security Assistance because "they want to be self-reliant" and avoid being labelled or stigmatised. Lam, who is chairwoman of the Commission on Poverty, writes in an article today in the South China Morning Post that the best way to lift people out of poverty is to create jobs. The government announced on Saturday that the official poverty line was set at half of the city's median household income, meaning that the 1.31 million people in the city below it were officially poor. A person living alone and earning less than HK$3,600 a month would fall below the poverty line under 2012 statistics. Lam said she was aware that many low-income families qualified to receive Comprehensive Social Security Assistance but did not apply for it as they wished to be self-reliant or were afraid of being labelled or discriminated against for taking benefits. "We will carry out a consultancy study to see if there is a way we can find a more neutral organisation to distribute different government allowances, especially those requiring a means test," she said, without explaining what she meant by "neutral organisation". Social welfare-sector lawmaker Peter Cheung Kwok-che supported the idea, saying it would minimise stigmatisation and also increase efficiency as applicants for different allowances would only have to visit one place to submit application forms. Commenting on what "neutral organisation" should distribute these allowances, Cheung said it was difficult for non-governmental organisations to assist as the workload would be huge. He suggested a government body should carry out the work. Lam also said that the commission was designing the details of measures aimed at helping the working poor, especially those with children. Lam wrote in her article: "We should continue to grow our economy and create employment opportunities, particularly quality jobs to help the upward mobility of young people." Separately Wong Hung, a professor of social work and welfare at Chinese University, said poverty alleviation was more about restructuring the economy to provide better and more diverse types of jobs. While the reasons for poverty could be complex, "making work pay" was an important part of poverty alleviation, Wong said. Labour Party lawmaker Dr Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung doubted if Lam's suggestions would eradicate the stigma. "The stigma is there as long as applicants need to hand in a form," he said.

Line, WeChat: Asian social networks move to conquer Europe (By Agence France-Presse in Paris) Billboard of WeChat at the Island side of the Cross-Harbour Tunnel. Move aside Facebook and Skype. Asian social networks, already hugely popular on their continent, have set their sights on Europe where they could prove stiff competition for their US rivals. China’s WeChat and Japan’s Line, which let users make free calls, send instant messages and post funny short videos and photos, take attributes from Facebook, Skype and messenging application WhatsApp and roll them all together. This week, Line executives travelled to France and Italy for a public relations offensive aimed at raising awareness of the mobile app, which already counts some 230 million users around the world including 47 million in Japan alone. The social network has already taken root in other parts of Europe. In Spain, for instance, Line has forged heavyweight partnerships with football clubs FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, brands such as Coca-Cola or tennis star Rafael Nadal. FC Barcelona, for instance, has a home page on the app where it posts photos that has already drawn more than 8.2 million friends. Line even has a permanent office in Spain, where it counts some 15 million users already. A French version of the mobile app, meanwhile, is to be launched before the end of the year. One of the main selling points for Line, which was launched at the beginning of 2011, is its “stickers” -- funny, cartoon-like figures that express emotions in a way deemed far more original and fun than traditional emoticons. On WeChat, users can post figures that move about dancing, blowing kisses or punching the air. Both social networks also supply a selection of “stickers” that users have to pay for. “We’re betting a lot on this new form of communication with stickers,” Sunny Kim, assistant director general of Line Europe and America, told AFP on a trip to Paris. This part of the business represents 30 per cent of Line’s overall turnover and in July alone, users bought eight million euros (HK$83.9 million) worth of stickers. The company makes the rest of its money on the sale of games integrated in the mobile app (50 per cent) and from partnerships and products on the side. Line’s logo is green with a conversation bubble inside, and looks remarkably similar to the icon of WeChat, which began in January 2011. Already translated into 19 languages, the social network has 500 million users, including 100 million outside of China, and plans to launch in France towards the end of the year. While Line has Real Madrid, WeChat has enrolled the help of Argentinian football star Lionel Messi, who has become ambassador of the brand and has filmed a commercial for the social network. But WeChat -- which belongs to China’s web giant Tencent -- is also banking on the huge Chinese diaspora to expand. “The French of Chinese origin or the Canadians of Chinese origin, for instance, are the bridge between China and the rest of the world,” said Renaud Edouard-Baraud, who heads up an Asia consulting branch of the BNP-Paribas bank and advises WeChat. Many brands keen to tap into the giant China market also have a presence on WeChat. Companies can for instance use geolocalisation to pinpoint the exact location of Chinese users when they are visiting Europe, and send them promotional offers to lure them into their shops.

 China*:  Oct 01 2013

Academic warns Obama on Pacific policy (By ANDREW MOODY - China Daily) Washington making bad choices in relation to China and Asia, says strategic analyst - Hugh White believes the United States risks a major confrontation with China by trying to reassert its dominance in Asia. The professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University in Canberra worries US President Barack Obama's so-called Asia-pivot strategy could be a major error. Hugh White says the United States risks a confrontation with China by trying to reassert its dominance in Asia. "I see Barack Obama's pivot policy as intended to reassert American primacy as a foundation for the Asian order in the face of China's growing power," he says. "It is unlikely to succeed and could generate the kind of escalating rivalry that would increase the risk of conflict." White, who was a close adviser to former Australian prime minister Bob Hawke, was in Beijing to talk about issues raised in his new book, The China Choice: Why We Should Share Power. The book criticizes Obama for failing to respond to the new world order created by China's economic rise. White says the pivot away from the US' previous preoccupation on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to showing its spurs in Asia is only likely to antagonize China at a time when it should be accommodated. He argues that the US by building new alliances such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which was formed in 2008 and deliberately excludes China yet includes peripheral players such as Peru and Mexico, is adopting the wrong approach. "The problem with US policy in its response to China's rise as it has evolved so far is that there is this very strong assumption that the US has to preserve its dominant position, despite the fact that China has changed the underlying power dynamics so much." White, 59, who cuts a dapper figure over late morning tea at a cafe in Beijing, makes no bones about the fact that his native Australia is very much piggy in the middle of the new Asian power dynamics. "Australia sits right on the front line of this," he says. "No country in the world is as economically dependent on China as Australia is. No other country in the world is as strategically important to Australia as the United States. We are a classic example of a country which wants to look both ways." In his book, White argues the Mao-Nixon meeting in 1972 laid down the established order in Asia. He says the implicit agreement was that in return for recognition as the legitimate government of China and security from the Soviet Union, Mao was prepared to concede to US primacy in Asia. White says this only ceased to work when China itself started to become a major economic power. "It has been the most peaceful 40 years in Asia's history. We are just at the moment where China, because its power has grown so much, is no longer willing to accept American primacy. It is a very dynamic moment." White argues that an ideal alternative would be an Asian version of the Concert of Europe that resulted from the Treaty of Vienna in 1815. This was signed after the turmoil of the Napoleonic Wars when the major European powers accepted that while there might be minor wars, they would not go to war with each other. It kept the peace for 99 years and the academic floats the possibility of a similar concert between the US, China, Japan, India and, perhaps, Indonesia by the middle of this century. "I don't predict we will end up with a Concert of Asia," he says. "My argument really is that if we don't end up with one, we are likely to have a very contested balance-of-power system with a high risk of rivalry and conflict." White, the son of a senior defense official and who was born and brought up in Melbourne, studied at the city's university before going to Balliol College, Oxford. He began his career as an economic intelligence analyst at Australia's Office of National Assistance before moving into journalism as foreign affairs and defense correspondent at the Sydney Morning Herald. He followed that up as an adviser to former Labor Party leader Kim Beazley when he was defense minister and then international relations adviser to prime minister Bob Hawke in the early 1990s. "The image of Hawke is of this ‘larrikin ocker'. His manner as a boss could not have been more different. He was a prodigious reader, extremely organized and very systematic. He would have always read any document more carefully than anyone else." He says that like prime minister "Black Jack" McEwen before him, who in the 1950s took the then politically brave step to open up new relations with Japan, Hawke recognized the need to do this with China. "One of Hawke's achievements was to recognize the potential of China. It was during his time that we started exporting iron ore," he says. White believes Obama might want to consider such statesmanship when dealing with China. He quotes a speech by him in autumn 2011 in Australia that insults China three times in the first three paragraphs and questions whether China would speak about the US in such derogatory terms. "The message I am trying to get over to Americans is that they have to choose whether to work with China as an equal or, increasingly, as a strategic rival," White says. He says some observers make the mistake of overestimating American military power in the Pacific just because US defense expenditure is 10 times that of China. He says China has built up a strong sea defense capability with submarines and now has the ability to sink US aircraft carriers. "The United States can no longer project power by sea in the Western Pacific in the way it has been able to do for so long. I think that is very significant." White argues that it is important for China and the US to avoid a Cold War-type standoff because that is not the safe game of military chess that some assume. "We don't want to go that way again. We are all incredibly lucky to have survived the Cold War. It (the US) can't defeat China the way it defeated the Soviet Union because China's economy works," he says. The book is steeped in foreign policy and defense analysis that builds extreme, often frightening, scenarios that inform the limited parameters in which national leaders have to operate. "I have likened this kind of analysis to engineering. When you design a bridge, you don't design it for an ordinary day. You design it so it still holds up in exceptional conditions such as very high winds or whatever." White says China has demonstrated that it can use its new power responsibly and believes its engagement in Africa has been largely positive. "I tend to think there is great potential in China's relationship with Africa and that it can be a very important engine for growth and development on the continent," he says. Despite its growing economic reach, he believes China's biggest focus will always be in its own backyard of Asia. "My sense is that China's strategic aspirations are very much focused on Asia," he says. "It doesn't actually see itself as a world power in the way the United States does."

Up, up, Huawei finds new friends in Europe nations (By By Fu Jing - China Daily) The Chinese telecommunications company's fortunes continue to rise globally - After the Chinese telecommunications company Huawei opened an exhibition center near Amsterdam recently, Eberhard van der Laan, the city's mayor, sang the company's praises to business leaders in a speech. "I learnt the concept of clouding technology during my visit to Huawei headquarters in Shenzhen two years ago," he says. Compared with Huawei's expansion in the US, which has run into roadblocks, the company has been welcomed in most European countries. The telling of that anecdote is typical of Van der Laan's unstinting praise of Huawei's contribution to his city and his country. Yet 10 years ago when Huawei, now a global leader in its field, sent Patrick Zhang to Europe to explore market opportunities, he says he was unsure about what kind of reception it would receive. The company ended up receiving such a good hearing and gaining such widespread recognition that recently local radio in the Netherlands broadcast live when Huawei hosted a half-day forum on trends in global information technology and big data. Reflecting the company's growing presence in Europe, it has become the biggest Chinese investor in the Netherlands after 10 years of expansion. "When we first went to Europe, we virtually wandered the streets like tourists looking for customers," says Zhang, now president of marketing and solutions at Huawei Enterprise Business Group, in an interview in Amsterdam. "It was very hard. The first steps were particularly difficult." Huawei has been highly successful in Europe thanks to its strategy of localization and attaching great importance to research and development. It now has ties with 560 European channel partners in telecommunications operations, had a turnover in the continent of $4.17 billion last year, and has more than 7,500 staff, most of them Europeans. With that success, the company decided in 2011 to take a new tack, offering information and telecommunications services to businesses directly rather than through other telecommunications companies. That business is now growing rapidly, Zhang says, and the company expects it will have annual turnover of $1 billion in the coming three to five years. Compared with Huawei's expansion in the US, which has run into roadblocks, Zhang says his company has been welcomed in most European countries and will diversify its service portfolio in the continent. In Europe, Huawei has been "treated fairly", Zhang says, "unlike in the US, where we have encountered access difficulties for groundless reasons given by the US side". Huawei has 13 R&D sites in eight European countries (Belgium, Britain, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy and Sweden) and operates dozens of innovation centers in partnership with local telecom and ICT operators. The company, paving the way for its expansion in Europe, says it plans to create 5,500 jobs on the continent over the next five years.

Visible face of CIC investment (By Chen Jia) Europe has been one of the major destinations for China's sovereign wealth fund - Although there is no firm yardstick to gauge its real impact, China Investment Corp has in many ways been the most representative face of Chinese investment in Europe. Apart from its regular activities such as equity and other investments, the fund has also played a key role by teaming up with other sovereign wealth funds for joint investments on the continent. Mogden sewage treatment works in the southwest of London, run by Thames Water Utilities Ltd. CIC bought an 8.86 percent stake in the company in January last year. Fund officials say the multi-pronged approach has helped the CIC post reasonable returns on investment, despite the volatile and often deteriorating financial climate in Europe. As part of that game plan the CIC bought equity stakes in European utility companies, sectors seen as risky and unattractive in the short term. Last year, the fund invested $2.3 trillion in infrastructure construction projects across Europe, making it the highest investment outlay for the region since the CIC was set up in 2007. CIC's equity purchases from the European markets rose to 27 percent last year from 20.6 percent in 2011. The proportion was 21.7 percent in 2010 and 20.5 percent in 2009. A more friendly investment environment compared with other developed economies and the slower-than-expected recovery from the debt crisis has made Europe an ideal destination for the CIC as it constantly looks for global opportunities to preserve and increase the value of part of China's more than $3.5 trillion foreign exchange reserves. The company's largest deal in Europe has been the acquisition of a 10 percent stake in the firm that owns London's Heathrow Airport for about $726 million. The deal was clinched in November, when the Spanish company Ferrovial sold a part of the shares of the Heathrow Airport Holdings Ltd that was previously known as BAA Ltd. Ferrovial, which owned nearly half of Heathrow Airport Holdings before, now controls 44.27 percent of the shares. Heathrow is one of the world's busiest international airports where a plane lands or takes off every 147 seconds. The airport handled more than 70 million passengers last year. CIC officials indicated that the fund zeroed in on the Heathrow deal as it offered long-term and stable returns and suited the operator's plan to attract overseas investment for asset upgrades. "Thanks to its pricing regulatory regime, Heathrow has an advantageous market position and can provide inflation-protected and stable returns for its investors," the CIC said in its earnings report for 2012. "As an unlisted infrastructure asset of high quality, it maintains a low correlation to other asset classes and suits the CIC's diversification objectives well." In January, the CIC bought an 8.86 percent stake in Thames Water, the largest water and sewage company in the UK owned by Kemble Water, a consortium of investors led by Australian bank Macquarie. Liu Fangyu, a CIC official, had indicated last year that the fund would look to strengthen its post-investment management of long-term assets, as well as continue to build up its portfolio in infrastructure, agriculture and other projects that generate steady returns. Lou Jiwei, the former chairman of the CIC, had earlier remarked that as a financial investor, the fund would seek to diversify risks by investing in various industries. Last year, the Chinese sovereign wealth fund bought a 7 percent stake in Eutelsatcommunications SA, a French satellite operator for broadcast and broadband, in a 386 million euro deal. It also injected a total of $600 million into two Russian companies in the resource and energy industry. Liu Yihui, an expert with the Financial Research Center of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, says the CIC has made the right moves by adjusting the investment portfolio according to the dynamic global economic environment. Direct investment in infrastructure, especially in a region that struggles with debt issues, is not only a good opportunity for Chinese enterprises to accelerate its "going global" steps, but also a relatively "smart method" to diversify foreign exchange resources, apart from the treasury bond purchases that the CIC conducted before. "The most important gain from the European moves has been the better risk management systems that enable flexible strategy adjustments when the external investment situation changes," Liu says. Fund officials have indicated that Europe would continue to be one of the top destinations because the continent is home to many strong, well-balanced companies that could gain from overseas investment. In fact, some fund officials have expressed confidence that Europe will account for more than 20 percent of its diversified investment portfolio. The CIC has also signed an agreement with Federal Holding and Investment Co of Belgium to set up the China-Belgium Mirror Fund, a mutual fund to help Chinese companies expand their investments in European countries. 

Hong Kong*:  Sept 30 2013

Tackling poverty in Hong Kong (By Ernest Kao and Jennifer Ngo) With a poverty threshold now established in the city, the challenge is on to meet the needs of the 1.3 million Hong Kongers who are living below it - Like many poor, Tao Xiaorong and his mother live in a tiny room. More than a century after the concept was first developed, Hong Kong finally has a poverty line. The city's first official poverty threshold was formalised yesterday, set at half of the median household income. More than 1.3 million Hongkongers live in households that fall below it. The decision to set a formal definition of poverty is expected to place more pressure than ever on the government to tackle the issue head on - the standard is in line with global norms and will allow international comparisons to be made. It will also oblige the government to set targets and draft policies for poverty alleviation. But the question of how it will do so remains moot. The actual poverty line is not a single figure, but varies according to household size. A one-person household with less than HK$3,600 per month will be considered poor, under 2012 statistics. For two-person households, the amount is HK$7,700 and for four-person households HK$14,300. Around 763,000 people - more than half of those living under the city's poverty line - belong to economically active households. Counting regular welfare paytment such as Comprehensive Social Security Assistance would lower that number to 1.01 million and the number of working poor to 584,000 people. A sizeable increase in the hourly minimum wage, which rose from HK$28 to HK$30 earlier this year, may also help - although such a move would be politically tricky given stern opposition from employers. Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said last week that the wage floor would not be pegged to the poverty line. Many scholars and organisations agree that the government will target the "low-hanging fruit" and introduce a much talked-about supplement for low-income families. The aim would be to help the working poor - those employed on incomes that leave them either below or just slightly above the poverty line. Lam also acknowledged that this would be the government's preferred response. A supplement for hard-working low-income households would face little opposition, yield quick and clear results and buy political goodwill, said Professor Wong Hung of Chinese University's department of social work and welfare. The argument is that even with the minimum wage and existing poverty-alleviation measures such as CSSA - Hong Kong's catch-all welfare safety net - a nascent work incentive transport subsidy scheme and subsidies on textbooks for poor children, families still struggle to make ends meet. "A low-income supplement would help ease the suffering of low-income families," Wong said. "But if we are to lift them out of poverty, it still depends mostly on the minimum wage." According to the Hong Kong Council of Social Service, the number of working poor households - using a definition identical to the new poverty line - rose by 6,000 last year, bringing the total to 191,000. That means 644,000 people are living in working poor households. More than three-quarters of these households have at least one member in full-time work. Oxfam Hong Kong was one of the first organisations to propose a low-income working family subsidy. "A low-income supplement for families is a quick and small push which would lift many out of desperation," said Stephen Fisher, a former government welfare chief who serves as Oxfam's director general. CSSA has not been popular with working families due to the stigma attached to welfare, Fisher said, with most being unwilling to apply for it. Oxfam proposed a subsidy for households with at least one full-time worker and at least one non-working dependent child that have a monthly household income on or below the poverty line. However, unlike CSSA, there would be no means testing of claimants' assets. Under Oxfam's proposal, a family would receive HK$800 a month for the first two children aged 18 or under, adjusted downwards from the third child onwards to reflect the decreasing costs they impose on the family. Fisher says approximately 180,000 children would benefit. The Hong Kong Council of Social Service has proposed a low-income family supplement of 10 per cent of the median income of households of the same size. Those below the poverty line would receive the full supplement, which would range from HK$1,600 to HK$3,230 a month. Those above the line would see that subsidy reduced by 50 cents for every dollar of earnings. Dr Law Chi-kwong, a professor of social work and social administration at the University of Hong Kong, says a higher wage floor is the key to alleviating poverty, but that the current level of HK$30 an hour is barely enough to help poor households. "I'm always telling welfare groups: 'Don't argue where the poverty line is set and don't mix it up with the level of impoverished people in Hong Kong'. Households above the 50 per cent threshold need help too," said Law, a member of the Commission on Poverty, which was reinstated by the government last year after it was abolished in 2007. He said any new, overarching subsidy scheme would be too much for the system to handle. Instead, he proposed a supplement that would mirror the existing welfare system. "The government should tweak current policies to provide more and make them clearer," he said. "For instance, nobody thinks a textbook subsidy is a low-income family subsidy, but it is. My suggestion is to group the transport subsidy to become the actual low-income family supplement, then increase the flat grant of the textbook subsidy and group it with that too." But Wong believes a subsidy for low-income families should not be the top priority. "Hong Kong's poor are made up of three big groups - the working poor, the elderly and CSSA recipients," he said. "The subsidy would aid the working poor, but Hong Kong has bigger issues." He believes a universal retirement scheme, an idea that has long been discussed, should be the first step as the city deals with a rapidly ageing population. He also said CSSA had lost its relevance as a tool for alleviating poverty, as the allowance was no longer calculated based on a scientific assessment of what a person needed to survive in the city. "It would be best to conduct a basic-needs study and adjust CSSA accordingly," he said. Ultimately, a poverty line is based only on income, but poverty itself is much more complicated, he added. It could mean having a low income, but could also be measured by deprivation - being unable to have what others in Hong Kong can expect, such as an internet connection or one's own bed - Wong said. It could also measure social exclusion and isolation - such as that experienced by ethnic minority families who for generations have struggled to learn Chinese and have found themselves cut off from mainstream society and job opportunities, he explained. Cash subsidies can only help to a certain degree, he said, as true poverty alleviation would be much more of a long-term process, involving more planning, especially of minimum wage adjustments, job diversity and opportunities and providing a secure retirement. "I agree with what the government has been saying it would do for a long time but never really delivered as promised - developing more jobs, and making those jobs pay," he said. "We need to creatively rethink our planning … We can't just stick to finance and real estate any more."

Focus on addicts' welfare, not drug tests, say social workers (By Andrea Chen Rather than investing in a compulsory drug test scheme, the authorities should work towards improving drug addicts' rehabilitation chances - The Action Committee Against Narcotics has proposed giving police the power to conduct mandatory drug tests if they detect the presence of drugs or if a person shows signs of being under their influence. Authorities should put more resources into social welfare organisations and rehabilitation instead of a mandatory drug testing scheme to tackle the city's drug problem, social workers say. They were speaking after a proposal for compulsory drug testing was put up for public consultation on Wednesday. The Action Committee Against Narcotics has proposed giving police the power to conduct mandatory drug tests if they detect the presence of drugs or if a person shows signs of being under their influence. It also wants police to have the power to refer individuals who fail the tests to welfare groups for treatment. Social workers at a workshop yesterday said the plan's effectiveness would be limited because the city lacked rehabilitation resources and experienced social workers, meaning cases would pile up if it was introduced. Addicts would have to wait months to secure a place at a rehabilitation centre, said Kwok Mei-ha, an outreach social worker who works with young drug abusers in Sham Shui Po. "A client of mine didn't receive any positive response from a rehab centre until half a year after we helped him submit the application," she said. "By then, his bladder was already badly damaged by drugs." Community Drug Advisory Council head Wong Po-man said he once accompanied a young addict for a blood test at one of the biggest rehabilitation centres but never received any feedback. "I don't understand why the government would rather put resources into this scheme instead of rehab centres and social groups that have been helping the drug addicts and misusers on the front line," he said. But what concerned social worker Sum Tse most was that a mandatory drug test may not detect drug abusers at the early stages of their habits. "If addicts are not motivated to get clean, a mandatory drug test is meaningless," she said. Action Committee Against Narcotics chairman Daniel Shek Tan-lei said the expanding population of hidden abusers was a major reason the committee wanted the testing scheme. But Tse said tests would worsen the situation. "Drug abusers will steer clear from not just police but also social workers, worrying that social workers are working with the police to put them in custody," she said. Her comments echoed the experience of a former addict who wanted to be known only as Karen, who said her encounter with the police when she was taking cocaine and ecstasy years ago left her with little faith in the plan. "When the police checked on drugs in the name of 'checking licenses' at bars and discos, they often threatened us. They treated young drug addicts as criminals instead of victims," she said. The proposal is undergoing a four-month public consultation, with four public forums on the scheme early next month. 

'Blue Mountain' coffee claim 'grounds for alarm', says licensed seller (By Amy Nip SCMP) Many retailers wrongly advertise they sell premium Blue Mountain beans, says importer - A coffee trader has fired a debate over "Jamaica Blue Mountain". Many coffee products sold at a premium in Hong Kong as "Blue Mountain" have only a remote connection with the Blue Mountain Range in Jamaica from where they are supposed to come, an importer claims. Jim Coke, CEO of Hilmann Reinier Commodities, which imports Blue Mountain coffee from Jamaica, said he had filed a complaint with the customs department. He said some coffee carried misleading product descriptions and were in breach of the Trade Descriptions Ordinance. "Some companies are making coffee they call Blue Mountain without authorisation," Coke said. He has named two coffee makers and one retailer in the complaint. When people talk about Blue Mountain, they usually refer to the mountain range in Jamaica that produces one of the world's top coffee beans. In fact, only coffee grown at elevations between 915 metres and 1,680 metres in the parishes of Saint Andrew, Saint Thomas, Portland and Saint Mary can be called Jamaica Blue Mountain, according to the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica. Any company that imports Blue Mountain coffee or makes products named as such must get a licence from the board and pay 1 per cent of their revenue to the country. Items that are made entirely of Blue Mountain coffee beans are called "100% Jamaica Blue Mountain" and have the board's round trademark logo, which shows a barrel in front of a mountain. The board applied for a "Jamaica Blue Mountain" trademark in Hong Kong last year, but the application is still being processed. Many companies are still putting "Blue Mountain" on their packaging. Some local coffee companies not listed as licensees sell "Jamaica Blue Mountain" products in their shops, while many "Blue Mountain" products can be found in supermarkets. Movenpick and Mr Brown Coffee offer a "Blue Mountain blend", without specifying the proportion of Jamaican beans. Others call themselves "Blue Mountain style". Coke said the amended Trade Descriptions Ordinance, which bans misleading descriptions and promotions of goods and services, should be able to solve the problem. The customs' enforcement guidelines for the law states that consumers rightly have expectations over geographical denomination of products. The Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica said Mr Brown, Movenpick, Zambra and Pacific Coffee were not licensed. There were strict requirements if products were to be called a Jamaica Blue Mountain blend, according to the board. But products calling themselves "Blue Mountain Style" or "Blue Mountain Blend" did not infringe the board's trademark because there was no reference to the product being "100% Jamaica Blue Mountain ® coffee", the board's legal officer said. A Pacific Coffee spokesman said its Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee was bought through a prized licensed coffee roaster in the US. "In a nutshell, please be ensured, the Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee beans we sell are genuine and legitimate," the spokesman said. There was no comment yesterday from Zambra, Movenpick or Mr Brown.

Hong Kong draws a poverty line for first time – with 1.3 million living below it (By Tony Cheung) Government pledges help to 160,000 poor families - 1.3 million Hongkongers are in poverty and will be the target of the government’s relief measures in the future, officials revealed on Saturday as the city announced it first “poverty line”. Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who chairs the commission on poverty, pledged to make helping about 160,000 poor families that do not live on social security assistance the administration’s top priority. “We can say that it is those working poor who do not live on social security that are most in need, especially those [families] with children or teenagers in school,” the former social welfare chief said. “Because in those families, there’s [usually] only one member with a job, and it is relatively hard for [him or her] to support a three to four people household.” The poverty line was drawn at levels equivalent to half of the city’s median monthly household incomes last year. For a family of two, the level is HK$7,700 while for a family of four, the level is HK$14,300 – meaning that 1.3 million people, or about 540,000 families in Hong Kong are in poverty. The government’s social security assistance, and elderly and transport subsidies were designed to help the poor to live a better life, but after taking these measures into account, the poverty population still amounts to about 1.02 million, taking up about 15 per cent of Hong Kong’s population. About 296,600 – or approximately a third of the city’s elderly are living below the poverty line, while 208,000 – or a fifth of the children in Hong Kong are living in similar conditions. In the commission on poverty summit on Saturday, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying explained the poverty line “wasn’t drawn for the sake of it, as a political [gesture], but a key step in the administration’s work to tackle poverty in Hong Kong.” But Leung also said that the government will not make it a policy objective to completely eliminate the wealth gap or poverty in the city because it is “impossible”. Pan-democratic lawmakers said they were unhappy about Leung’s stance because it was like suggesting surrender without a real fight. 

HK$38b spin-off planned for Hongkong Electric (By Yvonne Liu and Bloomberg) [Hutchison Whampoa is a Fortune 500 company and one of Hong Kong’s largest listed companies. It is 49.97 per cent owned by the Cheung Kong Group, a property company. Hutchison’s origins date back to two companies founded in the 19th century – Hong Kong and Whampoa Dock, established in 1863 by British merchant John Duflon Hutchison, and Hutchison International in 1877. In 1977, Hutchison became Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. Its operations include ports, with operations across Europe, the Americas, Asia, the Middle East and Africa, property and hotels, retailing through AS Watson & Co, PARKnSHOP supermarkets, Fortress electrical appliance stores, telecommunications through Hutchison Telecommunications International Ltd. It is also involved in infrastructure through its infrastructure arm, Cheung Kong Infrastructure, and has an interest in Hongkong Electric Holdings (HEH), the sole electricity supplier to Hong Kong Island and Lamma Island. Hutchison is also a major shareholder of Husky Energy, one of Canada’s largest energy and energy related companies. It is headed by Li Ka-shing, Asia’s wealthiest man, who has been nicknamed “Superman” because of his investment prowess.] Power Assets, controlled by Li Ka-shing, says it will focus on power projects and facilities overseas after sale of up to 70pc of local firm - Hongkong Electric, 123 years old this year, lights up and powers Hong Kong and Lamma islands, providing electricity to about 568,000 customers. Power Assets Holdings, controlled by Asia's richest man, Li Ka-shing, yesterday announced a proposal to spin off its Hong Kong electricity business - Hongkong Electric. Bloomberg quoted anonymous sources said to be familiar with the deal as saying the company was looking to raise as much as HK$38 billion via the spin-off, through a business trust structure, by the end of this year. That would make it the biggest initial public offering in Hong Kong since October 2010. "Li Ka-shing is cashing out in a relatively good market, which is consistent with his divestment strategies," Ronald Wan, the chief China adviser at Asian Capital (HK) said. "He may want to seek overseas assets with higher growth rates as the Hong Kong electricity unit is a stable and mature business." Power Assets has proposed spinning off the Hong Kong electricity business operated by Hongkong Electric through the listing of share stapled units to be jointly issued by HK Electric Investments and Spinco on the main board of the stock exchange. It plans to sell as much as a 70 per cent interest. After the spin-off is completed, Power Assets said it would have an interest of not more than 49.9 per cent and not less than 30 per cent in the Hong Kong division. It would then focus on power-related facilities and projects outside Hong Kong. Kenny Tang Sing-hing, a general manager at AMTD Financial Planning, said: "It is reasonable for the company to spin off the Hong Kong power business as the business lacks growth. Their internal rate of return is low and has a yield of only 9.9 per cent, compared with a return of 14 to 15 per cent for the businesses in Australia and Europe." Power Assets has submitted the listing application to the exchange and has appointed Goldman Sachs (Asia) and HSBC Corporate Finance as the joint sponsors for the listing. Li has been pulling out from assets in Hong Kong and the mainland, with plans to offload HK$40 billion of assets, including the possible sale of the ParknShop supermarket chain. Power Assets said yesterday the spin-off was a commercial decision and should not be seen as a withdrawal of capital from Hong Kong. Tang said it would still be the controlling shareholder after the spin-off. Hongkong Electric, which started operations in 1890, provides electricity to about 568,000 customers on Hong Kong and Lamma islands. It reported a profit of HK$4.5 billion last year and had a net asset value of HK$5.6 billion at the end of last year. Power Assets also has interests in assets from gas distribution to wind farms in Britain, Australia, mainland China, New Zealand, Thailand, Canada, and the Netherlands.

 China*:  Sept 30 2013

Turkey to buy Chinese missile defence system (By Teddy Ng and Reuters in Istanbul - SCMP) In a contract worth US$3 billion, China Precision will help manufacture an advanced weapons system for the Western-aligned nation - A missile belonging to the HQ-9 system is tested by the PLA. China has won the bid to co-produce a multibillion long-range air and missile defence system in Turkey, in what is its largest and most advanced arms sales to a Nato country. The Turkish defence minister announced the decision to approve the US$3 billion bid by China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corp, rejecting rival offers from Russian, US and European firms. The winning Chinese FD-2000 system beat the Patriot, the Russian S-400 and the French-Italian Eurosam Samp-T, it was announced on Thursday. The FD-2000 is the export designation of the HQ-9 air-defence system. Turkey, which has the second-largest military force by personnel numbers in the Nato alliance, has no long-range missile defence system of its own, but Nato has deployed the US-built Patriot air and missile defence system there since 2012. In January, Turkey restructured its US$4 billion surface-to-air missile programme, dubbed T-Loramids, which had originally been made as an off-the-shelf purchase consisting of radar, launchers and intercept missiles. As a Nato member equipped with the US' Patriot defence systems, Turkey has been urged by its Western allies to remove China and Russia from its bidding list for air-defence projects because of questions over Chinese compatibility with its existing Nato-sponsored early warning architecture. Raytheon, which builds the Patriot missile system, said it had been informed about the Turkish decision and hoped to get a briefing soon. "Nato has long supported the system, deploying Patriots in five aligned countries and, in 2012, providing a requested deployment to Turkey," Raytheon spokesman Mike Doble said. "Given this strong performance, we hope to have an opportunity to debrief and learn more about this decision," Analysts said the purchase was likely to irk the United States, and that Turkey chose the Chinese missiles probably due largely to cost concerns. Shanghai-based military affairs expert Ni Lexiong said: "The technology is up to requirement, and the product may be cheaper than the US or Russian system … The development shows that Turkey does not necessarily have to accept bids from Nato allies." Yue Gang , a Beijing-based military affairs commentator, said the contract marked the first time that China had exported advanced weapons to a Nato country. "The long-term maintenance cost is also cheaper, which is suitable for a nation in an uncertain financial condition," Yue said. "The deal has opened a window for China to deepen military co-operation with Nato countries." He said Turkey rejected Russia's bid probably because Moscow also supplied arms to Iran, which would have strategic implications for Turkey. However, China Precision itself has come under scrutiny for possible missile sales to Tehran. In February, the United States announced sanctions on the company for violations of the Iran, North Korea and Syria Non-proliferation Act.

Taiwan star Jay Chou to use mainland Chinese law to stop rumours (By Lawrence Chung in Taipei Taiwanese singer Jay Chou's agency will make use of the mainland's controversial new law to stop online rumours to stamp out the circulation of unfounded information about the star. JVR Music said yesterday it would take legal action against anyone circulating rumours about the singer on the mainland in accordance with an interpretation of laws to control online information issued this month by the mainland's top court and prosecution body. "Since 2006, there have been a number of boring, unfounded and absurd rumours about Chou, such as stories told to the Japanese media that he was a Japanese descendant or about him not being a charitable person," a JVR official said by phone. She said that Chou originally did not care about these fabrications, but that recent rumours about him circulating online and through text messages had turned malicious and had seriously damaged his image. "The company thus decided to seize upon the September judicial interpretation, hoping to put an end to such absurd online rumours," the official said. She said Juicy Music, which represents Chou on the mainland, would also keep an eye on such rumours on the mainland and take legal action accordingly. "Also, many [of Chou's] fans have alerted us from time to time when rumours were spread," she said, adding that so far the company had not taken any legal action since it announced on Tuesday that it would use the mainland rules. According to the judicial interpretation, a libellous online post that is forwarded more than 500 times or viewed more than 5,000 times could land its author in jail for up to three years. In its statement on Tuesday, JVR said Chou was annoyed by the growing online attacks against him. The company denied the rumour that he had identified himself as a Japanese descendant, stressing Chou's love of Chinese music and his efforts to promote it. The statement also clarified that Chou had donated more than NT$149 million (HK$39 million) to victims of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, not the rumoured NT$250,000.

Hong Kong*:  Sept 29 2013

Hong Kong not threatened by Shanghai free-trade zone, says Leung Chun-ying (Lai Ying-kit The mainland’s first free-trade zone to be opened in Shanghai would not threaten Hong Kong’s position as a financial hub, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said on Friday. Leung commented on the impact of the landmark plan at the end of his visit to the central mainland city of Chongqing. Some business leaders and economists in Hong Kong have expressed concerns that Shanghai’s free-trade area will draw foreign capital away from Hong Kong and hit its economy. The State Council in August announced its plan to launch the mainland’s first free-trade zone in the Pudong area of Shanghai. Set to open on Sunday, it will offer freer yuan convertibility and more liberalised foreign exchange and interest rate systems. Leung said Hong Kong would continue to thrive as it had its own edges. “Hong Kong is a hub for top-notch financial professionals from both China and overseas. It also has sound supporting professionals in the legal and accounting sectors,” he said. “And one of the most important factors is Hong Kong’s rule of law,” he said. The chief executive also said that Hong Kong had managed to restructure its economy to its benefit when posed with challenges from a China that had undergone dramatic reform over the past three decades. He said the Shanghai free-trade zone was part of this opening-up process and would offer Hong Kong opportunities. Leung concluded his two-day trip to Chongqing on Friday. He led a delegation of Hong Kong businessmen to meet local government officials and business leaders for talks about boosting economic ties. 

Ravenous rivals: Hong Kong and Shanghai an influence for good (By Robin Lynam Hong Kong and Shanghai may be competitors, but their food scenes have often influenced each other for the better, writes Robin Lynam - Drunken chicken in Shaoxing liquor at Xiao Nan Guo in Tsim Sha Tsui. Jardin De Jade in Wan Chai. Shanghai Xiao Nan Guo in Kowloon. Jimmy's Kitchen in Central. Cross-pollination between the restaurant scenes in Hong Kong and Shanghai has been going on for as long as the rivalry between the two cities. One early example is Jimmy's Kitchen, which was established in Shanghai in 1924, and opened its first Hong Kong branch - a franchise - in 1928. Shanghai's influence on Hong Kong dining increased significantly in the late 1940s and early '50s, with a huge influx of refugees from the mainland city. A fair number of cooks were among them, and Hong Kong has entertained a reputation for Shanghainese food ever since. We have given back, too. Shanghai's lively Western restaurant scene started with the opening of a branch of what was then a purely Hong Kong operation - M at the Fringe - with M on the Bund in 1999. Elite Concepts' Ye Shanghai, the name notwithstanding, was also established in Hong Kong, before becoming a focal point of the then new Xintiandi entertainment district in 2002. Other Hong Kong brands to have opened in the city include the Gaia Group's Isola, which like the M Restaurant Group, chose Shanghai for its first operation on the mainland. It also opened in Beijing earlier this month. Capital M opened in Beijing in 2009; with its emphasis on a spectacular city view, as well as a heritage location, it's perhaps based more on the Shanghai model than the Hong Kong one. M at the Fringe closed in 2009, and there is little prospect of another M in Hong Kong. Founder Michelle Garnaut would still be interested if a good location became available at the right price, but after four years of looking, thinks that is unlikely. Hong Kong's restaurant scene had a profound influence on Shanghai, but now some of the traffic is coming the other way. In recent years, several well-known Shanghai restaurants have opened outlets here, or authorised franchises. Willy Trullas Moreno, who made his reputation in Shanghai with El Willy, lent his name to FoFo in Wellington Street, Central in 2010. In 2012, David Laris, who had worked in Hong Kong, but established himself as a self-styled "chef-restaurateur-entrepreneur" in Shanghai, did the same for Dining Concepts' Laris in Wyndham Street. "Willy - chef and owner of El Willy in Shanghai - is the key reason why we started FoFo in Hong Kong," says founding partner Sheila Wong. "We just fell in love with his food and personality when we were working in Shanghai eight or nine years ago. "We had to come back to Hong Kong in 2009. To be able to enjoy his food in Hong Kong, we decided to set up a Spanish restaurant here, with him as the mastermind for our menu." "Jardin De Jade and Xiao Nan Guo, both Shanghai restaurant operations, have also started business in Hong Kong," notes Hong Kong celebrity food writer and chef Walter Kei. According to Kei, although Hong Kong is now keeping a more respectful eye on Shanghai's restaurant scene than in the past, our city's influence on dining in the mainland remains greater. "In the 1980s a lot of Hong Kong chefs went back to China to teach people cooking skills that had been lost during the Cultural Revolution. Now there is a new wave of top restaurants in Shanghai hiring consulting chefs from Hong Kong," he says. Although Hong Kong has many Shanghainese restaurants, Kei believes there is less interest in Shanghainese food among gourmets than in the past. "A lot of old Shanghainese restaurants have closed down, and the ones that used to have Shanghainese chefs, often don't anymore. There are problems with rent, and members of the families that own the businesses don't always want to carry them on. People here think of Shanghainese food as just being 'northern food'. That's why a lot of Shanghainese restaurants sell Beijing and Sichuan food." However, the fact that several well-known chefs travel between the two cities shows that their restaurants continue to stimulate each other. Richard Ekkebus, for instance, clocks up frequent flyer miles between the two cities. Ekkebus is the Landmark Mandarin Oriental's director of culinary operations and food and beverage; in addition to being executive chef at Hong Kong's Amber, he acts as consulting chef for the Fifty 8º Grill at the Mandarin Oriental Pudong in Shanghai. Amber was voted the best restaurant in China in the inaugural Restaurant Magazine "Asia's 50 Best Restaurants", and it holds two Michelin stars. Its success has made Ekkebus a brand in his own right. Others from Hong Kong continue to head north. Opening in Shanghai in November in the Jingan Kerry Centre in West Shanghai will be another branch of the El Grande Group's Grappa's. El Grande founder J.R. Robertson believes Hong Kong restaurant brands with proven staying power have a value in Shanghai. "We have had Grappa's for nearly 23 years in Pacific Place here, and for many years at Hong Kong International Airport. "The Airport Authority gave the Grappa's site to another operator, and then decided they missed Grappa's, so it has reopened in bigger premises in Terminal 2. It will soon open at Terminal 2 in Pudong, so we think there is brand equity that should help in our rolling out the concept," he says. In November, the Epicurean Group will open its El Pomposo Spanish restaurant in Shanghai's new IAPM Mall in a space with a 130-seat outdoor terrace. Epicurean also owns the Jimmy's Kitchen brand, which celebrates its 85th anniversary in the same month as the El Pomposo opening. Sadly, the celebrations will be confined to Hong Kong. Jimmy's reopened in Shanghai in 2011, but has since closed again. But according to Epicurean Group marketing director Caroline Chow, the idea of returning Jimmy's to its home town has not been abandoned, and the search is on for new premises in a better location. Hong Kong restaurant brands continue to open up in Shanghai. So are we likely to see more Shanghai brands moving in to Hong Kong? Dining Concepts' founder Sandeep Sekhri, who brought the Laris brand to Hong Kong, says that Laris' Shanghai provenance was not a factor in choosing to work with the chef. He isn't shopping around for another Shanghai brand, but would consider one if the right opportunity presented itself. "Whether it's a New York brand, or a London brand, or a Shanghai brand, it's a question of whether it suits the needs of the Hong Kong culinary scene and whether it can be correctly positioned," he says. "Hong Kong has a great food scene, but Shanghai has caught up really fast," he adds.

HKEx and regulator at loggerheads over listing rules reform (By Enoch Yiu and Ray Chan) Mainland e-commerce giant takes Hong Kong authorities to task as differences crop up between HKEx and SFC over rule review - Alibaba tore into Hong Kong authorities for rebuffing its IPO plan, adding fuel to the rift between the stock market authorities and the regulators over whether or not to order a review of the city's listing rules. Executive vice-chairman Joe Tsai called Alibaba's structure, in which a group of insiders make all key operational decisions, a "living body" intended to preserve the company's culture. "We understand Hong Kong may not want to change its tradition for one company, but we firmly believe that Hong Kong must consider what is needed in order to adapt to future trends and changes," Tsai, who is also a co-founder, wrote in the company's first public comments since news it had decided to go public in the United States instead of Hong Kong in a planned HK$100 billion share sale. "The question Hong Kong must address is whether it is ready to look forward as the rest of the world passes it by." Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing is understood to favour a review of the rules to attract technology firms to list here, but the Securities and Futures Commission is sticking to its guns. In his personal blog, HKEx chief executive Charles Li Xiaojia yesterday used a "dream" analogy for the "voices" in his head arguing the pros and cons of revisiting the rules. The blog was posted the same day as banking sources said Alibaba had given up plans to list in the city and was instead lobbying the US authorities to accept its controversial executive partnership structure. Under the corporate structure Alibaba wants to retain, the top management will nominate the majority of board members. Such a structure would give chairman Jack Ma Yun and his top aides - who own about 10 per cent of the company - complete control of the board. The company is 24 per cent owned by US internet firm Yahoo and about 37 per cent by Japan's SoftBank. The SFC and the exchange's listing committee have made it clear that no exemption will be provided for any company because local listing rules do not allow preferential treatment for one set of shareholders. But several HKEx directors said they were fine with a review. "The HKEx should not allow exemptions to individual companies but it should seek ways to move forward. There is no harm in having a public consultation to see if the public and the market support a change of regulation to meet some companies' needs," said a HKEx director who did not want to be identified. A source close to the SFC, however, said he saw no need for such a consultation. "Changing the listing rules to allow a certain group of shareholders to have more power than the others is not ideal," the source said. Christopher Cheung, legislator for financial services sector, sided with the SFC. "A fair and equal treatment to all shareholders is important for investor protection. The HKEx should not change the listing rules for the sake of attracting certain companies to list here," Cheung said. Shareholder rights activist and former HKEx director David Webb yesterday called for a new regulator to replace the stock exchange with a new body to approve or reject listing applications.

Anti-Beijing candidate has slim chance, says Legco's Jasper Tsang (By Tanna Chong and Yvonne Liu) Legco president believes the central leadership is still formulating its position on the 2017 elections, and 'no news is good news for now' - A candidate who confronted Beijing would stand a very slim chance of being elected chief executive in 2017, according to Legislative Council President Jasper Tsang Yok-sing. And if it did happen, the Beijing-friendly heavyweight said, it would boil down to the fundamental question of the effectiveness of "one country, two systems", not whether the central government should refuse to appoint the elected person. He was speaking as debate raged on over the arrangements for the 2017 election - with tycoon Henry Cheng Kar-shun describing the Occupy Central movement's plans to shut down the city's business heart in its push for full democracy as "worse than a robbery". Tsang said Beijing's concern was whether the elected person could be trusted to safeguard the state's interests, for example, when Chinese and American interests conflicted. "If the voters eventually opt for a candidate whom Beijing has explicitly refused to trust, then it is a problem of Hongkongers' defiance of Beijing instead of how to keep him out of the top job," he said during a meeting with media. "It is about whether the 'one country, two systems' is still working well in Hong Kong." Separately, Cheng, the New World Development chairman and supporter of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, called for Occupy Central to call off its civil-disobedience campaign. "In a robbery, there will be only one victim," he said. "But the Occupy Central protest will affect the public. It will bring about more serious impacts on the whole of society than a robbery." Speaking yesterday after the announcement of his group's annual results, he said the campaigners planned to "politically kidnap the public to threaten the central government and fight for [the organisers' version] of universal suffrage". Tsang's remarks came amid discussion on whether Beijing's right to appoint the chief executive-elect should be substantive or remain a formality. Some electoral proposals floated by the pro-Beijing camp suggest that the central government should "gate-keep" the top job through the appointment right, while setting a lower nomination threshold so that pan-democratic candidates could run for election. Tsang said the crux of viable universal suffrage - "accepted by the pan-democrats" - was fairness and openness, but it took time for Beijing to formulate its exact stance. "To me, no news is good news for now," he said, implying that Beijing was still mulling the issue without taking an extreme position. "It is a very complex question," he said. "The central government needs some space to think about what actual electoral proposal to support."

 China*:  Sept 29 2013

US astronaut praises China's space program 美國宇航員稱讚中國太空計劃 (By Zhao Xinying - China Daily) Chinese astronaut Liu Yang (R) talks with her US counterpart Sandra Magnus in the first meeting between female astronauts from the two countries at Beihang University in Beijing on Thursday. Both also shared their experiences in space with students from universities, and middle and primary schools. A female astronaut from the United States has spoken highly of the development of China's aerospace program, and of the nation's first female astronaut, Liu Yang. In an exchange between female astronauts from China and the US held on Thursday at Beihang University, or Beijing University of Aeronautics & Astronautics, Sandra Magnus, a US astronaut, said she was impressed by the progress China has made. "The space program in China is very impressive," she said. "You have had a space station module and have done an amazing docking since flying the first person to space 10 years ago. "China has accomplished so much in such a short period, and I think China's program is very strong and has a bright future." In October 2003, China's first manned spacecraft, Shenzhou V, was sent into space with astronaut Yang Liwei on board. Last June, three Chinese astronauts piloted Shenzhou IX to link up with Tiangong-1, China's first space station module. Liu, the only female of the three, became the first female astronaut from China to travel to space. Magnus said she had been looking forward to seeing her Chinese peer at the event and praised Liu as "a wonderful representative for China". "We are all in one group and we are all kind of sisters, and it felt good to be together and share our experiences. "It's very difficult to be a woman for anything, and I think she has done a wonderful job," Magnus said. Magnus said she had heard China planned to go to the moon and put a rover on the surface. "I look forward to seeing that and other accomplishments of China in the coming stages." Magnus, who arrived in China on Saturday, said she came to talk about aeronautics with Chinese experts and students. During the exchange on Thursday, she and Liu shared their experiences in space with students from Beijing universities, middle and primary schools. They encouraged the students to keep trying if they had a passion for space. Born in Illinois in 1964, Magnus has a PhD in material engineering and was an astronaut with the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration. She spent a total of 159 days in space in her career, making three separate trips. On March 28, 2009, she returned to Earth with the crew of the space shuttle Discovery after having spent 134 days in orbit.

Butlers the latest must-have for China's nouveau riche (Adrian Wan Top academy for upmarket home help has set up branch on mainland to knock the rough edges off tycoons who see service as their right - The rise of China's super-rich has lured one of the world's top schools for butlers to set up a branch on the mainland. International Butler Academy chairman Robert Wennekes said the school in Chengdu aimed to cultivate a culture of service in a country that had only recently begun to appreciate the finer points of presentation. "When people go to a restaurant, all they care about is the food, and not where and how - and indeed, if - the service is good," Wennekes said. The academy, based in a castle in the Netherlands, will open another branch in Sichuan next year. "New millionaires are made every day in China," said Wennekes. "And when they have a large villa with elaborate decoration and marble flooring they need someone who knows what they are doing. "As people become better off they look at a restaurant's decor, how clean the toilet is, what kind of material the serviette is made of." The rising demand for butlers in the East follows a long decline in the West. There are about 10,000 butlers in Britain, down from 30,000 in the late 1930s, although their numbers have recovered from a low in the 1980s, according to International Guild of Professional Butlers. The academy runs an eight-week course, three times a year, in Valkenburg aan de Geul, in the southern Netherlands. Besides house and table management, students learn those little all-important chores, such as how to store cigars. They are also given practical lessons on "how to deal with a greedy guest" and "how to deal with the task of having to ask a guest to leave the house". One that might come in handy is "how and if to accept a gratuity from a guest". The Chengdu branch will have its own curriculum taught by some local instructors, mainly because of language barriers. Some of China's super-rich insist on importing butlers from the West. Wennekes said one mainland company recently requested 15 Western butlers. But he said Chinese butlers would better understand Chinese bosses. Wennekes said some Chinese employers treated their staff with scant regard, never saying "thank you" for simple acts of service because "they think they are entitled to them because they pay money for it". But he said such behaviour was not unique to China. "Employing a butler has helped some Chinese businessmen a lot because a butler can tactfully tell you 'maybe when you meet foreigners in London next week, you shouldn't do this, you should do that'," he said. Wennekes believes the nouveau riche in China still have a lot to learn. "Chinese companies spend millions on splendid chandeliers, but their staff are generally underpaid. I don't understand why."

US astronaut praises China's space program (By Zhao Xinying) A female astronaut from the United States has spoken highly of the development of China's aerospace program, and of the nation's first female astronaut, Liu Yang. In an exchange between female astronauts from China and the US held on Thursday at Beihang University, or Beijing University of Aeronautics & Astronautics, Sandra Magnus, a US astronaut, said she was impressed by the progress China has made. "The space program in China is very impressive," she said. "You have had a space station module and have done an amazing docking since flying the first person to space 10 years ago. "China has accomplished so much in such a short period, and I think China's program is very strong and has a bright future." In October 2003, China's first manned spacecraft, Shenzhou V, was sent into space with astronaut Yang Liwei on board. Last June, three Chinese astronauts piloted Shenzhou IX to link up with Tiangong-1, China's first space station module. Liu, the only female of the three, became the first female astronaut from China to travel to space. Magnus said she had been looking forward to seeing her Chinese peer at the event and praised Liu as "a wonderful representative for China". "We are all in one group and we are all kind of sisters, and it felt good to be together and share our experiences. "It's very difficult to be a woman for anything, and I think she has done a wonderful job," Magnus said. Magnus said she had heard China planned to go to the moon and put a rover on the surface. "I look forward to seeing that and other accomplishments of China in the coming stages." Magnus, who arrived in China on Saturday, said she came to talk about aeronautics with Chinese experts and students. During the exchange on Thursday, she and Liu shared their experiences in space with students from Beijing universities, middle and primary schools. They encouraged the students to keep trying if they had a passion for space. Born in Illinois in 1964, Magnus has a PhD in material engineering and was an astronaut with the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration. She spent a total of 159 days in space in her career, making three separate trips. On March 28, 2009, she returned to Earth with the crew of the space shuttle Discovery after having spent 134 days in orbit.

 *News information are obtained through various sources: South China Morning Post, The Standard, Hong Kong Trade Development Council, Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, Hong Kong Government, Asia Society, Wall Street Journal, China Daily, Xinhua, World Journal, The Singtao Newspaper, TVB, CCTV Stations in China and others that are deemed reliable, but not guaranteed

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