China.Hawaii Chamber of Commerce ®
Hong Kong.Hawaii Chamber of Commerce ®
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Hong Kong, China & Hawaii News Archive for Year 2002  Archive Jan 1, 2003.........:>
January - April 2003  May - July  2003  Aug - Sept 2003  Oct - Dec  2003 January - Mar 2004  April - June 2004  July - Sept 2004
Oct - Dec 2004 Jan - Feb 2005  Mar - Apr 2005  May - Jun 2005 July - Aug 2005 Sept - Oct 2005 Nov - Dec 2005 Jan - Feb 2006 
Mar - Apr 2006 May - Jun 2006 Jul - Aug 2006 Sept - Oct 2006 Nov - Dec 2007 Jan - Feb 2007 Mar - Apr 2007 May 2007 June 2007
July 2007 Aug 2007 Sept 2007 Oct 2007 Nov 2007 Dec 2007 Jan 2008 Feb 2008 Mar 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008
Beijing Olympics Aug 2008 Sept 2008 Oct 2008 Nov 2008 Dec 2008 Jan 2009 Feb 2009 Mar 2009 Apr 2009 May 2009 June 2009
July 2009 Aug 2009 Sept 2009 Oct 2009 Nov 2009 Dec 2009 Jan 2010 Feb 2010 Mar 2010 Apr 2010 May 2010 June 2010 Jul 2010
Aug 2010 Sept 2010 Nov 2010 Dec 2010 Jan 2011 Feb 2011 Mar 2011 Apr 2011 May 2011 June 2011 Jul 2011 Aug 2011 Sept 2012
Oct 2011 Nov 2011 Dec 2011 Jan 2012 Feb 2012 Mar 2012 Apr 2012 May 2012 June 2012 July 2012 Aug 2012 Sept 2012 Oct 2012
Nov 2012 Dec 2012 Jan 2013 Feb 2013 Mar 2013 Apr 2013 May 2013 June 2013 July 2013 Aug 2013 Sep 2013 Oct 2013 Nov 2013
Dec 2013
China Projects Bidding Information - update daily    Scholarship & Grants  News Archives in PDF Format 

Do you know our dues paying members attend events sponsored by our collaboration partners worldwide at their membership rates - go to our event page to find out more! After attended a China/Hong Kong Business/Trade Seminar in Hawaii...still unsure what to do next, contact us, our Officers, Directors and Founding Members are actively engaged in China/Hong Kong/Asia trade - we can help!

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(approximate $ exchange rates: US$1 = HK$7.8, US$1 = RMB$6.3)

China President Hu Jintao USA State Visit January 19 - 21 2011 http://www.b2bchinadirect.com/hujintaousavisit.htm

Wine-Biz - Hong Kong Brand Hong Kong Video

Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) http://www.tid.gov.hk/english/cepa/index.html

成功之道 武进制造 Wujin - Changzhou - Jiangsu Province - China http://www.hkchcc.org/wujin.htm 

  Year of the Snake - February 10 2013 -  Dance w/ Firework http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VoFfOglJuI 

President Obama's Lunar New Year Message - Year of the Dragon http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6gfkYAo5gE

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 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJiOXUHIOeA 

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 www.policyaddress.gov.hk 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 http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/travel/visafree/ 

Hong Kong*:  Jan 1 2014

NSA's elite hacking unit revealed (By Associated Press in London) Agents tampered with computers before delivery; used Microsoft’s crash reports in spying, according to Der Spiegel magazine - Microsoft's crash reports, which its engineers use to fix bugs, was used to help spies break into Windows, a report says. A German magazine lifted the lid on the operations of the National Security Agency’s hacking unit, reporting that American spies intercept computer deliveries, exploit hardware loopholes and even hijack Microsoft’s internal reporting system to spy on their targets. Der Spiegel‘s revelations on Sunday relate to a division of the NSA known as Tailored Access Operations (TAO) which is painted as an elite team of hackers specialising in stealing data from the toughest of targets. Citing internal NSA documents, the magazine said that TAO’s mission was “getting the ungettable”, and quoted an unnamed intelligence official as saying that the team had gathered “some of the most significant intelligence our country has ever seen”. Der Spiegel said TAO had a catalogue of hi-tech gadgets for particularly hard-to-crack cases, including computer monitor cables specially modified to record what is being typed across the screen, flash drives secretly fitted with radio transmitters to broadcast stolen data over the airwaves and fake base stations intended to intercept mobile phone signals on the go. The NSA does not just rely on James Bond-style spy gear, the magazine said. Some of the attacks described in the report exploit weaknesses in the architecture of the internet to deliver malicious software to specific computers. Others take advantage of weaknesses in hardware or software distributed by some of the world’s leading information technology companies, including Cisco Systems and China’s Huawei Technologies, the magazine reported. Der Spiegel cited a 2008 mail order catalogue-style list of vulnerabilities that NSA spies could exploit from companies such as California-based Western Digital Corporation or Texas-based Dell. The magazine said that suggested the agency was “compromising the technology and products of American companies”. Microsoft’s weakness - Old-fashioned methods get a mention, too. The report said that if the NSA tracked a target ordering a new computer or other electronic accessories, TAO could tap its allies in the FBI and the CIA, intercept the hardware in transit, and take it to a secret workshop where it could be fitted with espionage software before being sent on its way. This is among the NSA’s “most productive operations”, and has helped harvest intelligence from around the world, one document cited in the report stated. One of the most striking reported revelations concerned the NSA’s alleged ability to spy on Microsoft’s crash reports, familiar to many users of the Windows operating system as the dialogue box which pops up when a game freezes or a Word document dies. The reporting system is intended to help Microsoft engineers improve their products and fix bugs, but Der Spiegel said the NSA was also sifting through the reports to help spies break into machines running Windows. One NSA document cited by the magazine appeared to poke fun at Microsoft’s expense, replacing the software giant’s standard error report message with the words: “This information may be intercepted by a foreign sigint [signals intelligence] system to gather detailed information and better exploit your machine”. Microsoft said that information sent by customers about technical issues in such a manner is limited. “Microsoft does not provide any government with direct or unfettered access to our customer’s data,” a company representative said on Sunday. “We would have significant concerns if the allegations about government actions are true.” Sourced from Snowden? Microsoft is one of several US firms that have demanded more transparency from the NSA and worked to bolster their security in the wake of the revelations of former intelligence worker Edward Snowden, whose disclosures have ignited an international debate over privacy and surveillance. Der Spiegel did not explicitly say where its cache NSA documents had come from, although the magazine has previously published a series of stories based on documents leaked by Snowden, and one of Snowden’s key contacts, American filmmaker Laura Poitras, was listed among the article’s six authors. It was as yet unclear whether Snowden was the source for the latest story. Another company mentioned by Der Spiegel, though not directly linked with any NSA activity, was Juniper Networks, a computer network equipment maker in California. “Juniper Networks recently became aware of, and is currently investigating, alleged security compromises of technology products made by a number of companies, including Juniper,” the company said in an e-mail. “We take allegations of this nature very seriously and are working actively to address any possible exploit paths.” If necessary, Juniper said, it would, “work closely with customers to ensure they take any mitigation steps”.

Hong Kong's new air quality index, phone app debut to 'very high' smog readings (By Ernest Kao ernest.kao@scmp.com) A ratings system to replace the decades-old API off to a smoggy start with particulate readings at risky levels - A visitor at The Peak finds the city skyline veiled in a haze. The new Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) launched without a glitch on Monday morning – but it was still bad news overall in terms of overall air quality. Urban roadside pollution at all three roadside air quality monitoring stations hit levels of “10” by 6pm on Monday, corresponding to “very high” levels on the index’s new five-tier health risk scale. The AQHI replaced the 18-year-old Air Pollution Index (API) on Monday. The new index now analyses three-hour readings of the average concentrations of four major pollutants on a a scale of one to 10 and 10+, and is grouped into five colour-coded health-risk categories: low (green), moderate (orange), high (red), very high (brown) and serious (black). At Causeway Bay, the AQHI reached a "very high" level of 9 at 1pm. Levels of PM10 – suspended particles tiny enough to penetrate the lungs – hit 116 micrograms per cubic metre. The World Health Organisation considers any level above 50 micrograms per cubic metre unsafe. By 6pm in the evening, the Causeway Bay, Central and Mong Kok stations had all hit level 10, just one level short of "severe". The Environmental Protection Department gave all three a health advice alert of “C”, meaning children, elderly and people with existing heart or respiratory illnesses are urged to "reduce to the minimum" physical exertion and activities outdoors, especially in areas of heavy traffic. Pollution at most of the city’s 12 general stations, including a new one at Tuen Mun, hovered at “moderate” health risk levels of 5 and 7 in the afternoon before deteriorating in the late evening. Central/Western, Sham Shui Po, Kwai Chung, Yuen Long and Tuen Mun hit levels as high as 9 at 6pm. Meanwhile, a new free smartphone app which issues alerts and allows users to check monitoring station data in real time, was launched simultaneously. But most citizens today did not seem aware of the new development, nor did they feel an app would make a difference. “I didn’t even know how the old API worked so I don’t think the data from the new index or app would be very helpful,” said Jack But, 28, who works in Causeway Bay. “Air pollution seems bad everyday so I can’t imagine why an app would be useful.” Student Joey Lam said she would consider downloading the app but questioned whether alerts would really be helpful for public awareness of pollution and health. “So people get an alert everyday at 7am, and then what? They’ll probably just look at it and then forget about it,” said Lam. “And what about the elderly people who do not have smartphones?” Australian schoolteacher Joe Butler was more sceptical. “Even if the air is visibly bad, the government always finds a way to say it’s fine.” “I live in Tung Chung so I can taste and see the bad air. I don’t need an app to tell me how bad it is … I’d rather the government spend more effort trying to tackle pollution at the source.” Butler said he would leave Hong Kong in the next few years partly due to the worsening air quality. “It’s a long-term concern I have for my three children.” The department’s new mobile app comes with a set of user friendly features. A location-based based shows users the level of pollution in each district. Alerts and notifications for roadside pollution data and risk levels can be customised and are sent twice each day, with the first at 7am. The EPD says the new AQHI system aims to better communicate air pollution information to the public to alert them to take precautions as necessary.

German magazine reveals NSA hacking tactics (By China Daily) A German magazine lifted the lid on the operations of the National Security Agency's hacking unit Sunday, reporting that American spies intercept computer deliveries, exploit hardware vulnerabilities, and even hijack Microsoft's internal reporting system to spy on their targets. Der Spiegel's revelations relate to a division of the NSA known as Tailored Access Operations, or TAO, which is painted as an elite team of hackers specializing in stealing data from the toughest of targets. Citing internal NSA documents, the magazine said Sunday that TAO's mission was "Getting the ungettable," and quoted an unnamed intelligence official as saying that TAO had gathered "some of the most significant intelligence our country has ever seen." Der Spiegel said TAO had a catalog of high-tech gadgets for particularly hard-to-crack cases, including computer monitor cables specially modified to record what is being typed across the screen, USB sticks secretly fitted with radio transmitters to broadcast stolen data over the airwaves, and fake base stations intended to intercept mobile phone signals on the go. The NSA doesn't just rely on James Bond-style spy gear, the magazine said. Some of the attacks described by Der Spiegel exploit weaknesses in the architecture of the Internet to deliver malicious software to specific computers. Others take advantage of weaknesses in hardware or software distributed by some of the world's leading information technology companies, including Cisco Systems, Inc, the magazine reported. Der Spiegel cited a 2008 mail order catalog-style list of vulnerabilities that NSA spies could exploit from companies such as Irvine, California-based Western Digital Corp. or Round Rock, Texas-based Dell Inc. The magazine said that suggested the agency was "compromising the technology and products of American companies." Old-fashioned methods get a mention too. Der Spiegel said that if the NSA tracked a target ordering a new computer or other electronic accessories, TAO could tap its allies in the FBI and the CIA, intercept the hardware in transit, and take it to a secret workshop where it could be discretely fitted with espionage software before being sent on its way. Intercepting computer equipment in such a way is among the NSA's "most productive operations," and has helped harvest intelligence from around the world, one document cited by Der Spiegel stated. One of the most striking reported revelations concerned the NSA's alleged ability to spy on Microsoft Corp.'s crash reports, familiar to many users of the Windows operating system as the dialogue box which pops up when a game freezes or a Word document dies. The reporting system is intended to help Microsoft engineers improve their products and fix bugs, but Der Spiegel said the NSA was also sifting through the reports to help spies break into machines running Windows. One NSA document cited by the magazine appeared to poke fun at Microsoft's expense, replacing the software giant's standard error report message with the words: "This information may be intercepted by a foreign sigint (signals intelligence) system to gather detailed information and better exploit your machine." Microsoft said that information sent by customers about technical issues in such a manner is limited. "Microsoft does not provide any government with direct or unfettered access to our customer's data," a company representative said in an email Sunday. "We would have significant concerns if the allegations about government actions are true." Microsoft is one of several US firms that have demanded more transparency from the NSA - and worked to bolster their security - in the wake of the revelations of former intelligence worker Edward Snowden, whose disclosures have ignited an international debate over privacy and surveillance. Der Spiegel did not explicitly say where its cache NSA documents had come from, although the magazine has previously published a series of stories based on documents leaked by Snowden, and one of Snowden's key contacts - American documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras - was listed among the article's six authors. No one was immediately available at Der Spiegel to clarify whether Snowden was the source for the latest story. Another company mentioned by Der Spiegel, though not directly linked with any NSA activity, was Juniper Networks Inc, a computer network equipment maker in Sunnyvale, Calif. "Juniper Networks recently became aware of, and is currently investigating, alleged security compromises of technology products made by a number of companies, including Juniper," the company said in an email. "We take allegations of this nature very seriously and are working actively to address any possible exploit paths." If necessary, Juniper said, it would, "work closely with customers to ensure they take any mitigation steps."

 China*:  Jan 1 2014

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ‘unwelcome’ in China after war shrine visit (By Teddy Ng in Beijing, Zhuang Pinghui and Kristine Kwok) Talks are ruled out as fears grow that the strained relations with China will only improve when Japan's prime minister is out of office [Yasukuni Shrine, located in Tokyo, Japan, is dedicated to over 2,466,000 Japanese soldiers and servicemen who died fighting on behalf of the Emperor of Japan in the last 150 years. It also houses one of the few Japanese war museums dedicated to World War II.The shrine is at the center of an international controversy by honoring war criminals convicted by a post World War II court including 14 'Class A' war criminals. Japanese politicians, including prime ministers and cabinet members have paid visits to Yasukuni Shrine in recent years which caused criticism and protests from China, Korea, and Taiwan.] Shinzo Abe at Tokyo stock exchange yesterday. Beijing said yesterday that Japanese prime minster Shinzo Abe would be "unwelcome" in China because of his visit to a shrine honouring Japan's war dead, including war criminals. The remarks suggest that the chances of any improvement in Sino-Japanese ties will be slim as long as Abe is in office, analysts said. Foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said yesterday that leaders of the world's second- and third-largest economies would not have any political dialogue at the highest level. "Since assuming office, Abe has miscalculated on Sino-Japan ties, and made mistake after mistake, especially visiting the Yasukuni Shrine which houses class A war criminals. These people are fascists, the Nazis of Asia," Qin said. "Of course the Chinese people don't welcome such a Japanese leader, and Chinese leaders will not meet him. Abe has himself shut the door on talks with Chinese leaders." Abe said that he hoped for talks with Beijing after visiting the shrine last week - the first pilgrimage to the Shinto-style war shrine by a sitting Japanese prime minister since Junichiro Koizumi's visit in 2006. "Abe's hypocrisy in his claims of prioritising relations with China and hopes for dialogue with the Chinese leaders has been fully revealed," Qin said. "Now, Abe needs to admit his mistakes to the government and people of China, cut loose from the past and make a new start." On civilian ties - as opposed to government ties - between the two countries, Qin said Abe's actions had created a "tremendous obstacle" to bilateral co-operation and would "eventually hurt Japan's own interests". Analysts said Beijing's latest remarks suggested there would be no bilateral summit as long as Abe is in office. Liu Jiangyong , deputy dean of Tsignhua University's Institute of Modern International Relations, said Abe had inflicted greater damage on Sino-Japanese ties than Koizumi. "Abe's recent moves are all targeting China … and at the year end he visits Yasukuni to report his work," Liu said. Da Zhigang, a Japanese affairs specialist at the Heilongjiang Academy of Social Science, said Beijing has lost hope with Abe, and will wait for Abe's successor to improve Sino-Japanese relations. "Abe will not have the chance to visit China, and talks between him and Chinese leaders on the sidelines of international meetings are also not possible," Da said. "But China is unlikely to resort to economic sanctions because this will hurt China's trade and trigger sentiment in China." Zhang Baohui, a security specialist at Lingnan University, said there was almost no room for improvement in Sino-Japan relations under Abe. "The Sino-Japan relationship is in a very difficult situation given the two nations are embroiled in bitter territorial disputes, and the matter is now seriously complicated by historical issues." Liu said relations between China and Japan would continue to deteriorate under Abe's reign. While Abe's Liberal Democratic Party is due to have another round of elections in 2015, Abe faces tremendous pressure both internationally and domestically in his bid to be re-elected as the party's president. "If the Japanese people are not happy with his foreign policy, and if the economy does not improve, if the stock market's bubble bursts, Abe could fail," Liu said.

China's sharp-eyed science satellite goes live (By Zhao Lei zhaolei@chinadaily.com.cn) China's science community moved closer to its goal of a fully integrated system for making high-resolution observations of the Earth's surface from space on Monday, as the first satellite of that system was officially put into operation. The activation of the Gaofen-1 satellite marks a milestone in a program that will substantially improve the nation's capabilities in disaster relief, surveying and environmental protection, the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense, which oversees the program, said in a statement. The administration said the satellite is able to obtain high-resolution data over vast swaths of land, noting it will take only four days to map the entire globe. Gaofen-1 was sent into space aboard a Long March-2D rocket from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gansu province on April 26. After entering orbit, it underwent eight months of trial operation and tests. Now it's live. Developed by the China Academy of Space Technology, Gaofen-1 will be followed by another four or five satellites before the end of 2016 to form the high-definition Earth observation system — among China's 16 most important national projects in science and technology. The satellite is equipped with a 2-meter-resolution, charge-coupled camera, an 8-meter multispectrum imager, and four 16-meter, wide-field multispectrum imagers. The equipment enables the satellite to take a clear picture of a single automobile on the surface. Major users of the Gaofen-1 are the ministries of land and resources, environmental protection and agriculture. Another 15 central departments also signed agreements allowing them to access satellite information. "Compared with other remote-sensing satellites, Gaofen-1 has greater capabilities in terms of Earth surveys and can significantly improve our nation's performance in this field,” said Wang Chengwen, deputy commander of the Gaofen-1 project. By improving the precision and timeliness of data, the satellite could play an important role in disaster relief in a country hit often by earthquakes, floods and other natural calamities. During its shakedown period after entering orbit, the satellite helped assess the status of deserts in the Aibi Lake area, in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region; provided relief workers with high-resolution photos of places affected by the magnitude-6.6 quake that shook Gansu province in July; and recorded the record-breaking floods that hit Heilongjiang province in August, according to Wang. "Using Gaofen-1, we could obtain information of the flooded areas in a timely and precise manner,” said Yang Guangyuan, deputy director of Heilongjiang provincial bureau of water resources. "It provided pictures with accurate coordinates for each place, and it updated very quickly.” In addition, at the request of the Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization, the satellite helped Pakistani authorities see areas hit by a magnitude-7.7 earthquake on Sept 24. The satellite can help improve land-resource surveying, environmental monitoring, geographical and oceanic mapping as well as provide support to precision agriculture. "With the assistance of satellite surveys, we found that the total area of China's wetlands has decreased by 33 percent over the past 30 years. Next, we will use Gaofen-1 to analyze the reasons for the changes,” Yang said. The project to set up a high-resolution Earth observation system received government approval and was launched in 2010. China intends to establish an extremely precise Earth observation system integrated with other measures for a complete observation system that works in all weather at all hours of the day and across the globe. There are more than 50 countries that own or operate Earth observation satellites, and the data they collect is used for economic and social activities and in scientific research. 

Shanghai's shipping industry raises doubts over snubbing in new Free Trade Zone (By Daniel Ren ren.wei@scmp.com) The China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone at the Yangshan Deep Water Port is seen in Shanghai on Nov. 29, 2013. Xiong Hao, a senior executive at a Shanghai shipping firm, doubts whether the city’s proposed Free Trade Zone has what it takes to make it a world-class trading hub. “The officials want to bite-off more than they can chew,” Xiong told the South China Morning Post. “They don’t seem to understand the role of a free-trade zone and it doesn’t make sense to me that the financial sector rather than trade and shipping, is given priority.” The mainland’s commercial sector initially embraced the plan for a free trade zone with hopes of establishing a mini-Hong Kong territory exempt from custom intervention. But concerns have since grown that the development plan amounts to no more than a renewed effort to transform Shanghai into a global financial centre. Beijing and local authorities have pledged to make the yuan fully convertible in the FTZ, which will initially cover an area of about 30 square kilometres. They have stressed that the zone will be distinct from counterparts around the world, with a focus on financial liberalisation within the area. “But the manufacturing sector should be the backbone of an economy,” said Xiong, an assistant general manager at Shanghai Jump International Shipping. “It is advisable for the government to give tremendous support to the manufacturing and commodity trading sectors by making the most of the policies in the free-trade zone.” Beijing has yet to unveil detailed operating guidelines covering the trial run of the FTZ, which was officially launched at the end of September, and until now all eyes have been on what financial institutions registered in the zone may be allowed to do. But Xiong and other shipping industry officials have already envisioned huge business opportunities arising from loosened custom intervention, and they believe the shipping sector should be among the top beneficiaries of the zone. “The Yangshan Deep-water Port could take a leap forward based on the free-trade zone policies, giving Shanghai a big boost to establish an international shipping centre,” said Liu Wei, a professor at the Shanghai Maritime University. “Great changes will take place should the customs’ authority really relinquish its supervisory role.” The Yangshan Port is a bonded area where import tariffs are not imposed unless the goods are on-shipped into other areas, and it is regarded as having the world’s best facilities. But until now customs’ procedures have proved to be a major stumbling block to the port’s development into a major international trans-shipment hub. Shanghai handled 32.5 million 20-foot-equivalent units last year, retaining the title of the world’s busiest container port for the third consecutive year. However, only 5.5 per cent of the cargos fell into the category of international trans-shipment – cargoes handled in Shanghai which will be transferred to other vessels bound for foreign destinations after temporary storage. In Hong Kong, international trans-shipments accounted for more than 50 per cent of total container throughput. “A free flow of cargos would be achieved at the free-trade zone, and eventually help Shanghai handle more international trans-shipments,” Liu said. “All the goods inside the zone are supposed to be exempt from local custom procedures and oversights, and the logistics’ services will be given free play to quicken cargo flows.” Under the blueprint endorsed by Beijing, a 14-square-kilometre area at the Yangshan Port is earmarked for the free-trade zone, which is aimed at bolstering the growth of the shipping industry. Analysts said wasn’t big enough to ensure its success. About half of the 14 sq km is in Lingang New City which is connected with the Yangshan islands via the 32.5km cross-sea Donghai Bridge. “Lingang has a huge potential to become a regional manufacturing base,” said Lu Ming, an agent with Shanghai Ocean Shipping Agency. “A big free-trade zone area at Lingang would attract billions of dollars investment to set up productions there. “Manufacturers can process goods for both the mainland and foreign markets.” A larger free-trade zone in Shanghai would also help the city’s long-term economic growth. The mainland government is pushing the notion that locally-made products should rise up the value chain in order to maintain the rapid growth of the economy, after a strengthening yuan and rising labour costs have dented China’s role as the world’s manufacturing hub. “Going back to basics is important,” said Xiong. “The free-trade zone can technically help China to recover the lost ground in manufacturing. “What’s the point of focusing on finance while putting shipping and trade aside.” 

Long lines for 'Xi Jinping Combo' at Beijing restaurant after president's visit (By Vanessa Pao vanessa.pao@scmp.com) A serving of food at a Qingfeng chain restaurant in Beijing similar to what Chinese President Xi Jinping ate when he visited on Saturday, is pictured at the Qingfeng steamed buns restaurant in Beijing. Customers line up to buy steamed buns which Chinese President Xi ate on Saturday, at the Qingfeng steamed buns restaurant in Beijing. The Qingfeng Steamed Bun chain restaurant in Beijing where Chinese president Xi Jinping enjoyed a much-publicised meal on Saturday has removed the table the president sat at for fear that customers would fight over the spot. “It’s not that we want to keep the table to ourselves as a souvenir; it’s mainly out of safety concerns,” one staffer who only gave her surname, Wang, told a South China Morning Post reporter. Since stories of Xi's Saturday visit made national headlines, the restaurant has seen an overwhelming swarm of customers, say waiters and the manager. Waiters at the entrance had to warn customers that they would have to wait for around an hour before getting a table and their food. But undeterred locals and tourists flocked to the humble eatery in western Beijing, forming long queues snaking through the entrance hall into its 500-square-metre dining area. At lunch hour on Monday, the man waiting at the end of the pick-up queue had a ticket with the number 597. Most customers in the line were busy taking pictures of the store. Many who finally reached the counter had only one simple request: "Just give me the 'Xi Combo!'”. The President had ordered steamed buns stuffed with pork and onion, a green vegetable dish and a stew with pork liver and intestines. Zhuo Guizhen, a Beijinger and frequent of the restaurant, said it was the first time she saw so many customers here. Olivia Chao, a Chinese-Australian tourist travelling with her family in Beijing, was having exactly what Xi ordered. “My relatives in Australia called us yesterday saying they saw in the news that China’s president dined at this restaurant, so we came today to have a taste of the buns,” she said. The chain store has seen an explosion of customers since Xi's visit, said the store manager, He Yuanli, as she rattled around the crowded restaurant collecting used trays and wiping down tables. Most customers came for the "Xi Combo," she said. A staffer from Qingfeng’s headquarters, who came to the branch to help out because of the overwhelming number of diners, said the store had already replaced the table Xi actually used last Saturday in case customers would fight over it. But Wang said the chain had no plan to add the 21-yuan (HK$27) “Xi Combo” to its set menu yet. “We don’t want to use his visit as a stunt to make money,” she said. 

Hong Kong*:  Dec 31 2013

Developers sniff out better deal at MTR site (By Sandy Li sandy.li@scmp.com) Tin Shui Wai site draws 19 expressions of interest on hopes of reduced land premium - MTR Corp's second attempt at tendering a large residential site near the Tin Wing Light Rail Station in Tin Shui Wai saw 19 developers submit expressions of interest yesterday, the second-biggest response since April. Market observers said the strong initial response indicated developers held high expectations that the Lands Department would soften its stand on the land premium payable after the site failed to attract any bids in February. In light of market sentiment, they said they believed the department would have to cut the original HK$2.69 billion land premium for the site by 10 per cent to 25 per cent in order to encourage bidding. "The initial response is much better than what the market expected," said Alvin Lam, a director at Midland Surveyors. "It shows big and small developers wanted to enter first as this round is only for expressions of interest. "They don't want to miss any chance in case the government lowers the land premium." Developers lining up before yesterday's noon deadline to submit tenders to develop the site included Cheung Kong, Sun Hung Kai Properties, Henderson Land, Sino Land, Nan Fung, Chinachem, Lai Sun Development, Asia Standard and Wheelock & Co. The site will yield a gross floor area of 982,280 square feet, or 1,500 units. MTR Corp withdrew the residential site in Tin Shui Wai from tendering in February when no developer submitted a bid due to the high land premium to be charged by the Lands Department. The tendering of an MTR site at Long Ping Station (South) in Yuen Long in April saw 20 developers submit expressions of interest, making it the most popular offering this year. Ringo Lam, a director of valuation at AG Wilkinson & Associates, said the Lands Department would have to reduce the land premium by 10 per cent in order to attract bidders. Market observers forecast the land premium for the Tin Shui Wai site could be lowered to between HK$2 billion and HK$2.42 billion, or HK$2,000 to HK$2,463 per square foot. Excluding interest expenses, the land and construction cost for the site could reach HK$5 billion to HK$5.8 billion, they said.

 China*:  Dec 31 2013

 

High-speed rail opens up line of prosperity (By He Huifeng huifeng.he@scmp.com) New Shenzhen-Xiamen bullet train links three important economic hubs for first time, as well as making business trips and holidays much easier - The new high-speed railway between Shenzhen and Xiamen opened yesterday, slicing the journey from an area many Hongkongers call home to the southeast coast from 15 hours to just 3-1/2 hours. The 514km line is also a major breakthrough in connecting the rich, but relatively less accessible area of eastern Guangdong to the rest of the Pearl River Delta, Hong Kong and Fujian province. More than 21.4 million people live in the areas of Chaozhou and Shantou (known collectively as Chaoshan). Many Hongkongers, including Hong Kong's richest man Li Ka-shing, hail from the area. The new train line, with 18 stations, also connects the Pearl River Delta, with a population of 140 million, with Fujian province, with a population of more than 37 million. Guangdong officials said travel from any place in the delta to Fujian would now take less than four hours. The new line also connects with another high-speed line from Xiamen to Shanghai, linking for the first time the three important economic hubs of the Pearl River Delta, the proposed western Taiwan straits economic zone, and the Yangtze River Delta. Twenty-six trains will depart from Shenzhen daily to different destinations including Xiamen, Shanghai, Nanjing and Hangzhou . Travel time from Shenzhen to Xiamen will be cut from 15 hours to 31/2. Two trains will run daily between Guangzhou and the new Chaoshan station built between Chaozhou and Shantou. Passengers on the first train to Xiamen said ticket prices were competitive. A one-way first-class ticket from Shenzhen cost 181 yuan (HK$229), while a second-class ticket cost 150.50 yuan, cheaper than a coach service (190 yuan) and flying, which usually costs more than 700 yuan. Guo Qianxiang, a Chinese medicine practitioner from Guangzhou, said he saved time and money on his trip. "I work in Guangzhou and go back home to Shantou once a month. In the past, it took at least four hours and more then 1,000 yuan by plane, or six hours and 180 yuan by coach. Today, I would only spend 164 yuan and less than three hours for the trip," he said. A Fujian tourism bureau official, who was on the train yesterday to promote tourism, said the province was rolling out discounts for hotels in Xiamen in the hope that the new line would bring a 30 per cent rise in the number of tourists from Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta. Authorities have not provided any official estimates on the project's cost, but mainland media estimate it at 41.7 billion yuan. "I am looking forward to the opening of the railway. It will save me a lot of money and time on transportation," said a woman from Zhangzhou city in Fujian, who travels to Hong Kong to shop two or three times a year. "It costs at least 2,000 yuan to fly to Hong Kong through Shenzhen. Now it only costs about 200 yuan. I will definitely go to Hong Kong more often." However, some passengers complained their ears popped due to a sudden change in air pressure as the train sped through tunnels. The journey goes through 71 tunnels and crosses 159 bridges. "Making phone calls is a big problem on the train," said a businessman from Wenzhou . "If I can not be reached by mobile for eight hours or even 12 hours, I would miss many important calls from clients." Some passengers also complained about insufficient public transport to the new Chaoshan station, which is about 40 minutes drive from both Chaozhou and Shantou cities. China's railway network now spans more than 100,000km, including 10,000km of high speed lines, as of Saturday, when several new rail links started operations in addition to the Shenzhen-Xiamen line. These include the Xi'an-Baoji high rail, the Chongqing-Lichuan railway, and others in Guangxi .

Hong Kong*:  Dec 30 2013

Pan-democrats clash over proposed electoral reform compromise for 2017 (By Jeffie Lam jeffie.lam@scmp.com) 'Heartbroken' Ronny Tong Ka-wah rejects suggestion he betrayed Hongkongers with 2017 plan that ignores public nomination - Civic Party lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah sounded close to tears yesterday as he spoke of his heartbreak at being labelled "the betrayer of Hong Kong" by fellow pan-democrats after he put forward a controversial proposal for electoral reform. Tong also hit back at his critics, saying they set unreasonably high demands in the battle for electoral reform by insisting on a three-track nomination system for chief executive candidates that includes a nominating committee as well as public and party nominations. "Some onlookers might think pan-democrats have been bidding too high," Tong told Commercial Radio yesterday. "First they accept a proposal with a low nomination threshold. Then they call for public nomination. Now they say no part of the three-track system can be omitted. "It is a bid [that is] too high that may make opponents doubt if they really have the sincerity to take part in talks." In his own proposal for reform put forward in October, the barrister and lawmaker suggested widening the franchise of the nominating committee by including all elected district councillors and replacing corporate voting in some subsectors with individual votes. It did not include the idea of public nomination. If the nominating committee was broadly representative - with two-thirds of its members directly elected by Hongkongers - it would avoid any threat of candidates being screened, he argued. Yesterday, his voice was choked with emotion as he said: "I did not betray Hongkongers. It is especially heartbreaking to be blamed by pan-democrat allies." Tong's remarks did not impress Professor Joseph Cheng Yu-shek - convenor of the Alliance for True Democracy. "Given that two polls have shown that most people favour public nomination, the alliance only wants to clearly reflect Hongkongers' views," he said. "This is not a matter of making a high bid." Basic Law Committee vice-chairwoman Elsie Leung Oi-sie had attempted to slam the door shut on the idea of public nomination, but yesterday Raymond Tam Chi-yuen, the secretary for constitutional and mainland affairs, sounded a softer note from the government. He said the government was open to a reform proposal put forward by Hong Kong University law professor Albert Chen Hung-yee which would keep the substantial nominating power of the committee. Chen has suggested dividing the nominating process into two stages - an initial public recommendation of candidates, followed by an internal ballot by a nominating committee to draw up a shortlist. "We have to look into the details," Tam said of the proposed two-stage process, "before making an overall judgment."

 China*:  Dec 30 2013

Shrine visit fury mounts (By PU ZHENDONG in Beijing, CAI HONG in Tokyo and ZHANG YUWEI in Washington puzhendong@chinadaily.com.cn) Protesters shout slogans against Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul on Friday. Abe paid his respects on Thursday at the controversial Yasukuni Shrine in a move that drew sharp rebukes from China and South Korea, who warned that the visit celebrates Japan’s militaristic past. World powers and Asian neighbors united in their condemnation of Abe - Outrage from Asian neighbors and world powers continued to grow on Friday over Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to a controversial shrine. Observers described the visit to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, made on Thursday, as a dangerous attempt to redefine Japan's militaristic wartime history. The shrine honors 14 of Japan's World War II Class A war criminals among the country's war dead. Abe's decision prompted the United States to reconsider its level of support for its Asian ally, while Russia and the European Union also voiced concerns. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying reiterated Beijing's indignation, attacking Japan's justification for the visit as "feeble and futile" and urging it to take responsibility in maintaining regional stability. "What we have seen in the past year from Abe's words and conduct is only hypocrisy, arrogance and self-contradiction, as he tried to deny World War II aggression, a military build-up and a challenge to the post-war world order," Hua said. "It is obvious that Abe's retrograde actions have induced condemnation from Chinese people, for which Japan should bear all the consequences," she said. "It's Tokyo's choice — whether to reflect on history thoroughly and develop future-oriented ties with neighbors, or cling to its wrong and dangerous course, being isolated by the world." The foreign affairs committee of the National People's Congress also issued a statement on Friday condemning Abe's visit to the shrine. China and South Korea, both victims of Japan's past atrocities, voiced their anger over the shrine visit on Thursday. Beijing summoned Tokyo's ambassador to deliver a "strong reprimand", while Seoul expressed its anger and urged Tokyo to stop "beautifying its invasion". Analysts, describing Abe as "politically and morally tone deaf" and his actions as "irresponsible", said his visit was foolish and did nothing but exacerbate an already sour relationship with other Asian nations that suffered under Japan during World War II. Jeff Kingston, director of Asian studies at Japan's Temple University, said Japan has turned its history into an issue when it should be seeking the cooperation of China and South Korea. "Trampling on neighbors' sensitivities about their shared past also limits room for managing territorial disputes involving both countries, or making headway on a range of other pressing issues," CNN quoted Kingston as saying. Lyu Yaodong, director of the Japanese diplomacy department at the Institute of Japan Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the real intention of Abe's shrine visit was to publicize the Japanese leader's view of the country's history. "The visit has made it more difficult for Tokyo to mend its sabotaged ties with Beijing and Seoul. It also goes against Japan's ambition to be a world power," Lyu said. In a rare critical tone, Washington on Thursday also criticized Tokyo for exacerbating tensions. Liu Jiangyong, an expert in Japanese studies at Tsinghua University, said: "The swift response from Washington shows that Abe has trespassed on the bottom line of the US' conception of history and war. On historic issues, Washington and Tokyo contradict each other." Jon Taylor, a political science professor at the University of St Thomas in the US, said the visit hurts the US-Japan relationship and gives the White House an unneeded headache. "There is a concern that Abe may be using this as a way to deflect problems in the economy by pushing Japanese nationalism, which is never a good thing," Taylor said. Weston Konishi, an expert on Asia, said the US wants to show strong support for Japan as Tokyo struggles with territorial issues with its neighbors. "But at the same time, the US is very concerned about prime minister Abe's views toward history, and how that might exacerbate tensions," Konishi was quoted by AFP as saying. "It certainly complicates what the US is trying to do in Asia." On Thursday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich expressed regret over Abe's visit. He said that some forces in Japan have a different evaluation of the outcome of World War II compared with the understanding shared by the world. Catherine Ashton, European Union foreign policy chief, said in a statement that Abe's decision is not conducive to easing tensions in the region or improving relations with neighbors, especially China and South Korea. Gao Hong, deputy director of the Institute of Japanese Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the international community is seriously concerned about Abe's visit because it challenges the human conscience and the post-war world order. Conciliatory tone. Acknowledging that the visit has become a political and diplomatic issue, Abe struck a conciliatory tone soon afterwards. "It is not my intention at all to hurt the feelings of the Chinese and Korean people," he said. "I have renewed my determination before the souls of the war dead to firmly uphold the pledge never to wage a war again." Abe did not visit the Yasukuni Shrine during his previous tenure as prime minister in 2006. In October, several Japanese cabinet officials and more than 150 legislators visited the shrine. Abe refrained from visiting in person then, but sent an offering. 

Hong Kong*:  Dec 29 2013

Accounting body fights corner (By Enoch Yiu enoch.yiu@scmp.com) President of HK watchdog says reforms are necessary to bring city into line with international standards, but is against extreme change - The new head of Hong Kong's accountancy watchdog says it is determined to remain the key oversight agency for the city's 36,000 accountants despite a government proposal to reassign its regulatory authority to a new body. Clement Chan Kam-wing (pictured), the president of the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants, said reforms were on the table and necessary to bring Hong Kong's accountancy regime into line with international standards, but that extreme reform could not be countenanced. "We agree to reform our audit regulatory regime in a bid to match international practices," Chan told the South China Morning Post. "But we will not agree to extreme reforms that go as far as those in the United States where the accountancy body abandoned all its regulatory functions." The government plans to canvas public opinion in the first quarter of next year about major accounting reform that could result in a law change in 2015 to scrap many of the institute's regulatory functions - including its role in maintaining a register of accountants, setting standards, surveillance of accounting firms, and discipline of accountants found by it to have been guilty of misconduct. These powers may be transferred to the Financial Reporting Council that was set up in 2006 to investigate audit failures of listed companies. The proposal is designed to strengthen oversight of a sector in the city's financial industry that critics say seriously lags international practice. Chan said the institute would agree to give up the powers of making routine inspections of accounting firms and agree to shift those powers to the FRC. The institute would also agree to give up its disciplinary powers, although it did not agree that these powers should be shifted to the FRC. "The FRC is responsible for investigations. If it is also to decide how to punish the accountants, it is like playing the role of policeman and judge in one go. There would be conflict, and it would be better to have an independent member-formed panel or organisation to decide on penalties." A report commissioned by the council and released in October found that Hong Kong's self-regulatory system was outdated and failed to match the standards of the European Union. This led to Hong Kong failing to secure membership of the International Forum of Independent Audit Regulators - an organisation of audit regulators. The report noted that in the 40 markets that were examined, one or more non-accountancy bodies were established to undertake the regulatory oversight of the sector. "As an international financial centre, we agreed we needed to reform our system to match international standards," Chan said. "But we do not necessarily need to go for the US model. Rather, we think the British or German model would be more ideal," he said. Chan said the institute also refused to give up its regulatory roles in training, licensing, and standard-setting for accountants. In the US these functions are handled by a non-accountant body, but he said he did not agree with this. "We do not agree with the US model as registration and standard-setting are very much an industry issue. The HKICPA has the professionals to understand what the industry needs," he said. In Britain and Germany accounting bodies retained these functions although they were exercised under independent oversight. "The key is to allow independent oversight on how the HKICPA carries out these regulatory functions," he said.

 China*:  Dec 29 2013

Beidou to achieve global coverage by 2020 (By Xinhua) China will launch upgraded satellites and expand its regional Beidou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) to global coverage by 2020, a spokesman for the system said on Friday. "BDS' general performance is expected to be improved by one to two times from the current level and its positioning accuracy could be upgraded to meter or even sub-meter level" by 2020, BDS spokesman Ran Chengqi said at a press conference. BDS began providing positioning, navigation, timing and short message services to civilian users in China and surrounding areas in the Asia-Pacific region in December 2012. Over the past year, positioning has been accurate to within ten meters, according to Ran, director of the satellite navigation office. "Performance is better in some regions," he said. Accuracy can reach seven meters in Chinese cities like Beijing, Zhengzhou, Xi'an and Urumqi and five meters in low-latitude regions such as the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN). The office issued an interface control document (ICD) for open service signal B2I in both Chinese and English on Thursday. "B2I, which updates B1I released last year, means BDS has entered the era of multifrequency application," Ran said. "It means the system can provide more accurate navigation." Companies from both home and abroad could develop high-precision dual-frequency BDS receivers on the basis of this, according to the spokesman. China launched the first BDS satellite in 2000. Prior to the official launch of the system a year ago, a preliminary version of the system has been used in traffic control, weather forecasting and disaster relief work since 2003.

Hong Kong*:  Dec 28 2013

Hong Kong accountancy firms to hire more staff as IPOs rise (By Enoch Yiu enoch.yiu@scmp.com) Hong Kong accounting firms are likely to recruit about 10 per cent more staff next year in light of increased stock market activity and more takeover deals. Clement Chan Kam-wing, president of the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants, said many accounting companies started to hire more people in the fourth quarter in response to increasing numbers of initial public offerings in the city. Overall, he said, accounting firms have recruited about 5 to 10 per cent more staff this year, and he expected the number of new hires to be even higher next year. "Initial public offerings have become more active since the fourth quarter, and we can expect more new listings in the first quarter of next year," Chan said. "This would demand more audit work and many firms have expanded their teams accordingly." More than HK$160 billion was raised through listings in the city this year, up 78 per cent from HK$90 billion last year, according to a survey by financial firm KPMG. The positive outlook for the economy had also prompted accountancy firms to increase their staff numbers, said Chan. "We have seen recovery in both the United States and Japanese economies. Most importantly, China's economic growth rate will remain very positive next year, and this has boosted confidence and led to accounting firms hiring more staff." One of the challenges for the industry is that accountants need to make preparations to work on the mainland, Chan said. To do so, they would need to pass the mainland's qualification examinations - and to date only 150 of the city's 36,000 accountants had done so. "The Shanghai free-trade zone and other zones are going to attract many international firms. In addition, scores of H shares have shifted to appointing mainland accounting firms to audit their accounts since they were allowed to do so in 2011," Chan said. "If Hong Kong accountants do not prepare themselves to work on the mainland, they will find it hard to compete."

 China*:  Dec 28 2013

Arab monarchies eye stronger ties with China (By Agence France-Presse) The six energy-rich Arab monarchies of the Gulf are seeking to strengthen ties with China, Gulf Cooperation Council chief Abdullatif al-Zayani said after talks with the Chinese foreign minister. Zayani held talks in Saudi Arabia with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and expressed “GCC interest in bolstering friendship and cooperation ties with China,” a GCC statement said. Wang was quoted as saying that Beijing wants to “expand economic, trade and investment relations” with GCC countries and spoke of the “strategic cooperation and relations (it has) with the GCC”. Wang arrived in Saudi Arabia as part of a regional tour during which he also visit Israel, the Palestinian territories, Morocco and Algeria. Saudi media said he will be discussing with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saudi al-Faisal a “strategic partnership” between Beijing and Riyadh. It did not elaborate. Gulf monarchies are wary of Washington’s reluctance to provide military support to Syrian rebels and for its openness towards their regional archfoe Iran, and are looking to improve ties with other nations. The Sunni-ruled monarchies, like Western powers, fear that Iran may develop nuclear weapons under the cover of its disputed nuclear programChina, and the United States, are among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, which along with Germany, negotiated a landmark nuclear deal with Iran. The GCC -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia -- has given a cautious welcome to the deal struck in November., which Iran insists is for peaceful purposes only. 

Hong Kong*:  Dec 27 2013

Hong Kong police and monetary authority issue warning against counterfeit HK$1,000 banknote (By South China Morning Post) Hongkongers have been warned to be alert as authorities investigate reports of counterfeit HK$1,000 banknotes in circulation. Some restaurants and retailers in the city are refusing to accept Bank of China HK$1,000 notes of the 2003 series, after police announced on Tuesday the discovery of a new variation of counterfeit notes modelled on it. The Commercial Crime Bureau on Monday seized five pieces of these counterfeit notes from two local banks. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority described the fake notes as bearing a fair resemblance to genuine ones and has asked banks to speed up the process of withdrawing the 2003 series of HK$1,000 notes from circulation. Over the public holidays many banks have stopped accepting deposits of these notes into their cash deposit machines. “The HKMA attaches great importance to this issue and is working closely with both the note-issuing banks and the police,” the authority said in a statement. “We have required all banks in Hong Kong with cash-handling business to provide their staff with appropriate information and training according to the features of the counterfeit note as indicated by the police, so that they can accurately and quickly identify this new counterfeit note.” The authority has asked banks to examine the machines to ensure they can effectively detect counterfeit notes. Customers who want to deposit these banknotes are asked to do so at counter services at branches in person. Police appeals to the public that they should immediately hand it any suspected counterfeit banknotes to police or banks upon receipt and should not try to reuse them. Members of the public may dial the police hotline at 2860 5012 for enquiries relating to fake banknotes. The 2003 series of the note features the Bank of China Tower and the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on its front and back sides respectively. Some ways to distinguish the genuine and counterfeit notes have been announced on the government website for public reference.

Jaw surgery 'successful' for Manila bus tragedy survivor Yik Siu-ling (By Lawrence Chung in Taipei) Dr Wei Fu-chan of Taiwan's Chang Gung Hospital at a presser in Taipei. Yik Siu-ling, a survivor of the 2010 Manila hostage crisis from Hong Kong, has received a successful surgery to rebuild her shattered lower jaw in Taiwan, says her doctor on Thursday. Yik could be discharged from hospital in about a week. Yik, 37, headed to Taiwan on December 11 and underwent the operation a week later at Taiwan’s Chang Gung Hospital after 33 unsuccessful attempts in Hong Kong. She is expected to stay in Taiwan for another two weeks before flying back to Hong Kong on January 10 for family reunion, says Dr Wei Fu-chan, a microsurgical reconstruction expert. “The most difficult part of her case was to find usable blood vessels that can provide adequate blood supply around her neck area in order to facilitate reconstruction and normal functioning of her lower jaw,” said Dr Wei, one of the world's top experts in the field of reconstructive surgery. Wei said the difficulty in locating usable blood vessels was due to severe damage and deformity caused by the gun shot that Yik suffered during the hostage crisis more than three years ago and previous surgical operations she had undergone. Wei said his surgical team also found that“an 8-cm mandibular bone defect that spanned from the angle of the jaw to her chin,” adding that the complete lack of teeth on the right side "made the correction of the jaw alignment a major challenge.” But with the help of computer simulation and the team's rich experience, the rebuilding of Yik’s lower jaw was deemed rather successful, Wei said. Yik still needs to undergo second-phase surgeries to have teeth implanted in four to six months, depending on the how her jaw recovers, Wei said. She is expected make a complete recovery in about a year, he added. In a telephone interview, Yik said she was really happy that she could finally bite. “I haven’t chewed anything for a long time, and now I can even have a bite of apple and chicken meat that I haven’t tasted for a long time,” she said. “It is an absolute right choice to undergo the operation in Taiwan,” she said, adding she can smile again. Asked what she most wanted to say at the moment, she said: “In addition to expressing my gratitude to Dr Wei, I also want to tell my son I will soon be back to see him.” Yik said she had booked a plane ticket to return to Hong Kong on January 10. 

 China*:  Dec 27 2013

Japanese PM Abe's war shrine visit draws strong condemnation from worldwide leaders (By South China Morning Post, Agence France-Presse, Reuters) [Yasukuni Shrine - Yasukuni Shrine, located in Tokyo, Japan, is dedicated to over 2,466,000 Japanese soldiers and servicemen who died fighting on behalf of the Emperor of Japan in the last 150 years. It also houses one of the few Japanese war museums dedicated to World War II.The shrine is at the center of an international controversy by honoring war criminals convicted by a post World War II court including 14 'Class A' war criminals. Japanese politicians, including prime ministers and cabinet members have paid visits to Yasukuni Shrine in recent years which caused criticism and protests from China, Korea, and Taiwan.] The US and South Korea expressed anger and disappointment on Thursday at Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to a controversial shrine for the war dead, which had already prompted sharp rebukes from China. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Tokyo’s controversial Yasukuni Shrine for war dead on Thursday morning, seen by many as a symbol of Japan’s second world war militarism. “Japan is a valued ally and friend. Nevertheless, the United States is disappointed that Japan’s leadership has taken an action that will exacerbate tensions with Japan’s neighbours,” the US embassy in Japan said in a statement. The visit drew swift and harsh condemnations from China as relations between the two Asian powers sank to new lows in recent months over a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, while South Korea said the visit was “anachronistic behaviour”. “We can’t help deploring and expressing anger at the prime minister’s visit to the Yasukuni shrine... despite concerns and warnings by neighbouring countries,” South Korean Culture Minister Yoo Jin-Ryong told reporters. “The visit... is anachronistic behaviour that fundamentally damages not only relations between the South and Japan but also stability and cooperation in Northeast Asia,” he said. The comment came hours after Abe made his first visit since taking office last December to the shrine, which commemorates around 2.5 million Japanese war dead including several high-level war criminals. Abe, in a formal black swallow-tailed coat and a silver tie, greeted kimono-clad officials at the shrine and entered the building just after 11.30 am. His visit came exactly one year after he took power and is expected to further inflame already-tense relations with China and South Korea, both of which are embroiled in territorial disputes with Japan. South Korea and China see it as a symbol of Japan’s failure to repent its 20th century warmongering. In language rarely seen in recent years, the Chinese Foreign Ministry blasted the visit as “a brutal offence against the feelings of the Chinese and other Asian war victims of Japan”, and “a brazen challenge against war history and human conscience” in a statement published on its website on Thursday. The Chinese government “expresses strong protest and severe condemnation” against Abe’s shrine visit, it says. It went on to say that while Japan has “damaged Chinese security interests” lately by fanning fears over the “China threat”, the shrine visit creates “new major political obstacles” in bilateral relations. “The Japanese side must bear all consequences” of the visit, says the statement. In his own defence, Shinzo Abe said on Thursday his visit was a pledge that Japan would not go to war again and was not intended to hurt Chinese or South Koreans. “I chose this day to report (to enshrined spirits) what we have done in the year since the administration launched and to pledge and determine that never again will people suffer in war,” he told reporters at the shrine. “I am aware that, because of misunderstandings, some people criticise a visit to Yasukuni shrine as an act of worshipping war criminals, but I made my visit to pledge to create an era where people will never suffer from catastrophe in war,” Abe said. “I have no intention at all to hurt the feelings of Chinese or South Korean people.” Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters the government hoped Abe’s visit would not further affect ties. “I understand that a politician’s visit or a minister’s visit to the shrine is a matter of his or her personal belief,” he told reporters. “Regardless, I believe we must avoid letting an affair as such develop into a political or diplomatic issue.” The last incumbent Japanese prime minister to visit the shrine was Junichiro Koizumi on August 15, 2006, the anniversary of Japan’s defeat in 1945. His repeated pilgrimages badly soured relations with China, despite the important economic and trade ties that bind the two countries. Several members of Abe’s cabinet have been to the shrine over the last year, and have previously claimed they were doing so in a personal capacity. However, China and South Korea, both victims of Japan’s 20th century aggression, say no such distinction exists. Abe did not visit the shrine during his first term as prime minister from 2006 to 2007, although later said that he felt “extremely remorseful” for that. In October about 160 members of parliament - approximately 20 per cent of the nation’s lawmakers - paid tribute at the shrine, including two cabinet ministers, a move that drew a rebuke from China. During a visit to the United States in May, Abe told Foreign Affairs magazine that the shrine, seen throughout East Asia as a symbol of Japan’s militarism, was a tribute to those “who lost their lives in the service of their country” and compared it with the US national cemetery at Arlington. “I think it’s quite natural for a Japanese leader to offer prayer for those who sacrificed their lives for their country, and I think this is no different from what other world leaders do,” he said. Unlike Arlington, Yasukuni’s caretakers promote a view of history that is controversial even at home, with the accompanying Yushukan museum staunchly defending much of Japan’s wartime record. Yoo said the shrine honoured those who inflicted “indescribable” pain and suffering on Koreans during Japan’s 1910-45 occupation of the peninsula. “Japan, if it genuinely seeks to make an active contribution to world peace, first needs to build trust with neighbouring countries... through thorough self-reflection and apology... instead of denying its past and glorifying past aggression,” he said. Bilateral relations have been icy for the past year, partly due to a dispute over Seoul-controlled islets also claimed by Tokyo. Relations were further strained when a group of Japanese ministers and politicians visited Yasukuni in August. Japan’s militaristic past has left a bitter legacy in China and both Koreas. Seoul and Beijing have refused to hold formal bilateral summits with Abe, whom they see as hawkish on the issues of territory and history.

Japan PM visits Yasukuni Shrine - Abe's shrine visit grave provocation (By Xinhua) Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (C) is led by a Shinto priest as he visits Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo December 26, 2013. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the Yasukuni shrine on Thursday is a grave provocation that may lead to heightened tension in the region. The visit came at the first anniversary of Abe's taking office as prime minister. It is also the first visit by a sitting Japanese prime minister since Abe's predecessor Junichiro Koizumi visited the shrine in 2006. Choosing a sensitive time to visit a highly controversial and notorious place, Abe knows perfectly what he is doing and the consequences. Instead of a pledge against war, as Abe has claimed, the visit is a calculated provocation to stoke further tension. It will deeply hurt the feelings of those victimized by Japan's war crimes, stirring up nightmare memories among Japan's neighboring countries. By visiting the shrine that honors Japan's war criminals, Abe is publicly challenging the post-World War II order, and embracing the country's dangerous tradition of militarism. The visit is the culmination of Abe's year-long policy of right-wing nationalism. During the past twelve months, Japan, for the first time in eleven years, raised its military budget. Earlier this month, Tokyo approved a new national security strategy and defense policy package spearheaded by Abe to expand its military might. In the security strategy, Japan vowed to seek more "proactive" roles for its military forces abroad and to set new guidelines on arms exports, signaling a major shift from its previous restrictive policy. Japan also unveiled a so-called "helicopter-equipped destroyer" Izumo which is much more like an aircraft carrier with a length of 248 meters and a weight of 19,500 tons on the 68th anniversary of a U.S. atomic bombing in August. Despite Japan's domestic economic woes, a considerable amount of government spending has been or will be invested in building up military strength instead of beating a 15-year deflation. Apart from those military moves, the Abe administration also seized every opportunity to recast Japan's wartime history with a impenitent tone. In April, Abe said that the definition of "aggression" has yet to be fixed, trying to defend Japan's invasion into Asian neighbors during the Second World War. The hawkish and irresponsible actions and remarks, vainly whitewashing the country's war crimes in its history, will only hurt Japan's relations with the war-victim countries. The right-wing Japanese politicians, who never fully understood how to deal with its history of militarist aggression, is steering Japan towards a dangerous road leading to nowhere, again. Abe visited Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine for war dead on Thursday, in a move likely to anger Asian neighbour China and South Korea. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the war-linked Yasukuni shrine on Thursday despite strong opposition from neighboring countries. It is the first time in seven years that a sitting Japanese prime minister visited the notorious shrine. Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi paid a visit in August 2006. The visit by Abe, on the day marking his first anniversary after resuming office, triggered strong opposition from neighboring countries, such as China and South Korea, who suffered a lot due to Japan's brutal aggression into the two countries during the World War II. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Thursday immediately after Abe's Yasukuni worshipping that China strongly condemned the Japanese leader's wrongdoing. Qin said the visit would deeply hurt the feelings of Asian war victims. The shrine was a symbol of Japan's wartime militarism as 14 class-A war criminals were enshrined there, who were convicted by an Allied tribunal after the war. Abe's provocative move would drag Japan's already-fragile relations with neighboring countries into an abyss, and damage the efforts by the international community to dispel the shadow of militarism. Repeated visits to the notorious shrine by Japanese ministers and lawmakers have become a major obstacle for Japan to mend its ties with China and South Korea. China has urged Japan to properly deal with the issues surrounding the shrine and reflect on its history of aggression..

Hong Kong*:  Dec 26 2013

Central office rents to stage rebound (By Peggy Sito peggy.sito@scmp.com) Rents in other areas, especially Kowloon East, may come under pressure - Office rents in Central had just seen seven consecutive quarters of decline totalling 17 per cent and two subsequent quarters of consolidation. Office rents in Central, which have underperformed those in other areas of the city in the past three years, will stage a recovery next year but at a moderate pace. Rents in non-Central areas, especially in Kowloon East, on the other hand, may see downward pressure as a result of increased supply, say analysts. Office rents in Central had just seen seven consecutive quarters of decline totalling 17 per cent and two subsequent quarters of consolidation, said Macquarie Equities Research. In the past 26 years, the average length of a rental decline cycle has been eight quarters. "[After the decline cycle], we believe Central office rents have bottomed out," Macquarie said in a report released on Friday. The report forecast a 3 per cent gain in Central rents next year. Rents are expected to climb 2 per cent in Wan Chai and 3 per cent in Hong Kong East. But rents would be flat in Kowloon East and even drop 2 per cent in Tsim Sha Tsui, Macquarie estimated. In a research report, BNP Paribas cited an improving hiring outlook in the financial sector, a potential increase in initial public offering activities, growing demand from mainland companies and a trough in the rent gap with non-Central areas as factors that would help strengthen rents in Central. "However, non-Central districts and fringe Central face multiple headwinds such as weakening hiring from non-financial sectors, rising Kowloon East vacancies, potential vacancy increases in some fringe Central buildings and surrendered supply from the International Commerce Centre," said Patrick Wong, the author of the BNP research report. Gary Fok, executive director of Cushman & Wakefield's commercial division in Hong Kong, said a rise in new supply in Kowloon East generated by the completion of several buildings and more investors putting their units up for lease amid an inactive investment market had begun to put pressure on rents in the district. "With leasing demand expected to remain soft, we anticipate rents will continue to undergo a mild correction of 8 per cent in 2014, with more supply in 2015 turning the market clearly in favour of tenants," said Fok. In "greater Central", which includes core and fringe Central areas, leasing demand this year had been primarily driven by mainland companies, law firms and finance-related institutions that needed small to medium-sized offices amid the absence of demand for prime space from major financial firms, said Cushman & Wakefield. Some real estate fund managers are more cautious about the office market in Central in the long run. "Office rents in Central have become more affordable after the [autumn]," Victor Yeung, managing director of real estate fund management firm Admiral Investment, said yesterday. But buildings in Central are mostly old. In the long run, big companies, even financial firms, would gradually move to Kowloon East in the wake of the government's efforts to turn the district into a second central business district, said Yeung.

Crash tycoon Kok Lam’s wife behind much of Brilliant Group’s success (By Adrian Wan adrian.wan@scmp.com) As search goes on, reports emerge that Kok Lam admitted he only executed strategies thought up by Liu Xiangyun for Brilliant Group - Behind every great man is a woman. That popular saying is particularly apt in the case of Kok Lam, the mainland tycoon killed in a helicopter crash in France on Friday. Business friends of Kok say his wife, Lau Sheung-wan, also known as Liu Xiangyun, was the real brains behind many of the successful projects of the Brilliant Group, the company he headed. Founded by the couple in 1995, the Kunming-based business empire is a household name in Yunnan province. The group's business activities include upmarket teas, cultural tourism, property development, hotels and resorts, management of shopping centres, and recently fine French wine. In a previous interview with Kunming newspaper Metro Times, Kok was honest enough to say that his role in the group was to execute the strategies thought up by his wife. In the same interview, Liu said: "I and my husband are the best partners. He takes care of money. I do not take care of the money stuff. I am not good at managing money. But I am good at making it." Some of the couple's business friends said the Brilliant Group had been involved in some unsuccessful property projects in its early years and that it was Liu who had revived them, turning them into boutique hotels and spa resorts. "Some of Ms Liu's projects have even won awards," one of the friends said. The group later invested in projects to develop ancient villages and towns in Yunnan province into tourist attractions. After their success in the hotel business, they entered the wine business. Kok reportedly told business friends in Yunnan that they had wanted to buy a wine estate in France and develop it into an upmarket tea- and wine-tasting retreat. They also planned to build a hotel nearby. They also had plans to sell the French wine at their hotels in the mainland. Kok bought Chateau de La Riviere and its 65 hectares of vineyards for €30 million (HK$318 million), reportedly the biggest-ever Chinese investment in Bordeaux. He was in the helicopter surveying the vineyard with its former owner and an interpreter when it crashed into the Dordogne river. The body of Kok's 12-year-old son was recovered on Saturday. There is no chance that Kok, French winemaker James Gregoire or their interpreter could have survived. Liu was meant to be on the doomed flight, but she declined at the last minute, saying she was afraid of helicopters. A Brilliant Group spokesman said some executives had travelled to Bordeaux to take care of related matters. The executives issued a statement saying the company would stick with its plan to turn the chateau into a tea- and wine-tasting retreat. The statement said 20 Buddhist monks from Europe would perform a ceremony at the scene of the accident today. French police have recovered the helicopter from the river. Colonel Ghislain Rety, the head of the gendarmerie in the Gironde region, where the chateau is located, said: "It's a delicate operation. The aim is to preserve the wreckage in its current form for small details that can explain why it crashed." Rety was not sure when the bodies would be recovered: "We can recover them today or in six months but we will find them." 

 China*:  Dec 26 2013

China’s one child policy change set for Q1 2014 (By Reuters in Beijing) Changes to China’s strict one child policy, which will allow more parents to have a second child, will begin to roll out early next year, the country’s family planning commission told official media late on Monday. The policy change is expected to go into force in some areas of China in the first quarter of 2014, Yang Wenzhuang, a director at the National Health and Family Planning Commission told China’s official Xinhua news agency. Beijing said last month it would allow millions of families to have two children, the most radical relaxation of its strict one-child policy in close to three decades. The move is part of a plan to raise fertility rates and ease the financial burden of China’s rapidly ageing population.. Authorities are in the process of calculating the number of eligible couples and their situations before specific regulations are approved, Yang said. The policy move has buoyed baby-related stocks and has seen a rush for fertility-boosting products as parents look to make use of the relaxed rules. China will eventually scrap family planning restrictions, but is unlikely to abandon its family planning policy in the near term, a senior official said last month. China, with nearly 1.4 billion people, is the world’s most populous country. The government says the policy of limiting families to one child, which covers 63 per cent of the population, has averted 400 million births since 1980.

China’s new ‘Black Hawk’ helicopter takes maiden flight (By Chris Luo chris.luo@scmp.com) Home-made utility helicopter successfully completes test flight, and analysts believe it has an edge over American counterpart in high-altitude regions - A Chinese-made, People's Liberation Army helicopter successfully made its first flight on Monday, "filling a blank" in the military's arsenal, according to analysts. The new type of medium-lift, general-purpose helicopter completed its test flight in an airport in the country's northeast on Monday morning, the official CCTV announced later Monday evening. The report came after a photo of the aircraft emerged from popular domestic military forum cjdby.net, prompting a flurry of speculation from tech-savvy military enthusiasts about its potential performance and efficiency. Dubbed by amateurs as "Z-20", a codename that is in line with the naming pattern of previous military helicopter models, the aircraft’s exterior is similar to the US-made Sikorsky UH-60, better known as the “Black Hawk”. The PLA utility helicopter is believed to have a capacity of 10 tonnes, putting it between the categories of agile attack helicopters and heavy transportation helicopters, military commentator Du Wenlong said during the CCTV news program. Unlike the later aircraft designed for specific applications, the new helicopter's flexibility allows it to be modified to cope with a wide range of tasks such as assault, transportation, electronic warfare and special operations. It can even boost the country's naval power, potentially being able make landings on PLA ships such as the aircraft carrier Liaoning, Chinese media reports said. “It fills a blank for the Chinese military force,” deputy professor Fang Bing of the PLA National Defence University said, when asked about the new hardware's significance. It was unclear how many units of the new model would be added to the PLA's fleet. China last purchased two dozen Black Hawk civilian models from the United States in 1983 after officials were amazed by its outstanding performance in high altitudes. But the military experts believe the new helicopter’s five-blade propeller, unlike Black Hawk’s four, gives it more superior performance in high-altitude regions, such as southwestern China’s vast Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, which is home to a restive Tibetan population and is flanked by India, with which it has long-standing border tensions.

Chicago builds ties with Chinese firms (By China Daily) Chinese Minister of Commerce Gao Hucheng (middle) and Vice-Minister Wang Chao (right) meet Rahm Emanuel (left), mayor of Chicago, in Beijing, Dec 23, 2013. Emanuel is visiting China to promote business opportunities.

Washington "“Catch The Thief!” The Thief Yelled" 美國政客和新聞媒體 "賊喊抓賊" tries to shift spying blame to China (By Zhou Wa in Beijing and Fu Jing in Brussels zhouwa@chinadaily.com.cn and fujing@chinadaily.com.cn) - Washington wants to draw the attention away from its cyberspying scandals by turning the world's focus onto China, analysts and politicians said. Their comments came after the Chinese mission to the European Union slammed remarks on so-called Chinese cyberespionage by a US congressman. "Remarks of this kind are ridiculous," said Jiang Xiaoyan, a spokeswoman for the mission. The issue of US spying has been in the spotlight since US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden said in June that the US monitored China, Germany, the United Kingdom and many other countries. "We hope that the parties concerned take it seriously and address their own problems properly instead of attempting to divert the concerns of the international community by making unprofessional and irresponsible accusations," the spokeswoman said. US congressman Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told members of the European Parliament in Brussels last week that if the European Union continued "the confusion and the muddling of the debate" on the US snooping on European citizens and institutions, it may help China "absolutely steal us blind when it comes to intellectual property of European and American companies". The congressman also claimed that Chinese economic espionage has already cost the US $400 billion. Glyn Ford, a veteran European politician who served as a member of the European Parliament for five terms, said this is a classic example of perpetrators blaming the victims. "It's the US that has spied on the whole world on a positively industrial scale, not the other way around," he said. "In the past it has justified spying against Europe to control our industrial espionage. Washington needs to put its own house in order first." David Fouquet, president of the European Institute for Asian Studies, said he watched the hearing in the EU parliament and cited some members as saying that the American delegation did not understand, or did not want to understand, European concerns about privacy and data protection. Niu Xinchun, an American studies researcher at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said, "The Snowden case hits the US-Europe alliance and brings challenges to US diplomacy. "The US and the EU used to work closely together to blame China on ‘cyberespionage', but now, Washington has become the target of criticism," Niu said. Men Jing, a professor of international relations at the College of Europe in Belgium, said Rogers' remarks came amid rising distrust between the EU and the US. "We were shocked by how the US spied on its allies, and we have known there is mounting distrust between them, though they are called trans-Atlantic partners and allies," Men said. "The performance of the global leader has increased the insecurity of the world." In October, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called US President Obama over the German government's suspicions the US could have tapped her mobile phone, after a German government spokesman said that Berlin had information that the US National Security Agency could have been spying on Merkel. Men said cybersecurity is a pressing global challenge. "The international community needs to sit down to draft global regulations on spying and cybersecurity," Men said. On Dec 16, a federal District Court judge in Washington ruled that the National Security Agency's gathering of data on all telephone calls made in the country appears to violate the US Constitution's protection against unreasonable searches.

Hong Kong*:  Dec 25 2013

Asian students' superiority at maths due to Confucian focus on hard work (By Linda Yeung Linda.yeung@scmp.com) Asian students are statistically superior in maths to their Western counterparts. Award-winning educator Frederick Leung tells Linda Yeung their success is mainly due to the emphasis on hard work in Confucian culture - Asian students' superior performance in maths and science has been at the core of Professor Frederick Leung Koon-shing's research for two decades. His persistent efforts and achievements have been recognised internationally, and he was awarded the 2013 Hans Freudenthal Medal by the International Commission on Mathematical Instruction (ICMI), the equivalent of a Nobel prize in maths education. Based in Rome, ICMI is a century-old international non-governmental and non-profit-making scientific organisation dedicated to promoting international co-operation in the field. Leung became the first Asian to be given the award, due to his insight into the influential role culture plays in the teaching and learning of maths. It began with his doctoral research work in London in the early 1990s. This was a comparative study of mathematics teaching and learning in Beijing, London and Hong Kong. When he interviewed parents in London about their children's poor performance in the subject, they were accepting of it. "Their response was their children were not good in maths, but they were good in, say, basketball. In Beijing, parents of the child not doing well in maths would say he was lazy," says Leung. "There is the belief that in Western countries, typically in areas of maths, that it's the innate ability that is most important." The cluster of Confucian countries in Asia, including China, Japan, Korea and Singapore, holds the additional belief that anyone who puts in the effort can do well in maths. As in Hong Kong, these countries value education and hard work. Leung's research supports the theory that teaching and learning are not just influenced by things on the individual level, but rather take place throughout the whole social cultural context. "That explains why in Western countries, some students are very, very poor in maths," says Leung, who has been with the University of Hong Kong's education faculty since the 1980s. "In East Asia, even the bad students are not that bad; the range is not that wide. It's partly due to the Confucian belief in effort. If you are told early that you are no good at maths, you will continue to do poorly." Born and raised in Hong Kong, he was motivated to excel by the cultural force of Confucianism, to which he attributes the region's superior academic performance. He made it to a top secondary school, and was among the elite few admitted to the University of Hong Kong in the 1970s. East Asian countries led the world in mathematics achievement in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) that covered fourth and eighth grade students. In the latest Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) results announced early this month, Hong Kong came third globally in maths, after Singapore and Shanghai, which topped the rankings for 15-year-olds in reading, maths and science. "In Western culture, there is a lot of scepticism about practising. I am not saying maths is about practising, but memorisation [and] practising have a role to play in maths. Some Western professors have been extremely sceptical about memorisation and putting in effort," says Leung, a former principal investigator of TIMSS. He concedes that Confucian culture, with its traditional deference to authority, breeds a conformity which could be detrimental to creativity. It is important to strike a balance and be aware of cultural differences. "All over the world, countries are undergoing education reform; very often policymakers tend to learn from other countries. But if you make drastic changes without reference to the cultural differences, it's very dangerous. Some American states decided to adopt Singaporean textbooks for maths, but it did not seem to work. I told them, of course it won't work, as you can't import Singaporean culture." He is concerned about the goal of pleasurable learning accompanying the education reform launched here in 2000. Learning can be painful, he says, citing a Confucian concept. "There is a very different kind of pleasure, a sense of achievement that can be obtained after a period of hard work." Naturally, the modern notion of pleasure, derived from instant gratification, worries him. "When I was in school, sometimes teachers gave us very difficult problems to work on. We worked on them for weeks, and were happy when we got the solution. We are gradually losing this culture of perseverance. It is a pity," he says. "During the process of change, we should make sure the good things in our culture are not disposed of." Although not opposed to the senior secondary curriculum reform, he is concerned about the new maths curriculum which consists of the compulsory and the even more challenging extended parts. Most students opt only for the compulsory part today, leaving little room for grooming future mathematicians or statisticians. He suggests that the extended part be a prerequisite for the studying of maths, medicine and some other science disciplines at universities. Leung has reason to be concerned about a possible slide in standards among top students. In the TIMSS study, Hong Kong has a lower percentage of students at the top compared to Taiwan and Singapore. "Our average is high but we are slowly losing out on the top end." Besides personal effort, inspirational teachers are indispensable in cultivating math talents. Leung's interest in the subject grew after he won a maths contest in primary school. Later, at the elite St Paul's Co-educational College, his passion for maths was ignited by a teacher. "She is the one I am forever grateful to for stimulating my interest in maths. I hope we will have enthusiastic teachers, and those that also treasure the Confucian culture, and do not follow blindly whatever is advocated in the West." Hong Kong's unique social background may put it in good stead. "We are at the confluence of Western and Confucian culture. Out of all the places in the world, we are in the best position to try to devise an education system that takes full advantage of both cultures. "We should appreciate the good things in our culture, and learn from the Western culture," Leung says.

South China Morning Post: Ex-social welfare chief says residency rule for claims was never justifiable (By Jennifer Ngo jennifer.ngo@scmp.com) Former social welfare chief welcomes court decision to allow newcomers to claim benefits, and says claimant should not have had to sue - The decision to refuse Comprehensive Social Security Assistance to a new immigrant who went on to successfully challenge government welfare rules in court was "an administrative anomaly", a former Social Welfare Department chief says. The Court of Final Appeal on Tuesday ruled in favour of Kong Yunming's judicial review challenge to a rule denying welfare to residents who have lived in Hong Kong for less than seven years. The ruling was welcomed by Stephen Fisher, director of social welfare from 2007 to 2009 and now director general of Oxfam Hong Kong. But he said Kong should never have had to go to court - and that the rule was not justifiable in the first place. "[The director's discretionary power] is actually sufficient to handle these cases," Fisher said. Fisher said a third of applications for CSSA from poor mainland immigrants were granted on a discretionary basis. More than 14,000 individuals or households are receiving discretionary CSSA. Kong arrived from the mainland in 2005, but her Hong Kong husband died the next day and his public flat was reclaimed by the Housing Authority. Her application for CSSA was turned down the following year because she did not meet the residency requirement. She sought a judicial review in 2008, losing twice in lower courts before her victory in the top court last week. The government adopted the seven-year rule in 2004 after the Census and Statistics Department predicted an influx of mainland visitors, Fisher said. "The issue was a population policy one - about the quality of migrants. It should have been solved by population policies, not by tampering with welfare rights," Fisher said. "[The government of the time] only want educated and rich people to migrate to Hong Kong, which is not a legitimate or reasonable justification for any policy. It is social discrimination," Fisher said. The top court agreed that the rule breached Article 36 of the Basic Law, which gives all residents the right to welfare. Hongkongers must ask themselves who they want to include in their society, he said. "A society has responsibility to take care of the most vulnerable - this is the social contract. But who do we count as a member of our society?" he said. Some 150 immigrants from the mainland are allowed to reunite with their families and settle in Hong Kong every day.

Wreckage from French helicopter crash involving HK-based billionaire Kok Lam to be recovered (By Adrian Wan adrian.wan@scmp.com) French police scour the Dordogne river near Bordeaux, southwestern France, to search for victims of the helicopter crash. The wreckage of a helicopter - which carried missing presumed dead Hong Kong-based mainland tycoon Kok Lam, among three others missing – will be lifted out of the Dordogne River in France’s Bordeaux wine region later on Monday, a French radio station reported. The helicopter was about 150 metres from the shore and 7 metres underwater, but “given the depth and the lack of visibility, it would be a delicate operation,” police commander Ghislain Rety told public radio broadcaster Radio France. “This is a delicate operation. We shouldn’t alter the crime scene,” he said. French police expect the recovery operation to last between four to six hours. Family members and colleagues of Kok have arrived in Bordeaux. Twenty Buddhist monks will be at the scene on Tuesday morning to conduct a funeral ceremony. Technical and criminal investigations were being carried out as all avenues are being explored, Rety said. French authorities stepped up their search on Sunday for the hotel magnate, his interpreter and adviser Peng Wang and a winemaker James Gregoire, all of whom went missing after their helicopter crashed in the river on Friday. Two sonar units were used to help find the missing bodies until 9pm on Sunday night, but about 100 police were deployed to search the riverbanks overnight. On Saturday police recovered the body of Kok’s 12-year-old son from the back of the helicopter, which was lying in seven metres of water. The accident happened shortly after a press conference to announce Kok’s €30 million (HK$318 million) purchase of a 65-hectare wine estate, Chateau de la Riviere, from Gregoire. The Frenchman offered to take Kok on a short tour of the vineyards and surrounding grounds in the helicopter. Lam’s wife Lau Sheung-wan, also known as Liu Xiang-yan, did not fly as she is scared of helicopters. Kok, 46, headed the Hong Kong-based Brilliant Group, specialising in rare teas and luxury hotels in China. A business friend said Kok’s wife is known for turning property projects into successful hotels and spas. It is believed the couple had two sons and the one killed was the youngest.

More than just meat at Morton's (By Donna Mah in Hong Kong) Jumbo lump crab cakes taste naturally sweet. Bone-in ribeyes are cooked medium-rare. It seems that bone-in beef is all the rage in Hong Kong these days and it's because regulations that restricted the import of these cuts were recently amended. This is good news for diners as meat on the bone is usually tenderer and more flavorsome. Morton's has recently added a few new items to the menu, including a thick-cut, bone-in ribeye. However, let's start with the starters. We began our meal with a couple of seafood starters, including a shrimp dish called Shrimp Alexander. The shrimp were large, firm, meaty. Lightly coated with some crumbs and cooked and served with a healthy amount of butter, these shrimp had a bit of crunch from the crumbs and were juicy and succulent inside. We also enjoyed the crab cakes, which are a signature dish at Morton's. The crab cakes exceeded expectations as they were made with chunks of crab rather than bits and pieces and had the natural sweetness of fresh crabmeat. Morton's is famous for steaks and large American-sized portions. We tried the new menu item, grain-fed USDA bone-in ribeye, cooked medium-rare. The meat was very tender with lots of rich beef flavor. This is a large cut of meat, so sharing is recommended, but if you love beef, this would most definitely be a good choice. If you're a fan of peppercorn, then the five peppercorn-rubbed prime strip steak is the steak to choose. One of my fellow dining companions usually has mustard with her steak, but once she tasted the sauce made with black, white, red, green and dark green peppercorns, she opted not to add the mustard. The sauce was definitely the star of this dish. Made with the five types of peppercorn and cognac, the creamy sauce makes you want to use a nob of bread to soak up any that may still be on your plate. The beef was good, though not as tender as the ribeye, so order the ribeye if you prefer a softer texture. For those who prefer a lighter main, the Chilean sea bass fillet a la nage served with jumbo lump crab, asparagus and sauteed vegetables in a creamy lemon, white wine and butter sauce is a delicious choice. Sea bass is a meaty white fish and was not overwhelmed by the buttery, creamy sauce. As with the peppercorn steak, the sauce for this dish was also the star. Morton's serves a number of desserts with many being brought to the table on the dessert cart, including key lime pie, New York cheesecake, and fresh berries and cream. After all the fairly heavy dishes, my preference is to have the fresh berries and cream and a cup of coffee, but it's also hard to resist a bite or two of the key lime pie. Hot desserts are also available, including the popular warm chocolate cake. Overall, Morton's is a great place to enjoy good-sized portions with a group of good friends. The service is attentive and the staff is friendly and welcoming. The atmosphere is always sociable and a bit festive. If you go...Morton's, The Sheraton Hotel Hong Kong, 4th Level, 20 Nathan Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong. Tel: 852-2732-2343 Cost per head: HK$600-800 Recommended: Crab Cakes, Shrimp Alexander, Bone-in Ribeye, Five Peppercorn Rubbed Prime Strip Steak, Chilean Sea Bass Fillet a la Nage, Key Lime Pie.

 China*:  Dec 25 2013

Chinese Mission to EU slams U.S. congressman's espionage remarks "ridiculous" (By Xinhua) A Chinese diplomat slammed here on Sunday a U.S. congressman's remarks on so-called Chinese cyber espionage, saying they were "ridiculous" and a diversion of attention from the controversial U.S. spy program. "Remarks of this kind are ridiculous," said the spokesperson for the Chinese Mission to the European Union. "The PRISM issue has drawn worldwide attention. Its impact is worthy of rethinking." "We hope that relevant parties could take it seriously and address their own problems properly rather than attempt to divert the concerns of the international community by making unprofessional and irresponsible accusations," the spokesperson said. Last week, U.S. Congressman Mike Rogers told members of the European Parliament in Brussels that if the EU continued the muddling of debate on the U.S. snooping on European citizens and institutions, it may help China spy on European and American companies. Rogers also claimed that Chinese cyber espionage has already cost the U.S. economy 400 billion U.S. dollars. The spokesperson noted that China's position on the cyber security issue is clear-cut. "We oppose hacking and cyber attack of whatever form. We call upon the international community to actively conduct dialogue and cooperation in the spirit of mutual respect and mutual trust, and formulate international cyberspace code of conduct under the UN framework," the spokesperson said. "The communication channels related to cyber security between China and the U.S., as well as China and the EU remain unimpeded. We look forward to seeing relevant parties join us and make constructive efforts in tackling cyber security challenges," the spokesperson added.

Apple inks iPhone deal with China Mobile (By China Daily) Apple says it has reached a deal to bring the iPhone to China Mobile, the world's biggest phone carrier. The deal could boost sales of the iPhone in China. Demand for iPhones, once hugely popular in China, have slumped there as lower-priced rival smartphones from Samsung and Chinese companies entered the market. The iPhone 5s and 5c will go on sale in Apple stores and China Mobile stores beginning Friday, January 17. Customers can register for phones starting Wednesday December 25. The companies didn't announce pricing or the terms of their agreement. The iPhone, while popular around the world, has faced tough competition in recent years from cheaper smartphones running Google's Android software. Collectively, Android phones far outsell Apple's iPhone. State-owned China Mobile has more than 750 million mobile accounts.

Hong Kong*:  Dec 24 2013

Rising suicides off Tsing Yi bridges raise alarms (By Danny Lee danny.lee@scmp.com) Installing telephone hotlines to counsellors could save lives of those in distress, say charities - From high above on the Tsing Yi North Bridge, the gently flowing channel belies its reputation as a major suicide destination. Fatal jumps off the two bridges doubled in the first half of 2013. The marine police and a coalition of suicide-prevention charities are concerned by the alarming rise in people killing themselves by jumping off two bridges at Tsing Yi. Charities say the installation on the bridges of telephone hotlines to counsellors could save lives. Figures obtained by the Sunday Morning Post from the marine police reveal that in the past two years there were 13 suicides and 24 attempts from the North and South bridges, which have pedestrian access. Another 37 bodies - suspected suicide cases - had been recovered. The minutes of a working group on suicide prevention, spearheaded by the marine police, revealed that the number of incidents in the first six months of 2013 was double that of the same period last year. The figures contrast with just 12 suicides occurring on Hong Kong's largest bridge at Tsing Ma, as well as Ting Kau and Kap Shui Mun bridges, between 1997 and 2007, according to the Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention at the University of Hong Kong. None of these bridges have pedestrian access. Centre director Professor Paul Yip Siu-fai said the large number of incidents at Tsing Yi warranted attention. For the past 14 months, marine police and suicide-prevention groups have been working to set up free emergency telephone hotlines on the North and South bridges and have installed banners displaying a number for people to call. "It is a very good idea for preventing suicides we could explore," said marine police Senior Inspector Winsy Ng Wing-see. San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, considered one of the world's top suicide spots, has special telephone hotlines installed for emergency situations. Vincent Ng Chi-Kwan, executive director of Suicide Prevention Services, said it was important to have a phone available at suicide spots and a person on the other end of the line for someone in distress to talk to. "If someone is in emotional distress, we encourage them to call us. If they cannot release their emotions, they will feel worse and get depressed," Ng said. "If you don't have someone to listen to you or share your feelings, it is a recipe for suicide." Founded in 1995, Ng's hotline received 35,000 calls for help in the 2012-13 fiscal year, the highest number in three years. Alastair Sharp, The Samaritans Hong Kong deputy director, said: "There are banners up on the Tsing Yi bridges with a number asking people to call, but we want phones to be put there, and that's what we are working on. Sometimes suicide is impulsive, and if you can be there to respond to people's feelings and anguish, you can make a difference." According to preliminary figures from the Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention, there were 908 suicides last year, up 5 per cent from 2011, but down from 1,200 cases a decade ago. The statistics also revealed that in half of all cases, jumping from height - buildings, bridges or otherwise - was the preferred method of suicide. Hanging was employed in 25 per cent of cases while one in 10 people burned charcoal and died through carbon-monoxide poisoning. "If they want to go down to the Tsing Yi bridges, they will usually drive themselves down there and jump off," said a senior marine police commander with first-hand knowledge of suicide rescue and recovery operations. "Land police will go to the bridge to see what's going on and marine police are told to go to the scene below the bridge to start a search-and-rescue operation in case the person is still alive in the waters. Unfortunately, most people tend to die [after jumping] from that height, so it is more like a search-and-recovery operation," the source said.

 China*:  Dec 24 2013

More Chinese cash flowing into French vineyards (By Lana Lam lana.lam@scmp.com) The number of mainland investors pouring millions of dollars into French vineyards has risen sharply in recent years, but the trend has divided locals. Critics are calling for wineries to remain under French control, while supporters have welcomed the injection of funds to rebuild infrastructure. Between 2009 and 2012, the number of estates in the famous wine-producing region of Bordeaux owned by Chinese investors jumped from two to 25. The figure is now about 50. "Bordeaux is more open to foreign investments," said Thomas Jullien, Asia representative for the Bordeaux Wine Council, in mid-2012, adding that "new investors have spent money on updating the winemaking facilities, equipment and buildings". Kok Lam, the 46-year-old Hong Kong-based billionaire who is feared dead after a helicopter crash on Friday at a Bordeaux vineyard he had just bought, was part of a wave of Chinese investors who looked to French wineries for expansion. The trend has caught the eye of France's money laundering investigators, who released a report this year highlighting the need for "increased vigilance" over the sale of vineyards to Chinese buyers. It noted a "growing presence of investors with ties to China" and that some buyers would use tax havens to hide the origins of cash used to purchase vineyards. Chinese investors owned about 50 French vineyards in Bordeaux alone, said Jane Anson, a Bordeaux-based wine correspondent. She said Chinese were expected to overtake Belgians as the largest nationality of owners in the winemaking region once another five to 10 estates were sold to Chinese investors. Another trend was that some early Chinese buyers were already selling their vineyards. "Some Chinese who bought a few years ago are reselling. The cycle is speeding up, and they are selling to other Chinese," she said.

Hong Kong*:  Dec 23 2013

HKT's acquisition of CSL makes Richard Li telecoms kingpin again (Bien Perez bien.perez@scmp.com) PCCW chief Richard Li repurchases wireless service provider CSL he sold to Telstra and goes back to being city's top industry player - Richard Li Tzar-kai is back on top of Hong Kong's telecommunications industry after the tycoon's PCCW-controlled HKT agreed yesterday to acquire CSL New World Mobility, a subsidiary of Australian network operator Telstra, for HK$18.8 billion. CSL runs the premium 1010 and mainstream One2Free brands. It is a strategic move that allows HKT to build up its resources ahead of the expiry of 3G spectrum licences in October 2016. It means HKT will have a 31 per cent share of the city's mobile communications market once the transaction is completed early next year. The deal, which is being funded by a bridging loan, also shows the kind of big bet for which PCCW chairman Li is known. That's because HKT, the smallest of the five mobile network operators in Hong Kong, is buying an operator that has been the city's largest wireless services provider since 2006. In 2000, Li's internet investment start-up, Pacific Century CyberWorks, took control of Cable & Wireless HKT for US$38 billion in what was then Asia's largest corporate takeover. PCCW immediately became the largest wireless and fixed-line network operator in Hong Kong. The tycoon's new transaction will make HKT the biggest wireless and fixed-line network operator in the city, years after PCCW divested its interests in mobile service provider CSL to Telstra. In a statement yesterday, Li said the proposed CSL takeover was "in line with HKT's objectives of investing in businesses which provide holders of share stapled units with stable and regular distributions as well as long-term distribution growth". VC Brokerage director Louis Tse Ming-kwong said Li's move would "likely spur more consolidation in the industry next year". Alex Arena, the HKT group managing director, described the proposed CSL acquisition as "a brilliant way to grow the business and to create a true Hong Kong champion". HKT said the CSL acquisition would provide "sufficient usable bandwidth" across the 850MHz, 900MHz, 1.8 gigahertz, 2.1GHz and 2.6GHz bands. Commenting on HKT's proposed acquisition, New World Development chairman Henry Cheng Kar-shun described the terms as "fair and reasonable". The transactions involved include the purchase of Telstra's 76.4 interest in CSL and the 23.6 per cent stake held by New World Development. Telstra chief executive David Thodey said yesterday the company had enjoyed considerable success in Hong Kong, but the sale was a great opportunity to maximise shareholder value. Telstra had paid a total of US$2.3 billion to acquire PCCW's entire stake in CSL through two transactions in 2001 and 2002. CSL merged with New World PCS in 2006. Thodey said there were "a number of dynamics in the Hong Kong mobiles market that means this is the right opportunity for Telstra to maximise our return on this successful asset". Industry regulator the Communications Authority announced last month that the government would take back and auction off a third of the 3G spectrum held by the city's four incumbent 3G network operators in the fourth quarter of next year. But the government will grant the operators - SmarTone Telecommunications, CSL, Hutchison Telecom and HKT - the right of first refusal to be reassigned two-thirds of the 3G spectrum in the 1.9 gigahertz to 2.2GHz band that each one now holds. In its regulatory filing with the Hong Kong stock exchange yesterday, HKT said it believed that no significant competition concerns would arise from the company's acquisition of CSL. "Nevertheless, as part of HKT's application to the Communications Authority for the necessary regulatory approval, HKT has voluntarily offered certain pro-competition measures," it said. Those include a commitment to maintain the wholesale services provided by HKT and CSL to resellers and mobile virtual network operators, as well as network-sharing arrangements. HKT has offered to return to the government an additional block of 3G spectrum and a commitment not to participate in next year's auction of the 3G spectrum that the government aims to take back. "This means there will be plenty of 3G spectrum [blocks] available in the market," Arena said. "The reason we're doing it is that we don't need all of the combined 3G spectrum [from the CSL takeover]. We will be able to manage our cost base very effectively. "If we can keep our costs down, we can keep our charges to consumers down."

Hong Kong billionaire feared dead in France helicopter crash (By Agence France Press in Bordeaux) Lam Kok, the 46-year-old head of the Hong Kong-based Brilliant group, had just bought a major Bordeaux vineyard when the helicopter he was in crashed into a nearby river. Lam Kok (2nd R) and his spouse pose alongside the French former owner of the Chateau de La Riviere, James Gregoire (2nd L), and his spouse in front of the premises, on Friday. Rescue workers and divers confer at the site of a helicopter crash in the Dordogne river. Chinese billionaire Lam Kok and his wife in front of the Chateau on Friday. Four people were feared dead on Saturday including a Chinese billionaire and his 12-year-old son after the helicopter in which he was flying over his newly purchased French vineyard crashed into a river. Lam Kok, the 46-year-old head of the Hong Kong-based Brilliant group, had just bought a major Bordeaux vineyard in a sale accompanied by great fanfare and was surveying his new property in a helicopter piloted by the former owner when the accident happened on Friday. Emergency workers pulled a still-unidentified body from inside the helicopter after finding the wreckage in the Dordogne river, said local officials. A large search operation was called off just before midnight with the helicopter’s other three occupants still missing. Officials said the search would resume on Saturday morning. The helicopter was flown by James Gregoire, the former owner of the Chateau de la Riviere vineyard, and was carrying the Chinese billionaire, his son and an interpreter. Lam Kok’s wife pulled out of the aerial tour at the last minute, saying she was “scared of helicopters”. Gregoire meanwhile patiently carried out his pre-flight procedures, a check-list resting on his knees, the photographer said. The accident happened at the end of a festive day marking Thursday’s sale of the Chateau, one of the region’s oldest estates. After a press conference, an introduction to the staff and dinner, the former owner was planning to take his buyer on a short tour of the 65-hectare vineyards and surrounding grounds. When they did not return after 20 minutes, employees at the vineyard contacted the emergency services. A major search operation was launched using emergency helicopters, inflatable boats, rescue divers and around 100 officers on foot. Emergency workers managed to locate the wreckage in the river after police received a call from a witness who had seen the helicopter go down. In a bizarre twist of fate, a previous owner of the Chateau was killed in a plane crash in 2002. Gregoire bought the property, the largest in Bordeaux’s Fronsac wine-producing region, the following year. Earlier on Friday, the vineyard’s managing director, Xavier Buffo, said during a press conference the sale marked the largest Chinese investment in Bordeaux property to date. Hong Kong-based Brilliant, which specialises in rare teas and luxury hotels in China, had said it wanted to turn the chateau into a high class tea and wine tasting centre. The group - whose interests range from Pu’er, a dark fermented tea from China’s Yunnan province, to top-end resorts - also planned to build a hotel near the vineyard. Wealthy Chinese have developed a taste for the finest French wines and their extensive buying power has been credited with pushing prices for certain vintages to record levels. In recent years they have increasingly taken to buying vineyards as well. But the value of each transaction has generally been under 10 million euros.

Spy agencies targeted charities, Israeli leader, EU chief: Snowden (By The Guardian in London) Unicef and Medecins du Monde were on surveillance list. Targets went well beyond potential criminals and terrorists. Revelations could cause embarrassment at EU summit - A Washington Metro bus is seen on Friday with a sign thanking Edward Snowden on its side panel. The British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in Gloucestershire, west England. British and American intelligence agencies had a comprehensive list of surveillance targets that included the EU’s competition commissioner, German government buildings in Berlin and overseas, and the heads of institutions that provide humanitarian and financial help to Africa, top secret documents reveal. The papers show Britain’s Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ), in collaboration with America’s National Security Agency (NSA), was targeting organisations such as the United Nations development programme, the UN’s children’s charity Unicef and Medecins du Monde, a French organisation that provides doctors and medical volunteers to conflict zones. The head of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) also appears in the documents, along with text messages he sent to colleagues. The latest disclosures will add to Washington’s embarrassment following the heavy criticism of the NSA when it emerged that it had been tapping the mobile telephone of the German chancellor, Angela Merkel. One GCHQ document, drafted in January 2009, makes clear the agencies were targeting an email address listed as belonging to another key American ally – the “Israeli prime minister”. Ehud Olmert was in office at the time. Three other Israeli targets appeared on GCHQ documents, including another email address understood to have been used to send messages between the then Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak, and his chief of staff, Yoni Koren. Britain’s targeting of Germany may also prove awkward for the British prime minister, David Cameron; in October, he endorsed an EU statement condemning NSA spying on world leaders, including Merkel. They have both been in Brussels, attending an EU summit which concluded on Friday. The names and details are the latest revelations to come from documents leaked by the whistleblower Edward Snowden and are likely to fuel further concern about the extent of the surveillance being conducted by GCHQ and the NSA. The disclosures reflect the breadth of targets sought by the agencies, which goes far beyond the desire to intercept the communications of potential terrorists and criminals, or diplomats and officials from hostile countries. Asked about this activity, a spokesman for GCHQ said it was “longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters”, but the official insisted the agency “takes its obligations under the law very seriously”. However, Leigh Daynes, an executive director of Medecins du Monde in the UK, said he was “shocked and surprised by these appalling allegations of secret surveillance on our humanitarian operations”. He added: “For more than 30 years we have provided emergency and long-term medical care for vulnerable patients in 70 countries, including in Africa and the Middle East. We are an independent health charity delivering impartial care in some of the poorest places, including war zones. Our doctors and medical professionals, many of whom are volunteers, risk their lives daily in some of the world’s most dangerous places, like Mali, Somalia and in and around Syria. There is absolutely no reason for our operations to be secretly monitored. Like other humanitarian actors, we adhere strictly to the fundamental principles of independence, neutrality and impartiality in our work.” The new information is published in a joint investigation by the Guardian, the German news magazine Der Spiegel and the New York Times. According to documents, the targeting efforts involved programmes run from GCHQ’s listening post near the small Cornish seaside town of Bude. This is a key listening facility which receives substantial funding from the NSA to undertake shared transatlantic surveillance operations. Among other activities, the base had the task of monitoring satellite communications between Europe and Africa and the papers show Bude tested the value of new “carriers” used by telecoms companies to judge whether they would be worth intercepting. According to documents, dated from 2008 to 2011, a unit at Bude did this by testing samples of data to see whether surveillance targets already on GCHQ and NSA databases were making use of the new connections. If GCHQ analysts identified a carrier they thought could be useful, they would be ask: “Can this carrier be tasked on collection system?” Providing more permanent surveillance would often depend on whether GCHQ had the software capable of doing so, and if not, whether it was possible to upgrade systems to make it possible. The prominent names that appear in the GCHQ documents include Joaquin Almunia, who is vice-president of the European Commission with responsibility for competition policy. The Spaniard is in charge of major anti-monopoly investigations, and approving mergers of companies with significant presence in the EU. Almunia has been involved in a long-running investigation into Google over complaints about the company’s alleged stranglehold on online advertising; he has also clashed with Google and Microsoft over privacy concerns, and was prominent in the EU’s response to the global financial crisis. Surveillance on such a senior EU official with a major role in economic affairs is bound to alarm other European nations, and raise concerns as to whether intelligence produced from Almunia or others is shared with the US – the NSA has a number of personnel posted at the base in Bude, and contributes millions of pounds to its budget. The Guardian approached Almunia’s office earlier this week. A spokesman said: “Mr Almunia does not have any comment at this stage.” Another target was the French defence and logistics giant Thales Group, which is part-owned by the French government. In all, communications from more than 60 countries were being targeted in this particular operation, with other names listed in the GCHQ documents including Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the current African Union-United Nations joint special representative for Darfur as well as multiple African heads of state. Nicolas Imboden from the non-profit IDEAS centre in Geneva and Solomon Asamoah, deputy head of the Africa Finance Corporation, also appeared on GCHQ’s lists. The documents do not give any insight into why GCHQ deemed them worthy of surveillance. In 2009 Chambas was president of Ecowas. He had been heavily involved in efforts to bring peace to Liberia and GCHQ picked up SMS messages he sent while he was in the country to receive an award. One message read: “Thanks Kwame. Glad to know all is well. Am in Liberia for receive National Award ... inde celebration.” A second added: “What machine gun sounds? Am in Gbanga former HQ of Charles Taylor ...” Offices operated by the UN development programme, which administers financial relief to poor nations, and of the World Health Organisation were also among listed targets. The targeting of German government buildings may prove the biggest political headache for the UK. The documents show GCHQ targeting German government networks in Berlin, and official communications between Germany and Georgia and Germany and Turkey. Germany’s embassy in Rwanda was also a target. The papers seen by the Guardian do not disclose the extent of any surveillance nor for how long any collection took place. However, each individual or group had a specific ID number in the agency’s “target knowledge base”. This indicates they had been a deliberate target of surveillance efforts, rather than accidentally caught in a dragnet. Unlike its US counterpart, GCHQ is entitled to engage in spying relating to economic matters, but only if it is linked to national security issues. The 1994 Intelligence and Security Act says the agency can work “in the interests of national security, with particular reference to the defence and foreign policies of Her Majesty’s government; in the interests of the economic wellbeing of the United Kingdom; and in support of the prevention and the detection of serious crime”. However, critics have repeatedly called for a proper definition of “national security”, and raised questions about what should be permitted to protect “economic wellbeing” beyond the need to help UK companies defend themselves against the theft of intellectual property or from cyberattacks. Documents show GCHQ has also been keen to break into global roaming exchanges (known as GRXs), which are centres that handle routing international mobile calls to the appropriate countries and phone networks. Belgacom, which Der Spiegel revealed earlier this year was the victim of GCHQ hacking efforts, is one such international exchange. One 2010 presentation referring to the agency’s efforts against GRX went on to note that “diplomatic targets from all nations have an MO [modus operandi] of using smartphones” and added the agency had “exploited this use at the G20 meetings last year”. The Guardian in June revealed GCHQ had engaged in extensive surveillance efforts against G20 delegates in 2009, including in order to secure advantages in trade talks and bilaterals. On Monday the Guardian, Der Spiegel and the New York Times jointly approached GCHQ for comment. The agency would not go into any details but said “one of the purposes for which GCHQ may be authorised to intercept communications is where it is necessary for the purpose of safeguarding the economic wellbeing of the UK”, but that the code of practice made clear this had to be “directly related to state security. Interception under this purpose is categorically not about industrial espionage.” A spokesman for the NSA said: “As we have previously said, we do not use our foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf of – or give intelligence we collect to – US companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line. The United States collects foreign intelligence just as many other governments do. “The intelligence community’s efforts to understand economic systems and policies, and monitor anomalous economic activities, are critical to providing policymakers with the information they need to make informed decisions that are in the best interest of our national security. As the administration also announced several months ago, the US government is undertaking a review of our activities around the world – looking at, among other issues, how we co-ordinate with our closest allies and partners. Unicef said it was “not in a position to comment on this story at this time”.

 China*:  Dec 23 2013

Beijing vows to boost Bolivia infrastructure (By Wu Jiao and Zhang Fan wujiao@chinadaily.com.cn and zhangfan1@chinadaily.com.cn) President Xi Jinping and his Bolivian counterpart Evo Morales attend a signing ceremony in Beijing on Dec 19, 2013. The two countries have also signed economic cooperation agreements in which China will provide financial support to Bolivia. Bolivia said on Thursday that it welcomes more Chinese companies in the Latin American country, promising a better investment environment. Bolivian President Evo Morales made the remarks during his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing. The three-day visit will also see Morales traveling to Southwest China to watch the launch of Bolivia's first communication satellite on Saturday, which China helped build. During the meeting, the two leaders pledged to "develop well" cooperation projects in the mineral, high-tech and aero sectors, as well as infrastructure buildup, according to a Chinese Foreign Ministry news release. The two countries have seen joint efforts in Bolivia's satellite and railway industries, which are crucial to improving the landlocked country's telecommunications and infrastructure. "Your visit will bring new momentum to our nations' ties," Xi told Morales. The two countries also signed economic cooperation agreements on Thursday in which China will provide financial support to Bolivia, but the specific figure remains unknown. This is Morales' third visit to China. He visited China in 2006, shortly after he won the Bolivian presidential election. His visit then was regarded as a sign that the Latin American country was seeking a closer relationship with China, especially in economic cooperation. Morales, known for his informal style, arrived on Thursday for the meeting in an open jacket and shirt and was welcomed by Xi at a grand ceremony. Morales said during the meeting that he has learned about China's revolutionary founder, Chairman Mao Zedong, since his childhood and he used to herd sheep with China's national flag in hand as a boy. On Saturday, Morales will be at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province for the launch of Bolivia's first communications satellite. The satellite, to be operational in March, aims to strengthen Bolivia's broadcast communications, distance education and telemedicine. Bolivian media reported that the satellite will help the nation reduce its $15 million annual bill for renting foreign satellites' time and services. Allowing complete national coverage in the country, the satellite will also allow Bolivia to rent out services to South American countries such as Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay, said Ivan Zambrana, director of the Bolivian Space Agency. The program involved an investment of $300 million, including construction, launch and orbit placement, setting up ground stations in La Paz and Santa Cruz, and training, according to China Great Wall Industry Corp. Much of that investment was loaned by China Development Bank. Xie Wenze, an economist at the Latin America Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the satellite is the highlight of China and Bolivia's high-tech cooperation and can greatly improve Bolivia's socioeconomic development. Such cooperation also benefits China in high-tech exports, especially in gaining a bigger share in the world's satellite industry, he added. China and Bolivia's economic cooperation is growing. Bilateral trade volume reached $516 million in the first eight months of 2013, an increase of 18 percent compared with the same period last year, according to Chinese customs data. "Bolivia is rich in natural resources, such as natural gas and iron. There is a lot of potential in China-Bolivia trade," Xie said. However, economic development is limited by Bolivia's underdeveloped infrastructure, especially the transportation system. "Bolivia is a landlocked country with poorly developed railways. Even though it has the second-largest natural gas reserve in Latin America and huge amounts of iron mines, it is difficult for it to reach the international market," Xie said. To solve the problem, Bolivia is trying to build more railways. According to the Bolivian government, China Railway Group and China CAMC Engineering Corp just won a bid on a $250 million railway construction project. "The project is to complete Bolivia's railway network, which can improve its domestic transportation as well as its connection with the world. It will also help create a stable social environment for Bolivia's economy," Xie said.

China launches communications satellite for Bolivia (By Xinhua) A Bolivian communications satellite is launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center(XSLC), southwest China's Sichuan Province, Dec. 21, 2013. China successfully sent a Bolivian communications satellite into orbit with its Long March-3B carrier rocket at 0:42 a.m.(Beijing Time) Saturday. China successfully sent a Bolivian communications satellite into orbit with its Long March-3B carrier rocket from southwest Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 0:42 am (Beijing Time) Saturday. Bolivian President Juan Evo Morales Ayma was present, the first time a foreign head of state has witnessed a satellite launch in China. The satellite was produced by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) with a designed longevity of 15 years. It is Bolivia's first communications satellite. The satellite is named Tupac Katari in homage to an 18th century indigenous hero who fought Bolivia's Spanish colonizers. Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a message of congratulations to President Morales, saying the successful development and launch of the satellite represents the latest achievements and level of cooperation between China and Bolivia in the field of science and technology. "The satellite will play an important role for Bolivia to improve its broadcasting, education and medical services. It will make important contributions to promote cooperation between China and Latin American countries," Xi said. Bilateral ties have been progressing smoothly while pragmatic cooperation in all areas are making steady headway since China and Bolivia established diplomatic ties 28 years ago, Xi said. Xi said China hopes for more space collaboration with Bolivia, which will promote mutual beneficial cooperation and friendly relations, bringing benefits to the people of both countries. In a speech made after the launch, President Morales thanked President Xi for his congratulations and expressed gratitude towards the Chinese government, scientists and the people. He hopes that China and Bolivia will take the opportunity of the successful launch to deepen cooperation in all areas and bring bilateral ties to a higher level. The satellite agreement was signed between the Bolivian Space Agency (ABE) and the Great Wall Industry Corporation of China, a subsidiary of CASC, in December 2010. It is the fifth Chinese communications satellite for international users and the second in-orbit delivery for a Latin American customer. China launched a telecom satellite for Venezuela in 2008. The successful launch will bring Bolivia into an age of digital economy and make its people more connected, said Ivan Zambrana, head of the ABE. "We wish to launch a remote sensing satellite in 2017 and China is one of our best alternatives," he added.

Hong Kong*:  Dec 22 2013

Warning sounded on taper outflows (By Benjamin Robertson benjamin.robertson@scmp.com) HKMA reflects fears with caution to banks and investors over prospect of asset price volatility as funds exit on heels of Fed stimulus reduction - Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah said there had been no noticeable outflow since tapering was announced but advised Hong Kong residents to exercise prudence when taking out loans as interest rates would rise. Hong Kong authorities have warned banks and investors of liquidity outflows and asset price volatility after the United States Federal Reserve announced tapering its bond-buying programme early next year while maintaining low interest rates as the American economy continues to improve. "The normalisation of the US monetary conditions will inevitably heighten market volatility," warned the Hong Kong Monetary Authority in response to the Fed's policy. "The Fed's quantitative easing policy over the past few years has led to large capital inflows to emerging markets. As the US economy gradually recovers, fund flows may reverse, exerting downward pressure on asset prices." The regulator is worried that as tapering begins, the huge stash of funds parked in Hong Kong since 2008 will begin to drain and possibly cause sudden drops in asset prices and lead to liquidity problems in the banking sector. Since 2008, there has been a net inflow of HK$766 billion into the city's financial system after the US launched the quantitative easing policy in the wake of the financial crisis, according to data collated by JPMorgan. Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah said yesterday that there had been no noticeable outflow since tapering was announced but reiterated his advice to Hong Kong residents to exercise prudence when taking out loans as interest rates would rise. The long-expected decision to begin tapering will see the Fed reduce its US$85 billion monthly asset purchase by US$10 billion, divided evenly between mortgage bonds and US Treasuries. The policy will be expanded on a month-by-month basis. In announcing the decision, the Federal Open Market Committee said US economic activity was growing at a moderate pace, with rises in household spending and fixed-asset investment by businesses. The Fed adjusted its forward guidance by pledging to keep interest rates low "well past" any drop in unemployment below 6.5 per cent. US unemployment fell to a five-year low of 7 per cent last month and the Fed predicts it will drop to 6.3 per cent by the end of next year. While most markets rose after the Fed's announcement, the Hong Kong and mainland exchanges dropped, mostly due to concerns over tightening liquidity among mainland banks. With tapering, the Fed was sending a message that the US economy was in recovery, which should benefit Hong Kong's export sectors, JPMorgan economist Lu Jiang said. She predicted the city would notch up economic growth of 3.2 per cent next year, compared with 2.8 per cent this year. The economy should be well supported by the US rebound and moderate growth on the mainland, she said. Benjamin Hung Pi-cheng, the chairman of the Hong Kong Association of Banks and chief executive of Standard Chartered Bank (Hong Kong), said he did not expect a massive outflow of funds from the region as economic growth was still robust. He also said he expected interest rates in Hong Kong would remain stable in the short term.Anita Fung Yuen-mei, HSBC's Hong Kong chief executive, said: "Given that the FOMC is committed to maintaining a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy for a considerable time, there is no exigency to revise our savings and lending rates at this stage." How tapering plays out will be watched in the property sector, where prices have almost doubled since 2008. "It will have a psychological impact on the property market, which is very sensitive to interest rate movements. Home-buying interest will turn off once mortgage rates increase," said Alfred Lau, a property analyst at Bocom International. Every one percentage point rise in mortgage rates could translate into a 6 per cent drop in home prices, he added, and mortgage rates could more than double from their present 2.2 per cent to 5 per cent over the next three years. But he said he expected a 5 per cent annual increase in nominal income would help offset the pressure on prices. Phillip Capital Management fund manager Li Kwok-suen predicts rates will likely go up from the second quarter of next year. The Centa-City Leading Index of Hong Kong home prices dropped 4.7 per cent to 118.96 last week from a peak of 123.66 in mid-March.

Leader's duty reports must be 'warts and all,' says top official Wang Guangya (By Jeffie Lam in Beijing and Tony Cheung) Official in charge of city's affairs says Beijing visits must be more hard-nosed; he slams the door on public nomination for chief executive - Hong Kong leaders will be required to present a "warts and all'' report on the job they are doing during future duty visits to Beijing, a top mainland official in charge of the city's affairs said yesterday. Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office director Wang Guangya made the call as he slammed the door firmly shut on the public being allowed to nominate candidates for chief executive as the SAR enters a key period of political reform. Wang - who said such a move would contradict the city's mini-constitution - is the first mainland official to declare public nomination a non-starter since the city embarked on a five- month-long period of public consultation on democratic development earlier this month. His requirement for a more candid and detailed duty visit report is being seen as a move to make the visits less of a ritual courtesy call and more a practical and hard-nosed look at how the city is being run. Wang, however, did acknowledge Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's hard work over the past year, adding that popularity was not the most important factor when evaluating performance. Leung, who ended his three-day duty visit yesterday with calls on ministries in Beijing, denied he had only reported good news to the leaders. "We have thoroughly and objectively reported the city's situation [to Beijing]," said Leung. He did not reveal what shortcomings were addressed. Wang made his remarks yesterday after Leung and three ministers - commerce chief Greg So Kam-leung, financial services chief Professor Chan Ka-keung and housing chief Anthony Cheung Bing-leung - met him in the capital. "In the past, [Hong Kong and Macau chief executives] might mostly report on what they have achieved in the last year, but now we also require them to search out the shortcomings," he said. On political reform, Wang said allowing the public to nominate chief executive hopefuls was "definitely rather far away from [the framework of] Basic Law", adding that only through mutual respect and communication would Hongkongers be able to forge a consensus on the reform. He described the Occupy Central movement as an attempt to "destroy the rule of law''. When asked if he was satisfied with the performance of Leung, Wang said: "Popularity ratings fluctuate every day - just like stocks. We have to see if the policies [put forward by Leung] have met the people's needs … To the central government, Leung has been making lots of effort over the past year." Separately, Leung called on the Ministry of Finance and the National Development and Reform Commission yesterday with Chan and Cheung respectively. He said the government would file a proposal to the commission regarding China's 13th five-year plan starting from 2016. Former Central Policy Unit head Professor Lau Siu-kai, who first revealed Beijing's plan to "standardise" annual duty visits, believed the new rules would encourage the local government to be more dedicated to its duties.

No quick decision on claims for welfare (By Shirley Zhao and Jennifer Ngo) Recent arrivals who rushed to take advantage of ruling allowing them to claim social security told their applications won't be processed yet - A new arrival files a claim for welfare yesterday. A handful of recent immigrants yesterday rushed to try to take advantage of a court ruling that overturned a ban on them receiving government welfare. But the Social Welfare Department says it will not process applications until guidelines clarifying Tuesday's Court of Final Appeal ruling - which declared a seven-year residency requirement unlawful - are finalised. One mainland woman, who has lived in Hong Kong since 2009, said she had applied for Comprehensive Social Security Assistance yesterday and spent 10 minutes discussing her application with a department officer. The officer could not say when it would be processed. "Because [the ruling] only came yesterday, we don't necessarily know how long this will take," the officer said. The woman came to Hong Kong to reunite with her parents, both of whom are permanent residents. She lived with her local boyfriend and worked in the kitchen of their eight-year-old daughter's school, but moved out with the girl in 2011 after suffering "physical and psychological abuse" from her partner. She applied for CSSA in January, citing family abuse, but was turned down because she and her abuser were not married. A second application in August was turned down because she had not lived in the city for seven years - the rule struck down by the top court this week. Although she and her daughter have been granted a public-housing flat, they have had to live off the child's CSSA allowance of just HK$2,490 a month as the woman said she had health problems and could not work while taking care of the girl. "The ruling has given me hope again," said the woman, who refused to give her name as she feared being tracked by her ex-boyfriend. "I've endured great psychological pain all along and I often have nightmares." A 60-year-old woman who was also filing an application said she had never heard of CSSA, Hong Kong's catch-all social welfare programme, until the ruling on Tuesday. She said she had moved to Hong Kong in 2009 after marrying a local man, but had subsequently divorced and was having to work part-time despite suffering from arthritis. A third applicant said she had moved to Hong Kong in 2011 to be with her local husband, but both were unemployed. She had failed in three welfare applications due to the seven-year rule. Although the court success provided hope for new immigrants, visits by the South China Morning Post to some of the department's district offices did not suggest a rush of applicants. The department received 31 applications from new arrivals on Tuesday, a spokeswoman said. No figure for yesterday was available.

Lawmakers grapple with how to expand 2017 election committee’s reach (By Tanna Chong tanna.chong@scmp.com) Pan-democrats and Beijing loyalists agree that nominating committee must represent a broader electoral base - but debate rages on how to do it - Law professor Albert Chen Hung-yee has proposed expanding the committee's electorate base to 600,000 by switching all corporate votes to individual ballots. Despite the deadlock between pan-democrats and Beijing loyalists over whether the Hong Kong public should be allowed to choose candidates for the 2017 chief executive race, consensus has emerged over the need to broaden the electorate base of a committee that is key to the electoral process. But the question of how remains controversial. Proposals to replace the much-criticised corporate votes with individual ballots abound, notably from pro-Beijing legal expert Professor Albert Chen Hung-yee – but functional constituency lawmakers say it is not simply about expanding the number of voters. "It is not only about the size of the electorate, but also about balanced participation,” said agriculture and fisheries lawmaker Steven Ho Chun-yin. He was referring to Beijing’s request, stated in the two decisions of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, regarding Hong Kong’s electoral methods. The government has repeatedly emphasised that those decisions, together with the Basic Law, comprise the ultimate framework which any reform must conform to. During his visit to Hong Kong, Basic Law Committee chairman Li Fei said the nominating committee for the 2017 chief executive election should be made up much like the election committee that voted in Leung Chun-ying last year – split equally among four sectors. The voice of a few - The election committee has long been criticised for representing narrow interests. The electorate base of the current “broadly representative” committee, elected in 2011, stands at about 250,000 voters – fewer than 7 per cent of the 3.5 million eligible voters in Hong Kong. Chen, a veteran legal scholar, last month proposed broadening the electorate base to 600,000 by switching all corporate votes to individual ballots. Excluding the district council subsector, whose members are elected district councillors, seven out of 38 subsectors have 200 or less voters, including corporate votes. Ho’s agriculture and fisheries sector has 158, including 75 organisational votes and corporate members of another eight trade bodies. "The sensitive balance of the industry would be disturbed if we simply include all practitioners as voters,” said Ho, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong. His sector returned 60 uncontested election committee seats, among the 11 subsectors – and four subsectors in sports, performing arts, culture and publication – which were uncontested. "Participation will overwhelmingly lean towards the fisheries if we replace all organisation votes with individual ones,” said Ho, who represents industries which accounted for 0.04 per cent of Hong Kong’s gross domestic product in 2011. “There are 6,500 fishing boat licences, but only 43 pig-raising licences and 30 chicken breeding licences.” The current eligible voters had all gone through electoral processes via their own trade bodies, Ho said, ensuring the sector voices were representational. "I acknowledge the need to broaden participation, but simply maximising the number of votes would definitely violate the principle of balanced participation," he said. Cultural lawmaker Ma Fung-kwok said his sector faces the problem of defining the ambiguous boundaries of the culture industry. "It is possible to adopt individual votes, but the prerequisite is an industry-wide agreement over who belongs in the circle,” said Ma, whose sector currently has 2,545 voters, including both organisations and individuals. “Take publication as an example. Should all news workers – ranging from print to broadcasting to new media – be included as members of the industry? The industries have to forge a consensus first.”

 China*:  Dec 22 2013

Reading China's future through its past (By KELLY CHUNG DAWSON in New York) Professor Odd Arne Westad speaks at The Asia Society at a luncheon honoring his recent win of the 2013 Asia Society Bernard Schwartz Book Award for "Restless Empire: China and the World Since 1750." Contrary to the popular historical narrative that China's exposure to the West in the 1800s hastened a slew of problems for an inward-looking Qing Dynasty, historian Odd Arne Westad argues that the Qing were not only eager to expand outward but benefited immeasurably from Western creativity and knowledge. In his new book Restless Empire: China and the World Since 1750, which was recently named winner of the 2013 Asia Society Bernard Schwartz Book Award for its contribution to advancing the understanding of contemporary Asia, Westad traces China's development through its interactions with the outside world from a Chinese perspective. "There's very little in this book about a supposedly inward-looking China, or an isolated China that is self-satisfied about its past successes, but instead the China I see back then and today is a China that is open to change and always has been," Westad said in remarks at the Asia Society this week. "China today is a hybrid that's been created as the result of both domestic and foreign influences, to a higher degree than almost any other country. In fact, one of the only other countries that compares is the United States, and more should be made of that comparison, in terms of the restlessness and willingness to embrace change seen in both countries," he explained. Although he doesn't downplay the wrongdoings inflicted by various Western imperial powers, he does argue that the Western-designated concession districts in urban cities gave the Chinese the opportunity to create "new identities for themselves as workers, traders, shopkeepers, or part of the intelligentsia, in ways that would not have been open to them had Qing power … stayed intact." Of equal importance to the foreign diplomats and leaders that came into contact with China were the businesspeople, missionaries, teachers and advisers that were vital in China's modernization, he writes. Among the forces that transformed China's thinking about the world and its own society were communism, capitalism and imperialism. Westad sets forth three ideas that remain central to the Chinese character: Justice, and the belief that China has been treated poorly; the crucial role of rules and rituals; and a deep sense of centrality that places China at the crux of its surroundings. Despite the country's growing power, it remains first and foremost a regional power, he said. However, the big difference between China and the US in the early days of its ascent to international power is China's integration into the global economy, he said. "China's growth this way is different from anything we've seen before, because its economic linkages are much greater than we've seen with previous rising powers," he said. The book, which was chosen by the Asia Society from over 130 nominations, fits into the framework of the organization's own work to consider the depth of history in understanding the future, said Asia Society president Josette Sheeran. "The past 250 years of foreign policy experience in China are probably the most important years for us to understand where China is headed in the future," she said. "Even though [Westad] is a historian, like all great historians [he] tells us more about the future than the past." For the Norwegian-born and American-educated Westad, who first traveled to China as a foreign exchange student in 1979, the book represents the culmination of what has been the "great intellectual adventure" of his life: the belief that in order to understand China's present and future, a deep understanding of the past is necessary, he said. "This book is a declaration of a great love affair with China," he said. "Beyond intellectual engagement, it is about a country that I carry with me — its sights, its sounds and smells." Westad is also a professor of international history at The London School of Economics and Political Science. His 2007 book The Global Cold War won the Akira Iriye International history Award, and the Bancroft Prize. Too often, non-fiction books are left unread by people outside a field of inquiry, Westad noted. With an approach that "stresses cultural transformations and hybrid identities as much as conflicts and nationalisms," he presents an alternative historical narrative that might surprise even long-time China watchers.

Rich Chinese seek Canadian migration through Quebec province (By Ian Young in Vancouver ian.young@scmp.com) Millionaires seek investment migration through French-speaking province but then move on; however, they may face an eight-year wait - Thousands of Chinese millionaires are lining up to immigrate to Canada via Quebec, attempting to sidestep the federal government's freeze on its own version of the controversial cash-for-visas scheme, new data has revealed. But the would-be "investor migrants" could face delays of eight years or more as authorities struggle to clear a backlog of tens of thousands of applications. Once they are admitted, it is unlikely many intend to stay long in the French-speaking province - about 90 per cent of arrivals under the scheme have ended up living elsewhere. The data was obtained by Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland under a freedom-of-information request, in the wake of Ottawa's decision to halt new applications for the federal investor migrant scheme last year. Quebec's version of the scheme remains open for business. Kurland said it was unfair of Quebec to continue to accept thousands of applications without warning prospective migrants they faced potential delays of eight years or more. Quebec had effectively sabotaged attempts to reduce the backlog, he said. "It's like Ottawa has built a submarine, and it's going underwater, but Quebec installed a screen door on it," said Kurland. Under both versions of the scheme, immigrants with a net worth of at least C$1.6 million (HK$11.7 million) can buy their way into Canada by giving the government an interest-free loan of C$800,000 for a period of five years. The data obtained by Kurland shows that 2,123 applications lodged in Hong Kong last year have been approved by Quebec, then simply added to the federal backlog in defiance of the federal freeze. This was more than from the rest of the world combined. Previous admission data suggests that all except a few per cent of applications lodged in Hong Kong are made by mainland Chinese: mainland investor migrants arriving in British Columbia outstripped Hongkongers by about 100 to 1 last year, when mainlanders made up 76 per cent of all such admissions. Applicants approved by Quebec join a federal backlog that last year stood at more than 85,000. Only 9,359 visas were issued that year, suggesting a long wait if new applicants go to the back of the queue. In August this year, Quebec introduced a cap on the number of investor visa applications it would accept each year. For 2013, the cap was set at 1,750, with a maximum of 1,200 from any one country. Quebec has not revealed the number of applications it received via Hong Kong this year, but immigration consultant Mathieu Dumont said the scheme was heavily oversubscribed. Dumont's Hong Kong-based firm, Yelo Consulting, specialises in helping obtain Quebec investor visas for Chinese clients. Dumont said that this year "the Quebec government received maybe 4,800 visa applications [from mainland Chinese], but they only selected 1,200 in an electronic lucky draw." He agreed that Chinese interest in the Quebec scheme had increased in the past three years. The federal government tightened access to its programme in 2010 before imposing the 2012 freeze. "Yes, there are more and more [applicants]. There has been a real increase in the total files that are sent through this [Hong Kong] office," said Dumont, who founded Yelo more than three years ago. "It seems that every year since we started we have seen an increase." But Dumont disputed Kurland's suggestion of eight-year waiting times for applicants. He said the delay was about four years. Kurland said he was not concerned that Chinese migrants applying via Quebec were exploiting a loophole in the federal freeze; instead, he said, the issue was one of consumer protection. "How many people would agree to deposit money in Quebec, knowing that it will be eight years before they are issued a visa? They don't know, they are not aware and that's the consumer protection problem," he said. The data provided by Kurland came in the form of an e-mail between federal immigration staff on March 1 [2013]. It updated the number of applications approved by Quebec that were in the federal backlog of investor migrants, as of January 8 [2013]. Among the 9,252 migrants Quebec had in the backlog, 3,626 were lodged by applicants last year, the year Ottawa stopped accepting new applications. Neither Citizenship and Immigration Canada nor the Bureau d'Immigration du Québec in Hong Kong responded to requests for comment. Data also released by Kurland shows that few of Quebec's investor migrants remain there. Of the 18,258 such migrants who renewed Canadian residency from 2000 to 2008, 89 per cent had no address in Quebec. Canada's Conservative government has been harshly critical of the phenomenon. "If a person fills out Quebec's investor programme form and indicates their intention to reside in Quebec … then goes straight to Vancouver without even going to Quebec, that would be fraud," then-immigration minister Jason Kenney told MPs in June. "It is a crime." But Dumont said it was perfectly legal for migrants to move. "Once you get your Canadian permanent resident card, you can live wherever you want in Canada," he said. Sandy Garossino, a civic advocate in Vancouver concerned about the city's high property prices, said there was little evidence that rich migrants created many jobs or economic opportunities. The investor migrant scheme "is great for luxury residential real estate agents and Lamborghini dealers", but not necessarily the wider community, she said. Wealthy Chinese have previously tried other tactics to get around the federal freeze on the investor migrant scheme. In November last year, British Columbia suspended a fast-track visa scheme after a 120 per cent spike in applications from purported business investors. Most of the suspicious applications were reportedly from China.

Chinese tycoons top list of Britain's richest property investors (By Christy Choi christy.choi@scmp.com) Wang Jianlin and Cheng family top rich list as Duke of Westminster falls down asset rankings - Tycoons from China have come from nowhere to top the list of the UK's wealthiest property investors for the first time, ending the Duke of Westminster's 10-year reign at the No1 spot. China's richest man, Wang Jianlin of the Dalian Wanda group, topped the 2013 Estates Gazette Rich List with an estimated fortune of £10.4 billion (HK$131 billion), closely followed in the No2 spot by New World Development chairman Henry Cheng Kar-shun and his family at £10.2 billion. Neither Wang or Cheng appeared in the top 250 last year. The shake-up comes as the London property market sees more Asian money flow in, according to the 155-year-old magazine that compiled the list. "London is such a transparent market, with iconic buildings, and with the new land opened up, we have overseas buyers flooding into the market," said Noella Pio Kivlehan markets editor of Estates Gazette. Over the last year the UK has seen a 60 per cent increase in the total wealth of its richest 250 investors to £162.5 billion - the largest ever rise on the magazine's Rich List because of new money from Asia. "Philip [Beresford], who compiled the report, says he doesn't see the duke regaining his spot any time soon ... the new money is substantial and will stay," said Pio Kivlehan. The duke, whose wealth is estimated at £8 billion, fell to fourth place, just behind the Mumbai-born Reuben Brothers who have an estimated net worth of £8.3 billion. Chinese Estates Holdings owner Joseph Lau Luen-hung, who is currently facing corruption charges in Macau, comes in seventh at £4.6 billion. Wang spent £700 million on One Nine Elms, part of the South Bank regeneration project, and plans to build Europe's tallest residential tower (204 metres) and a luxury hotel on the site. The Chengs took control of the Greenwich Peninsula regeneration project for around £686 million and own stakes in a luxury estate, The Knightsbridge, while Lau owns the Goldman Sachs building in Fleet Street. While Wang, Cheng and Lau are significant investors, the British aristocracy still own most of the property in the UK. But the Chinese trio's combined fortunes make up 38 per cent of the total fortunes of the list's top 10. Overseas buyers purchased new-build property in London worth some £2.2 billion last year, up from £1.8 billion in 2011, according to property consultancy Knight Frank. Hong Kong and mainland Chinese buyers make up 16 per cent and 5 per cent respectively. Singaporeans invest the most at 23 per cent. The Rich List, first published in 2002, includes people who have invested £100 million or more in the UK and have made or invested all or a significant part of their fortunes in property, trading or related areas.

'Mutual interests beat differences' (By Zhao Yinan) China and US should explore avenues of all-round cooperation, premier says - Economic ties are a "ballast" for overall China-US relations, Premier Li Keqiang said on Thursday, despite recent maritime tensions between the two navies. The premier hoped the countries, the world's largest economies, can properly handle differences, respect each other's core interests and major concerns, and look at the bigger picture and long-term perspective. Mutual interests have outweighed differences since diplomatic relations resumed 35 years ago, Li said. "We should seize the opportunity, explore the potential for cooperation and promote a healthy and stable Sino-US relationship," he said as he met the US delegation for the 24th Session of the China-US Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade in Beijing on Thursday. His remarks came after a recent incident at sea. Media reported the US missile cruiser Cowpens broke into the Chinese navy's drilling waters in the South China Sea on Dec 5, despite warnings from China's aircraft carrier task group, and the US cruiser almost collided with a Chinese warship nearby. China's Defense Ministry said it has had effective communication with its US counterparts about the near miss, while US State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said that the incident will not influence Sino-US ties. At Thursday's meeting, Li said he looks forward to a "pragmatic and candid" talk. "Bilateral trade was barely several billion dollars 30 years ago, but today the trade volume stands at around several hundred billion dollars. The number has exceeded the expectations of many people," Li said. Sino-US trade hit $472 billion from January to November. He also said he hopes the US relaxes its restriction on high-tech exports to China and creates favorable conditions for Chinese investors. Chinese officials and companies have long complained about the US barring Chinese companies such as telecom giant Huawei Technologies from signing deals in the US on grounds of national security. US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, who led the US delegation, said she agrees that a strong economic relationship between the US and China is of vital importance to both countries. A positive and successful session will help strengthen the economic relationship, she said, and the meeting has demonstrated its capability to resolve many key issues. The China-US Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade was launched in 1983 as a platform for the countries to promote trade and address issues of mutual concern. This year, the formal discussion will begin on Friday after a closed-door talk on Thursday, and they are expected to reach agreements in commerce, agriculture and other fields. Zhou Shijian, a senior trade researcher at the Center for US-China Relations at Tsinghua University, said the session has attracted more attention as the US Federal Reserve has announced a scaling down of its bond buying, which may weaken China's exports and lead to capital outflow. He said overall ties won't be affected by the military tension, as both countries were trying to play down the negative effects of the near-miss. He said the countries have brought their issues to the negotiation table, and he believes they will exchange views in a "deep and candid" way. "But I doubt if the meeting could thoroughly resolve these issue at once, especially high-tech export restrictions," he said.

Hong Kong*:  Dec 21 2013

AS Watson retail spin-off seen as perfect timing (By Jeanny Yu and Bloomberg) Hong Kong's top dealmaker, Li Ka-shing, is on a winning move with a sale of Hutchison's AS Watson unit, analysts say. Hutchison Whampoa's reported spin-off of its retail arm could be perfectly timed as valuation of Asian consumer staples companies stands at a record high, say market watchers. Hutchison Whampoa, controlled by Li Ka-shing, has picked Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and HSBC to work on an initial public offering of its retail arm, AS Watson, Sky News reported on its website yesterday, citing sources. The company planned to sell shares in Hong Kong and might pursue a secondary listing in London, the website said. "Watsons' free cash flow is a very good feature, which would be favoured by long-term investors such as pension funds and sovereign funds," Stephen Sheung, an investment strategist at SHK Private, told the South China Morning Post. "Now is a great time to sell as investors are willing to pay a high premium for consumption-related stocks in Asia." An MSCI index that tracks consumer staples companies in Asia ex-Japan is trading at just under 24 times forward earnings. That compares with just 12.4 times for the broader regional index. "The earnings growth of local property and retail businesses has peaked and prospects for the two sectors are not promising. Selling the low-growth businesses, whether it is Watsons or ParknShop, should give Hutchison more liquidity to buy into some higher-growth sectors next year," Sheung said. Watson, which runs stores, including groceries and pharmacies, in 33 markets would be valued at more than US$20 billion in an IPO, industry sources said. Shares in Hutchison rose as much as 3.5 per cent yesterday to the highest in almost 13 years on optimism a Watson IPO would free up money to invest in more lucrative industries. The stock closed up 3.3 per cent at HK$103.60. It has climbed 28 per cent this year, beating the Hang Seng Index's 2.5 per cent gain. Hutchison in October scrapped plans to sell its ParknShop supermarket chain - part of the Watson division - after failing to get suitable bids. It would review options for Watson, including a public offering, Hutchison said at the time.

 China*:  Dec 21 2013

US senator Baucus to be named ambassador to China (By Associated Press in Washington) US Senator Max Baucus speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington in April. President Barack Obama intends to nominate Sen. Max Baucus as ambassador to China, Democratic officials said on Wednesday, turning to a lawmaker well-versed in trade issues to fill one of the nation’s most sensitive diplomatic posts. If confirmed by the Senate, Baucus would replace Ambassador Gary Locke, who announced last month he was stepping down. The Montanan’s departure from the Senate would have an instant impact on one of Congress’ most powerful committees and on the next year election for control of Congress. Under state law, Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock has the authority to name a Senate successor to serve until the election, and speculation immediately turned to a fellow Democrat, Lt. Gov. John Walsh. Baucus, 72, sidestepped questions about the ambassadorship when asked in the Capitol. “It’s not for me to comment on. ... This happens every once in a while. Names get floated around.” There was no immediate comment from the White House on the disclosure, which was made by officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss the nomination publicly before a formal announcement. Kathy Weber, a spokeswoman in Baucus’ office, declined to confirm the move but said, “Max has given his life to public service and when asked to serve he takes that request very seriously.” Obama is in search of a new top diplomat in Beijing as he executes a so-called Asia pivot in US foreign policy to more directly counter China after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.The relationship between the two nations has grown more troubled in recent weeks, with Chinese authorities unilaterally declaring an air defence zone over disputed islands in the East China Sea. The United States subsequently flew a pair of B-52 bombers through the space last month without incident, and Vice President Joe Biden sought to calm matters on his recent trip through Asia. Baucus, 72, was first elected to the Senate in 1978 and since early 2007 has been chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. On some key issues, he has pursued a more moderate approach than some fellow Democrats would prefer, a reminder that he hails from a rural, Western state. The panel has jurisdiction over taxes, trade, health care and more. As committee chairman, Baucus has pressed both Democratic and Republican administrations to take a harder line against what he says are unfair Chinese trade practices. The country has the largest trade surplus of any nation with the US and American manufacturers claim it is manipulating its currency to maintain that imbalance.

Chinese Foreign Minister meets Palestinian leaders (xinhua) Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (R) meets with visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on Dec. 18, 2013.

Hong Kong*:  Dec 20 2013

Hong Kong Observatory launches location-specific forecasts webpage (By Ada Lee ada.lee@scmp.com) Hong Kong Observatory's new Automatic Regional Weather Forecast webpage. Hong Kong Observatory launched a webpage to provide location-specific forecasts on Wednesday. The Automatic Regional Weather Forecast features hourly forecasts of air temperature, relative humidity, wind direction and wind speed at various locations in Hong Kong. Users can check forecasts for the next seven days, and can see time charts of different weather elements at a location for each hour. The webpage also provides information about the chance of rain over Hong Kong each day. The Observatory said the forecasts were updated twice a day, before midnight and noon. 

Why HK-style property tax may not cure Vancouver's China syndrome (By Ian Young) Does Vancouver need a Hong Kong-style tax on foreign home buyers? Does Vancouver need a Hong Kong-style tax on foreign home buyers to ease the problem of mainland Chinese demand? The question is more complicated than it appears at first blush, mainly because Vancouverites can’t agree on whether such demand exists, and, if it does, whether it’s a problem. They also can’t seem to agree on what, exactly, constitutes a foreign buyer. On Twitter, ever a source of hard-reasoned debate, I was last week informed in no uncertain terms (warning: strong language) that suggestions of a link between Chinese buyers and Vancouver’s berserk property prices were based on anecdotal claims, not “real evidence”. The proposition was supported by a Globe and Mail article whose headline seemed unequivocal: There’s scant evidence behind the myth about foreign buyers of Vancouver real estate. A key piece of statistical evidence furnished in the “myth” article seemed pretty clear: data produced by the Landcor company last year supposedly showed only 0.2 per cent of Vancouver residential property buyers in 2012 lived outside Canada. End of discussion? Not quite. Because an oft-quoted 2011 analysis by Landcor showed that 74 per cent of luxury home purchases in Vancouver’s Westside and Richmond in the previous year were made by mainland Chinese buyers (or, at least, by people with mainland-style names, with no Cantonese or English-spelling variants). There is no fundamental contradiction here: the “myth” data rests on its exclusion of migrants, such as the thousands of Chinese millionaires who have been pouring into Vancouver in recent years under the immigrant investor programme. In the past eight years, more than 36,000 rich migrants have moved to British Columbia under the federal scheme, which allows people to buy their way into Canada in exchange for handing over C$800,000 (HK$5.86 million) as a no-interest loan to the government. Two-thirds were from mainland China. If we accept both sets of Landcor data, then perhaps the question should not be whether Vancouver has a problem with foreign buyers, but whether it has a problem with foreign money. A fortune made in Vancouver and spent in Vancouver is one thing; a fortune made in China and spent in Vancouver is quite another. Is this responsible for the yawning gap between Vancouver incomes and housing prices? Cameron Muir, chief economist of the BC Real Estate Association, is among those who argue that the impact of Chinese buyers in Vancouver has been “over exaggerated”. Muir said BCREA figures suggest only 1-4 per cent of buyers are “foreign investors”. But to satisfy this definition, a buyer would have to live outside Canada, thus excluding migrant buyers. Muir said buyers whose previous homes were outside Vancouver - a categorisation that should cover the bulk of sales to new migrants - accounted for 7-12 per cent of purchases. Muir said that this data was drawn from responses from around 200 real estate agents per month, and acknowledged that it was “not a formalised survey”. “There are no hard and fast numbers,” he said. He said that while Chinese buyers might be concentrated in the top end of the market, as reflected in Landcor’s 2011 data, such sales would be dwarfed by the 30,000 total annual sales in Greater Vancouver. “No question, you’ve got more of the uber-rich buying in those neighbourhoods [Vancouver’s Westside and Richmond],” he said. “It would have an impact on certain neighbourhoods, but not enough to swing a market the size of Vancouver.” This brings us back to considering the likely impact of a non-resident property tax. In the case of Hong Kong, perceptions that mainland Chinese buyers were fuelling a runaway market resulted in the imposition of a 15 per cent tax on residential property purchases by non-permanent-residents in October last year. Yet if the same was attempted in Canada, the thousands of millionaire migrants who bought their way into the country via the immigrant investor scheme - by definition, permanent residents - would be exempt. The pool of potential targets for such a tax is reduced to non-resident speculators. Do such buyers even exist in Vancouver’s market in substantial numbers? I have not seen any data proving that they do - and I’ve never met one, Chinese or otherwise. I have, however, encountered a couple of impersonators. If Vancouver can agree on one thing about Chinese buyers, it should be that it doesn’t need any fake ones. The Hongcouver blog, is devoted to the hybrid culture of its namesake cities: Hong Kong and Vancouver. All story ideas and comments are welcome. Connect with me by email ian.young@scmp.com or on Twitter, Ian Young @ianjamesyoung70

Hong Kong has more room for development: Xi (xinhua) Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) meets with Leung Chun-ying, chief executive of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), in Beijing, capital of China, Dec. 18, 2013. Leung is in Beijing to brief officials on Hong Kong's latest economic, social and political developments. President Xi Jinping has promised more room and opportunities for Hong Kong's development. Xi made the remarks on Wednesday after hearing a report by Leung Chun-ying, Chief Executive of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), on the regional situation and HKSAR government work in the past year. Xi said that the central government fully affirms the work of Leung and the HKSAR government in maintaining stability while seeking changes, giving priority to people's livelihoods and solving obvious issues in social and economic development. According to Xi, last month's decision on reform by the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee will lead to strengthened cooperation and exchanges between the mainland and Hong Kong, and Hong Kong will gain more opportunities and space for development. Xi said that the central government standpoint on the election of Hong Kong's next Chief Executive by universal suffrage in 2017 is persistent and clear. Xi expressed his hope that people from all walks of life in Hong Kong would unite and lay the foundation for a smooth election.

 China*:  Dec 20 2013

China wants negotiations on EU wine dispute, Commerce Ministry says (By Reuters in Beijing) Beijing seeks talks on allegations of EU wine dumping but denies move is a tit-for-tat response to solar panel dispute - China imported nearly US$1 billion worth of wine from the EU in 2011. China would welcome talks with the European Union on an investigation into whether Europe is dumping wine, the Commerce Ministry said on Wednesday, and it dismissed any suggestion the inquiry was linked to a dispute over solar panels. China began an inquiry in July into whether Europe was selling wine in China at unfairly low prices with the help of subsidies. That was widely considered to be retaliation for an EU move to impose punitive duties on Chinese solar panels. Commerce Ministry spokesman Shen Danyang said at a monthly news conference China’s investigation into EU wine was not in retaliation against any EU investigation such as the solar panel case. “China has never linked this case to other trade friction cases targeting China and we also oppose any attempt to interpret the EU wine case as a retaliation against the solar panel case,” Shen said. The Commerce Ministry was only responding to requests from domestic firms to launch the wine investigation, and that the case was now “in the normal process of investigation”, he said. “China welcomes talks and negotiations between the two sides’ industries to seek a solution to resolve the dispute and we would like to provide convenience [for such talks],” Shen said. “As far as I know, the industries of China and the EU have started initial contact with each other and we hope the two sides could produce a positive result through negotiations.” The solar panel case was by far the largest trade dispute between Brussels and Beijing, but they reached an agreement to avert duties. EU officials said they had received reassurances the wine inquiry would also be dropped. Then China caused confusion by sending a 45-page questionnaire in Chinese to France, Spain and the European Commission, which handles trade for the EU’s 28 countries, officials and diplomats said. However Italy, one of Europe’s biggest wine producers, was not sent the questionnaire. Brussels and Beijing opened negotiations on a so-called investment pact last month to improve access to each other’s markets. China is the world’s biggest importer of Bordeaux, and consumption soared 110 per cent in 2011. EU wine exports to China excluding Hong Kong, which EU officials said was not covered by the investigation, reached 257 million litres last year for a value of nearly US$1 billion. More than half came from France. China-based European companies in the wine business held a first meeting in November to tell Beijing that EU exports respected the norms of world trade and there was no dumping. They expect to meet again in February, officials said.

China on Wednesday rebuffed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's remarks on the South China Sea issue and urged the country to be cautious in its words and deeds. "We have noticed his remarks," said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying at a regular press briefing in response to Kerry, who said on Tuesday that the United States would speak out when China took unilateral actions that raised the potential for conflict. "We hope the relevant country will respect the efforts made by China and countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on the South China Sea issue, strictly abide by its commitment of not taking a position, and be cautious with its words and deeds," she said. Hua noted China always stands for a resolution of the South China Sea issue through direct negotiations among relevant countries, and keeps smooth and effective communication with ASEAN countries on the South China Sea code of conduct. The spokeswoman urged the United States to be more helpful for the mutual trust among countries in the region and the peace and stability of the region. Hua also slammed criticism by Japan and the Philippines on China's East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), urging them to stop sowing discord. "The performance of relevant parties is enough and should be stopped. If they really care about the region's peace and stability, they should treat this objectively and fairly and stop sowing discord," Hua said.

NY exhibition looks for exporters (By Amy He in New York amyhe@chinadailyusa.com) The exhibition area of food enterprises from the United States in an exhibition in Shanghai. Helene Herman, director of global marketing for New York-based Lee Spring, said Chinese buyers are "more quality-oriented to a large degree than American ones". - Helene Herman, director of global marketing for New York-based Lee Spring, which has a distribution center and sales offices in China, was one of more than 100 business and trade group representatives at a conference on the importance of exports and international investment in the US. The event on Monday was sponsored by the US Commercial Service's New York Export Assistance Center and the New York District Export Council, and celebrated the 100th birthday of the center. The Export Assistance Center provides counseling services to small and mid-sized US businesses looking to export their products, and the New York office is the oldest of 108 across the US, according to a spokesman. Lee Spring manufactures springs in Arizona for use in the energy, oil and gas, and medical sectors. It was founded in 1918 in the Brooklyn borough of New York. The company sells its products in China and opened its first Chinese distribution facility in Shanghai in 2007 to serve the Chinese and Pacific Rim market. Its four sales offices in China are in Suzhou, Shanghai, Tianjin and Chengdu. China is "definitely a growth market," Herman said, as it contributes to about 5 percent of Lee Spring's sales. "This is a product that we're producing here that companies in China can't make yet," she said. "We wanted to see if the same product could be manufactured in China, so we tried to make it there, and we couldn't get the same high-precision product." Herman said overseas clients often have a perception of American products as being of high quality. "Sometimes, buyers in China will buy locally because of price, but we have a lot of unique products, and that's what a lot of people are looking for in China," she said. "They're looking for products that are very highly engineered and can be customized." Although Herman said the springs that the company produces are not the most price-competitive, Chinese buyers are "absolutely willing to pay the higher price." She also said she finds Chinese buyers to be "more quality-oriented to a large degree than American ones." US products still embody a standard for which people are willing to pay a premium. "For a long time, people in the US looked to places such as France for perfume and cosmetics," said Herman. "For precision products and also for innovation, people look to America." New York exports hit an all-time high for the first half of 2013 with 45.7 billion products shipped out of state, following only Texas and California in number of exports, said Congress woman Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat, who spoke at the conference. "If we keep that up, we're going to be exporting over $100 billion out of New York state alone, and that is around 200,000 jobs tied to exports," she said. "This is a resounding success and one that we need to build on." 

China's US debt stake tops $1.3 trillion (By By Michael Barris in New York michaelbarris@chinadailyusa.com) China's holdings of US government debt in October eclipsed the $1.3 trillion mark for the first time, before a Chinese banking official signaled a cut in the accumulation of foreign-exchange reserves could be at hand, a move some saw as presaging a drop in the country's massive purchases of US Treasury securities. China increased its Treasury holdings by $10.7 billion from September to remain the US's largest creditor, the US Department of the Treasury said. Japan remained the second-largest US creditor, even though it cut its holdings by $3.7 billion. Overall, foreign holdings of Treasuries climbed $600 million in October to $5.65 trillion. US government securities held by overseas investors edged up 1.4 percent this year, on track for the slowest rise since the Treasury began releasing full-year data in 2001. Foreign demand for US assets strengthened. Net foreign purchases of long-term securities totaled $35.4 billion in October, compared to purchases of $31.3 billion in September. Analysts had expected purchases to total $31.4 billion in October.In-mid-November, Yi Gang, a deputy governor at China's central bank, told a Tsinghua University audience that "it's no longer in China's favor to accumulate foreign-exchange reserves". The monetary authority will "basically" end normal intervention in the currency market and broaden the yuan's daily trading range, People's Bank of China governor Zhou Xiaochuan wrote in an article in a guidebook explaining reforms outlined following a Communist Party meeting. Neither Yi nor Zhou gave a timeframe for any changes. Nicholas Borst, an economist for the Peterson Institute for International Economics, has written that a slowdown in China's foreign-reserves accumulation would precede a drop in Treasury holdings. Borst could not be reached for an interview, but Brian Reil, a Peterson Institute media relations officer, told China Daily that the economist's views have not changed since he wrote in a 2011 article posted on the think-tank's website that a "real leading indicator that Chinese purchases of US Treasuries were set to drop would be a slowdown in China's accumulation of foreign reserves." Yi, who is also head of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, said in the speech organized by China Economists 50 Forum that the yuan's appreciation benefits more people in China than it hurts. Not all experts saw Yi's comments as implying China will scale back its foreign reserves gains - or cut its holdings of US government debt. Mark Williams, London-based chief Asia economist at Capital Economics Ltd, wrote in an e-mail at the time that China "has got itself into a situation where stopping intervention will be very hard to do", Bloomberg reported. Furthermore, Yi's comment will spur speculative inflows, he wrote. Scotiabank analyst Sacha Tihanyi said he expected China to keep its allocations "reasonably stable unless there's a big policy shift". Some experts consider the monthly report on foreign holdings of US Treasury securities unrepresentative of any meaningful economic trends. Nicholas Lardy, another Peterson Institute economist, said "the monthly treasury figures on foreign holdings of US securities are not reliable and should not be the subject of any analysis." China's central bank has bought massive amounts of foreign exchange over time to keep the yuan-US dollar exchange rate within its desired bounds, Borst wrote. The bank invests the foreign exchange in interest-bearing assets, "with US Treasuries attracting the bulk due to their ability to absorb large inflows, liquidity and perceived safety," the economist wrote. China's foreign-exchange reserves jumped $166 billion in the third quarter to a record $3.66 trillion, more than tripling those of any other country and bigger than the gross domestic product of Germany, Europe's largest economy. China increased its holdings of Treasuries in October even after it had said that month's two-week US government shutdown and the possibility of a US default could curtail its buying of US debt. The TIC data comes ahead of a two-day meeting of Federal Reserve policy makers Tuesday on whether to start reducing bond purchases used to keep borrowing rates low and sustain the economic recovery.

Hong Kong*:  Dec 19 2013

Court of Final Appeal rules policy of denying immigrants CSSA is unconstitutional (By Julie Chu julie.chu@scmp.com) Members of Liberal Party stage a protest against the abuse of CSSA after the Court of Final Appeal ruling. The government’s policy in denying new immigrants Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) was declared to be unconstitutional, the Court of Final Appeal said on Tuesday morning. The top court ruled the policy was in breach of Article 36 of the Basic Law that says that every citizen has a right to social welfare benefits under the CSSA scheme. The five judges unanimously allowed the appeal which was launched by mainland immigrant Kong Yunming. The judges also found the government’s explanation that the policy aimed to save money and ensure the long-term sustainability of the social security system was without “reasonable foundation”. They found that even if the government has the power to modify those benefits, the subsequent restriction on such rights was subject to constitutional review by the courts adopting a proportionality analysis. The restriction on the right to social welfare must be rationally connected to “the pursuit of a legitimate aim”, the judges stated. Kong was granted a one-way permit to reunite with her husband in Hong Kong in December 2005. But her husband died of a long-term illness a day after she arrived in the city. She applied for CSSA in 2006, but her application was rejected because of a policy, which was implemented in 2004, disqualified new immigrants who had not lived in the city for seven years from receiving the benefit. Kong applied for a judicial review on the grounds that the policy was unfair, but her application was rejected in both the Court of First Instance and the Court of Appeal. She made her final review bid in the Court of Final Appeal last month. The case was heard before Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li, Justice Roberto Ribeiro, Justice Robert Tang Ching, Justice Kemal Bokhary and Lord Phillips.

Taiwan asks Switzerland to return US$340m in graft case (By Agence France-Presse in Taipei) A US$2.8b deal to buy six French frigates in 1991 was linked to US$400m in bribes - Taiwan has asked Switzerland to return US$340 million in alleged ill-gotten funds linked to a 20-year-old deal to buy French frigates. Taiwan has formally asked Switzerland to return US$340 million in alleged ill-gotten funds linked to a controversial deal to buy French frigates two decades ago, a report said on Tuesday. Taiwan signed a US$2.8 billion deal to buy six Lafayette-class frigates in 1991, a deal that strained French ties with China at the time and was later found to have been awash with up to US$400 million in bribes. Swiss authorities had previously agreed to return the money frozen in bank accounts, the Taiwanese Central News Agency reported, citing unnamed sources. Taiwan’s high court in May upheld a ruling sentencing former navy captain Kuo Li-heng to 15 years in prison for taking bribes in the case. The court ruled that Kuo was an accomplice of arms dealer Andrew Wang, who bribed him to facilitate the deal with France and ordered the pair to return US$340 million in ill-gotten money stored in Swiss banks. A French judicial probe opened in 2001 to investigate claims that much of the money paid by Taiwan went to middlemen, politicians and military officers in Taiwan, China and France. Taiwan’s highest anti-graft body concluded the same year that as much as US$400 million in bribes may have been paid during the course of the deal. Allegations of backhanders emerged after the body of Yin Ching-feng, a captain who ran the Taiwanese navy’s weapons acquisitions office, was found floating in the sea off the island’s east coast in 1993. Swiss courts later discovered US$520 million in bank accounts held by Wang, who is the main suspect in the case but remains at large. Kuo was originally sentenced to life in prison by a military tribunal in connection with the frigate deal and two other cases. He received a reduced 20-year sentence in August and was released earlier this month after serving the term. Taiwanese prosecutors declined to comment on the report.

 China*:  Dec 19 2013

Cantonese opera legend Hung Sin-nui honoured at Guangzhou memorial service (By Mimi Lau in Guangzhou) Memorial service for Hung Sin-nui in Guangzhou on December 16, 2013. Key political and entertainment industry figures from Guangdong and Hong Kong gathered in Guangzhou yesterday to bid farewell to Hung Sin-nui, the Cantonese opera grand master, at her memorial service. Over 1,000 dignitaries braved the chilly rain on Monday morning to pay respects to the legendary opera singer, who passed away in Guangzhou on December 8th after a heart attack. She was 89. President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang were at the top of a long list of political figures who sent their condolences and flowers. Guangdong governor Zhu Xiaodan and Guangzhou city party chief Wan Qingliang joined Hong Kong showbiz heavyweights like Andy Lau and Lisa Wong Ming-chuen at the memorial service. Hung, whose real name was Kuang Jianlian, was born into a family of Cantonese opera artists in Kaiping, Guangdong in 1924. She embarked on a lifelong journey into the traditional art at the age of 12 and took up the stage name at 14 with her aunt as her mentor. She went on to become one of the greatest treasures of Cantonese opera and Hong Kong cinema. She is devoted to her art even in her final years, committed to nurturing new talent and perfecting the art of Cantonese opera. Hung relocated to Hong Kong during the Second World War, venturing onto the big screen in 1947 with her film debut, Unforgettable Love. This became the beginning of an impressive filmography that eventually included more than 90 motion pictures. During the wave of political purges in the Cultural Revolution, the opera star was branded as "Black Line Girl" and banished to the countryside to work as a street sweeper. Hung last visited Hong Kong in May last year, when the Sunbeam Theatre reopened, and said she was excited about the revival of a venue for Cantonese opera. Her final public appearance was at a performance in Guangzhou, just eight days before her death. 

Hong Kong*:  Dec 18 2013

 China*:  Dec 18 2013

US navy accused of 'harassing' carrier Liaoning in South China Sea incident (By Cary Huang and Associated Press) Americans were responsible for near-miss at sea with Chinese fleet, according to state newspaper - An official Chinese newspaper yesterday accused the US Navy of harassing a PLA squadron shortly before a near collision that was the most serious sea confrontation between the nations in years. There has been no direct comment from the foreign ministry or defence officials on the December 5 incident in the South China Sea, where the USS Cowpens was operating in international waters. The US Pacific Fleet said the 10,000-ton cruiser had to take emergency measures to avoid a collision. Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying referred questions to the defence ministry, but insisted China "always respects and observes international laws and the freedoms of normal navigation and overflight". The Global Times newspaper said the USS Cowpens had been getting too close to a naval drill involving the country's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, and its support ships. The paper said the Cowpens came within 45 kilometres of the Chinese squadron, inside what it called its "inner defence layer". "The USS Cowpens was tailing after and harassing the Liaoning formation," the newspaper said, citing an unnamed source it described as being familiar with the confrontation. "It took offensive actions at first towards the Liaoning formation on the day of the confrontation. "If the American navy and air force always encroach near China's doorstep, confrontation is bound to take place," it said, and cited the collision between a US spy plane and a PLA fighter in 2001 as the kind of accident that can result from confrontation. Analysts said the stand-off underscored the increased tensions in the region between the two militaries. "This is one more example of the growing rivalry between China, a fast-rising maritime power, and the United States, the dominant naval power in the Pacific region since the second world war," said Ni Lexiong , an expert in military and maritime affairs with Shanghai University of Political Science and Law. Jingdong Yuan, a regional security expert with the Centre for International Security Studies at the University of Sydney, said: "The intention is to warn US military ships and planes against getting too close to Chinese maritime and air space and also a way to demonstrate that the parameter of Chinese aerial and maritime patrols is also expanding." The incident came after China last month announced the establishment of an air defence identification zone over the East China Sea, a move that elicited howls of objection from the US military, which immediately called China's bluff by flying B-52 bombers through the zone. Some military analysts linked the maritime incident to the air defence zone. "The incident is a follow-up of their tit-for-tat row over the air defence identification zone," Ni said. Yuan, who specialises in Asia-Pacific security and Chinese defence, said that while the US emphasises freedom of navigation in international waters, Beijing was obviously not pleased about US intelligence-gathering, especially that which involved getting close to new weapons systems and vessels such as the Liaoning and the new generation of nuclear submarines.

Hong Kong*:  Dec 17 2013

Antony Leung gets Henry Tang's vote for possible chief executive bid (By Stuart Lau stuart.lau@scmp.com) Henry Tang says ex-finance secretary is qualified for the top job and would encourage Leung to run - Henry Tang Ying-yen, a challenger in last year's chief executive race, says Antony Leung – the ex-financial secretary recently tipped to run for the top job in 2017 – is qualified for the position. Tang’s endorsement came in the wake of recent rumours that Leung would throw his hat in the ring in what is expected to be the city’s first chief executive poll by universal suffrage. Despite hinting he would not join the race, Antony Leung has started to gain support from the pro-Beijing camp – with Tang being the latest and arguably most influential supporter. “Antony has very long experience and is a capable person in terms of [serving in] both the financial industry and his years in the Executive Council,” Tang said on Monday. “If he is interested, I will encourage him,” said Tang. “So I would encourage everyone who is qualified and interested in serving the people to come out and present themselves to the people, and let the people choose,” added Tang, who served as chief secretary before joining the campaign trail and ultimately losing to current Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. Antony Leung said he would “not run" for the post, but declined to give a reason or specify whether he was only referring to the 2017 race. Asked to comment on the scandal that led to Leung’s resignation as financial secretary a decade ago, Tang said “mistakes were part of everyone’s life”. In 2003, Leung was found to have purchased a luxury car shortly before announcing the budget – and a sharp increase in vehicle registration taxes. “I think Hong Kong society will forgive those who right their wrong,” said Tang. Leung’s resignation showed his “commitment” and that he had paid a price for his mistake, Tang said. The government has launched a consultation on universal suffrage, which the National People’s Congress Standing Committee agreed would be allowed in Hong Kong by 2017. Tang urged the public to speak up, as he said Hong Kong government officials – though familiar with the Basic Law – were not in a legal position to judge whether a certain election proposal was constitutional or not. He also said the mainland’s highest lawmaking body would have the final say. “The final right to interpreting the Basic Law rests with the NPC Standing Committee,” said Tang. “No one of us here should say whether a certain proposal is correct or not, whether it complies with or contravenes the Basic Law.” Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, the incumbent chief secretary responsible for constitutional reform, has said official explanations were needed when there emerged proposals in clear contravention of the constitutional document. Civil nomination – or nominations by members of the public, a motion favoured by pan-democrats – has been criticised by some politicians as being contrary to the Basic Law, which stipulates nomination by a designated committee. Meanwhile, Liberal Party chairwoman Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee, who visited the Legislative Council yesterday for a gathering of former lawmakers, including Tang, said she would not comment on Antony Leung’s suitability for the chief executive post before he gave his final decision.

Hong Kong-developed camera system ‘working well’ on Chang’e-3 (By Ng Kang Chung) [China's Jade Rabbit - or Yutu - rover is the first robot to land on the Moon in almost 40 years. The Chang'e-3 mission blasted off from Xichang in southern China on December 1, 2014, and landed on the Moon’s surface on December 14, 2013. Developed by Shanghai Aerospace System Engineering Institute and Beijing Institute of Spacecraft System Engineering, the lunar rover was designed to explore an area of 3 square kilometres (1.2 sq mi) during its 3-month mission.] Professor Yung Kai-leung with the camera pointing system he developed at Hong Kong PolyU. Hong Kong Polytechnic University Professor Yung Kai-leung is breathing a sigh of relief, safe in the knowledge the camera system he has developed for China’s Chang’e-3 moon landing mission has survived the extreme conditions of space and has been working well some 384,400 kilometres away on the moon. Yung, speaking to the South China Morning Post from Beijing where he is monitoring the operation of his camera pointing system, said he “felt very proud of being able to play a part in China’s lunar program.” “So far, the device has been working very well and is in good working condition,” said Yung, whose space instrument is designed to support the camera on the Chang’e-3. As with all equipment on moon missions, the system is facing a stringent series of challenges, working in extreme temperatures within a vacuum. “Our device is designed to be able to work properly even at temperatures of 70 degrees or 80 degrees [Celsius]. Many pictures have been beamed back to earth. So, I am getting more confident that the device will be fine,” Yung said. He also said his 2.8kg system had the ability to fix problems independently in case of something going wrong. It is used to hold and control the direction of a camera mounted on top of Chang’e-3. It was the first time an instrument developed and produced in Hong Kong has been used in China’s lunar programme since its launch in 2007. Professor Yung, who will return to Hong Kong on Monday night, will continue work on a rock-scooping device, with the aim of having it installed on China’s unmanned Chang’e-5 rocket, which is scheduled to land on the moon in 2017.

Power failure grounds trains, traps passengers on MTR's Tseung Kwan O, Kwun Tong lines (By Clifford Lo and Cheung Chi-fai) Hundreds of commuters have to leave train in emergency and walk through dark tunnel - The MTR Corporation has blamed a faulty overhanging cable inside a tunnel for what could be Hong Kong's worst train incident in recent years. Railway services on the Tseung Kwan O Line and part of the Kwun Tong Line were suspended for about five hours on Monday afternoon due to power failure, the company said. Train services gradually resumed on both lines as of 5.35pm, after repair work was completed, the company said. The power failure grounded trains at about 12.45pm and trapped at least 100 commuters, who had to be evacuated and then walk in the dark tunnel to get to the platform at Yau Tong station. Firemen found a 30-metre long cable, located at about 1.5 km from Tiu Keng Leng station, detached from its original position, the company said late Monday afternoon. A Yau Tong-bound train departing from Tiu Keng Leng around noon was grounded after a protection device was activated, it said. Another device on another train on the Kwun Tong line heading to Yau Tong was also grounded after running into a similar problem. Lau Ting Sing, MTR's deputy director of operation, said the activation caused loud noises that passengers described as "explosions." Lau said the company would investigate the cause of incident after train service ends tonight, but added that the cables were usually inspected once a year and the last inspection was October. One of the passengers, Sky Chan, said: “The train slowed down after an ‘explosion’. It stopped then, followed by another two sounds of explosion.” The train arriving from the Tseung Kwan O station stopped in the tunnel about 20 metres away from the platform at Yau Tong station. Passengers onboard had to alight from the train and walk to the platform. One fireman said more than 100 were evacuated from the train. “This station will be closed because of a serious incident. Please leave immediately” was displayed on the sign in the Yau Tong station. Another passenger at the third compartment said he heard the explosion above the second and third compartments minutes after the train left Tiu Keng Leng. "There was dust falling down and blown toward us after the explosion". The train slowed before the second explosion. Five minutes later there was another explosion after the train stopped. He said the passengers were relatively calm. But he was not aware if there was any announcement to ask the passengers to leave the train through the emergency exit at the front. A third commuter who was waiting for a North Point-bound train at the time of the incident, said he did not see any smoke while being evacuated from the Yau Tong station. “People were in order while leaving the station,” he said. There are queues of people waiting for other public transport at the bus terminals outside the Tseung Kwan O and Yau Tong stations as the two MTR stations are closed. A police spokeswoman said: “Police were informed at 12.40pm that a power failure affected services at the Kwun Tong Line and the Tsueng Kwan O Line.” At 1.45pm, the MTR Corporation was not available for comment. The Transport Department announced at 1.06pm that the department had been notified by the MTR Corp about the power failure and service suspension. Train services between Kwun Tong and Tiu Keng Leng on the Kwun Tong Line are also suspended. MTR is arranging emergency shuttle bus. The Transport Department said the department and public bus companies such as Kowloon Motor Bus and Citybus were monitoring the situation and “the bus companies will strengthen bus services as appropriate when necessary”. The department has also alerted the police. Its spokesman said members of the public are advised to use other public transport.

 China*:  Dec 17 2013

China to launch its Chang'e-5 lunar probe (By China Daily) China is scheduled to launch its Chang'e-5 lunar probe in 2017 and the mission will bring back samples collected from the moon, a senior scientist said Monday. The third-phase project of China's lunar probe mission was established in 2011, and the country is smoothly moving along with its Chang'e-5 mission, according to information released from the State Council Information Office Monday morning. China's first lunar rover and the lander took pictures of each other near mid-night on Sunday, marking the complete success of the country's Chang'e-3 lunar probe mission.

China safeguarded national interests in 2013 (By Xinhua) China has achieved positive results this year in safeguarding its national interests, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Monday. Wang made the remarks during a speech at a seminar in Beijing to discuss China and the world in 2013. He spoke highly of the country's diplomatic efforts in curbing illegal activities carried out by certain countries which had infringed on China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights. China has always advocated to seek a solution through dialogue and discussion with full respect of historical facts and international law, Wang said. The minister said China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have discussed a code of conduct with regard to the South China Sea, under the framework of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. China has reached agreement with Brunei and Vietnam in maritime cooperation with a view to safeguard peace and stability of the South China Sea, he added. Also at the seminar, Wang said the Sino-Russia relationship has been upgraded to a new phase. And China and the United States have entered a new era of building a new type of relationship between big countries. Wang also briefed the seminar about China's diplomacy with neighboring countries and African nations as well as its attempts in addressing major international issues.

Hong Kong*:  Dec 16 2013

Andrew Fung: Democratic Party poacher turns government gatekeeper (By Tony Cheung tony.cheung@scmp.com) Andrew Fung aspired to be a Democratic Party lawmaker. Instead, he's taking on the tough challenge of handling the media for C.Y. Leung - After almost two decades as a stalwart of the Democratic Party and a turbulent year spent trying to join the government, Andrew Fung Wai-kwong today begins his unlikely new career as Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's point man for media relations. But Fung's old colleagues on the Southern District Council say he should not be written off - even though he has a mountain to climb to convince his critics from across the political spectrum that he is up to the job. Since reports emerged two months ago that he would become Leung's information coordinator, Fung's former allies in the pan-democratic camp have taken every opportunity to pour scorn on his abilities. They were helped by an incident in early October, when Fung's public relations consultancy PR Concepts took the rap for producing faulty ballot papers that brought chaos to the Arts Development Council's election. Fung, 52, was pilloried online when he promised to respond to speculation about his new job "in three words" - then cited a four-word Chinese idiom meaning "no comment". He was also mocked for comparing his new job to that of the White House press secretary. Fung's private life became a subject for gossip: commentators dug up a column he wrote in 2010 bemoaning his difficulties in finding a girlfriend and the "misery" of being a bachelor in his late 40s. He remains unmarried. Despite the jokes and the bungling, Fung's appointment became official on December 3, when a government spokesman hailed his "experience in public relations and political work" and said the administration was "confident that he would be able to excel in the position". Even that seemingly glowing statement caused speculation; Fung's predecessors June Teng Wai-kwan and Andy Ho On-tat were both described as having a "wealth of experience" when they were welcomed to the job. But Au Lap-sing, an independent Southern District councillor, warned against rushing to judge his fellow councillor. "I don't know whether he's competent … but he would have made a careful assessment before making the decision [to take the job]," Au said. "It is a huge challenge for him to join the government under the current political environment, after all." Chan Fu-ming, the council's vice-chairman, said Fung had delivered on some of his constituents' demands. "I applaud him for having the courage to join the administration … and I hope he can do well," Chan said. "It will take extra effort as the atmosphere is getting relatively radical nowadays." Chan said Fung's council career showed he could prove the doubters wrong. He won the election for South Horizons in Ap Lei Chau in 2007, four years after losing in an adjoining constituency. After unseating independent Law Kam-hung in 2007, Fung held onto his seat in a close, four-horse race, finishing just 12 votes ahead of rival Jeff Sze Chun-fai of the New People's Party. That was one of the highlights of Fung's years with the Democratic Party. It even prompted him to consider running for the Legislative Council last year on the slate of the party he co-founded in 1994. He was a member of Meeting Point, which merged with the United Democrats to form the new party. Although the party opted against putting Fung forward for Legco, it continued to support him - not least when he accused People Power legislator Wong Yuk-man of punching him during a visit to Taipei in January last year to observe preparations for Taiwan's presidential election. Former party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan condemned the violence, while vice-chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing said she was disgusted by the attack. Relations between the Democrats and Fung soured five months later when it was revealed Fung had applied for a post as an undersecretary in Leung's administration. Accused of betraying colleagues, Fung quit the party days after reports emerged that he wanted to work for the man who beat Ho and Henry Tang Ying-yen to the top job. He argued that the party's platform did not restrict members from joining the government. But Ho countered that party rules made it clear that a member must obtain approval before seeking a public position. Only after he quit the party did Fung admit writing to Leung as early as May to seek a position in the Home Affairs Bureau or the proposed cultural bureau. He revealed he had known Leung for "almost 30 years". Pan-democrats scuppered the cultural bureau with a filibuster at the end of the legislative session, and Florence Hui Hiu-fai beat Fung to be undersecretary for home affairs, seemingly leaving Fung out in the cold. Yet it didn't stop Fung showing support for a government his old party vehemently opposed. In October last year, after the government shelved its controversial plans for national education in school, Fung joined pro-government protesters in a showdown with those whose campaign had killed the curriculum. He accused Scholarism, a student-led protest group, of "demonising" national education. "One day, when I put aside my business [interests], I will go and teach national education," Fung claimed. Few could have imagined that Fung would step away from his company a year later for an entirely different task: to fight for the job of information co-ordinator that had been vacant since Teng quit in August on health grounds. But scepticism remains about how Fung will cope in his HK$175,000-per-month role: twice the salary of the lawmakers whose ranks he wanted to join, and seven times the HK$23,000 stipend for councillors.Fung told the Post last week that he would do the job "with a humble heart and a responsible attitude". He declined to say more as he didn't want to "upset" other media.

Andrew Fung Age 52 Education Graduated from the University of Hong Kong with a social sciences degree in politics and business administration
Career
1984: President of the Hong Kong University Students' Union
1985: Headed the Hong Kong Federation of Students
1994: Co-founded the Democratic Party
1996: Founded consultancy PR Concepts
2003: Defeated in the Southern District Council election
2004: Sought to quit Democrats after a quarrel with the late democracy icon Szeto Wah
2005: Founded pressure group Middle Class Force
2007: Sold his shares in PR Concepts to an American firm
2008 - 2013: Southern district councillor
May 2012: Applied for undersecretary posts in Leung Chun-ying's administration
June 2012: Quit Democratic Party
April 2013: Appointed a non-executive director of the Urban Renewal Authority
December 3, 2013: Appointed Information co-ordinator, Office of the Chief Executive
Today: Takes office

Hong Kong Electric spin-off sets lure on returns (By Eric Ng eric.mpng@scmp.com) Power Assets' proposed stake sale and separate listing of utility will be done through trust firm that will offer first-year return of up to 7.3pc [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, an international utilities firm controlled by Asia's richest man, Li Ka-shing, plans to spin off its Hong Kong electricity unit at a valuation of HK$48 billion to HK$63.4 billion via the establishment of a trust firm that will offer potential investors a 5.5 per cent to 7.3 per cent annual return in the first year. The proposed stake sale and separate listing of Hong Kong Electric, one of the world's oldest power utilities and the sole electricity supplier to Hong Kong and Lamma islands, is expected to be completed as early as January 29, according to a circular to shareholders issued yesterday. Analysts said the deal could offer would-be investors in the trust firm relatively stable returns similar to those offered by investment trusts backed by properties spun off from listed property firms in recent years. Power Assets could use the proceeds to buy overseas assets that potentially offered higher returns but carried greater risks, they said. "Given Hong Kong power utilities are limited to earn annual returns of not more than 9.9 per cent on their assets, compared to up to 15 per cent of internal rate of returns on overseas projects and assets, the spin-off would allow Power Assets to seek other opportunities," said Kenny Tang Sing-hing, a general manager at AMTD Financial Planning. He noted the 5.5 per cent to 7.3 per cent first-year indicative return from the trust was higher than the typical 4 per cent to 5 per cent annual dividend yield of power utilities in Hong Kong. "It is not unusual for investment trust deals to be structured to offer higher returns in the initial years," he said. Power Assets proposed to sell 50.1 per cent to 70 per cent of wholly owned Hong Kong Electric to the trust's investors, leaving it with 30 per cent to 49.9 per cent. Power Assets said it expected to receive at least HK$52.6 billion from the proposed spin-off. Some HK$20.9 billion would settle debt owed by Hong Kong Electric to it, while the remaining amount of at least HK$31.7 billion would give it "the financial strength to seek acquisitions in the global power sector," it said. Li has been seeking this year to sell off some Hong Kong assets with relatively lower but stable returns, such as Hong Kong Electric, his flagship Hutchison Whampoa's supermarket chain ParknShop and health goods retailer AS Watson. He dismissed talk he is cashing out of the city, saying such possible transactions were simply good business. Hutchison withdrew the plan to sell ParknShop after the offers fell short of expectations. Power Assets estimated that Hong Kong Electric's net profit for this year would be at least HK$5.18 billion, compared with HK$4.62 billion in 2010, HK$4.5 billion in 2011 and HK$4.54 billion last year. The forecast net profit of the trust firm attributable to the trust's unit holders for next year is HK$2.77 billion. Power Assets attributed the expected profit decline to higher interest, depreciation and amortisation charges, adding that such charges would continue to impact the trust firm's profits and profit margins. Interest will be incurred on a HK$8.7 billion loan that will fund the purchase of the Hong Kong Electric stake, besides funds raised from would-be investors in the trust firm. Power Assets said it planned to maintain at least the same amount of dividend payouts this year and next year as with last year, after the spin-off. It also expects to be able to book a gain on asset disposal of at least HK$53 billion from the spin-off. The deal is subject to the offer price being agreed among the joint global co-ordinators and the trust's manager, as well as approval by Power Assets' shareholders. It will only go ahead of Hong Kong Electric is valued at a minimum of HK$48 billion. Not less than 10 per cent of the trust's units will be offered to Power Assets shareholders.

 China*:  Dec 16 2013

Moon rover, lander photograph each other (By China Daily) Screen shows the photo of the Yutu, or "Jade Rabbit" moon rover taken by the camera on the Chang'e-3 moon lander during the mutual-photograph process, at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center in Beijing, capital of China, Dec 15, 2013. The moon rover and the moon lander took photos of each other Sunday night, marking the complete success of the Chang'e-3 lunar probe mission. China's first moon rover and lander took photos of each other on the moon's surface Sunday night, a move that marks a complete success of the country's Chang'e-3 lunar probe mission. Ma Xingrui, chief commander of China's lunar program, announced that Chang'e-3 mission was a "complete success", after the two successfully took pictures for each other. The one-minute photographing came a day after the country completed its first lunar soft landing, the world's first of the kind in nearly four decades. The last soft landing was carried out by the Soviet Union in 1976. At about 11:42 pm Beijing Time, the six-wheeled Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, moved to a spot about 9 meters north to the lander and the photographing began. The color images, live transmitted via a deep space network designed by China, showed the Chinese national flag on Yutu. It marked the first time that the five-star red flag had pictures taken in an extraterrestrial body. As a photo appeared on a big monitoring screen at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center (BACC), senior state leaders and dozens of center staff clapped hands in cheers. Yutu will survey the moon's geological structure and surface substances and look for natural resources for three months, while the lander will conduct in-situ exploration at the landing site for one year. The 140-kg rover separated from the lander and touched the lunar surface at 4:35 a.m. Sunday, several hours after Chang'e-3 lunar probe soft-landed on the moon's surface at 9:11 pm on Saturday. Chang'e-3 landed on the moon's Sinus Iridum, or the Bay of Rainbows, making China the third country in the world to carry out such a rover mission after the United States and Soviet Union. In ancient Chinese mythology, Yutu was the white pet rabbit of the lunar goddess Chang'e. The name for the rover was selected following an online poll that collected several million votes from people around the world. The rover, 1.5 meters long with its two wings folded, 1 m in width and 1.1 m in height, is a highly efficient robot controlled by the command center from the earth. It will face challenges including temperature differences of more than 300 degrees Celsius on the moon. Chang'e-3 is part of the second phase of China's lunar program, which includes orbiting, landing and returning to the Earth. It follows the success of the Chang'e-1 and Chang'e-2 missions in 2007 and 2010.

Hong Kong*:  Dec 15 2013

New temple marks 20th birthday of the Big Buddha at Ngong Ping, Lantau (By Danny Lee danny.lee@scmp.com) The Tian Tan Buddha at the Po Lin Monastery on Lantau, when built the world's largest seated outdoor Buddha, was unveiled 20 years ago. It was an early 20th birthday celebration yesterday for the Tian Tan "Big" Buddha, sitting aloft above the smog-shrouded Ngong Ping plateau on Lantau island, overlooking the Po Lin Monastery. And its gift was a multimillion-dollar new temple. Since its completion on December 29, 1993, the 34-metre-tall bronze statue has sat serenely through Hong Kong's handover from Britain to China, the Asian financial crash, Sars and bird flu. Yesterday, monks and distinguished guests were out in force to celebrate both the birthday and the grand opening of the Grand Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas. The monastery was founded in 1906 and over the years became the largest religious complex in the city, a collection of temples and pavilions that attracts pilgrims and tourists from around the world. Visitor numbers soared with the opening of the Big Buddha. The Grand Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas has been under construction since 2007, and was originally due to be completed in 2010, with some of the oldest buildings on the site being demolished. Building work destroyed a number of pre-war structures to make way for the new temple. However, the work has been beset by delays, and workers are not now due to move out completely until October 31 next year. Meanwhile, the cost is now thought to have doubled to around HK$500 million. Yesterday, however, the abbot of Po Lin, Sik Chi Wai, was in no mood to discuss rising costs. Despite concerns over its financial health, the monastery handed out in excess of 100 lai see packets. One containing HK$500 was handed to a Sunday Morning Post journalist, but the gift will be returned to the monastery. The new, five-storey, 5,600 square metre temple includes a library, multimedia hall and, of course, altars. Inside the main exhibition hall are exquisite golden carvings detailing the life and death of Buddha. The abbot has said an entrance fee to the temple and the Big Buddha may have to be introduced. The last time fundraising schemes were proposed in 2006, Sik said the monastery was not "eager to make money" but a HK$10 charge for tourists was a reasonable request. It has ruled out going cap-in-hand to the government, but Sik revealed in 2007 that government officials had helped negotiate the land premium down to just HK$11.98 million, according to Land Registry figures, from a reported HK$30 million. 

 China*:  Dec 15 2013

One giant leap for China as Chang'e-3 probe makes perfect moon landing (By Stephen Chen binglin.chen@scmp.com) Scenes of elation as Chinese probe Chang'e-3 makes a 'perfect' and historic landing on the moon - A screen of the Beijing Aerospace Control Center shows a computer-generated image of China's lunar probe Chang'e-3 land on the moon on Saturday night. Amid a puff of lunar dust, Chang'e-3 touched down on the moon at 9.12pm yesterday, making China the third nation to land a craft on the celestial body. Scientists erupted in cheers and some cried at the command centre in Beijing as a computerised display showed the probe had landed in a flat plain known as Sinus Iridum, Latin for Bay of Rainbows, an unvisited area in the moon's north. Lan Xiaohui, designer of Chang'e-3's thrust engine, told CCTV "the landing was perfect". The rover - called Yutu or Jade Rabbit - will this morning unlock from inside the lander and roll down rails to begin its three-month mission of taking photos, analysing rock samples and mapping the lunar subsurface with a ground-penetration radar. It also carries an ultraviolet telescope that is well positioned to observe distant celestial objects. The Chang'e-3 began its approach from an orbit about 15 kilometres above the moon. The final descent was controlled with the main engine and 28 small thrusters, which took the craft from a speed of 1.7 kilometres per second to almost zero within a few minutes. Instruments on board allowed the probe to analyse the landing area and make adjustments from 100 metres away. Four metres above the surface, the engine was switched off, and the Chang'e-3 went into free fall. Upon touching down, the onboard camera snapped an image of its surroundings and sent it back to operators at the Beijing Aerospace Control Centre. It was the first soft landing on the moon in nearly four decades. The US crashed three spacecraft before it succeeded with the technique, while the Soviet Union took 11 attempts. China hit the bull's eye on the first try. Chinese space scientists and engineers were holding their breath throughout the lengthy process with fear that the force of impact on landing and the fine lunar dust might damage some critical electronic or mechanical parts. Zhang Tingxin, chief commander of the rover system, told China Central Television that the separation was "smoother than expected". He gave the biggest credit to the automatic landing system on Change, which found and landed the spacecraft on an almost entirely flat ground without any human intervention. "The landing vehicle was in a very good position. After the touch down, it was standing almost entirely vertically with only one or two degrees of tilt," he said. Lan said he was most concerned about the final 30 metres, as the spacecraft searched for the best landing spot. But the engines did a "great job", he said. Liu Jianjun, a lunar geologist with the National Astronomical Observatories, said the level area would be good for the rover's exploration. "We have seen few shadows on the photos sent back by the landing camera. The fewer shadows, the flatter the terrain and the better for the mission," he told CCTV. Before touchdown, the probe hovered and scanned the landing area, and moved horizontally, to secure the safest spot. This procedure, to avoid any cracks or bumps, had not been used previously in a lunar landing and placed a high demand on rockets, sensors and software. Wu Weiren, chief designer of the lunar exploration project, told Xinhua that Chang'e-3 had gone through the most challenging phase of the landing by itself, with "almost zero" human interference. "The biggest risk was that all the critical devices of this mission are newly developed, and there was uncertainty about the terrain of the landing zone," he said. Dr Maurizio Falanga, director with the International Space Science Institute in Beijing, said China had used "challenging technology" in the mission that would win respect in international space communities. "The Chinese mission is a big step for China in space and an opportunity for international co-operation in the future," he said. Dr Morris Jones, a space analyst based in Australia, said: "This mission should serve as a wake-up call to people who have ignored the Chinese space programme. Awareness of how much progress China has made in space flight is not as high on the global scale as it should be." For many Chinese, the landing was an emotional moment. Wang Jianming, a businessman in Shanghai, said he and his family had considered moving to another country due to the mainland's severe air pollution. But the perfect landing gave him some hope. "If the government has the money and technology to take something to the moon, they may have solutions to clean up the air a bit down here, which seems to me a task far less sophisticated and demanding," he said. 

China's 'Jade Rabbit' rolls to moon surface (By Xinhua) China's first moon rover, Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, separated from the lander early on Sunday, several hours after the Chang'e-3 probe soft-landed on the lunar surface. The 140 kg six-wheeled rover touched the lunar surface at 4:35 a.m., leaving deep trace on the loose lunar soil. The process was recorded by the camera on the lander and the images were sent to the earth, according to the Beijing Aerospace Control Center. After the separation, the rover and lander will take photos of each other and start their own scientific explorations. Engineers made final checks of the environment of the landing site, the situation of the probe and the solar incidence angle late night on Saturday and sent signals of separation to Chang'e-3. Yutu, atop the probe, extended its solar panel and started to drive slowly to the transfer mechanism at 3:10. The transfer mechanism unlocked at 4:06 with one side reaching the moon's surface, allowing the rover to descend to the surface following a ladder mechanism. Chang'e-3 landed on the moon's Sinus Iridum, or the Bay of Rainbows, at 9:11 p.m. Saturday, making China the third country in the world to carry out such a rover mission after the United States and former Soviet Union. In ancient Chinese mythology, Yutu was the white pet rabbit of the lunar goddess Chang'e. The name for the rover was selected following an online poll that collected several million votes from people around the world. The rover, 1.5 meters long with its two wings folded, 1 m in width and 1.1 m in height, is a highly efficient robot controlled by the command center from the earth. It will face challenges including temperature differences of more than 300 degrees Celsius on the moon. Yutu will survey the moon's geological structure and surface substances and look for natural resources for three months, while the lander will conduct in-situ exploration at the landing site for one year. 

Hong Kong*:  Dec 14 2013

Coffee machine market gets its hit in Hong Kong (By Bien Perez bien.perez@scmp.com) It's all go for sales of the machines as busy Hongkongers opt for their first cup at home - Machines from Nestle's Nespresso unit are finding their way into Hong Kong homes in increasing numbers. The unit is the global leader in the market. Machines from Nestle's Nespresso unit are finding their way into Hong Kong homes in increasing numbers. The unit is the global leader in the market. Sipping their favourite cup in coffee houses is increasingly not enough for many consumers as spending on coffee machines in Hong Kong is set to breach the HK$80 million mark this year, reaching a new record. Data from market research firm GfK showed spending on coffee machines from January to October reached HK$73 million, with about 37,000 units sold. The figures marked an increase of 18 per cent from HK$62 million in the same period last year, when 32,000 units were purchased. Total spending last year was HK$79 million on sales of 42,000 units, which included both filtered and capsule-based coffee machines. Walter Leung, the managing director at GfK in Hong Kong, declined to forecast the total sales figures for this year, but said: "The size of the coffee machine market in Hong Kong has been expanding by robust double-digit growth every consecutive year since GfK started tracking sales in the market in 2009." He pointed out that the rising sophistication of coffee drinkers and of the appliance industry, in general, had brought significant changes to the city's coffee machine market. GfK's research found that the most sought after machines for buyers today are the higher-priced, single-serve, capsule-based varieties. Sales of these products in the city from January to October grew to 14,100 units from 7,500 a year earlier. Previously, the most popular choice was the basic and most inexpensive filtered coffee machines. "The capsule models are more compact and fit the small living space typical of homes in Hong Kong," Leung said. Nespresso, an operating unit of Swiss conglomerate the Nestlé Group, is the acknowledged global leader in this US$12 billion-a-year market segment. In 1986, Nespresso launched the first machine to brew coffee from capsules, which are pre-apportioned single-use containers of ground coffee and flavourings. The company, whose brand ambassador is United States actor George Clooney, operated more than 300 boutiques around the world at the end of last year. All the key brands selling that type of coffee machine have expanded their product portfolio to 30 models in Hong Kong this year from 24 last year, according to GfK. The research firm declined to provide brand rankings in Hong Kong.

Revealed: Auckland mayor’s HK$255k perks during affair with Hong Kong-born mistress (By Danny Lee danny.lee@scmp.com) Hotel upgrades not disclosed as gifts, report finds - A report has revealed that Auckland mayor Len Brown enjoyed substantial perks during his affair with Bevan Chuang Ka-yan. Disgraced Auckland mayor Len Brown received more than 60 complementary hotel rooms and upgrades worth NZ$40,000 (HK$255,300) during his illicit two-year affair with Hong Kong-born mistress Bevan Chuang Ka-yan. The married father of three daughters, 57, bagged 54 free hotel upgrades worth NZ$32,888.50 that were not disclosed as gifts, said Auckland Council chief executive Doug McKay, according to the New Zealand Herald. A further nine complementary hotel rooms worth NZ$6130 (HK$39,200) were obtained. A report into the pair’s activities, released this morning, said Mr Brown used his council phone to make 1373 calls and texts of a personal nature to 32-year-old Ms Chuang between November 19, 2010 and October 21, this year. However, Mr Brown’s spending has been exonerated. The exact nature of his activities has emerged after a spending investigation was triggered to examine whether public money had been inappropriately used on his younger lover. Professional services firm Ernst & Young spearheaded the investigation. The report also confirmed that Chuang did not receive preferential treatment for job applications through Brown providing a reference. Ernst & Young’s investigation was limited to any use of council resources in respect of Mr Brown’s relationship with Ms Chuang that contravened council policy, and any improper preferential treatment given to Ms Chuang as a council employee, contractor or adviser, the NZ Herald reported. EY are also able to probe “any other issues that the reviewers or chief executive considers relate to, or arise out of, the above matters”, the newspaper added. In a statement released by the mayor's office on Friday, Mr Brown said he welcomed the findings of the report and that they confirmed his assurances that he did not misuse council resources in connection to Bevan Chuang. He added: "However, I accept that as Mayor I am subject to a higher standard of public accountability, and in this context I should not have accepted the free rooms offered to me, and should have disclosed this fact when I was asked about it in October. “This was an error of judgement and I apologise to the people of Auckland. “I remain totally focussed on the issues that matter most to Aucklanders, including improving our transport system, tackling Auckland’s housing crisis and continuing to invest in our future.” Details of his sordid sexual exploits emerged days after being reelected as the Mayor of Auckland, New Zealand’s most populous city, for a second-term. Chuang met Brown at a council function when Chuang was on the Ethnic Peoples Advisory Panel. She became entangled in a political tug-of-war during the mayoral election campaign, being photographed with Brown and bitter political rival John Palino. Chuang studied at Chinese International School until 1996, when she emigrated with family members to New Zealand.

 China*:  Dec 14 2013

Beijing considers banning Chinese New Year fireworks amid smog concerns (By Bryan Harris bryan.harris@scmp.com) Ban in force if city issues “red” or “orange” air pollution alerts - Fireworlks, like these in Tiananmen Square, could be banned this Lunar New Year. Revellers in Beijing could be disappointed this Lunar New Year after the authorities said they might ban the use of fireworks if pollution becomes too bad. The capital’s office for fireworks and firecrackers was cited by Xinhua as saying that the ban will be implemented if the city issues “red” or “orange” air pollution alerts, signifying severe levels of air pollution, during the Lunar New year, which begins on January 31. Residents will receive text messages reminding them of alerts, but a Beijing police spokesman, Yu Lianwei, said the police will in most cases just tell users to stop flouting the ban. Containing sulphur-coal compounds and toxic chemicals, fireworks are considered a key contributor to air pollution and each Lunar New Year sees a spike in PM2.5 particles — tiny health-threatening particles that can lodge deep inside people’s lungs or bloodstream — across China. The office said Beijing will also try to sell “environmentally friendly fireworks”, which contain no sulphur and produce less smoke, but are priced slightly higher than conventional ones. Firework sales in Beijing are expected to start on January 25, with authorities saying 643,000 cartons of fireworks are in stock, down from 750,000 cartons stocked for this year’s festival, according to the Xinhua report. Fireworks were prohibited in Beijing for 13 years before the ban was lifted in 2006 for the 15 day Lunar New Year period. Many Chinese cling closely to the use of fireworks and firecrackers, which are seen as an integral part of the Lunar New Year celebrations. China's online community have vented their grievances over smog levels for months on the internet. Many are shocked as vast swathes of China, including Shanghai, Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces, struggle under oppressive smog usually only reserved for northern provinces.

Govt uses WeChat to streamline disclosures (By CAO YIN in Beijing and ZHENG JINRAN in Shijiazhuang caoyin@chinadaily.com.cn and zhengjinran@chinadaily.com.cn) Service gives departments a way to quickly respond to public concerns - Although WeChat has been popularly used by the government to interact with the public, media specialists said it is more like an administrative service tool and will not replace government micro blog accounts. Along with micro blogs and news conferences, WeChat, a mobile text and voice-messaging app designed by the Internet giant Tencent, has become a major tool for government departments to disclose information. In May, the number of government WeChat accounts reached 1,000 across the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Macao, according to news website people.com.cn. That number had grown to more than 3,000 as of Thursday. The first government WeChat account of Hebei province's Caofeidian New District has been helping residents solve problems since it was launched on July 15. The account offers information in six different categories, including the district's news, weather, popular issues and hotline and basic information. "WeChat users can get timely replies by typing in several numbers on the app," said Ma Li, an official responsible for operating the account, adding that she updated the information every day. "One number corresponds to one category. So some information is replied automatically," she said. "But we also contact people who raise their own questions, ensuring a one-on-one exchange." The account has attracted nearly 2,000 fans, including those who are just traveling through the district, the statement said. "The number of our WeChat followers is not big, but it has great potential. It's easier to interact with the public this way compared with a micro blog," she added. Gu Xiaoyi, another official in charge of the account, said a special computer has been set up to run the account, guaranteeing its security. "First, I collect questions and give a quick response if ‘I get it' immediately," he said. "For similar questions, we'll answer in a group, while for individual ones, we'll get in touch in a private chat room." "Mostly, we can reply to followers within 10 minutes," he added. Xing Chunling, a worker in the district's industrial zone, said the government WeChat account has been useful to her in her daily routine. A highway exit leaving the district is often blocked by traffic jams, "which cost me an extra hour to go to work and always made me late taking my daughter to school", said the 38-year-old. "I was annoyed and had no idea (how to solve the problem). Out of curiosity, I followed the district's WeChat and made a complaint to the government," she said. Within five minutes, Xing got a reply from Gu. One month later, the jam was alleviated. "The number of government WeChat accounts has indeed increased quickly in the past year, and government departments have made use of their service functions," said Hou E, a senior researcher at the Institute of Public Relations at Communication University of China. After WeChat for the first time conveyed information when a serious earthquake hit Lushan, Sichuan province, on April 20, "many government departments paid attention to it and aroused awareness to use it", he said. In July, police in Xiamen, Fujian province, sent pictures of five women, suspected of pickpocketing on shopping streets, to its WeChat followers. Within 24 hours, the case was closed, Hou said. "It showed great potential in governments' use of WeChat, meaning the application can play a more important role for administrations to cope with social issues," he said, adding that the medium would not replace micro blogs. Although micro blog registration this year has decreased, it is still a mainstream channel for disclosing information and clarifying facts among government departments, he added. Shan Xuegang, deputy secretary-general of the public opinion analysis office of people.com.cn, agreed, adding that the micro blog is a "must" for administrations. Government WeChats will be more like an assistant that provides different services for people's different demands, such as facilitating residents to pay their mortgages, he said. "Although WeChat makes communication more private than the micro blog, the two have no conflict," he said. "Micro blogs will still be a main channel for the government to publish information and get feedback from the public." After all, in the modern technological age, micro blogs are more suitable for mass communication and improving transparency of governmental affairs, said Shen Yang, a public opinion specialist at Wuhan University. "Not all residents can supervise WeChat because of privacy settings. In addition, if administrators can better operate the ‘private letter' function on micro blogs, solving the public's problems can become more efficient," he added.

Chinese are most industrious and overworked: poll (By By Yang Yao yangyao@chinadaily.com.cn) China may be the most industrious nation in the world, according to a recent German survey, but a Chinese labor expert said lax labor rights have created a culture of overworked employees who do not take vacations. Monster Worldwide, which runs one of the world's largest employment websites of the same name, and GfK, the largest global market research institute in Germany, released a survey on Tuesday that asked workers from eight nations to rate global "industriousness". About 8,000 participants in Canada, France, Germany, India, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States were asked which country creates the best ideas or products, how hard-working is a given country's labor force and where in the world is most competitive. The survey did not poll workers in China. China topped the ranking, followed by Germany and the US. French workers were considered the laziest in the world, according to the survey. US respondents ranked China second to their own country in industriousness. "Hardworking and industriousness has been part of the national spirit," said Zhou Haibin, an officer with the International Labour Organization's China and Mongolia Office. The ILO is a United Nations agency. "China is experiencing a boom in its economy, while the other nations are now in financial crises," he said. "A lot of industries and transactions are shifting to China, that's why Chinese employees are busier than employees in other nations." "But one factor that should not be neglected is the lack of labor rights in China," he added. Employees in China work an average of 8.66 hours and spend 0.96 hours in transit each workday, according to a survey jointly conducted in 2012 by Peking University and Zhaopin.com, a Chinese human resources company. The survey covered more than 30,000 respondents in 28 cities. Under Chinese labor laws and the ILO's global advocacy, employees should work no more than 40 hours a week. Germans work an average of about 33.5 hours a week, according to a report by German newspaper Handelsblatt Business Daily. Zhou said Chinese workers are unable to "safeguard their rights for legitimate working hours and annual paid leaves". He said not all Chinese employers pay for overtime. On rare occasions, an employer will allow an employee to take the day off if he or she had worked eight hours of overtime. An employee who works at a leading global consultant firm in Shanghai, identified only as Xu, works 12 to 13 hours a day. He said he is never paid for overtime but considers his high monthly salary a justification for the long hours. Xu said employees at the firm's Chinese office work the longest compared with their European, Australian and US counterparts. "Maybe that's because all the business is centered here," he said. Under a regulation endorsed by the State Council in 2008, workers can enjoy five days of paid leave a year after working 12 months. People who have worked more than 10 years can have 10 days of paid leave and workers who have worked 20 years or longer get 15 days. But few employees in China take their annual vacation. To get more Chinese to go on vacations and boost the tourism industry, the Chinese tourism authority issued a guideline in February to provide more legal support to protect workers' rights to a vacation. The aim of the guideline is that by 2020, all employees in China will be entitled to paid annual leaves.

Hong Kong*:  Dec 13 2013

Airline staff's airport flash mob springs a seasonal surprise (By Lo Wei wei.lo@scmp.com) Cathay staff stun travellers at Chek Lap Kok with unexpected group routine, drawing a big crowd and funds for annual charity drive - After two weeks of rehearsals, Cathay Pacific crew members give an impromptu dance performance at the arrivals hall of Chek Lap Kok airport. As the tune of All I Want for Christmas is You rang out across the arrivals hall of Chek Lap Kok airport, several flight attendants suddenly broke into dance, springing a surprise on travellers and passers-by. About 300 other Cathay Pacific Airways pilots, cabin crew and ground staff suddenly joined in, forming a sea of red, twisting and twirling in unison to several Christmas songs. The festive entertainment yesterday marked the culmination of seven rehearsals in the past two weeks - including one in the middle of the night at the airport - which the dancers had managed despite their busy flying schedules. For their efforts, they drew a big crowd and donations for Operation Santa Claus. "As more than 200 of the dancers are cabin crew members, it was difficult to get everyone on the ground at the same time to practise," cabin crew general manager Liza Ng said. They shared practice videos online after the rehearsals, most of which took place in an indoor sports ground at Cathay City, the carrier's head office. Then on Monday, the team held a full rehearsal in the early hours of the morning to avoid the traffic and to keep the performance a surprise. "We had the airport all to ourselves at three in the morning. It was great fun!" Ng said. In the spirit of fundraising for Operation Santa, about 120 cabin crew members staged a flash mob dance last year at Cathay City. This year, to spread the festive joy further, organisers moved the event to a public space at the airport. Starting at 11am, the dancers took centre stage for eight minutes, followed by a performance of Cathay's choir, which belted out Joy to the World and other Christmas classics. "The idea originated last year when we were trying to think of creative ways to raise funds for charity and at the same time do something that was fun with our employees," Ng said. Fiona Fong, one of the stewardess dancers, enjoyed herself. "It was a lot of fun, like the physical education lessons back in the old days at school." "This year, we pilots wanted to show some support too," first officer Warwick Kendall said. "The enthusiasm of all the people involved was very memorable." The dancers also solicited donations from their families and friends, with the top 10 fundraisers among them given starring roles in the performance. Cathay Pacific Airways became one of Operation Santa's major donors last year. The festive drive is jointly organised by the Post and RTHK. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0DrxeAsJt18  or http://www.wcarn.com/cache/news/23/23118.html

Ikea toy wolf Lufsig gets new name after its claim to fame (By Tanna Chong tanna.chong@scmp.com) Leung Chun-ying meets Lufsig, the toy used to mock Leung''s reputation as a "wolf". There's bad news and good news for Lufsig, the cuddly toy wolf who has become a hit with protesters since he was thrown at Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying on Saturday. Ikea, which sold out of s in Hong Kong, said it was changing the rude-sounding Chinese name, which helped make the toy - depicting the wolf from Little Red Riding Hood ready to devour grandma - an anti-government icon. But on a brighter note, Lufsig has an unlikely new admirer: the chief executive himself. Lufsig was used to mock Leung's reputation as a cunning "wolf", but the chief executive showed there were no hard feelings by posting a picture of himself with the toy on his official blog. Earlier, a spokesman at Ikea's headquarters in Sweden confirmed that it planned to change the translation of Lufsig used in mainland Chinese stores and said the company "regretted" lumbering the toy with an "unfortunate" name that sounded like a crude Cantonese phrase associated with female genitalia. The name was not translated in Hong Kong stores. A slightly altered Chinese name for Lufsig - - was revealed on Ikea's website last night. Lufsig became a hit after protesters threw the toy at Leung at a forum last week. The Ikea spokesman added: "Our intention is that product names should not reflect politics or religion." Not that Leung seemed to mind. He posted a picture of himself with a Lufsig toy. He said the toy was a present for his daughter and a gesture of support for the UN children's agency Unicef, which receives a donation for every Lufsig sold. His tongue-in-cheek message made no reference to the toy's name. "Today I am with a wolf on the desk," Leung wrote. "I realise that this toy has been very popular recently with heated offline sales and speculation online. This shows that Hongkongers' creativity is boundless." And those creative minds didn't take long to spot an amusing detail from the picture: the report Leung is holding refers to a sex scandal involving Auckland mayor Len Brown, whose career is under threat due to a two-year affair with a Hong Kong woman. Ikea stores in Hong Kong and many mainland and Taiwanese cities have sold out of the toy, which has been featured by international media including the BBC and the Huffington Post.

Public nomination for 2017 CE election ‘against Basic Law’, says Elsie Leung (By Tony Cheung) Allowing the public to nominate candidates for the 2017 chief executive election is against the Basic Law, and the idea is not worth discussing, Basic Law Committee vice-chairwoman Elsie Leung Oi-sie reiterated on Wednesday morning. The former justice secretary, who took part in an ill-fated political reform plan in 2005, has spoken publicly for the first time since the government launched a five-month exercise to garner public views on the upcoming political overhaul. Speaking on Commercial Radio on Wednesday, Leung said the idea of letting the public nominate candidates for the top job went too far from the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution. “You can discuss anything. But if something doesn’t fit the legal framework, and certainly wouldn’t be accepted, why discuss it?” she questioned. In 2007, the National People’s Congress’ Standing Committee decided that Hong Kong may elect its next leader in 2017 “by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures.” Pan-democrats have been calling for the public to be allowed to put forward candidates, as they fear that their candidates could be ousted if nominations are made by a committee. Leung reiterated that the nominating committee for the 2017 election should be modelled on the current election committee’s four-sector structure, in which each sector has approximately 300 members. “If there is public nomination, there is no need to have a nominating committee,” Leung questioned. “For public nomination [to work], you need a system to make sure that the nominators are genuinely different [individual] voters … so you would need to check their identity cards, otherwise some people can sign their names several times if you only collect signature on the streets,” she said. “[Such a system] is very different from the current one,” Leung said.

 China*:  Dec 13 2013

'Containing China' a Japanese strategy (y Zhang Yunbi) Draft of Tokyo's new defense program calls for more early warning and surveillance. Japan is trying to justify attempts to break away from its pacifist Constitution and build up its military by fanning the so-called China threat, experts said after Japan released the final draft of its national security strategy on Wednesday. In the draft, Japan vowed countermeasures against what it calls "China's attempts to change the status quo with force" in the East China and South China seas, according to the summary of the draft issued by Japanese news agency Jiji Press. Lu Yaodong, director of the department of Japanese diplomacy of the Institute of Japanese Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the strategy included "containing China" in the core missions of Japan's new National Security Council, established a week ago. "The Abe Cabinet is now bold enough to label China as a strategic target because it has harvested enough excuses from tensions over China's Diaoyu Islands and China's newly established air defense identification zone," Lu said. Beijing said on Wednesday that it is unreasonable for Tokyo to say that China's decision to establish the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone last month is changing the status quo. "It is not others, but Japan that made provocations" in the East China Sea, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said. The draft of Japan's National Defense Program Guidelines outlines military policy for the next decade and calls for Japan to set up intelligence, early warning and surveillance activity to defend Japanese sea and air territory. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a meeting with security experts on Wednesday that the two pacts — to be approved at a cabinet meeting on Dec 17 — will be "historic documents that shape our country's national security". The draft also said Japan will review its self-imposed ban on weapons exports, a move Bloomberg said shows that "Japan will seek to make its arms industry competitive globally". Shi Yongming, a researcher of Asia-Pacific studies at the China Institute of International Relations, said Japan is using China to eliminate self-imposed legislative restrictions on revising its pacifist Constitution and expanding its military. "Japan is projecting China as an enormous threat and campaigning itself as a 'major victim' to bluff people both domestically and overseas," Shi said. Kyodo News Agency reported on Wednesday that the Abe administration will implement a defense program next year covering the next five years. Japan's annual defense budget grew this year after a decade of decline. Tokyo plans to set up an amphibious unit designed to take back the remote islands in case of invasion, and also plans to procure unmanned surveillance planes and establish an E-2C early warning aircraft unit at the Naha base in southwestern Japan, according to the latest defense plans. Abe's bid to stoke Japan's slumbering economy "has given him political capital to push his long-cherished aim of also rehabilitating Japan's military, which under the post-war pacifist Constitution is restricted to defense only", Agence France-Presse said. By showing muscle in the islands dispute and making right wing remarks, Abe is making progress in lifting the constitutional bans, said Liu Jiangyong, an expert on Japanese studies at Tsinghua University. Liu warned that "Japan is also siding with countries including the United States and Australia to step up pressure on China". "Japan is seeking stronger support from outside the country to speed up a military buildup, strive for more influence in the region and share more burdens in Washington's rebalancing strategy," Shi said. Japan will also bolster its overall capability to respond to missile attacks as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea improves its ballistic missile technology, its defense guideline draft said.

Manila UN case means China may quit maritime pact (By Raissa Robles in Manila) Security expert warns Beijing could withdraw from maritime treaty rather than be bound by its rulings on South China Sea disputes - A prominent Chinese academic says Beijing could withdraw from the UN's maritime treaty rather than submit to judgment on its disputed sovereignty claims in the South China Sea. Regional security expert Professor Shen Dingli said the decision by the Philippines to refer its territorial disputes with China to UN arbitration demonstrated that it was "a mistake" for China to have joined the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) in the first place. Shen, deputy dean of Fudan University's Institute of International Studies, was speaking on the sidelines of a forum last week in Manila, entitled "What is to be Done? Resolving Maritime Disputes in Southeast Asia". He said that "how to make China not quit the treaty is in [the Philippines'] interests". Giving what he said was a personal opinion, Shen said the Philippines had blundered by going to the UN International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea to seek judgment on the validity of China's "nine-dash line", through which it claims most of the South China Sea. That claim is disputed by the Philippines, among other nations, and Manila filed the UN action in January. "The more you sue China, the more China would [want to] quit the treaty. [In that event, China] would never abide by the treaty, and [the Philippines would] have no international base for China to observe any more," Shen said. He said there were four ways available to settle the dispute: war, the UN tribunal, bilateral negotiations, and mediation by a third country. He said he advocated what he said was a win-win solution. "[China could say to the Philippines] 'I am willing to cut my sovereignty … your island is ours but we still want to fish [there] … You allow us to fish, we allow you to take what you have taken." Manila's action before the UN tribunal was a hot topic at the conference hosted by the Angara Centre, a private think tank created by former Philippine senator Edgardo Angara. Dr Ian Storey, a senior fellow at Singapore's Institute for Southeast Asian Studies, said "China is furious" at Manila over the case. He said China's attitude to the situation was "how dare the Philippines have the temerity to take us to court without consulting us. How dare you. We will punish you for that." He said that China had tried to humiliate and isolate Philippine President Benigno Aquino by effectively withdrawing an invitation to a China-Asean trade fair in Nanning in September by saying "Oh, by the way you can only come if you withdraw your suit". Storey suggested that Asean and China should strike an "incidents at sea agreement" similar to that established between Russia, Japan, South Korea and Western countries in the 1980s. He said Manila should be prepared for the possibility that the UN tribunal would decide not to issue a ruling because it might damage Unclos. He said the tribunal was likely to have dealt with the suit by 2016, the year Aquino steps down. Philippine Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, a guest at the forum, said it would be "horrible and a tectonic disaster" should a new president drop the case against China. "That means … admitting that our position is weak," said Carpio, who wrote the Supreme Court ruling that Philippine territorial claims in the South China Sea were constitutional. Carpio, who was a presidential official when China seized Mischief Reef in the mid-1990s, rejected Beijing's assertions that Manila had refused to negotiate. "We have been trying to talk to them for the past 15 years. When they occupied Mischief Reef 15 years ago, we asked them 'Let's sit down and negotiate'. They said - 'No, it's ours'." A separate symposium by the Philippine Association for Chinese Studies was also held last week on the same topic. Dr Wu Shicun, president of China's National Institute for South China Sea Studies, suggested that Beijing and Manila could thaw relations by co-operating in "low-sensitivity fields" such as disaster relief.

Anti-firewall tool Lantern infiltrated by Chinese censors (By Patrick Boehler patrick.boehler@scmp.com) Lantern, a software programme which allows internet users to circumvent government-imposed censorship, has been infiltrated by Chinese censors and partly blocked after the number of users in the country skyrocketed. “We’ve seen exponential user growth, so the censors have attempted to nip it in the bud,” said Chris Holmes, a product manager behind the US-government sponsored computer application. The software, financed through US Department of State seed funding, allows users to bypass China’s Great Firewall to access websites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Users in countries with free internet access can share a part of their bandwidth with users in countries where the internet is partly blocked, in a network based on trust. On Tuesday, several Lantern users posted on social media that they had lost their access to uncensored internet. Two mainland IT experts, who have been following the development of the network, said they thought Lantern had been blocked by the Chinese government. The website to access Lantern is also blocked in China, according to GreatFire.org, a website that monitors blocked websites in the country. In a statement on the popular blogging platform Tumblr, Lantern’s developers said they were not caught unaware by the infiltration. “The way we have allowed users to request invites meant that anyone could sign up, including the censors,” they wrote. “We anticipated this happening.” Some users in China had liberally shared their access to the network to others. The developers had warned of the consequences of adding an unknown person to the network. “If you are sharing with a censor, he/she could block or analyse your traffic,” they wrote in an earlier post. Holmes said that Chinese blocking efforts have not been able to break Lantern. “We are still seeing some users connect from China on our servers,” he said. “They have not completely blocked it yet.” “Our next step is to release a new version of Lantern that is more resistant to blocking, and to work with our users so Lantern spreads along trusted connections,” he said. Lantern has been in the pipeline for some time, but has only in the last weeks gained traction among the Chinese dissident community. About 74 per cent of Lantern’s users 17,000 users globally are based in the mainland. They have transferred some 6.4 terabytes of data, or 94 per cent of Lantern’s global traffic. 

China watches for Japan's security, defense plans (By Xinua) China is watching closely Japan's security strategy and latest defense plan, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Wednesday. On Wednesday, Japan released drafts of its first national security strategy and a long-term defense guideline, which promised to "respond calmly and resolutely to the rapid expansion and step-up of China's maritime and air activities." The drafts said the Japanese government should step up its maritime defense in the southwestern, following China's declaration of the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). China's normal growth of national defense capacity does not pose a threat to any country, Hong said, reaffirming China's peaceful development path and defense policies in defensive nature. "China advocates resolving territorial and maritime disputes through dialogue and negotiation. Meanwhile, we will never allow any country to infringe upon China's territorial sovereignty," Hong said. Hong refuted Japan's groundless charge, saying "Japan has hidden political agendas in hyping up the so-called China threat." He urged Japan to prioritize its neighbors' concerns, follow the trend of the times and take a peaceful development road so as to improve China-Japan ties and maintain regional peace and stability. Asked to comment on Japan's claims that China changed the status quo by establishing the ADIZ, Hong denounced it was Japan itself that stirred up trouble over the Diaoyu Islands and East China Sea and Japan's accusation is "wrong and baseless." China's ADIZ is in line with international law and norms, Hong said. China is willing to keep in touch with relevant parties over technical issues and to maintain flight safety and order on the basis of equality and mutual respect, he said. He urged Japan to correct its attitude and stop provocation in order to create conditions for managing disputes through dialogue.

Hong Kong*:  Dec 12 2013

Cantonese opera singer Hung Sin-nui dies at age of 88 (By Vivienne Chow and Amy Nip) Hung Sin-nui with Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying last year. Hung Sin-nui 1924-2013. Hung Sin-nui, one of the greatest treasures of Cantonese opera and Hong Kong cinema, was a picture of devotion to her art even in her final years, committed to nurturing new talent and making every effort to "leave the best legacy". Condolences poured in after the opera star and actress died on Sunday night in Guangdong at 88, reportedly of a heart attack. "My life belongs to art and my art belongs to the people," Hung once said of her dedication to Cantonese opera. "As long as I have a single breath left in me, I shall strive on, in the hope that I can add a plot of greenery to the garden of art." Such was her zeal that, even though her health was never in top form, "she always managed to show audiences her best on stage", Hung's son Ma Ting-sing said yesterday, from his mother's home in Guangzhou. The family plan to host a memorial service next Tuesday. Child prodigy-turned-Cantonese opera star Yuen Siu-fai saluted Hung's artistic accomplishments, devotion to studies in singing styles - and simply the aura she gave off on stage. Yuen cited the 1990 The Legend of Lee Heung Kwan, in which she was the main character and artistic director. "She saw the film as a record of her artistic performance … so she was pretty nervous in leaving the best legacy." In her later years, Hung became much more approachable, Stephen Mo Yu-tin, vice-chairman of the Chinese Artists Association of Hong Kong, said. "Sister Nui wore plainer dresses and no longer portrayed herself as a superstar. She was very open in exchanging ideas and willing to teach the younger ones." Hung, whose real name was Kuang Jianlian (Kwong Kin-lin in Cantonese), was born in Guangdong in 1924. With her aunt as her mentor, she embarked on a lifelong journey in Cantonese opera at the age of 12 and took to the stage from 1939, adopting the stage name Hung Sin-nui (Red Line Girl). Hung relocated to Hong Kong during the second world war, venturing onto the big screen in 1947 with her debut, Unforgettable Love. That was the start of her starring in more than 90 films. During the wave of purges in the Cultural Revolution, the opera star was branded as "Black Line Girl" and banished to the countryside as a street sweeper. Hung last visited Hong Kong in May last year, when the Sunbeam Theatre reopened, and was excited about the revival of a venue for Cantonese opera. True to her art, her final public appearance was at a performance in Guangzhou - just eight days before her death. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-k36umuSYA&list=PL8F2EF661F66559C6 

Cooling measures to cost 10,000 jobs at agencies (By Bloomberg) Chu Kin-lan has already shuttered six of 11 offices of her real estate agency, Bo Fung Property Agency, and let go half of her 70 employees amid Hong Kong's toughest curbs on home buying in its history. The worst pain may be still to come. As many as 10,000 agents were forecast to lose their jobs, said Centaline Property Agency, as the government pressed ahead with measures to rein in house prices. Because of the cooling measures, home transactions fell to 27,714 in the first half of the year, the lowest since 1996, according to the Land Registry. "We're getting killed by the government," said Chu, who has operated Bo Fung in Causeway Bay since 1984 and now sees some of her vacated branches replaced by eateries. "This is by far the worst I've experienced. Almost every agency I know is losing money and closing shops." The government has raised the minimum mortgage down payment six times since 2010 and imposed taxes including a doubling of the stamp duty on deals of more than HK$2 million in February, plus an extra 15 per cent levy on non-resident buyers. Prices had only come down about 3 per cent since March, said property broker Savills. Home transactions would probably drop about a third from 2012 to as low as 52,000 this year, the fewest since 1996, Knight Frank said. The number might fall to 45,000 next year, it said. "The worst is yet to come," said Angela Wong, an executive director at Midland Holdings. "The pressure on brokers won't go away as long as deal numbers stay at such low levels." Government officials have repeatedly said the measures would stay in place until a steady supply of new housing is available to homebuyers. "The government is getting stuck in the middle," said Eddie Hui, a professor in the real estate and construction department at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. "They understand what the agents are going through, but if they don't go hard with the measures, the bubble will burst at some point." Industry lobby groups have staged street protests and pleaded with lawmakers to pressure the government into withdrawing some of the curbs. The number of registered individual real estate salesman and agent licence holders fell for a seventh month to 36,075 in November from 37,173 in April.

 China*:  Dec 12 2013

California police department will sign up for Sina Weibo - Chinese 'twitter' (By Kelly Chung Dawson in New York kdawson@chinadailyusa.com) In an unusual move to reach Chinese immigrants, a California city's police department will be the first in the country to open an account on Sina Weibo, a China-based microblogging website similar to Twitter. "We have a large population of Chinese people in Alhambra," Police Chief Mark Yokoyama said. "We want to be progressive in reaching out to the community, and Weibo is a tool to increase community awareness and outreach to immigrants." Alhambra's population of 85,000 is more than half Asian American, with three quarters of that group identifying as Chinese. The city is about eight miles north of Los Angeles. Mayor Stephen Sham had been encouraging local government departments to engage with the Asian-American population, so when Yokoyama read an article that suggested ways in which community organizations might do that, he reached out to the author of the article Walter Ma, he said. "While the Asian population continues to grow nationwide - it's the fastest growing ethnic group in the country according to the Pew Research Center - a new study from Brown University shows that the community is still just as segregated from whites in Los Angeles and other metropolitan areas as they were 20 years ago," Ma wrote in the article, published in USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism's local paper, Alhambra Source. "I believe the segregation is a problem, especially for social and health organizations in the San Gabriel Valley that are trying to reach the Chinese community," Ma wrote. "The word 'outreach' is a combination of the words 'out' and 'reach'. To engage new immigrants we must go 'out' and 'reach' them in their comfort zone." In addition to utilizing Weibo, which has more than 500 million users worldwide, Ma also suggested making websites mobile-friendly, using Chinese social media chat application WeChat to get a sense of where Chinese immigrants are logging on in the area, and using Chinese language in communications. The police department will continue to develop outreach efforts with Ma and the Alahambra Source, which will provide translation resources, collect questions from residents and businesses throughout the city, host a planned forum, and recruit local volunteers, police department spokesperson Jerry Johnson said. "Together, they hope to help the Chinese community and all Alhambra residents and visitors understand local rules and laws, communicate with one another, and improve overall public safety," Johnson said in an official statement. "Recruiting sufficient Asian and Chinese-speaking officers is a challenge for police departments throughout the Los Angeles County area and it is the desire of the department to increase engagement of the community through volunteerism." Although a few other government agencies run Weibo accounts to draw Chinese tourists, the Alhambra police department's account is the first to specifically target Chinese immigrants living in America, Johnson said. The account can be found at http://weibo.com/alhambrapolice. Look for the department's first social media campaign, #AskAmericanPolice, in the coming weeks.

UPS' COO says China will influence global trade (By Michael Barris in New York michaelbarris@chinadailyusa.com) China and other emerging markets will significantly influence global trade in the next two decades, the chief operating officer of United Parcel Service Inc said. "The China story and the emerging markets story certainly hasn't been written - that's a story in process," David Abney told China Daily in an interview on the sidelines of the World in 2014 Summit in Manhattan. "All of our multinational customers that we talk to on a regular basis are focused on these emerging markets," Abney said. "You can't mention the word 'emerging markets' without talking about China. It's just got such an influence." The Atlanta-based package delivery giant, which is known for its brown delivery trucks and workers in brown uniforms, launched its China operations in 1988. With Asia-Pacific customers in 45 countries and territories and regional hubs in Shenzhen and Shanghai, it has played a part in spurring China's growth into the world's second-largest economy. "We certainly believe that we play a key role (with) not only Chinese businesses but multinationals that are located in China, in getting in and out of the country," Abney said. "I think one of the reasons (for that) is that we're viewed as an enabler, right? When you can get exports out or you get packages in, that is creating jobs. Creating jobs not only in China, but wherever is connecting in other parts of the world." The company's brown trucks have become increasingly visible on China's streets as Chinese continue to embrace online shopping. On China's biggest online shopping day of this year, Nov 11, also known as the 11.11 Shopping Festival, China's biggest online shopping company processed more than $5.75 billion in its online payments system - a record for a single day anywhere in the world, surpassing by two and a half times the total for US retailers last year on so-called Cyber Monday. The sale is a tradition that started in 2009, when merchants offered discounts to perk up sales in the otherwise quiet time of the year. The challenge of efficiently delivering packages to some 330 cities spaced across varying populations and terrain has resulted in the use of alternative energy vehicles to reduce fuel costs, including those powered by natural gas and electricity. "We just look at the individual country and the characteristics and we try to match those technologies with the right circumstances," Abney said. For instance, electric and hybrid-electric vehicles can be used in densely populated cities like Beijing or Shanghai, where delivery addresses are relatively close together. Overall, fuel consumption accounts for an average of 5.6 percent of UPS's global operating revenue. "We measure everything, and if we can save a few seconds a stop - when you multiply that by almost 100,000 drivers a day - you can see how you can get tremendous savings," Abney said. The company has been pushing negotiators to reach a deal on the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The pact being discussed by the US and 11 other countries - Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam - would create a free-trade bloc that makes up nearly 40 percent of the global economy. Talks, which began in March 2010, are expected to conclude early in the New Year, if not by the end of this year, Mexico's economy secretary, Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal, said over the weekend. UPS Chairman and CEO D. Scott Davis has said the proposed agreement "would become a 21st century global commerce model" that would open "countless avenues of expanded trade." Although China is not involved in the TPP talks, Abney said the pact's potential to involve "a lot of the key economies in Asia" and possibly "China at some point" deepens its importance. "Anything that reduces barriers to trade - and these free-trade agreements certainly do - we encourage and support on both sides of the Pacific," the COO said. The US's economic health also affects the China trade conversation, Abney said. "The better the US economy does, of course, is going to increase the flow between China and the US," he said. "The US will pull more product from China." Years ago, when China was annually seeing double-digit economic expansion, "all of us in this business were increasing flights" and filling those flights with "a lot of products going in," Abney said. "Now the economy has slowed down, but it's getting a little bit better in the US. We're starting to see a little bit of that pull. What we're seeing, though, is intra-Asia trade between China and the rest of Asia is increasing at a higher rate than China-to-the-US or China-to-Europe." With logistics costs representing a higher percentage of GDP in Asian nations than in Europe, the US or Japan, "there is a lot of local trade going on between countries", Abney said. "So China may not be shipping as much to the US at this time. But trade across the rest of Asia does seem to be pretty healthy. And supply chains go across, so even a product that's going to end up in the US or Europe could crisscross between Indonesia, Vietnam and China several times before the end product winds up in the US," he said. Forecasters have given a mixed outlook for China's growth rate next year - ranging from as low as 7 percent, to more than 8 percent. China's 2013 GDP goal is 7.5 percent. "We do notice that it's not accelerating the way that it was," Abney said. "That does not mean we think the economy is going to shrink. It's just growing at a lesser rate." "You can't underestimate the world's second-largest economy, and the influence that China and the rest of the emerging markets are going to have in the next 15 to 20 years on global trade," the executive said.

Hong Kong*:  Dec 11 2013

Carrie Lam shrugs off shouts and 'petrol bomb' threat at Legco suffrage meeting (By Jeffie Lam jeffie.lam@scmp.com) Despite being told to 'go to hell' by radical lawmaker and despite opposition from pan-democrats, chief secretary confident in bridging divide over electoral reform consultation - Although the Legislative Council meeting on electoral reform on Monday was punctuated by shouts and fiery words, the chief secretary remained confident in being able to bridge the divide between the administration and the pan-democrats. After a two-hour special meeting by Legco’s constitutional affairs panel – where she was yelled at by a radical lawmaker – Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said she was “feeling good” and would remain optimistic about adopting universal suffrage for the chief executive elections by 2017. However, the talks were far from smooth, with pan-democrats expressing discontent over the consultation document, released last Wednesday, saying the administration had laid down “unnecessary” requirements. One of the main concerns was a cap on the number of chief executive hopefuls who could run, which Democratic Party lawmaker Sin Chung-kai argued was not a Basic Law requirement and could be used to screen out candidates. “No place in the world would set a cap on the number of contestants. … [The] Basic Law has no a single word written on that,” said Sin. “And why will the idea of nominating candidates ‘as a whole’ [by the nominating committee] become a main crux of the consultation after Qiao Xiaoyang voiced it?” said Sin, referring to the National People’s Congress Law Committee chairman. Executive Councillor and lawmaker Starry Lee Wai-king, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, however, supported limiting the number of contestants. “Many voters find it hard to study candidates’ manifesto as there are too many candidates in the Legco election,” she said as an example. Accountancy sector lawmaker Kenneth Leung disapproved of the government including in the consultation document the remarks of Beijing officials. Leung said some of the opinions were out of the Basic Law’s framework and the decision adopted by the NPC Standing Committee in 2007, which allowed for universal suffrage in 2017. He was disappointed that the consultation document did not address universal suffrage in Legco elections, which was expected to be carried out in 2020. At Monday’s meeting, radical pan-democrat Wong Yuk-man was riled up by what he perceived as the “farcical” implementation of the consultation and that the demands of the opposition was falling on deaf ears. He shouted at presiding officials Lam, Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung and constitutional affairs chief Raymond Tam Chi-yuen, saying, “You only act as the political tools of the Communist Party. The three of you should go to hell!” Wong said revolution would be the only way out for Hong Kong: “Next time, it’s not about throwing eggs anymore, but petrol bombs.” Lam later said Wong’s words would not be accepted by the public and that the government would take further action if safety was at threat. She also reiterated that the government was open to all suggestions and would not ban any proposal at the present stage.

 China*:  Dec 11 2013

Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao to attend Nelson Mandela funeral (By Zhang Hong) VP will attend as a special representative of President Xi Jinping - Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao, right, extends his condolence for former South African President Nelson Mandela to Bheki Winston Joshua Langa, South African Ambassador to China, at the South African Embassy in Beijing. Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao will attend the funeral of former South African President Nelson Mandela as a special representative of President Xi Jinping, Xinhua reported. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei made the announcement of the visit between December 9 to 11 yesterday in a written statement. Xinhua reported earlier that Li Yuanchao had paid a visit to the South African Embassy in Beijing on Friday, to mourn the death of the country's former president, Nelson Mandela. Li said Mandela spent all his life advocating and implementing racial equality and reconciliation. He not only was a hero in the heart of South Africans, but also won global recognition. Mandela's state funeral on December 15 is set to be the biggest the world has ever seen. Ten days of mourning have already been declared following the death of the 95-year-old on December 5. Fifty-nine foreign heads of state or government have said so far they will attend either the memorial ceremony or the state funeral of Nelson Mandela in South Africa in the coming week, Reuters quoted a foreign ministry spokesman of South Africa as saying. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang have also sent messages of condolence to South African President Jacob Zuma to express their heartfelt sympathies. “Mr Mandela was a world renowned statesman. With arduous and extraordinary efforts, he led the South African people to win the battle against apartheid, making a historic contribution to the birth and development of a new South Africa,” Xi said in a message to South African President Jacob Zuma, Xinhua reported. The report said Xi’s message was both representing China and expressing his personal condolences. Mandela, who visited China twice, “actively promoted friendly cooperation between China and South Africa in various areas”, it added. “The Chinese people will forever keep in memory the outstanding contributions he made to... the development of humankind.” Earlier Beijing’s foreign ministry called Mandela an “old friend of the Chinese people”. China established formal ties with South Africa at the beginning of 1998. Mandela’s death has been widely reported in the Chinese media and people on social media particularly heaped him with praise as South African’s first black president and a global hero for non-violent struggle against racial oppression, injustice, and for freedom.

Reviving the maritime Silk Road (By Elaine Tan in Kuala Lumpur) Kuantan Port on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia will give the country faster access to China's ports and will be able to accommodate some of the biggest vessels in operation. Malaysian port intends to become a vital regional shipping center - More than 600 years ago, the legendary Ming Dynasty diplomat Admiral Zheng He made seven epic journeys to the West via a route known as the maritime Silk Road. First used in the Qin and Han Dynasties (AD 25-220), the nautical passageway connected the ports of south China to Southeast Asia, India, Arabia and Africa. Silk, china, tea and spices exchanged hands from Guangzhou, the starting point, to the countries around the Gulf. Now, China is proposing to rebuild this centuries-old seaway into a 21st century maritime Silk Road. Kuantan, on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, is hoping that modern day Chinese vessels will share Zheng's assessment when he landed here in the 15th century: that this city facing the South China Sea is an ideal gateway to the region and beyond. Located 250 kilometers from the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, Kuantan is the east coast's economic hub and its most modern city; although by no means as cosmopolitan as its west coast sisters. The capital of the state of Pahang is being developed into an integrated logistics and industrial hub for the East Coast Economic Region (ECER), a major project by the Malaysian government to decentralize economic activities. Crucially, it provides fast access to China through its namesake port. The multipurpose, deep-sea port serves the resource-rich hinterland of the east coast and is a leading petrochemical hub port and container terminal for that part of the peninsula. "We offer the shortest, quickest and most direct route between Malaysia and the ports of the Far East. The shipping community stands to benefit in terms of cost and reduction in shipping time," says Khasbullah bin A Kadir, chief operating officer of Kuantan Port Consortium, the port operator. He adds the sailing time between the port and China is a mere four days. "Kuantan Port is one of the ASEAN ports that make up the wider connectivity network of regional ports," notes Lee Chee Leong, an analyst with think tank Anbound Research Center, referring to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. "Because China has yet to secure any tangible agreement for port use in the South China Sea, developing Kuantan Port will give another option to China in terms of opening a new shipment route between China and ASEAN in the contentious sea." The Malaysian government, which is trying to correct a gaping trade imbalance, is hoping this proximity and Kuantan's strategic location between China and the rest of the region will be major draws for Chinese companies. It has scored its first big win in the Guangxi Beibu International Port Group. The State-owned conglomerate operates four ports in southern China - Fangchenggang Port, Qinzhou Port, Tieshan Port and Beihai Port - and has business interests in logistics, international trade, real estate, energy and environmental technologies. It will be taking up a linchpin role in realizing Malaysia's aspirations with investments to the tune of billions of ringgit in the Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park (MCKIP) and Kuantan Port, which is 5 km from the park. MCKIP is the sister park to the China-Malaysia Qinzhou Industrial Park (QIP) in Qinzhou, China, and the first industrial park in Malaysia to be accorded national status. "MCKIP and QIP will take Malaysia-China relations to greater heights as they will play a synergistic role in enhancing bilateral trade between both countries," Khasbullah explains. "A distinct and competitive supply chain would emerge between both sister parks, resulting in a cross-border movement of manufactured goods with the Kuantan and Qinzhou ports serving as trans-shipment hubs to redistribute goods to markets around the world." The park is being jointly developed by a Malaysian consortium of public and private sector companies and a Chinese consortium, of which Guangxi Beibu is a major shareholder (the other partner is the Qinzhou Investment Company). The Chinese have a 49 percent stake in the joint venture. At the launch in February by Najib Razak, the prime minister of Malaysia, the Malaysian leader said: "MCKIP is well-positioned to become a hub of high-end, export-oriented industries that would leverage its proximity to Kuantan Port. It promises opportunities for investors from China and beyond." The two leaders witnessed the signing of five agreements between Malaysian and Chinese companies to kickstart the inflow of investments. "Each of these signings point to a long and fruitful future for the MCKIP. The park has already attracted investment commitments worth 10.5 billion ringgit ($3.3 billion), creating 8,500 jobs," Najib noted. Much of this is coming from Guangxi Beibu which will be investing in three projects within MCKIP. This will include 3 billion ringgit for the expansion of Kuantan Port, which is undertaken together with IJM Corp, owner of Kuantan Port Consortium; and 2.5 billion ringgit via the joint venture company developing MCKIP. In September, the Chinese conglomerate spent a further 334 million ringgit to purchase a 40 percent interest in Kuantan Port Consortium from IJM Corporation. The partners are currently expanding the port to enhance its position as a regional shipping destination and trans-shipment hub. With the construction of a new deep water terminal, Kuantan Port will have the capacity to handle 1.5 million TEUs (twenty-foot container equivalent units) and accommodate some of the biggest bulk carriers and container vessels in operation. Khasbullah says that the partnership with Guangxi Beibu will bring best practices in port management given its experience from running four ports in China, while its network of clientele will enhance the capacity utilization of Kuantan Port. "Guangxi Beibu's presence will make it easier to attract Chinese investors looking to invest in Malaysia. In addition, they will play an active role in attracting foreign direct investments (FDI), particularly from China, which would contribute positively to the volume of cargo handled by the port," says Khasbullah. For starters, the Chinese group is required by the memorandum of understanding of investment it signed with the ECER Development Council to secure investments for an integrated steel plant, an aluminum processing plant and a palm oil refinery within MCKIP (the parcel of three projects). There is also talk of future investments in the oil and gas, and petrochemical industries.

Trade surplus hit record high in Nov (By By Li Jiabao lijiabao@chinadaily.com.cn) China's acceleration of exports and slowdown of imports in November left the country with its largest trade surplus in more than four years. The improvement of overseas demand increased China's chances of securing an 8 percent trade growth target this year. It also gave the new leadership more room to advance reforms and ensure that markets play a decisive role in the economy. But experts cautioned that the inflow of "hot money" has been disguised as trade payments. November exports increased 12.7 percent year-on-year to $202.21 billion, while imports stood at $168.4 billion, up 5.3 percent year-on-year, the slowest rise in imports since July, the General Administration of Customs said on Sunday. Overall trade in the first 11 months of this year rose 7.7 percent year-on-year to $3.77 trillion, slightly lower than the government's 8 percent growth target set earlier this year. The trade surplus in November, $33.8 billion, was the highest since 2009, when the government launched a large-scale stimulus package. The country's overall trade gains in the period from January to November this year reached $234.15 billion, more than the total value for last year. "November's export growth is partially owing to the recovery in developed economies and the seasonal demand surge through festivals such as Christmas," said Wang Jun, an expert at the China Center for International Economic Exchanges. "But it's very likely that speculative funds, or hot money, flowed into China chasing the renminbi appreciation." According to Chen Hufei, a researcher at the Shanghai-based Bank of Communications Ltd, "The export surge in November was more possibly driven by the inflow of hot money speculating on the difference in interest rates at home and abroad as well as the continuous appreciation of the renminbi." "What's more, local governments may have overstated the export data to make the year-end performance look better." On Sunday, the State Administration of Foreign Exchange and China's foreign exchange regulator said that "it will crack down on fake trade activities for interest arbitrage" and asked banks to report suspicious trade activities. In the first half of this year, foreign trade companies were caught over-invoicing and export growth in April was as high as 14.7 percent from a year earlier. SAFE then investigated a crackdown on the practice of inflating trade growth. "November's remarkable trade surplus will increase expectations for the appreciation of the renminbi. It will also weaken China's exports next year when the US tapers off its monetary stimulus and capital flows out of China," Wang said. He added that China's import growth in November was "in line with the country's economic performance", while GDP growth in the last three months of this year "will be slightly better" than the three months ending September. "The inherent driving force for China's economic growth is becoming dynamic and imports will maintain steady growth in the future," Chen said. China's economic growth rebounded to 7.8 percent in the third quarter of this year after slowing to a two-decade low in the previous quarter. Earlier this month, official figures showed that China's manufacturing growth in November maintained a strong pace from the previous month to stay at a 19-month high.

Hong Kong*:  Dec 10 2013

South China Morning Post: 香港警方嚴格保護梁振英的公開會議 Hong Kong police keep tight rein at Leung Chun-ying public meeting (By Tanna Chong and Stuart Lau) Activists try to throw objects at chief executive, but they fail to hit the mark - Police officers maintained a watertight defence in protecting the chief executive at the community centre in Tai Kok Tsui. Beefed up security prevented Leung Chun-ying from being hit with missiles at a rowdy forum on his policy address and budget yesterday. Uniformed and plain clothes officers maintained a watertight defence in protecting the chief executive at the community centre in Tai Kok Tsui, a day after Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah was hit by an egg at a forum. League of Social Democrats lawmaker "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung came closest when he hurled a paper ball made of "hell" notes. But it missed its target and was hit back in mid-flight by the chairman of Yau Tsim Mong district council, Chung Kong-mo, who hosted the forum. Activist Lui Yuk-lin had planned to throw a pineapple and eggs, but security guards stopped her outside the venue and confiscated the fruit. "The security guards were of the view that it was an offensive weapon," said Anna Tsang Yim-sheung, deputy Mong Kok police district commander. Lui complained that her own hell notes were also taken from her. After being dragged out of the venue for shouting - one of 13 participants ousted out of 300 people at the venue - she burned a portrait of Leung on the ground and threw eggs at it. On Saturday Tsang was hit on the head by an egg thrown by a protester in North Point, later joking that his doctor had told him "not to take too many eggs". Yesterday's forum, which covered welfare issues like housing and poverty alleviation, was also attended by labour and welfare minister Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, home affairs undersecretary Florence Hui Hiu-fai and outgoing financial services undersecretary Julia Leung Fung-yee. The chief executive was urged to do more for young people who were out of work, and there were calls for a universal retirement scheme. Although Leung was shouted down whenever he tried to speak, he said such forums would continue. "The government will not give up its work to outreach to the public because of a small group of people's disruption of order," said Leung. Separately, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor expressed regret about the disruptions. Despite the vigorous protests and Lam's acknowledgement on Saturday that the narrow voter base that put Leung in office had created a governance problem, the chief executive said: "The administration's governance has been effective. We have achieved phased progress in delivering various policies."

South China Morning Post: 評論指責美國高壓操縱太平洋貿易協定談判 Activists accuse US of high pressure at talks on Pacific trade pact (By Agence France-Presse in Singapore) Obama administration keen on winning deal on wide-ranging issues before end of year - Activists accused the United States of trying to railroad a Pacific trade pact with 11 key partners as their trade ministers entered a second day of secretive talks. The meetings, due to end tomorrow, are a last-gasp attempt to meet a year-end US deadline to forge a deal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). International activists opposed to the TPP - and corporate lobbyists including those supporting the pact - have also descended on Singapore in an attempt to push their causes. "The TPP, which is being negotiated behind closed doors by trade bureaucrats and nearly 600 corporate lobbyists, has provoked political uproar because its text has been kept secret from lawmakers in the countries it covers," global advocacy group Avaaz said in a statement on the sidelines of the negotiations. "If the deal is finalised, corporations will take on new powers to sue governments over regulations which threaten their future profits," it said. "Laws designed to protect the public, including access to cheap medicines, bans on logos on cigarette packaging, clear labelling of GM [genetically modified] products, and internet privacy could be under threat." Activists said Washington was trying to railroad the talks in order to meet its self-imposed deadline. US President Barack Obama has hailed the TPP as the economic centrepiece of his country's strategic shift towards Asia, calling it a 21st-century agreement covering non-tariff components such as the environment and labour standards. "Nearly all of the politically sensitive issues that have arisen in the secretive, closed-door TPP talks are still unresolved," advocacy group Public Citizen said in a statement. "So the Obama administration has resorted to extreme tactics at Singapore to try to wring out a deal." The advocacy group claimed the US had set up by-invitation-only "green room" meetings where decisions on difficult issues could be "worked out". "This is a very manipulative process because it marginalises those that are potential critics and makes it harder for them to continue rejecting compromised deals," said Jane Kelsey, a law professor at the University of Auckland. Rodrigo Contreras, Chile's former chief TPP negotiator, who quit in March, said he thought the US wanted to close a deal now rather than "risk" the talks extending into 2014. "But there is nothing worse than trying to close a negotiation forced," Contreras said, adding it "would not be a sustainable agreement if it doesn't represent the interests of all the countries".

 China*:  Dec 10 2013

Capturing 'beautiful Beijing' (By Jin Haixing jinhaixing@chinadaily.com.cn) First place winner Curves and Lines, was taken by George Doupas from Greece at Galaxy SOHO in Beijing. Organizers of an international photo contest say it is helping to build the Beijing brand and give foreigners a deeper understanding of this ancient and ever-evolving city. The Beijing in the Eyes of Foreigners contest has been held annually since 2009. Between May and the end of October, the competition received more than 4,100 entries from 180 photographers. The participants came from 57 countries. While most of the photographers live in Beijing, the contest plans to expand to interest more visitors, said Li Xiaoqiang, deputy director of the Beijing People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries and a member of the organizing committee. The 2013 theme was "beautiful Beijing" and involved group field trips to Yanqing county and the Beijing Garden Expo. An expert panel later chose 50 images for awards, with 14 photographers singled out for the top prizes. The first prize was shared by George Doupas of Greece and Stephen Shaver, chief photographer at United Press International's China bureau. "The possibility Beijing offers to photographers is endless," said Doupas, who won first prize with Curves and Lines, which he took at the downtown Galaxy SOHO. Beijing has a rich history, present and future, said the 59-year-old, who has lived in the capital for four years. On his winning image, he said Galaxy SOHO was a beautiful place with a great many shapes and that people never tire of seeing it. Shaver of the UPI press agency said, "It's always interesting to view a city through the eyes of a stranger, which of course broadens one's understanding of various cultural perspectives". Despite problems with air quality, there are many great reasons to explore the city, he said, such as its hutong, restaurants, temples and parks, as well as lots of modern architecture. Shaver shared first prize for his photo Chinese Soldiers, which shows soldiers as they prepare for honor guard duty at a welcoming ceremony on June 19. "What struck me is how precisely the soldiers are lined up, almost perfectly," he said. One thing that militaries around the world have in common is precision down to the last detail and China's honor guard is pretty impressive, he added.

Hong Kong*:  Dec 9 2013

South China Morning Post: Work and pay woes put Hong Kong residents in doldrums compared to China's cities (By Jennifer Ngo and Lana Lam) Post survey shows city's mood has taken a dive, with its stressed-out residents less happy with their standard of living than those on mainland - People in Hong Kong are far more unhappy with life than those in cities on the mainland, a South China Morning Post poll has revealed. Most say they work too hard and are paid too little, with the gloomy mood extending to everything from air quality to relationships. And fewer than a quarter of Hongkongers felt their standard of living had improved in recent years, while most mainlanders - 66 per cent on average - said their lives were better. In fact, Hongkongers said they were happier only when it came to medical provision and food safety. Dr Ma Ngok, a political scientist at Chinese University, said the results were not surprising. "Hong Kong's happiness is lower than most places in the world," he said. "Life is hard and it is a very stressful city. A lot of people are unhappy with living standards and the air quality." The survey was commissioned by the Post and carried out by the global market research company Ipsos. It covered Hong Kong and seven mainland cities - Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenyang , Xian , Wuhan and Chengdu. Just 40 per cent of Hong Kong respondents said they were happy, while in Shanghai and Beijing the figure was around 70 per cent. Money was a big factor. An average of 42 per cent on the mainland said they were satisfied with their income, while only 22 per cent felt the same way in Hong Kong. Hongkongers were also more pessimistic about the prospects of a pay rise. They were shown to work a 48-hour week compared to 411/2 hours on the mainland, and more than 80 per cent felt under pressure at work, compared to 48 per cent on the mainland. A total of 2,400 people aged 20 and over were interviewed in the online poll. Those questioned in Hong Kong, where the median monthly household income is about HK$22,000, had an individual monthly wage of at least HK$15,000. In the first-tier mainland cities, the minimum income was 5,000 yuan (HK$6,330) and in the second-tier cities it was 4,000 yuan. Nearly three-quarters of Shanghai residents said they felt safe in their city, with Beijing ranked second at 62 per cent. Only 49 per cent of Hongkongers said they felt safe - although that was one percentage point higher than the average in the mainland cities. And just 44 per cent of Hongkongers said they got on well with their families, compared to 81 per cent of mainlanders. The figures were similar when it came to Hongkongers' relationships with their friends and work colleagues. In general, half of the mainland interviewees were satisfied with their living environment, compared to less than a third of Hongkongers. The city's residents even expressed greater dissatisfaction with air quality - despite the problem being much worse in mainland cities. However, the poll was carried out in August, before the recent air pollution in Beijing and Shanghai. Political scientist Ma said Hong Kong was a relatively safe city, "but when people get used to it, they don't recognise that any more". He added: "Of course, Hong Kong is more free than most, if not all, of mainland cities. "But some polls show that people are worried that the city's freedom is deteriorating." However, comedian Jami Gong, founder of the TakeOut Comedy Club in Central, tried to put a positive spin on things. "We've got the Octopus card, cheap taxis, the greatest transportation in the world and you can pay your electricity bill at 5 o'clock in the morning at a 7-Eleven," he said. "The weather is fantastic and there's Disneyland and great hiking trails. "I tell people we've got the best of both worlds because you can be in the metropolis and then, after 30 minutes on a bus, you can be on a beach." Gong, 44, who came to Hong Kong from New York seven years ago, said there was a distinct difference between the happiness levels of expatriates and locals. "Locals are miserable," he joked. "They are not as positive as they should be."

Douglas Whyte hits Hong Kong Cup heights with Akeed Mofeed (By Andrew Hawkins andrew.hawkins@scmp.com) Douglas Whyte wins the HK$22 million Longines Hong Kong Cup with Akeed Mofeed at Sha Tin on Sunday. Douglas Whyte is the king of Sha Tin at the presentation with owner Pan Sutong On a day when Hong Kong horses swept aside their global competition, winning three of the four international races, it was only fitting that 13-time champion jockey Douglas Whyte led the charge, adding the Longines Hong Kong Cup aboard Richard Gibson’s Akeed Mofeed to his earlier Mile success on Glorious Days. Last season’s Hong Kong Derby winner Akeed Mofeed wore down gallant Japanese leader Tokei Halo to win by a length, with veteran French galloper Cirrus des Aigles finally making the placings at his fifth Hong Kong visit in third. Incredibly, Whyte had only ridden one winner on international day before, when he rode Indigenous to victory in the Vase in 1998 – right at the start of his Hong Kong stint – but he tripled his tally on Sunday and made an emphatic statement about his form in the saddle. “It’s great to get these opportunities and I just knew I had to go out there and make it up to Pan Sutong [the owner] after what happened in the last race,” Whyte said, referring to the fact Glorious Days had nailed Pan’s Gold-Fun to win the Mile. Akeed Mofeed had started the season in a lacklustre manner, looking flat in the National Day Cup and the Sha Tin Trophy, but the writing was on the wall after he flew home for second to Endowing in the Jockey Club Cup last start. “At the start of the season he wasn’t performing so well, so I was hoping they’d use blinkers on him,” Whyte said. “However, they put the blinkers on him during his work, and it seemed to sharpen him up, so he didn’t need them on raceday.” Gibson agreed. “All credit to the horse, he’s always had the talent but he needed and deserved the international recognition at Group One level,” Gibson said. “He was peaking for today and everything went right.” Gibson said there were international plans for the stallion, who has now won three of his nine starts in Hong Kong. “We kept him as a colt because we had stud plans for him, and we’ll sit down and map out where to go from here. The new Sydney championships might be an option, also the Dubai World Cup meeting, but we’ll consider everything.”

Spirit of Hong Kong Awards winners embody spirit of the city (By Samuel Chan samuel.chan@scmp.com) 11 selfless individuals gain recognition for their efforts in helping to build a better Hong Kong - (Front, left to right) Carmen Yau and Willy Law; (back, left to right) Robin Hu, CEO of SCMP Group; Lee Ming-sun; Elsa Tse Ngar-yee; Elana Ho; Chan Kit-ying; Tsang Tsz-kwan; Chief Secretary Carrie Lam; Jenny Law Chun-heung; Pastor Lee Mo-fan; Jill Robinson; Kan Yiu-kwong; and Dr David Pang Ding-jung, chairman of SCMP Group. They are 11 ordinary people who lead extraordinary lives. People who achieve against all the odds and set an example for others. Last night they were unveiled as the living embodiment of the spirit that makes Hong Kong a great city. The Spirit of Hong Kong Awards - launched by the South China Morning Post as part of its Celebrating Hong Kong initiative - were the culmination of seven months of published stories about inspiring individuals. Ten winners were selected by a nine-member judging panel chaired by Sir David Akers-Jones. There was also a Hong Kong People's Choice Award, chosen by members of the public through an online vote. This went to Jill Robinson for her efforts to stop the bear-bile industry. Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who officiated at the awards ceremony, said she personally knew one of the winners - Willy Law Wai-cheung, an inspiration to people with physical disabilities - and was glad to see his work gaining recognition. The winners were selected from a total of 30 unsung heroes who strive to build a better Hong Kong through activities ranging from giving free haircuts to hospital patients, to fixing crumbling schools in rural China. "Our judging criteria aimed at bringing recognition to those unsung heroes who have been working hard to make our city a better place to live," said one of the judges, Professor Nelson Chow of the department of Social Work and Social Administration at the University of Hong Kong. One winner was Kan Yiu-kwong, founder of the Grace Charity Foundation. It has funded the building of 1,100 schools and 250 clinics in Yunnan and Guizhou . "Philanthropy has always been one of the defining qualities of Hong Kong people without which our work would never be possible." Another award winner, Tsang Tsz-kwan, who achieved top grades in her exam despite having to read Braille with her lips after losing her eyesight and sensitivity in her fingers in early childhood, said the Hong Kong spirit to her meant facing difficulties with optimism. "What makes Hong Kong a great place is that we never leave those who need help behind while pursuing our own dreams." The winners each received a trophy and HK$10,000. A total of HK$750,000 raised during the campaign will go to the St James' Settlement, the Society for Community Organisation and the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals. 
THE WINNERS:
Chan Kit-ying, director of services at Mother's Choice
Elana Ho, a founder of Starfish Charitable Foundation, which offers free operations for mainland children with various ailments
Kan Yiu-kwong, founder of the Grace Charity Foundation which has built schools in rural China
Jenny Law Chun-heung, who has provided free monthly haircuts for 27 years to patients of Grantham Hospital
Willy Law Wai-cheung, a wheelchair-bound advocate of policies for the disabled
Lee Ming-sun, a survivor of the Lamma ferry disaster who saved two strangers
Pastor Lee Mo-fan, who has spent 50 years taking care of homeless elderly people
Jill Robinson, an activist against the trade in bear bile
Tsang Tsz-kwan, a blind student with no sensitivity in her fingertips who scored top grades in exams by reading Braille with her lips
Elsa Tse Ngar-yee, former drug addict who now rescues girls
Carmen Yau, a spinal muscular atrophy sufferer who counsels fellow "frozen people"

 China*:  Dec 9 2013

Choking smog over eastern provinces spreads into Beijing (By Raymond Li raymond.li@scmp.com) Air quality index above 'severe' in capital as threat grows, while Shanghai breathes easier - The massive smog cloud choking the eastern provinces since midweek expanded northwards to Beijing yesterday. The air quality index in the capital was as high as 356 at 9pm, ending a week-long streak of blue-sky days. Anything worse than 300 is considered "severe", the highest rating on the six-level rating system. Shanghai residents saw air pollution levels ease slightly. The pollution-monitoring station atop the US embassy in Chaoyang district showed PM2.5 levels - potentially harmful particles less than 2.5 microns in size - of 473 micrograms per cubic metre at 9pm. The World Health Organisation's safe limit for PM2.5 is 25 mcg. The situation was even worse in the surrounding province of Hebei . The AQI in the provincial capital, Shijiazhuang , hit the top of the 500-point air quality index yesterday evening. The National Meteorological Centre maintained the "orange" smog alert it issued nationwide on Friday. Serious pollution was expected to continue in Anhui , Beijing, Hebei, Jiangsu , Tianjin and Zhejiang until this afternoon. In Nanjing , which has been the centre of the current smog episode, the air quality index continued to hover around 300. Schools in the Jiangsu provincial capital have been closed since Wednesday to protect children from the potentially hazardous air. Some 170 domestic flights into and out of Beijing were affected by the smog yesterday and 93 were cancelled, according to the Civil Aviation Resource Net of China. A total of 111 domestic flights were cancelled in Nanjing yesterday, leaving 8,000 passengers stranded, according to CCTV. In Shanghai - a major aviation hub with two international airports - some 483 domestic flights were affected and 144 were cancelled, even as the air quality improved slightly. Authorities lifted a "yellow" smog alert yesterday afternoon after the air quality index drifted below 300. On Friday, the municipal government had closed schools, halted the worst- polluting factories, frozen road works and pulled nearly a third of government vehicles out of service as PM 2.5 levels exceeded 600 mcg. Chai Fahe , vice-director of the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences, told CCTV that the pollution had to be tackled by all regions simultaneous since smog was not bound by borders. "Every region has to clean its own mess instead of waiting for others to go first," Chai said. Many tried to live with the smog, with a group of catwalk models donning surgical masks during an outdoor jewellery show in Nanjing on Friday.

Hong Kong*:  Dec 8 2013

Influx of mainland students in town to sit the SAT proves a boon for retailers (By Andrea Chen andrea.chen@scmp.com) Several times a year, waves of mainland students converge on the city to sit the SAT. The influx is proving a boon for tour companies, as well as hotels and retailers, writes Andrea Chen - Thousands of mainland students converged on the AsiaWorld-Expo on day five of China's Golden Week holiday in October. But they weren't seeking the latest smartphones or discounted luxury items. They were sitting for the SAT, short for Scholastic Assessment Test, the exam widely used for college admission in the US. The crush of people "was like catching a train during the Lunar New Year holidays", says Wang Mini, a student from Beijing No 161 High School who was in the long queue outside hall eight. "Hundreds lined up in the waiting room, waiting anxiously for the invigilators to check our exam admission tickets." It was Wang's third attempt at the test in Hong Kong. She had scored more than 2,000 points in previous bids, but forked out another HK$6,500 for a three-day visit to Hong Kong for "the final all-out sprint to get 2,300 [points]. "I'm competing against a great number of students across China," says the 18-year-old. "In top Beijing schools like the High School Affiliated to Renmin University of China, one third of the whole [form] are preparing for the SAT. "Some schools even have a couple of designated SAT classes, whose students spend all day in the library preparing for the test on their own." The US is perhaps the most popular destination for mainlanders hoping to study abroad. This year, US universities admitted 93,789 first-year students from China, which overtook India and Canada to become the country with the largest number of undergraduate students in the US. But the SAT, offered six times each year in 175 countries and regions outside the US, including Hong Kong, is not generally available to students on the mainland. Only those attending international schools may take the test in their home city. Which is why tens of thousands of students like Wang travel across the border several times a year to sit for the SAT in Hong Kong, the nearest exam centre. Another wave arrives today, ahead of the tomorrow's SAT sitting, although numbers are lower than in October, which is the peak period for college admission tests. Since AsiaWorld-Expo was chosen as an SAT exam centre in October 2011, the increasing numbers of mainland candidates have proved to be a windfall for a range of business beyond the exhibition centre near Chek Lap Kok airport. (Before the centre was pressed into service, SAT tests were held in school halls across the city, most with capacity for up to 200 people.) AsiaWorld-Expo chief executive Allen Ha says more than 10,000 candidates sat for the SAT at the centre last month, over 90 per cent of them from the mainland. It took more than 600 people to set up the halls and monitor the exam held on October 5, mostly temporary staff recruited for the event. Catering services at the exhibition centre as well as hotels and shops in nearby Tung Chung also benefited from the influx of mainland candidates, many of whom came to Hong Kong with their families. "Quite a number [of families] went shopping after the test to reward the student. They are high-end customers who can afford to send their kids abroad," Ha says. Education agencies have also seized the opportunity to hawk their services, as Wang found when she emerged from her test last month; she found hordes of salesmen outside waving promotional pamphlets for various courses and US colleges. "Many booklets are printed in simplified Chinese, and most of the sales staff are talking in Putonghua," she says. Driven by soaring demand, rates for a deluxe room at Skycity Marriott, a mere three-minute walk from the centre, almost doubled from HK$1,600 to HK$3,000 during the exam period. "We enjoyed full occupancy during exam weekend last month," says the hotel's marketing director Elizabeth Wan. "It was the time for family tours. Entire families, including grandparents, came to support the students." The nearby Regal Airport Hotel also recorded a 15 per cent increase in occupancy on exam dates. The Regal Hotel's area general manager, John Girard, says SAT candidates and their families account for 30 per cent of guests on exam weekends. The enormous demand caught Tao Tao and his parents by surprise. The family from Beijing tried to book rooms online at Skycity Marriott in mid-September, but could only find two deluxe suites costing more than HK$5,000. Difficulties faced by families such as Tao's have boosted a SAT tourism business on the mainland. Education agencies like New Oriental, known for its SAT training courses, now offer exam travel packages. A website touted the agency's "SAT Full Score Tour", which included round-trip air tickets, a standard room at a four-star hotel, shuttle bus services to the exam centre, "and an English teacher specialising in SAT to answer all your questions about the test until the last minute". Prices ranged from HK$5,000 to HK$7,000, depending on the length of stay. "We have a three-day standard tour, a four-day 'happy tour', and four-day mock test tour," says a teacher from New Oriental, who brought 30 students to Hong Kong for the last sitting. "About 300 New Oriental SAT tour groups departed from Beijing in October." The school also provides plenty of choices for students from other major cities on the mainland, he adds. When Eric Zhang flew to Hong Kong for his SAT in October, he found his waiting lounge at Beijing International Airport was filled with New Oriental candidates. The student from the High School Attached to Capital Normal University says only two out of the 30 students in his "international" class chose to travel independently to take their SAT test. "I felt so lucky to secure the last seat. Someone dropped out from the October tour when I got to the booking centre, or I would have to travel by myself." Zhang didn't mind making the trip to sit for his SAT as he found it "as fun as a school trip", and spent the last day of his tour seeing the sights in Hong Kong with his classmates. But he says it is unfair that only students from international schools can sit for the exam on the mainland. China's Ministry of Education authorised 50 international schools across the mainland as test centres for international school students. A spokesman for the College Board, the American institute that designs and hosts the SAT exams, says its policies and procedures regarding testing "are to maintain compliance with these guidelines". But for students at public high schools, exam centres outside the mainland are a required first stop before they can head to the West. Wang Yaohui, director-general of the Centre for China and Globalisation, a Beijing think-tank, says limiting access to SAT tests is a way to prevent more top students from going abroad for tertiary education. "At the moment, a family has to invest a considerable amount of money, time and effort to send a child to sit the SAT outside China. Once the barrier on SAT is lifted in major cities, many more top students will fly to the States, voting against Chinese tertiary education with their feet," he says. That's not to say job prospects are better for mainland graduates with degrees from abroad. The education ministry has reported that 270,000 graduates returned to China last year, double the number in 2011, making the past job-hunting season the "toughest in history". But Wang says US colleges remain attractive because top mainland universities still lag far behind in terms of diversity and globalisation. "Foreign students and scholars make up only 1.4 per cent of the total population in top universities in Beijing. But the top 20 American universities have around 20 [per cent foreign scholars]," Wang says. Students such as Zhang also see other benefits. "The admission process for American universities is much better than that on the mainland, where one single exam determines our destiny," Zhang says. 

Chinese tourists set to ditch Hong Kong for wider world (By Celine Sun in Beijing celine.sun@scmp.com) City's position as top travel spot under threat as mainlanders start looking at trips beyond Asia - Hong Kong may lose its position as the top choice for outbound mainland tourists within a decade as they seek broader travel experiences, a recent report by Boston Consulting Group suggests. The city's position as mainlanders' favoured travel destination might be challenged over time as they visit more places beyond Asia and prefer to have more "leisure activities" and "cultural experiences". Hong Kong was kicked off a list of 15 most popular travel spots in a survey of nearly 1,000 middle-class mainlanders when asked what was their dream holiday destination in five to 10 years. The Maldives received the most votes from respondents, followed by the United States, France and Australia. "As Chinese tourists are becoming more and more sophisticated, shopping will not be the No1 reason for them to travel. More people would like to enjoy more leisure activities and experience exotic cultures during their trips," said Vincent Lui, a partner at BCG and co-author of the report. Mainland tourists' choices are quite different from what they have been for the past few years. According to the study, around four in 10 people picked Hong Kong as their top outbound travel destination over the past three years. Thailand, Macau and South Korea also ranked highly. Yet the city dropped to number 10 in the list when the respondents are asked about the next destination they would like to visit. Despite this, "Hong Kong will still remain one of the most popular places to go for mainlanders, especially for those in southern China, as it's just across the border", said Lui. He added that China's central government is expected to continue to loosen the individual traveller scheme in the future, which will also support the tourism market in Hong Kong in the long run. The mainland's tourism market is highly lucrative considering robust growth in tourist numbers and their spending. The report estimates Chinese urban travellers will take 1.7 billion inbound and outbound trips annually by 2030, compared to only 500 million today. They are expected to spend US$1.8 trillion on tourism by then, nearly seven times their current expenditure. Eight of the 10 most desired destinations for Chinese tourists in the near future would be outside Asia.

Law Reform Commission urges charity register for more transparency (By Amy Nip amy.nip@scmp.com) Six-year review by law reform group pulls back from recommending centralised watchdog and calls for register in move towards transparency - Hong Kong's 7,500 charities should have to join a government register, with the details open to the public, a six-year review of charity and fundraising law has concluded. But in its report, released yesterday, the Law Reform Commission stepped back from its controversial recommendation of a centralised charity authority. The commission also urged the government to standardise applications for fundraising permits and said charities should have to set out details of their finances before selling lottery tickets or raising funds. The proposals were welcomed by charities as a move towards transparency. Many had opposed the idea of a centralised authority, fearing it could be used to suppress criticism of the government or undermine religious freedom. Bernard Chan, chairman of the Law Reform Commission's subcommittee on charity, said compiling a register would be much faster than setting up a watchdog. "Still, it would help increase the transparency of charities and public confidence in them," Chan said. The Law Reform Commission has been scrutinising charity law since 2007. It said the changes could be implemented by amending existing legislation, rather than through the creation of a new charity law. Hong Kong has no formal registration system for charities, which can be incorporated as companies, trusts or societies. Members of the public have complained that it is difficult to tell whether a fundraising organisation has charitable status. Under the proposal, charitable organisations which receive public donations or seek taxexempt status will have to register with a specified government department. They would have to fulfil one of 14 broad charitable goals set by law. When applying for a fundraising licence from the Social Welfare Department, the Home Affairs Bureau or the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, charities would have to fill in a standardised form, disclosing their objectives, financial accounts and how they planned to use funds collected. The information should be made available on the government website. Charities which breached the rules would risk being struck off the register and banned from fundraising. The Council for Social Service hoped the government would implement the recommendations as soon as possible to restore public confidence in charities, Dominic Yung Yuk-yu, director of the Catholic Social Communications Office, welcomed moves towards transparency and the scrapping of the watchdog. "The establishment of a commission to co-ordinate all religions had many political implications," he said.

 China*:  Dec 8 2013

New Yellow Sea naval drills seen as warning message (By Minnie Chan minnie.chan@scmp.com) The PLA Navy launched eight days of naval drills in the Yellow Sea and Bohai Strait yesterday - a day after US Vice-President Joseph Biden departed China for South Korea. The drills were confirmed by a navigation warning issued by the Liaoning Maritime Safety Administration, which oversees the area. The notice banned all civilian vessels from northern portions of the Yellow Sea and Bohai Strait from 4pm yesterday to the same time next Friday. The administration said the area would be used for a military mission, suggesting that the People's Liberation Army would be conducting naval drills similar to those conducted in the area last month. The previous drills ended a day before the Ministry of National Defence announced the creation of an air defence identification zone (ADIZ) over mos of the adjacent East China Sea, drawing protests from Seoul, Taipei, Tokyo and Washington. The zone includes the disputed Diaoyu, or Senkaku, islands, which are claimed by Japan, as well as Taiwan. During his visit to Beijing this week, which was bookended by trips to Tokyo and Seoul, Biden criticised the new defence zone, saying it has caused "significant apprehension in the region". Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie said the drill was scheduled, but might also be intended as a message to countries, such as the United States and Japan, that have conducted military flights through the zone in defiance of Beijing. "It's a fact that the PLA has intensified annual scheduled drills this year," Li said. "As for this drill, I think the PLA wants to send a warning message about the increased flights by the US and Japan that intentionally enter our ADIZ, challenging China's bottom line." Three days after announcing the creation of the air defence zone, the navy sent its first aircraft carrier from its home port of Qingdao to the disputed waters of the South China Sea, parts of which are claimed by Vietnam and the Philippines. Macau-based military analyst Antony Wong Dong said the PLA had become more active because it wanted the country's neighbours to get accustomed to frequent drills. "When the neighbouring countries - especially those small nations that have territorial disputes with China - get used to the PLA's drills around them, they might become numb and uninterested," Wong said. "Then it will provide opportunities for Chinese fleets to make surprise attacks to seize the islets. It has been a common military strategy in China's history." Efforts to strengthen the PLA received a boost after the Communist Party's Central Committee concluded its third plenum last month. The plenum resolution stressed the importance of strengthening the army's fighting capabilities.

US unveils lucky money notes for China's Year of the Horse (By Xinhua in Washington) The US Treasury Department unveiled the latest seasonal addition to its $1-note "Lucky Money" collection on Tuesday to celebrate the upcoming Chinese Lunar New Year of the Horse in 2014. An official from the US Treasury Department shows the limited edition collectible Lucky Money for the Chinese New Year of the Horse in Washington DC, Dec 3, 2013. The Treasury will offer 88,888 Year of Horse one-dollar notes, available for sale starting Wednesday. The Year of the Horse lucky money note features a $1 note with a serial number beginning with 8888, said US Treasurer Rosie Rios. The Treasury will offer 88,888 Year of the Horse $1 notes, available for sale from Wednesday, she said. The Year of the Horse is one of the 12 Chinese zodiac signs associated with the Chinese Lunar Calendar, where 12 animals represent a rotating 12-year cycle. Many Chinese believe their fate and character is tied to the zodiac symbols in the year in which they were born. The number 8 is also seen by many of the Chinese and Asian communities as a symbol of good fortune. The lucky money product is designed with decorative Chinese symbolism and packaged in a red folder with gold foil and embossing. The unveiling of the popular Chinese Lunar New Year lucky money product line is both a monetary event and a cultural event, said Rios. She said there has been a strong interest and demand for the products, which have sold out almost every year. "We also enjoy the celebration of the Chinese Lunar New Year as well," she added. The Year of the Dragon lucky money product, with a record 108,888 notes for sale, sold out within a week in November 2011. The Lucky Money products have been well received both domestically and internationally, since the Bureau of Engraving and Printing introduced them in 2000. 

Nations to jointly tap nuclear markets (By ZHAO YINAN zhaoyinan@chinadaily.com.cn) Premier Li Keqiang and French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault unveil a logo on Friday at the Great Hall of the People in celebration of next year’s 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries. France also vows to simplify visa procedures to attract Chinese tourists, businesspeople - China and France will jointly explore the international nuclear power market, while pushing ahead with existing nuclear projects. This was announced by Premier Li Keqiang and visiting French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault on Friday at a news briefing after they met. "We agreed to jointly exploit third-party nuclear energy markets. China hopes the two countries can find broader space in the markets," Li said. He also urged Chinese and French businesses to expand cooperation in areas such as urban sustainable development, new energy, healthcare, modern agriculture and information technology. He said he hopes that France will play a constructive role in the negotiation of a China-Europe investment agreement. Li said he expects France to make efforts to push the European Union to stick to the free trade principle and be cautious in using trade remedy measures. Ayrault, who arrived on Thursday for a week-long visit to China, told reporters that France will streamline visa procedures to two days from next year for Chinese tourists and businesspeople making short-term visits to the country. He said he would welcome more Chinese tourists visiting France, adding that it aims to host 50,000 Chinese students by 2015. Ayrault said the two countries have had substantial results in joint work on food and agriculture. "Chinese consumers will soon taste French pork and other products," he said. It is Ayrault's first visit to China in his current capacity, and the second by a French leader this year, after President Francois Hollande's in April. Vice-Premier Ma Kai said when meeting Ayrault that nuclear energy cooperation has been highlighted in bilateral exchanges. He told the French guests that construction of new nuclear reactors will follow the highest international safety standards. He also sees plenty of opportunities for Chinese and French companies to cooperate on nuclear reactors, recycling of nuclear fuel and nuclear safety supervision. Lu Chunhua, an engineer at the Shanghai Nuclear Engineering Research and Design Institute, said Chinese nuclear companies are confronted with technical barriers when going global, and cooperation with France can make up for the technical disadvantages. 

Hong Kong*:  Dec 7 2013

South China Morning Post: Michelin inspectors 'don't take bribes' (By Mischa Moselle mischa.moselle@scmp.com) Michael Ellis at the Hotel Icon in Tsim Sha Tsui. Michael Ellis, the international director of the Michelin Guide, categorically denied persistent rumours that Michelin's inspectors accept bribes in exchange for inclusion in the guide and the awarding of stars, or that they notify restaurants in advance of visits. "The cornerstone of our methodology is anonymity and that we must have an experience like a normal customer," said Ellis at the launch of the red book's 2014 edition yesterday. Ellis added that the guide had been operating for some 100 years and held its inspectors to very high standards. "They are great professionals," he said. Ellis also justified a number of restaurant choices likely to be controversial among Hong Kong foodies. He said celebrity chef Alvin Leung's Bo Innovation, where the menu comprises an "X-treme Chinese" take on molecular gastronomy, was elevated from two to three stars because it offered a unique experience. "We're really excited with what we found there." Duddell's managed to obtain one star, despite having been open for less than a year. Inspectors have to be able to eat at a place three or four times before awarding stars. One-star picks likely to be considered harsh are Petrus at the Island Shangri-La and Man Wah at the Mandarin Oriental. Ellis said Petrus was "doing very good cooking at the moment but there is room for growth". Stars are awarded based on a criteria including quality of ingredients, mastery of technique, personality of the cuisine, consistency and value for money. Of the failure of any restaurants at the Peninsula Hotel - often recognised as one of the top 10 hotels in the world - to win any stars, Ellis said there were "some consistency issues". According to Ellis, all Hong Kong inspectors are now locals, a vital factor in reflecting the city's dining scene accurately.

NSA tracks millions of phones every day, says Snowden documents (By Agence France-Presse in Washington) Documents from whistle-blower Edward Snowden reveal spy agency's largest spying project scooped up private data 'incidentally' - An advertisement thanking NSA leaker Edward Snowden appears on the side of a Metrobus in downtown Washington. The US National Security Agency is collecting some five billion records a day on the location of mobile phones around the world, The Washington Post reported, citing documents from US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden. The information is added to a gigantic database that shows the locations of "at least hundreds of millions of cell phones" worldwide, a stunning revelation that suggests the eavesdropping agency has created a mass surveillance tool, the report says. Of the NSA surveillance programmes revealed to date, the geo-location project appears to represent the agency's largest in scale and scope. The NSA declined to comment on the report. The data was scooped up by tapping into cables that link mobile phone networks - both American and foreign - across the globe, the Post said. The location data was gathered with the help of 10 "sigads" or signal intelligence activity designators. In an example given by the Post, one sigad called "stormbrew" collects data from two unnamed corporate firms which administer interception equipment. Then the "NSA asks nicely for tasking/updates," according to leaked documents. Information from the phones of Americans travelling abroad also forms part of the database. Because mobile phones broadcast their locations even when there is no call made or text sent, NSA analysts were able to use mathematical techniques to comb through location data and track patterns of movement over time for a given suspect, it said. The analytic methods used by the agency to sift through location data were known as Co-traveler, the report said. Although the vast majority of mobile phone users were of no interest to the NSA, it gathered the bulk data to try to track known "intelligence targets" and their unknown associates, the paper said. Even the use of disposable phones that users switch on and off to make only brief calls in the hopes of avoiding authorities trigger note in the system. The NSA insisted it did not intentionally track the location data of Americans, but it ended up receiving details that showed the whereabouts of domestic mobile devices "incidentally," wrote the Post, which also quoted intelligence officials. US officials told the Post that the programmes that collected geo-location data were legal and designed only to gather intelligence about foreign militants or other "targets" deemed a threat to the United States. The volume of information flowing in from the program was "outpacing our ability to ingest, process and store" data, according to a May 2012 internal NSA briefing leaked to the Post. The scale of the programme will reinforce long-running concerns raised by civil liberties groups that the NSA's electronic spying poses a serious threat to privacy rights worldwide. "It is staggering that a location-tracking programme on this scale could be implemented without any public debate, particularly given the substantial number of Americans having their movements recorded by the government," said Catherine Crump, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union.

Cheap eats alongside big names in latest Michelin Guide to Hong Kong (By Ada Lee ada.lee@scmp.com) Michelin Guide recognises year-old Hunanese café and neighborhood roast-duck specialist along with the famous names in its latest edition - Chef Wan serves up succulent bowls of rice noodles and roasted duck leg from the kitchens of Po Kee, a new addition to the prestigious Michelin Guide. Leading Italian chef Umberto Bombana, whose restaurant Otto e Mezzo retained its three Michelin stars in the 2014 guide. When Liu Wai-yin gave up a sales career to learn how to roast duck, she could hardly have imagined appearing alongside some of the city’s top restaurants in the world’s most famous food guide just four years later. For University of Hong Kong chemist Professor Chen Guanhua, a place in the Michelin Guide to Hong Kong and Macau is even more staggering. He started his café just a year ago to “treat friends” and fill a gap in the market for spicy Hunanese cuisine. Published on Thursday, the latest edition of the guide features 284 Hong Kong restaurants and 74 establishments in Macau – the most since 2009. Five Hong Kong restaurants received five Michelin stars, the highest honour in gastronomy. While L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, Lung King Heen and be 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana retain their three-star ratings, Bo Innovation and Sushi Shikon in Sheung Wan were given the top ranking for the first time. Liu’s Po Kee and Chen’s Café Hunan, both in Western district, are among 69 restaurants listed in the Bib Gourmands category, for quality food under HK$300. Liu took over the 40-year-old Po Kee four years ago. She gave up her sales job to learn the business, and moved to new premises in Queen’s Road West so she could roast the ducks on site. “We pick the best ducks and they are freshly roasted every day,” Liu says of the secret to her success. “When we first took over, we lost a lot of customers, but gradually our quality has been recognised … and our business got back on track.” Five minutes from Po Kee, Café Hunan serves mainly mainland diners. Chen, originally from Shanghai, has lived in Hong Kong for 17 years and decided to open the business so he would have “a place to eat with friends”. Since then business has boomed. Manager Eagle Chung said 70 per cent of the customers were from the mainland. He believes many Hongkongers struggled with the hot spices, imported from Hunan and cooked by a 20-year-old chef from the province. But not everyone is happy. Two restaurants were downgraded from two to one-star status and three lost their stars. Both branches of Cuisine Cuisine, in Tsim Sha Tsui and Central, lost their stars. A spokeswoman said they would review the quality of their food. Michael Ellis, international director for the Michelin Guide, said food in Hong Kong and Macau was of an “incredible level of quality” and great value.

Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse passes on culinary knowledge to Hong Kong trainee chefs (By Mischa Moselle mischa.moselle@scmp.com) Alain Ducasse with Jerome Husson, Spoon pastry chef, and his student chefs at his restaurant Spoon at the Intercontinental Hotel in TST. Celebrated chef Alain Ducasse celebrated the 10th birthday of his Hong Kong outlet Spoon with a present – not to himself, but to 12 of the city’s most talented trainee chefs. The students got to spend a morning in the kitchen with Ducasse and the Spoon team, helped prepare a lunch for the local media and participated in a Q&A session at which they could ask any questions they liked about Ducasse, cooking, and advancing their own culinary careers. The Frenchman’s own career has been little short of stellar. Born in 1956 in the Landes area of France, Ducasse grew up with ingredients such as foie gras and boletus mushrooms. The area is also the home of Michel Guérard, the chef who invented spa cuisine, and was one of Ducasse’s early employers. Other employers included Alain Chapel and Roger Verge, but Ducasse also spent a year working for chocolate maker Gaston Le Nôtre. His interest in chocolate has resurfaced with the opening of a chocolate labouratory in Paris that processes cocoa into chocolate bars. He has also created dishes for astronauts on the International Space Station. Coffee roasting is one of Ducasse’s next projects. By the age of 40, Ducasse had three Michelin stars to his name at Le Louis XV-Alain Ducasse and had opened his first restaurant in Paris. Just two years later, he became the world’s first six-star chef. Now his empire, which stretches from Paris to Tokyo via Doha and Hong Kong, runs to 17 stars. Ducasse recently bought the three-star Le Meurice in Paris but doesn’t count those stars as his own. The trainee chefs, who represented five institutes and the InterContinental Hotel, spent a day with Ducasse in Hong Kong. They were chosen from a group of 20 by a cooking competition in which they had to make a spoon-sized dish. The winners prepared a three-course menu that reflects some of Ducasse’s recent interests – the intense flavour and nods to tradition in the seafood based appetiser of crayfish with spinach in a Nantua sauce, and main course of line-caught bar fish, also with crayfish and chocolate in the dessert. At their Q&A session, the students asked questions about Ducasse’s inspiration, and his tips for career success. Ducasse told the students to spend time in France, if they wanted to master European cooking, and to master kitchen skills so they could use them with confidence. He also recommended that they “keep an open mind, and be curious about everything. Be inspired by everything.” The chef was asked if he had any regrets, and how he kept motivated. “Don’t look back, but do look to the future,” he replied, adding that he likes to work with people he has spent a long time with, people to whom he feels he has passed on his knowledge. Ducasse also believes that in the past 10 years, Hong Kong’s culinary scene has undergone a revolution in the quality and variety of what is on offer, especially the availability of “fantastic ingredients”. Student chef, Vicky Yip Pui-ki, from the Hospitality Industry Training Development Centre, described her day with Ducasse as “eye-opening” and said, “The discussion emphasised to me how important it is to focus on practice, cooking skills and the sharing of experience and ideas.” Student Calvin Ling Tsz-hin added: “What a wonderful day. I wish we could have longer with chef Ducasse.”

 China*:  Dec 7 2013

After drones, China turns to unmanned vessels to boost its marine power (By Stephen Chen binglin.chen@scmp.com) Beijing's military build up embraces new technology as unmanned drones set to serve underseas - China is developing unmanned marine equivalents of drones to strengthen its power at sea. Government funding of robotic vessel research has increased dramatically, mainly from the military, according to scientists involved in the work. At least 15 research teams have been set up at top universities and research institutes to produce the high-speed unmanned vessels over the past couple of years, scientists said. Professor Ma Zhongli, robotic vessel expert at Harbin Engineering University, said the government had invested intensively in UAVs, or unmanned aerial vehicles or drones, over the past few decades. Only recently did the authorities realise the practical value and strategic importance of unmanned marine vessels. Ma said the military was particularly interested in using the vessels for intelligence gathering and drawing enemies’ fire in sea battles. They will be able to carry various payloads from infrared cameras to missile launchers. “The government’s biggest interest is in the application’s use in the military,’’ she said. “They can patrol on water tirelessly 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They can see things in the distance that it’s impossible to see with human eyes. They can be deployed immediately in enormous numbers to overwhelm the enemy. Most importantly, they can reduce casualties. The situation in some waters can become too sensitive or too dangerous to send men in. That’s when they need our boats the most.’’ Ma said the vessels also had a wide range of uses in the civilian sector such as environmental protection and fishery management. One of the most important challenges facing Ma’s team is developing a camera system that can take sharp and stable images or videos, even on board a rocking boat. A mechanical system is needed to stabilise the camera and computer software to control the lens to compensate for the boat’s motion. The camera is needed to identify objects encountered by the unmanned vessel, including whether boats are military or civilian. “The technology is much more difficult and sophisticated than the ones used in normal drones, which fly much more stably and predictably,’’ she said. “Without solving these technological hurdles, robotic boats will not start mass production.’’ Research teams in other universities, such as Jiangsu University of Science and Technology, Dalian Maritime University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, are working on other issues such as the wireless communication and coordination among large fleets of unmanned vessels. Some researchers declined to be interviewed because of the sensitive nature of their research. Ma said other countries such as the United States have launched similar research projects earlier than China and come up with some impressive models, but unmanned vessels might have a larger use in Chinese waters. “China shares the sea with many countries nearby. In these troubled waters, unmanned vessels can be more effective, convenient and safe than manned ships in many situations. They will also cost less,” she said. “Their power will double if they are deployed with [aerial] drones.’’

[Zhang Yimou GAVE UP his United States Green Card 張藝謀放棄了他的美國綠卡] South China Morning Post: Film director Zhang Yimou has no regrets over fathering 3 children in China (By Angela Meng Angela.meng@scmp.com) Zhang Yimou answers questions online over his three children born in the mainland and his US residency - Zhang Yimou’s studio says on its verified Sina Weibo account the acclaimed film director has no regrets about his children being born in China, in response to public speculation over why Zhang gave up his US green card. Three days after the authorities confirmed Zhang’s violation of family planning rules, the director’s studio took to social media on Wednesday night to answer lingering questions. Zhang, the director of internationally acclaimed films including Raise the Red Lantern and Hero, admitted he hand his wife Chen Ting had two sons and a daughter in contravention of Beijing’s one-child policy and said he was willing to co-operate with the family planning commission to rectify his wrongdoing. Media outlets have estimated Zhang and his wife could be fined for 240 million yuan for breaching the rules, reported The Beijing News. “Why did the director give up his green card ten years ago? Why didn’t he immigrate? Why not have children in the US? If he did, none of this would have happened” the studio’s verified weibo asked. “We often asked ourselves the same thing”, it added, “He only says he himself is a Chinese [and] is happy to have his children be Chinese with no regrets,” it responded. Zhang applied for US permanent residency in 1999 so his daughter from an ex-wife could settle down and study there. Less than year after the application was approved, Zhang went to the embassy and relinquished his residency. American officials were shocked; they had never seen someone return a green card before, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. A native of Xi’an in the Shaanxi province, Zhang moved to Nanjing in Guangxi province after graduating from the Beijing Film Academy in 1982. He has never abandoned his Guangxi hukou (household registration).

[Wonder how the British back Hong Kong LEGCO members felt of British Prime Minister's advise 不知道英國支持的香港立法會議員覺得英國首相建議有何意見] South China Morning Post: 'Forget French, learn Chinese,' Forget French, it’s time to learn Putonghua, said David Cameron as he wrapped up a visit to China on Thurday, accompanied by six government ministers and the largest trade mission ever led by a British prime minister.David Cameron urges as he ends China trip (By Olivia Rosenman olivia.rosenman@scmp.com Twitter: @olivesophierose) David Cameron winds up his tour of China with a message for British school students. “Learning English is a key part of schooling for these Chinese 6-year-olds. More British children should learn Mandarin”, Cameron posted on Twitter and Facebook as he sat in the classroom of a Sichuan primary school. “By the time the children born today leave school, China is set to be the world’s largest economy. So it’s time to look beyond the traditional focus on French and German and get many more children learning Mandarin,” Cameron was quoted as saying. The British government has announced an expansion of the UK-China School Partnerships program, which will provide funding for study visits to China for 60 British head teachers and aims to double the number of Chinese learners in Britain to 400,000. The most common languages on offer in British secondary schools are currently French, Spanish and German. Only 9 per cent of 15-year-olds are competent in their first foreign language beyond a basic level, according to a recent European Commission study. A report by the British Council found that 1 per cent of the British adults surveyed were able to speak Putonghua well enough to hold a conversation. Speaking of the need for British to learn Chinese, Cameron quoted Nelson Mandela. “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language that goes to his heart”. Many took to social media to respond to Cameron’s comments. “I’d rather not learn Mandarin thank you very much!”, wrote Laura May on Facebook. Others were more enthusiastic, “Well said DC, what is the point of going down the route of our schoolchildren learning the usual languages like Spanish, French or German when these languages are losing their relevance on the world stage”, wrote David Yem. The French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault arrived in Beijing on Thursday, hours after Cameron’s departure. Cameron spent three days in China, making his debut on the country’s own Twitter-like social media platform, Weibo, by announcing his arrival in Chinese on Monday. He was unprepared for the deluge of comments and tough questions that ensued. Cameron met with Zhang Dejiang, China’s top legislator in Beijing on Monday. He later visited Shanghai where he spoke to mayor Yang Xiong to promote British exports and addressed students at Jiao Tong University, where he said he would welcome Chinese investment in Britain’s high-speed rail network. The business delegation that accompanied Cameron struck deals worth £5.6 billion (HK$71 billion) over the three days. The delegation comprised 120 large and small companies from a variety of sectors including luxury goods, the arts, the financial sector and medical product providers. Jaguar Land Rover secured a £4.5 billion export deal and a boutique food company that makes gluten, nut and dairy free sauces signed a deal worth up to £6 million. Britain made a commitment to sell China £45 million worth of pig semen every year, which will improve Chinese pigs’ genetics and boost local production. The trip was the British prime minster’s second visit to China since he took office in May 2010 having been delayed by diplomatic difficulties involving Tibet. 

 

We must work together, Biden tells Chinese leaders (By Kristine Kwok kristine.kwok@scmp.com) US vice-president meets Li Yuanchao and Li Keqiang as he wraps up visit on a friendly note [The Air Defense Identification Zone is airspace over land or water in which the ready identification, location, and control of civil aircraft over land or water is required in the interest of national security. China's Defence Ministry announced its ADIZ over a vast area in the East China Sea on November 23, 2013, which covers the area around the Diaoyu islands, controlled by Japan and known as the Senkaku Islands. The establishment of this zone drew strong opposition from Japan, the US and South Korea, becoming a flashpoint in East Asian politics and security.] US Vice-President Joe Biden wrapped up his mission to China yesterday with a clear message to leaders in Beijing: Our future depends on us working together and managing differences effectively. After 5-1/2 hours of intensive discussion with President Xi Jinping on Wednesday, Biden spent a leisurely day in Beijing, cracking jokes with his Chinese counterpart Li Yuanchao and Premier Li Keqiang. Despite the overwhelming media focus on China's newly created air defence identification zone, the topic did not appear to dominate Biden's discussions with Xi. However, Biden did raise the issue again in yesterday's talks with business leaders and the two top Chinese officials. Overall, he focused on the importance of the two countries building a new kind of relationship and learning how to work out their differences without compromising the greater strategic goals. "We have our differences and they are real. But there's nothing inevitable about a conflict with China. Nothing inevitable," Biden told the American Chamber of Commerce in Beijing. He said it was crucial for the two sides to establish a set of rules that provide for "mutual benefit and growth of both our countries and the region". "The only path to realising this vision for the future is through tangible, practical co-operation and managing our differences effectively. We've not tried this before," said the vice-president, who then repeated the message again for emphasis. "This is going to be difficult. But if we get it right, the outcome for our children and grandchildren can be profoundly positive," he said. Aside from the air defence zone, Biden also took up the cause of foreign journalists facing banishment from China for news coverage, publicly criticising Beijing's efforts to pressure reporters. But he stressed the importance of developing a "candid, personal and trustful" relationship with China's top leaders. Biden appeared at ease and was at his best in the meeting yesterday with the Chinese premier and vice-president. When introducing his entourage to Premier Li, Biden described assistant secretary of state Daniel Russel as "somebody who worked in Hollywood as he was wearing sunglasses indoors", and said National Security Council senior director Evan Medeiros was "with the NSA", bringing a smile to his host. When Li noted that the two countries will soon mark the 35th anniversary of their diplomatic ties, Biden replied that he remembered all those years. "I can only imagine the progress we can make in the next 35 years if we stay committed to a straightforward and candid relationship that we have developed … It is in our power to do that." Mainland media played up the "positive approach" of Biden's trip. "He fell short of publicly calling for China's immediate withdrawal of the air defence identification zone, which Japan had hoped [Biden] could mention. A discrepancy between Tokyo and Washington was spotted in their responses to the newly declared ADIZ over the East China Sea," Xinhua said in a news analysis. China News Services also pointed out how Biden did not let the issue spoil overall relations with China. "The two countries have more important issues at hand than the ADIZ," it quoted a mainland expert as saying.

 

Hong Kong*:  Dec 6 2013

South China Morning Post: Hong Kong and Singapore bourses agree to co-operate on yuan business (By Enoch Yiu and Jeanny Yu) Deal between former rivals expected to lead to new products and services on both exchanges. The Hong Kong and Singapore bourses, rivals for decades, have agreed to co-operate on yuan business. The partnership, coming after many years of fierce competition for new listings and products, surprised market observers. Singapore, along with other overseas markets, including London, Tokyo, Paris and Sydney, had previously sought to challenge Hong Kong's role as the leading offshore centre for dealing yuan. Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEx) chief executive Charles Li Xiaojia and Singapore Exchange (SGX) chief executive Magnus Boecker signed a memorandum of understanding in Singapore yesterday in which the two bourses agreed to co-operate in developing yuan products. They will also connect their data centres and work closely on technology and regulatory issues. Li said the agreement "allows us to build on Hong Kong's position as the premier offshore yuan centre by developing closer links with Singapore and helping regional investors deploy a growing pool of investable offshore yuan". Boecker said the collaboration, which would lead to additional products and services becoming available on both exchanges, was "yet another example of how the Asian gateway enables easier access to Chinese capital markets". "By including regulatory collaboration in this partnership, we are paving the way for Asian markets to have a more prominent and unified voice regarding global developments and regulatory reforms," he said. In terms of market capitalisation, Hong Kong ranks sixth in the world and Singapore 20th. Louis Tse Ming-kwong, director of VC Brokerage in Hong Kong, said: "It would be good for the HKEx to have SGX as a partner instead of a rival. They could work together on the yuan business as the currency is trading internationally. "Hong Kong has the mainland backup while Singapore is gateway to Southeast Asian countries. But whether the partnership will become a good marriage will depend on the details of their future products or other business relationships." Meanwhile, regulators on the mainland and in Hong Kong have laid out the framework for the impending launch of a long-waited mutual fund recognition scheme, which would allow international managers to sell fund products on the mainland and mainland funds to be sold in Hong Kong.

Debate begins as Carrie Lam launches consultation on electoral reform (By Gary Cheung, Tanna Chong and Johnny Tam) Government confident of reaching a consensus, but consultation paper dashes hopes of public nominating candidates for chief executive 政務司司長林鄭月娥在2013年12月4日到立法會會議發表聲明,啟動2017年普選­行政長官和2016年立法會選舉辦法公眾諮詢。她說:「就成功落實2017年普選行政­長官,特區政府抱有最大誠意和決心。」 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqXRP4CZBEA#t=13  The government sounded a positive note on the prospects of achieving consensus on universal suffrage in 2017 - but its consultation document on electoral reform effectively ruled out the pan-democrats' demand to let the public nominate candidates for chief executive. Kicking off the five-month consultation yesterday, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the government would issue "timely reminders" against any proposal that went against the Basic Law. Echoing comments by mainland officials in recent months, Lam said the requirement that the chief executive must be a patriot "speaks for itself". The government faces several hurdles as it plans for the 2017 chief executive election. The Legislative Council must vote by a two-thirds majority for the electoral reforms to be approved, so it must win the support of at least some pan-democrats. Beijing must approve the final proposal. "With concerted efforts by all of us, differences can be narrowed step by step and consensus forged bit by bit," Lam told lawmakers. Neither Lam nor the 57-page consultation document made any direct reference to the idea of public nomination. But in response to a question by Beijing-loyalist Tam Yiu-chung, Lam said proposals falling outside the Basic Law would "divert from the focus of the consultation and be a waste of time". Article 45 of the Basic Law puts the power to nominate candidates in the hands of a "broadly representative" nominating committee, acting "in accordance with democratic procedures". The consultation document, which also covers the 2016 Legco election, says any proposal that "bypasses the nomination procedures of the nominating committee" or undermines its power to nominate candidates might not conform to the Basic Law. An administration source said the government was willing to listen to all ideas, including public nomination. "But the public have to justify how those proposals can comply with the Basic Law," the source said. A poll released last night showed that 66 per cent of respondents favoured "public nomination" when asked late last month, up from 62 per cent a month earlier. The University of Hong Kong poll of about 1,000 people was conducted for the Alliance for True Democracy. Lam said the requirement that the leader "love the country and love Hong Kong" was not covered by the consultation because it was self-evident that the chief executive would meet this requirement. Pan-democrats fear it will be used to justify keeping critics of Beijing out of the race.

Asian-Americans outspend average US household, especially online, report shows (By Tiffany Ap tiffany.ap@scmp.com) The majority of Asian-Americans are immigrants from countries where US or international brands denote status or quality. The spending habits of the mainland Chinese consumer have been well dissected, as have the Chinese traveller’s buying preferences, but what about their peers who go abroad and stay there? Nielsen released on Wednesday the results of a study done on the consumption habits of Asian-Americans (who come from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, including Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Korean and Japanese). It found that Asian-American households outspend US households in general by an average of 19 per cent. They are also the No 1 demographic among online shoppers. Seventy-seven per cent of Asian-Americans had made an online purchase within the last year, as against 61 per cent of all Americans. Twelve per cent of Asian Americans spent US$2,500 or more a year on internet shopping, almost double the amount for the general population. It also turns out the long bandied about stereotype of the Asian-American housewife who drives her Mercedes-Benz to the discount store does have some truth to it. Asian-Americans were more likely to go for a deal. Thirty-three per cent of their total spending was on special promotions, compared with 27 per cent for other ethnic groups. That’s not to say Asian-Americans will sacrifice quality for price. They do their research beforehand – 78 per cent said they liked to shop around before making a purchase, and two-thirds said they were willing to pay a premium for quality. “When making big-ticket purchases, Asian-Americans are often willing to pay more, spending money where they think it counts the most,” the study said. Asian-Americans are nearly twice as likely to spend US$300 or more on a watch and 36 per cent more likely to spend US$400 and upwards on a piece of fine jewellery. Brand name was very important in this respect, since the majority of Asian-Americans are immigrants from countries where US or international brands denote status or quality. They tended to use the brand name as the top indicator of quality. Asian-American consumers were 29 per cent more likely to say they’d spend more for name brands when buying food, and 23 per cent when it came to drugs, even if a comparable generic was available. Asian-Americans’ willingness to spend can be linked to their higher disposable incomes. They have a higher median net worth (US$89,300) than the average US household (US$68,800). The income of Asian-American households soared 97 per cent from 2000 to this year. Not only are their incomes growing but the size of their population is shooting up, too. The influence of Asian-Americans is expanding far beyond the Chinatowns or Little Indias of the West Coast and New York City. Over the past decade, their numbers have jumped by at least 33 per cent in all states except for Hawaii, which already has a majority Asian-American presence. 

 China*:  Dec 6 2013

More than half of Americans dissatisfied with Obama's China policy: research (By Bryan Harris bryan.harris@scmp.com) [The Air Defense Identification Zone is airspace over land or water in which the ready identification, location, and control of civil aircraft over land or water is required in the interest of national security. China's Defence Ministry announced its ADIZ over a vast area in the East China Sea on November 23, 2013, which covers the area around the Diaoyu islands, controlled by Japan and known as the Senkaku Islands. The establishment of this zone drew strong opposition from Japan, the US and South Korea, becoming a flashpoint in East Asian politics and security.] More than half of Americans disapprove of US President Barack Obama’s handling of China, a new survey from the Pew Research Centre has shown. According to the findings released on Wednesday, about 52 per cent of Americans feel dissatisfied with how Obama is dealing with China, compared with 30 per cent who believe his policies are satisfactory. The figures come amid a period of heightened tension between the US and China following Beijing’s decision to create an Air Defence Identification Zone over large parts of the East China Sea. The waters have become a potential flashpoint in recent years as China and the US ally’s Japan vie for control over an archipelago of islets that are administered by Japan but claimed by China. US Vice-President Joe Biden is currently in Beijing in a bid to defuse tensions between the two East Asian nations. A Pew study in October found that China is increasingly seen as an emerging superpower. Between 2008 and this year, the number of Americans who view China as the world’s preeminent economic power has grown from 30 per cent to 48 per cent, the latest survey showed. However, most Americans (68 per cent) still recognise the US’s continued military dominance. Only 14 per cent of those polled believe that China has overtaken the US in terms of military strength. Similarly, the American public is far from unanimous on whether the rise of China presents a problem for the US. Of those polled, 28 per cent said China was not much of a problem, while 43 per cent said that China was a serious problem, but not an adversary. Just over one in five Americans view China as an adversary, the findings showed.

Xi and Biden silent on air defence zone after talks (By Kristine Kwok kristine.kwok@scmp.com) President Xi Jinping shakes hands with US Vice-President Joe Biden inside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. US Vice-President Joe Biden expressed his country's misgivings about China's air defence identification zone (ADIZ) in lengthy talks with President Xi Jinping in Beijing yesterday. A senior US official said: "The vice-president laid out our position in detail. He indicated that we don't recognise the zone, that we have deep concerns." He added that Biden told Xi that "we are looking to China to take steps to reduce tensions". "President Xi was equally clear in laying out their view of the zone and of territorial disputes in the region," the official said. "Ultimately, President Xi took on board what the vice-president said. It's up to China, and we'll see how things will unfold in the coming days and weeks." Xi called for closer co-operation and dialogue with America, while Biden said the bilateral relationship had to be built on trust. The declaration late last month of the zone over the East China Sea drew criticism from the US and China's Asian neighbours. It includes the airspace above disputed islands known as the Diaoyus in Chinese and the Senkakus in Japanese. A Xinhua report said Xi reiterated China's view on the zone. The other major topic of discussion was North Korea. "They talked at some length about what the Iran example means for North Korea," the US official said, citing the combination of pressure and unity of partners that helped bring about an interim nuclear deal last month limiting Iran's program. After the meeting, which was due to last 45 minutes but ran to two hours, Xi reiterated to Biden that China was ready to work with the US to build a new model of major-country relations and respect each other's core interests. Beijing has occasionally included sovereign issues over the South and East China seas as part of those core interests. Citing climate change and energy security, Xi said "the world as a whole is not tranquil". "To strengthen co-operation and dialogue is the only right choice facing both our countries," Xi said. In response, Biden said the new model of major country co-operation had to be built on trust and "a positive notion about the motives of one another". "As you have pointed out, Mr President, complex relationships require sustained high-level engagement and that's why I am here. This is a hugely consequential bilateral relationship that is going to play a significant part in affecting the course of the 21st century," Biden said. Washington has criticised Beijing for unilaterally establishing the air defence zone without prior consultation. It also said Chinese rules for the zone do not conform to international norms. Beijing insists it has the right to set up the zone, as a means of self-defence, in the way that neighbours including Japan and South Korea have already established such zones. In Tokyo on Tuesday, Biden sought to reassure Japan by publicly expressing concerns about the zone and stressing the importance of the US-Japan alliance for stability in the region. However, despite Japan's hope that the US would join its call for China to rescind the zone, Biden did not make any such demand. He urged both Tokyo and Beijing to have a crisis communication mechanism. Japanese leader Shinzo Abe also avoided making such a call in his joint appearance with Biden in Tokyo.

Hong Kong*:  Dec 5 2013

Hong Hong engineer's camera heads for the moon on board Chang'e-3 (By Ada Lee ada.lee@scmp.com) Local professor developed camera system that will take photos for mainland lunar program - Professor Yung Kai-leung with the Camera Pointing System he developed at PolyU. A Hong Kong professor will continue his work developing tools for China's lunar programme, after his latest creation was blasted into space on board the Chang'e-3 spacecraft on Monday - en route for the moon. A structure for holding and moving a camera on the Chang'e-3, which is due to land on the moon in 10 days' time, was developed by Professor Yung Kai-leung, associate head of industrial and system engineering at Polytechnic University. It is the first time an instrument developed and produced in Hong Kong has been used in China's lunar programme since its launch in 2007. Yung will now continue work on a rock-scooping device, with the aim of having it installed on China's unmanned Chang'e-5 rocket, which is due to land on the moon in 2017. Yung said his Camera Pointing System on Chang'e-3 was "the lightest of its kind" and cost less than those in spaceships developed by European countries and the United States. The structure, weighing 2.8kg, was installed in the upper part of the lander. It can move vertically within 120 degrees and rotate 340 degrees to capture images of the moon and the craft's rover Yutu. The tool will allow operators to gauge accurately where Yutu should go by providing photographs of the surrounding environment, Yung said. The system was made with aluminium, stainless steel and titanium, and the thickness and shape of each part was carefully calculated to minimise weight. "Every piece of work for the space mission is one of creativity. The shape of the system is peculiar. It's not like any other system," he said. The structure could withstand the extreme environment on the moon, where there is almost no air and temperatures range from 90 degrees Celsius to minus 180 degrees. It would only work during the day when there was sunlight to provide power, and the temperature can go from minus 70 to 80 degrees. Yung did not reveal the cost of developing the system but said it was cheaper than equivalent tools made in the United States and Europe. His next step will be further collaboration on the system for surface sampling for the final phase of the exploration. 

More than HK$40b to take Wing Hang Bank private, says source (By Kanis Li Kanis.li@scmp.com) Three parties are reported to be interested in the city's second-largest family-owned lender, which could go for about two times book value - The family of chairman and chief executive Patrick Fung Yuk-bun and Bank of New York together control 45 per cent of Wing Hang Bank. Wing Hang Bank's potential suitors may need to pay more than HK$40 billion to take the city's second-largest family-owned bank private. More than three parties were talking to Wing Hang, a person familiar with the situation said. Those who showed the most interest aimed at a full takeover, he said. The potential deal would echo China Merchants Bank's acquisition of Wing Lung Bank in 2007. The local bank was delisted after the sale. However, it would stand in contrast with Yue Xiu's offer to Chong Hing Bank last month. The Guangzhou city government's investment arm said it would make a partial offer and retain Chong Hing's listing. A reasonable price could be about two times book value, lower than the 2.08 times Yue Xiu was prepared to pay to acquire up to 75 per cent of Chong Hing's shares, the person said. "If the price to book could be higher than 2.08 times, then it would be a jackpot for Wing Hang," he said. "But a price lower than that would be more likely." Assuming the final price is set at two times book value, the successful suitor would have to pay HK$40.8 billion for Wing Hang's 307.4 million shares. The bank's shares closed at HK$113.60 yesterday, 1.7 times book value. Barclays maintained its rating of Wing Hang at "equal weight" and the price target at HK$126. "We believe the market has priced in the likelihood of the discussions with potential bidders coming to fruition," Barclays' Sharnie Wong wrote in a report. The family of chairman and chief executive Patrick Fung Yuk-bun and Bank of New York Mellon, which together control 45 per cent of Wing Hang, first announced in September they had entered into discussions with third parties to sell their stake. The Agricultural Bank of China, China Minsheng Bank, Singapore's United Overseas Bank and Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp are rumoured to be potential suitors. Beijing-based Anbang Insurance and Canada's Bank of Nova Scotia were also considering a bid, Bloomberg reported. "Chinese banks and those in the region would see strategic value in a meaningful presence in Hong Kong," said Grace Wu, an analyst at Daiwa Capital Markets. "The city is an important financial centre in offshore yuan business." While robust growth in Wing Lung and ICBC (Asia) was reported after mainland banks acquired them, less significant growth occurred at CCB (Asia), which was smaller in its branch network and asset size. Wu said: "That was a strong reason [for the suitors] to bid for a Hong Kong bank with a meaningful scale to make the synergy in cross-sale and cross-border business more effective."

 China*:  Dec 5 2013

Yuan swiftly overtaking euro in trade (By Wu Yiyao in Shanghai) Opening up of financial sector and internationalization buoying use - .China's yuan has surpassed the euro to become the world's second-most widely used currency in global trade finance, according to data released by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. Analysts said the opening up of China's financial sector and the broader internationalization of the yuan has increased the use of the currency. The yuan captured an 8.66 percent share of letters of credit and collections in October, while the euro's was 6.64 percent, Belgium-based financial-messaging platform SWIFT said in a statement. The yuan's presence in global trade finance has grown significantly in the past two years. In January 2012, the yuan's share of global trade finance was only 1.89 percent to the euro's 7.87 percent, according to SWIFT data. The Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, Singapore, Germany and Australia were the top users of yuan in trade finance, SWIFT said. "The renminbi is clearly a top currency for trade finance globally and even more so in Asia," according to Franck de Praetere, SWIFT's Singapore-based head of payments and trade markets for Asia Pacific. Hong Kong is the largest yuan deposits pool outside the Chinese mainland with a record 782 billion yuan ($128 billion) in October. The People's Bank of China, the central bank, announced agreements earlier this year to start direct currency trading between the yuan and the British pound, as well as the Singapore dollar. The payment value of the yuan also has been rising. Daily yuan transactions jumped from $34 billion in 2010 to $120 billion in April 2013, making it the ninth most-traded currency in the global market system, according to a September report by the Basel, Switzerland-based Bank for International Settlements. China recently concluded a currency swap deal with the European Central Bank. Driving the deal short-term was the relaxation of personal yuan conversions, said a note from DBS Bank (Hong Kong) Ltd. The yuan has been seeing a greater role in global trade and investment, said analysts. "The relaxation or removal of the 20,000-yuan daily cap on personal renminbi conversion could alter the picture in 2014," said Chris Leung, DBS Bank (Hong Kong) Ltd's executive director and senior economist for group research. "Personal yuan wealth management products would flourish initially, and corporate usage of the yuan would gradually pick up as the size of the yuan pool in Hong Kong increases and yuan product innovation advances," he said. In the past quarter, some 40 percent of companies in Hong Kong surveyed by DBS said they expect yuan trade settlement to reach 30 percent of their total trade settlement within five years. Authorities have loosened controls on exchange rates and borrowing costs, said Yi Gang, deputy governor of the central bank at a recent conference. On Monday, the central bank released guidelines for financial support for the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone, which said that institutions in the FTZ may borrow funds from overseas. Banks in Shanghai can conduct yuan cross-border settlements for current accounts and direct investment businesses. "We think the guideline reflects the central bank's long-held strategy of pushing for financial reforms whenever and wherever possible, and to force reforms on the domestic financial sector through opening up," said Jian Chang, an analyst with Barclays Research in a recent note. "It also highlights the continued commitment of the central bank to push for financial liberalization, particularly yuan convertibility under the capital account, as well as interest rate liberalization." The yuan has appreciated 2.3 percent against the dollar in 2013, the best-performing currency in Asia, according to Bloomberg.

[Try to compare this story with Jimmy Kimmel of Walt Disney / ABC TV "Killing Everyone in China" & "Whether to let Chinese live"] - Bob Dylan charged with incitement to hatred over comment about Croats (By Agence France-Presse in Paris) Singer accused by Paris police of incitementto hatred over interview with Rolling Stone - Bob Dylan has been charged with incitement to hatred in France after he was quoted comparing Croats with Nazis in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine. The American singer was questioned and charged last month while on a visit to Paris, during which he gave several concerts and was awarded the Legion d'Honneur, one of France's top honours. The charge centres on an interview last year with Rolling Stone when he compared the relationship between Croats and Serbs to that of the Nazis and Jews. "This country is just too f***ed up about colour … People at each other's throats just because they are of a different colour," Dylan said, discussing race relations in the United States. "Blacks know that some whites didn't want to give up slavery - that if they had their way, they would still be under the yoke, and they can't pretend they don't know that. "If you got a slave master or Klan in your blood, blacks can sense that. That stuff lingers to this day. Just like Jews can sense Nazi blood and the Serbs can sense Croatian blood." The charge came after the Council of Croats in France filed a complaint about the comments. French media law bars incitement to "discrimination, hatred or violence with regard to a person or group of people on the grounds of their origin or of their membership or non-membership of an ethnic group, a nation, a race, or a religion". Dylan, 72, is well loved in France. He picked up the Legion d'Honneur on the recommendation of Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti, who suggested that "the man [Barack] Obama himself calls the greatest American musician in history" should be decorated. The award can be granted to any foreigner seen as having served France's interests or upheld its values. Croatia and Serbia fought after the break-up of Yugoslavia in a 1991-1995 war that left about 20,000 people dead. Croatians are highly sensitive when mentioned in a Nazi-related context. Their previous stab at statehood came during the second world war with the so-called Independent State of Croatia. The Nazi-allied Ustasha regime killed hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Jews, Roma and anti-fascist Croatians in their death camps. The most notorious was Jasenovac, known as Croatia's Auschwitz. To this day, the number of people killed in Jasenovac - mostly Serbs - is contentious. Estimates vary from 80,000 according to the Croatian government to 700,000 according to Serbian figures. Dylan, who played back-to-back concerts in Serbia and Croatia in 2010, rose to prominence in the 1960s partly for his support of the US civil rights movement.

South China Morning Post: David Cameron's charm offensive fails to win over Chinese media (By Daniel Ren ren.wei@scmp.com) The British prime minister meets Shanghai Mayor Yang Xiong. He is leading a 100-strong business delegation. British Prime Minister David Cameron (right) walks with Zhang Jie, President of Shanghai Jiao Tong University after arriving on the campus for a speech to the students on Tuesday. As British Prime Minister David Cameron launched a charm offensive at Shanghai Jiao Tong University yesterday, a state-owned newspaper derided the United Kingdom as merely a destination for Chinese students and tourists. During the 40-minute meeting with students from the alma mater of former president Jiang Zemin , a relaxed Cameron took questions from the floor. The approach paid off. "He exhibited humour, confidence and clarity of thought," said Zhang Yang, a student at Jiao Tong. "We enjoyed the open atmosphere and his style of talk." When Cameron revealed that his old tutor at Oxford University, Vernon Bogdanor, criticised his work via e-mails even 25 years after he had left the university, the 300-odd students burst into laughter. Cameron is leading a 100-strong business delegation to China to encourage investment and he has posted pictures of his meeting with top businessmen, including Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, on his Facebook page. A Global Times commentary described the UK as just "an old European country" that is only a destination for Chinese people to study and travel. It said the UK was "not a big power in the eyes of the Chinese". It was headlined: "China won't fall for Cameron's 'sincerity'." Beijing was outraged when Cameron met the Dalai Lama last year. "Beijing needs to speed up the pace of turning its strength into diplomatic resources and make London pay the price for when it intrudes into the interests of China," the article said. Cameron said he had told President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang that Britain was an open market for China's high-speed-railway builders. "We think we have a lot to learn from China in this regard," he said. "My government has taken a very clear view that the countries that will succeed in the future are the countries with the most modern infrastructure." In an apparent effort to strike a chord with his young audience, Cameron used a Chinese proverb - "one generation plants good trees and the next generation can enjoy the shade of them". Asked to comment on the central government, Cameron said the leadership had to give priority to the "many" low-income people to enable them to benefit from economic growth. Meanwhile, Beijing denied it had sought to target the Bloomberg news organisation by barring its reporter Robert Hutton from a joint event with Cameron and Li on Monday. Cameron's office said that before the event, it had "raised concerns at senior levels and made clear it would be completely inappropriate to exclude journalists from the press statements". Bloomberg's website has been blocked on the mainland since it reported last year on the wealth of Xi's family. Foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said: "We try our best to satisfy the needs of other journalists, because the site is limited there, and the arrangements we made in accordance with such requirements were no different from before."

Hong Kong*:  Dec 4 2013

Future of Hong Kong’s fishermen in doubt as industry declines (By Agence France-Presse in Hong Kong) An elderly woman slicing fish with a cleaver at Aberdeen Wholesale Fish Market in Hong Kong. He comes from a proud line of fishermen, but 23-year-old Ng Ka-Ho is unsure of his future nearly one year after a ban on trawling in Hong Kong hastened the local industry’s decline. Standing on the deck of one of his father’s two ageing boats moored among picturesque houses on stilts in the fishing village of Tai O, he says Hong Kong should appreciate men like his father. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ux2fSczXGtI  “But I will not choose to be a fisherman,” he added. “It will be a waste that I cannot apply my knowledge in my future career.” Hong Kong was once home to vibrant fishing communities that helped shape its culture and cuisine. But before the January ban, the industry had long been in decline following the city’s economic transformation in the post-war era that saw it become a centre for manufacturing and later international finance. Peaking at roughly 10,000 boats in the 1960s, today there are fewer than 4,000 as fish stocks declined rapidly in the 1980s. The government ban on the use of trawlers within Hong Kong waters in response to the declining number of fish was welcomed by wildlife groups, but has left some fighting for their livelihoods. “It’s basically not possible to carry on fishing, especially after the suspension of trawling,” Ng Kwok-Kit, 53, said. Forced to ply his trade 20 nautical miles beyond Hong Kong waters, Ng says he cannot fish as often, his yield is lower and his income has dropped by a third. He says he was inadequately compensated for his loss of earnings. “Hong Kong has been known as a fishing centre since its port was opened for trade, but now the government is not paying much attention to the fishermen,” adds Ng, who was given HK$150,000 in a one-off payment -- roughly a tenth of his yearly revenue prior to the ban. “In places like Taiwan, fishermen receive subsidies from the government but there is nothing like that in Hong Kong,” he says. ‘It was a dangerous life’ - Sometimes known by the name “Tanka”, Hong Kong’s fishing communities traditionally remained on board their boats with their families. Those that remain today populate coastal villages in further-flung corners of the territory. Speaking a dialect of Cantonese, the Tanka people were historically stigmatised by Chinese society. “They lived separately for many years. The people on the land refused to marry their daughters to them. There was a cultural and social separation,” says Professor Liu Tik-Sang of The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, who himself grew up in a fishing community. The older generation still recall tales of childhood bullying and condescension at the hands of non-fisherfolk. Many have given up their former vocation, with some happy that that era is over as they shift to tourism-related jobs. Chow Shing, a tour guide in his fifties who takes tourists to see dolphins in the area, says he was a fisherman for over 30 years, moving to a home on land when he was in his twenties. “There wasn’t much fish left in the waters so I chose to work as a boat driver. “I missed the days as a fisherman when I quit, but now I am fine with it.” Others agree that their lives have become easier. Like many of her generation, one 80-year-old woman calling herself Cheung lived with her husband and family on board their fishing boat, coming ashore only to sell salted fish, a signature Hong Kong delicacy. “It was a really hard life before. We would go out fishing at sea and it was a dangerous life,” said Cheung. “We do not miss that.” “Before I die, I want more people to know” Today Hong Kong gets the bulk of its supply from Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the territory imports 85 per cent of seafood consumed there, including popular species such as the Tiger Grouper and Leopard Coral Trout commonly found in the city’s wet markets. Others are determined that the legacy of Hong Kong’s earliest primary industry remains. Ming Cheng-Wah, who was a fisherman until 2004, now helps run a floating fishing village where tourists can try their hand at traditional fishing. The 55-year-old’s boat was home to him and a family of 12 people spanning three generations until 1980. “It is very important to preserve what we have. “Normal people and the government do not pay much attention to what fishermen contributed to the Hong Kong story. Before I die I want more people to know about this.” Last year, fishing contributed less than HK$1.9 billion to Hong Kong’s GDP of HK$1.89 trillion and for many there is no doubt that the local industry is in decline. Professor Liu is critical of the manner in which fishermen have been “bought out” with one-off payments, saying such a system can lead to alienation. Helping fishermen to continue fishing will contribute not only to societal diversity, but could also give the city an economic fallback should conditions ever change, Liu argues. “A good, healthy society should have a diverse culture. So we have to help people keep their traditions. “Hong Kong is a financial centre now, but we don’t know what will happen in the future.”

Wharf's equity stake in Greentown a model for Hong Kong developers wanting to expand on mainland (By Langi Chiang langi.chiang@scmp.com) Wharf chairman Peter Woo engineered a strategic equity partnership with Greentown China last year. For Hong Kong developers seeking to speed up their forays into the mainland market, Wharf (Holdings) offers a good case study in its equity tie-up with Greentown China, industry analysts said. Some investors based in the city, led by Asia’s richest man, Li Ka-shing, have been divesting from the mainland property market as they see rising risks from record-high home prices there, while others are still betting on opportunities from the country’s push for further urbanisation, involving hundreds of millions of people. Hong Kong developers were among the first big players in the mainland real estate market. However, they have lagged far behind their mainland-based peers in recent years, as they struggled to cope with the constantly changing policy environment. “The way in which Hong Kong developers expand on the mainland market is now changing,” said Edison Bian, a property analyst with CCB International in Hong Kong. “A classic example is the partnership between Wharf and Greentown. It’s very successful.” In his view, project-based co-operation between Hong Kong and mainland developers has not been very successful. Firms from the city have often missed the best timing to snap up land parcels during short-lived market downturns in recent years, he said. Wharf bought into Greentown last year as a strategic investor when the Chinese developer of high-end homes was on the brink of bankruptcy, caught by government policy tightening after its aggressive expansion in the previous few years. Wharf now holds a 24.4 per cent equity stake in Greentown and perpetual subordinated convertible securities worth about HK$5.3 billion, according to its interim report. “With such a strategic alliance, while Greentown could leverage on Wharf’s strength in financial discipline, Wharf could bank on Greentown’s expertise and long-term commitment to excellent quality to strengthen its China team and product quality,” the report said. The equity partnership took Wharf to 40 cities around China, particularly in the prosperous Yangtze River Delta, where Greentown is headquartered and has a strong presence. It also brought attributable contracted sales of 15.3 billion yuan (HK$19.3 billion) in the first half of this year, exceeding Wharf’s own sales proceeds on the mainland of 10.9 billion yuan during the same period. The majority of Hong Kong developers are still extending their footprint on the mainland by undertaking projects on their own or in partnership with a local firm, actively getting involved in the entire development cycle, from land acquisition to design and construction works. “Both approaches have their merits, in terms of building the company’s experience and knowledge of the mainland market, and quickly gaining market exposure,” said a spokesman from The Link, which manages a real estate investment trust in the city. Burned in China’s property boom-bust in the early 1990s, Hong Kong developers have been prudent and steady in widening their footprint in the mainland’s housing market, although they have always been leaders in the management of retail properties. They still focus on the quality rather than the quantity of homes sold, and it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to find the right person on the ground, as talent is in short supply, while the market explodes, analysts said. Meanwhile, their mainland peers have been mass-producing homes to cash in on strong demand from newly rich families, keeping their pace in tune with market ups and downs alongside the Chinese authorities’ efforts to rein in housing inflation. Some mainland developers can shorten their construction cycle to between six and nine months, while it takes much longer, often two years or more, for Hong Kong firms to start selling a residential project after they buy the land, stoking accusations from the media that they are hoarding land for capital gains. For example, China Vanke, the country’s largest homebuilder by sales, sold 13 million square metres of properties last year, up from 2.3 million square metres in 2005. Over the same period, the sales volume of New World Development on the mainland barely changed, to 780,379 square metres from 754,474 square metres. “This is why they need to change from project co-operation to equity and financial partnership. This is a very wise move,” Bian said. 

 China*:  Dec 4 2013

China ratings firm Dagong in US downgrade warning (By Reuters in Beijing) The United States may see further sovereign rating downgrades if it fails to improve its debt-service capability, although a near-term cut looks unlikely, the head of mainland credit-rating firm Dagong said. Beijing-based Dagong Global Credit Rating grabbed the media spotlight in October when it cut its US rating by one notch to A-minus from A, despite a deal in Congress to raise the federal government's borrowing ceiling. "Our rating could be effective for some time. We won't cut the rating at will," Guan Jianzhong, chairman of Dagong, said. "We are very worried about the US economy. The federal government hasn't unveiled any strategic measures to fundamentally resolve the [debt] problem." Guan did not say how far the US rating could be cut, but did cite an earlier prediction by an unnamed American analyst that Dagong could slash the rating to B by 2020. "We don't hope this will happen," he said. "But I think the trend of rating cuts does exist if the US debt level continues to rise and its economic fundamentals don't improve." The Obama administration may be able to raise the debt ceiling again in February, but Washington must find ways to revive growth in the world's largest economy and boost fiscal revenues to fundamentally shore up its debt-service capacity, he said. Dagong sparked controversy in July 2010 when it commenced its sovereign rating research by giving the US a rating of AA for local and foreign currency debt - lower than the mainland's AA+ for yuan debt and AAA for its foreign currency debt, which have remained unchanged. It downgraded the US rating on concerns over quantitative easing in November 2010, and cut again in August 2011. Dagong's ratings are barely watched outside the mainland, and major international credit agencies classify most countries very differently. In a rare move earlier this year, Dagong downgraded bonds issued by three financing vehicles wholly owned by cities in the provinces of Jilin, Hubei and Jiangxi. "That was a warning sign on local debt," he said. "Their debt payment ability declined and we saw no sign of any quick recovery," Guan said Dagong had paid a price for breaking ranks with local rivals, losing some clients in a highly competitive market. Most local financing firms are set up by local governments to borrow funds to finance investment projects. Domestic corporate debt defaults are rare with banks or the government stepping in to cover potential losses if a firm gets into trouble. Guan said the chances of debt defaults by mainland provinces and cities remain slim because Beijing may bail them out, despite growing market fears that slower economic growth could push some to the brink. "A default could be disastrous," he said. "Other local governments may help and the central government will not allow it to default."

South China Morning Post: Patriotic post calling for Chinese to be on guard against 'Western anti-China powers' goes viral (By Zhang Hong hong.zhang@scmp.com) Posting praised by Chinese state-owned media - A Jian-10 fighter jet of China Air Force flying at Yangcun Air Force base on the outskirts of Tianjin municipality. The patriotic post went viral as China's new Air Defense Identification Zone sparked protests from neighboring countries. 

http://news.sina.com.cn/c/2013-12-03/080028873379.shtml 

《沒有了祖國你將什麼都不是》 網上熱傳

近期,一篇題為《沒有了祖國你將什麼都不是》的帖文在互聯網上廣為傳播,文中一些觀點引發網民支持和共鳴。

文章說,任何時期的社會動盪最受傷害的就是老百姓,主動維護國家主權和領土完整,才是每個公民要形成的共識!

文章說,人總是在失去的時候才猛然醒悟我們原來的生活是如此美好!可是世上沒有後悔藥,當我們知道後悔的時候一切已經離我們遠去。只有祖國才是我們的依靠,只有祖國強大穩定才是我們老百姓幸福自由的前提!

文章說,曾經苦難深重的舊中國給我們的警示教育太多了:不買西方列強的鴉片他們就八國聯軍燒北京;強盜貿易把我們變成東亞病夫還要勒緊腰帶賠償他們真金白銀;占我山東不給就甲午炮轟我北洋水師;搶我東北攻我北京直到南京屠我同胞三十萬。天理何在!真情哪有!不就是我們窮了嗎?弱了嗎?不團結嗎?自古弱肉強食,沒有國就別想有家!

文章說,我們擁護習近平主席,因為我們很多人經歷過自然災害,經歷過十年浩劫,經歷過上山下鄉,經歷過改革開放。因為我們這代人親眼目睹、親身經歷了從一窮二白走向繁榮發展的幾十年變革,都深知只有共產黨才能統一和領導這麼大的國家。

文章認為,中國一旦失去共產黨的領導,將會天下大亂。中國要亂了,那就是
13億中國人的災難。目前中國60歲以上的老人有1.8億。這1.8億的老人,絕大部分會鄭重地告誡自己的子女,不能給國家添亂。因為他們比誰都明白,沒有國就沒有家,有天大的意見,有天大的恩怨,無論如何國家不能亂!

文章說,我們相信習近平主席,是因為他對中國國情的了解和豐富的從政經歷、經驗。他一步一個台階地從最基層走過來。他對中國的民情、國情、地方、中央完全了解。習的智慧魄力、膽略卓識,堅韌穩健、柔裡含剛的能力作風,對穩定大局是心中有數、胸有成竹的。

文章說,我們支持習近平主席,是因為他有
打鐵首先自身硬的底氣,有敢打大老虎的膽略和謀略。改變目前中國的現狀,首先必須得從黨內抓起,從高層抓起。這個道理誰都知道,關鍵是敢不敢碰硬。只有敢碰硬,敢碰大的利益集團,才能起到殺一儆百作用,才能獲得人心,才能取信於民,才能國泰民安。

文章說,中
​​國兩個字目前給西方的認識只是大而不強,所以我們不能還沒強大而自亂。抬起頭來,好好愛我們的國家吧!永遠記住,國家好,民族好,大家才好!

  
短評

  倍加珍惜和諧穩定的發展局面

《沒有了祖國你將什麼都不是》的帖文引發網民共鳴,說明了一個淺顯的道理:承受過苦難的人民,最珍惜和諧安寧的生活;經歷過內亂的國家,最懂得團結穩定的可貴。

  有比較才有鑑別。經歷過近代百年內憂外患,中國共產黨領導人民建立新中國,並開闢了中國特色社會主義道路。這是歷史的必然選擇,是全國人民的共同意志。撫今追昔,飲水思源,中國人民堅信,只有社會主義才能救中國,只有中國特色社會主義才能發展中國。

毋庸諱言,當今中國並不完美,還有不少問題,發展不協調、分配不公平等現象仍然比較突出。但靜下心來想想,大到一個國家,小到一個集體,什麼時候沒有問題?不承認問題,不是實事求是的態度;因為存在問題就全面否定現實,同樣不是實事求是的態度。

可喜的是,新一屆中央領導集體上任一年來勵精圖治、深化改革、改進作風、嚴懲腐敗的治國理政新氣象證明,我們黨有決心、有能力純潔黨的肌體、加強黨的建設,帶領中國朝著富強民主文明和諧的社會主義現代化國家前進。

黨的十八屆三中全會作出的全面深化改革若干重大問題的決定贏得了海內外輿論的一致稱讚,中國未來發展的美好藍圖已經展開。只要大家心往一處想、勁往一處使,集思廣益、自強不息,就一定能夠解決矛盾和問題,創造更加美好的生活。

中國今天的發展成就來之不易,未來的發展道路也不會一帆風順。堅持中國共產黨的領導,堅定道路自信、理論自信、制度自信,中華民族偉大復興的中國夢一定能夠變成美好現實。

An emotive nationalist post titled You are nobody without the motherland has gone viral online as major Chinese state-owned media hailed the message as a spontaneous expression of patriotism. The anonymous post appeared online in mid-November and has since been reposted by hundreds of Chinese websites and widely tweeted on Weibo. The post called on every Chinese person to be on the alert for “Western anti-China powers”, which “could take advantage of social instability to harm Chinese people”. “Proactively safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity must become the consensus of every citizen,” said the post. The post went viral at a sensitive time as China’s newly declared Air Defence Identification Zone over the South China Sea has sparked protests from Japan and South Korea. The US, as an ally of Japan, has also expressed concerns. The post criticised the US as “an initiator of plots” to overthrow the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and “create internal chaos” in China. “China became the biggest threat to the US after a collapse of the former Soviet Union. Their plots have long been known to all,” said the post. “China would be in chaos if it lost the leadership of the CCP and this would be a catastrophe for the 1.3 billion Chinese people,” warned the post. The post also praised the wisdom and capability of President Xi Jinping. “Though he has the blood of a princeling… he has the courage and know-how to capture ‘big tigers’,” said the post. Big tigers refer to corrupt high-ranking officials. In a rare move, flagship state-owned media lined up to hail the post. Xinhua, the PLA Daily and the Guangming Daily have run related commentaries on the post. “The post has been widely circulated online and some opinions in the articles have won support and sympathy from netizens,” said Xinhua. Commenting on the post, the PLA Daily said that the biggest patriotism of a solider is to “fight and win battles”. Guangming Daily said the online complaints and critics of government and officials were “disturbing noises” and patriotism should become the “deepest emotion” running through every Chinese person. However, some netizens questioned the post. “Why do we need a state, if there’s no happiness and freedom?” asked Ren Zhiqiang, a real estate tycoon on his weibo account.

Hong Kong*:  Dec 3 2013

Commerce minister Greg So hits back in row over TV licences (By Vivienne Chow and Johnny Tam) After criticism from consultancy, Greg So denies accusation that the firm's report was misquoted to justify rejection of HKTV's application - Louie King-bun, ATV's new executive director, said the station would focus on non-drama and current affairs shows. The row over free-television licences continued yesterday as the commerce minister rejected a consultancy's allegations that the government misquoted its report to justify rejecting Hong Kong Television Network's (HKTV) application. Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Greg So Kam-leung said the administration regretted the claims made by Value Partners two weeks ago. The firm's managing partner Jenny Ng Pui-ying accused the government on November 18 of changing its policy arbitrarily, from having no licence cap to choosing two out of three applications without consultation. She alleged it had quoted out of context her firm's report on the competitive landscape of the free-television market. So fended off Ng's criticism yesterday. "The consultant has openly expressed some personal views on the Executive Council's decision [to reject HKTV's bid]. It has confused the public," he told the Legislative Council's panel on information technology and broadcasting. "I have to clarify ... the government has never asked the consultant to comment on the gradual and orderly approach of introducing competition or whether the three applications should be approved. Nor has [it] claimed the decision was based on the consultant's recommendation. Disclosing related details of discussions before getting the consensus of its client neglects the fundamental conduct of being a consultant … We very much regret that the consultant has chosen to be involved in the political discussion." Democratic Party lawmaker Emily Lau Wai-hing responded: "Are you saying that if [firms] want to win government ventures, they have to say what the government wants to hear?" Ng could not be reached for comment. Value Partners submitted four reports before So revealed on October 15 that licences would go to iCable's Fantastic Television and PCCW's HK Entertainment Network. Meanwhile, ATV said it did not see obstacles to renewing its licence, due to expire on November 30, 2015, despite prolonged deficits, repeated heavy penalties, alleged mismanagement and shareholder disputes. New executive director Louie King-bun pledged to invest no less than HK$2.3 billion - which ATV had promised for the period of 2009-15, the second half of its 12-year licence term. Louie said ATV would focus on non-drama and current affairs shows in the lead-up to the chief executive election in 2017. "The golden era of Hong Kong dramas has long gone," he said. "Just like some people have said, perhaps Ricky Wong Wai-kay [of HKTV] was lucky he did not get the licence." HKTV focuses on drama productions.

International Jockeys' Championship draw again favours visiting riders (By Alan Aitken alan.aitken@scmp.com) Local hoops once again left hopeful rather than optimistic after pairings are made for popular showdown - Jockey Club chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges calls the shots on Monday at the IJC draw. The home-town drought looks set to continue in the Longines International Jockeys' Championship at Happy Valley on Wednesday after Douglas Whyte, Zac Purton and Keith Yeung Ming-lun drew a grab bag of the good, the bad and the downright ugly. Purton and Yeung, the only combatants on hand at yesterday's draw for mounts, emerged hopeful rather than optimistic despite Jockey Club oddsmakers placing Purton in the top five chances. As ever, the IJC is a Rubik's cube with a huge number of permutations, but consensus was that the leading contenders might prove to be Ryan Moore, a dual winner, Britain's champion rider Richard Hughes, who comes off wins in similar competitions in Japan and South Africa, Japan's Suguru Hamanaka and Italy's Mirco Demuro. The Jockey Challenge opening odds last night posted Demuro and Moore as equal 6.0 favourites, ahead of Whyte at 7.0, Hamanaka at 7.5 and Purton at 8.0. Hamanaka has good rides on Winning Mascot, Twin Turbo, Bundle Of Joy and a potential surprise packet in the final leg with Ride With The Wind, and has good barrier draws with all four. Purton was narrowly tipped off by Joao Moreira in the final leg last year when Purton looked to have the right collection of rides to become the first locally based winner of the four-race series since Douglas Whyte in 2008. "I probably had a better book of rides last year and couldn't get it done, but what's on paper is not always everything in racing. It's great to be part of it and ride against some legends of the game," said Purton. "It's a bit of a mixed bag. He's in an open race, but I have a nice ride in the last leg with Majestic Anthem for Tony Cruz, so I should finish well. I just need to do a bit on the early ones and get some points to put me in a position to make that last one count. It looks tough." Purton rides Safari Magic (first leg), Ho Wongchoy (second leg) and another for Cruz, Rocket Let Win (third leg) before Majestic Anthems. Whyte fared slightly better, with hopes on Heart Wood and Speedy Sandy, but lesser mounts on Plain Red Banner and Super Plus. The chase for the HK$500,000 first prize is decided by points in each leg, with 12 for a win, six for second and four for third. Whyte's three IJC victories are the only home wins in its 15 editions. Yeung, making his debut in the contest, probably fared worse than Purton or Whyte as only one of his four mounts will begin from inside stall six. "I'm not sure if I can win it, but it is really exciting to be riding against the best jockeys in the world," he said. Last year, Peter Ho Leung dominated, training three of the four winning horses. He laughed on the night that he targeted the IJC as the races carried extra stake money, but also observed it was a pleasure to know he was always getting a world-class rider and Richard Gibson echoed those thoughts after Monday's ballot. "I've got Christophe Soumillon for two of mine and Ryan Moore on the other - I have no complaints at all," he said. American legend Gary Stevens, 50, returns to the IJC for the first time since 2001, when his last ride in Hong Kong, Indubitably Bliss, was nosed out on the line, and he has drawn a good ride in the final leg again in Dual Happy.

 China*:  Dec 3 2013

South China Morning Post - British Prime Minister David Cameron backs China to 'realise its dream' (By Adrian Wan in Beijing adrian.wan@scmp.com) As British prime minister agrees wide-ranging business deals in Beijing, he says two countries can 'help each other succeed in the global race' - David Cameron and Li Keqiang have a private word as they arrive for a deal-signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People. David Cameron's car passes the portrait of Mao Zedong in Tiananmen Square. Premier Li Keqiang and British Prime Minister David Cameron oversaw the signing of business deals yesterday ranging from high-speed rail projects to nuclear power, while leaving contentious human rights issues on the sidelines. Cameron's second visit to Beijing - accompanied by Britain's largest ever business delegation to China, with 130 members - marked the full reconciliation of Sino-British ties after Cameron's controversial meeting with the Dalai Lama last year. In a meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, President Xi Jinping told Cameron he hoped the two countries would "transcend differences in their conditions, institutions and values" and deepen mutual understanding. Xinhua quoted Xi as saying: "[Both sides] should take into account each other's major concerns and core interests, enhance mutual trust and chart the future of relations." Xi also said he hoped London would be more open to economic co-operation. Cameron was quoted as saying that Britain held its relationship with China in high regard and would increase dialogue on the basis of mutual respect. After the meeting, Li said Britain and China had become "indispensible partners for each other's development". He compared Sino-British relations to a high-speed train that can "move forward along the track and constantly increase its speed". Cameron said: "I see China's rise as an opportunity, not just for the people of this country, but for Britain and the world. Britain wants China to realise its dream and I believe we can help each other succeed in the global race." Xinhua reported that both sides agreed to promote each other's companies to seek breakthroughs in high-speed rail and nuclear power co-operation. Britain said it would streamline processes for Chinese citizens to enter Britain for business and tourism purposes. Both sides also signed agreements on investment, finance, legal affairs, culture and health care co-operation. Cameron told Li he would call on the European Union to negotiate a free trade deal with China. He said he believed the EU deal could be worth "tens of billions" of pounds a year. Steve Tsang, director of the China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham, noted that Cameron had so far avoided contentious issues - including human rights and political reforms - and that the visit had been "purely about economic interests". He added: "Cameron said a lot of things to create a good atmosphere … people can argue whether such business deals are good for the UK, but what the UK can actually do for China in Europe is limited." Reuters reported that a senior source in Cameron's office said before the trip that Britain had turned the page on a rift with China over Tibet, and that Cameron had no plans to meet the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader.

China's rise 'an opportunity' for UK - Britain vows to be China's strongest advocate in the West (By By Li Xiaokun in Beijing and Zhang Chunyan in London) Premier Li Keqiang and British Prime Minister David Cameron chat at a signing ceremony in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Monday. They agreed to push companies for breakthroughs in high-speed railway and nuclear power cooperation. British Prime Minister David Cameron hailed China's transformation as "one of the defining facts of our lifetime". Setting no limit on Chinese investment in Britain, he vowed to champion the free trade area agreement between China and the European Union and declared that Britain will act as China's strongest advocate in the West. "China's transformation is one of the defining facts of our lifetime. ... I see China's rise as an opportunity, not just for the people of this country but for Britain and the world," Cameron said at a news conference with Premier Li Keqiang after talks at the Great Hall of the People. President Xi Jinping and top legislator Zhang Dejiang also met with Cameron on Monday. Li held a welcoming banquet in Cameron's honor at the Great Hall of the People at noon, while Xi hosted a reception dinner at the Diaoyutai State Guest House. Li and Cameron witnessed the signing of 10 agreements on areas from space exploration cooperation to enhancing mutual investment. Li told reporters they agreed to push companies for breakthroughs in high-speed railway and nuclear power cooperation. Britain supports China having shares and even holding controlling interests in British nuclear power projects, Li said. In October, Britain signed a $26-billion deal involving China General Nuclear Power Group and China National Nuclear Corporation to build Britain's first nuclear plant in a generation, along with French energy giant EDF. They also discussed conducting offshore yuan business in London and Chinese banks opening branches in Britain. London is trying to become the main offshore hub for trading in China's currency and bonds. According to the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, London accounts for 28 percent of offshore yuan settlement transactions. Li added that Britain agreed to increase high-tech exports to China, and the two nations will establish an innovation and research fund of 200 million pounds ($322 million). The UK will also simplify visa procedures for Chinese tourists and business travelers. Cameron said Britain would open a consulate in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the country's fifth on the Chinese mainland. China-UK ties cooled after Cameron's meeting in May 2012 with the Dalai Lama. In May this year, Cameron said in Parliament that he had "no plans" to meet with the Dalai Lama. Li said Cameron confirmed with him on Monday that Britain respects China's territorial and sovereign integrity and core interests. Writing in the Chinese weekly news magazine Caixin on Monday, Cameron said: "Put simply, there is no country in the Western world more open to Chinese investment, more able to meet the demands of Chinese consumers, or more willing to make the case for economic openness in the G8, the G20 and the European Union. "And there is no country more ready to forge a dialogue of mutual respect and understanding that can address issues of concern and advance our shared interests in the world," he said. Duncan Freeman, a senior research fellow at the Brussels Institute of Contemporary China Studies, said Cameron is attempting to develop both political and economic relationships with China. However, he noted any deal on free trade between the EU and China will be a long-term goal. Rana Mitter, a professor of modern Chinese history and politics at Oxford University, said, "British politicians on all sides of the political spectrum are realizing the importance of China's markets." He said the UK is China's second-most important European trading partner, after Germany, but the UK has a good opportunity to catch up. "In the next phase of China's development, which will require financial service reform and investment in human capital, Britain has major advantages." Cameron arrived on Monday morning with the largest British trade delegation, composed of more than 100 people. Ding Chun, director of the Center for European Studies of Fudan University, said the achievements in China-UK cooperation reflect a characteristic of the new Chinese leadership. "They made it clear that China's cooperation with other countries should focus on complementary fields," Ding said. Ding said that the support for Chinese enterprises holding shares of UK nuclear energy firms "marks a breakthrough for China in the ‘go global' process". Tian Dewen, a European studies researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said London's position as an important global financial center is being challenged by Frankfurt, Germany, the financial center of the eurozone. "As a result, the UK hopes the establishment of a renminbi clearing bank in London can help maintain its existing status," Tian said.

Hong Kong*:  Dec 2 2013

Hong Kong Express Airways faces cost woes after change in services (By Charlotte So charlotte.so@scmp.com) Budget carrier says aircraft turnaround time much higher than the industry average - Hong Kong Express Airways operates five Airbus 320s for 10.94 hours each on average per day. Budget carrier Hong Kong Express Airways is struggling to keep its costs down as planned. The airline, which switched to a low-cost business model on October 27, says turnaround times for its aircraft were about 45 minutes since it launched its service, compared with the best practice of 25 minutes in the industry. The airline operated five Airbus 320s for 10.94 hours each on average per day, well below the 15-hour benchmark, said Andrew Cowen, its deputy chief executive. Raising that utilisation rate is key for low-cost carriers to cut average seat costs so as to provide cheap tickets, yet in a profitable manner. However, HK Express is operating at a rate which is even slower than a full-service carrier. "It is partly because we are just flying eight destinations," said Cowen. "When we add a ninth this week, hopefully the rate will increase to 12.5 hours." The carrier has sold more than 200,000 seats since it began offering budget fares in mid-September. It is in talks with ground handlers, fuel providers and the Airport Authority to get the sequence of ground services preset in order to cut the turnaround time of its aircraft. Cowen said he wanted to set a finite time for each task to be done, from jet fuel refilling to line maintenance and ground power supply. "It's not an easy task in a busy airport like Hong Kong," said a manager at an aircraft maintenance firm. "We cannot stand by and wait for an aircraft to land, as in other airports, because there is not enough space for us to wait on the apron." Jetstar Hong Kong, which is still waiting approval for an operating licence, said it was confident its aircraft turnaround time could be within 30 to 40 minutes. "We have some proven operational procedure to facilitate the flow, including early boarding, simplification of loading and unloading, and dual-door boarding," a spokesman said. But even when an aircraft could achieve a fast turn, the availability of slot time for using the runway could hinder the turnaround, Cowen said. "A third runway will be completed in 2023, but for the next 10 years, slot time will become a growing problem at the airport," he said. Airlines had been well aware of the rapidly declining number of slots at Hong Kong, said Will Horton, a senior analyst at CAPA, a Sydney-based airline consultant. "There is a strong likelihood that there will be a few years of limited to no movement changes," he said. In order to get preferred time slots which might already be held by other incumbent players such as Cathay Pacific Airways or Dragonair, Cowen suggested a radical method to reallocate those sought-after slots - put them up for auction or swaps. Although slot trading has been in place at London Heathrow Airport for a long time, it is an unknown whether the existing airlines will accept it. "If you were to radically overhaul the slot allocation, you might determine it based on which airline and route is more deserving," said Horton. "It's academically interesting to think about but probably too radical."

Tenth Hong Kong container terminal, costing HK$100b, may not be financially viable, consultants say (By Anita Lam anita.lam@scmp.com) Prediction of reduced cargo growth from 2020 means HK$100b container project is unlikely to be financially viable, consultants' report says - Tenth Hong Kong container terminal, costing HK$100b, may not be financially viable, consultants say. A tenth Hong Kong container terminal costing close to HK$100 billion is unlikely to be financially viable, according to a consultancy report due out next month. With only modest growth expected in the cargo business for the decade from 2020, it says the government should make better use of the 100,000 hectares of land at the Kwai Chung Container Terminal in Tsing Yi in the short-term. The government first considered building the proposed new terminal, known as CT10, about 10 years ago. But that was when the cargo business was growing by an average of about 5 per cent annually. With growth expected to drop to between 1 and 3 per cent from 2020, and with the final bill for CT10 likely to be in the "high tens [of billions]", the project may not be able to attract private investors, two people familiar with the report said. "It usually takes 10 to 12 per cent in financial returns to justify a private investment," one of the sources said. "Even for a government project, we are talking about an economical return of some 4 per cent. I am not sure if CT10 would satisfy either of these." The hefty cost comes from placing it next to the existing nine terminals. That would mean reclamation and the relocation of five oil depots, which would in turn require a very costly process to decontaminate the site, dump the polluted mud and assess its impact on the environment. Meanwhile, industry chiefs say that making better use of existing facilities could boost port capacity by 15 per cent. They claim this could be done by spending just 40 per cent of the cost of the new terminal. Alan Lee, chairman of the Container Terminal Operators Association, said the organisation supported building a new terminal only if there was sufficient demand. "CT10 is not the most pressing matter on our minds now. We are looking at ways to enhance our competitiveness within the next two years," Lee said. "A lack of backup land is seriously slowing down our handling of cargos and the turnaround time for vessels and barges. If this goes on, more carriers will leave us for Shenzhen." The government commissioned the consultants to project growth from 2020 to 2030 and find the best way forward. It is understood they have proposed various options for CT10, such as building five, six or eight berths. They also explored the possibility of moving it further west to avoid moving the oil depots. But with major carriers joining hands in mega-alliances and the growing use of mega-vessels, the demand was for terminals to be interconnected. A detached CT10 would minimise its interaction with other facilities. Last year about 60 per cent of the city's container business came from trans-shipments - cargo moved from one port to another via Hong Kong. But port authorities in Shenzhen and other cities are lobbying hard for Beijing to open its domestic sea trade to foreign carriers. If they succeed, Hong Kong will be replaced as the region's primary trans-shipment hub.

Dorchester, Regent eyeing Hong Kong for new top-end hotels (By Denise Tsang denise.tsang@scmp.com) The former Regent Hong Kong (left) is now an InterContinental hotel. The record-breaking bid last month for the landmark Murray Building, destined to become a luxury hotel, has failed to deter global hoteliers from planning a foray into Hong Kong’s competitive hospitality market. Ultra-deluxe British hotelier Dorchester Collection – which counts Britain’s Queen Elizabeth and Hollywood celebrities as customers – remains keen on hunting for the right location in the central business district, and Taiwanese-owned Regent Hotels & Resorts wants to stage a comeback to Hong Kong. Property developer partners of each of those firms lost in the bidding for the 44-year–old Murray Building, the former headquarters of various government departments, to Wheelock and Co’s hotel arm, which paid HK$4.4 billion for it. The building is expected to become a Marco Polo Hongkong Hotel. Dorchester chief executive Christopher Cowdray told the South China Morning Post that it was difficult to find the right location in Hong Kong, especially in prime districts like Central. “Hong Kong has been on our radar screen for the last few years,” said Cowdray, who manages a portfolio of 10 hotels in such cities as London, Paris, Geneva, Beverly Hills and Los Angeles. “We are actively looking specifically for the right location with iconic value.” Cowdray said the future Dorchester hotel in Hong Kong would complement the rest of the hotels in the portfolio, which are located in prime locations, such as the original Dorchester in London’s Mayfair and the palace hotel Le Meurice near the Louvre in Paris. The firm, which charges from 700 euros (HK$7,000) per standard room per night to at least 2,000 euro for a suite in its hotels in Paris, is targeting a market similar to that of the rate-setting Peninsula Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui. “Hong Kong, as one of the top international destinations, like New York and London, has room for an ultra-luxurious hotel,” Cowdray said. He said a Dorchester hotel in the city would ideally have about 200 guest rooms averaging 50 square metres in size. Steven Pan Si-liang, who chairs Taiwan’s largest hotel firm, Formosa International Hotels, which owns Regent Hotels, is considering locations near Central. “Over the past three years, nothing like the opportunity of Murray Building came by in Central,” he told the Post. “But we believe an iconic brand like Regent will make the location work even if the future hotel is outside Central.” Regent ended its 20-year presence in the city in 2001, when New World Development, which then owned the Regent Hong Kong on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront, sold the property to InterContinental Hotels, which renamed it the InterContinental Hong Kong. The Regent brand changed hands four times before becoming part of Formosa’s stable. “The frequent change of ownership isn’t positive for the brand,” Pan said. “But we want to bring back its legacy and glory to the city where it made its name world-famous.” Pan said the hotelier might consider a resort-style hotel in the city. Hotel consultancy Knight Frank said that with the limited supply of top-notch hotels and the prevalence of short-haul visitors, the industry’s focus had been shifting to boutique and resort-style hotels. No five-star hotel has opened in Hong Kong in the past three years.

Mother arrested in daughter's abduction case (By Danny Mok - South China Morning Post) A 31-year-old woman who had reported that her six-month-old daughter was taken away by a stranger in Kowloon City last month was arrested on Monday afternoon for “preventing the lawful burial of a body”. Police said she was detained in police Kowloon West headquarters for questioning. Police launched an extensive search for the girl after the unmarried mother reported on November 23 that a mainland woman had abducted Yue Hoi-ching while she was pushing her baby in a stroller along Carpenter Road. The unmarried mother said in November her six-month-old baby had been abducted outside a Kowloon City park, but police believed she may have invented the story to scare the girl's father. The 31-year-old mother is understood to be a mistress of the baby's father, who is married with three children.

 China*:  Dec 2 2013

Shanghai International Marathon kicks off (Agencies) Participants run at the Bund near the Huangpu River as they compete in the Shanghai International Marathon December 1, 2013.

Major world powers urged to stick to Cairo Declaration terms 世界大國呼籲堅持開羅宣言條款 (By Chen Jia in San Francisco chenjia@chinadailyusa.com) Major world powers should abide by the terms of the Cairo Declaration, issued in 1943, in order to avoid confrontations in East Asia, observers said as they mark the 70th anniversary of the signing of the document. The Cairo Declaration played a key role in charting international politics after World War II. While urging Japan to obey the rules established by successive post-World War II documents, analysts also called on Washington to be consistent in its approach to building the world order in the postwar period and avoid pushing Japan into deeper regional confrontation. On Dec 1, 1943, China, the United States and Britain issued the Cairo Declaration. They agreed that "Japan shall be stripped of all the islands in the Pacific" it had seized or occupied since the beginning of World War I and "all the territories Japan has stolen from the Chinese, such as Manchuria, Formosa (Taiwan) and the Pescadores, shall be restored to the Republic of China". The declaration also demanded Japan "be expelled from all other territories which she has taken by violence and greed". It confirmed China's sovereignty over those territories stolen by Japan, including the Diaoyu Islands. "The Japanese must comply with the Cairo Declaration, which is the fundamental source of a series of international laws," said Liu Jiangyong, deputy dean of the Institute of Modern International Relations at Tsinghua University. Hu Dekun, head of the Institute for International Studies at Wuhan University, said the agreements made in a series of conferences in Cairo, Potsdam, Teheran and Yalta formed a complete legal system for postwar international relations. "The Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Proclamation represent the Allied powers' punishment of defeated Japan. And these documents also contributed to Japan's peaceful development in the postwar era," Hu said, adding that China sees the Cairo Declaration as representative of victory in World War II. "The Cairo Declaration served as the basic document of setting up the postwar world order. And it is wrong for Japan to weaken the document's significance by questioning its validity." While major world powers have defended and practiced the spirit of the declaration, the Japanese government is turning a blind eye to it by claiming that the Diaoyu Islands are Japanese territory. Japan is diluting the importance of the declaration because it refuses to acknowledge its defeat in World War II and chooses to present a challenge to the status quo in the region, observers said. Gao Hong, a Japanese studies professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that Japan's doubts on the legal implications of the declaration are groundless. "From the point of view of the source of law, the Potsdam Proclamation was the successor of the Cairo Declaration, as it explicitly stated in Article 8 that 'the terms of the Cairo Declaration shall be carried out'," said Gao. Later in September 1945, the Japanese government accepted the Potsdam Proclamation in explicit terms with the Japanese Instrument of Surrender and pledged to faithfully fulfill the obligations in the provisions of the proclamation. "Obviously, Article 8 must be included in the provisions of the Potsdam Proclamation," Gao noted. Liu said the Cairo Declaration was also closely related to the normalization of ties between China and Japan in 1972. "In the China-Japan Joint Statement, Japan affirmed that the government should fully understand and respect the position of the Chinese government and stick to the position of Article 8 in the Potsdam Proclamation," he said. Observers said the Cairo Declaration was the consensus reached by the three powers and opinions of other countries must have been considered as well. Mo Jingxi and Li Xiaofei contributed to this story.

China launches probe and rover to moon (By Xinhua) The Long March-3B carrier rocket carrying China's Chang'e-3 lunar probe blasts off from the launch pad at Xichang Satellite Launch Center, southwest China's Sichuan Province, Dec.2, 2013. China launched the Chang'e-3 lunar probe with its first moon rover aboard early on Monday. The lunar probe, aboard a Long March-3B carrier rocket, blasted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China at 1:30 a.m. Monday. It is the first time for China to send a spacecraft to soft land on the surface of an extraterrestrial body. Also, it is the first moon lander launched in the 21st century. So far, only the United States and the former Soviet Union have soft-landed on the moon. Chang'e-3 comprises a lander and a moon rover called "Yutu" (Jade Rabbit). The lunar probe will land on the moon in mid-December if everything goes according to plan. Old Chinese myth has it that, after swallowing magic pills, Chang'e took her pet "Yutu" and flew toward the moon, where she became a goddess, and has lived there with the white rabbit ever since. Chang'e-3's mission presents a modern scientific version of the myth. The lunar probe comprises a lander and a moon rover. The lunar probe will land on the moon in mid-December if everything goes according to plan. Tasks for the moon rover include surveying the moon's geological structure and surface substances, while looking for natural resources. It will set up a telescope on the moon first time in human history, observe the plasmasphere over the Earth and survey the moon surface through radar. Chang'e-3 is part of the second phase of China's lunar program, which includes orbiting, landing and returning to the Earth. It follows the success of the Chang'e-1 and Chang'e-2 missions in 2007 and 2010. After orbiting for 494 days and intentionally crashing onto the lunar surface, Chang'e-1 sent back 1.37 terabytes of data, producing China's first complete moon picture. Launched on October 1, 2010, Chang'e-2 verified some crucial technologies for Chang'e-3 and reconnoitered the landing area. It also made the world's first lunar holographic image with a resolution of 7 meters. Currently Chang'e-2 is more than 60 million kilometers away from Earth and has become China's first man-made asteroid. It is heading for deep space and is expected to travel as far as 300 million km from the Earth, the longest voyage of any Chinese spacecraft. China is likely to realize the third step of its lunar program in 2017, which is to land a lunar probe on moon, release a moon rover and return the probe to the Earth. Lunar probe mission is of great scientific and economic significance, said Sun Zezhou, chief designer of the lunar probe. The mission has contributed to the development of a number of space technologies and some of them can be applied in civilian sector, he said. The moon is also considered the first step to explore a further extraterrestrial body, such as the Mars. If successful, the mission will mean China has the ability of in-situ exploration on an extraterrestrial body, said Sun Huixian, deputy engineer-in-chief in charge of the second phase of China's lunar program. "China's space exploration will not stop at the moon," he said. "Our target is deep space." China sent its first astronaut into space in 2003, becoming the third country after Russia and the United States to achieve independent manned space travel. Despite fast progress of the lunar mission, China is still a newcomer in this field. The former Soviet Union first landed its probe on the moon on January 31, 1966, while the United States first sent human beings to the moon in 1969. About a day before the launch of Chang'e-3, India's maiden Mars orbiter, named Mangalyaan, left the Earth early on Sunday for a 300-day journey to the Red Planet. Chinese space scientists are looking forward to cooperation with other countries, including the country's close neighbor India. Li Benzheng, deputy commander-in-chief of China's lunar program, told media earlier that China's space exploration does not aim at competition. "We are open in our lunar program, and cooperation from other countries is welcome," he said. "We hope to explore and use space for more resources to promote human development."

I’m backing China, says David Cameron as he arrives in Beijing (By The Guardian) British prime minister, David Cameron, calls for new trade agreement as he flies into Beijing hoping to appease leaders angry at Dalai Lama meeting last year - Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, right, shows the way for British Prime Minister David Cameron during an official welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing December 2, 2013. British Prime Minister David Cameron inspects the guard of honour. Britain will act as China’s strongest advocate in the west, British prime minister, David Cameron, declared last night as he flew into Beijing pledging to lead a “dialogue of mutual respect and understanding”. In a sign of the British government’s determination to appease Beijing, which was furious when Cameron met the Dalai Lama last year, the prime minister said that no country was more open to China as he called for a new EU-China free trade agreement. Writing in the Chinese weekly news magazine Caixin, Cameron said: “Put simply, there is no country in the western world more open to Chinese investment, more able to meet the demands of Chinese consumers, or more willing to make the case for economic openness in the G8, the G20 and the European Union. And there is no country more ready to forge a dialogue of mutual respect and understanding that can address issues of concern and advance our shared interests in the world.” The PM’s effusive praise for China came as he landed in Beijing at the head of Britain’s largest overseas trade and ministerial mission, designed to restore full relations after his meeting with the Dalai Lama. The delegation includes the architect Zaha Hadid, ex-England footballer Graeme Le Saux, Arts Council chair Sir Peter Bazalgette, the chief executive of Jaguar Land Rover, Ralf Speth, and Karren Brady, the vice-chairman of London football club West Ham United. But Cameron came under fire last night from Labour for including figures close to him in the delegation. On the trip are his stepfather-in-law, Viscount Astor, representing Silvergate Media; the Conservative (Tory) peer Lord Chadlington, who helped to house the Camerons when the PM first fought the parliamentary seat of Witney; and the Tory donor and peer Lord Leigh of Hurley, of Cavendish Corporate Finance. Jon Ashworth, the Labour party Cabinet Office minister, said: “Whether it’s dinners for donors or jetsetting trips for his friends, David Cameron rarely misses a trick to favour those close to him. Meanwhile, everyone else is offered no respite from the everyday reality of the Tory cost of living crisis.” Cameron will meet the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, in Beijing for talks and dinner today. He will then travel to Shanghai, China’s commercial capital, returning to Beijing tomorrow for talks with the premier, Li Keqiang. Cameron will visit Chengdu on Wednesday before returning home in the evening before finance minister George Osborne’s autumn statement on Thursday. The PM said he was best placed to champion China in the west, months after China and the EU came close to a trade war after Chinese companies were accused of dumping EUR21bn of solar panels at below cost price last year. An EU threat of punitive duties prompted China to threaten sanctions on German cars and French wine. EU and Chinese leaders launched negotiations on a bilateral investment treaty at the 16th EU-China summit in Beijing last month to increase bilateral trade from about $580bn last year to $1tn by 2020. But there is deep scepticism in Brussels at the idea of an EU-China free trade deal amid fears that China would use it to flood the market with cheap goods. The EU is China’s biggest export market, while China is the EU’s second-biggest export market. In his article for Caixin, the prime minister swept aside recent EU concerns over Chinese rules that mean Europeans must work with a Chinese joint venture partner and hand over sensitive technology. The European commission highlighted concerns over China in May when it said it was prepared to launch an anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigation into Huawei, the world’s second-largest telecoms equipment manufacturer. The prime minister, who said an EU-China free trade agreement would be worth GBP1.8bn a year to the UK alone, wrote: “Last year China became the world’s largest trading nation. Next year China is set to become the world’s largest importer of goods and later this century it will become the world’s biggest economy. “We should be clear that there is a genuine choice for every country over how to respond to this growing openness and success. They can choose to see China’s rise as a threat or an opportunity.” On the proposed free trade agreement, he wrote: “I now want to set a new long-term goal of a comprehensive EU-China free trade agreement. And as I have on the EU-US deal, so I will put my full political weight behind such a deal, which could be worth tens of billions of dollars every year.” The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, is to warn that there is no point in trying to compete with China on low wages. Talking to staff at the VW National Training Centre in Milton Keynes, south-east England, today (1DEC) he will say: “David Cameron needs to understand a simple truth: we’re not going to win a race with China by winning a race to the bottom, by competing on low pay and low skills. And, if we try, it will be the people of Britain who lose.” He will say the UK should “compete on the basis of high-skill, hi-tech, high-wage economy - encouraging small businesses who want to grow, helping young people like you who want to get on and businesses like these which want to train, backing the real wealth creators in our country.” / Chinese premier meets Britain's Cameron (By Xinhua) Chinese Premier Li Keqiang shakes hands with visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron during a press conference in Beijing, Dec 2, 2013. Premier Li Keqiang held talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron in Beijing on Monday, the first meeting of the two heads of government since China's new leaders took office in March. "I believe your visit will play an important role in promoting political mutual trust, pragmatic cooperation, cultural exchanges and push bilateral relations to a new stage," Li told Cameron before their talks. Li was hopeful that Cameron's three-day trip would yield fruitful results. Cameron said he was pleased to be back to China, at the start of the new leadership that will be taking the country forward and following the third plenum on ambition for change in China. Cameron is leading a large delegation to China, including six cabinet ministers and 150 representatives from business and trade. "The scale of the delegation mirrors the scale of the ambition that we have for Britain-China partnership." He hoped Li would visit Britain in the near future. This is Cameron's second China tour since he took office in May 2010,following an official visit in November 2010.

Hong Kong*:  Dec 1 2013

Hong Kong business leaders back Li Ka-shing on 'rule of man' (By Gary Cheung and Tanna Chong) Fellow businesspeople share Li Ka-shing's view that Hong Kong should not go down the path of "rule of man", according to two business leaders. One, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the 85-year-old tycoon's comments, made to the Guangzhou-based Nanfang Media Group, indicated his discontent with Leung Chun-ying's administration. Defending the city's core values, Li said: "Hong Kong cannot go down the path of 'rule of man'. Hong Kong has many core values, such as an open and free market and the rule of law, which are not come by easily." He warned that those values would be lost if the administration mishandled things. Rule of man is generally taken to mean the absence of rule of law and a society where one person, or a group, rules arbitrarily. The business leader said: "Li feels he and his business flagships have been targeted since Leung became the chief executive. He sounded the message to protect himself and hit back against criticism he deems unreasonable." Leung, on a visit to Guangxi yesterday, agreed Hong Kong was a city that treasured rule of law. Asked whether he would mend fences with property developers, the chief executive said: "I have been maintaining dialogue and good relations with various sectors and the business community." Li's Cheung Kong (Holdings) is one of the city's top property developers. Executive councillor Bernard Chan agreed Hong Kong should never practise rule of man. "New leaders around the world may have their own style but they still need to follow the laws." Li backed Leung's rival, Henry Tang Ying-yen, in last year's election for chief executive and it is widely believed he is not on good terms with the administration. Li also commented on Leung's moves to alleviate the gap between the rich and poor, saying that a "free lunch" approach was not the solution. "Many businesspeople appreciate that Leung's initiatives might be well-intentioned but he implemented them in a rash manner," the unnamed business leader said. "Many business leaders have been disappointed with him … and those voices have emerged as mainstream opinion within the business community." A leading member of a business chamber said grievances had been piling up within the business circle. "It is very stupid of Leung to introduce populist policies detrimental to businesses, which had been supporting him," he said. He said Li had spoken out as the tycoon "probably felt he was being targeted by Leung so he had to show to Beijing he was hitting back". The chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, Stanley Lau Chin-ho, said: "We see no sign Hong Kong is ruled by man. We are still open and free."

Bid to increase development density of West Kowloon Cultural District (By Fanny W. Y. Fung) Michael Lynch, Chief Executive of West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, says there is no contradiction in the new plan that seeks additional floor area - Chief Executive of West Kowloon Cultural District Authority Michael Lynch - Half of the additional floor area being sought for the West Kowloon Cultural District will be used for commercial and residential purposes while the other half will be for art facilities, under the government's proposal to increase the development density of the site. Permanent Secretary for Home Affairs, Raymond Young Lap-mun, revealed the plan after the government announced that it would seek the Town Planning Board's approval to increase by 10 to 15 per cent the plot ratio of the arts hub, equivalent to a floor area of 70,000 to 100,000 square metres. The aim is to generate more income by selling extra space. At a meeting of the Legislative Council's Joint Subcommittee to Monitor the Implementation of the West Kowloon Cultural District Project, lawmakers expressed concern over the proposed application for the relaxation of development density of the site. Chan Yuen-han, of the Federation of Trade Unions, demanded that the whole additional area, if approved, should be earmarked for more cultural facilities to meet arts groups' needs. Young maintained that it had always been the arrangement for the administration and the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority to develop half of the site each, and therefore the proposed additional floor area should not be excluded from this arrangement. Helena Wong Pik-wan, of the Democratic Party, doubted the reasonableness of the authority’s seeking a new area to build retail, dining and entertainment facilities while eliminating these facilities from the original plan of the Xiqu Centre in the project. Chan Man-wai, executive director of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, replied that the reason for scrapping the proposed catering facilities in the atrium of the Xiqu Centre was due to unsuitability of the location. The authority's chief executive officer, Michael Lynch, defended the two decisions, saying there was no contradiction.

Carrie Lam 'happy to see re-emphasis on Basic Law' after Li Fei visit (By Tanna Chong) Chief Secretary Carrie Lam greets Basic Law Committee chairman Li Fei in a luncheon with lawmakers and officials in Government House, Central 22NOV13 - Hongkongers are re-focusing on the Basic Law in their recent discussions about the city’s electoral reform, said Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Friday. Lam announced on Friday morning the first round of reform consultation would start in a few weeks’ time. The exercise would not directly touch on the controversial public nomination proposal, she said. “I’ve noticed that after Basic Law Committee chairman Li Fei’s recent visit to the city, the recent remarks on electoral reform have put greater emphasis on compliance with the Basic Law and the related decisions of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee,” Lam told the media. “This is a gratifying phenomenon.” During his three-day visit to Hong Kong last week, Li said the Basic Law put the right to choose candidates in the hands of a nominating committee – a remark widely interpreted as dashing pan-democrats’ hopes that public nomination would be allowed for the 2017 election of Hong Kong’s chief executive. “We hope to nurture the atmosphere for reform by outlining the constitutional and legal issues,” said Lam. “The consultation would not specifically comment on individual proposals.”

 China*:  Dec 1 2013

Heavy cargo flights taking off (By Zheng Jinran in Shijiazhuang) A 40-meter-long tram car is hoisted into an AN-225 cargo plane at Zhengding International Airport in Shijiazhuang on Friday before taking off for Turkey. The world's largest cargo plane will carry two green-energy tram cars from Shijiazhuang, Hebei province, to Istanbul, making it the first air transport of high-quality, domestically built equipment of this scale to fly to Europe. The AN-225, measuring 84 meters long with an 88.74-meter wingspan, arrived at the airport and waited on the parking apron for the loading of the two streetcars, each weighing about 20 metric tons, on Friday. Compared to commercial planes, which have two engines, the AN-225 has six engines, allowing it to carry heavy loads, and can fly more than 15,000 km in a single flight. Transporting the streetcars from China to Turkey by air is much more time-efficient compared with traditional means on the sea or by rail, but loading the massive cars was a laborious task. Twenty-one employees from the AN-225's owner and Ukrainian aircraft manufacturer Antonov installed two giant tracks to guide the 40-meter-long tram cars into the plane and worked from 8 am to about 6 pm on Friday to complete the loading process. Inside the aircraft, the parallel tracks were fixed to the floor, and various other tethers were attached to keep the streetcars in place during the flight. The occasion marks the seventh time the enormous cargo plane has landed at Shijiazhuang Zhengding International Airport since 2006. The airport is the only one in the country approved to land the AN-225 by the Civil Aviation Administration of China. "We (the airport and Antonov) have established a good relationship through the flight," said Qin Guoqiang, manager of international freight at the airport. "Now we plan to further our cooperation by inviting the plane to stay at our airport when it's not transporting cargo." Qin said he is confident the plane will be useful for China as international exports — especially those of heavy equipment — continue to boom. The two tramcars were built in Tangshan, Hebei province, a city known for its manufacturing industry. The electric-powered streetcars can be used for at least 30 years without discharging emissions, making the cars the first Chinese-built, energy-efficient tramcar to be exported by air to the European market. "It shows that Hebei is transitioning from light industrial products, such as clothes, to high value-added products," Qin said. "The closer cooperation between the airport and the cargo company will fuel this type of growth."

 

China sends aircraft to patrol air defence identification zone (By Kristine Kwok kristine.kwok@scmp.com) Prospect of regular patrols raises tensions after Japan and South Korea both defy restrictions [The Air Defense Identification Zone is airspace over land or water in which the ready identification, location, and control of civil aircraft over land or water is required in the interest of national security. China's Defence Ministry announced its ADIZ over a vast area in the East China Sea on November 23, 2013, which covers the area around the Diaoyu islands, controlled by Japan and known as the Senkaku Islands. The establishment of this zone drew strong opposition from Japan, the US and South Korea, becoming a flashpoint in East Asian politics and security.] Bilateral strategic talks between China and South Korea take place in Seoul. South Korean Vice Defence Minister Baek Seung-joo (right) shakes hands with his Chinese counterpart Wang Guanzhong in Seoul. China sent several aircraft to patrol its air defence identification zone yesterday and said such missions would become regular events, raising tensions with countries that refuse to recognise the zone. Japan and South Korea both said earlier that they had defied China by sending military planes over the zone yesterday, and Japan said it would continue to do so in future. Those operations met no resistance from Beijing. Late on Tuesday the US sent two B-52 bombers over the zone. Air force spokesman Colonel Shen Jinke said China sent a KJ-2000 early warning aircraft and several Sukhoi Su-30 and J-11 jet fighters into the zone. Such patrols would become regular in the future "to strengthen the identification and surveillance of flying objects in the ADIZ", Xinhua reported. Shen said the patrols were defensive and aligned with international practice. The air force would remain on high alert and "adopt proper measures to respond to different threats in the air to firmly guarantee air security", Xinhua cited Shen as saying. A Chinese expert said Beijing would not resist or resort to military action unless it detected hostile intentions. Responding to rejection of the air defence identification zone by Japan and the US, the Ministry of National Defence said Japan had no right to judge China. "We would like to ask Japan to revoke its own ADIZ first. China will then consider this request in 44 years," ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said, referring to Tokyo's establishment of its air defence zone in 1969. Yang said China had conducted "timely identification" of the Japanese and South Korean aircraft and was "in full control" of the situation. On Saturday, China became the latest country in the region to establish an air defence identification zone. Regional countries responded with concern as the Chinese zone overlaps those of its neighbours, notably around the disputed Diaoyu islands that are claimed by China but controlled by Japan, which calls them the Senkaku islands. Another concern is that China requires all aircraft, military and civilian, to inform its authorities of their route in advance. Analysts say China does not distinguish between aircraft flying through the ADIZ, which is not its airspace, and those flying towards Chinese airspace. The US only applies identification procedures to foreign flights that intend to enter its airspace. The Ministry of National Defence has said it would take "defensive emergency measures" if aircraft did not follow its instructions. Amid growing concern of a miscalculation, Chinese experts said the risks of confrontation remained low at this point. Xu Guangyu, a retired general, said a standard procedure responding to a foreign aircraft flying in the zone without prior notice would have the Chinese military first engaging in radio communication. "If you tell us who you are and that you are not here for hostile purposes, there is no problem," Xu said. "If you still don't respond, then that means you are not being friendly. We will send aircraft to follow and monitor you. And if we find out that you are heading to our sovereign airspace we will intercept." Just as Japan refuses to recognise China's zone, China refuses to recognise Japan's zone, which was first established in 1969 and expanded in 2010, and has sent military aircraft to fly through it without prior notification. Japan has reported it responded to a record number of Chinese incursions in its ADIZ in the first half of the year. Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, said the overlap over the disputed Diaoyu islands would force China and Japan to sit down and negotiate.

Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning anchors for first time at new base in Sanya (By Minnie Chan) Beneath the expansive decks of the aircraft carrier Liaoning, facilities enjoyed by the ship''s crew include a canteen, medical centre and brodcasting studio. China’s aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, has anchored for the first time at the country’s new carrier base in the South China Sea on Friday. Xinhua said the Liaoning carried out its first docking manoeuvre Friday morning at Sanya City’s naval harbour in the southern island province of Hainan yesterday morning. It said the carrier would conduct relevant experiments and trainings in the new base. The Sanya naval harbour is qualified for the docking and basic operation of an aircraft carrier, Senior Colonel Yang Yujun, the spokesman for the Ministry of Defence, told a regular news briefing on Thursday. Andrei Chang, who edits the Canadian-based Kanwa Asian Defence Monthly and has monitored China’s aircraft carrier project for 20 years, said it’s predictable that Liaoning would go to the South China Sea for harbour training and winter tests. “As a new carrier, it’s necessary for Liaoning to go to different bases for winter tests and harbour training because of different water temperature and water depth in different harbours,” Chang said. “Indeed, the Liaoning and other warships in its fighting group also need to test the solar equipment on board in varied weather and climate conditions,” said Chang. He said he expected the carrier to sail to the India Ocean to conduct more comprehensive naval drills in the coming months. The Liaoning left its home port of Qingdao, Shandong for the South China Sea on Tuesday, passing through the Taiwan Strait on Thursday. This is the first time the carrier has conducted a cross-sea training voyage since it was commissioned into the People’s Liberation Army Navy in September last year. The carrier was escorted by two missile destroyers, the Shenyang and Shijiazhuang, and two missile frigates, the Yantai and Weifang on its maiden trip to the South China Sea. 

Japan is ‘prime target’ in China's new air zone: state media (By Agence France-Presse in Beijing) [The Air Defense Identification Zone is airspace over land or water in which the ready identification, location, and control of civil aircraft over land or water is required in the interest of national security. China's Defence Ministry announced its ADIZ over a vast area in the East China Sea on November 23, 2013, which covers the area around the Diaoyu islands, controlled by Japan and known as the Senkaku Islands. The establishment of this zone drew strong opposition from Japan, the US and South Korea, becoming a flashpoint in East Asian politics and security.] A pilot sits in the cockpit of a Jian-10 fighter jet at Yangcun Air Force base on the outskirts of Tianjin municipality in this April 13, 2010 file photo. Chinese state media on Friday identified Japan as Beijing’s “prime target” in its newly declared air defence zone, calling for “timely countermeasures without hesitation” if Tokyo defies it. However, other countries which have sent military aircraft into the air defence identification zone (ADIZ), including the United States and South Korea, should be largely ignored, the Global Times said. “We should carry out timely countermeasures without hesitation against Japan when it challenges China’s newly declared ADIZ,” the paper, which is close to China’s ruling Communist party, said in an editorial. China’s ADIZ which was declared on Saturday requires aircraft to provide their flight plan, declare their nationality and maintain two-way radio communication, or face “defensive emergency measures”. The zone overlaps those declared by Japan and South Korea, and includes airspace over East China Sea islands disputed with Tokyo. The move triggered US and Japanese accusations of provocation, and criticism from South Korea and Australia. Tokyo and Seoul said Thursday they had defied the zone with military overflights, showing a united front after Washington sent B-52 bombers through the airspace. China’s military sent several fighter jets and an early warning aircraft into the zone on Thursday, the official Xinhua news agency reported, after first patrolling it on Saturday. Shen Jinke, spokesman for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force, said the move was “a defensive measure and in line with international common practices”. The Global Times editorial, headlined “Japan prime target of ADIZ tussle”, said: “If the US does not go too far, we will not target it in safeguarding our air defence zone. “What we should do at present is firmly counter provocative actions from Japan.” The paper, which often takes a nationalistic tone, added that Australia can be “ignored” as the two countries have no major grievances, and that Beijing has “no need to change its actions” towards Seoul, given that South Korea has its own “tensions” with Japan. Officials in China have previously accused the US and Japan -- which both have ADIZs -- of double standards, saying the real provocateur is Tokyo.

Hong Kong*:  Nov 30 2013

Li Ka-shing, the politician? Tycoon says it was pipe dream (By Gary Cheung gary.cheung@scmp.com) If he could start over, tycoon says he could have entered government, and gave advice for those currently in office - If he could have chosen another path, Asia’s richest man, Li Ka-shing, says he might have joined politics. ”If I can start again, maybe I will choose to do politics,” he said. In the interview published yesterday by the Guangzhou-based Nanfang Media Group, Li also gave advice, saying governments should never exercise their power in a selective manner. “Hong Kong has many core values, such as an open and free market, and the rule of law, which do not come by easily. If there is any mishandling in governance, these [values] would be all gone,” he said. When it comes to alleviating the gap between the rich and poor, meanwhile, the tycoon said a “free lunch” approach was not the solution. “The only solution lies in providing a good education for our young generation,” he said. After drawing a poverty line at half the median household income, the government in September estimated that there were officially 1.31 million poor in the city. Alleviating the wealth gap has been the top agenda of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who took office in July last year after defeating election rival Henry Tang Ying-yen – who was backed by Li. Li continued to support the scandal-plagued Tang even during Li’s meeting with Xi Jinping, when he was thought have been asked to switch sides and support Leung. As for speculation that the Cheung Kong Holdings chairman was pulling investment from Hong Kong – selling assets in his electricity company and its retail unit to scout for more opportunities in Europe – Li called the notions a “laughing stock”. “I am not omnipotent. I can’t predict changes in politics nor can I influence politics. What I can do is use my intelligence to make decisions which are favourable to our shareholders,” Li said.

Cheung Kong and Hutchison will never leave Hong Kong. But their scale is another matter, says Li Ka-shing (By Peggy Sito peggy.sito@scmp.com) Asia's richest man says it's a 'big joke' to accuse him of pulling assets out of city and mainland - 'I have done business internationally for more than 30 years. It is the first time I’ve heard comments about "pulling out assets" from Hong Kong', said Li Ka-shing. Li Ka-shing, Asia’s richest man, has come out to defend himself after being accused by commentators of “pulling out of Hong Kong” following recent decisions to sell key assets of his flagship companies. “You accuse me wrongly. Today, I am striking back,” Li, 85, said in a 150-minute interview with Guangzhou-based Nanfang Media Group. He said such transactions occur in the normal course of business and it is a "big joke" to use them as evidence Cheung Kong and Hutchison Whampoa are pulling their assets out of Hong Kong and mainland China. Li’s remarks followed widespread reports that he was moving his assets abroad after selling three commercial properties – one in Shenzhen, one in Shanghai and one in Beijing – for a total of 12.8 billion yuan (HK$16.2 billion). Hutchison had planned to sell its ParknShop supermarket chain but withdrew the plan after offers by prospective buyers were deemed insufficiently attractive. “Using [the asset sales] as an example of pulling out of assets is absurd,” Li said. Li said his group of companies spent HK$13 billion this year on overseas investments (in New Zealand and Holland) with a capital investment of HK$8 billion. “At the same time, we also invested HK$4 billion in our terminal business [in Hong Kong this year]. How can it be described as pulling out of assets … It is groundless,” Li said. “Sell high and buy low is normal business behaviour … I have done business internationally for more than 30 years. It is the first time I’ve heard comments about ‘pulling out assets’ from Hong Kong … Now that has spread to the mainland.” Li said: “We have investments in 52 countries in various businesses, including property. We have sold assets in different countries, in some cases making a profit of more than HK$100 billion. They did not make any criticism.” He cited his group’s investments in Singapore. “In the past 20-30 years, we have built up a very good relationship with the government. We have sold assets worth billions of dollars,” Li said. “We have not bought suitable sites in Singapore because of high land prices. Now we have fewer than 1 per cent of units [there] remaining unsold. We do not have any rental properties there. But we have never heard any criticism about ‘pulling out assets’ from Singapore.” Li said the easiest way to leave Hong Kong would be to move his companies’ domiciles from Hong Kong. But he said: “I will not move their domiciles from Hong Kong. Cheung Kong and Hutchison will never leave Hong Kong. But the scale [of their businesses] is another matter. I have the responsibility to protect shareholders’ interests.” 

 China*:  Nov 30 2013

China tells Japan it would ‘consider cancelling air zone in 44 years’ (By Chris Luo chris.luo@scmp.com) Yang Yujun, spokesman for the Ministry of National Defence, briefs reporters at a recent Beijing news conference. China’s defence ministry on Thursday hit back forcefully at Japan’s objections to its newly-established Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea that covers long-disputed islets claimed by both countries. “Japan has absolutely no right to make irresponsible comments regarding China setting up the East China Sea ADIZ,” ministry spokesman Yang Yujun told media in a routine press conference, according to China’s Ministry of National Defence website. “We would like to ask Japan to revoke its own ADIZ first, China will then consider this request in 44 years,” Yang Yujun reportedly said when asked to comment on requests from Japan and the US to revoke the zone. Japan established its ADIZ 44 years ago in 1969. Tensions between China and Japan, the world’s second and third largest economies, have escalated over the past week after China set up its first ADIZ on Saturday in the East China Sea in an area covering Tokyo-administered islands. The Chinese ADIZ requires all aircrafts flying inside the zone to inform China of their flight plans and to maintain two-way radio communication. It has since triggered strong protests from several countries led by Japan and the United States. Both have said their aircrafts would not inform China of their flight plans when flying through the zone, and urged China to withdraw the plan. Earlier of this week, the US air force sent two B52 bombers into the zone in a show of force. Unnamed sources at Japan’s defence ministry claimed that Japanese military and paramilitary planes had flown thorough the zone without any resistance from Chinese jets, according to the Asahi Shimbun. 

Hong Kong*:  Nov 29 2013

Henry Tang's wife Lisa Kuo fined HK$110,000 in illegal basement case (By Thomas Chan thomas.chan@scmp.com) Wife of former chief secretary Henry Tang pleaded guilty to illegally building 'underground palace' - Henry Tang Ying-yen with his wife Lisa Kuo arrive at Kowloon City Court. Lisa Kuo Yu-chin was fined HK$110,000 on Wednesday over her illegal basement in Kowloon Tong in a scandal that derailed the chief executive bid of her husband Henry Tang Ying-yen. Kuo had already pleaded guilty during her trial at Kowloon City Court to starting construction of the basement without planning approval, while three other defendants in a separate trial had pleaded not guilty to the charges against them. Kuo originally faced two charges, but after she pleaded guilty to one charge prosecutors decided not to pursue the other, deciding that one charge was sufficient to reflect her guilt. The basement at York Road, widely dubbed “an underground palace”, was reported to be 2,400 sq ft with lavish facilities including a wine cellar, home theatre, gym and a Japanese bath. Henry Tang was the central government’s early favourite in last year’s election for chief executive, but fell from favour after media uncovered the illegally constructed basement. The exposé set off a media frenzy, with journalists besieging Tang’s home and cameramen bringing cranes to see into the property. At the time Tang said the house was his wife's property and that "it was my wife’s idea and I knew they were illegal. Since we were experiencing a low ebb in our marriage, I did not handle the matter swiftly. I take full responsibility for the incident.” The public widely criticised the 60-year-old politician for putting the blame on his wife, and he later lost the election to Leung Chun-ying, a defeat attributed largely to the basement and his earlier admission of infidelity. Tang accompanied his wife throughout the four court hearings, including Wednesday’s sentencing. He had earlier said: “I support my wife, so we are attending together.” In mitigation submissions, Kuo’s lawyer Gary Plowman said the Tang family had never lived at the house, and that the incident had inflicted tremendous pressure on his client. A special hearing had been earlier ordered by the court as Kuo disputed statements attributed to engineer Chezy Tang that she had insisted on pressing ahead with construction despite having been warned by the engineer that she needed the Building Authority’s approval. But the court ruled on Wednesday that the hearing was no longer necessary as Kuo had agreed with the amended case summary - which had removed the disputed sections - provided by the prosecution.

Property market in Hong Kong cooling? Tell that to the 4,500 people who signed up for 220 units at The Avenue (By Peggy Sito peggy.sito@scmp.com) The buyer of the first flat at The Avenue paid HK$11 million for a 591 sq ft flat. Hundreds of prospective buyers packed the sales office of The Avenue in Wan Chai on Wednesday morning, kicking off the sale of the biggest high-end residential development on Hong Kong Island this year. Among them was a Hong Kong woman surnamed Lei, who bought a 591 square foot two-bedroom unit for HK$11 million at 11am. “I am very excited,” said Lei, who won in a ballot the right to be the buyer of the first flat. “The price is reasonable,” she said. She has not yet decided whether she will live in the flat or treat it as an investment. All eyes in the local property market are on The Avenue, as it has attracted the strongest initial buying response since the Residential Properties (First-hand Sales) Ordinance – which imposed strict rules on the disclosure of information about new properties to prospective buyers – took effect on April 29. About 4,500 applicants had committed to buy the 220 units available on Wednesday. By 2.30pm, all the flats were sold. Phase 2 of The Avenue, developed by Sino Land and Hopewell, will have 1,096 units. The average list price for the first batch of 220 units was HK$18,771 per square foot for buyers who paid in cash, about 20 per cent below the HK$23,500 going rate at J Residence, a nearby development.

Beijing to set up new think tank on Hong Kong affairs led by Chen Zuoer (By Gary Cheung and Jeffie Lam) Beijing will set up a high-level think tank next month to study Hong Kong affairs, including the Basic Law and political reform. The establishment of the National Association of Study on Hong Kong and Macau comes ahead of the Hong Kong government's launch of a public consultation on arrangements for the next chief executive and Legislative Council elections. It is expected to be headed by Chen Zuoer , a former deputy director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office. Academics including Professor Lau Siu-kai, former head of the Central Policy Unit, have been invited to join, while Basic Law Committee member Lau Nai-keung is an adviser. Professor Lau - tipped to be the association's vice-president - said he had been invited by a "mainland contact" a few months ago to join the think tank. "The establishment of the research association underscores the importance attached by the central government to Hong Kong issues. It recognises the need to make decisions on Hong Kong based on evidence-based research," Lau said. "In the first few years of the handover, the central government did not pay much attention to or earmark substantial resources for studying Hong Kong affairs. But it notes there are problems that need to be addressed in light of frequent interactions between the city and mainland." Lau said that unlike the Institute of Hong Kong and Macau Affairs, the association would serve as a platform for exchanges among academics from Hong Kong and the mainland specialising in study on Hong Kong. "It may commission studies if there is a need," the professor said. The institute was set up by the central government in December 2003, five months after the 500,000-strong July 1 protest march forced the Hong Kong government to shelve the controversial national security legislation. One of its primary tasks is to study and plot strategy on constitutional development. The institute conducted studies on topics such as the legislative intent of the Basic Law, political reform and Hong Kong's legal system. Some were published in the institute's journal but it is understood that some sensitive ones were not. Chinese University sociologist Dr Chan Kin-man, a core organiser of the Occupy Central movement for democracy, said he expected the new think tank would focus not only on the looming political reform but also on the long-term political changes the city faces after 2017. But he said it must include scholars from across the political spectrum, not just pro-Beijing ones, "to get the whole picture of the real-life political situation". Democratic Party leader Emily Lau Wai-hing urged the researchers to conduct studies in a fair, just and transparent way. Hong Kong University law professor Albert Chen Hung-yee, also a Basic Law Committee member, believed the association was established for the purpose of networking scholars in China who engaged in research on Hong Kong and Macau, instead of solely for the upcoming political reform.

 China*:  Nov 29 2013

South China Morning Post: ‘Hostile’ aircraft could be shot down in new air zone: Chinese air force general (By Chris Luo chris.luo@scmp.com) The Chinese guided missile destroyer No. 139 of the PLA Navy's North Sea Fleet fires a missile during a naval drill in the Yellow Sea on Oct. 17, 2013. Computer screens display a map showing the outline of China's new air defence zone in the East China on the website of the Chinese Ministry of Defence. A PLA air force general has warned that any foreign aircraft disobeying warnings and deemed to be “hostile” could be shot down in China’s newly-established air defence identification zone (ADIZ), Chinese media reported on Wednesday. China’s defence ministry last week announced its first “air defence identification zone” over a vast area of the East China Sea, covering islands that are also claimed by Japan. The act was seen as escalating tensions between two countries and has since triggered protests from Japan and “concerns” from the United States. “[The zone] provides communication and air force identification between countries, allowing them to identify whether the opposite side is hostile,” said National Defence University professor and PLA Air Force major general Qiao Liang. “But if the subject intruding into the zone disregarded any warning, our pilots have the right to shoot it down,” Qiao said in an interview aired on the China News Service website on Tuesday. Responding to the Japanese government’s protests that the new zone overlaps with theirs, Qiao said: “In reverse, we could also argue their zone is overlapping ours." However, during the interview Qiao also urged all sides to seek peaceful ways of dealing with issues regarding the ADIZ if possible. “It would be apparently irrational to fight a war over the ADIZ. Territorial disputes like this should be resolved through negotiation,” he said. Qiao’s comments were made public shortly before United States early on Wednesday morning announced that two of its giant B-52 bombers had flown over the zone without informing Beijing, an act seen as a challenge to China’s claim of the expanded air defence zone. The Chinese defence ministry on Wednesday said it had tracked and identified the US aircraft flying over the zone. Meanwhile, Qiao’s comments elicited mixed reactions from Chinese netizens. Many cast doubt over Qiao’s claim that the Chinese military was authorised to shoot down aircraft in the ADIZ. “The goal of the ADIZ is to establish early warnings and to contain the situation, not to intercept and shoot down enemy aircraft,” one blogger said. Another called into question Qiao’s authority on the issue. “He is barely a major general. His word does not count when it comes down to the decision of whether to start a war.” Others expressed concerns about whether Beijing was willing to play tough according to Qiao’s remarks, saying it would be embarrassing for China if it did not respond as he had claimed to potential provocative acts from the US or Japan. “I hope China’s defence ministry would do more than just lodge a protest if US or Japanese aircraft indeed carry out provoking acts,” a commentator said. Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Global Times, a newspaper known for its nationalist tone, also chimed in on the subject. “ADIZ is not equivalent to airspace. China could not possibly force the US and Japan to inform all of their flight plans in ADIZ, but neither will Chinese airplanes inform them when they fly through their own air defence identification zones,” he said on the Sina Weibo microblogging platform. More than 20 countries around the world have set up air defence identification zones. Japan, widely regarded as China’s arch-rival in Asia, set up its zone in 1969 and it is considerably larger than that of China. Qiao has made similar hawkish comments on foreign policy in the past. In 1999, he co-authored an influential book called Unrestricted Warfare in which he explored strategies for how a country like China could defeat a technologically-superior opponent through a variety of means including terrorist attacks. The publication elicited a considerable backlash from western experts who accused him of legitimising terrorism. 

Brooklyn, Shanghai hook up‏ (China Daily) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TkeI_UU-9fY  Shanghai's Putuo district and New York City's Borough of Brooklyn signed a friendship agreement on Tuesday to boost cooperation in the areas of economy, trade and culture. Cheng Xiangmin, Governor of Shanghai's Putuo District, exchange gifts with Marty Markowitz, president of Brooklyn Borough, at the signing ceremony of a memorandum on establishing friendly exchange relations, on Tuesday at the Brooklyn Borough Hall in New York. Peter Abbate, New York State Assemblyman, looks on. Cheng's gift is a Ruyi, a traditional decorative object symbolizing good fortune, while Markowitz's gift being a book named Brooklyn Bridge, symbolizing a bridge of friendship. "I am deeply impressed by the Brooklyn Bridge which was built in 1883. I am here today to build a new bridge — one of friendship," said Cheng Xiangmin, governor of the Putuo District of Shanghai, who headed a delegation of six district officials and five business leaders to Brooklyn. The Memorandum on Establishing Friendly Exchange Relations was signed with the aim of eventually enabling the two parties to form a sisterhood relationship, the agreement says. The two parties pledged, among other things, to further strengthen cooperation in the economic, financial and trade fields, and encourage relevant enterprises and institutions to strengthen information exchange and industrial cooperation, according to the document. The Putuo governor's visit cones after China's recent CPC Third Plenum, which set the tone for continued market reforms and a more open economy. According to A Decision on Major Issues Concerning Comprehensive and Far-Reaching Reforms, a document approved by the meeting detailing the country's reform plan, China will deepen opening up and promote international cooperation and competition. "We will be competing economically; that's healthy for both of us," said Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn borough president. "This is how we learn from each other. We invest in each other's country. We create jobs for both Shanghai residents and Brooklyn and New York residents and we both flourish together." Last month, Shanghai-based Greenland Holding Group Co agreed to acquire a 70 percent stake in Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards, a 22-acre residential and commercial real estate project, which is going to be a major economic force in the city, according to Markowitz. "I hope that in the future companies like Greenland will come to New York and Brooklyn, and not only make investments here, but also open manufacturing facilities. I'd love to see manufacturing facilities of Chinese companies here in Brooklyn," Markowitz said, "We'd love to help." While the two page memorandum denoted wide areas being targeted for cooperation, specifics were not included. But John Wang, president of New York in China Center, which helped organize Putuo's delegation to Brooklyn, warned against dismissing a broad message. "The purpose of the agreement really is to strengthen the contact between Brooklyn and Putuo," Wang said. "Though the agreement may be vaguely worded, the substance is the increasing contact and exchange that will result in a very concrete outcome." Wan Li contributed to this report

China says monitored US bombers' flight through ADIZ (Agencies) China's Defence Ministry said on Wednesday it had monitored the entire progress of two unarmed US B-52 bombers that flew over disputed islands in the East China Sea on a training mission without informing Beijing. "The Chinese air force monitored the entire course and identified (them) in a timely way, ascertaining that they were US aircraft," the ministry said in a statement on its website. "The Chinese side has the ability to effectively manage and control the relevant airspace," it added.

Aircraft carrier Liaoning begins drills in sensitive South China Sea (By Minnie Chan minnie.chan@scmp.com) China's first aircraft carrier begins first battle formation training drills in the politically sensitive waters of the South China Sea - China's first aircraft carrier has set off for training exercises in the politically sensitive waters of the South China Sea. It is the first time the Liaoning has carried out drills in the area, parts of which are claimed by Vietnam and the Philippines. Beijing is currently embroiled in a diplomatic row with Japan after Chinese forces set up an air defence zone over the East China Sea over the weekend which includes disputed islands also claimed by Tokyo. The Liaoning was escorted by two guided missile destroyers, the Shenyang and the Shijiazhuang, as well as two advanced missile frigates, the Yantai and the Weifang as it left the port of Qingdao yesterday, a report posted on the PLA navy website said. The Liaoning has conducted more than 100 exercises and drills since it entered service in September last year, but almost all were conducted in the Yellow Sea near the carrier's home base of Qingdao. It is the first time the carrier has conducted a drill as part of a battle group. The report said the training mission was aimed at testing Liaoning's weapons systems. It did not say how long the drills would last. Previous missions have practised take-off and landing procedures. Macau-based military observer Antony Wong Dong said the Liaoning battle group had chosen the South China Sea due to its political sensitivity and because its deep water was ideal for big ships to operate. "The PLA's biggest naval base is at Sanya in Hainan , which is similar to the US' Pearl Harbour in Hawaii. The Sanya base could provide comprehensive support to Liaoning in the coming drills," Wong said. Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie said the exercises would involve a range of vessels and technology. "Today's vessels with Liaoning all have anti-submarine and air defence functions. The formation will be perfected after the submarines and other vessels join the group," he said. China bought the refurbished Liaoning from Ukraine in 2002. Earlier this month, the carrier completed a 19-day drill in the northern Bohai Sea, with engineers on board successfully dismantling and assembling the engine of the carrier-based J-15 fighter jet for the first time.

 *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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