China.Hawaii Chamber of Commerce ®
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Hong Kong, China & Hawaii News Archive for Year 2002  Archive Jan 1, 2003.........:>
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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

Wine-Biz - Hong Kong Brand Hong Kong Video

Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hong Kong*:  April 2 2013

Boat owners face stormy waters after enforcement of mooring rules (By John Carney Officials step up enforcement of mooring rules, meaning hundreds of vessels may be forced out - Vessels moored at Shum Wan Typhoon Shelter, where owners have been given two weeks to move oversized boats. A crackdown on moorings means hundreds of boat owners could see their vessels left at the mercy of the typhoon season. The Marine Department has stepped up enforcement of rules regarding boat length and ownership of moorings. Where owners are found in breach of the regulations, they are being given just two weeks' notice to move their boats. And with a chronic shortage of sheltered moorings, it means many vessels could be left without a safe haven. The action comes at a time when boat owners fear rents at some privately held moorings could soon more than double. Paul Zimmerman, a Southern district councillor and chief executive of Designing Hong Kong, urged the government to create public marine centres. "We need to address the shortfall of safe moorings for the increasing number of boats used for tourism, pleasure, recreation and sports," he said. "This shortfall of moorings makes it impossible for people - except for the super-rich - to enjoy Hong Kong's magnificent shorelines and beautiful waters." The department has issued warning letters to hundreds of boats in Aberdeen Harbour for exceeding the lengths designated for their moorings. Many moorings are for vessels up to 19 feet, but a lot of the boats exceed this. Owners of the moorings were also reminded they must be the owners of the boats using those moorings, to prevent problems created by rampant sub-letting. Owners in breach of the rules are being given two weeks to vacate their moorings. The department refused to extend the notice period until the end of the typhoon season in November. The marine authorities said they were only enforcing the law. Every private mooring should be used only by the designated vessel, they confirmed. "Moreover, any oversized vessel may also cause obstruction to other vessels," a department spokesman said. "Owners will be required to remove any oversized vessel from the private mooring within 14 days." Failing this, the department had the power to remove the vessel itself and re-allocate the berth. Kandy Chan, manager of the Sun Hing Shipyard at Po Chong Wan Road, Aberdeen, agreed the government had to act fast to avert further problems. "Along the coastline between Kwun Tong and where the old Kai Tak airport used to be is a perfect area to erect temporary and permanent moorings for pleasure boats," she said. "In the long term, expanding the Aberdeen Typhoon Shelter would also create new moorings."


The loss still hurts – ten years on, Leslie Cheung is remembered (By Mathew Scott) A decade after Leslie Cheung's death, his friends and fans say thanks for the memories. Mathew Scott looks at his legacy on the anniversary - Leslie Cheung received eight best-actor nominations at the Hong Kong Film Awards, including one for his role in 1997's Happy Together (left, with Tony Leung Chiu-wai). It will be 10 years tomorrow since Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing took his own life and left his legions of friends and fans with memories frozen in that exact moment. The city that had raised and nourished him – and that he had once escaped from – didn’t really know how to react to the news as it came down the wires and flashed across television screens. After sitting down to a meal of spaghetti bolognaise at his favourite restaurant in Causeway Bay, Cheung made his way to the Mandarin Oriental in Central and asked for a seat on the balcony outside its health club. He asked for a drink, and for a pen and paper, and then at about 6.40pm, the 46-year-old’s body was found lying on the pavement, 24 floors below. On the piece of paper, he had written his goodbyes to family and friends and mentioned his depression – a condition most of those close to Cheung knew he had been battling for years. Cheung had never been far from the spotlight throughout a career that spanned more than two decades. The public had a long-held fascination with a man who had tried to keep his private life away from prying eyes, despite the attention that came with being one of the first Hong Kong celebrities to come out as gay. In an instant, the city had been robbed of one of its brightest talents, a nuanced and lauded actor, a chart-topping singer and an artist who pushed the boundaries of performance on both stage and screen. It felt at the time like a blow to the very spirit of a city still caught up in the Sars outbreak. With a decade now passed, the city will host a number of events dedicated to Cheung’s legacy – from the Hong Kong International Film Festival’s screening of his film Rouge tomorrow, to the 2013 Love Journey Leslie Cheung 10th Anniversary Commemorative Concert at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre on Tuesday, to “The Art of Leslie Cheung’s Movie Images” exhibition being staged at the Hong Kong Central Library until April 8. These events will provide fans a chance to reflect on their own relationship with the man universally known as Gor Gor (“Elder Brother”), to hear from those who held him closer, and to enjoy once again the work that he left behind. Cheung was a commanding presence on stage at his pop concerts. Photo: SMP Pictures Music producer Clarence Hui Yuen first met Cheung in the 1980s – “at the height of his career” – and would work with the artist in the studio and on the production team which put together series of concerts which would be sold out for weeks on end. “His pop idol stage was very different to when he returned from retirement,” says Hui, referring to the period between 1990 and 1995, when Cheung walked away from music – and from Hong Kong. “He really thought he would never sing again. But after living in Vancouver for a while he realised his passion for music had never died. He had felt tormented by the media and some fans of other artists. But when he came back he had lost that pop-idol aura and his spirit became more like a true musician. He had a magic in his lower register and in the way he delivered his lines like poetry. He could sing with true emotion. He was like a breath of fresh air,”  Hui says. Film director Peter Chan Ho-sun worked with Cheung on the 1994 production He’s a Woman, She’s a Man and remembers an actor at the height of his powers. The role of a music industry power broker in that film earned Cheung a nomination in the best-actor category at the Hong Kong Film Awards. “When I first worked with Leslie, he was already a major movie star,” says Chan. “He was always very accurate in his moves and his techniques. In his delivery of a scene he would set the pace for the camera and for the other actors, which was a great help for a director. I told him he would make a great director. "In his delivery of a scene he would set the pace for the camera and for the other actors, which was a great help for a director" PETER CHAN HO-SUN, FILMMAKER. “He was very generous to other actors with his time and guidance,  a great inspiration who was very personable. His pacing would lead the scene which really was something special to witness.” It was such talent that also drew fans towards Cheung the singer. Ginice Chow Ling-ling, part of the Red Mission HK and Leslie Cheung Artist Studies organisations which are hosting events to mark the anniversary of Cheung’s death, says she became aware of the entertainer in the 1980s. “I first bought his second album, chipping in the money with my friend,” she says. “My friend got the cover and I got the record. She liked his looks and I liked his voice and the way he presented himself on stage. He was young, he was energetic and was way different from the other, more conservative Chinese singers of his time. A lot of people were attracted to his aesthetic, to just the way that he moved,” Chow says. “I still remember when I was eight and I went into my sister’s bedroom and saw his poster on the wall,” says Ho Sie-ya, a fan who regularly attends events organised by Red Mission HK. “I was captivated by his good looks and then I started to listen to his music. I would save up for his cassette tapes and his video tapes. It was expensive for me and I was living in Edinburgh so it was hard to find them. I would get them one or two months after their release, but it was always worth the wait.” Fellow fan Louise Wong Oi-ping says she came across Cheung’s work when she was going through some troubles of her own. “I was going through a very bad time – the most difficult of my life,” she says. “Listening to his music – particularly the album Salute – was like magic to me. He seemed like a very gentle person and his voice stays with you all the time. It is like he is talking to you through his singing and through his music.” Cinematographer Christopher Doyle would, under the direction of Wong Kar-wai, capture some of Cheung’s most memorable roles. He says it was obvious Cheung was a natural, from beginning to end. “I don’t feel Leslie had a career: he was always a star in his way and want and intent,” says Doyle. “I don’t feel Leslie got old and that’s part of why 10 years later, he is there as he wished us to share him, as he is. There was always this innocence of an orphan who needed our love … and the cockiness of the flirt who gets what he wants, and then throws it in your face just to see what it’s really worth.” Asked to reflect on the times they worked together, Doyle replies, cryptically: “Days of Being Wild – you dance, we dance. Happy Together – we love and question, and lose and try to assert. Temptress Moon – we are so physically close [with my hand holding the camera] that when Leslie asks me, ‘Chris, how was I?’ I am too involved in what we shared that my only reply is always, ‘We were great’. “You were and are and will always be great, Leslie. And you will always be needing and wanting to be on top and asking such of yourself that we want to return at least as much [if not more] of the same. It’s been worth a lot and means a lot to a lot of us. Thanks Leslie. Eternally. Thanks.”

Basic Law interpretation a last resort to settle universal suffrage debate, says Tam (By Phila Siu and Stuart Lau) Maria Tam Wai-chu speaks turning a City Forum live radio programme at RTHK in Kowloon Tong on Sunday. A Basic Law interpretation from Beijing would be necessary as a last resort if Hong Kong had difficulties in finalising universal suffrage arrangements for the 2017 chief executive election, a veteran Basic Law Committee member said on Sunday. Maria Tam Wai-chu, speaking on a TVB talkshow on Sunday, made the comment after she was asked whether there should be a Beijing interpretation of what meant by the Basic Law article that states the chief executive will be selected by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative committee in accordance with democratic procedures. “The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress is very busy, and they try their best not to do an interpretation of the Basic Law,” said Tam, who is also head of the Hong Kong delegation to the NPC. “No one, including the central government … is happy doing an interpretation … but if there is a problem Hong Kong cannot solve, then there is a need for an interpretation.” Tam was speaking exactly one week after Qiao Xiaoyang, chairman of the National People’s Progress Law Committee, dropped a hint about introducing a screening mechanism for candidates ahead of the chief executive election in 2017. Tam also defend Qiao’s remarks of a week ago when he said that under the “one country, two systems” formula, any chief executive candidate had to “love China and love Hong Kong”, and that any members from the opposition camp who insist on confronting the central government could not become a candidate for chief executive. On the same issue, pro-Beijing lawmaker Ip Kwok-him, from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said on Sunday he “completely disagreed” with those pan-democrats who say that Qiao last Sunday introduced a “new” criterion that chief executive candidates could not confront the central government. But Ip, speaking on RTHK’s City Forum on Sunday, which Tam also attended, he said there was a need for the pan-democrats to build up “mutual trust” with Beijing. Political analyst Johnny Lau Yui-siu said that while he agreed the chief executive needed to “love China”, such a critieron, he said should be a relaxed one.

Exhibition held to mark 10th anniversary of Leslie Cheung's death - A total of 1,900,119 origami cranes, folded by fans around the world, are displayed inside a giant red cube, which broke the Guinness World Record. Fans commemorate 10th anniversary of Leslie Cheung's death (By John Carney A statue of Leslie Cheung at Times Square, with a red paper crane signifying his fans' well wishes are well received. Hong Kong's music and film fans are expected to turn out in force tomorrow to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing's death. Affectionately known as Gor Gor, which means older brother in Cantonese, the pop idol shocked Chinese communities around the world with his suicide on April 1, 2003. He was only 46. When his body was found lying outside the Mandarin Oriental in Central, it brought to an end a life that had seen tremendous highs, but also crushing lows. It was a tragic conclusion to his legendary show business career as a singer and actor. Cheung initially rose to fame as a Canto-pop singer in the 1980s after studying at Leeds University in England. His acting career took off in 1986 when he starred opposite Chow Yun-fat in John Woo Yu-sen's gangster movie A Better Tomorrow. Other film roles included Happy Together and Days of Being Wild, directed by Wong Kar-wai. But it was his decision as one of the few Asian stars who dared to play openly gay characters on screen that made his name. In 1993, Cheung gained international acclaim for his portrayal of a gay opera singer in Farewell My Concubine. In the film he falls in love with a fellow performer. It was a global art house success. Cheung later revealed he was bisexual, but that did not dent his popularity. In 2000, he was named Asia's biggest superstar by China Central Television. Even after his death, in 2005 he was voted favourite actor in 100 years of Chinese cinema. In the final years of his life, though, he was plagued with severe bouts of depression brought on by his fame and attacks on his sexuality, which eventually lead to his death. But for the likes of Ginice Chow, who is a member of Cheung's fan club, Red Mission, he will always remain an icon. Since the mid-80s Chow has been a huge fan of Cheung and says rather than being forgotten, his popularity has actually grown over the past 10 years. "A new generation of young fans in Hong Kong are listening to his music now," she said. "As well as this, his films, such as Farewell My Concubine, have been finding a new audience over the years, too. He's now known by even more people as a singer and an actor. It means his spirit will continue to live on, no matter what."

 China*:  April 2 2013

China to get its own version of Iron Man 3 (By Bloomberg in Los Angeles) Chinese variation features actress Fan Bingbing and will have bonus footage for viewers in China - Walt Disney will release a separate version of its Marvel comic-book movie Iron Man 3 on the mainland, an unexpected plot twist for Hollywood's most prominent collaboration yet in the country. Disney won't seek official Chinese co-production status for Iron Man 3, according to an e-mailed statement. The film, set to debut in the US on May 3, was partly filmed in China with partner DMG Entertainment. A release date for the mainland version was not announced. The decision, just over a month before Iron Man 3 is set to kick off the US summer movie season, hints at the challenges confronting Hollywood studios as they expand in China's government-controlled market, which surpassed Japan last year as the biggest box office outside the US. The first two Iron Man movies grossed a total US$1.21 billion worldwide. The studio won't comment beyond the statement about the reasons for the decision, differences between the two versions or when the Chinese movie will be released, Melissa Zukerman of Principal Communications Group, a spokeswoman for Marvel Studios, said. DMG, which produced last year's Looper, is marketing and distributing the film on the mainland, according to the statement. Chinese actor Wang Xueqi will appear in both versions, and both include footage filmed in Beijing in December. The Chinese version will feature actress Fan Bingbing and will include bonus footage for the Chinese audience, according to the statement. China limits the number of foreign movies released into theaters each year to about 34. US studios have sought to bring more movies in by making co-productions, which don't count against the quota. While the government censors all movies, co-productions must meet additional requirements. For example, one-third of the major actors must be Chinese, according to Robert Cain, who writes the China Film Biz blog. Co-productions also require a certain amount of Chinese cultural content, which could limit the film's appeal elsewhere, making co-production status less attractive to the studio, he wrote in a March 7 blog post. Disney said in April last year it would co-produce Iron Man 3 with DMG, which would make an investment in the production, manage the Chinese co-production and jointly produce the film in China, the entertainment giant said.

Despite moderation in the Chinese economy, United States-based companies remain upbeat on the near-term outlook of their businesses here, according to the results of a recent survey. Over three-quarters of respondents indicated that they are optimistic about how their companies will perform over the next two years in China, the latest Business Climate Survey from the American Chamber of Commerce in China (AmCham-China) showed Friday. U.S. companies turned out strong performances in China last year, as 71 percent of respondents said they posted sales growths in 2012 and 44 percent reported better operating margins in China than the global average, according to the annual survey conducted among 325 member companies of the chamber. More U.S. businesses are oriented toward selling in the Chinese market, rather than seeing China only as a processing and export hub. The percentage of respondents who said their goal this year is to sell directly into China reached a record high of 71 percent. However, U.S. companies seem to have downsized their expansion plans. The percentage of respondents with plans to increase investment by 21 percent to 50 percent dropped from about 30 percent to 18 percent over the past four years. The results reflect a slightly more conservative business outlook amid China's focus on promoting higher-quality economic expansion in an era of rebalancing, the chamber said. Flagging exports and domestic tightening to tame property prices drove China's growth below 8 percent last year. It had stayed above 8 percent since 1999. The survey also revealed that rising labor costs and a lack of qualified employees are top concerns among respondents. AmCham-China is a non-profit organization representing the interests of over 1,000 U.S. companies and 3,500 individuals doing business in China.

Contestants present in 8th China Super Model Final Contest - Champion Zhang Lingyue, runner-up Zhao Siyu and second runner-up Lei Shuhan greet the audience during the 8th China Super Model Final Contest in Beijing, March 30.

Hong Kong*:  April 1 2013

Hong Kong dentist helps Europe's search for life on Mars again (By Christy Choi Inveterate inventor has developed multiple gadgets for planetary rovers; his latest, a space dust compactor, should see action in 2018 - The ExoMars rover will be sent to space in 2018 to gather samples that may offer more clues on whether life could be sustainable on Mars. Ng Tze-chuen's Causeway Bay office looks more like a gadget workshop than a clinic. Failure is very much an option when you're involved in space exploration. Just ask Dr Ng Tze-chuen. Ten years ago he was anticipating planetary sampling tools he had designed for the Beagle 2 would begin digging into the surface of Mars, but contact with the British-designed rover was lost after it landed on the red planet. Two years ago a Russian probe carrying tools Ng designed to Phobos, one of the planet's moons, veered disastrously off course. Now, at the age of 60, the Hong Kong dentist is hoping it will be third time lucky for his Mars-bound tools. New tools he has designed have been accepted and more are being considered for the ExoMars rover mission scheduled for 2018, a joint project of the European Space Agency and Russia's federal space agency Roscosmos. "They'll be doing subsoil drilling several feet underground, and they'll need to retrieve the work sample and grind it to a fine powder … to a smoothness of a woman's compact [face powder]," says Ng, a Hong Kong dentist, who has designed a tool that pats down the powder samples that will be analysed for signs of life on Mars. "It sounds very simple, but if you don't have the right shape for the blade, the surface will stay rough because the soil on Mars is cohesive. It sticks and adheres to the surface," says Lutz Richter, 45, the planetary sampling expert for German space technology company Kayser-Threde. The company, which executes Ng's ideas, is under contract with the ESA to design and test planetary sampling tools to be used on the red planet. The blade, Richter says, has two parts - one that initially clears the debris and a second that smooths out the powder. Ng - who sticks out among the engineers and scientists that the firm usually receives ideas from - comes up with imaginative solutions to some engineering problems, then Kayser-Threde in the following months does the engineering and testing to make the designs work. "We tend to design something that is reliable and we're not always good with clever concepts, so we're happy to work with people like [Ng]," said Richter. It also helps that the dentist does not ask for payment for his designs and funds his own research. Planetary sampling is a small part in the already small field of space exploration. Only around 100 or so people in the world design and create tools that can withstand the pressures of space - tools that are able to help scientists assess if Mars could in the future be a base for further space exploration. "It's very earth-like. If you look at a panorama it looks like a desert on earth. To me it looks very inviting," says Richter. "There was liquid water, there were oceans, there were rivers and there's still a lot of ice. It explains why so many people are interested in going there." Designs for the ExoMars mission are in the final stages of testing. The rover will take a nine-month journey to Mars, where it will trundle across the planet's surface looking for amino acids, sugars and water - some of the building blocks of life. But missions to Mars take time and are no easy feat; a small miscalculation or change of circumstance could jeopardise the entire project. The last European effort led by British scientists, in 2003, ended when the Beagle 2 rover crashed into Mars' surface. Scientists speculated the air in the atmosphere may have been thinner than they anticipated. The tools designed by Ng for that mission never had the chance to be used.So in his dentist's office in Causeway Bay, surrounded by posters of the 2003 Mars Express mission on the walls, along with gadgets, gizmos and copies of the ESA's bulletins and magazines, Ng waits for the day his tools can go to work. "Maybe I'll be third time lucky," he says. Meanwhile, with a boyish passion, he has started other, more earthly projects, such as exploring Mexican pyramids and attempting to get a line of clothing to a show in Paris. "I have 100 projects I want to do. I need to do as many as I can before I die."

Movie "Saving General Yang" promoted in Singapore - Director Ronny Yu, actor Ekin Cheng, Vic Chou and Chun Wu attend press conference for movie "Saving General Yang" in Singapore, March 30, 2013. 

Sun Hung Kai pays more than expected for luxury site; Cheung Kong cuts prices (By Paggie Leung, Sandy Li and Kanis Li) Sun Hung Kai Properties won a HK$4.14 billion auction for a residential and a hotel site on Wednesday. Sun Hung Kai Properties' Riva luxury units in Yuen Long. Those waiting for the right moment to buy property in Hong Kong were sent mixed signals yesterday. Sun Hung Kai Properties won a luxury residential site at Kau To Shan in Sha Tin, paying a higher-than-expected HK$1.42 billion. It's a sign the appetite of big developers for high-end sites has not been curbed by the government's market-cooling measures. But this came as Cheung Kong announced an 11.8 per cent price cut for the remaining six houses at Uptown in Yuen Long, a day after chairman Li Ka-shing said land prices in Hong Kong would remain high and home prices would stabilise. SHKP outbid 13 other developers for the 86,973 square foot land parcel at an average price of HK$10,885 per sq ft - the highest among five residential sites in that area and up to 14.6 per cent higher than surveyors' estimates - based on the maximum gross floor area of 130,460 sq ft. The company also won a harbourfront hotel site in North Point for HK$2.72 billion, within market expectations. The 57,792 sq ft site could provide a total gross floor area of 387,504 sq ft. "We're very happy to have won the sites," SHKP deputy managing director Victor Lui Ting said. "The Kau To Shan site is a prime one. We love the environment, as the area has low density and the site offers a full sea view. It also has a wide frontage, which makes it easy to design the project. And the North Point hotel site is a rare waterfront site on Hong Kong Island." Lui said the company would invest HK$3 billion in the residential project, while the hotel project would involve about HK$5.5 billion. Midland Surveyors director Alvin Lam Tsz-pun said the land sales showed "developers are confident about properties in traditional luxury areas and are thirsty for rare and quality land lots". Cheung Kong executive director Justin Chiu Kwok-hung said the average price of the six houses at Uptown had been reduced to HK$6,700 per sq ft of gross floor area from HK$7,600 per sq ft. It is the second Cheung Kong development in a month to have prices reduced. The price cut came just before SHKP's planned release this week of Riva, its own low-density project in Yuen Long, at an average price of HK$12,747 per sq ft. The Uptown houses, each with a gross area of 2,154 sq ft, are on sale for HK$16.42 million to HK$16.75 million each. Meanwhile, the number of mortgage applications last month fell 24.5 per cent from January to 9,013, Hong Kong Monetary Authority figures show. Mortgage loans drawn down during February fell 23 per cent to HK$12.2 billion, and loans approved fell 12.3 per cent to HK$18.6 billion. Of these, the value of loans issued to buy new homes dropped 8.4 per cent to HK$3 billion, while those for purchases in the secondary market declined by 11.8 per cent, to HK$12.9 billion.

 China*:  April 1 2013

Xi wraps up Africa tour in Republic of Congo (By Reuters in Brazzaville) President Xi Jinping (left) and his wife Peng Liyuan wave upon their arrival in Brazzaville, capital of the Republic of Congo. China’s newly appointed President Xi Jinping wrapped up a six-day tour of Africa on Saturday in Republic of Congo, where he signed off on infrastructure projects and pledged deeper cooperation between his country and the continent. Thousands of people, many wearing T-shirts bearing the president’s likeness, turned out under a blazing equatorial sun to welcome the new Chinese leader to the former French colony’s sprawling riverside capital, Brazzaville. Xi, who in previous stops along the week-long trip has attempted to outline his African policy as a partnership among equals, used a speech before Congo’s parliament to point to China and Africa’s mutual reliance for their future success. “The future, the development of China will be an unprecedented opportunity for Africa, and Africa’s development will be the same for my country,” Xi told lawmakers. “We expect to work together with our African friends to seize upon historic opportunities and deepen co-operation ... in order to bring greater benefit to the Chinese and African peoples,” he said. China is offering US$20 billion of loans to Africa between this year and 2015, and many governments welcome Beijing’s growing business-focused presence on the continent as a welcome alternative to Western influence. The mainland imports oil from Congo, and on Saturday, in line with promises to deepen the relationship with African partners, Xi oversaw finalisation of nearly a dozen new deals. He agreed to finance a US$63 million project to construct a river port in Oyo, the hometown of Congo’s President Denis Sassou N’Guesso, where the government plans to develop a new special economic zone. Other projects to receive Chinese backing include a 19-megawatt hydroelectric power station in the northwest, and the construction of a new port capable of handling mineral ore shipments in Congo’s economic capital, Pointe-Noire. China also agreed to around US$29.36 million in grants and zero-interest loans, and will build 200 homes and a school in the capital’s Mpila, which was largely destroy when a weapons depot exploded there last year.

Despite moderation in the Chinese economy, United States-based companies remain upbeat on the near-term outlook of their businesses here, according to the results of a recent survey. Over three-quarters of respondents indicated that they are optimistic about how their companies will perform over the next two years in China, the latest Business Climate Survey from the American Chamber of Commerce in China (AmCham-China) showed Friday. U.S. companies turned out strong performances in China last year, as 71 percent of respondents said they posted sales growths in 2012 and 44 percent reported better operating margins in China than the global average, according to the annual survey conducted among 325 member companies of the chamber. More U.S. businesses are oriented toward selling in the Chinese market, rather than seeing China only as a processing and export hub. The percentage of respondents who said their goal this year is to sell directly into China reached a record high of 71 percent. However, U.S. companies seem to have downsized their expansion plans. The percentage of respondents with plans to increase investment by 21 percent to 50 percent dropped from about 30 percent to 18 percent over the past four years. The results reflect a slightly more conservative business outlook amid China's focus on promoting higher-quality economic expansion in an era of rebalancing, the chamber said. Flagging exports and domestic tightening to tame property prices drove China's growth below 8 percent last year. It had stayed above 8 percent since 1999. The survey also revealed that rising labor costs and a lack of qualified employees are top concerns among respondents. AmCham-China is a non-profit organization representing the interests of over 1,000 U.S. companies and 3,500 individuals doing business in China.

China will drop import tariffs and import-related value-added taxes for a range of advanced components and raw materials for making sophisticated equipments, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) said Friday. Items that will enjoy tax exemption include signal system of high-speed railways, garbage sorting system, solar cells, integrated circuits and manufacturing equipments for flat-panel display, among others. The new rules will take effect starting April 1, 2013. Importers of those components and raw materials should register with customs and taxation authorities for tariff exemption review during April 1 and April 30. Authorities also created a separate list of technological equipment and materials that will be taxed starting from April 1, 2013. The list included electric transmission and transformation equipments and concrete pump trucks.

Chinese doctors help and learn in Africa (By Shan Juan Xia Wei, assistant researcher with the national immunization program of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said his three-month stint as a World Health Organization volunteer in Africa has helped him in his work back home. Chinese doctor Wang Liqun works at a hospital in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. More than 10 Chinese doctors live in the southeastern African country and provide medical service. In 2011, the center selected Xia to go to Namibia under a WHO program called Stop Transmission of Polio, or STOP, which aims to curb the disease, particularly in Africa. It was the first time Chinese public health specialists had joined a global program through application. "They were quite interested in the China experience, particularly in building and operating a public-health system. Meanwhile, their working methods there helped with my job back in China, especially in underprivileged areas," he told China Daily. His task there included assessing the country's polio surveillance system, designing vaccination programs, conducting on-site vaccinations, and training staff. Polio became an epidemic in Namibia in 2006, he said. "It was wonderful that what I have learned in China about polio intervention also worked well in Africa," he said. Notably, Namibians' work methods, like making detailed plans before implementation, impressed him. Xia said such methods "should be also applied in China in remote and less-developed areas like the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region and the Tibet autonomous region". Luo Huiming, deputy director of the national immunization program, said 14 other Chinese specialists in addition to Xia have been sent to Africa so far under STOP. "That's a significant step for China to begin joining global efforts for public health," he said. Ren Minghui, who heads the international cooperation department of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, said this model emerged as a new trend in China's health diplomacy. Previously, international medical aid programs by the Chinese government focused more on the clinical side, Xia said. During the past 50 years, China has sent more than 17,000 medical workers to 48 countries in Africa, treating nearly 200 million people on the continent, statistics from the commission showed. By 2012, China had built more than 30 hospitals and 30 anti-malaria centers in Africa. Zou Xiaoming, the economic and commercial counselor of the Chinese embassy to Uganda, said Chinese methods of delivering aid have special advantages, particularly a shorter execution time and high implementation efficiency. "The Western way may lead to a lower execution efficiency and undesirable value for money conditions. The Chinese methods of executing grants have some advantage in the current situation," he said. It definitely targets the need of grant-recipient countries as the two sides jointly decide which projects will be provided through grant channels, he said. Okello Oryem, Uganda's minister of foreign affairs, agreed, adding that aid from China has been increasingly preferable as it indeed followed real needs of recipient countries without imposing stringent conditions. "The aid we ask from China rightly related to our wishes and intentions while some from the West are predetermined without consulting us," he said. In addition, in the field of medical assistance, China might be the only country that sends medical workers paid by the government to work in Africa for extended periods. Other medical teams working in Africa are usually sponsored by charities rather than governments. Unlike the West, which gives African countries expensive medical equipment, China provides low-cost and yet effective equipment, according to Dr Michael Osinde, the Jinja, Uganda, hospital director.

Hong Kong*:  Mar 31 2013

Elite squad to crack down on smuggling syndicates (By Clifford Lo Crime syndicates are ferrying containers of illegal goods worth millions of dollars between Hong Kong and the mainland every day - Elite squad to crack down on smuggling syndicates - An elite customs team has been set up to tackle smuggling syndicates who are making millions of dollars a day shipping container loads of illegal goods between Hong Kong and the mainland. Dozens of containers are smuggled into the mainland on a daily basis by well-organised syndicates, with the illegal proceeds of only one syndicate believed to exceed HK$100 million. To combat the operations, an elite 203-strong Syndicate Crimes Investigation Bureau has been established by the Customs and Excise Department. Investigations by the newly-formed team found that the crooked shippers are paid about 10 per cent of the value of the illegal goods, or they charge about HK$100,000 for each shipped container. Intelligence shows a wellorganised syndicate could smuggle dozens of the containers into the mainland each day - "Intelligence shows a wellorganised syndicate could smuggle dozens of the containers into the mainland each day," a source said. The containers are usually declared to contain waste or low-value products to disguise the true contents. The most popular destination is Guangdong. Smuggled goods include precious metals, animal furs, seafood, computer hard disks and frozen meat. "As the mainland economy has boomed, there is always a high demand for such products," the source said. Some syndicates have their own fleet of vessels to ferry contraband to the mainland through legitimate logistics businesses. The clients are understood to be mainland businessmen who want to avoid paying mainland tariffs such as a 17 per cent value added tax on general cargoes. "They can save a lot of money," the source said, adding that the customers would receive compensation from smuggling syndicates if their goods were confiscated by law enforcers. Bureau head Senior Superintendent Chong Wai-ming said: "The bureau carries out investigations into indictable offences involving syndicates and large sums of crime proceeds, and looks mainly into smuggling and money laundering activities." Established in late January, the bureau has about 50 financial investigators who help to scrutinise suspicious transactions. The Organised and Serious Crimes Ordinance will be used to prosecute smugglers and freeze all their proceeds. "Confiscating their proceeds is the best way to hit crime syndicates and make them cease their illegal operations completely," Chong said. The senior superintendent said his team would also mount investigations into drug trafficking, illegal cigarette trading and the infringement of intellectual property rights. The bureau has two teams - the Financial Investigation Group and the Special Investigation Group. "Pooling expertise in criminal and financial investigations, the bureau seeks to enhance the department's capability to trace the command chain of syndicates and apprehend their masterminds," Chong said. The Special Investigation Group is the former task force that was established in 1999 to crack down on disc piracy. Last year, Hong Kong Customs detected 198 smuggling cases, seized HK$342 million worth of contraband and arrested 189 people. Smuggling activities between Hong Kong and the mainland accounted for 90 per cent of all the cases.

Beijing warns pan-democrats of 'misjudgment' in using mass protests (By Ng Kang-chung Global Times editorial dares pan-democrats to use 'economic suicide' gamble in confronting Beijing - Members of the Alliance for True Democracy seek to submit an invitation to a mainland official for a debate. Beijing has warned Hong Kong's pan-democrats that using mass protests to confront the central government would be a "misjudgment". The strongly worded remarks came as the United Nations Human Rights Committee's latest report on Hong Kong expressed concern about "the lack of a clear plan to institute universal suffrage and to ensure the right of all persons to vote and to stand for election without unreasonable limitations". The Global Times newspaper, affiliated with Communist Party mouthpiece the People's Daily, dared the pan-democrats to try pushing Hong Kong to "economic suicide" - apparently referring to the Occupy Central campaign. Beijing pledged in 2007 that the city's chief executive would be democratically elected as early as 2017, and the campaign plans, as a last resort, to block traffic in the city's central business district next year to press for true universal suffrage. The Global Times wrote: "The pan-democracy camp … should not be under the illusion that they can control Hong Kong's political development. Confronting the central government is not an option if Hong Kong is to survive. China has adequate power to stop Hong Kong [from] ... becoming a threat." Confronting the central government is not an option if Hong Kong is to survive. China has adequate power to stop Hong Kong [from] ... becoming a threat . The editorial added: "Those who want to threaten the central government by trying to mess up Hong Kong should recognise that the losses brought about to Hong Kong by their act would be much bigger than those the rest of China would suffer. "If they believe [Hongkongers will support them] in using 'economic suicide' as a political gamble, let them try and see." Veteran China watcher Johnny Lau Yui-siu said the editorial showed Beijing was determined to have full control over the election. "Beijing will not back down even though this could give rise to instability and economic losses in Hong Kong," said Lau, citing his recent contacts with his Beijing sources. "The Global Times comes under the People's Daily. I would be surprised if it is not reflecting Beijing's official views on the issue," he added. Hong Kong lawmaker Ip Kwok-him, who is also a National People's Congress (NPC) deputy, said: "We have to follow the Basic Law when planning universal suffrage. But [the pan-democrats] do not want to follow the Basic Law. That is why Beijing expresses concern." Qiao Xiaoyang, chairman of the NPC's Law Committee, told Beijing-loyalist lawmakers in Shenzhen on Sunday that under the "one country, two systems" formula, a chief executive had to "love China and love Hong Kong", and that Beijing had the final say on who is appointed. The Alliance for True Democracy - which includes the 27 pan-democratic lawmakers - yesterday challenged Qiao to come to Hong Kong for an open debate on "true universal suffrage". Legislator and executive councillor Starry Lee Wai-king, of the Beijing-loyalist Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said it was reasonable for Beijing to expect Hong Kong's future leader to be patriotic. She expressed worries Hong Kong could end up without universal suffrage if Beijing and the pan-democrats refused to compromise.

Sinopharm Group Co, China's biggest drug distributor, will sell as much as a fifth of its H-share capital to raise up to HK$4 billion ($515 million) to expand its sales network. The company will place as many as 165.7 million shares at HK$24.60 each, Sinopharm said in a filing to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on Thursday. Shares of the Shanghai-based company fell the most in almost three years after the announcement. The money raised will be used for "the expansion of pharmaceutical distribution and retail network and replenishment of liquidity after the expansion," Sinopharm said in the statement.

Market-killing actor has new movie in the offing (By Jeanny Yu Adam Cheng Siu-chow as General Yang in the soon to debut movie 'Saving General Yang'. Hong Kong stock investors may not be happy after the Easter holiday – actor Adam Cheng Siu-chow has a new movie coming next week. The TVB actor known to every household in the city has been a market killer every time a new television series or film starring him airs. Market players are worried that once again the pattern will repeat. “This is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Many locals, especially retail investors, are very superstitious,” said Ben Kwong, chief operating officer at KGI Asia. “Once everyone believes in it, there will be an across-board sell, and a sharp fall is inevitable.” Cheng’s new movie, Saving General Yang, is going to be aired on April 4. The movie’s story is based on the legendary generals of the Yang family during the earlier years of ancient China’s northern Song dynasty. Cheng, 66, plays General Yang the senior, one of the Yang family of generals who defended the Song’s borders from foreign invaders. Yang killed himself after losing a battle. CLSA last year said in a report that the more tragic the TV series that Cheng stars in, the worse the market performs. In addition to the imminent airing of the movie, market strategists said this could be a good time for local investors to cash out amid new worries over the euro zone and liquidity outflow from the city. “The market sentiment is already weak and Adam Cheng’s new series might become a perfect selling excuse,” Kenny Tang, general manager for the securities business division of AMTD Financial Planning. “China’s key meetings in March failed to bring exciting news and earnings results are a bit disappointing,” he said. “The market is already very frustrated.” With the exception of the Italian stock market, the benchmark Hang Seng Index has been the worst performing developed stock market in the first quarter globally. As of Thursday, the HSI lost 1.58 per cent year-to-date and stood at 22,299.63 points. AMTD’s Tang said the index could fall back to around 21,500. The HSI has had a good run-up since September last year on the back of strong inflowing liquidity; however, over the past two months, hot money has been flowing back to the US market as the dollar strengthens. In 1992, TVB broadcast the famous TV series The Greed of Man, in which Cheng played Ting Hai, an actor who made an immense fortune by short selling derivatives and stocks during a bear market. The Hang Seng slumped 13 per cent when the series aired. Cheng’s negative influence on the Hang Seng was dubbed the “Ting Hai effect” at the time and it has largely proven true over the past 10 years. Cheng has appeared in around 17 TV series since 1992, the debuts of 11 of them matched with stock market drops. In 1997, when his series Legend of Yung Ching was broadcast, the Hang Seng dropped below 10,000 points. Cheng series debuts coincided with the Asian financial crisis in 1998 and the bursting of the tech bubble in 2000. 

 China*:  Mar 31 2013

Xi Jinping vows to boost bilateral ties with Congo-Brazzaville (By Agence France-Presse in Brazzaville) Final leg of African tour takes president to Republic of Congo, where he signed deals worth several million dollars with his Congolese counterpart - Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso (right) and his wife Antoinette welcome China's President Xi Jinping and and his wife Peng Liyuan upon their arrival at Brazzaville's Maya-maya airport. China’s President Xi Jinping on Friday signed deals worth several million dollars with his Congolese counterpart in sectors as varied as banking and infrastructure, on the final leg of his three-nation Africa tour. His visit to Tanzania, South Africa and now the Republic of the Congo underscores Beijing’s growing presence in the resource-rich continent. Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan were greeted by President Denis Sassou Nguesso on their arrival in the capital Brazzaville on Friday, as well as several thousand Congolese wearing T-shirts emblazoned with images of the two leaders, dancing under a blazing sun. Xi said that he hoped to “deepen mutual understanding and friendship (with the Republic of the Congo) and lift bilateral ties to a new and higher level”, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported. Xi said that he hoped to 'deepen mutual understanding and friendship (with the Republic of the Congo) and lift bilateral ties to a new and higher level' The two leaders signed 11 deals worth several million dollars after Xi arrived for his two-day visit, the first by a Chinese president to the impoverished country of four million with significant oil resources. The accords cover projects in a number of areas including communications, infrastructure and banking. They build on two further accords worth several billion dollars already underway, one of which will finance the building of more than 500 kilometres of highway between Brazzaville and the economic capital on the Atlantic Coast, Pointe-Noire. China is already Congo’s largest trading partner, with bilateral trade ballooning to five billion dollars last year from US$290 million in 2002, according to Xinhua. China’s business boom and its rise to become the world’s second-largest economy has seen financial and trade ties rocket in recent years as it sources many of its raw materials from Africa. But ahead of Xi’s visit to Congo, many expressed doubt that he will bring job opportunities with him, as Chinese companies that set up shop in Africa often bring their workers with them. “It’s like we don’t have able hands in Congo,” a teacher at a training college told reporters. “If you import labour when there are no able people or specialists, that’s OK. But they even bring their own chauffeurs. There’s no transfer of abilities.” Xinhua said however that more than 85 per cent of the staff of some 2,000 Chinese companies operating in 50 African countries are Africans. In South Africa, Xi attended the summit of the BRICS group of emerging economic powers – Brazil, Russia, China, India and South Africa – at which they agreed to launch a new development bank while failing to set up an infrastructure fund. South African President Jacob Zuma, after meeting Xi on Tuesday, hailed China’s economic success as an inspiration for Africa’s biggest economy, but urged more equitable trade ties. Earlier in Tanzania, Xi called Africa a “continent of hope and promise” and urged the rest of the world to “respect (its) dignity and independence”. Bilateral trade reached some US$200 billion last year, Xi said in Tanzania, adding that China would “intensify not weaken” its relationship and noting a commitment to provide a US$20 billion credit-line to African nations over the next two years. On Saturday Xi, who was named China’s new president on March 14 after taking the reins of the Communist Party last November, will inaugurate a hospital and a library before heading home to Beijing.

China President Xi Jinping hails China-Congo ties as 'model of cooperation' (By WU JIAO in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo and LI XIAOKUN in Beijing) President visits Republic of Congo on the last leg of his African tour - President Xi Jinping arrived in the Republic of Congo on Friday, making the first state visit to the country by a Chinese president since diplomatic relations were established 49 years ago. "The ties between China and the Republic of Congo can be called a model of South-South Cooperation," Xi said in a written statement on his arrival in Brazzaville, the country's capital. President Xi Jinping is welcomed by Denis Sassou Nguesso, president of the Republic of Congo, at an airport in the country’s capital Brazzaville on Friday. Xi said the rapid development of bilateral ties has witnessed fruitful pragmatic cooperation in various dimensions and brought tangible benefits to people of both nations. Later on Friday, he met the president of the Republic of Congo, Denis Sassou Nguesso. They witnessed the signing of a series of agreements dealing with economics, trade and finance. Xi, who visited Russia, Tanzania and South Africa on his first foreign trip as president, is on the final leg of his journey. He was scheduled to deliver a speech to parliament in Brazzaville, Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Zhai Jun said. Sassou Nguesso told reporters on Wednesday Xi's visit to his country will be historic. Bilateral cooperation is longstanding and the two nations will celebrate the 50th anniversary of their diplomatic ties next year, he said. Qu Xing, president of the China Institute of International Studies, said the Republic of Congo is a relatively less-developed nation among African countries, and Xi's trip there marks far more than major progress for bilateral ties. "The state visit also serves as an impetus for expanding the scope of the China-Africa relationship," Qu said. Liu Guijin, former Chinese special representative on African affairs, said the two countries have an enduring friendship, and Sassou Nguesso is a good friend of the Chinese people. Sassou Nguesso has made 12 trips to China. "President Xi's trip to the African nations sends a clear signal that China ensures the consistency of its policies toward Africa. China, as a developing country, still puts its ties with developing countries among the priorities of its foreign policies," Liu said. Bilateral trade jumped to $5.08 billion in 2012 from $290 million in 2002, and China has become the Republic of Congo's largest trading partner. China's exports to the country are mainly mechanical and electrical equipment, textiles and new technology products, while imports from the African nation are mainly timber and crude oil. Li Anshan, director of the Center for African Studies at Peking University, said Xi's three-stop African tour has comprehensively covered three symbolic parts of the continent. "Tanzania stands for East Africa, South Africa represents the southern part, while the Republic of Congo is a symbol of the coastal nations of West Africa," Li said. Guan Jian, Chinese Ambassador to the Republic of Congo, said both countries have made remarkable achievements in cooperation on economy and trade, culture, education, healthcare and media, which "have not only facilitated the development of the Republic of Congo but also brought benefits to China". "Under the framework of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, China will intensify cooperation to improve the livelihoods of the Congolese people and the country's capability in self-development," Ambassador Guan said. China provided aid to the Republic of Congo after a weapons depot exploded in Brazzaville in March last year and the African nation donated $1 million to China after the devastating earthquake in Sichuan province in 2008. To further bilateral cultural and educational exchanges, China has opened a Confucius Institute at Marien Ngouabi University in the Republic of Congo. Beijing has been offering college scholarships to Congolese students every year since 1975.

Launching ceremony of - is the first national channel that China's mainstream media launched specially for a certain country.

A Boeing 737-800 airplane is seen during the celebration of the delivery of the 1,000th Boeing airplane for China, in Seattle, the United States, March 28, 2013. Boeing and China Eastern Airlines on Thursday celebrated in Seattle the delivery of the 1,000th Boeing airplane for China, one of the world's most dynamic markets for commercial airplanes. Boeing forecasted that China would need 5,260 new airplanes, valued at $670 billion, in the next 20 years 

Xi concludes South Africa trip (By Xinhua) Chinese President Xi Jinping concluded his South Africa trip and left Durban for Brazzaville Friday for a state visit to the Republic of the Congo. Chinese President Xi Jinping participates in a breakfast meeting with African countries' leaders in Durban, South Africa, March 28. Xi began his state visit to South Africa on Monday, where he also attended the fifth summit of BRICS countries, namely Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, in Durban. On Tuesday, Xi met his South African counterpart Jacob Zuma in Pretoria. Both leaders discussed ways to enhance the comprehensive strategic partnership established between the two countries in 2010. The two presidents agreed to make the bilateral relationship a strategic focus and priority in their respective foreign policies. They also vowed to further expand and deepen political, economic and trade cooperation, and people-to-people and cultural exchanges, as well as cooperation in international and regional affairs. In the South African port city of Durban, Xi attended the fifth BRICS summit, under the theme of "BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Development, Integration and Industrialization." Speaking at the summit, the Chinese president said that to enhance cooperation with other BRICS countries has always been a priority on China's diplomatic agenda. "China will continue to strengthen cooperation with other BRICS countries, in order to make the economic growth of BRICS countries more robust and our cooperation better structured and more productive," he said. "This will bring tangible benefits to people of all countries and make greater contributions to world peace and development." Xi also attended the first BRICS Leaders-Africa Dialogue Forum, which was centered on the cooperation between BRICS and African countries in infrastructure. Addressing the forum, Xi said the dialogue between leaders of BRICS and African countries reflected the political will of both sides to realize equality and inclusiveness, and seek common development. Xi said the world cannot enjoy stability and prosperity without peace and development of Africa, and international affairs cannot be properly dealt with without Africa's participation, adding that the global governance system would lose vitality without Africa's saying. BRICS and African countries are like-minded friends with extensive common interests, he said, noting that the development of each side holds opportunities for the other. On Thursday morning, the Chinese president had a breakfast meeting with a group of African leaders. They exchanged views on the further development of China-Africa ties. Xi's ongoing four-nation trip, his first after being elected China's president earlier this month, has already taken him to Russia and Tanzania.

Hong Kong*:  Mar 30 2013

Modern restaurants in Tseung Kwan O (By Elle Kwan Modern restaurants in Tseung Kwan O attract celebrities and food fans alike - Teppanyaki set from INA by Inagiku. Old Street Kobiteh. Bak kut teh with steamed rice. Tseung Kwan O may look like just another satellite town, but it's teeming with celebrities. Most of them hang out at INA by Inagiku, the Japanese restaurant famous for teppanyaki and tempura. The new outlet sits on the second floor of the Holiday Inn Express, and has a cool, slate-grey interior, a teppanyaki counter and a dedicated sushi and sashimi bar. With the upscale restaurant just minutes down the road from the TVB studios, INA would seem ideally located for the network's personalities to grab lunch. Before the hotel opened in October, they would have raced off in their sports cars to more glamorous locales when their directors called "cut". While Tseung Kwan O may not be the place to find the latest dining trends - there's barely a whiff of slow food, and only a whisper of organic - it is slowly gentrifying. Sometimes called Junk Bay, the area is better known among locals for the stench of the nearby landfill. But new developments in the area include the cruise ship terminal in Kowloon Bay and the transformation of Kwun Tong into a financial district. Hotels are being built in Tseung Kwan O to house an influx of business visitors and tourists. A new mall called PopCorn has quickly attracted big restaurant groups and beverage chains. The reputation of agnes b. took a beating when the French company opened a large space right at the front of the PopCorn mall, offering menus only in English and simplified Chinese characters, signalling its intention to ignore Cantonese clientele. Now the menus have been updated, business looks to be recovering, if the crowds of latte-sipping shoppers are anything to go by. Upstairs in the mall, Crystal Jade dishes out Shanghainese staples, next to the child-friendly California Pizza Kitchen. Old Street Kobiteh is a break from the norm. The green and white tiles are charming, retro and evocative of Southeast Asian kopitiam, or coffee shops. The Hainan chicken is the Malaysian-inspired restaurant's signature dish, but try the flaky roti bread with a full-flavoured beef rendang and a warming herbal bak kut teh soup. Next to INA by Inagiku at the Holiday Inn Express is a higher-end Shanghainese restaurant, Jin Cuisine, where the dishes are enjoyable, the service good, and the red wine expensive. Opposite, the Crowne Plaza has four restaurants. Chef's Table serves Western fare, including an afternoon tea buffet with a chocolate counter for HK$128 on weekends. There is also the elaborately decorated Tze Yuet Heen, which serves Cantonese cuisine. Cielo, on the 47th floor, is Tseung Kwan O's first rooftop restaurant and bar. It is tiny and plush with velvet banquettes inside, and spacious if blustery outside. It's possible to amble along the waterfront promenade towards Lohas Park - a newer housing estate that will grow to a mammoth 50 towers - and pass what will be prime parkland in the future. Hang Hau, the next new town, is in the other direction. The walk will build an appetite for a hearty steak dinner at Lardos in Hang Hau Village. A place the locals want to keep secret, its dining room is simply tiled, and it turns out one of Hong Kong's best rib-eyes - but without the usual price-tag. Meat lovers might also want to visit T.C. Deli, behind the restaurant, which is run by the same proprietor and sells prime cuts, cured meats and good cheeses, also at bargain prices. Nearby, in Hang Hau town proper, there is a Maxim's and You cafe, shabby chic with a vintage vibe, in the Hau Tak Shopping Centre. The fridge has the same line of organic beer, fruit teas and designer water as the company's Simply Life outlets. This menu is slimmed down compared with other locations, with baked potatoes, some spaghetti dishes and an all-day traditional English breakfast.

Plan to give Hong Kong world-class air quality in 7 years (By Cheung Chi-fai But they caution some pollutants will persist even after new standards are introduced - Storm clouds over Hong Kong Island yesterday. The government says the city’s air quality must improve within three years. Environment officials Christine Loh and Wong Kam-sing. Top officials yesterday unveiled a seven-year plan to cut Hong Kong's notorious roadside air pollution, while admitting some of the targets might be hard to meet. Billed as an air-quality roadmap to 2020, the plan says that if all measures are fully introduced, roadside pollution will begin to drop in the next two to three years, and see significant improvement in four to five. But the officials admitted that the level of nitrogen dioxide, the dominant pollutant, will remain almost double the new standards to be introduced next year despite a 40 per cent drop. "Our goal is for Hong Kong to be among the best in the world in understanding air quality so that we can continue to fight air pollution aggressively," Environment Secretary Wong Kam-sing said. Our goal is for Hong Kong to be among the best in the world in understanding air quality so that we can continue to fight air pollution aggressively. He was joined at a press conference by Transport Minister Anthony Cheung Bing-leung and senior officials from the bureaus for development and food and health in a move Wong said showed co-operation and commitment across government. Cheung, who oversees public and private transport operators - a key target of many measures - said his bureau aimed to improve air quality but it needed to be balanced with operators' needs. The measures include phasing out old diesel commercial trucks, retrofitting buses with emission controls and cleaner fuel for ships. The plan projects that by 2020, the concentration of carcinogenic respirable suspended particles at the roadside will drop by 25 per cent from 60 micrograms per cubic metre of air in 2011 to 45 micrograms - below the new tightened standard. Officials warned that nitrogen dioxide levels would still exceed the new standard despite falling 40 per cent to 75 micrograms. Undersecretary for the Environment Christine Loh Kung-wai said the unique character of the city, with its high population and building density, made it difficult to tackle a nitrogen dioxide problem that also plagued London. Loh said rectifying it might require tougher measures. "We might have to expand the pedestrianised areas or divert some traffic. But we are still exploring these and that's why they are not in the plan now," she said. The joint approach raises hopes that the lack of policy bureau co-ordination in fighting air pollution - highlighted in the last report of the Audit Commission - will become a thing of the past. But Friends of the Earth was not convinced as the plan lacked a mechanism for co-operation, while it was unclear what responsibility each bureau would shoulder for not meeting targets. The group, along with Green Sense, protested outside the government headquarters over what they see as officials' over-emphasis on infrastructure development at the expense of air quality. Wong said the air targets might still be achieved even with development, while Loh said the whole government would take the blame or credit for missing or meeting the air targets. Pending legislature approval, a new set of air-quality objectives will be introduced next year to replace those in use since 1987. A health-based air pollution alert system modelled on that used in Canada will be introduced at the same time.

Dragonair unveils new uniforms for flight attendants (By Ada Lee The dresses and jackets, showcased at The Peninsula, Tsim Sha Tsui, were designed to resemble Cathay Pacific's dress code. Dragonair passengers will see their flight attendants don something different from today as the airline rolls out a new uniform for its 3,000 frontline staff. Women will now wear a one-piece dress, while men will see an olive-coloured jacket and vest replace the previous 13-year-old uniform. The signature red and blue scarf will vanish. Designer Eddie Lau Pui-kai said the airline's dragon logo had been incorporated into the cut of the dress, the men's jacquard jacket and the collar design of the women's jacket. Lau, who also designed the uniform for sister airline Cathay Pacific, said he hoped passengers would associate the two airlines with each other when they saw the new uniform. It is Dragonair's fourth uniform since the airline was established in 1985. Dragonair chairman John Slosar said the new uniform suited the airline's image of being "young, expanding and energetic". He denied the change was part of an effort to relaunch the airline brand, but said the company wanted to make passengers feel more like Cathay and Dragonair were one family. Chief executive Patrick Yeung Wai-tim said the red in the female uniform represented youth and vitality, while the black helped to project an elegant and professional image. The uniform development process took 18 months. Lau, who has worked with Cathay Pacific for more than 15 years, said it had been difficult to design a uniform that would suit 3,000 people. It was especially important to find the right fabric, as it had to be waterproof, let employees "breathe" and be suitable for different weather conditions. "Scarves are not very trendy and not unique to Dragonair," he said, explaining the removal of the trademark item. But fashion designer and stylist Jerry Nova said he found the design boring. While the colours suited the tastes of Chinese people, he said it was not international enough. He liked the champagne cupid bow collar for the chief purser uniform, as it looked like a necklace from afar. Disagreeing with Lau, he said the uniforms would have been more trendy if they had featured a scarf, and noted that such an accessory could be tied in different ways and in various positions. Fellow stylist Nelson Cheung Hok-yum called the new uniform design conservative, as the black dress made the overall tone too dark, and made the flight attendants look too mature. He said he preferred the former uniform.

Jockey Club's carnival will be a walk in the park for dogs (By Jolie Ho An employee maintains the unique grass field at the Penfold Park in Sha Tin, which is managed by the Jockey Club. About 1,000 dogs will take part in the city's first dog walkathon on Saturday in Sha Tin near the site of a lush expanse of unusual grass popular among dogwalkers for being "as soft as a cushion". The 1.2 kilometre walk is part of the Penfold Paw Paw Hoof Hoof Carnival, organised by the Jockey Club at its Penfold Park track to promote animal welfare and a love for pets. Half of Penfold Park's eight hectares are covered with grass, and one hectare has two varieties growing together - a hybrid called Bermuda, which thrives in the summer, and a winter variety called perennial ryegrass. Pako Ip Pak-chung, the club's executive manager for tracks, said: "If you have only the summer grass, it is easily damaged when horses run on it from October to April. "So winter grass [bought from Oregon in the United States] has been grown during those months every year since 2000. The resilient grassy area … must feel like a cushion to horses and dogs running on it." Dog owner Polly Li, 57, first noticed other pet owners praising the grassy land at Penfold Park on online forums. Now, she walks her 17-month-old mongrel, Prince, at the park four or five times a week. "Dogs need to exercise and socialise, too. [Penfold] provides a very natural environment with a large piece of grassland … and the dogs enjoy the 'cushioned' grass," she said. "On weekends, there are a lot of dogs in the park and it's like a carnival." Prince will take part in Saturday's walkathon. And although the walk will be on a path rather than the cushioned grass the young dog is used to, Li is confident her pet will be able to complete the journey. The oldest dog expected at the 1.2 kilometre walkathon is 16 years old, and the youngest only four months old. The carnival will also feature pony rides for children under the age of six, dog performances, and adoption services for dogs and tortoises. Discussion sessions will focus on responsible dog ownership and training, and animal well-being, among other topics. Admission to the carnival is free. The event starts at 10am and ends at 6pm. Penfold Park's track was used to train horses for equestrian events in Beijing's 2008 Olympic Games. It also hosts Hong Kong's annual equestrian championships.

Dockers strike at Kwai Chung Container Terminal (By Lai Ying-kit) A general view of the Kwai Chung container terminal in March. About 100 dockers staged a strike and blocked a gate at the Kwai Chung Container Terminal to demand a pay rise on Thursday. A minor scuffle erupted with security guards when the workers attempted to break into the port through one gate on Thursday morning. Some reported receiving injuries. The strikers then moved to an area outside the gate and staged a sit-in. Container trucks had to use other gates to enter the port. The workers were employees of port operator Hong Kong International Terminals, a subsidiary of Hutchison Whampao, which holds port assets in more than 10 countries around the world. They were demanding a meeting with employers to discuss a pay rise, saying their wages had not been raised for 15 years and lagged behind inflation. The Kwai Chung Container Terminal is the principal commercial cargo handling area of Hong Kong and one of the largest and busiest port facilities in the world.

 China*:  Mar 30 2013

China Jan-Feb factory profits rise 17.2pc (By Reuters in Beijing) China’s industrial profit growth began showing signs of resurgence in December, gaining 17.3 per cent year on year, and profits grew 17.2 in the first two months of 2012. China’s industrial profits grew 17.2 per cent in the first two months of this year from a year ago, official data showed on Thursday, adding to signs that a burgeoning macro economic recovery is being felt across the corporate sector. “The industrial profit figure in the first two months extended the recovery trend starting from the fourth quarter of last year,” said He Ping, an official at the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in a statement alongside the data on Thursday. Chinese industrial firms made total profits of 709.2 billion yuan (HK$876.8 billion) in the first two months, the National Bureau of Statistics said. Profit growth began showing signs of resurgence in December, gaining 17.3 per cent year on year. That followed several tepid months that restrained overall profit growth to a modest 5.3 per cent year on year last year to a total of 5.6 trillion yuan. Industrial profits figures follow a raft of other indicators which point to a steady, albeit mild recovery in the world’s second-largest economy, ranging from exports to industrial output and investment. Among 41 sectors surveyed by the NBS, 30 reported rising profits in the first two months, led by a 150 per cent surge for power and heating suppliers and a 170 per cent jump for steel companies. Firms in the computing and telecommunications sector saw the next strongest growth at 89 per cent, followed by tobacco industry growth of 21.3 per cent and a rise of 19.8 per cent for firms in the automobile sector. Petroleum refiners, coking and nuclear processors swung into profit in the first two months compared with losses in the same period of last year, the statement said. It added that power, steel and petroleum refining contributed more than 50 per cent of the total industrial profit growth in the first two months of this year. On the downside, profits of the petroleum and natural gas extraction industry fell 4.5 per cent during the same period. China’s economy has snapped out of a seven-quarter long slowdown and started to pick up from the last quarter of last year, as it regains internal strength on the back of Beijing’s pro-growth policies. Annual economic growth slowed to 7.8 per cent last year, the weakest showing since 1999. The HSBC flash purchasing managers index, the earliest indicator of China’s industrial sector, showed that factory sector activities quickened in March after a holiday dip, pointing to solid first-quarter growth across the world’s second-largest economy.

Progress expected on new bank (By WANG XIAOTIAN wangxiaotian@ Visitors ask about wine from South Africa at a trade show of South African goods in Beijing. The BRICS bank is expected to enhance cooperation among developing economies and facilitate inter-BRICS trade. Substantial progress in establishing a BRICS development bank is just around the corner, as officials and analysts expect the proposed institution to strengthen ties between the five nations. Representatives from the BRICS countries - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - discussed the creation of the development bank at the Fifth BRICS Summit in Durban, South Africa, on Tuesday and Wednesday. "The finance ministers of the five countries have agreed that setting up the development bank is feasible and reasonable," Finance Minister Lou Jiwei said on Tuesday after a meeting among finance ministers from BRICS countries ahead of the summit. Experts said that as a key complement to existing multilateral financial institutions, the new development bank will be conducive to inter-BRICS cooperation and the steady growth and development of the world economy. As emerging forces on the global economic arena, the BRICS nations have enjoyed increasing shares in the world's combined GDP and trade volume, and they have started to play a more important role in improving global governance. But many believe they lack an institutional platform for cooperation. "The BRICS nations are like scattered pearls that haven't been put on a string," said Zhao Jinping, a senior researcher with the Development Research Center of the State Council. The bank can provide developing countries with financing support and policy consultation in areas of infrastructure investment, trade facilitation and poverty reduction, Zhao said, adding that the establishment of a free trade zone could be a plan. Yuan Gangming, a world economy researcher with Tsinghua University, said that the BRICS bank would help stabilize the financial market by funding infrastructure construction in developing nations and smoothing possible capital market fluctuations that result from government debt issuances. It's not being created as a counterweight to development banks such as the World Bank, said Jeremy Stevens, Standard Bank's Beijing-based economist. Instead, it would be "an auxiliary funding institution, albeit more aligned to the BRICS development agenda", Stevens said. The success of the bank will depend on specialization, rather than creating overlapping agendas with other development financing institutions and state policy banks in BRICS countries, including the Brazil Development Bank, China Development Bank and Export-Import Bank of India, he said. Mikhail Margelov, Russian President Vladimir Putin's envoy to Africa, said on March 15 that an agreement on the amount of resources to be committed isn't likely and Russia favors capping each side's contribution at $10 billion to begin with, Bloomberg News reported. "(It's) better we start with something small and beautiful. ... Our strategic goal is to transform the aging international financial architecture." The bank would then aim to borrow from global capital markets by issuing bonds, thus becoming a non-resident borrower in the US, Europe, Hong Kong and elsewhere, according to Standard Bank. "It is inevitable that the contributions will pressure some members more than others and associated risks may vary, as will the fund's decision-making processes. Unless pragmatically managed, political strains similar to those within the IMF may emerge," said Stevens. With a much smaller pool of economies acting as guarantors, the BRICS bank is likely to have less favorable funding costs than the World Bank as well as individual BRICS state policy banks, he added. "The establishment of the BRICS bank needs to undergo a process. It won't be completed within a short period of time," Zhao said.

World needs common development of China, India: Xi Jinping (Xinhua) Chinese President Xi Jinping said here Wednesday that the world needs the common development of China and India and can provide sufficient room for the two neighbors' development. Xi made the remarks during a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of a summit of BRICS countries - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - in the South African port city of Durban. Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) meets with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Durban, South Africa on Wednesday. China and India, as the world's two largest developing nations, have a similar historic mission to boost their social and economic development, Xi said. Both countries are in an important period of strategic opportunities, he said, adding that China-India relations have broad prospects for development. China, which regards its ties with India as one of the most important bilateral relationship, commits itself to pushing forward the two countries' strategic cooperative partnership, Xi said. He called on the two sides to maintain high-level reciprocal visits and contacts, make full use of political dialogues and consultations at various levels to strengthen strategic and political communication. China and India should broaden exchanges and cooperation between their armed forces and deepen mutual military and security trust, Xi said. The Chinese president said the two countries, with the help of such cooperative mechanisms as strategic and economic dialogue, should also discuss their cooperation on large-scale infrastructure projects. Xi also called for enhancing people-to-people exchanges and cooperation, and broadening youth exchanges. He said the two sides should strengthen coordination and cooperation within the United Nations, BRICS, the G20 and other multilateral groupings, support each other's participation in regional cooperation, and promote peace, stability and development in Asia. On the border issue, Xi said China and India should improve and make good use of the mechanism of special representatives to strive for a fair, rational solution framework acceptable to both sides as soon as possible. Meanwhile, he said, the two sides should continue to safeguard peace in their border areas and prevent the issue from affecting bilateral relations. Singh expressed admiration for China's achievements in development, saying that developing good-neighborly and friendly relations with China and realizing common development along with China is a priority of the country's foreign policy. India hopes to continue to maintain high-level exchanges, dialogue and communication with China, he added. He also voiced the hope that the two countries would respect each other's core interests and major concerns, deepen mutual strategic trust, strengthen coordination and cooperation on international affairs, and safeguard peace and stability in the region and the world at large. Singh said his country, which adheres to an independent foreign policy, will not be used as a tool to contain China, adding that India is willing to make concerted efforts with China to show the world that they are cooperative partners instead of rivals. India will abide by political guidelines set by both sides and seek a solution to the bilateral border issue from a strategic height with a commitment to safeguard peace in their border areas, he said. The Indian prime minister said his country recognizes the Tibet autonomous region is a part of the Chinese territory and that India will not allow Tibetans to conduct political activities against China in India.

Hong Kong*:  Mar 29 2013

No consultation on political reform until conditions met, Beijing official says (By Colleen Lee Consultation should not begin until conditions met, says Beijing official - Consultation on electoral reform should not begin until most Hongkongers agree that those who confront the central government should not rule the city, a top Beijing official has said. The remark by Qiao Xiaoyang, chairman of the Law Committee under the National People's Congress, came amid criticism by pan-democrats of the city's government for delaying public consultation on the 2017 chief executive election. A full transcript of a speech Qiao made on Sunday was uploaded to the website of the central government's Hong Kong liaison office yesterday. Qiao listed two key prerequisites for electing the chief executive by universal suffrage. "A prerequisite is that it has to be in line with the Basic Law and the relevant decision of the NPC Standing Committee," he said. "Another prerequisite is that those confronting the central government are not allowed to become the chief executive. A prerequisite is that it has to be in line with the Basic Law and the relevant decision of the NPC Standing Committee. Another prerequisite is that those confronting the central government are not allowed to become the chief executive - QIAO XIAOYANG, CHAIRMAN OF THE LAW COMMITTEE UNDER THE NATIONAL PEOPLE'S CONGRESS. If these two prerequisites are not met and fail to gain recognition from a majority of people in Hong Kong society, it will be inappropriate to launch the political reform consultation. Even if the consultation went ahead, it would not yield a good result. "Confrontation does not refer to criticising Beijing. Criticism is allowed as long as it is for the good of the country," he said. He added that Hong Kong could not blindly follow the Western political system. "What flowers the Western garden can plant are stipulated by their constitutions. What flowers the Hong Kong garden can plant are stipulated by the Basic Law. [The opposition camp can] say whatever they like but not the Basic Law provisions," he said. "If you tell him, according to the Basic Law, this flower cannot be planted he will say you are inconsistent with international standards." Democratic Party lawmaker Albert Ho Chun-yan criticised Qiao's ideas for "overriding" the system and the law. He hoped they were not Beijing's policy. A government spokesman last night said authorities would launch the formal consultation "at an appropriate time". The academic behind the Occupy Central movement, Dr Benny Tai Yiu-ting, said Qiao's remarks would not affect plans to protest for universal suffrage.

WHO will help set Hong Kong’s air quality goals (By Cheung Chi-fai Government is believed to be calling in global experts as it sets out a seven-year road map - World Health Organisation experts will help set Hong Kong's air quality objectives, according to a schedule to be released by the Environment Bureau today, a source close to the government says. The 40-page road map for Clean Air for Hong Kong will outline the targets and timetables for improving air quality. The document, to be launched by Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing, will cover at least the next seven years and is expected to be the most comprehensive air quality blueprint for Hong Kong yet. The plan will include government measures to curb emissions at local sources, from roads to marine transport and power generation. It will also highlight the need for co-operation with Guangdong in addressing regional smog caused by ground-level ozone pollution. The source said it would also focus on the link between public health and air pollution, and the need for long-term local health studies, as well as possible funding sources for this research. But room for new local measures seemed limited, as the bureau had recently already rolled out or announced a number of measures. These included phasing out old, polluting trucks by 2019, with the help of HK$10 billion earmarked by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. It is understood that the bureau has been shortlisting experts to review its objectives and advise on studies through the WHO's director general Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun. "It is hoped the experts can help determine how far Hong Kong can go in setting the air quality targets," the source said. "[The road map] will also give ammunition to environment officials [trying to] improve air quality in future." It is hoped the experts can help determine how far Hong Kong can go in setting the air quality targets - To highlight co-operation between different bureaus and departments, Wong will be joined in the announcement by Secretary for Transport and Housing Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, undersecretary for food and health Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee, and permanent secretary for development Wai Chi-sing. "The Environment Bureau wanted to get Dr Ko Wing-man, the secretary for health and food, involved to highlight the importance of the issue. It is far more convincing for Ko to tell the public what is bad for their health than Wong," the source said. But a spokesman for Ko said the health minister had to show up at another event that would clash with the press conference. "Dr Ko will attend a doctors' event about Sars at Nethersole Hospital. He had promised to attend the event before the [press] conference was finalised," the spokesman said. Early last year, environment officials announced new air quality targets to be introduced next year, but the Audit Commission said the targets were not sufficient to protect public health. The officials also listed at least 19 measures to reach the targets, some of which are already in use.

New coronavirus appears deadlier than Sars, says HKU (By Emily Tsang Mysterious coronavirus, though not less infectious, has a higher mortality rate and infects many species, Hong Kong researchers find - An electron microscope image of a coronavirus, part of a family of viruses that cause ailments including the common cold and Sars. The mysterious new coronavirus that emerged in the Middle East and has killed 11 people is potentially more deadly than Sars and also more "promiscuous" - able to infect many different species - University of Hong Kong research has found. Unlike Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome), the new coronavirus can affect many different organs in the body and kills cells rapidly, the researchers say. The source of the new infection is still unknown, but the virus appears to have originated in bats, a team of European experts wrote in the journal mBio. The HKU research listed animals including monkeys, pigs, civet cats and even rabbits that could be hosts of the virus before it found its way to humans. Lead researcher Yuen Kwok-yung, a microbiologist, said this meant the source of human infection would be difficult to trace. The World Health Organisation announced yesterday that the disease had killed two more people - a 73-year-old from the United Arab Emirates and a Briton who had visited Saudi Arabia and Pakistan - bringing the death toll to 11. The WHO has confirmed 17 cases to date. Yuen told the South China Morning Post that the virus could cause a deadly pandemic if it mutated further. "It could be more virulent [than Sars]", he said. "The Sars coronavirus infects very few human cell lines. But this new virus can infect many types of human cell lines, and kill cells rapidly." The findings, tested in human cell lines, suggest the virus could cause widespread organ infection. It could attack the lower airway, liver, kidneys and intestines as well as tissue macrophages - cell clusters that "eat" bodily debris such as dead cells. The report, published by the Journal of Infectious Diseases this week, says the new virus "is markedly different" from the other non-Sars human coronaviruses that usually have little ability to move among different cells, and cause self-limiting upper respiratory tract infections. This may explain why patients with the new coronavirus can suffer multiple organ failure, resulting in a high mortality rate of 56 per cent - in contrast to 11 per cent for Sars. Yuen said: "The Sars coronavirus infected very few animal cell lines. It was finally traced to bats and civets. But we may have a very hard time, as this new virus seems to be much more promiscuous." Yuen said, however, that the new virus did not appear to be very infectious, as it tended to infect lower respiratory cells instead of upper respiratory ones like Sars, but this pattern might change as the virus mutated. "We still have a lot to do before we can learn more about this virus," Yuen said. "Cell line cultures and even animal models may not completely reflect what [it] can do to humans. But this is certainly another step forward." The Health Department yesterday held a "desktop drill" to test the government's preparedness for a possible outbreak of novel coronavirus.

Li Ka-shing says 'loving the country' means being truthful and pragmatic (By Peggy Sito Li Ka-shing yesterday defined "love of country" - the quality Beijing sees as essential for Hong Kong's next chief executive. "[A person who] loves the country must tell the truth, be pragmatic and have contributed [to the country]," said Li, and that kind of person would be good for the country's development. [A person who] loves the country must tell the truth, be pragmatic and have contributed [to the country] LI KA-SHING. Tycoon believes pragmatism and making a contribution are also qualities that count most - Li Ka-shing says property prices will stabilize. But Li refused to specifically say whether these should also be criteria for future candidates for Hong Kong's chief executive. The remarks by the city's richest man came at a news conference announcing the financial results of his two flagship companies, Cheung Kong and Hutchison Whampoa. On Sunday, Qiao Xiaoyang, chairman of the Law Committee under the National People's Congress, indicated at a closed-door seminar on the Basic Law, Hong Kong's mini-constitution, that, among other criteria, chief executive candidates must be persons who loved the country and loved Hong Kong. Turning to the property market, Li predicted home prices in Hong Kong would stabilize, in view of possible double-digit increases in construction costs. This, coupled with low interest rates and a favourable employment environment, would lend support to a stable property market. He recommended that home seekers buy now if they could afford to do so. In view of current financial instability, Li said it was still fine to buy a flat for one's own use or for the next generation, provided buyers could afford it. Li said Cheung Kong, which plans to put more than 5,200 flats up for sale in the city this year, was not pessimistic about the housing market. He believed that the government's cooling measures were aimed at stabilising home prices. Commenting on recent government interventions - from restrictions on carrying infant milk formula across the border to the property cooling measures - he said he would need more time to observe how well the interventions worked. Li also said Cheung Kong's recent sale of units at its Apex Horizon hotel in Kwai Chung was lawful. The company had not asked its staff to buy Apex units to support sales, he said.

Lawmaker elaborates on Beijing's eligibility criteria for chief executives candidates (By Lai Ying-kit New People's Party lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun. Advocates of an end to one-party rule and separation of powers in China are regarded by Beijing as confrontationists, a Hong Kong lawmaker on Wednesday quoted an unspecified mainland official as saying. Michael Tien Puk-sun said he learnt these details from a mainland official who met with Hong Kong pro-government politicians in a seminar on Sunday, where Beijing’s criteria for candidates wishing to run for Hong Kong’s chief executive in 2017 were discussed. Tien, a member of the Legislative Council and vice-chairman of the pro-government New People’s Party, did not identify the official. He said he telephoned the official after Sunday’s meeting, which Tien participated in. In Sunday’s closed-door seminar in Shenzhen, Qiao Xiaoyang, chairman of the Law Committee under the National People’s Congress, told about 40 Hong Kong legislators that people who insist on confronting the central government are ineligible candidates for the position of chief executive. Qiao’s remarks appeared to be an attempt to set the tone for an increasingly intense debate on how Hong Kong will introduce universal suffrage as the method for electing the chief executive in 2017. In previous elections the chief executive was elected by a chief executive election committee dominated by pro-Beijing politicians and business people. On Wednesday, Tien said the mainland official that he telephoned laid out more details of what constituted confrontation in the eyes of Beijing. Tien quoted the official as saying it meant “opposing China’s political system”, such as calling for the end of one-party rule. “I asked the official whether someone is a confrontationist if he has, through words or actions, sought to change the system of one-party rule in China. The official answered yes,” Tien said. Advocating separation of powers and establishment of a western-style democracy were also regarded by Beijing as confrontational, Tien quoted the official as saying. He said that, according to the mainland official, critics of the central government or people who hold dissident views on “individual matters”, such as the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown and the death of human right activist Li Wangyang, were not regarded as Beijing’s opponents.

TVB seeks to block new free-to-air TV licences (By Joyce Man A lawyer for TVB on Wednesday called the events that led the Communications Authority to suggest granting new licences for free-to-air television broadcasters a “farce” and a “charade”. Gerard McCoy SC, representing TVB, asked the Court of First Instance for leave to apply for a judicial review of the authority’s recommendation. TVB, one of two current free-to-air broadcasters, had earlier said in court filings that the Communications Authority, the industry regulator, had made an "unlawful" recommendation in July, when it supported the granting of the new licences, arguing that the judgment was replete with factual and legal errors. It asked the court to stop the Chief Executive in Council, made up of the chief executive and Executive Council, from giving licences to City Telecom-owned Hong Kong Television Network, i-Cable Communications subsidiary Fantastic Television, and HK Television Entertainment Company, a unit of PCCW. TVB’s court action comes after ATV, the other free-to-air broadcaster, failed in March to obtain court permission to lodge a judicial challenge. McCoy told the court on Wednesday that the authority had commissioned four reports, two of which were completed before it made its recommendation in July 2011, and two which came after. TVB only received a condensed, six-page summary of the 300-page recommendation in May of 2012, he said, and only received the authority’s reports after that date. The chronology [of the recommendations and reports] betrays a consultation process that was a farce, a charade, and which lacked all semblance of fairness - “The chronology [of the recommendations and reports] betrays a consultation process that was a farce, a charade, and which lacked all semblance of fairness,” McCoy said. McCoy said TVB was a principal stakeholder that would be affected by the granting of the new licences and that, as a result of what had happened, the playing field was no longer even. He also claimed that “the reports are demonstrably flawed, absurdly inaccurate, and … contain catastrophic blunders.” For example, the report’s writers misquoted the advertising expenditure of free-to-air TV stations between 2005 and 2009 as HK$36.2 billion when it was actually HK$12.02 billion, McCoy said. “The ad pie is only about one-third of the [report’s] amount.” But the authority argued that the Chief Executive in Council had not even made a decision yet, and hence it was too early for a judicial review. “The entire process has not yet reached fruition, a decision,” said Teresa Cheng SC said on behalf of the authority. “It would be fruitless to start reviewing matters now.” The hearing, scheduled to last one day, continues.

 China*:  Mar 29 2013

China and Brazil agree to US$30 billion currency swap deal (By Bloomberg in Durban) The agreement serves to provide protection during times of financial crises - BRICS leaders Dilma Rousseff, of Brazil, Russia's Vladimir Putin, South Africa's Jacob Zuma and Xi Jinping at a summit in Durban. China and Brazil agreed to establish a swap line of about US$30 billion in their respective currencies as they work to reinforce the clout of the world's largest emerging markets on a global stage. China, the world's second-biggest economy, is promoting the role of the yuan in international trading and financing as it moves to reduce its control over the currency and open up its financial markets. Its agreement with Brazil forms part of the message from BRICS countries, which include Russia, India and South Africa, that existing financial architecture is inappropriate to deal with the world's main challenges, said Joao Augusto de Castro Neves, an analyst at political risk consultancy Eurasia Group. "There is economic justification for the swap deal, but there are undeniable political repercussions," he said. "The BRICS have been one of the main items in Brazil's foreign policy agenda over the past three or four years, so there's interest in maintaining the BRICS as a relevant forum." There is economic justification for the swap deal, but there are undeniable political repercussions - The currency swap is worth 190 billion yuan (HK$235 billion) or 60 billion reais, the People's Bank of China said on its website yesterday. China is Brazil's biggest trading partner, with imports and exports between the two countries reaching US$75.5 billion last year. China's central bank said the three-year deal will only be used in case of a credit crisis and could be rolled over after expiration. "Independently of global financial conditions, with this swap Brazil and China will have the necessary financing to keep our bilateral trade relations as they are today," Brazil's central bank President Alexandre Tombini said. "The idea is not new, but is important. The agreement is another important step in the direction of a deeper integration between central banks." The BRICS nations have combined foreign-currency reserves of around US$4.4 trillion and account for 43 per cent of the world's population.

Austerity measures for China's officials drag down growth, says NDRC (By Patrick Boehler) The clampdown on official’s luxury spending has led to a “significant drop” in high-end food and alcohol consumption, the 21st Century Business Herald wrote on Wednesday. Reporting on an internal meeting at the National Development and Reform Commission, the country’s top economic planning agency, last week, the daily said the drop in luxury consumption due to austerity measures would drag down overall consumption figures, even though ordinary consumption is growing at a normal rate. In December, incoming President Xi Jinping called for austerity among officials in a much-publicised speech to Communist Party leaders. He outlined guidelines which aim at putting an end to special traffic arrangements for officials, lavish banquets, lengthy meetings, flower arrangements and unnecessary travel. By Chinese New Year, the price of a bottle of Kweichow Moutai, the trademark liquor for official banquets, had dropped by a third compared with last year to 1,560 yuan (HK$1,922). Turnover in high-end restaurants has fallen by 35 per cent in Beijing and 20 per cent in Shanghai. As an unintended consequence, luxury restaurants in downtown Beijing have had to change their business model, the Economic Observer wrote on Tuesday. Restaurants that previously catered exclusively for officials, who cherished their sumptuous privacy, now cater to the public. Some restaurants abolished expensive seafood dishes. For fear of repercussions, officials now head to Beijing’s suburbs outside the fourth ring-road for their cherished banquets, the weekly reported. Lower consumption figures do not mean officials have tightened their belts. Most banquets have simply disappeared from view, local officials in four provinces told the Post.

Chinese president attends breakfast meeting with BRICS business leaders (Xinhua) Chinese President Xi Jinping attended here Wednesday a breakfast meeting between political and business leaders of BRICS. At the meeting, business representatives, who attended the BRICS Business Forum in Durban Tuesday, are expected to report the outcome of the forum to the leaders, including their recommendations on the development of infrastructure, mining, agriculture, finance and energy in the BRICS countries. The gathering came on the sidelines of the fifth summit of BRICS, an emerging-economy group consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. South Africa, host of the summit, has said that the creation of a BRICS Business Council will be announced at the breakfast meeting. Under the theme of "BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Development, Integration and Industrialization," BRICS leaders will later today mull establishing a development bank and foreign exchange reserve pool, according to official sources. They will also have a dialogue with African leaders to promote cooperation between the BRICS countries and Africa. Xi, who is on his first trip abroad as Chinese president, is expected to outline China's viewpoints on BRICS-Africa cooperation. 

The World Bank on Tuesday welcomed the move taken by the BRICS countries to establish a development bank, vowing to work closely with the new lender to end poverty and build shared prosperity throughout the developing world. Finance ministers from the BRICS members, namely Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, agreed early Tuesday to set up a development bank to fund infrastructure in the five emerging economies, Chinese Finance Minister Lou Jiwei said in South Africa. The agreement will be endorsed by BRICS leaders at a summit to be held later today in the South African port city of Durban. "Establishing a development bank is a significant undertaking," the Washington-based global lender said in a statement. "The World Bank will stand steady and work closely to partner with regional development banks in a bid to enhance the effectiveness of our collective work," it added. According to Lou, the BRICS development bank would be complementary to the existing development institutions such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. However, the ministers did not discuss the initial contributions from each country to the bank. "What we have now (about the development bank) is just a general picture," Lou said.

Feted abroad, ignored at home (By By Gan Tian and Tiffany Tan) Mercedes-Benz China Fashion Week opens on Sunday with a show by independent designer Wang Peiyi, whose creations have graced the Milan runway. While designers like Wang Peiyi gain plaudits in the world's fashion capitals, Gan Tian and Tiffany Tan discover that the domestic market is a harder nut to crack. While Wang Peiyi's designs are attracting plenty of attention in Europe, back home in China not many people have even heard of him. In February Wang presented his creations at Milan Fashion Week, becoming the first mainland designer to hold a runway show at the biannual event. The collection, inspired by the northern lights, was a critical success. "The lineup was strong on glamorous evening pieces and also included a few more urban styles, like a leather bomber jacket over a laser-cut shift dress," Women's Wear Daily reported on its website. Italian Vogue, meanwhile, has a photo spread of Wang's couture on its website. Yet Wang's fellow Chinese can't easily get their hands on his clothes. Despite making his European debut and starting his eponymous label in Beijing in 2004, Wang still has no boutique in China. His experience underscores the difficult situation faced by many of China's independent fashion designers, such as Wang Yutao, Gao Yang and Xie Feng. At a time when China wants to build its reputation as a design and innovation hub - not just a manufacturing giant - these artists are helping make a name for Chinese fashion design, but remain nameless in their own country. The hottest example is Exception de Mixmind. Though China's first lady Peng Liyuan wore it on her diplomatic debut, only a few consumers who pursue high-quality and distinctive Chinese design know this Guangzhou-based brand. 

Hong Kong*:  Mar 28 2013

Hong Kong Never a shortage of milk powder, says producer (Emily Tsang It was a mistake to limit exports and ban should be lifted in long term, company head says - Arnoud van den Berg admitted that demand has been unpredictable. The government's restrictions on taking infant milk formula across the border was "based on a mistake" and should be scrapped in the long term, a milk powder producer said. "There was never a stock shortage," said Arnoud van den Berg, general manager of FrieslandCampina, the manufacturer of Friso products. "There were always products in our stock house, but customers emptied all the shelves every time the products were put on the shelves," he said. There were always products in our stock house, but customers emptied all the shelves every time the products were put on the shelves. "I respect the government's attention on the matter; however, it was based on a mistake that it was a supply problem," Berg told the South China Morning Post. He added that it was unnecessary for the government to maintain the restrictions due to a periodical lack during the peak season each year. He admitted that the demand in Hong Kong had been unpredictable as most of it was driven by mainland visitors, especially before the Lunar New Year, but the company had increased their supply to meet the needs. Though the company had exported their Holland-made product to the mainland since 2009, some customers preferred the ones in Hong Kong, he said. The company launched a smartphone app yesterday to allow locals to order its products. Meanwhile, the government will refine the definition of infant powdered formula under the Import and Export Ordinance to avoid confusion. Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man said yesterday that "we hope we will be able to table an amendment to the definition of powdered formula to make it clearer". The aim is to help front-line enforcement officers more easily identify products that are restricted, he said. Ko maintained that the law would not be scrapped in the short term.

Mainland China parents can relax on abode issue (By Stuart Lau) Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung - With the top court shunning a government request to seek constitutional clarification from Beijing, the right of abode currently enjoyed by children born in Hong Kong to mainland parents remains intact. One such parent, who unsuccessfully asked the Court of Final Appeal to allow her eight-year-old daughter to join in the hearings, said she was happy about yesterday's ruling. Li Yinxian told welfare group the Society for Community Organisation, that the ruling "reflects Hong Kong's judicial independence and the rule of law". As of last year, at least 200,000 children like Li's daughter had been born in the city since the Court of Final Appeal granted right of abode in 2001 to Chong Fung-yuen - whose parents were not Hongkongers at the time of his birth. Pro-mainland legal experts criticised the decision as not being in line with a 1999 interpretation imposed by the National People's Congress Standing Committee. But the birth craze slowed this year, after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying imposed a zero-quota for mainland mothers to book local obstetrics services. Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung remained tight-lipped yesterday on whether the government would seek an interpretation from Beijing, saying only that it would "try its best" to resolve the issue through the local legal system.

Galaxy’s net profit doubles in 2012 to hit new record (By Reuters) The Galaxy Macau casino resort is raking in the money. Macau casino operator Galaxy Entertainment Group more than doubled its net profit in 2012 to a record high, lifted by spending from mainland Chinese visitors to its flagship property in the world’s biggest gambling hub. Galaxy, one of six licensed operators in Macau, said full-year net profit was HK$7.4 billion (US$950 million), up from HK$3 billion in the prior year. The result was in line with the average estimate of analysts for HK$7.5 billion in a Thomson Reuters poll. Revenue rose 38 per cent to HK$56.7 billion, it said in a statement on the Hong Kong stock exchange. Its flagship property, the Galaxy Macau, has helped draw more visitors to Macau’s developing Cotai strip since the casino-resort opened in 2011. The strip lies across from the main Macau peninsula, which is home to the MGM Macau, the Wynn Macau and Galaxy’s smaller Starworld casino. Due to a lack of space on the crowded main peninsula, casino operators are expanding their footprint in Cotai to capture a larger slice of the Macau market, which raked in gambling revenue of US$38 billion (HK$294.96 billion) last year. Galaxy, with a stock market value of US$18 billion (HK$139.7 billion), is the second-biggest gambling company in Macau after Sands China. Controlled by the Lui family of Hong Kong, Galaxy is expected to open a new phase of the Galaxy Macau in 2015. Among casino operators, Galaxy is armed with the biggest parcel of land on Cotai. The company’s Galaxy Macau flagship accounts for just 25 per cent of its total allocated space on the strip. The stock was up 0.45 per cent prior to the results on Tuesday, against a 0.3 per cent fall in the benchmark Hang Seng Index.

Li Ka-shing's Hutchison Whampoa profit down 53pc (By Reuters) Hutchison Whampoa, a ports-to-telecoms empire owned by Asia’s richest man Li Ka-shing, said on Tuesday it saw signs of recovery in major economies and the group’s operating divisions would continue to invest and expand. Octogenarian Li, speaking after the firm reported a better-than-expected net profit for 2012 thanks to infrastructure investments, held court at an earnings briefing, joking with reporters and warning against speculating in Hong Kong property. “Whilst uncertainty still remains a challenge for 2013, major economies are showing signs of stabilisation and gradual recovery,” said the company, whose core businesses and operations are spread across 52 countries. “Ninety per cent of our businesses in Europe are quite mature, unless there’s any unexpected change in economies, our business in Europe will be quite stable this year.” He added each of the group’s major operating divisions would continue to invest and expand its core business operations. The group’s businesses in Europe reported EBITDA growth of 21 per cent over the previous year. Mainland China contributed 11 per cent, or HK$42.7 billion, to Hutchison’s revenues, thanks to its key businesses in retail and property. Li, nicknamed “superman” for his deal-making savvy, is eyeing further acquisitions as global economic woes drive down asset prices. “If I have sufficient capital, say 100 billion, and you ask me what to invest, I can answer you in five minutes - if I would tell you!” he joked. In January, Hutchison bought France Telecom’s Orange Austria for 1.3 billion euro, following the purchase in July last year of British gas company Wales & West Utilities. It has also signalled interest in buying a stake in Manchester Airports Group. Hutchison’s full-year net profit totalled HK$26.1 billion, down from HK$56.02 billion a year earlier when it had booked a hefty one-off gain after spinning off its port assets, it said in a filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange. The company, whose businesses span commercial properties in Hong Kong and China to telecommunications in Britain and energy in Canada, was forecast to report a net profit of HK$23.4 billion for 2012, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. In telecommunications, it competes with Britain’s biggest mobile operator, Everything Everywhere – a joint venture of France Telecom’s Orange and Deutsche Telekom’s T-Mobile. It also competes with Telefonica’s O2 and Vodafone Group. The company said its subsidiary, Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings, posted a 22 per cent rise in profit attributable to shareholders and expected growth to continue thanks to its investment in Wales and West Utilities, which it bought in the last quarter of 2012. Shares of Hutchison ended down 0.5 per cent prior to the results, while the Hang Seng Index finished up 0.3 per cent. Separately, Cheung Kong (Holdings), Hong Kong’s second-largest property developer and which holds a controlling stake in Hutchison, posted a 30 per cent fall in 2012 net profit. The company’s first annual decline since 2008 was due to fewer project launches during the year amid government tightening measures. Li said a third of Cheung Kong’s earnings came from Hong Kong, while the city’s contribution to Hutchison’s earnings was 16 to 17 per cent.

 China*:  Mar 28 2013

Xi and Zuma vow to prioritise Sino-South African relations (By Teddy Ng in Durban, South Africa President Xi Jinping and South African leader Jacob Zuma have signed a series of deals to deepen bilateral co-operation. First lady Peng Liyuan during the state visit to South Africa. China and South Africa vowed to make their relationship a diplomatic priority and tackle trade imbalances as they signed a series of deals on deepening co-operation following talks between President Xi Jinping and his counterpart Jacob Zuma. In a joint declaration released after the talks yesterday, they said the Sino-South African relationship was "vibrant and important". It said the leaders had "agreed to put Sino-African ties as the priority … of their nations' foreign affairs policy". Xi arrived in the South African capital of Pretoria yesterday before heading to Durban for a summit between the five major emerging economies. South Africa is the third stop of Xi's maiden diplomatic trip as head of state, after Russia and Tanzania. But his visit to Africa has been marred by controversy over China's presence in the continent, with critics saying that Beijing is exploiting Africa for natural resources, and that Chinese firms have violated labour laws and refused to hire local workers. The joint declaration vowed to improve the structure of trade and support technological transfer, industrial financing and bilateral investment. Xi and Zuma said they would also monitor the implementation of projects in trade, investment, basic infrastructure, energy, communication, agriculture and human resources. In his talks with Zuma yesterday, Xi said China would encourage Chinese firms and financial institutions to participate in basic infrastructure, coal mining, energy and the car industry, adding that "China will promote bilateral co-operation based on a mutually beneficial principle". Xi made similar remarks in Tanzania, where he stressed that China would work alongside African countries in adopting practical measures to solve problems in trade and economic co-operation. Trade between China and South Africa reached about US$60 billion last year, nearly a third of total China-Africa trade. Dr Mzukisi Qobo, a senior lecturer in political science at the University of Pretoria, said South Africa was keen to diversify its trade with China, as almost 60 per cent of bilateral trade comprised iron ore exports to China. However, he said that could not be fixed in the near future. Besides trade, both nations said they would step up co-operation in the United Nations and the BRICS bloc - which includes Brazil, Russia and India - to promote a just international order. 

BRICS nations seek to establish rival to World Bank (By Agencies in Durban) Emerging powers try to mould planned rival to World Bank to suit their own goals, putting focus on issues that divide them - South Africa's foreign minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, addresses delegates in Durban. The BRICS emerging powers yesterday sought a deal on setting up a development bank that would rival Western-backed institutions, as they tried to iron out significant differences ahead of their leadership summit in Durban. The grouping of Brazil, Russia, India, China and hosts South Africa is racing to flesh out proposals for an infrastructure-focused lender that would challenge seven decades of dominance by the World Bank. Just hours before leaders were due to kick off the summit, finance ministers were still working on key elements of the plan. Disputes remain over what the bank will do, with each nation trying to mould the institution to their foreign or domestic policy goals and with each looking for assurances of an equitable return on their initial investment of around US$10 billion. Failure to secure a deal would be a major embarrassment for many of the participants and would play into the hands of those who argue BRICS nations have little to bind them together. A failure to take concrete steps would also raise questions about whether the BRICS grouping can even survive. "Ironically, it may be the cleavages within the BRICS grouping that more accurately hint at the future of the global order: tensions between China and Brazil on trade, India on security, and Russia on status highlight the difficulty Beijing will have in staking its claim to global leadership," said Daniel Twining, of the German Marshall Fund. But if the leaders succeed it would be the first time since the inaugural BRICS summit four years ago that the group's stated wish for a more equitable global order is matched by concrete steps to make it happen. That would send a loud message to the United States and European nations that the global balance of power as it is now is unworkable. Diplomats say it could start with US$10 billion seed money from each country, but the exact role of the bank is up for debate. Indian officials have pressed for a BRICS-led development bank that serves developing countries by recycling budget surpluses into investment in these nations. Many developing nations inside and outside the BRICS will hope that is a way of tapping China's vast financial resources. China, meanwhile, would no doubt like the bank to invest in trade-multiplying projects. "It will be some time before it will be feasible for this bank to start financing say, a railway project," Simon Freemantle, an analyst at Standard Bank Group, Africa's biggest lender, said in Durban yesterday. "That is some way out." Aside from the development bank, the group will also try to establish a foreign exchange reserve pool worth as much as US$240 billion to be drawn on in times of financial crises. Later yesterday, Brazil was to sign a bilateral accord with China to promote trade in their national currencies. BRICS leaders will also establish business and think- tank councils. With Syria's two-year-long civil war escalating through the suspected use of chemical weapons, BRICS leaders will also have to weigh a call from President Bashar al-Assad to intervene. 

Beijing in push for free trade deal with Japan, South Korea (By Cary Huang in Beijing, Julian Ryall in Tokyo) Talks finally open with Japan and South Korea on historic deal that could counter US initiatives, but tensions between territorial rivals persist - Yu Jianhua (1st left), representative of China, speaks during the trilateral talks in Seoul on March 26, 2013. China, Japan and the South Korea started the first round of trilateral talks on the free trade agreement. Long-awaited talks on a free trade deal involving China, Japan and South Korea opened yesterday. And while tensions, rivalries and suspicions cloud their relations, Beijing is keen to counter US initiatives in the region. Washington's push for a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has so far excluded China. "To strengthen its economic ties and counter the US-initiated TPP, China is eager to push the regional free trade agreement with Japan and South Korea, and the ongoing talks on the China-Asean Free Trade Area," said Shi Yinhong of Renmin University. The idea of a trilateral free trade agreement has been on the table for years. With all three countries under new leadership, officials hope they can move beyond damaging territorial disputes that have dogged relations for decades. China, Japan and South Korea are now the largest, second-largest and fourth-largest economies in Asia, with trade volume between them totalling US$690 billion in 2011. Analysts in Japan said the biggest winner of a trade deal would be South Korea, while Japan was taking part largely to avoid increasing regional tensions. New Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also announced earlier this month that his country would be participating in TPP negotiations with Washington. Noriko Hama, a professor of economics at Kyoto's Doshisha University, said of a new three-way trade deal: "I don't think it will be of much benefit to Japan, but the difficulty for this government is that it has to be seen to be taking part, irrespective of whether it is in our best interests. "To turn our back on these talks would send the wrong image to China and South Korea that Japan is totally on the side of the US." China and Japan are arguing about sovereignty over an archipelago in the East China Sea, while Japan and South Korea have a historic dispute over the ownership of several islands. Tokyo is also focusing on Europe. On Monday it agreed to open talks with the European Union on a trade pact that could come into effect next year. Meanwhile, both Seoul and Tokyo could face intense domestic lobbying from sectors wary of a flood of cheap Chinese imports. But Beijing is upbeat about a pact. Xinhua said it could lift China's GDP by up to 2.9 per cent, Japan's by 0.5 per cent and South Korea's by 3.1 per cent. South Korean officials were quick to dampen expectations, casting the opening talks between trade ministers in Seoul as "meetings about meetings". The first round would "involve no practical negotiations", one official said. He added: "It will cover broad matters such as the scope, agenda and procedure for further negotiations." But an agreement on a fully fledged pact may not come easy. "There are all sorts of things that could derail any agreement," Professor Hama said, referring to China's refusal in 2010 to release rare earth metals to Japan and other countries after a diplomatic spat stemming from an incident with Japan in the East China Sea. "Something like that again would jeopardise whatever they agree to. It looks to me as if Mr Abe is walking a tightrope and for not very good reasons other than that Japan has to be there." Talks are being held in Seoul until tomorrow, after which they will move to China followed by a third round in Japan. 

Woman buys US$6.5m Manhattan apartment - for two-year-old daughter (By Chris Luo A Chinese mother bought a US$6.5 million apartment in Manhattan for her two-year-old daughter to live in while studying at Columbia University state-owned CCTV reported on Monday. The woman completed the transaction at the beginning of last year, according to Kevin Brown, a real estate agent in New York who closed the deal for her. He said the woman told him her daughter would be going to Columbia University, New York University or maybe Harvard in the future. “So I said how old is your daughter, and she said she was two. I was just shocked,” Brown said in an interview with CCTV. Brown said the apartment cost about US$6.5 million (HK$50.5 million) and was in a 90-floor building that was still under construction close to Fifth Avenue. The US has seen increasing numbers of Chinese investing in the real estate market in recent years. In Manhattan, home to some of America’s most expensive houses, Chinese buyers have become important customers for New York real estate agencies, according to CCTV. According to the National Association of Realtors, the largest trade association in the US, Chinese buyers spent US$9 billion on house purchases in 2012, second only to Canadians, and they accounted for 11 per cent of all international transaction value. Brown also said that Chinese buyers currently accounted for about a quarter of his earnings, up from 15 per cent two years ago. Real estate specialists expect Chinese buyers to focus their attention on central and western parts of America in the future, CCTV reported.

First lady sparks frenzy over domestic fashion brands (By Wang Zhuoqiong The moment when China's first lady Peng Liyuan made her diplomatic debut upon her arrival at Moscow on Friday - wearing a dark navy overcoat, a light turquoise silk scarf with a matching handbag - the Chinese fashion industry got a boost. Images of Peng stepping off a plane arm-in-arm with her husband, President Xi Jinping, have circulated widely on the Internet, prompting praise for her style, which Web users described as understated and sophisticated. A number of Taobao sellers have begun offering garments based on styles worn by China's first lady Peng Liyuan. It's not clear which company or companies designed the clothes worn by Peng in Moscow. While a report in China Business News said Peng was wearing a jacket and purse made by Exception de Mixmind - a top-end Guangzhou-based brand - another report on news portal said the Guangzhou Administration of Quality and Technology Supervision confirmed that Peng's clothes were custom-made by Ma Ke, the chief designer for the Wu Yong brand. Both brands have declined to comment. However, regardless of the brand, Peng's endorsement of Chinese labels has surprised millions of Chinese who favor foreign fashion brands. The first lady's style was dubbed by netizens as Liyuan style. The exact purse and coat she donned have become top search items on, a major shopping website. Also, Exception's physical stores have seen a rising number of visitors. Domestic fashion brands' stock prices were also boosted on Monday by the first lady's choice. Shares of Dayang Trands, which has made suits for many State leaders, rose about 10 percent on Monday, while shares of high-end fashion brand Kaiser China Holding Co Ltd increased 3.04 percent and Lancy Group was up 10 percent. Local designers and fashion brands always get a boost when the wives of State leaders choose domestic brands for important occasions. US first lady Michelle Obama wore a custom-made Jason Wu gown for her two inaugural balls, bringing sudden fame to the 26-year-old designer. Obama's colorful selections - ranging from J. Crew to Jason Wu - have boosted the American fashion industry, said fashion critic Jiang Xingyi. She said the new generation of Chinese leaders has developed a taste in fashion with preference for no-logo designs rather than logo-intensive choices, boosting the domestic haute couture businesses. Jiang said that Exception and Wu Yong are being singled out because of their use of Chinese culture and ethnic elements in their designs, based on the philosophy of simplicity. "To pick up a design by a Chinese fashion brand as her debut outfit has shown her great vision and recognition of the innovations of the industry and revealed her low-profile style," Jiang said. Zhi Yong, spokesman for Dayang Trands, which is listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange, said its domestic business has been propelled by the recognition from Chinese leaders and government officials. A major exporter and manufacturer for international leading brands, Dayang Trands sees great potential in the domestic apparel market, Zhi said. The Chinese apparel industry saw declining growth in retail revenue in the first 11 months of 2012, down 6 percentage points year-on-year. Zhu Qingye, a researcher with CIConsulting who is based in Shenzhen, said domestic brands have difficulty in getting recognition. But international fashion brands are believed by Chinese consumers to be of better quality and to have stronger fashion values, he said. According to a 2013 consumer loyalty study in China made by Epsilon, consumers no longer blindly worship foreign brands, despite the fact that more than six out of 10 respondents endorse foreign brands. The study found that local-brand supporters have grown to 43 percent from 31 percent in 2011.

China President Xi Jinping highlights 'shared destiny' (By Wu Jiao in Dar es Salaam and Li Xiaokun in Beijing Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) delivers a speech at the Julius Nyerere International Convention Center in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on March 25, 2013. Relations with Africa will be expanded as ties become more important, president vows - China will intensify its efforts to expand relations with Africa as ties take on greater importance amid a "shared destiny", President Xi Jinping said on Monday in his first speech elaborating on China's African policies. Beijing also hopes to see better relations between other countries and Africa, he said. China-Africa ties are more complicated, compared with those in previous generations, and leaders must display wisdom to tap the huge potential, experts said. Xi made the remarks during a keynote speech in Tanzania, the second leg of his first overseas visit since being elected earlier this month. Xi has been a regular visitor to Africa, and he has witnessed continuous progress. "Let me assure you that China will intensify, not weaken, its efforts to expand relations with Africa," Xi said at the Julius Nyerere International Convention Center. China built the center, the first one of its type in Tanzania, for free, and the handover ceremony was held on Monday. Unity and cooperation with African countries have always been an important foundation for China's foreign policy, the president said. "This will never change, not even when China grows stronger and enjoys a higher international status. "China and Africa will continue to support each other on issues involving their core interests and major concerns. "A review of this period of history shows that China and Africa have always been a community with a shared destiny," Xi said. China will continue providing assistance to Africa without any political conditions, he said. Trade between China and Africa reached some $200 billion last year, he said, adding that China will provide a $20 billion credit line to African nations from 2013 to 2015. Beijing will also expand cooperation with Africa in investment, financing, transnational and trans-regional infrastructure development, Xi said. China will train 30,000 African professionals and provide 18,000 government scholarships to African students from 2013 to 2015, and increase technology transfer and experience sharing with Africa, he added. Xi said China insists on equality among all countries, irrespective of size, strength and wealth. He said Beijing expects a more united Africa and better relations between Africa and other countries, "Africa belongs to the African people," he said "In developing relations with Africa, all countries should respect Africa's dignity and independence," he said. In addition, Xi said "China will face squarely and sincerely the new developments and new problems" confronting China-Africa relations. "We should properly handle any problem that may arise in a spirit of mutual respect and win-win cooperation. I am convinced that there will always be more opportunities than challenges and more solutions than difficulties." In a humorous aside, appreciated by the audience, Xi mentioned a Chinese TV series, A Beautiful Daughter-in-law Era, which was a big hit in Tanzania. The television episode was dubbed in Swahili and broadcast in eastern African countries last year to give African audiences a glimpse of the intricacies of life in China. "Sino-Tanzania ties have endured a lot, and with the test of time, will grow from strength to strength. We are ‘all-weather friends'," Tanzanian President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete said ahead of the speech. Tanzania's policy toward China is "guided by Tanzania's own judgment based on its basic interests", he said. "So far, China has been a dependable supporter and an ally of African countries and other Third World countries ... in their appeal for a just and equitable world economic order," Kikwete added. James F. Mbatia, an engineer and chairperson of the National Convention for Construction and Reform, said Africans "have the capacity to judge who is helping us".

Hong Kong*:  Mar 27 2013

Tax incentives set to lure Chinese private equity funds (By George Chen Changes in Hong Kong's laws are expected to attract Chinese investment firms to the city to compete with established international names - Hong Kong's latest tax incentives are expected to lure large numbers of investment houses from the mainland to raise their first offshore private equity funds in the city to compete with big international names such as Blackstone and TPG, in a reversal of previous trends. Just a few years ago, global private equity firms were heading to the mainland to raise yuan funds, as Beijing pledged to open up its financial services sector further to foreign investors. Many, however, eventually backed out in the face of myriad difficulties, including technical and tax concerns. John Levack, vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Venture Capital and Private Equity Association, said private equity players are now heading in the opposite direction after the Hong Kong government introduced new tax incentives to encourage funds to make their home in Hong Kong. Last month the financial secretary, John Tsang Chun-wah, said the government would propose changes in the city's investment laws to allow private equity funds to enjoy the same tax exemption as offshore funds. He also said he planned to allow Hong Kong funds a more flexible structure by amending the current law that requires investment funds established in Hong Kong only to take the form of trusts. This will make a private equity guy's life much easier - "This will make a private equity guy's life much easier," Levack said. The policy change would help attract many mainland investment firms to launch private equity funds and offices in Hong Kong, he said. That, in turn, would add to financial jobs in the city, where global banks such as HSBC and Citigroup have been forced to cut back, partly because of cost pressures in their home markets. These days, Levack said, mainland firms stand a better chance in competing with big Western names to raise money for their Hong Kong-based private equity funds. "They [mainland firms] may not have connections outside China but they will argue they have lots of connections inside China, which is now more important," Levack said. David Pierce, chairman of the Hong Kong Venture Capital and Private Equity Association, said competition between mainland and Western firms for fundraising in Hong Kong was good for the city's long-term development and its position as a major global asset management centre. "Chinese [investment] firms are going abroad for sure. This is already happening. It is just a question about going where," Pierce said. "Singapore is another option, but the disadvantage for Singapore is the distance." Hong Kong is home to less than 1 per cent of funds globally, research by PricewaterhouseCoopers shows. Some industry watchers have predicted that the new policy will catapult Hong Kong to second place by 2020.

Disneyland lifts ticket prices by up to 17.2pc (By Thomas Chan Resort raises entry fees to fund expansion and to pay for rising operating expenses - Disneyland will increase its ticket prices across the board from tomorrow, the resort said. The increase will be deferred three months for Hong Kong residents and tourists who book through travel agencies. The cost of visiting the theme park with an adult one-day ticket will rise HK$51, or 12.8 per cent, from HK$399 to HK$450. A child one-day ticket will also go up 12.3 per cent, from HK$285 to HK$320. The greatest percentage increase is 17.2 per cent, from HK$499 to HK$585 for an adult's two-day general admission ticket. "Like any business, we evaluate and adjust our pricing based on a variety of factors," the theme park said. Vice-president for public affairs Lo Bing-chung said the rise was a result of the park's expansion projects and rising operating costs, such as salaries and food prices. The tourism trade said they did not welcome the increases but did not think it would have much impact on business. Different types of one-year passes will rise by varying amounts. Silver Magic Access will remain unchanged, while the price of the two more expensive ones will go up by 14.5 per cent and 5 per cent for adults, and 14.4 per cent and 5.2 per cent for students and children. The park will stop selling the lowest-priced pass - Red Magic Access - but holders can use it until its expiry date. The park would not comment on whether any further increases were likely. Disney also declined to guarantee that the park would not need an injection of government capital for its expansion. In the government's annual 2013-14 budget, it says: "In the coming few years, Hong Kong Disneyland will launch a new nighttime parade and put in place a themed area … "These will be funded by the Disneyland's operating surplus." Seven years after opening, the theme park earned revenue of HK$4.3 billion, up 18 per cent from a year ago, and made a profit of HK$109 million for the fiscal year ending September 2012. Lo said tourists constituted 70 per cent of the park's visitors, and 80 per cent of its revenues were from them. He did not expect the price rises to have a significant impact on visitor numbers. Travel Industry Council executive director Joseph Tung Yao-chung said tourists would not turn away from Hong Kong because of the increases. "I hope they can improve their programmes to make the tickets more value-for-money," he said. The park will open a new attraction, Mystic Point, in May

When the music's over (By Oliver Chou) Well-trained classical musicians abound on the mainland, but audiences no longer have time for concerts, conductor Li Xincao tells Oliver Chou - Li Xincao, principal conductor of China National Symphony Orchestra. When top mainland conductor Li Xincao made his debut in Hong Kong in 2000, he was “cautiously optimistic” about the future of Western classical music in China. At the time, he reckoned the most pressing issue was funding. China had tens of millions of students learning piano and violin, and thousands competed in order to enrol in conservatories across the country. Thirteen years on, however, Li, the principal conductor of the China National Symphony Orchestra, the country’s leading classical ensemble, has a gloomier view. “It’s true that the country is richer, has more new concert halls and better orchestras. But there are fewer classical music concertgoers,” says the Beijing-based maestro. “That may sound ironic, but it’s the reality. We musicians in China have been working very hard but to little effect. No one cares. It’s scary.” Li, who recently toured the US with the orchestra, will lead the Hong Kong Sinfonietta tomorrow in a season finale featuring works by Beethoven and Mozart, including the latter’s Piano Concerto No 22 featuring pianist Lio Kuok-wai, a native of Macau. The 42-year-old is in a prime position to observe the changes taking place in classical music on the mainland. A graduate of the Central Conservatory of Music of China and the Musikuniversität Wien in Vienna, he was just 22 when he won the all-China conducting competition. “Classical music as we know it today developed [over time] in Europe, from the Renaissance through to the Industrial Revolution. But in China, the economy has risen so rapidly that people find themselves continually trying to adjust to changes in their lives, such as high property prices. So how would they be in the mood for classical music?” he asks. People are too exhausted for a concert, or seek other forms of entertainment for relaxation. “Young professionals and college graduates work around the clock to make money, which never seems to be enough to offset the rising cost of living. They are either too exhausted for a concert, or seek other forms of entertainment for relaxation or for excitement. A classical music concert, or an opera, doesn’t seem appealing. It is something that requires an active, rather than passive, mindset for appreciation.” Li acknowledges he is in a fortunate position compared to the older generation of conductors, many of whom were sent to remote villages to do physical labour during the Cultural Revolution. “My predecessors went through a hard time; there’s no question about it. Aside from political interference, however, their work later enjoyed a good response from society. But nowadays no one really pays attention to what we do,” he says. Li is ambivalent about the orchestra culture on the mainland. “In Europe, there are top orchestras like the Berlin and Vienna philharmonics, and then there are many second- and third-tier orchestras, each performing at a compelling technical level. The overall performing standard of orchestras is also fairly even in other Asian countries like Japan and South Korea,” he says. “In China, we have a few top orchestras in large cities like Beijing and Shanghai. But after that, there’s nothing; there are only the sixth- to eighth-tier orchestras all over the country, which are barely functional technically.” Musicians in mainland orchestras are generally technically competent as soloists, and “some may be even better than their European counterparts”, he says. But Chinese performers are “very far behind” in terms of playing as an ensemble, and in their understanding of the music. “I think it has much to do with the music education and the training they received, which focused primarily on technique. But the situation is now improving, as many returnees from Europe and America are trying to make a difference in their teaching at the conservatories,” says Li, himself among the teachers with overseas experience at the Central Conservatory in Beijing. For all of his pessimism about classical music on the mainland, Li has been forging a successful conducting career in Beijing and beyond. He is often sought out by touring soloists because of his fluency with the Austro-German repertoire. In 2004, he was chosen by the Russian cello guru Mstislav Rostropovich to conduct at his farewell concert series in Taiwan. Since 2009, he has also served as the music director of the Busan Philharmonic Orchestra in South Korea. Li has often accompanied Chinese stars such as folk singer Song Zuying, a favourite of former president Jiang Zemin. Of his collabourators, perhaps none could register as prominently on the mainland musical landscape as soprano Peng Liyuan, who now has another role as China’s first lady. But Li says Peng’s standing derives from her musicianship rather than the fact that she is married to the new president, Xi Jinping. He particularly recalls performing with Peng and the national symphony orchestra in the Kremlin for a “Year of China” finale in 2007 and a year later in Vienna as part of a publicity campaign in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics. For their performance with the prestigious Vienna Symphony Orchestra, Peng sang the title role in Mulan,an operatic work based on an ancient tale about a girl named Hua Mulan who enters battle disguised as a man in place of her ailing father, who had been conscripted into the army. “She is a top-notch soprano in every sense of the word, with excellent musicality and fluency in foreign languages,” Li says. Describing Peng as “absolutely professional and very pleasant to work with”, the conductor says it would be a pity if she had to stop performing because of her new status as first lady. But such a hiatus seems unlikely, at least in the near future. When he returns to Beijing, Li will be collabourating with Peng again, this time on a film version of Mulan. “We’ve already recorded [the opera], and it’s the costume session we’ll be doing next month.” Working with celebrities has added pressures, but these dissipate when the music starts. “Once we get started with the music, it makes no difference whether we are performing with celebrities or any performers. We just give our best,” he says. He confesses to becoming nervous when he performs works of composers such as Beethoven, whose Fifth Symphony will close the Sinfonietta’s final concert of this season. This seems an odd reaction, as the work is familiar to both him and his players. In fact, it was the piece that Li conducted when he won his prize two decades ago. But he has a good reason: “It is just too difficult to perform it right musically. By contrast, Mahler’s massive Third Symphony, which I’ve conducted many times, is a piece of cake.” This time round, Li’s rendition of Beethoven’s Fifth will be far more restrained than the performances he conducted when he was in his 20s. “When I was younger, I conducted in a showy way. But over the years, I gradually learned to appreciate the art of conducting. I learned that it is like a singer or a player conveying music through their voice or their instrument: a conductor should convey music through the orchestra, which is his instrument. He should seek the best way to present the orchestra, not himself,” he says. “So you will see me conduct in a very different way than before, because I believe the best way to get the orchestra to work is through minimum effort for the maximum effect. Anything more than that is redundant.” Asian audiences still enjoy watching energetic conductors who cavort about on the podium, he concedes. “But let’s call that dancing, not conducting,” he quips. Hong Kong Sinfonietta, 2012-13 season closing concert, City Hall Concert Hall, Central, Wednesday, 8pm, HK$150-HK$360. Urbtix: 2734 9009

Hong Kong's top court rejects domestic helpers' appeal for permanent residency (By Austin Chiu and Agencies) The city's top court ruled on Monday morning that foreign domestic helpers do not enjoy the right to apply for permanent residency because their residence in Hong Kong is highly restricted. “The FDH (foreign domestic helper) is obliged to return to the country of origin at the end of the contract and is told from the outset that admission is not for the purposes of settlement and that dependants cannot be brought to reside in Hong Kong,” the Court of Final Appeal said in a written judgement. The court also rejected the Hong Kong government's request to seek an interpretation from Beijing, saying it was not necessary because the court had reached a conclusion by reading the Basic Law alone without the need to refer to an earlier interpretation in 1999. The Leung Chun-ying administration had asked the top court to seek an interpretation from Beijing to clarify the meaning of an earlier interpretation of the Basic Law article which sets out what persons are qualified for permanent residency. The judgment ends the right of abode saga started by a judicial review sought by Evangeline Vallejos Banao, a mother of five, who has worked in Hong Kong since 1986. She had argued that an immigration provision barring domestic workers from permanent residency was unconstitutional. Mark Daly, a lawyer for Vallejos, said his client was “speechless but calmly resigned and said ’no problem’”. With the court’s gave its judicial seal to unfair treatment and the social exclusion of foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong . Vallejos won a High Court ruling in 2011 granting her the right to request permanent residency status, denied to the city’s 300,000 foreign maids until then. The decision however was overturned later on a government appeal. Labour rights activists had hailed the ruling as a big step for equal rights for maids, who are a backbone of society in richer Asian economies and a financial lifeline to their home nations, notably the Philippines and Indonesia. But the Court of Final Appeal sided with an appeal lodged by the Hong Kong government, which warned that the ruling would swamp the cramped city’s population of seven million. Monday's ruling means that maids will continue to be specifically excluded from eligibility to settle in Hong Kong, which would give them access to voting rights and the right to reside without a work visa. “With the court’s gave its judicial seal to unfair treatment and the social exclusion of foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong,” Eman Villanueva, spokesman for the Asian Migrants’ Coordinating Body, said outside the court. Hong Kong’s foreign maids receive a minimum wage of HK$3,920 a month and benefits such as one guaranteed day off per week, but rights groups say they face discrimination and a lack of legal protection from abusive employers. Foreigners can apply to settle in Hong Kong after seven years of uninterrupted residency, gaining access to voting rights and the right to live in the city without a work visa. Maids were specifically excluded. That was the case regarding a long-running legal question about children of Hong Kong permanent residents from mainland China, which like the foreign maids case had created anxiety over the potential strain on the city. In reaction to the Court of Final Appeal's ruling, the government said on Monday afternoon that it welcomed the ruling, which it said upheld its view that foreign domestic helpers did not enjoy the right to apply for permanent residency because their residency in Hong Kong was highly restricted. Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok said the government would now process more than 1,000 applications for permanent residency status made by foreign domestic helpers since September 2011. “We will proceed with these applications and make decisions on them in accordance with the court ruling,” he said at a press conference. But Lai also noted the ruling did not help it handle the right-of-abode issue concerning children born in Hong Kong to mainland parents. The court rejected the government’s request to seek an interpretation from Beijing, saying it was not necessary because the court had reached a conclusion by reading the Basic Law alone without the need to refer to an earlier interpretation in 1999. The government’s request was seen as an attempt to tackle the right of abode issues concerning foreign domestic helpers and mainland children born here to mainland parents in one go. Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keun said on Monday afternoon the government respected the court decision and would now study other ways to tackle the mainland children issue. He said the government had a number of options in mind, and would now examine how Monday’s verdict could impact them. Yuen did not make it clear whether the government would request Beijing on its own to clarify its 1999 interpretation. But Yuen said: “Our work at this stage is to focus on studying how to tackle the issue within the local legal framework.” Lai said the city would rely on administrative measures to stop mainland mothers from giving birth in Hong Kong until a more permanent, legal solution was conceived. These included the so-called zero-birth quota policy – which bans mainland mothers with non-Hong Kong husbands from giving birth in Hong Kong hospitals.

 China*:  Mar 27 2013

First lady Peng Liyuan spurs boom in demand for home-grown labels (By Celine Sun in Beijing Peng Liyuan's clothing choices abroad spurs demand for home-grown designers and labels - President Xi Jinping and his wife, Peng Liyuan, are welcomed to Tanzania by President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete and his wife, Salma Kikwete. First lady Peng Liyuan's choice of home-grown designer brands on her maiden overseas trip with President Xi Jinping has been hailed as a boon for China's fashion industry, yearning for its own "Jason Wu moment". Wu is the Taiwanese-Canadian designer who shot to fame after US first lady Michelle Obama wore one of his designs. Peng, 50, who is making her first public appearances in state visits to Russia and Africa, has become a fashion icon in China, as people flock to snap up coats, scarfs and handbags similar to those she has been seen wearing. Images of her stepping off a plane with her husband in Moscow on Friday have circulated widely on the Chinese internet, prompting praise for her understated yet sophisticated style. Stocks of mainland high-end clothing firms surged yesterday on the expectation that "the first-lady effect" would be big boost for the domestic fashion sector. Eagle-eyed fashion-savvy bloggers identified the leather handbag and smart, double-breasted black trench coat she wore as items from Guangzhou-based label Exception. The brand has been described as one of China's leading independent labels whose simple but unique designs stand out in an industry dominated by Western copycats. "Big luxury brands in Europe or America are often the first choice for many rich Chinese consumers when they dress up," said Hong Dongni, an adviser with Golden Wisdom Fashion Brands Management Consulting Centre in Beijing. "But I believe top local fashion brands will draw much more attention among buyers at home in the future after Peng showed her elegance and confidence in wearing home-grown labels. "Peng's exposure has greatly raised the profile of local brands, just like what US first lady Michelle Obama did for designer Jason Wu." Exception was founded in Guangzhou by Mao Jihong and Ma Ke in 1996, as confirmed by Guangzhou's Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine last Friday. It has 60 shops across the country. During the past few days, the trench coat and leather handbag worn by the first lady when she arrived in Moscow are the most sought-after items in the stores. In a Beijing branch of Exception, customers keep asking for items Peng had worn. "What Ms Peng wore is supposed to be tailor-made for her. Now we only have some similar collections," the saleswoman said. In an Exception store in Chengdu, sales staff said all the handbags in a similar style had sold out and the company needed to deliver more goods from Guangzhou to meet demand, local media Sichuan Online reported. Handbags in the store are priced at 5,000 yuan (HK$6,200) each. The "first-lady effect" drove up the share price of other domestic clothing brands yesterday. High-end labels such as women's wear firm Lancy Company and suits brand Trands both rose 10 per cent in Shenzhen and Shanghai trading respectively, while leather goods maker Kaiser (China) Holdings increased more than 3 per cent in Shenzhen. Commentators in China's fashion world are celebrating. "It's the first time China's first lady appears like a modern woman. She dresses very well, with taste and confidence," said Zhang Yu, editor of China's Vogue magazine. "After so many years, we finally have a first lady who can represent us so appropriately. It is a landmark event." 

China to buy Lada-class subs, Su-35 fighters from Russia (By Choi Chi-yuk Dealfor four Lada-class boats and 24 Su-35 planes is largest buy from Moscow in a decade, and seen as a sign of growing strategic ties - Chinese State Councilor Chang Wanquan (left), who is also the Defence Minister of China, meets with Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu in Moscow on Sunday. China has signed an agreement with Russia to buy 24 Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets and four Lada-class submarines in its biggest weapons purchase from Moscow in a decade, state media reported yesterday. China Central Television said the two countries had reached the framework agreement before President Xi Jinping started his maiden visit as head of state to Russia on Friday. Antony Wong Dong, chairman of the Macau International Military Association, said yesterday that domestic and overseas military watchers had been keeping a close eye on the progress of the deal for the past few months. "With such a concrete agreement, I expect the deal will be formally closed before the end of this year," said Wong, adding that the Russians would deliver the first batch of Su-35s to China no earlier than the end of next year. With such a concrete agreement, I expect the deal will be formally closed before the end of this year - He said China lagged behind Russia in terms of aircraft-engine development. How Russia would protect its intellectual property rights regarding the Su-35's advanced 117S engine was another focal point for military watchers, especially after Beijing was accused of stealing engine technology from Su-27s years ago. Andrei Chang, editor-in-chief of the Canadian-based Kanwa Defence Review, had earlier suggested that the technology was not the significant part of the deal. More important was the strategic co-operation it showed between the two neighbouring military giants, especially with the United States making a strategic pivot towards Asia. Wong said China had made concessions in its technology transfer demands, and that Russia had agreed to sell China 24 Su-35s, rather than the 48 that would have crossed a threshold for a substantial transfer. Meanwhile, Defence Minister General Chang Wanquan told his Russian counterpart, General Sergei Shoigu, in Moscow that bilateral defence co-operation was a key part of Sino-Russian relations. "China is ready to work with Russia to tap that potential and expand the scope of bilateral defence co-operation, so as to lift it to a new level," he said. Chang cited several key areas in the promotion of co-operation between the two armed forces, including building high-level contacts, strategic negotiations, joint exercises and personnel exchanges. Apart from the Su-35s, which are advanced fourth-generation stealth fighters, Russia will also sell China four Lada-class submarines, an improved version of its Kilo-class submarines that are much quieter and can stay submerged for longer. Wong said that countries with territorial disputes with China, including Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines, would likely be the most concerned about the deal. "Once in possession of the Su-35s and Lada-class submarines, which are the only two Russian weapons China is interested in, China will get stronger not only in its command of the air, but also under the water." CCTV also reported that China and Russia were expected to co-operate further in developing military technology, including S-400 long-range anti-aircraft missiles, IL-476 transport aircraft and IL-78 air-refuelling tankers.

Chinese premier meets Kissinger (By Xinhua) Premier Li Keqiang on Monday met with former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, calling for more people to become involved in China-US relations. "More people from both sides can get involved in China-US relations as participants, constructors and beneficiaries," Li said. Premier Li Keqiang meets with former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, calling for more people to become involved in China-US relations, March 25, 2013. Li applauded the robust growth of China-USrelations over the past 40 years, adding that ties between the two nations cannot go further without support and participation from their two peoples. China and the United States have highly extensive common interests, as well as unprecedented influence in world affairs,, Li noted. He said China is willing to work with the US to develop an unprecedented type of relationship in order to allow both sides to benefit from bilateral cooperation and play their due roles in maintaining world peace. Kissinger highlighted the vital importance of US-China relations in promoting world peace and development, suggesting that both sides should work on long-term planning and strengthen communication to foster ties. 

Overseas investors eye Chinese property (By Hu Yuanyuan Shanghai's office and retail property sectors will see significant increases in large-scale deals this year, supported by investors' strong interest in commercial real estate, according to a research report from international property consultant Knight Frank. Number of deals expected to rise this year in the commercial sector: Experts - China may see an increase in property transactions involving international investors in 2013, fueled by the economic recovery and the rosy outlook of China's commercial properties, industry experts said. "On one hand, a number of deals are in the pipeline after lots of negotiations were conducted last year. On the other hand, the top management of international real estate funds are also under pressure because few deals were concluded last year," said Andy Zhang, managing director of Cushman & Wakefield China. Shanghai's office and retail property sectors will see significant increases in large-scale deals this year, supported by investors' strong interest in commercial real estate, according to a research report from international property consultant Knight Frank. New opportunities - China, and Shanghai in particular, are still a focus for multinational companies mulling expansion and new business opportunities so demand for commercial and residential property will remain buoyant, according to Regina Yang, director of research for Knight Frank Shanghai. Average Grade A office rents in Shanghai have dropped 1.5 percent quarter-on-quarter by 9.1 yuan ($1.46) per square meter per day, decreasing for the first time since the third quarter of 2009. However, owing to limited new supply, the average vacancy rate of Shanghai's Grade A offices remained at 5.1 percent. Despite the overseas economic turmoil and China's slowing economic growth, retailers' confidence in the market is intact and they continue to open new stores in Shanghai. Ground-floor rents in core retail areas have reached 54.7 yuan per sq m per day, an increase of 1.7 percent quarter-on-quarter and 11.6 percent year-on-year. MGPA, a private equity real estate investment advisory company managing assets in Europe and Asia, announced that it has successfully acquired a newly completed Grade A office building called j-Tower in Shanghai for 263.5 million yuan ($41.8 million). The deal was concluded by MGPA Asia Fund III which focuses on real estate investments throughout the Asia-Pacific region and features equity commitments of $3.9 billion. Its portfolio in China includes a 50 percent interest in Galleria Chengdu, a high quality retail mall in Chengdu. "This is a good opportunity to buy a quality commercial property in Shanghai. We anticipate strong leasing interest from both domestic and foreign firms looking for quality and convenience," said John Saunders, chief executive officer of Asia, MGPA. j-Tower marks the second deal in China for MGPA Asia Fund III following the acquisition of a retail mall in Chengdu in 2011. "China continues to be an important focus for MGPA and we look favorably on investment in retail/commercial properties in tier one and tier two cities," said Saunders. According to the real estate fund LaSalle Investment Management, the best opportunities in China's mainland real estate this year include warehouses, offices, hotels, retail and mixed-use developments. Stabilized modern warehouses offer compelling entry prices and secure income in many countries, with China at the top end of expected returns. In addition, the development of modern logistics facilities in select regions is very attractive. "These projects will benefit from infrastructure investment and a steady efficiency drive within the nation's logistics network," said Jacques Gordon, international director of LaSalle. For Henry Sim, executive director of Industrial & Logistics Services at CBRE, there are several deals about business parks in the pipeline, involving international real estate funds. "Although there are not many lucrative business park projects at the moment, I believe more opportunities will pop up in the coming two to three years along with China's quickened urbanization process," said Sim. As the grade A and grade B office rental gap widens, grade B offices at core locations in first-tier cities offer upgrading potential through asset and tenancy improvements, LaSalle's research note showed. Hotels are considered good investments because the best opportunities are in assets that provide stable, core-like returns but are not traditionally perceived as core. "In hotels, repositioning mismanaged domestic brand hotels in China should yield fairly good returns," said Paul Guest, regional head of research and strategy at LaSalle Asia-Pacific. Retail remains compelling, although location is vital and deal flow limited. Prime retail in select first- and second-tier cities in China is among areas to watch.

Hong Kong*:  Mar 26 2013

Occupy Central plan gets Hong Kong affairs chief's thumbs down (By Colleen Lee and Joshua But in Shenzhen) HK affairs chief says city does not want to be 'messed up' by proposed protest for democracy - Wang Guangya (centre), director of Beijing's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office attends a seminar in Shenzhen with pro-establishment lawmakers. A mainland official who oversees Hong Kong affairs says Hongkongers prefer not to see the city being "messed up" when asked about a law academic's proposal to block roads in Central district. Wang Guangya, director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, made the remarks in Shenzhen before meeting yesterday with a group of lawmakers loyal to Beijing. "I think Hong Kong compatriots don't want to see Hong Kong being messed up. Hong Kong needs development," Wang said when asked if he believed the Occupy Central plan was beneficial to the city. Qiao Xiaoyang, chairman of the National People's Congress Law Committee, was quoted by a lawmaker (who declined to be named) as accusing the "opposition camp" of "fuelling" the Occupy Central plan. Qiao said the plan was "partly truthful", "complex" and a "risk-everything" proposition. The comments by the mainland officials follow a proposal by Benny Tai Yiu-ting, a University of Hong Kong associate law professor, to rally at least 10,000 people to block roads in Central on July 1 next year in pressing Beijing to keep its promise of allowing genuine universal suffrage in the 2017 chief executive race. Defining "loving the nation and Hong Kong", a criterion laid down by Beijing officials for the city's next leader, Wang said it was referring to those who "work for the good of the nation and Hong Kong's long-term prospects". Asked if the pro-democracy camp could be seen as people who love the nation and the city, Wang said: "I think Hong Kong compatriots can differentiate in their heart whether what the main political parties and groups in Hong Kong do is good for Hong Kong and the nation, and what is not." After the closed-door meeting, Tam Yiu-chung, chairman of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, quoted Wang as saying that it was "not strange to have problems pop up" when the mainland and Hong Kong were discussing ways to deepen their collaboration. "The key was mutual understanding," Wang reportedly said. On whether Beijing would allow pan-democrats to visit the mainland, Wang reportedly said that a prerequisite of communication was "mutual respect and trust" and it could be considered "under suitable conditions". HKU's Benny Tai said staging the road blockage would be the last resort, and it would not happen if the authorities' political reform proposal for the 2017 chief executive race was in line with public expectations.

Improved odds for liver surgery (By Jolie Ho Medics transplant livers of donors with a blood type different to recipients for first time, thanks to early use of antibody-fighting drug - Mr Lei (centre) was saved by the new protocol. A local medical team has transplanted livers from two donors to recipients of different blood types for the first time in the city, thanks to a new protocol. The breakthrough at Queen Mary Hospital in Pok Fu Lam increased the chances of survival for liver disease patients who lacked a donor match from 50 per cent to 80 per cent, the University of Hong Kong's Professor Lo Chung-mau said. Traditionally, liver disease patients who cannot be cured by having their tumours removed must wait for a liver from a deceased or living donor with the same blood type. Such operations have a 90 per cent success rate. Patients who cannot find a match undergo plasma exchange to reduce antibodies in their blood before accepting a donor from a different blood type. Transplants using this method have a 50 per cent success rate because of the possibility of organ rejection. But by giving them rituximab before the plasma exchange, the antibodies are further reduced, meaning an organ from a donor of a different blood type is 30 per cent more likely to be accepted. The first successful cases in the city were a man surnamed Lei, 62, from Macau, who received a liver from his son, and a Hongkonger surnamed Hung, 50, whose wife donated part of her organ. They underwent surgery in January and earlier this month, respectively. Both suffered from cirrhosis caused by hepatitis B. "I really wanted to save my husband but I couldn't [before the new protocol] because we have different blood types," Mrs Hung recalled. "At that time, I really felt like a knife was stabbing at my heart." The hospital expects the number of living-donor liver transplants to increase 20 per cent after the breakthrough. Lo, who is HKU head of surgery, said: "In many previous cases, the person who wanted to donate [the liver] might not be the ideal one, and so the patient had to ask for help from those whom they might not know … but we can now overcome this." Dr Hwang Yu-yan, of the hospital's haematology department, said the drug had been used in combating lymphocyte cancer for many years. Lo said medics in Japan had been using it for organ transplants between donors and patients of different blood types for two years. He noted that post-surgery patients had to take a higher dosage of anti-rejection drugs, such as steroids, and the success rate for those already in an acute condition was 60 per cent. Each year in Hong Kong, 10 to 15 patients miss out on liver transplants because they cannot get a donor with a matching blood type. One-fifth of such patients died while waiting for organs from deceased donors.

Opponents of Beijing ineligible to be CE: top mainland official (By Joshua But in Shenzhen and Colleen Lee) Top mainland official cites 3-stage test under which any candidate who 'confronts' central government would fail to qualify for election - Qiao Xiaoyang, chairman of the Law Committee under the National People's Congress Standing Committee, speaks to reporters at yesterday's NPC seminar in Shenzhen. Qiao insisted Beijing had shown maximum tolerance to the city's dissident parties. A top mainland official yesterday set the tone for the debate over Hong Kong's political reform by declaring that any members from the opposition camp who insist on confronting the central government cannot become the city's chief executive. Despite declaring Beijing's "unswerving" commitment to universal suffrage by 2017, Qiao Xiaoyang, chairman of the Law Committee under the National People's Congress, also dropped the most significant hint so far about a screening mechanism being introduced ahead of the chief executive poll in 2017. Qiao made the remarks in a closed-door seminar on the Basic Law, Hong Kong's mini-constitution, attended by almost 40 pro-establishment lawmakers in Shenzhen yesterday. In the meeting - attended by the director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, Wang Guangya, and the director of the liaison office in Hong Kong, Zhang Xiaoming - Qiao said the central government insisted that it was committed to Hong Kong achieving universal suffrage by 2017 in accordance with the Basic law. It was "also unswerving that chief executive candidates must be persons who love the country and love Hong Kong, while the methods in the universal suffrage must match with the Basic Law and the decisions by the NPC Standing Committee", he said. In a rare elaboration, Qiao admitted it would be difficult to write into law criteria for the "love country, love Hong Kong" notion, but those "who confront the central government" would fail to qualify, he said. This would be decided in three steps. "Firstly, the nomination committee will decide. Then the voters in Hong Kong will decide. Lastly, the central government will decide whether to appoint [the candidate] or not. Every person has a scale in their hearts," Qiao said. He then referred to the opposition camp, an apparent reference to pan-democrats, and ruled them out of the race. "As long as they insist on confronting the central government, they cannot become the chief executive," he said. "One day, when they give up going against the central government, and prove by their actions they will not harm the interests of the country and Hong Kong, the door is open for them." A lawmaker who attended the meeting said Qiao cited at least one article written by former Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan, who stood against Leung Chun-ying for chief executive in 2012. In an article published in a Chinese-language newspaper, Ho called for an end to one-party rule. Qiao said candidates had to be nominated by a newly formed nominating committee "as a whole", instead of by individual committee members, as in previous chief executive elections. Pan-democrats said Qiao's explanation paved the way for a screening mechanism ahead of the chief executive poll.

UN's top weatherman visits Hong Kong Observatory (By Amy Nip UN meteorology agency's chief says accurate forecasts will become increasingly important as global weather becomes ever more extreme - Even the world's top weatherman concedes that he cannot do much about the weather, except to get his forecasts right. "Most people are unhappy not about bad weather disrupting their time at work, but their time at play," said David Grimes, president of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), who is in Hong Kong for celebrations marking the 130th anniversary of its Observatory. But predicting the weather is nothing like gazing into a crystal ball, especially with extreme climate conditions becoming more common in recent years, the veteran weatherman says. "There are fewer days with rain, but more intensive rainstorms. We've seen more exceptional weather," said Grimes, a Canadian who in 2011 was elected to head the Geneva-based UN agency for a four-year term. "In North America, we had Hurricane Sandy having a direct strike on New York City. The disaster raised the issue of the vulnerability of cities under extreme weather." While observatories could usually recognise a typhoon long before it made landfall, the tracking of its movements remained a challenge, he said. In order to increase accuracy and plan ahead of disasters, governments and observatories around the world were investing in new technologies and sharing more information, he said. Under a global system, they now have access to weather data on demand. In Hong Kong, the system is in full swing and its implementation around the globe will be complete in 2015. Meanwhile, China and other countries are sending satellites up to replace old ones. That would help observe storms and winds, Grimes said. "The first weather satellite was sent into space in 1960," he said. "For the first time, meteorologists were able to see the conditions from space." Today, three-day forecasts were as accurate as one-day forecasts a decade ago, he said. Grimes also spoke of the need to mitigate global warming by cutting carbon emissions. Hong Kong, for its part, could reduce greenhouse gases by developing green technologies, he said. "It can show the world how to do it, appealing to China or the US to apply the same solutions." The WMO has launched a new version of the MyWorldWeather mobile application - developed by the Hong Kong Observatory - which now supports seven languages: Chinese, English, German, Korean, Polish, Portuguese and Spanish. It provides official weather forecasts for more than 1,600 cities.

Hong Kong's top judges are best defense of independent judiciary (SCMP Editorial) A robust defence of the judiciary and its independence by two top judges is a good antidote to recent warnings about threats to its integrity and autonomy. Speaking at Chinese University on Friday, Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li described a "fearless judiciary", whose job is to reach well-reasoned and legally sound judgments regardless of popularity or whether they accord with the government's wishes. Earlier, writing in the Hong Kong Lawyer magazine, Michael Hartmann, a non-permanent judge of the Court of Final Appeal, said the judiciary remained a "vigorous, independent, well-respected institution", despite what "cynics" may say about it. Our judges, he wrote, have "a fierce sense of independence" and many had formidable "intellectual prowess... who would grace any court in the world". The two justices are exactly right. Our judges are the ultimate defenders of an independent judiciary, not some politically motivated lawmakers and barristers who exploit every opportunity to portray the courts as some kind of damsel in distress in need of rescue from the government bent on exercising Beijing's will. It's no accident that, as two of the five judges presiding over the domestic helpers' right-of-abode challenge, they felt called on to make a defence now, though neither referred to the case. A judgment on the case is expected tomorrow, including whether to entertain a request by the government to ask the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress to clarify its 1999 interpretation of Article 24 on right-of-abode conditions in the Basic Law. Some critics have gone out of their way to misrepresent the government's request, a litigant in the case, as a threat to judicial independence. The request alone does not challenge the court's independence as the top judges have both the competence and power to reject or accept it. It would amount to a dangerous challenge if the government loses the case tomorrow and proceeds to seek an NPC interpretation on its own. But we are far from that at the moment. In any case, the expected avalanche of public criticism and opposition should deter this government, already unpopular, from pursuing such a course of action. Whatever the outcome tomorrow, Hong Kong should respect the top court's final judgment.

 China*:  Mar 26 2013

Xi's visit shows China-Afica 'brotherly' ties (By Li Lianxing and Wu Jiao in Dar es Salaam and Li Xiaokun in Beijing, and President Xi Jinping and his wife, Peng Liyuan, wave as they alight from the plane in the Tanzanian city of Dar es Salaam on Sunday. China and Tanzania signed trade and cultural exchange agreements on Sunday as President Xi Jinping arrived in the African country for a two-day visit. It is the second leg of Xi's first overseas trip as president. The visit signifies Beijing's "brotherly" relations with Africa, experts said. Xi met with Tanzanian President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete soon after his arrival in Dar es Salaam, the biggest city in Tanzania, on Sunday afternoon. After talks, the leaders witnessed the signing of a number of documents, covering cooperation in areas such as trade and culture. "My visit aims to consolidate the traditional friendship between China and Tanzania, plan future cooperation and push forward joint development," Xi said in a written statement issued at the airport. "In the nearly five decades since we established diplomatic relations, we have built up trust and constantly supported each other. Our political, economic and cultural cooperation has yielded fruitful achievements," he said. China and Tanzania set up diplomatic ties in 1964. China supported Tanzania's liberation struggle and helped it construct major infrastructure projects. In the 1970s, China sent experts, specialists and about 15,000 workers to build the strategic Tanzam Railway, also called Tazara. The project gave Zambia, and other landlocked countries, access to the ocean. Xi is scheduled to visit the tomb of 69 Chinese experts and workers who died while building the railway. Xi will also attend, with Kikwete, the handover ceremony for the Mwalimu Nyerere Conference Center in downtown Dar es Salaam. The landmark project was built with Chinese government loans. On the eve of the visit, Xi told reporters from the BRICS countries that "China values friendly relations with all African countries, regardless of size or wealth". "Whether it is a country that is resource rich or poor, China will treat it equally," he said. Zhang Hongming, a researcher on African studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the decision to select Tanzania as the first stop of Xi's African tour is "testimony to the traditional friendship", and the visit to the continent generally indicates the strong ties built over decades. Kikwete said ahead of the visit that his country cherishes the relations as much as Beijing does. "We are excited about the visit," he said. "I wish that the great Chinese dream comes true," he told reporters in Chinese, referring to Xi's vision. China is Tanzania's top trading partner, with $2.47 billion of goods last year, Chinese Ambassador Lu Youqing said on the eve of the visit. Due to the sluggish global economy, Tanzania's exports generally have declined, but exports to China have maintained strong momentum, Lu said. Charles Sanga, chairman of the Tanzanian Tourist Board, told the Guardian that Xi's visit to Tanzania represents what "China stands for: friendship, peace, stability, justice, equality and development". He said China and Tanzania will reaffirm their longstanding relationship. The paper quoted an opposition party leader as suggesting that Tanzania should also focus on industrial production. Ibrahim Lipumba, chairman of the Civic United Front, said the cost of industrial production in China is increasing. "It is important, therefore, that Tanzania should put in place its plans to increase employment opportunities for industrial production that moves from China," he said. After Tanzania, Xi will visit South Africa, where he will also attend the 5th BRICS Summit, before flying to the Republic of Congo.

First lady Peng Liyuan to perform with Russian troupe, report says (By Choi Chi-yuk and Teddy Ng in Moscow) First lady Peng Liyuan kept a low profile yesterday although her emergence from the plane with her husband, President Xi Jinping, on Friday drew so much media coverage on the first day of their state visit to Russia that she nearly stole his limelight. Peng, a famous folk singer, appeared in public yesterday, sitting among the audience during Xi's speech at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, but her other activities were not publicised. However, Russian media said she would perform a song yesterday with the Alexandrov Ensemble, a prestigious military troupe - but only behind closed doors. China's media were silent about Peng's performance, but on Friday quoted the ensemble's deputy head as saying that it would hold a concert for Peng yesterday. The report said Peng would also attend a performance of Russian and Chinese songs and would sing, along with the ensemble's in-house choir, the Russian folk song Oh, the Snowball Tree Is In Blossom in both Mandarin and Russian. Peng is a former key member of China's Song and Dance Troupe under the People's Liberation Army's General Political Department and holds the rank of major general. In the past two days, she has become a focal point of the mainland media and social-networking sites. Hangzhou-based Qianjiang Evening Post reported yesterday that the viewership of Network News on China Central Television rose to a new high on Friday evening as hundreds of millions of people hoped to catch a glimpse of her performance. Peng's appearance in Moscow runs counter to the tradition of Chinese first ladies living in their husband's shadow. A decade ago, no mainland media highlighted Liu Yongqing when she joined her husband Hu Jintao on his first presidential visit to Moscow.

China finance minister 'worried about Europe' (By Reuters in Beijing) Lou Jiwei, China's new finance minister and the former head of China’s sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corporation. China’s new finance minister said on Sunday it was unclear whether the euro zone would solve its debt problems over the next decade and suggested further turmoil would complicate efforts to reduce Beijing’s fiscal deficits. Lou Jiwei said external difficulties might oblige China to run deficits for longer than anticipated as government expenditure was rising quickly and revenues growing only at a single-digit pace. “I am really very worried about Europe. I am worried about whether it can get out of trouble in the next 10 years,” Lou said in an address to an economic forum. “Our fiscal expenditure is growing very quickly while I estimate fiscal revenue will only post single-digit growth rates in future ... we are facing substantive domestic pressures.” “When the external environment improves, we hope we can get back to fiscal balance after conducting reforms for several years.” Lou made his remarks as Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades travelled to Brussels to discuss a European Union bailout and a reprieve from financial meltdown. Turmoil in Cyprus’s banking system has further dented investor confidence in the currency zone. Previously the chief executive at China’s US$482 billion (HK$3.74 trillion) sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corporation, Lou – who took office this month – said Beijing’s increased spending to offset weak demand abroad was widening the fiscal deficit. China has budgeted a fiscal deficit of about 2 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) for 2013, up from 1.6 per cent of GDP in 2012, but low by international standards. Latest data showed Greece ran a fiscal deficit of 9.4 per cent in 2011. To counter a domestic downturn that was the worst in 13 years last year, China accelerated infrastructure spending and cut taxes for some small and medium-sized firms. Rapid building of infrastructure between 2009 and 2010 to drive the economy saddled local governments with a huge debt that continues to grow, a problem Lou said he wanted to correct, without elaborating. “First, we should take some measures to stop the trend of growing local government debt,” he said. “Then, we can study what kind of system could point us to the correct path that prevents governments from crooked ways.” Local governments pay for the bulk of state spending but have only modest revenues. Many borrow through off-balance sheet financing despite a strict clampdown by Beijing. The government has promised to change the fiscal system to better balance local governments’ funding and spending needs, though Lou made no mention of possible reforms. Different Chinese agencies have published varying figures for the level of outstanding local government debt. The state auditor was quoted by media as saying total debt rose to around 15 to 18 trillion yuan (HK$18.5 to HK$22.2 trillion) in March this year.


Xi turns on charm in speech on Sino-Russian relation (By Teddy Ng in Moscow President says both nations share responsibility in promoting fair and just international order - President Xi Jinping turned on his personal charm during a speech at the prestigious Moscow State Institute of International Relations yesterday, stressing his admiration for Russian literature and using a metaphor to describe his view on international relations. An audience of about 1,000 - mostly students and academics of the institute - attended the speech, and Xi waved to many others waiting outside who could not get a seat. The speech was mostly serious as Xi presented his views on the Sino-Russian relationship and foreign affairs, but there were also moments of levity that triggered laughter. Some students yelled "Long Live" in Russian at the end of his speech. When a Russian student asked in Putonghua how China and Russia could co-operate in tackling major global problems, Xi said the two countries shared a responsibility to promote a fair and just international order. But, after giving his answer, Xi asked the student: "How long have you been learning Chinese? Have you got a Chinese name?" The student replied he had not been given a Chinese name, but had been learning the language for a year. "You have made fast progress," Xi replied. "And it is better to have a Chinese name." In describing his views on the security of the global order, Xi said the sovereignty of each nation should be respected and that each nation had the right to choose its own development path. "Each nation and its citizens are entitled to enjoy dignity," he said. "You can only know whether a pair of shoes fit after you put them on. "Only the citizens of a nation know what should be their development path." Xi also told the students that he had read many Russian authors, and was familiar with the works of Alexander Pushkin, Ivan Turgenev, Anton Chekhov, Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoevsky. He even recited a line from the revolutionary Nikolay Chernyshevsky to sum up his attitude to diplomacy: "The path of history is not paved like Nevsky Prospekt [the main street of St Petersburg]; it runs across fields, either dusty or muddy, and cuts through swamps or forest thickets. "Anyone who fears being covered with dust or muddying his boots should not engage in social activity."

Opportunities, not threats (By Wu Jiao, Zhao Shengnan in Moscow and Qin Zhongwei in Beijing, and President says strong bilateral ties guarantee international strategic balance and peace - China's development creates opportunities instead of threats, President Xi Jinping said on Saturday. In his first overseas policy speech in Moscow, Xi presented Beijing's view on current international situations, explained its foreign policies and how it views relations with Russia. President Xi Jinping shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a document signing ceremony in Moscow. The speech came a day after Xi met his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and witnessed the signing of a raft of energy and other agreements on his first trip abroad since becoming president. Addressing a packed crowd of students at the renowned Moscow State Institute of International Relations, Xi said the interests of international communities from different parts of the world are becoming increasingly intertwined, and cooperation and development are the main trends in the new era. The confrontations in the Cold War period no longer exist. "To be in step with changing times you cannot have your body in the 21st century and your head back in the past," he said, adding that the old mentalities from the Cold War era and zero-sum games should be discarded. "It will be impossible for any single country or country bloc to dominate international affairs," as emerging economies and developing countries enter the speedway of development, and several growth hubs are taking shape around the world, he said. Xi also warned against foreign interference in domestic politics. "We must respect the right of each country to independently choose its path of development, and we oppose interference in the affairs of sovereignty in other countries." China strongly feels a country's internal issues of sovereignty should be addressed by its own government and people, while international affairs can only be solved through negotiation among governments and peoples. "This is the democratic rule of dealing with international affairs, and the international community should follow it. "If you want to know if the shoes fit, you should try them first," he said, raising a ripple of laughter among his audience. During the speech, Xi also quoted well-known stories in Russian literatures to illustrate sound bilateral ties, stressing that China and Russia both accord each other priority in diplomacy and view each other's development as opportunities. "Strong Sino-Russian relations are not only to our own interests, but serve as an important, reliable guarantee of international strategic balance and peace," he said. Xi's decision to talk to Russian college students underscores Beijing's determination to enhance mutual understanding between the youths in both countries, as they will be future players in bilateral relations, said Ji Zhiye, vice-president of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations. Feng Yujun, head of Russian studies at the institutes, said Xi's speech maps out a blueprint for the development of Sino-Russian ties at a time when both countries are experiencing a critical stage of national revival. "The two countries have been very clear that their revival dream and development can serve as each other's opportunities. With such consensus, China and Russia will definitely keep strengthening strategic and economic coordination," Feng said. Xi was also invited to Russia's defense headquarters, a first for a top Chinese leader. Experts said the move shows the deep trust China and Russia share, and a strong potential for future military cooperation. In Moscow, Xi also held talks with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. After Russia, the president will fly to Africa for visits to Tanzania, South Africa and the Republic of Congo. In South Africa, he will attend the fifth BRICS summit, the first on the African continent. Leaders of the BRICS countries will also meet African leaders in a joint retreat.

Hong Kong*:  Mar 25 2013

Sudden praise for Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying from Sing Tao boss (By Simpson Cheung, Gary Cheung and Stuart Lau) Sing Tao News Corporation chairman Charles Ho Tsu-kwok says Leung was a man of leadership and that he was happy about his election victory - Sing Tao News Corporation chairman Charles Ho Tsu-kwok extended an olive branch to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying last night, praising him as a competent leader. It was a turnaround from last year's election campaign, in which Ho - who backed Leung's rival Henry Tang Ying-yen - launched a scathing attack on Leung. At the Leader of the Year award ceremony, organised by Sing Tao, Ho said Leung was a man of leadership and that he was happy about his election victory. "After the election, I had a meal with [Leung]. I thought it would be like a US [presidential] election, that everything would come to a close afterwards," he said. He added that had Leung come to him for help last year during the election campaign, he would not have supported Tang. "If Henry Tang won, I'd have to support him, back him despite any adversities. That would be troublesome," he said. If Henry Tang won, I'd have to support him, back him despite any adversities. That would be troublesome During the campaign, Ho attacked Leung, questioning his ability as a leader. "When it comes to elections, there's no such thing as a gentleman. You throw your full weight into it," he said last night. Leung, who was once the non-executive director of Sing Tao, was also at last night's ceremony. He shook hands with Ho, and they had their picture taken together. But Leung did not reply when asked if the two had repaired their relationship. In December 2011, Ho called a surprise press briefing at which he attacked Leung's ability to govern Hong Kong. He dismissed Leung's accusation at the time that the Sing Tao Group was conducting a smear campaign against him, calling the allegations "total nonsense". Ho had earlier defended reports the group ran about Leung's business losses, and a judge rejecting his testimony in court in 2002, saying they were all based on correct information. One Sing Tao Daily headline from November 2011 suggested Leung "lost all the money in his pocket in one go" when a business went under. Ho even said last year that he would vote for Albert Ho Chun-yan ahead of Leung: "I would not vote for Leung. I have no way to understand his personality and his political platforms."

Teach China's history in schools: Institute of Education president (By Dennis Chong and Jolie Ho) Hong Kong's schools should teach more about China's history and culture without branding it as national education, the incoming head of the city's teacher training college has said. Stephen Cheung Yan-leung, who will take over as the Institute of Education's president in September, also said his chief duty would help the college become a university, amid doubts about his commitment to the process. He was speaking at a press conference at the school's Tai Po campus yesterday about his appointment by the board to replace Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung Bing-leung. The new head said teachers must speak the truth when educating students about China's history in order to help the next generation become good citizens of the city and the nation. "We don't need to take a stance. But students must learn the whole thing to nurture independent thinking," the Baptist University business dean said. We don't need to take a stance. But students must learn the whole thing to nurture independent thinking. Asked for his view on how best to deliver national education to students, he replied: "We should not brand it national education. We should just teach more history and culture of China." Cheung also defended his suitability amid controversy over his appointment. He became emotional as he spoke about the bloody Tiananmen crackdown on the 1989 student movement as an example of topics that had to be taught. "As a professor, when you see tanks handling the students, this is quite an unacceptable fact," he said, appearing to be choking back tears. "But we should speak the truth." Student union president Dicky Chan Chung-dick said students were disappointed because Cheung refused to say when the college would become a university. "Previous principals, like Cheung Bing-leung, had promised to do it, even though it did not come true," he said. Stephen Cheung said that while making the institute a university was his chief duty, "man proposes and God disposes". Chan also said students were worried about Cheung being a layman, an opinion that the academic staff shared. "We're worried that he will just cite slogans like 'education is investment in talent', [but] may not know the issues being discussed in teacher training," academic staff association president Li Chin-wa said.

Big field of developers bid for Sha Tin residential site (By Yvonne Liu More than a dozen developers submit offers for residential site, while waterfront hotel land in North Point also attracts strong interest - A view of the site near the North Point Ferry Pier that has been opened for tender. The valuations ranged between HK$2.33 billion and HK$3.91 billion. The government's efforts to cool the property market appear not to have dampened developers' appetite for land, with 14 of them submitting bids for a residential site in Sha Tin yesterday. Another site, for a hotel on the North Point waterfront, attracted 11 bids. The residential site in Sha Tin's Kau To Shan drew bids from developers such as Sun Hung Kai Properties, Cheung Kong, Sino Land, New World Development, Wheelock Properties, CSI Properties, A&F Capital and Yuexiu Property. Surveyors estimated the site was worth between HK$1.24 billion and HK$1.31 billion, or HK$9,500 to HK$10,000 per square foot. The valuations for the hotel site ranged between HK$2.33 billion and HK$3.91 billion, or HK$6,000 to HK$10,085 per square foot. Its bidders included SHKP, Cheung Kong, Sino Land, Lai Sun Development, Regal Hotels International, Emperor Group, Wheelock Properties and Magnificent Estates. Vincent Cheung Kiu-cho, national director for Greater China at property consultancy Cushman & Wakefield, said: "The number of bids for both sites is more than my expectation of eight to 10 each. But I think major developers' offers will be conservative because of the market outlook. Investment funds and small developers will be willing to offer higher prices to get the sites." Alvin Lam Tsz-pun, a director at Midland Surveyors, said more developers submitted bids for the Sha Tin site because it was in a traditional luxury residential area. "Also, the development scale is small, and the investment cost is lower," he said. The low-density site in Sha Tin covers an area of 86,973 square feet. It is on a hill overlooking Chinese University. It could yield a total gross floor area of 130,460 sq ft. The building height is limited to 227.5 metres above a baseline close to sea level (so the limit includes the height of the hill). The hotel site, at the junction of Shu Kuk Street and North Point Estate Lane, is part of the former North Point Estate. It is one of the few waterfront sites on Victoria Harbour available for sale. The 57,792 sq ft site could provide a total gross floor area of 387,504 sq ft and be developed into a hotel project with retail space. As it is a waterfront site, the building height is restricted to 80 metres. Cheung said: "The waterfront site is next to the Island Eastern Corridor, which will be linked with the Central-Wan Chai Bypass under construction. "It will be more convenient to go to Central from North Point. The location is good." Lam said developers were interested in the site because the hotel market was not affected by the government cooling measures targeting residential property.

Popular opinion won't sway judiciary, says Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li (By Stuart Lau Chief justice explains that principled approach is applied from the facts when making judgments - Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li says people have strong views. The job of Hong Kong's "fearless judiciary" is to reach well-reasoned - not popular - decisions on cases, even those covering controversial issues such as immigration, the city's top judge says. In a public lecture at Chinese University yesterday, Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li did not specifically refer to the right-of-abode case involving domestic helpers on which the Court of Final Appeal is due to deliver judgment on Monday. The court must decide whether to entertain the government's request to seek clarification from the National People's Congress Standing Committee of the latter's power to interpret the Basic Law and of the standing of a peripheral statement the committee made in its 1999 interpretation on right of abode. Its decision is likely also to affect children born in the city to mainlanders. Ma touched on immigration issues twice. "When one is dealing with, for example, issues involving freedom of expression or immigration issues, public controversy is almost certain to arise," he said. When one is dealing with, for example, issues involving freedom of expression or immigration issues, public controversy is almost certain to arise - Ma gave as an example of the first such issue a 1999 case about desecrating national flags, but did not cite any examples of immigration-related verdicts. Immigration cases were controversial, Ma said, because "a sizeable proportion of the community will have very strong views one way and an equally sizeable proportion of the population will have just as strong a view the opposite way". "Sometimes, the vast majority will have strong views against only a tiny minority," he said. The chief justice said the courts were occasionally "the last refuge open to a minority in society pitted against the excesses of the majority". He stressed that, whether it was a high-profile case or a mere "run-of-the-mill" one, the judiciary applied a principled approach judging from the facts. "No regard will be paid to whether the result will or will not be a popular one … certainly not to whether it will accord with what the majority of the community wishes," Ma said. In terms of challenges to administrative decisions, Ma said while "some leeway" would be accorded to the government, "there is no question of any sort of carte blanche being given to the government". Ma called it "healthy" to criticise the decisions of the courts, though he questioned the focus on the "actual result". "No doubt some people will only look at the actual result of cases determined by the courts in order to evaluate the integrity or effectiveness of a legal system," Ma said. "In my view it does not go far enough." He said even when a decision was unpopular, "this is not as important as an assurance that every time a judicial decision is made, the court … above all, has acted independently". An "independent and fearless" judiciary was a characteristic of the common-law legal system, Ma said. He also restated his wish for the legal system to remain as it is for "the next 50 years". "If the judiciary can continue to do what is expected of it, this then is a system that is worth preserving. As the community faces whatever challenges appear in the future, it will want to retain all those institutions that have served the community well in the past," Ma said. He first stated last year his belief that common law should remain the basis of Hong Kong's legal system beyond 2047, the end of the 50-year guarantee stated in the Basic Law. Wong Kwai-huen and Dieter Yih Lai-tak, the former and incumbent Law Society presidents, said Ma's speech should be seen only as a reiteration of long-established legal principles.

Immigration Department looking into claims of 'improper belly taps' (By Chris Luo) Checkpoint officers allegedly told suspected pregnant women to press their stomachs - A mainland man claims that mainland women were treated improperly at Lok Ma Chau checkpoint. The Immigration Department is looking into claims that some mainland women were treated inappropriately at a Hong Kong checkpoint and were asked to prove they were not pregnant. The story has apparently gone "viral" on a mainland microblogging site. Immigration officers at Lok Ma Chau spur line checkpoint ordered several women to tap and press their stomachs, including one who said she was in her 50s, mainland resident Su Jia wrote on the Sina weibo, saying he witnessed the incidents. Su, a public relations director, told the South China Morning Post that on Wednesday, he saw an immigration officer issue such instructions to a woman. The woman complied, but looked both amused and annoyed, and said: “Come on, I am more than 50 years old. A younger woman who was accompanying her was asked to do the same, Su said. She asked: “Am I too fat?” Both women had entry permits, he said. The Immigration Department told the Post it was looking into the claims. The Hong Kong government has been facing pressure from locals to tighten checks on expectant mainlanders who try to enter the city to give birth so that their children will gain right of abode. Separately, another mainlander told the Post that Hong Kong immigration officers told her to press her stomach as she entered the city in August 2011. “My friend, who was queueing behind me, was angry and couldn’t believe what she saw.” The woman said she was from Kunshan city in China's eastern Jiangsu province . Su suggested officers interview the women in rooms rather than in public. “The procedures were an invasion of the mainland women’s privacy. I’d always thought Hong Kong was a society based on the rule of law that respected individual human rights. But the immigration officers’ conduct really disappointed me,” he said. As of Friday, Su’s posting had been reposted more than 12,000 times since it went up on Wednesday. More than 5,000 comments followed. Some web users felt their countrymen had been insulted. “This is absolute discrimination against mainlanders,” one wrote. But just as many were sympathetic. “It is your choice to go, so put up with it,” one said, urging people to comply with officers. Ngai Sik-shui, chairman of the Immigration Service Officers Association, said officers would ask suspected pregnant woman to go into a room for inquiries. In case of doubt, they would ask doctors from the Health Department to check the women, but only Lo Wu and Lok Ma Chau had such doctors, he said.

 China*:  Mar 25 2013

Vice-president adopts 'softer tone' on Diaoyu disputes with Japanese delegation (By Keith Zhai Li Yuanchao tells businessmen he is confident territorial row can be resolved peacefully - Vice-President Li Yuanchao made his diplomatic debut in his new role in a meeting with Japanese business leaders in Beijing yesterday. Li was the highest-level official to attend the three-day Japan-China Economic Association meeting, which ends today. The meeting came amid Japanese media reports that Japan may send Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso to China next month. Speaking after the meeting with Li, some members of the Japanese business delegation said he had struck a softer tone over the two countries' territorial dispute in the East China Sea. "What impressed me most is Li said he believed China and Japan could solve their problems peacefully," said Hiromasa Yonekura, senior councillor of the delegation. "Li said China hopes to solidify ties with Japanese political leaders and build a win-win relationship." What impressed me most is Li said he believed China and Japan could solve their problems peacefully - Li said the territorial dispute over islands known as the Diaoyus in China and Senkakus in Japan had always been a tough problem, but there would surely be a way to solve it, adding there were many examples in Europe where such disputes had been solved through dialogue rather than war, Yonekura said. Li, a top ally of former president Hu Jintao , was appointed vice-president at the annual meeting of the National People's Congress last week. Since Li is the first vice-president in decades who is not a member of the Communist Party's powerful Politburo Standing Committee, many have speculated about whether he would have a say on China's foreign policies or simply play a ceremonial role. The 16-member Japanese delegation, led by Toyota chairman Fujio Cho, was originally scheduled to visit China in September but that visit was postponed and the size of the delegation trimmed after Sino-Japanese ties plunged to their lowest point in years after Japan bought three of the disputed islands. Li's meeting with the delegation appears to be ceremonial, given his vice-presidential role, said Zhou Yongsheng , a professor of Japanese studies at China Foreign Affairs University. "The meeting might suggest that the new administration is keeping Sino-Japanese ties at arms length and that would keep the premier, normally in charge of substantive affairs, away from the meeting," Zhou said. Japan's Kyodo news agency reported earlier that the delegation had asked to meet other senior leaders including Premier Li Keqiang during their three-day visit, but such a meeting was not on the agenda seen by the South China Morning Post. Professor Liang Yunxiang , an international relations specialist at Peking University, said a meeting with the premier would carry broad political implications that Beijing would not welcome at the moment. The delegation also met National Development and Reform Commission deputy director Zhu Zhixin , Deputy Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui and Deputy Industry and Information Technology Minister Su Bo yesterday.

China punishes North Korea for nuclear tests (By Associated Press in Beijing) China is trying to punish ally North Korea for its nuclear and missile tests, stepping up inspections of North Korean-bound cargo in a calibrated effort to send a message of Chinese pique without further provoking a testy Pyongyang government. Freight handlers and trading companies at ports and cities near the North Korean border complain of more rigorous inspections and surprise checks that are raising the costs to doing business with an often unpredictable North Korea. Machinery, luxury goods and daily necessities such as rice and cooking oil are among the targeted products, the companies said, and business is suffering. “Some business orders we don’t dare take. We don’t dare do that business because we fear that after the orders are taken, we will end up unable to ship them,” said a Mr Hu, an executive with Dalian Fast International Logistics Co. in the northeastern port city of Dalian, across the Yellow Sea from the North Korean port of Nampo. Hu said the company’s business is off by as much as 20 per cent this year. North Korea’s economic lifeline, China is showing signs of getting tough with an impoverished neighbour it has long supported with trade, aid and diplomatic protection for fear of setting off a collapse. The moves to crimp, but not cut off trade with North Korea come as Beijing falls under increased scrutiny to enforce new UN sanctions passed after last month’s nuclear test, Pyongyang’s third. Targeted in the sanctions are the bank financing and bulk smuggling of cash that could assist North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs as well as the luxury goods that sustain the ruling elite around leader Kim Jong Un. Pyongyang has reacted with fury and threatening rhetoric against South Korea and the US US officials in Beijing for two days of talks to lobby China on enforcement said Friday that they were heartened by Chinese expressions of resolve. Spurring Beijing to cooperate, the US officials said, is a concern that North Korean behaviour had begun threatening China’s interests in a region vital to its economic and security. “There’s reason to believe the Chinese are looking at the threat in a real way,” Treasury Undersecretary David Cohen told reporters. China’s change of tack with North Korea unlikely foreshadows a total end to Beijing’s support. For Beijing, North Korea remains a pivotal strategic buffer between China and a US-allied South Korea, and Chinese leaders worry that too much pressure could upend an already fragile North Korean economy and cause the Kim government to collapse, leaving Beijing with a security headache and possible refugee crisis. But North Korea watchers said between blind support and complete abandonment there’s much Beijing is doing and can do to try to rein in Pyongyang. “We have to get away from the binary thinking that either they support North Korea or they pull the plug. That’s not the way the world works,” said Jonathan Pollack of the Brookings Institution, a Washington think-tank. “The interesting thing is not what happens at the UN but what happens beneath the radar in terms of what Chinese provide in economic aid and energy assistance.” Over the past decade, as previous nuclear and long-range missile tests and other provocations saw the UN, the US, South Korea and Japan impose sanctions and reduce trade and assistance to North Korea, China has stepped into the breach. By 2011, China provided nearly all of North Korea’s fuel and more than 83 per cent of its imports, everything from heavy machinery to grain and electronics and other consumer goods, according to statistics from the International Trade Center, a research arm of the United Nations and World Trade Organization. Though Pyongyang could look to other trading partners like Russia, Iran or Kuwait for fuel and some other goods, China’s proximity – their shared 1,400-kilometre (880-mile) border — makes it indispensable. Chinese companies, often with backed by the government, are enlarging North Korean ports and building roads, helping to underpin growth after more than a decade of famine and economic decay. Such was the Chinese support that US politicians and UN experts complained that Beijing was failing to enforce previous rounds of sanctions, particularly on luxury goods. The $169,000 worth of pleasure boats imported by North Korea last year all came from China, the ITC data show, as did most of the liquor and cigarettes. As China upped its investment, it became disillusioned with Kim Jong Un. Since coming to power after the sudden death of his dictator father, Kim has refused to heed Beijing’s prodding to engage in economic reform and return to negotiations over its nuclear program. Beijing’s unhappiness began to show in December, around the time of North Korea’s latest long-range rocket launch but before the nuclear test. It was then, traders and cargo companies said, that orders for tightened inspections appeared. At Complant International Transportation in the port of Dalian, customs inspectors began opening containers and packages with equipment or luxury goods or anything they deemed sensitive rather than just scan them, said a company executive who identified himself only by his surname, Zhang. “That was since the end of last year. Now they’re even stricter,” Zhang said. Companies in the border city of Dandong on the Yalu River said North Korean-bound goods have to be stored in bonded logistics centres for inspection by customs authorities. Banking restrictions mean North Korean traders have a hard time getting hard currency. “Due to the lack of cash, North Korean companies tend to pay with minerals or coal, but we only trade with those able to pay in cash,” said Yu Tao, vice general manager of the Dandong Import and Export Co. Yu said the company trades daily consumer goods and has been reducing its trade with North Korea because of the risks. Banking is one area where China has been tightening controls, but the US would like Beijing to do more. “China remains the name of the game when it comes to financial sanctions against North Korea,” said Jo Dong-ho, an expert on the North Korean economy at Seoul’s Ewha Womans University. In late 2011, Beijing forced the China Construction Bank to close accounts opened by the Korea Kwangson Banking Corp. in Dandong and the Golden Triangle Bank in Hunchun, another border city, to comply with previous UN sanctions. Still, with tens of thousands of North Koreans having fled to China, many just for short-term work, plus traders, the yuan is used inside North Korea, and smuggling of large amounts of the Chinese currency across the border has become common. Cohen, the US Treasury official, said he urged China to follow the US lead and impose sanctions on North Korea’s Foreign Trade Bank. The bank serves as the main foreign exchange bank for North Korea, wiring and receiving funds to facilitate trade, most of which goes through China, so sanctions would in effect further force more North Koreans to turn to cash. “North Koreans will have no choice but to carry a large amount of cash by themselves,” said Kim Joongho, a senior research fellow at South Korea’s Export-Import Bank. That will cause “inconvenience on the Pyongyang elites’ economic lives.”

"Tourism Year of China" opens in Moscow - The "China-Russia Tourism Year" program aims to foster tourism ties and humanistic exchanges between the two countries.

Visiting Chinese President Xi welcomed by Putin (By Xinhua) Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in Moscow, capital of Russia, March 22, 2013. Xi says Russia trip ‘far exceeds expectations’ - China's president says ties with Russia guarantee global balance - China’s new leader Xi Jinping said Saturday his first foreign trip as president to Russia had exceeded his expectations and hailed the strong partnership between the two countries after signing numerous energy deals. “I can say that from my point of view, my visit has already achieved its aim and the results have already far exceeded my expectations,” Xi told Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in comments translated into Russian and posted on the Russian government website. The Chinese president met Medvedev at his suburban residence on Saturday, a day after holding talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and overseeing the signing of a raft of energy and other agreements as part of a three-day visit ending on Sunday morning. His trip came after China this month completed a power handover which will see Xi preside over the world’s second-largest economy for the next decade. Smiling and wearing a bright red tie, Xi told Medvedev he was “very satisfied with the results” of the visit on the last full day of his trip to Russia, the first step on a tour that will then take him to Africa. The Chinese leader, who travelled to Russia along with much-watched first lady Peng Liyuan, told Medvedev that his choice of Russia for his first foreign visit was “in order to show this importance, this special character of our relations.” Xi said that he and Putin had agreed on a deal that will see Russia, the world’s largest energy producer, increase oil supplies to China, the world’s biggest energy consumer. “We can already say this is a historic visit with positive results,” Putin said after he and Xi presided over the signing of an agreement between Russian oil company Rosneft and China’s state-owned CNPC. Rosneft chief Igor Sechin said the agreement would see Russia gradually raise oil supplies over the next 25 years from their current level of 15 million tonnes. At their peak the supplies are tipped to increase by 31 million tonnes a year. As part of the deal, Rosneft is to receive a US$2-billion loan from China, he said, noting that a finalised accord would be signed at a later stage. Russia’s natural gas giant Gazprom also signed a preliminary agreement paving the way for a future 30-year contract that would see Russia begin sending gas to China in 2018. Gazprom chief Alexei Miller said a legally binding document would be signed in June and the company expected to sign a final contract by the end of this year. Also on Friday Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yang oversaw the signing of agreements including a US$2-billion deal to develop coal resources in Russia’s Far East. Medvedev said Saturday that the two sides had signed more than 30 documents in what he called “a very significant contribution to developing our relations.” Xi also hailed Russian-Chinese close relations as a guarantee of international peace during a televised speech on Saturday. “Chinese and Russian relations are some of the most important bilateral relations in the world. Our relations are the best among the bilateral relations between great powers,” he told students at the prestigious Moscow State Institute of International Relations. “We must always be kind neighbours, good friends and reliable partners,” he said in comments translated into Russian. Once bitter foes during the Cold War, Moscow and Beijing have boosted co-operation in recent years to counterbalance US global dominance. At the UN Security Council, China and Russia have both vetoed resolutions to impose sanctions on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, which is locked in a bloody two-year conflict with opposition rebels. In a packed schedule, Xi began Saturday by meeting the speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament, Sergei Naryshkin, a top Putin ally, and was set to meet China experts in the evening. On Sunday morning Xi will fly to Africa to shore up his resource-hungry country’s soaring influence on the continent, first visiting Tanzania and then South Africa and Congo-Brazzaville. Russia and China are members of the BRICS grouping of emerging economies, which also includes Brazil, India and South Africa and which will hold a summit in South Africa next week attended by both Putin and Xi. 

Hong Kong*:  Mar 24 2013

'Occupy Central' plan draws warnings (By Dennis Chong, Joshua But and Stuart Lau) Police chief advises against unlawful acts but ex-adviser says the city is ready for democracy - Any attempt to block major thoroughfares in Central will lead to serious consequences and will not be tolerated, Commissioner of Police Andy Tsang Wai-hung has said in response to a planned civil-disobedience movement. Tsang warned people to think twice about joining the "Occupy Central" protest next year, which organisers said would be the last resort to force Beijing to grant the city full democracy. Separately, Beijing loyalists also spoke up against the Occupy Central movement, while a former top adviser to the colonial government who believed Hong Kong was ready for universal suffrage expressed support for the city's democracy demands. At the centre of the debate is a plan mooted by University of Hong Kong law professor Benny Tai Yiu-ting on March 8 to up the ante in the call for democracy that will include a massive protest to block roads in the business district. Tai is expected to announce the details next week. Yesterday, Tsang reminded people who were mulling "any collective act to hold up traffic unlawfully" of "the legal liability that may arise". Such acts would not be tolerated, he said. "For those who are still thinking of taking part in such unlawful activities, I would urge them to think carefully about the effect that such a blockade or chaos might have on other members of the public," he said. The police chief issued his warning on the same day that Ng Hon-mun, former National People's Congress deputy, described Occupy Central as no more than "a juicy slogan" of the moment. "Proponents of the plan are not looking for a peaceful demonstration … but to paralyse Hong Kong," Ng wrote in his column with Chinese-language newspaper Ming Pao. "They know they cannot force Beijing to change its mind by themselves. The plan, hence, aims to draw the world's attention and force Beijing to yield under international pressure." Universal suffrage for chief executive "is not unconditional" and "a process to ferment the right candidates is necessary", he said, citing the Basic Law. Lau Nai-keung, a member of the Basic Law Committee, also urged Beijing to declare its stance against Occupy Central. Leo Goodstadt, head of the Central Policy Unit from 1989 to 1997, gave his own take on democracy for the city: "Suddenly some people say no, Hong Kong people are not ready. But how come we are not ready while India and Britain can vote? Is it that we are not as smart as the British? We want universal suffrage." Beijing should not worry about how patriotic candidates of the 2017 chief executive poll would be, since Hong Kong had spoken through "action rather than words". He said: "I don't know anyone in Hong Kong who doesn't love Hong Kong and China. Hong Kong people actually co-operated in the change of sovereignty to make the most trouble-free transition possible."

Hong Kong should 'work harder to ease cross-border tensions' (By Gary Cheung and Tony Cheung in Tianjin) City officials are not doing enough to improve ‘internal diplomacy’ between Hongkongers and mainlanders, Beijing academic says - Restrictions on milk formula exports have soured relations. Hong Kong officials should make more effort to ease tension between Hongkongers and mainlanders through the use of mainland media and the internet, a leading academic says. The advice came from Jiang Shigong, deputy director of Peking University's Centre for Hong Kong and Macau Studies, who said Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's work to step up the "homeland relationship" on his recent visit to Beijing was a step in the right direction. "Hong Kong has suffered from inadequate efforts in handling 'internal diplomacy', or the 'homeland relationship' in the past few years," Jiang said. The academic, who advises the central government on policies towards Hong Kong, said that mainlanders in the past generally had a positive perception of Hong Kong because of its freedom and rule of law. "But a growing number of mainlanders are now unhappy with Hongkongers in the wake of limits on infant milk powder exports and the heavy stamp duty imposed on non-permanent residents buying property in Hong Kong," he said. A growing number of mainlanders are now unhappy with Hongkongers in the wake of limits on infant milk powder exports and the heavy stamp duty imposed on non-permanent residents buying property. "Those restrictions go against the value of rule of law and freedom which mainlanders appreciate when they think about Hong Kong. Apart from meeting state leaders and central government ministers, senior Hong Kong officials should engage directly with mainlanders through mainland media and internet platforms such as weibo and chat rooms." Jiang was a researcher at the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong from 2004 to 2008. Chief Executive Leung on Wednesday wrapped up his five-day visit to Beijing during which he was received by President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang . He also met four new ministers and worked on what he called his "homeland relationship" and cross-border cooperation. Meanwhile, Leung's recent outreach effort in Tianjin was welcomed by a Hong Kong business group. Michael Yeung Leung-yin, honorary chairman of the Chamber of Commerce in China's Tianjin branch, attended the reception hosted by Leung in the northern city on Tuesday. "We didn't feel this much care in the past," Yeung said. "Leung even told us to compile a list, so that the government can learn how many Hongkongers are there in Tianjin and what we do." It was understood that the list could help the government gather data related to Hongkongers in the mainland, so that policy research could be conducted and needs better understood. It will also help officials analyse the implication of national policies on Hongkongers. Simon Ho Tung-fai, 50, who runs a garment trading company in Tianjin, said it was the first time he had met a Hong Kong chief executive in that city since the handover. "Now if we have concerns, at least we know there are people who care," he said. Chinese University sociologist Professor Chan Kin-man agreed that Leung's effort had been "progressive". "In the past, when Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao made overseas visits, they would usually meet the local Chinese community, but it was rare for our government to do the same," he said.

Rugby's fastest man Carlin Isles enjoying every moment of his first Hong Kong Sevens (By Helene Franchineau) USA player says there's no ordinary moment in Hong Kong. He was dubbed "the world's fastest rugby player" largely due to a Youtube video titled Carlin Isles: Olympic Dream showcasing his breath-taking speed on the pitch. The video was uploaded in December and has already been watched 2.8 million times. His personal best of 10.13 seconds (with wind at his back) at the 100-metre dash puts him in the top 40 American sprinters. However, he decided to take on another route last year when he watched footage of Sevens rugby and decided to switch from track and field to balls and scrums. During the team practice in King's Park last Thursday, young rugby players were waiting eagerly to take a picture with him. "I get a bit of pressure because I want to measure up to the hype," Isles admitted. "In the end, I continue to be me. If I work hard, everything else will pay off."

 China*:  Mar 24 2013

The Ministry of Commerce (MOC) announced Friday that it will impose anti-dumping duties on resorcinol imports from the United States and Japan, starting from Saturday. China will levy a 40.5-percent tariff on resorcinol imported from Japan and a tariff of 30.1 percent on that imported from the United States, according to an online statement from the ministry. The duties will last for five years, the ministry said. The final ruling came after the ministry found that the domestic industry has been substantially harmed by the two countries' dumping of resorcinol. The ministry has been investigating the issue since March 2012. Resorcinol, or m-dihydroxybenzene, is an essential component used to manufacture tires and other fiber-reinforced rubber goods.

She's no Barbie (By Liu Wei ) Tang Wei is one of the nation's most celebrated actresses yet insists she is nothing like her image. Liu Wei looks behind the veil. Tang Wei is one of the few young Chinese actresses who manages to be both popular and keep a low profile. She is a household name, largely thanks to her 2007 big screen debut in Ang Lee's Lust, Caution. But while the Golden Lion-winning film brought the then 28-year-old fame, she did not bask in the glow. Tang Wei covers ELLE magazine - The film's nude scenes and the political issues raised instead led her to fade away from the spotlight for a year. The Central Academy of Drama graduate visited London and honed her dramatic skills further. She took two courses on theater, auditioned for a number of plays and got a role in Shakespeare's Henry V. On her return to China she acted in five films, but seldom promoted them. She has no micro blog or obvious Web presence, yet still her every move is watched. Video clips of her English speech at an awards ceremony in South Korea and her English interview promoting the 2011 martial arts movie Dragon in Cannes, were widely viewed online. Passersby steal pictures of the star in bookstores, small restaurants and at the theater and post them on the Internet. While her fans praise her mystery and grace, the critics say she is just a product of successful "hunger marketing". "Stars are like Barbies," the 34-year-old says, dressed casually in a white silk shirt and deep blue slim jeans, before complaining about the 10-cm high heels. "I still can't get used to them." "People make up their perceptions of a star, just like they put makeup on a Barbie. The 'star' Tang Wei," she says with a smile, pointing to the ceiling, "is there. She has nothing to do with the real me." She attributes her ability to master dialects and languages like Cantonese in Lust, Caution, and English in Late Autumn, to her "shamelessness". She insists her English used to embarrass her. At a press conference in New York for Lust, Caution years ago, she says she forgot the word for "building". People laughed, but she said the mistake only made her remember the word better. She claims she is not smart, good at painting - which she learned from her painter father - or acting. And adds her rise through the acting ranks is just the result of working hard, in what she describes as a "dumb way". In her latest film, Finding Mr. Right, she plays a Chinese woman who travels to Seattle to deliver her baby, whose father is the rich husband of some other woman. She filled a bag with rice and a ball of lead, and carried it around all day except when bathing or sleeping, to get an idea of what it was like to be a pregnant woman. "I am not one of those gifted actors, so I try to live the character's life as best I can, hoping the physical practice brings mental change." For instance, when playing a farmer's wife in Peter Chan's Dragon, the eighth best movie of 2012 according to Time Magazine, she put mud under her nails for the role. She is an avid learner. She improved her Cantonese when making Crossing the Hennessey, a small budget romance that takes place in Hong Kong's narrow streets and tiny restaurants; learned tai chi for her role in Speed Angels; and some Korean when making Late Autumn, in which her character falls in love with a Korean conman in Seattle. The latter film helped her become the first foreigner to win best actress at the PaekSang Arts Awards in South Korea. She once said in an interview she is so curious she would willingly go to the South Pole some day and learn from the penguins. Even so, her favorite place is still China, where she can speak Mandarin, take public transport and be among friends. She also likes looking for good, small, difficult-to-find eateries. If discovered by a fan, she says, "I just change direction and keep on eating".

Starbucks upbeat about China (By Zhang Haizhou in Seattle A customer receives her order at a Starbucks coffee shop in Taiyuan, Shanxi province. Coffee giant has 'no doubt' nation will become its second-largest market after US Starbucks Chief Executive Howard Schultz said China has the potential to become the company's top market, highlighting the coffee house giant's confidence in the Asia-Pacific market. Announcing the company's fiscal 2012 record revenue of $13.3 billion on Wednesday, Schultz noted the company has achieved "stunning success" in China. "It's no doubt that one day China will become our second-largest market after the US and it's possible that, over many years, potentially the largest one," he said at the company's annual meeting of shareholders. Starbucks now has more than 800 stores in 58 cities on the Chinese mainland, and it aims to have more than 1,500 stores in 70 cities by 2015. Schultz made the remarks at a time when the Chinese market has never been more competitive. The number of cafes in China doubled from 15,898 in 2007 to 31,783 in 2012, according to a report from UK-based research company Mintel Group Ltd. Apart from Starbucks, more players are trying to get a slice of this big market. British company Costa Coffee aims to have 500 cafes in the country by 2016, while Hong Kong-based chain Pacific Coffee said that it aims to expand and overtake Starbucks on the Chinese mainland. Local names, such Sculpting in Time, are on track to rapid growth. Starbucks, despite its 61 to 62 percent market share in China's coffee house sector, is now "encircled", the Chinese version of Bloomberg Businessweek magazine said earlier this year. But Schultz remains optimistic. "In our 42 years of history, our focus has been on our customers and doing anything that we can to exceed our expectations, not on the competition," he told China Daily before Wednesday's meeting. Starbucks, based in Seattle, opened its first Chinese mainland store in Beijing in 1999. It's also the first Western cafe chain to enter the tea-drinking nation. The Chinese mainland now ranks as the fourth-largest market in Starbucks' global network of more than 18,000 stores in 62 countries and regions. It had nearly 12,000 outlets in the United States, 1,175 in Canada and 975 in Japan by the end of 2012. Schultz said Starbucks remains in "a very early stage of growth in China", and he is "inspired about the opportunities". The company's Asia-Pacific revenue increased to $721 million in the 2012 fiscal year, from $552 million the year before. It has nearly 3,500 stores in 13 countries and regions in the Asia-Pacific. Schultz said the "uncertainty of the world economy" and the "uncertainty of customer behavior" are the major challenges Starbucks faces. "We are not only dealing with things that are in our control, but we have to navigate through the things that we are not," he said. "I'm very optimistic about the Chinese economy and the future of China."

Chinese president arrives in Moscow for visit (By Xinhua) Chinese President Xi Jinping (front L), accompanied by Russian Minister of Far East Development Viktor Ishayev (front R), inspects the guard of honor upon his arrival in Moscow, capital of Russia, March 22, 2013. Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Moscow Friday for a state visit to Russia. Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Moscow Friday for a state visit to Russia, the first foreign trip after he became China's president last week. During his visit, Xi will hold talks with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, on the development of the China-Russia comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership and major regional and world issues. Xi will also meet Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and other Russian leaders. According to Chinese Foreign Ministry officials, Xi is scheduled to give a speech at a Moscow university and attend the launch ceremony of a memorial to the Sixth National Congress of the Communist Party of China, which was held in Moscow in 1928. He will also visit the Russian Defense Ministry and meet Russian sinologists, Chinese-learning students and representatives from the press. On Friday, Xi and Putin are expected to attend the opening ceremony of the "Tourism Year of China" in Russia, which is part of the "China-Russia Tourism Year." The "China-Russia Tourism Year", which began last year with the "Tourism Year of Russia" in China, is the third theme year following the "China-Russia National Year" and the "China-Russia Year of Language" held in recent years in the two countries. Xi's Moscow trip, the first by the new Chinese leader soon after taking office, indicates that China places great importance on its ties with Russia. In a joint interview Tuesday with reporters from the BRICS bloc, which comprises Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, Xi said that his visit to Russia shows the high level and special nature of the comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries. "The fact that I will visit Russia, our friendly neighbor, shortly after I became China's president, is a testimony to the great importance China places on its relations with Russia," Xi said. Both China and Russia have attached special importance to Xi's state visit to Russia. Talking with Putin over phone on March 14 upon his election as Chinese president, Xi said he was looking forward to meeting Putin during his visit and exchanging views with him on ways to strengthen bilateral cooperation as well as on major regional and international affairs. Xi also said he believed his visit to Russia would inject new vigor into the development of Russia-China relations. Putin said Russia was making active efforts to prepare for Xi's visit, and expressed the belief that the visit would further promote bilateral cooperation and humanistic exchanges as well as strengthen bilateral ties. The China-Russia comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership has developed steadily in recent years. Political mutual trust has kept increasing, pragmatic cooperation in all fields has yielded fruits, and the two sides have maintained close communication and coordination on international and regional affairs. In 2012, bilateral trade reached a record high of 88 billion U.S. dollars, an increase of 11 percent over the previous year. Last month, China and Russia have reached an important consensus on boosting oil trade, marking major progress in China-Russia energy cooperation. The Chinese and Russian governments endorsed their respective enterprises' negotiations on gas supplies to be delivered via an east pipeline, with Russia set to deliver 38 billion cubic meters of gas each year to China. The two sides will continue feasibility research on liquefied natural gas cooperation using the east line, as well as gas to be supplied via a west line. The two countries are working to boost bilateral trade, with the goals of reaching 100 billion dollars by 2015 and 200 billion dollars by 2020. After the Russia trip, Xi will fly to the African continent for a state visit to Tanzania, South Africa, and the Republic of the Congo. In South Africa, Xi will also attend the fifth BRICS summit in the port city of Durban on March 26-27, the first to be held on the African continent. Leaders of the BRICS countries will also have a retreat with African leaders. 

Hong Kong*:  Mar 23 2013

SCMP survey finds fund managers bullish about Hong Kong stocks (By Jeanny Yu and George Chen) The first SCMP HK Fund Manager survey has found that growing economic and political uncertainty is failing to dampen enthusiasm - Two-thirds of fund managers surveyed by SCMP said they planned to increase their weightings in equity assets traded in Hong Kong’s stock market. Many of the world's biggest asset managers plan to pour more money into Hong Kong's stock market in the next three months despite growing economic and policy uncertainties on the mainland, a survey by the South China Morning Post has revealed. The first South China Morning Post Hong Kong Fund Manager Survey found more than four out of five respondents were already overweight in equities in the first three months of this year. Half were neutral on bonds. Two-thirds of the fund managers surveyed said they planned to continue to increase their weightings in equities traded in Hong Kong in the next three months, in particular in banking, internet and power stocks. They are most bearish on Hong Kong-listed telecommunications and steel companies. Those who took part in the survey, conducted between February 28 and March 7, were asset managers from 10 leading international fund management companies: Allianz Global Investors, Baring Asset Management, BNP Paribas Investment Partners, Henderson Global Investors, HSBC Global Asset Management, Invesco, JPMorgan Asset Management, Manulife, PineBridge and State Street Global Advisors. Agnes Deng, the head of Hong Kong China equities at Barings in Hong Kong, said: "The global trend for capital to shift from bonds to equities is still very clear. I am feeling more comfortable with the current valuation of the Hang Seng Index after the first-quarter correction. We are likely to have a valuation-supported rebound in April and May." Three out of four respondents believed global liquidity would continue to flow into Hong Kong's equity market in the coming months. More than seven out of 10 of the fund managers surveyed believed the Hang Seng Index would rise above its 100-day moving average by the end of the next quarter. That moving average stood at 22,582.91 points yesterday, while the index closed more than 350 points below it, at 22,225.88. So far this year, the Hang Seng Index has been the worst-performing gauge of any developed market apart from South Korea and Italy. Paul Chan, the chief investment officer for Asia ex-Japan at Invesco, said that entering the second quarter, there were limited catalysts for the index to catch up with the others. He suggested the index would fluctuate between 21,000 and 23,000 points over the next three months. "We may pause here, trading in a range and seeing if people can digest the macro uncertainties," Chan said. The respondents to the survey said the biggest downside risks for the Hang Seng Index in the coming quarter were the potential for disappointing mainland economic figures, worse-than-expected corporate earnings and policy reform initiatives on the mainland that might add more economic uncertainty or disappoint investors in the relevant sectors. Seven out of 10 fund managers surveyed said they believed economic growth on the mainland would be more than 8 per cent in the second quarter. Raymond Chan, the Asia-Pacific chief investment officer at Allianz Global Investors, the asset management arm of the German financial services group, said the biggest risks for the Hong Kong market now were "very much external: the policy risks in China and ongoing European concerns". "What if some of the peripheral countries in the Europe block are going to see problems again? Once you remove the global tail risks, for example, provided that the [European Union] is not going to collapse, then the market will be a bit more normal and focus on fundamentals rather than external risks," Chan said.

Relocation of water treatment plants considered in bid to find more land for housing (By Lai Ying-kit The government has proposed relocating three water and sewage treatment plants to rock caverns to release more land for housing development. According a document released for public consultation on Thursday, the facilities are a water service reservoir in Diamond Hill and two sewage treatment plants in Sai Kung and in Sham Tseng. The three sites were included in a pilot scheme for rock cavern development and were shortlisted from 445 potential facilities studied earlier. The Development Bureau said that in choosing the sites, it had considered the availability of nearby caverns, whether the utilities were too large to fit into the caverns, or whether the sites were too small to be useful. The bureau said relocating the three facilities could free six hectare of land to build residential flats. Also including in the consultation document are reclamation schemes for five coastal sites outside Victoria Harbour to provide a total area of between 470 and 730 hectare of land. Hong Kong has been anxious to find more residential sites as property prices hit record highs recently. Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po said at a press conference the proposals would build up a ’land reserve’ to help the city meet short-term demand. “The government is determined to develop new land extensively,” he said. The public consultation process, which started on Thursday with the release of the document, will last for three months.

 China*:  Mar 23 2013

Opera world hopes China's first lady will carry on singing (By Oliver Chou Music professionals say state duties should not prevent Xi's star soprano wife from performing - Peng Liyuan sings the title role in Mulan. China's first lady is too talented a singer to shun the stage during husband Xi Jinping's presidency, fellow music professionals say. Nor do they see any conflict of interest between singing and state functions. "Peng is a top-notch soprano in every sense," said conductor Li Xincao , who has performed with Peng Liyuan since 2004, including at the Kremlin in 2007 and in Vienna in 2008. "She is absolutely professional and very pleasant to work with, and it would be a pity for her not to perform under the new circumstances [as first lady]." Peng is a top-notch soprano in every sense. She is absolutely professional and very pleasant to work with - Li said he had recently recorded the opera Mulan, in which Peng sang the title role of the filial general. Filming, with Peng in full costume, will begin next month. Peng is accompanying Xi to Russia on his first official tour as head of state, an interesting coincidence considering that she performed at the Kremlin in 2007 shortly after the Communist Party's 17th national congress, when Xi was designated the party's next leader. Li, who conducted that concert, recalled Peng performing in full traditional costume in the opera Farewell My Concubine at the grand finale of the Year of China, watched by top officials from both countries, including then-premier Wen Jiabao . Deng Chuan , a violinist with the China National Symphony Orchestra at the Kremlin performance, said Peng's voice was impeccable, but her personality was even more impressive. "She was very amicable and chatted with us without the slightest sign of official airs," she said. "She even offered her make-up assistant to help us before we went onto the stage." Deng recalled that Peng was unusually hard-working and often rehearsed alone on stage long after the orchestra dispersed. "It was at the National Centre for the Performing Arts and we rehearsed Mulan, which she premiered in 2004 and had performed many times since," she said. "After the session was over and we went out for lunch, I saw her all by herself on stage working on gestures and moves. These days, most singers we perform with rarely come to rehearsals. Most show up for concerts only." Peng's singing is natural and highly gifted, said Yan Huichang , artistic director of the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra, who worked with her in 1985. "She was a finalist at the First National TV Chinese Vocal Contest and I was the conductor of the Chinese National Broadcast Orchestra for all the candidates," Yan said. "For some reason she missed the final rehearsal session and came for the final round. There, without any rehearsal, she delivered the most natural and exquisite singing of the famous folk song Xiao Er Hei's Wedding and won the gold medal." Yan said he had invited Peng to perform in Hong Kong with his orchestra, but she had declined, with regrets, "due to a protocol reason which would require the approval of the [party] Central Committee's general office". "I had wanted to invite her to sing at the handover concert, in 1997, but members of the advisory committee did not approve it," Yan recalled, adding that he still hoped to perform with her in the future. At 51, Peng is in the golden period for a professionally trained soprano, said Hong Kong soprano Barbara Fei Ming-yee, who trained in Paris. "She is considered a young soprano because a female singer with solid training like her can perform in peak form up to the age of 65," Fei said. Fei said that when she met Peng in the 1980s, she was impressed with her intelligence and upbeat personality and, most of all, her unique singing style. "Her greatest strength is to blend folk and classical singing styles and deliver it in her own special way," she said.

National program to keep TCM healthy (By Shan Juan China's top traditional Chinese medicine authority has announced a nationwide training program. Under the initiative, the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine has appointed 734 leading TCM specialists to instruct 1,465 students in clinical practice and academic research. Workers prepare medicines at a traditional Chinese medicine hospital in Xiangyang, Hubei province. "The model of master-disciple TCM education is an indispensable part of the overall efforts to train high-quality TCM talent in China," said Wang Lian, a spokesman for the administration. Since 1990, the administration has carried out a series of programs to pass down the time-honored Oriental medical science and help churn out more qualified practitioners, said Hong Jing, deputy director of human resources and education at the administration. To date, she said, more than 2,000 disciples have studied with TCM masters. TCM practitioners can apply for programs through the local TCM authority or be recommended by their hospitals. The final decision is made by the administration, Hong said. Candidates should be at least 45 years old, hold a bachelor's degree and have eight years of experience in practicing TCM. Disciples come from different backgrounds such as TCM clinics, academic research and drug development, Wang said. So far, there have been no foreigners, but he said the possibility cannot be ruled out in the future. Programs usually last three years, and disciples are required to shadow and learn from their masters during their routine work of clinical practice or research at least one and a half days a week, Wang said. Meanwhile, disciples have to hand in regular reports on their clinical experiences and studies of classic TCM texts for the masters to comment on. Huang Jianyin, deputy secretary-general of the World Federation of Chinese Medicine Societies, said the model helps students transform paper knowledge into clinical practice. "That fits best in the education of TCM, which is a medical science based on clinical practice and experience," he said. In 2008, China introduced this model into the professional training of TCM practitioners. Disciples who successfully finish the course can apply for a master's or doctoral degree in TCM clinical medicine.

China remains top for foreign investments: report (Xinhua) China remains the world's top destination for foreign investments as the country still holds many competitive edges, a latest research report revealed Wednesday. Steadily expanding domestic market, improving competition environment, technology talents, government's stimulus measures, cheap labor, and favorable tax policies are among the major attractions for foreign investments, according to a report jointly released by China Development Research Foundation and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). Citing results from a survey on 227 chief executive officers from multi-national companies, the report said 70 percent of those who had businesses in China plan to increase their investments in the coming five years. The report found that companies considered enhancing transparency as vital for the creation of a fair competition environment, and most of them believed Chinese authorities are changing their stance in a positive way. Although China's position at the top remained unchanged, other emerging economies, including India, Brazil, Turkey and some African countries, are catching up quickly, the report said. As potential destinations become more diversified, multi-national companies become more cautious in making their choices, challenging China's top spot in the area, according to the report. Latest official data showed foreign direct investment (FDI) into China came in at 8.21 billion U.S. dollars in February, up 6.32 percent year on year.

Brewing up the right recipe for success (By Wang Zhuoqiong and Xie Chuanjiao and Performers hold replica beer steins at the opening ceremony of the China Qingdao International Beer Festival in Qingdao, Shandong province. Tsingtao Brewery Co Ltd accounts for about 15 percent of China's beer market and around half of the country's beer exports. Tsingtao boss regards industry as a battlefield with millions at stake While waiting to fly back to China, Sun Mingbo, chairman of the world's sixth-largest brewery by production volume, took a moment to examine the top sellers at an airport bookstore in the United States. A book entitled The Generals, American Military Command from World War II to Today caught his eye and was soon added to his collection about the military. As a fan of military leaders and combat strategy while heading Tsingtao Brewery Co Ltd, Sun didn't read the battle stories just for fun. Last year, he sent part of his management team to the United States Military Academy West Point on a leadership course. "The education provided by the US army is not only about strategy. It is about training leaders," he said. He is interested in them because "the business world of the Chinese beer industry - the most rapid growing market on the planet - is very similar to the battlefield", he said. In 2012, Chinese beer breweries produced 49.02 million kiloliters, outnumbering the US as the world's largest beer market. In comparison with stagnant or declining sales in developed economies, China's per capita beer consumption level has the potential to increase to twice the level in the United States, said Sun. The former president of China's most renowned beer brand took the job last June after the former chairman Jin Zhiguo resigned unexpectedly. Under his leadership, Tsingtao Beer, founded in 1903 by German and British merchants, turned in a surprising performance last year, beating its domestic peers in revenue growth and profits. The industry's growth last year was the lowest after a decade of rapid expansion. Between January and November, the beer industry produced 46 million kiloliters, up only 3.57 percent. But the Qingdao-based brewery, which accounts for about 16 percent of the domestic market and about half of the country's beer exports, saw its revenue grow 12.8 percent in the first nine months from the same period the year before. Tsingtao Beer's revenue increase contributed to half of the growth of the industry last year. The brewery made a net profit of 168 million yuan ($27 million) during the first three quarters last year. Last year, the brewery completed its expansion plans in central China and the northwestern regions, and established plans to produce more than 10 million kiloliters by 2014. The smooth transition between two executives, sound development of its second-line brands and the clear goal of achieving a production volume of more than 10 million tons took the 110-year brand into a prosperous era, said Fang Gang, an independent analyst of the beer industry. Domestic battlefield. For other businesses, going global involves expanding beyond their borders but for breweries China is the main battlefield, said Sun. "It is not sensible giving up such a great market and competing in the saturated markets of developed countries," he said. At work, Sun has two principles: "Never miss a major opportunity; never ignore a major threat." Failure regarding either of them would create trouble or even be fatal for the company, he said. The sense of threat comes from a true and deep understanding of the Chinese market, Fang said, and an awareness of the large gap between local and foreign breweries. With clear market targets and positions and massive investment, foreign beer brands will soon exceed domestic brands in terms of production and marketing," he said. After decades of expansion through many acquisitions, the Chinese beer industry is dominated by three domestic brands: China Resources Snow Brewery, Tsingtao Brewery and Yanjing Brewery, as well as three foreign brands - Anheuser-Busch InBev, SAB Miller and Carlsberg. Anheuser-Busch InBev, which manages brands including Stella Artois and Harbin, made a profit of $7.9 billion in 2012. The domestic beer industry made a profit of 9 billion yuan, Fang said."Anheuser-Busch InBev is so large that all three top Chinese breweries combined present no rivalry to its scale." Anheuser-Busch InBev had a production volume of 5.59 million tons in 2011 and has plans to invest 20 billion yuan in building eight to 10 new manufacturing bases in China to achieve its goal of 15 million tons, Fang said. That's equivalent to more than 30 percent of sales in China. On the domestic front, Tsingtao, although it is equipped with a strong mixture of local and national level brands and has 60 breweries in 19 locations, has strong rivals. With 80 breweries and a 21 percent market share, the largest beer manufacturer by production volume is China Resources Snow Breweries. It is a peer of China Resources Enterprises Ltd and the world's second-largest brewery SAB Miller, and experienced sales growth of 5 percent in the first three quarters of 2012 of 9.06 million kiloliters. The third-largest brewery, Yanjing Brewery, which is focused on a local strategy and has a 12 percent market share, grew 0.77 percent in the same period. Sun said he believes the market could be further developed and competition lies in the capacity to execute new business models and raising operational efficiency. "In the past, you only had to run fast. Now you have to run while making yourself really strong at the same time," he said. Tsingtao's next move is to expand market share and raise sales volumes in central and western regions because the eastern market is saturated. As for its global market, Tsingtao sells to more than 80 countries and regions and is expanding. Sun said its global presence is aimed at building a high-end brand with products that are among the most expensive. "It matters if your product can survive in developed markets and be recognized," he said, adding that the brewery is seeking growing markets in Southeast Asian countries. "They are a future market for us. We expect to increase investment and sales in the region," Sun said. Innovation as a weapon. Sun possesses EMBA degrees from Washington University and Fudan University. The English-speaking chairman believes innovation could change the entire industry. Innovation could happen within distribution channels, he said, adding that his company is conducting research on the likelihood of adopting e-commerce, which would mean direct contact with retail terminals such as restaurants, supermarkets and convenience stores and the development of the logistics of dealing with them. "Although we haven't gone too far yet, we should not ignore that direction and possibility. We have to think ahead," he said, adding that innovation is focusing on the development of the strength of Tsingtao beer to be a more functional and healthy drink. A change in beer consumption behavior has led to a change in products that are tailor-made to suit customers. "In the past, it was about the capacity of drinking the most volume," Sun said. "Now it is about enjoying what you drink." To compete in the high-end market where foreign breweries have developed greater advantages, Tsingtao has introduced Augerta, using a German formula, and Yipin Draft, which uses hops from the Czech Republic. Sun said he believes the competition to be best is not only in the psychological arena but also at the physical level. Every day Sun goes jogging for 18 minutes followed by balancing and upper limb routines. "We are in the beer industry," Sun said. "It is important that our actions and physiques challenge the traditional belief that drinking beer means you grow a beer belly."

Hong Kong*:  Mar 22 2013

Hong Kong still the world's most costly city for billionaire homes (By Sandy Li 'Billionaire' properties in the city average HK$84,400 per sq ft for an average home of 5,200 sq ft. Hong Kong remains the most expensive city in the world for billionaire trophy homes, a report by international property consultancy Savills says. "Billionaire" properties in the city average £7,200 (HK$84,400) per square foot for an average home of 5,200 sq ft, it says. The report calculated a price index of homes for the super rich in 10 top cities around the world at the end of last year. Savills compared homes that members of an "executive unit" - a group of people who might start up or expand a global business in any country - would be likely to choose in each of the 10 cities. Tokyo ranks second at £5,000 per sq ft for an average flat of 16,000 sq ft, and London third at £3,500 per sq ft for an average flat of 7,900 sq ft. Paris, Moscow, New York, Shanghai, Singapore, Mumbai and Sydney round out the list. "Billionaire activity has been concentrated on high-end urban centres rather than leisure properties in the surrounding countryside or regional sunbelts," said Yolande Barnes, head of world research at Savills. "This reflects a global preference for urban locations, as these billionaires need to be located in cities where they can do business." However, prices for super-deluxe homes in Hong Kong began to fall after the government imposed in October measures to curb investment demand. Terry Chan, a StatelyHome senior account manager at the Deep Water Bay branch of Centaline Property Agency, said the top end of the market suffered. "There are no big-ticket transactions at all, as cashed-up mainlanders and corporate buyers have retreated from the market after extra stamp duties were imposed on them," he said. "The number of transactions for luxury homes in Deep Water Bay dropped to below 10 a month, with each deal involving just HK$10 million to HK$40 million. Prior to the introduction of the stamp duties, there were 30 to 50 deals a month, each worth more than HK$100 million." John Siu, an executive director at valuers Cushman & Wakefield, however, believes Hong Kong will continue to attract the world's richest people to set up home. "Hong Kong's political stability and well-established legal framework create an excellent environment for businesspeople," Siu said. "We will retain our competitive advantage over other cities."

Six reclamation sites shortlisted to boost Hong Kong land reserves (By Cheung Chi-fai Reclamation schemes include a plan for an artificial island, but officials say proposals will do little to address city's housing needs - The city's quest to reclaim more land from the sea is not going to help home buyers in the short term, government officials warned yesterday. Five reclamation sites and plans for an artificial island have made the shortlist from 25 sites earmarked by the Development Bureau for a "strategic land reserve". One of the sites, at Sunny Bay in north Lantau, could provide up to 100 hectares of land. But it lies directly under the airport flight path, meaning residential development is not an option. A site at Siu Ho Wan - with a potential supply of up to 150 hectares - faces the same problem as it would lie under the proposed third runway. Officials said the two sites could be ready for development as early as 2019, but the locations meant uses would be restricted. They said the aim of the strategic reserve was to fill gaps in the long-term land supply in time to take account of development needs and population growth. The bureau is launching a three-month public consultation today on the six proposals. A consultation exercise in 2011 concluded that Hongkongers were divided over reclamation, but that there was overall support to build up a land reserve. Officials remain reluctant to say what these reserves could be used for without knowing the exact scale of each site. "We want the public to tell us what their concerns are, and we will present to them the opportunities and challenges facing each site," said an official who did not want to be named. We want the public to tell us what their concerns are, and we will present to them the opportunities and challenges facing each site - The official said the bureau hoped to convince the public of the need for funding to further study reclamation feasibility. The five near-shore reclamation sites could provide a total of around 600 hectares. One of them - Lung Kwu Tan in Tuen Mun - could supply at least 200 hectares. Officials believe the Tuen Mun site is suitable for residential use despite its proximity to power plants. "There are two chimneys at the coal-fired power plants. If the building height is restricted, residential uses might be feasible," said an official who preferred not to be named. Another shortlisted site potentially fit for housing is at Ma Liu Shui, near the Sha Tin sewage treatment works, with a potential land supply of up to 60 hectares. But development might hinge upon relocating the sewage plant to a nearby cavern, freeing about 28 hectares of land. Officials said this plan could take decades to materialise. A site at Tsing Yi is capable of supplying 100 hectares but is already being targeted for a proposed container terminal. A decision on whether that will go ahead may be two years away. Officials say the artificial island could provide between 1,000 and 2,000 hectares. They are eyeing a spot between west Hong Kong Island and east Lantau. And they said they would not rule out using the island to relocate facilities that cause pollution from urban areas. Detailed studies on infrastructure such as road links were still needed. To address environmental concerns, officials plan to conduct a cumulative impact study for reclamation sites in western waters, to see if these projects would overburden the area due to other infrastructure works either ongoing or being planned. "If these studies show any problems, we can adjust the size of reclamation or fine tune their locations," the source said. Alan Leung Sze-lun, conservation manager of WWF Hong Kong, welcomed the studies but urged officials to reveal more details. "This is the right direction to go in and it shows they are willing to face the problem," he said.

One in nine adult Hongkongers is a cash millionaire, says Citibank survey (By Kanis Li One in nine of Hong Kong's adults is a millionaire, a 14pc jump from a year earlier - A third of Hong Kong millionaires made their money from property. One in nine of the city's adults is a millionaire, a 14 per cent jump from a year earlier, according to a survey by Citibank, and a third of them made their money from property. The bank put the number of Hongkongers with liquid assets worth more than HK$1 million at 601,000, the highest in the 10 years that it has carried out the survey. The richest of them, who each hold liquid assets worth more than HK$10 million, number 34,000. Liquid assets include cash and other assets - like stocks - that can be converted quickly into cash, and exclude property. After adding fixed assets like property, average net assets of all the millionaires soared 40.8 per cent from a year earlier to HK$13.1 million. The jump could have been owing in part to the increase in value of their property, which accounted for 63 per cent of total assets, on average. The millionaires estimated their monthly expenses after retirement at HK$15,000 on average, nearly double that of people who have less than HK$1 million. More than one in five of the millionaires are retired. Of the respondents who were millionaires, 32 per cent made their money mainly from property, the highest fraction in the past four years. Meanwhile, 22 per cent made gains mainly on investments such as stocks, funds and bonds. This may change, however, said Simon Lee Siu-po, senior lecturer in accounting and finance at Chinese University's School of Hotel and Tourism Management. "Investment in property may not be the main way to gain money in future," Lee said. He expects prices to fall in the next phase of the property cycle. More than three-quarters (78 per cent) of the millionaires own property, and 31 per cent of them have more than one property. More than three-quarters (78 per cent) of the millionaires own property, and 31 per cent of them have more than one property. The majority expect property prices to rise this year, while most in the previous survey expected prices to fall last year. Christine Lam, country business manager at Citibank Global Consumer Banking in Hong Kong, said the result might have been different had the latest survey, conducted in December and January, been done after the government's February roll-out of a fresh round of measures to curb property prices. Only 5 per cent of millionaires thought it was a good or excellent time to buy property, because "many of them prefer to wait and see, since the property price has gone up a lot", Lam said. Just over half (51 per cent) of the millionaires who made investments last year said they gained the most from stocks, followed by 18 per cent who cited property. Stocks were the preferred investment product for the next 12 months.

 China*:  Mar 22 2013

US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew's cheap dumpling lunch wins praise in China (By Amy Li) US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew (centre) sits down for a meal of dumplings, cold dishes and tea in Beijing. One lesson visiting US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew might have learned is that the Chinese are far less interested about what comes out of his mouth than what goes into it. It’s true that Lew’s high-profile meeting with President Xi Jinping on Tuesday has made national headlines. But what has triggered intense debate online was Lew’s low-profile lunch at a Beijing dumpling restaurant following the meeting. Lew and his three colleagues had spent 109 yuan (HK$136) on a meal of dumplings, cold dishes and tea, said Chinese media reports. Their bill has apparently shocked some people, who expect officials of even lower status to splurge thousands of yuan on luxury meals - paid by taxpayers. “He must have done it purposely to embarrass Chinese officials,” wrote a weibo blogger. “I assume Lew didn’t ask for a receipt either,” wrote another blogger, referring to a popular practise by Chinese officials who would use the receipt to get a reimbursement later. “I can actually afford to take the US treasury secretary out!” exclaimed a blogger. “I feel rich now.” “Twenty-seven yuan per official,” wrote another blogger. “This is the true China dream dreamed by the Chinese.” The public mood was probably most felicitously caught by a weibo post by Beijing scholar Xu Xin: “After reading today’s news about Lew’s 109 yuan dumpling meal, I was reminded of Joe Biden’s 79 yuan meal in a small Beijing eatery, and Gary Locke’s flight to Beijing in an economy class cabin. I also think of the hundreds of billions of yuan our public servants spend each year on meals, transport and overseas trips, and children in rural China who can’t afford clothes, food or school furniture.” Xu later posted on his weibo on Tuesday: “I’d like to take the US treasury secretary out, and the meal will be no lower than 901 yuan?” Xu’s invitation surely got the attention of the US consulate in Hong Kong, which replied on its official weibo account on Wednesday morning: “Mr Xu, it’s not that we are putting on airs. But a 109 yuan meal is more than enough to feed us. A 901 yuan meal? We will say no but we appreciate it.” Lew is not the first US dignitary to have impressed the Chinese with his everyman habits. In 2011, a photograph of US Ambassador to China Gary Locke carrying a backpack and buying coffee at the Seattle airport also went viral on China's social media and drew admiration and praise from netizens.

Chinese solar panel producer Suntech declares bankruptcy (By Agence France-Presse in Shanghai) Suntech, one of the world’s biggest producers of solar panels, declared itself bankrupt on Wednesday after defaulted on bond payments last week. China’s Suntech, one of the world’s biggest producers of solar panels, declared itself bankrupt on Wednesday, the official Xinhua news agency said. The New York-listed company last week defaulted on payments on US$541 million-worth of bonds. Suntech said on Monday it was seeking to restructure, and Xinhua said the firm had “declared bankruptcy reorganisation” on Wednesday. Suntech declined to immediately comment on the Xinhua report. It has been badly hit by oversupply in the global market for solar cells and panels, as well trade disputes with the United States and Europe over alleged Chinese dumping and government subsidies to producers. Chinese firms, including Suntech, have denied the claims. Chinese state media on Tuesday quoted an official in the eastern city of Wuxi, where Suntech is headquartered, as saying it would undergo restructuring under bankruptcy proceedings. “The government clearly has intervened and wants to reorganise the company and maintain production,” Liu Wenping, a partner at Shanghai-based solar investment consulting firm Sapphire Capital told AFP. The board ousted the company’s founder, Shi Zhengrong, as chairman earlier this month, though he called the move “misconceived and unlawful”. A Chinese newspaper, the 21st Century Business Herald, on Wednesday quoted sources as saying Shi had the support of the Wuxi government and could return to Suntech as part of the reorganisation.

Celebrities in wedding dresses - Photo collection of Chinese celebrites in beautiful wedding dresses!

Train tickets may cost more than air travel (By AN BAIJIE Passengers at the railway station in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, on March 6. Traveling by train could become more expensive than flying after the reform of China's railways authorities, a top engineer said. Wang Mengshu, deputy chief engineer of the China Railway Tunnel Group and a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, predicted the debts built up by the now-defunct Railways Ministry will lead to a rise in prices. Railway freight costs have not increased for 30 years, but that will end after the establishment of China Railway Corp, the 75-year-old said. He also expressed concern the corporation is likely to construct the most profitable railways rather than the most needed. Wang made the remarks at this year's session of the National People's Congress, which ended Sunday. During the session, the Ministry of Railways, which was established in 1949, was dismantled. China Railway Corp has taken over its commercial functions, while the administrative functions were absorbed by the Ministry of Transport. The reform was in response to public criticism over the fact the Railways Ministry was both a policymaker and service provider. The demand for reform also grew after allegations of corruption were leveled at Liu Zhijun during his time as railways minister, as well as the deadly high-speed rail accident that killed 40 people in July 2011. Wang said that steady railway prices have contributed to the country's economic growth. However, China Railway Corp will have to take high costs and its mountainous debt into consideration when setting new ticket prices. Railways Ministry data showed that by the end of September, the authority had amassed a debt of 2.66 trillion yuan ($428 billion). Wang said most of the debt was caused by the rapid expansion of high-speed rail. "Take the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed line for example," he said. "Authorities borrowed 250 billion yuan from the banks, and as a result they had to pay more than 10 billion yuan in interest a year." Wang called on the central government to pay part of the debt from revenues, as construction of the railways benefits most citizens. "If the central government refuses to cover part of the debt, the corporation will have no choice but to raise ticket prices," he said. "Some tickets for high-speed lines will probably cost more than airline flights." His remarks have stirred controversy. Some people criticized him for defending the monopoly status of China Railway Corp, while others praised his honesty. China Railway Corp had not responded to Wang's remarks as of Tuesday afternoon. Railway authorities are revising prices for freight and passengers, and ticket prices will be flexible, Beijing Morning Post quoted a railway official as saying on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Lanzhou Railways Bureau said on Monday it is offering discounts on 19 short routes until Dec 31, excluding major holidays.

Payment cards big deal in China (By Michael Barris in New York A man passes an advertisement for credit cards by Bank of Communications Co Ltd and HSBC Holdings PLC in Shanghai. A dramatic increase in the use of payment cards in China in recent years poured nearly $375 billion into the nation's economy, driving up the growth rate by 1.7 percent, according to a survey by US forecasting firm Moody's Analytics for global card company Visa Inc. The survey, released on Monday, appears to provide Visa evidence for its argument that China's growing and lucrative card marketplace needs the US company's services in processing domestic transactions. Surging use of cards translated into a contribution of $374.5 billion to China's 2008-2012 GDP growth - highest among the countries surveyed by Moody's. Trailing China was the US, with a $127.4 billion boost to GDP growth, and the United Kingdom, with a $68 billion increase. The biggest US payments network, along with rivals MasterCard Inc and American Express Co, has faced limited access to the Chinese market. Analysts say US card firms aren't likely to extract substantial revenue from China for several years, despite a July 2012 order by the World Trade Organization that the country loosen restrictions on the payments-processing business. Moody's Analytics studied the impact of increased card use on the consumption rates of 56 countries that accounted for 93 percent of world GDP from 2008 to 2012. The results showed that card usage in China boosted domestic consumption by 4.89 percent, highest among the nations sampled. In comparison, the United States saw cards increase its consumption by 0.31 percent. "China's swelling middle class prompted an explosion of retail spending in recent years and with it, demand for more efficient payment methods," the study said, noting that China's card use soared to 56 percent in 2012 from 31 percent in 2008. Visa's China general manager, Liao Guangyu, noted in a statement that the data underscore how "payment cards generate a direct positive impact on economic growth". He cited World Bank data showing that "36 percent of Chinese people do not yet enjoy formal financial services". By bringing these consumers the necessary technology, Liao said, "electronic payments can create much economic benefit". When it joined the WTO in 2001, China assured that it would open its domestic credit card and debit card markets within five years. But restrictions on domestic transaction processing still require US-based Visa, MasterCard and American Express to form partnerships with Chinese issuers to offer co-branded cards. The dominant domestic processor remains State-run China UnionPay Data Services Co, which operates in more than 110 countries and claims to have the world's third-most-used card in terms of transaction volume. In April 2010, the US initiated a WTO complaint against China over the trade barriers. While a WTO panel found that the restrictions discriminated against US companies, it rejected US claims that China UnionPay was a monopoly. China's card market remains largely closed to US card companies despite the WTO ruling, said Eric Grover, a principal with Intrepid Ventures, a Nevada firm that advises the payments industry. The market "still hasn't opened up", he said. "There is a bit of protectionism in play. They [China] are not so keen to have a level playing field." "Not a single" credit or debit card transaction has been processed in China by a US processing firm since the WTO ruling in July, he added. In September 2010, MasterCard forecast that by 2020, China would pass the US as the world's biggest credit card market, with about 900 million cards in circulation.

Hong Kong*:  Mar 21 2013

Directors need more city backing, film chief says (By Vivienne Chow Financing of local movies is nothing compared with the money Taichung gave to Ang Lee, film development council chairman says - Jack So, the government’s point man on film-related policy, attends the launch of the First Feature Film Initiative. Multimillion-dollar backing from a Taiwanese city for Ang Lee to produce his Oscar-winning Life of Pi has prompted a call for Hong Kong to offer similar direct support to its top film directors. Film Development Council chairman Jack So Chak-kwong said Hong Kong's support for movie projects was "nothing" compared with the NT$50 million (HK$13 million) raised by the government of Taichung for Lee. Taiwan-born Lee, who was named best director, thanked Taichung for raising the money to help build the site where most of Life of Pi was filmed. "Our funding for film production projects is HK$2.7 million on average, but compared with Taiwan's one-off support for Ang Lee, it is nothing," So said. "I hope the government can provide more support for Hong Kong's film industry by directly supporting renowned directors' local productions. "It might involve great risks, but if it succeeds, it can drive the development of other industries, bringing tourism and [increasing] local consumption. The filming location [of Life of Pi] has already become a new tourist destination." His council funds small and medium productions through the Film Development Fund. As of June last year, the fund had HK$113.7 million, which is expected to be used up by mid-2015. So, who will be leaving his post at the end of this month after six years, said that since an injection of HK$300 million into the fund in 2007, it had backed 28 projects at a cost of more than HK$70 million. About 15 films had made it to the cinemas, he said. The council yesterday unveiled details of its First Feature Film Initiative, an open competition for three new directors and their production teams to make their big screen debut. One award of HK$5 million will go to a professional group and two of HK$2 million each to two groups from institutions of higher education. So said the council had been supporting young filmmakers, and support for big names could be considered in future, either in kind or in cash. Vice-chairman Peter Lam Kin-ngok, boss of major studio Media Asia and the designated new Tourism Board chairman, said the support did not necessarily mean cash. It is true that top directors won't have problems with fund raising, but support that facilitates their location filming and post-production here will help - "It is true that top directors won't have problems with fund raising, but support that facilitates their location filming and post-production here will help," Lam said, adding that he hoped filmmaking in the city would boost tourism. He cited action star Donnie Yen Ji-dan, who failed to get permission to film parts of his blockbuster The Iceman Cometh 3D on the Tsing Ma Bridge. Yen complained to the media that the government favoured Hollywood productions, offering the filmmakers access and blocking traffic for projects such as the latest Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises. So also said he hoped cinemas could be exempt from plot ratio calculations in commercial buildings to save them from closure because of high rents. He said the number of cinema seats available in Hong Kong had fallen by a third since the peak three decades ago. "The mainland is getting four or five new cinema screens every day. Hong Kong is losing the race," So said.

Kai Tak sites in local housing plan seen to draw keen bids from builders (By Paggie Leung First two plots in ‘HK flats for HK people’ scheme tipped to attract keen interest but could sell for less than similar sites because of restrictions - The site of the old Kai Tak airport, part of which will be redeveloped into a residential area for permanent Hong Kong residents. The first two residential sites in the "Hong Kong Property for Hong Kong People" scheme are expected to attract keen bids from developers when they go on sale in Kai Tak next week. The land price could be 30 per cent lower than for comparable lots, however, because flats to be built there can be sold only to Hongkongers, surveyors said. The Lands Department said yesterday it would accept bids for the two sites from March 28 to May 31. The land parcels are the first to be launched under the scheme announced by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying in September as a way to help permanent residents become homeowners. One of the sites covers an area of 83,646 sq ft and can yield a maximum gross floor area (GFA) of 418,231 sq ft. The winning bidder must build at least 545 homes. The other site covers 92,408 sq ft and can yield GFA of up to 452,794 sq ft. The developer must build at least 600 homes. The sites could raise between HK$3.87 billion and HK$4.3 billion for the government, surveyors said. This amount is based on estimates of between HK$4,500 and HK$5,000 per buildable square foot, in terms of GFA, lower than the range of HK$5,000 to HK$6,500 per sq ft without the sales restriction. "As the restriction will increase the winning developer's risk, [and] as it limits the type of buyers it can sell the flats to and hence the selling price, I think developers will lower their bids by roughly 10 per cent, or more," said Midland Surveyors director Alvin Lam Tsz-pun. As the restriction will increase the winning developer's risk, [and] as it limits the type of buyers it can sell the flats to and hence the selling price, I think developers will lower their bids by roughly 10 per cent, or more - "But the sites are still attractive because they are situated in an urban area along the Sha Tin-to-Central link. They offer a sizeable scale, with about 1,100 units in total, so I think each site will attract five to 10 bids." Under the scheme, the flats to be built on these sites can be sold only to local permanent residents for the first 30 years. An eligible buyer can jointly own a flat with family members, any of whom may not be a permanent resident. Corporate buyers, including companies, are banned. Developers are not allowed to lease out the flats, although buyers can lease their flat to anyone as long as the tenancy does not exceed five years. Vincent Cheung Kiu-cho, a director at property consultancy Cushman & Wakefield, said the 30-year restriction would have a limited impact on developers, as buying demand should remain strong when the flats were ready for sale in the next five years. The ban on corporate buyers would also have a limited impact, as they were already deterred by the buyer's stamp duty, Cheung said. And given the location, developers would be unlikely to want to hold the flats for leasing in any case. Kaizer Lau Ping-cheung, a housing strategy official, expects a keen response from developers due to the strong local demand for housing.

Li Fei promoted to be new chairman of Basic Law Committee (By Joshua But, Colleen Lee and Tony Cheung in Tianjin) Deputy to take over after Qiao Xiaoyang is appointed chairman of the Law Committee - Li Fei, a long-time deputy to Hong Kong Basic Law Committee chairman Qiao Xiaoyang, was promoted yesterday to head the body, as the National People's Congress standing committee announced the latest personnel reshuffle. Li, who has a legal background, is expected to take up a major role in the forthcoming debate on Hong Kong's political reform, which will set out the rules for the 2016 Legislative Council election and for the selection of the chief executive in 2017 by universal suffrage. In the National People's Congress meeting this month, Qiao was appointed chairman of the Law Committee under the NPC standing committee, while Li becomes the committee's vice-chairman. Qiao's appointment led to widespread speculation that he would step down from his role as chairman of the Hong Kong Basic Law Committee. Li, a vice-chairman of the committee who also followed Hong Kong affairs over the years, had been hotly tipped to take the post. Zhang Rongshun , a long-serving mainland official at the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, was appointed to take up Li's role as the new vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Basic Law Committee. Over the past decade, Li has been a core member to convey the mainland's legal viewpoint in Hong Kong affairs. In 2010, he warned that the so-called de facto referendum exercise triggered by the resignations of five pan-democratic lawmakers was "fundamentally in breach of the Basic Law". Elsie Leung Oi-sie, a vice-chairwoman of the committee, said she was delighted with Li's appointment. Li is very familiar with the legal issues of Hong Kong. We have been working for many years, so I know he has a good grasp of it. "Li is very familiar with the legal issues of Hong Kong. We have been working for many years, so I know he has a good grasp of it," she said, adding that universal suffrage was for the time being not on the agenda of the committee. Asked if she thought Li would adopt a tough style, Leung replied: "I don't know why you described him as tough. We just discuss legal issues, not policies." Lau Nai-keung, a member of the committee, described Li as "a knowledgable person who is usually rather quiet … but when he talks, he talks very precisely". Civil Party leader Alan Leong Kah-kit said Qiao had shown understanding for the insistence on the rule of law in Hong Kong, and hoped that Li would show the same attitude. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying would not say whether he would meet Li to discuss political reform. "When it is appropriate and needed, I shall meet central government officials and start working towards the universal suffrage of the chief executive poll in 2017," Leung said.

Hong Kong TCM Spas provide a holistic spa experience (Rachel Oliver Spas are hiring registered Chinese medicine practitioners to take advantage of growing interest in traditional forms of treatment - Cupping is used to improve blood flow. Hongkongers are no strangers to either traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) or spas. Now the two are being brought together under one roof. TCM is based on balancing yin and yang, increasing the flow of chi, and restoring vitality to the patient. A number of methods are used, such as Chinese herbal medicine, qigong, tui na massage, acupuncture, acupressure, scraping (gua sha), cupping and bone-setting. "The therapists have to be skilled in everything the spa does, but you get watered-down kinds of treatments, so the way around this is to get a specialist TCM consultant." There are more than 6,500 registered TCM practitioners in the city, says the Chinese Medicine Council of Hong Kong. TCM spas offer another way to tap into these methods. Chuan Spa at Langham Place dedicates itself to TCM. The idea when it launched in 2005 was to provide a different kind of TCM experience. "When the brand was developed, they were looking at a holistic spa experience, with a five-star environment to experience it in," says Victoria Childs, spa director. Chuan Spa has hired a TCM doctor, who gives consultations and also designs treatments and has a team of in-house therapists who are all qualified in gua sha and cupping. The Mandarin Oriental also uses a TCM doctor for guests to consult, and the therapies have been "meticulously researched in consultation with experienced Chinese doctors, chemists and holistic practitioners" says Yumi Kwan, treatments manager. But outside of hotels, a number of independent spas in Hong Kong are widening their repertoire by incorporating TCM-themed treatments and bringing in TCM doctors. "If you read magazines like Cosmopolitan you find lots of ads with TCM-oriented treatments offered in spas, not always in big ones but in the smaller operations," says Kelly Chain, a registered TCM consultant who runs Chain's Medicare Centre. "Before it was quite rare but it is a trend now. Even one-man operators will team up with a TCM consultant." New TCM practitioners are flooding into the market each year and targeting spas, she says. "We are producing 200 graduates a year and we also have graduates from China. They are young, educated and open-minded," says Chain. For smaller outfits, hiring TCM doctors has been too costly, so bringing in outside help makes sense, says spa consultant Rhett Pickering, who runs Vast River Consulting. "The therapists have to be skilled in everything the spa does, but you get watered-down kinds of treatments, so the way around this is to get a specialist TCM consultant." Spa consultant and CEO of Conceptasia Management & Consultants, Suzanne Ng, notes that the increase in interest in spa-based TCM treatments has been driven mostly by tourists. "Travellers coming into hotel spas are very interested in trying something from the region," she says. "Hong Kong locals would already have a strong interest in TCM anyway, so they probably wouldn't be going to the spa." In the case of the Four Seasons Hong Kong Spa, for example, treatments such as jade stone therapy (based on gua sha) are designed to give international visitors a "taste of the orient" when they are in Hong Kong, says Claire Blackshaw, director of PR at Four Seasons Hong Kong. "We want to reflect the environment so people can have an experience of the country they are going to. But our therapists are Western trained. We wouldn't claim to know how best to do this," Blackshaw says. The inspiration behind the Four Seasons Beijing's decision, this January, to bring in a qualified TCM doctor, came from a foreigner - the hotel's Sri Lankan general manager, Sanjiv Hulugalle, says Jennifer Sun, director of public relations. "When our GM arrived in China, he had back trouble and he had seen a lot of Western doctors who didn't do anything other than give him painkillers," says Sun. "So he saw Dr Lan Jirui twice a week [for some massages] and after a few months his pain was gone and no medication was given. So he became fascinated with TCM." Lan speaks fluent English so is accessible to foreign guests. But he is proving as much a pull for locals as he is for visitors, notes Sun. "Dr Lan is very well known in the TCM field, so people come to Beijing to see him," she says. Curiosity about ancient wellness disciplines is increasing worldwide, says Childs. "I think it is more well known now. Our property in Boston launched a workshop on TCM. It started out as a half-day event and ended up as a sold-out three-day event," she says. Clients now come to the spa seeking a TCM doctor before consulting a Western medical doctor, she adds. Chain sees a match between the principles of TCM and those of spas. "TCM practices have a lot in common with spa treatments such as massage. Normally, what you do in a spa, like get a facial or anti-ageing treatment, has a lot to do with TCM," she says. Spas look set to morph into overall wellness clinics, with TCM being a natural component in each of them, says spa trainer Victor Rinaldi. "The next generation will be wellness centres, where more specialised treatments and services will be provided," he says. "They will certainly look to include a TCM specialist, in the same way they would hire a naturopath, for example."

Hong Kong TCM Spas provide a holistic spa experience (Rachel Oliver Spas are hiring registered Chinese medicine practitioners to take advantage of growing interest in traditional forms of treatment - Cupping is used to improve blood flow. Hongkongers are no strangers to either traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) or spas. Now the two are being brought together under one roof. TCM is based on balancing yin and yang, increasing the flow of chi, and restoring vitality to the patient. A number of methods are used, such as Chinese herbal medicine, qigong, tui na massage, acupuncture, acupressure, scraping (gua sha), cupping and bone-setting. "The therapists have to be skilled in everything the spa does, but you get watered-down kinds of treatments, so the way around this is to get a specialist TCM consultant." There are more than 6,500 registered TCM practitioners in the city, says the Chinese Medicine Council of Hong Kong. TCM spas offer another way to tap into these methods. Chuan Spa at Langham Place dedicates itself to TCM. The idea when it launched in 2005 was to provide a different kind of TCM experience. "When the brand was developed, they were looking at a holistic spa experience, with a five-star environment to experience it in," says Victoria Childs, spa director. Chuan Spa has hired a TCM doctor, who gives consultations and also designs treatments and has a team of in-house therapists who are all qualified in gua sha and cupping. The Mandarin Oriental also uses a TCM doctor for guests to consult, and the therapies have been "meticulously researched in consultation with experienced Chinese doctors, chemists and holistic practitioners" says Yumi Kwan, treatments manager. But outside of hotels, a number of independent spas in Hong Kong are widening their repertoire by incorporating TCM-themed treatments and bringing in TCM doctors. "If you read magazines like Cosmopolitan you find lots of ads with TCM-oriented treatments offered in spas, not always in big ones but in the smaller operations," says Kelly Chain, a registered TCM consultant who runs Chain's Medicare Centre. "Before it was quite rare but it is a trend now. Even one-man operators will team up with a TCM consultant." New TCM practitioners are flooding into the market each year and targeting spas, she says. "We are producing 200 graduates a year and we also have graduates from China. They are young, educated and open-minded," says Chain. For smaller outfits, hiring TCM doctors has been too costly, so bringing in outside help makes sense, says spa consultant Rhett Pickering, who runs Vast River Consulting. "The therapists have to be skilled in everything the spa does, but you get watered-down kinds of treatments, so the way around this is to get a specialist TCM consultant." Spa consultant and CEO of Conceptasia Management & Consultants, Suzanne Ng, notes that the increase in interest in spa-based TCM treatments has been driven mostly by tourists. "Travellers coming into hotel spas are very interested in trying something from the region," she says. "Hong Kong locals would already have a strong interest in TCM anyway, so they probably wouldn't be going to the spa." In the case of the Four Seasons Hong Kong Spa, for example, treatments such as jade stone therapy (based on gua sha) are designed to give international visitors a "taste of the orient" when they are in Hong Kong, says Claire Blackshaw, director of PR at Four Seasons Hong Kong. "We want to reflect the environment so people can have an experience of the country they are going to. But our therapists are Western trained. We wouldn't claim to know how best to do this," Blackshaw says. The inspiration behind the Four Seasons Beijing's decision, this January, to bring in a qualified TCM doctor, came from a foreigner - the hotel's Sri Lankan general manager, Sanjiv Hulugalle, says Jennifer Sun, director of public relations. "When our GM arrived in China, he had back trouble and he had seen a lot of Western doctors who didn't do anything other than give him painkillers," says Sun. "So he saw Dr Lan Jirui twice a week [for some massages] and after a few months his pain was gone and no medication was given. So he became fascinated with TCM." Lan speaks fluent English so is accessible to foreign guests. But he is proving as much a pull for locals as he is for visitors, notes Sun. "Dr Lan is very well known in the TCM field, so people come to Beijing to see him," she says. Curiosity about ancient wellness disciplines is increasing worldwide, says Childs. "I think it is more well known now. Our property in Boston launched a workshop on TCM. It started out as a half-day event and ended up as a sold-out three-day event," she says. Clients now come to the spa seeking a TCM doctor before consulting a Western medical doctor, she adds. Chain sees a match between the principles of TCM and those of spas. "TCM practices have a lot in common with spa treatments such as massage. Normally, what you do in a spa, like get a facial or anti-ageing treatment, has a lot to do with TCM," she says. Spas look set to morph into overall wellness clinics, with TCM being a natural component in each of them, says spa trainer Victor Rinaldi. "The next generation will be wellness centres, where more specialised treatments and services will be provided," he says. "They will certainly look to include a TCM specialist, in the same way they would hire a naturopath, for example."

Fire inspection of 6,500 buildings near hawker stalls planned (By Joyce Ng Acting Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor. The Hong Kong government will launch a fire safety inspection operation of 6,500 buildings near hawker stalls this summer, Acting Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said on Tuesday morning. Lam’s comments came a day after the Coroner’s Court on Monday returned a verdict of accidental death on the nine people killed in a fire that started in a hawker stall in Fa Yuen Street, Mong Kok, in 2011. Since that tragedy, the government said it had improved the management of the 43 hawker stall areas across the city to reduce fire risks. “This summer, the Buildings Department and the Fire Services Department will launch a joint operation to inspect 6,500 old residential blocks, or blocks with mixed housing and commercial uses,” Lam said. Inspectors will check, in particular, whether the common areas and the fire escape routes in the premises, such as stairways are blocked. Immediate action will be taken on discovery of any blocked passages. Lam said it would take a year to inspect all of the targeted buildings. She also said that it was illegal to live in industrial buildings, and reminded those that might be living in these buildings, usually in subdivided flats, that removal subsidies were available to assist them to move out. 

Woman held at Hong Kong border for 'breaking milk limit' - with rice cereal (By Ernest Kao Unlicensed exports of milk and "milk-like substance" in powder form have been restricted since March 1. A mainland woman said she was detained at the border last week for breaking Hong Kong's two-tin limit on milk powder exports because she thought rice-based milk cereal for infants was not affected by the new restrictions. The regulations, which came into effect on March 1, limit unlicensed exports of powdered infant formula to two cans or 1.8kg and are meant to address local fears of a milk powder shortage as mainland traders buy up supplies in Hong Kong to sell across the border. Milk powder is generally less expensive and seen to be safer in Hong Kong. The woman, Huang Xuejiao, said she did not know powdered rice milk cereal was included in the rule and said she asked customs officials at Lok Ma Chau more than once. “When I was entering Hong Kong, I asked customs officials whether rice milk powder was part of the limit and they told me only milk powder was, milk rice was not,” she wrote in a weibo post under the name Nan Juejue, which has since been circulated on the internet. Rice milk, a type of grain milk processed from rice, is an alternative to milk to infants who are lactose intolerant or allergic to cow’s milk and soy. According to the new import and export regulations, all unlicensed exports of powdered formula for infants and children under 36 months are restricted to two-cans per person. This includes any “milk or milk-like substance in powder form” such as milk powder and soya milk powder. Rice milk is not specifically mentioned. Offenders can face a maximum fine of HK$500,000 and two years' imprisonment. Huang, from eastern China's Jiangsu province, was caught with two tins of baby formula weighing 1.8kg and four cans of Friso-brand rice-based milk cereal weighing 1.2kg in her luggage. She said she was detained by customs officials for 48 hours and had to pay HK$1,000 to bail herself out. Asked for comment, Huang told the South China Morning Post that rumours spreading on the internet that she was treated rudely by customs officials, may have been overblown. "I understand they were just following procedure," she said, adding that she still liked Hong Kong as a city because it was "clean and orderly" and would do more research regarding laws on any place she visits in the future. The Customs and Excise Department acknowledged the case. A spokesman told the Post that because the rice-based cereal powder contained milk content and was packaged in "similar containers" as milk powder, customs officers were under the impression they were subject to the new regulations. "After we were given the relevant information from the suppliers, we learned that this was baby food in solid form and therefore, not subject to the new regulations. This is an isolated case and customs officials are following up with the case." Huang said neither customs nor the police have informed her of the new assessment. She said she was excited to hear about it and would contact Hong Kong customs to see if she was still due to show up for an April 18 court date.

 China*:  Mar 21 2013

One in four Bentleys sold in China last year (Xinhua) About one in four Bentley vehicles were sold in the Chinese market in 2012, British luxury car maker Bentley Motors announced on Tuesday. According to the financial results Bentley announced in London, the company achieved a year-on-year global growth of 22 percent with 8510 cars delivered to customers in 2012. The United States remained Bentley's largest market, with 2457 sales in 2012. China kept the title of the second largest market for Bentley, with 2253 deliveries, up by 23 percent compared with 2011. Britain ranked third with 1187 cars delivered. "Our performance in 2012 and in the beginning of 2013 underlines Bentley's position as the leading manufacturer of luxury vehicles and a truly global brand. Through sound investment and product planning, we now have our strongest model line-up ever and are increasing our market share," said Wolfgang Schreiber, Bentley's Chairman and CEO. Bentley also made a strong start from the beginning of this year. Deliveries to customers grew by 39.5 percent in the first two months of 2013.

A more assertive China is here to stay (By Peter Li Peter Li says Japan must adjust to the new reality and build trust - To many in China, regaining lost territories such as the Diaoyus is as justified as resuming China's sovereignty over Hong Kong and Macau. China's assertive response to the tug of war with Japan over the disputed Diaoyu Islands has strong domestic support. Nationalistic sentiments have been surging. Memories of Japanese atrocities done to the Chinese people have been kept fresh through the mass and social media. Japan's acts denying its war crimes, calling the "comfort women" prostitutes, and enshrining the war criminals have added fuel to the Chinese fury. To many in China, regaining lost territories such as the Diaoyus is as justified as resuming China's sovereignty over Hong Kong and Macau. In their opinion, it does not equate with territorial expansion. The Chinese leadership cannot be oblivious to the popular sentiment, which can undermine political stability if not properly managed. Admittedly, Beijing is no pawn to be moved at will by popular sentiment. A forceful response to Japan's "provocation" serves to deter similar actions by other countries with which China has territorial disputes. China has so far displayed rare assertiveness in the current crisis. Viewed as a strategic competitor to the US, China today looks like a more formidable challenger than the Soviet Union. In retrospect, the Soviet economy never reached 10 per cent of the US gross domestic product at any point during the cold-war years. China's breathtaking growth in the past three decades has shown that a reforming communist state is no roadblock to growth. According to one estimate, China will replace the US as the world's biggest economy by 2030. Despite this prospect, China's navy is unlikely to patrol the world's oceans for the sake of showcasing its raw power, as Moscow did in the past. China is perhaps more motivated to send its warships overseas to protect the trade routes for its commercial fleet. Understandably, China's growing strength has not been well received. Japan's right-wing politicians are perhaps most taken aback by its exponential growth. Towards the end of the 1990s, many who questioned the capacity of authoritarian regimes for prolonged economic growth entertained the idea that China's growth could not be sustained and that "China's collapse" was looming. Yet that did not materialise. Japan's uneasiness intensified with China overtaking one major economy after another in the new century. When Japan was finally elbowed out of its position as the world's second-largest economy in 2010, its uneasiness seemed to have turned into uncontrollable frustration. China-bashing and calls to make Japan a normal state, namely, to abolish the post-war international agreements on its status, are manifestations of the frustration. True, China may never catch up with the industrialised world in per capita GDP. Yet, the amount of the national resources under the control of the Chinese authorities will remain staggering. Given its memory of the Opium Wars and the "Rape of Nanking", China would be making a historical mistake not to utilise its newfound wealth to modernise its defence capabilities. A strong army can be a deterrent. An armed conflict with Japan and the US advances nobody's interest. Such a conflict among the world's three top economies would send the global community to the abyss of stagnation and recession. The new leadership in Beijing is perhaps more motivated to show to its people that the new team has the right credentials and resolve to safeguard political stability, territorial integrity and the nation's global commercial interests. Japan's coming to the negotiation table to talk about the disputed islands can be the first step leading to the relaxation of the tensions between the two countries. To co-exist with its East Asian neighbours, Japan must learn to adapt to the new reality in the region, honour in earnest the terms of its surrender laid down in 1943 and 1945 by the Allied powers, and make efforts to foster mutual trust. Peter J. Li is associate professor of East Asian politics at the University of Houston-Downtown, Texas, US - Dr. Li received his bachelor of arts degrees in English and foreign service in China. He graduated from Syracuse University with a Master's degree in International Relations. In 2000, he completed his doctoral study at Northern Arizona University with a Ph.D. degree in Comparative Politics - Since 2002, Dr. Li has been teaching at the University of Houston-Downtown. He teaches U.S. Government (I & II), East Asian Politics, International Relations, Comparative Politics, US Foreign Policy, and International Political Economy. His areas of specialty include China's domestic and foreign policies, China's environmental & wildlife policy, political and social transformation under conditions of economic modernization. He also consults international animal welfare organizations such as Humane Society International on animal welfare policy issues related to China and other East Asian nations. Dr. Li has authored articles in refereed journals on China's modernization and its impact on the nation's wildlife policy making and management. These journals include China Information, Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, and Journal of Wildlife Rehabilitation. He also writes for popular media such as Canada's National Post, the Chronicle of Houston, South China Morning Post, Animal People, All Animals, the World Journal and Southern Chinese News.

CNPC's Jiang 'to head SASAC' (By Bao Chang and Du Juan and 58-year-old is first non-government official to lead SOE regulatory body - Jiang Jiemin, chairman of China National Petroleum Corp, has reportedly been named as the new head of the country's top State-owned assets regulatory body after a two-year tenure as chief of China's largest oil and gas producer and supplier. He will likely become the third chief in charge of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, established in 2003 to regulate 118 central State-owned enterprises (SOEs), according to local media reports. Jiang, 58, is the first enterprise executive to be promoted to the position, rather than a government official. PetroChina Co Ltd, the listed arm of CNPC and China's largest listed oil company by capacity, of which Jiang was also chairman, issued a statement late on Monday to say that Jiang had resigned as its head due to a "change in work". PetroChina's vice-chairman, Zhou Jiping, will take over from Jiang as the company's chairman, the statement said. An anonymous source from SASAC said an official statement about the change in personnel within the commission will be made later. There was no official confirmation on Wednesday. Wang Yong, former head of SASAC, has been named a state councilor. Thanks to his rich experience in business management, Jiang is expected to carry forward SASAC's functional shift from being the controller of, to being a service provider for, central SOEs, experts said. "Being familiar with SOE reform, including business integration and restructuring and well as the (stock market) listing process, the new leader of SASAC will be able to cast an enterprise executive's eye on the government's supervisory work, pushing forward the reform of central SOEs," said Yu Bin, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Since joining Shandong Shengli Oilfield Co as a technician in 1972, Jiang has been in the petroleum industry, apart from four years working as vice-governor of Qinghai province between 2000 and 2004. Jiang became chairman of CNPC in April 2011. Jiang was in charge of the company's listing in 1999. "Jiang participated in every aspect of PetroChina's listing and has helped the company acquire many foreign assets," said Lin Boqiang, director of the Xiamen-based China Center for Energy Economic Research. "China's oil and gas companies are likely to perform better in the global marketplace after he takes office. "It is likely that he will bring these experiences to other State-owned companies, too, as they develop overseas, in other industries besides oil and gas," Lin said. Zhang Laibin, president of the China University of Petroleum, said Jiang's experience in leading CNPC's expansion overseas will contribute to his new job. Over the past year, the company's overseas oil and gas output reached 100 million metric tons and revenue from its international businesses accounted for 39 percent of its total. Forty percent of the company's output is from abroad, and Jiang said in January that figure will reach 60 percent by 2020. The company's latest international move saw it acquire a 20 percent share of four offshore natural gas fields in Mozambique for $4.2 billion, the company's biggest overseas natural gas field investment. Xu Baoli, a director at the research center of SASAC, said a new head who understands SOEs' demands will play an important role. "To some extent, SASAC is still acting as a baton for central SOEs, which concentrate on achieving the targets set by the governmental supervisor. "However, to strengthen their competitiveness, SOEs should shift their focus to meet market demands," Xu said. Some new guidelines on central SOE reform may accompany the appointment of a new commission head, but the main direction of its reform will remain unchanged, according to Xu. In recent years, SASAC has focused on three main tasks: the promotion of economic efficiency, the internationalization process and a reform process which has included the control of internal procedures and stock reform. "Strong business growth of central SOEs was one of the biggest achievements SASAC has made during Wang Yong's tenure as chairman," said Yu at the CASS. In 2012, total profits generated by central SOEs were 1.3 trillion yuan ($207 billion), a 52.5 percent surge from 2010 when Wang took the position. The biggest jump in central SOE profits over the past decade was in 2010 when Wang replaced Li Rongrong as the chief of SASAC. In that year, SASAC generated total profits of 852.2 billion yuan, a 42.8 percent jump from 2009. "Prior to Wang's management of the commission, SOE profits were still at a low level," said Yu, adding that as well as profit growth, technological innovation and overseas expansion improved greatly.

Hong Kong*:  Mar 20 2013

UN charter on suffrage 'too risky' for Hong Kong to ratify (By Stuart Lau and Greg Torode) The city’s solicitor general tells UN committee that ratifying part of a covenant demanding universal suffrage would lead to legal challenges - UN undersecretary Wu Hongbo arrives for a speech at the Jockey Club in Happy Valley. He says Hong Kong must find a path to democracy that is "consistent with local conditions". Hong Kong's political system would "certainly" risk legal challenges if it embraced at this stage an international covenant demanding universal suffrage, the city's solicitor general said. Frank Poon Ying-kwong was explaining to a UN human-rights hearing in Geneva last week why the city had still not implemented the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) provision on "equal and universal suffrage". The Hong Kong government has opted to "reserve" - in effect to skirt - ratification of Article 25(b) of the covenant, which says all measures should be taken to implement the goal of equal and universal suffrage. "It is premature to withdraw the reservation before this goal [implemented in a gradual and orderly manner consistent with the Basic Law] is achieved," Poon said, according to a partial transcript prepared by University of Hong Kong law professor Puja Kapai and accepted by the Department of Justice. "If this [withdrawal] is done," Poon said, "there could be and certainly would be domestic challenges brought before the HKSAR courts to challenge the existing system. We cannot be diverted and distracted from the challenge to implement democracy by unnecessary lawsuits." If this [withdrawal] is done, there could be and certainly would be domestic challenges brought before the HKSAR courts to challenge the existing system - Beijing has promised that the chief executive can be selected by universal suffrage in 2017 and the Legislative Council in 2020. But the future of functional constituencies - which analysts say are not in line with the ICCPR provision - has not been decided. Poon's account did not seem totally convincing to UN officials, according to Civic Party lawmaker Dr Kenneth Chan Ka-lok, who attended the meeting. "Poon was questioned by members on why the reservation could not be withdrawn, given the government's ultimate goal of universal suffrage," Chan said. "To me, his explanation was to some extent incomprehensible." Kapai said committee chairman Nigel Rodley "warned that it was undesirable for Hong Kong to maintain its reservation". Meanwhile, the highest-ranking mainland official working for the UN yesterday expressed confidence in Hong Kong's political development, adding that a "mature" civil society would be the key to the road ahead. Wu Hongbo, the UN Undersecretary General for Economic and Social Affairs and a diplomatic veteran of Sino-British pre-handover negotiations, also said that whatever system Hong Kong chose, it should be "consistent with local conditions". "I believe Hongkongers and the SAR government have the wisdom and have the political commitment to bring forward their political structure within the terms of reference provided by the Basic Law," Wu said. "Hongkongers, they have the wisdom to solve their problems and to find their political system," he said in remarks that followed a speech to the China Energy Fund Committee, a local think tank. Describing his remarks as "personal observations", Wu noted the complex evolution of political systems, saying that a great deal of political progress had been made in Hong Kong in the 16 years since the handover compared to the 150 years of British rule. He said even Western democracies tailored systems to local conditions and added that a "mature civil society" would be vital to ensuring the successful implementation of a democratic system - pointing out problems in countries that lacked one.


Asian Film Awards held in Hong Kong - Stars shine at 7th Asian Film Awards ceremony.

Xi Jinping endorses work of HK, Macao govts (By Xinhua) Chinese president Xi Jinping on Monday met CY Leung and Chui Sai On, chief executives of Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions(SAR), fully endorsing their work and that of their respective governments. Chinese President Xi Jinping (central) meets with CY Leung (left), chief executive of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and Chui Sai On (right), chief executive of Macao Special Administrative Region, in Beijing, capital of China, March 18, 2013. Xi told the two executives that the fate of the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Macao are closely linked. Mutual development and complementation are needed to achieve the Chinese dream, which is the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. Xi said Leung's policy idea, seeking change while maintaining stability, has been widely recognized by Hong Kong citizens. He urged Leung and the Hong Kong SAR government to fully implement the idea. Xi said he hoped Hong Kong society can unite together and support Leung and the government. As for Macao, Xi urged local government and various social circles to study major problems that hinder its development despite the current sound period, in order to lay the groundwork for its long-term development. The two executives came to Beijing to attend the closing ceremony of the 1st session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC) on Sunday. Chairman of the NPC Standing Committee Zhang Dejiang, vice-president Li Yuanchao and state councilor Yang Jiechi joined the meeting. Chinese President Xi Jinping (2nd R) meets with CY Leung (2nd L), chief executive of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and Chui Sai On (1st L), chief executive of Macao Special Administrative Region, in Beijing, capital of China, March 18, 2013. 

Stars hit the red carpet for Asian Film Awards (By Vivienne Chow and Jolie Ho) Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh poses on the red carpet. Hong Kong actor Andy Lau poses on the red carpet. Chinese director and actor Xu Zheng speaks as he receives the 2012 Top Grossing Asian Film Award at the Asian Film Awards. Nominations may have been thin on the ground for Hong Kong at this year’s Asian Film Awards, but the city’s glamorous stars proved they could still be winners on the red carpet. In their designer gowns and jewels, the stars posed for photographers outside the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, as hundreds of journalists from across the region yelled questions at them. Hong Kong stars in attendance included the president of the awards jury, Andy Lau Tak-wah, last year’s best actress Deanie Ip Tak-han, Miriam Yeung Chin-wah, and Anthony Wong Chau-sang. “A good movie is one that people understand. Everyone has different standards, my vote just represents the movie that moves me,” Lau said. Taiwanese actress Gwei Lun-mei was nominated for best actress for her performance as a woman involved in a love triangle in Gf*Bf – which had already won her best actress at Taiwan’s Golden Horse awards. But the actress said she was not nervous. “I am already very grateful to the jury for the nomination,” the actress, dressed in a black and white Dior dress, said. “I haven’t thought a lot about getting the award – it’s just like partying with others in the film industry.” Mainland film Mystery, directed by Lou Ye, and Nameless Gangster both have six nominations. But Korean film, Pieta, was tipped to win the best film award, as it won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival – the event’s highest prize. Before the ceremony, it was announced that Hong Kong-based Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh Choo-kheng had won the Excellence in Asian Cinema award. With a film career spanning almost three decades, Yeoh began acting in television commercials and local film productions. She is credited with having helped promote the status of Asian actresses in the international film market, and has been instrumental in breaking stereotypes of female Asian characters in Hollywood movies. Comedian Xu Zheng’s comedy Lost in Thailand got the award for last year’s top grossing Asian film. The movie, Xu’s directorial debut, raises public awareness of the dog-eat-dog ethos prevalent in the modern day corporate world. It was the most financially successful work in the history of the Chinese film industry, taking more than US$200 million at the domestic box office. Honours were also presented to outstanding individuals or collective efforts in 14 categories. The event was organised by the Hong Kong International Film Festival Society for the seventh year. The jury comprised 12 Asian film veterans.

Xi Jinping urges Hong Kong to support C. Y. Leung (By Tony Cheung New president Xi Jinping met with Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying on Monday and made a fresh call for unity in Hong Kong and for Hongkongers to “actively support Leung’s administration”. Xi also reminded Leung that implementation was the key to the chief executive’s vision of “seeking change while maintaining stability” in Hong Kong. Amid the recent debate in the city on the subject of universal suffrage in 2017, Leung told the new president that he would gradually implement the five constitutional steps necessary to amend Hong Kong’s electoral method to achieve that goal. Unlike previous meetings, in which the chief executives of Hong Kong and Macau meet the president separately, Leung and Macau Chief Executive Dr Fernando Chui Sai-on met with Xi at the same time in Zhongnanhai on Monday. In the meeting, Xi reaffirmed Beijing’s backing of Leung, saying “I am very happy to see chief executive Leung’s governance vision, which is ‘seeking change while maintaining stability’, has won general public recognition. The key now is implementation,” Xi said. “It needs Leung and the SAR government to fulfil its duties, and joint efforts from different sectors in the Hong Kong society. Therefore I hope different sectors in Hong Kong society can be closely united … and actively support Leung’s governance in accordance with law.” Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the nation’s legislature who is poised to take charge of the central government’s body responsible for plotting strategies and making key decisions about Hong Kong; and Li Yuanchao, the new vice-president who is expected to join as a deputy head, both attended Xi’s meeting with Leung yesterday. Other Beijing officials present included Yang Jiechi, one of the five new state councillors; Wang Guangya, Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office director; and Zhang Xiaoming and Bai Zhijian, directors of the central government’s liaison offices in Hong Kong and Macau, respectively. On Sunday, Xi Jinping, in his maiden speech as head of state, invoked his favourite concept of the “China dream” and laid out a vision of a stronger nation with a higher standard of living. He also appealed to Hongkongers to uphold the interests of the nation and the city. Xi on Monday said that to fulfil the “China dream”, “compatriots in Hong Kong and Macau, and the mainland people [needed] to look out for each other, and progress hand in hand.” Leung is expected to meet Premier Li Keqiang on Monday as well.


Xi Jinping endorses work of HK, Macao governments (Xinhua) Chinese President Xi Jinping (2nd R) meets with CY Leung (2nd L), chief executive of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and Chui Sai On (1st L), chief executive of Macao Special Administrative Region, in Beijing, capital of China, March 18, 2013. Chinese president Xi Jinping on Monday met CY Leung and Chui Sai On, chief executives of Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions(SAR), fully endorsing their work and that of their respective governments. Xi told the two executives that the fate of the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Macao are closely linked. Mutual development and complementation are needed to achieve the Chinese dream, which is the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. Xi said Leung's policy idea, seeking change while maintaining stability, has been widely recognized by Hong Kong citizens. He urged Leung and the Hong Kong SAR government to fully implement the idea. Xi said he hoped Hong Kong society can unite together and support Leung and the government. As for Macao, Xi urged local government and various social circles to study major problems that hinder its development despite the current sound period, in order to lay the groundwork for its long-term development. The two executives came to Beijing to attend the closing ceremony of the 1st session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC) on Sunday. Chairman of the NPC Standing Committee Zhang Dejiang, vice president Li Yuanchao and state councilor Yang Jiechi joined the meeting.

 China*:  Mar 20 2013

Xi Jinping tells US Treasury secretary: China, US ‘have enormous shared interests’ (By Agence France-Presse in Beijing) The meeting with US Treasury Secretary is Xi Jinping’s first with a senior foreign official since he was formally elected as president by China’s parliament on Thursday. Beijing and Washington have “enormous shared interests”, China’s new President Xi Jinping told the US Treasury chief on Tuesday in his first major diplomatic encounter since taking office. “In the China-US relationship, we have enormous shared interests, but of course, unavoidably, we have some differences,” Xi said to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Xi, who became head of state last week, added that both countries would derive mutual benefit if they “approach and handle this relationship from a strategic and long-term perspective”. Lew’s visit to Beijing comes amid rising tensions between the countries following US allegations that China has engaged in hacking against US companies, which Washington warned could damage relations. A report last month from US security firm Mandiant said a unit of China’s People’s Liberation Army had stolen hundreds of terabytes of data from at least 141 organisations, mostly based in the United States. China has steadfastly denied the allegations and says that it is a regular victim of cyberattacks, with the defence ministry saying the Mandiant report had “no factual basis”. During his two-day visit, Lew plans to press China on cybersecurity issues at his meetings with the country’s new leadership, a senior US administration official said on Friday in Washington. Other issues were expected to include China’s economic reforms as well as the country’s currency, the yuan, which Washington still considers to be undervalued, the official told reporters on condition of anonymity. At Tuesday’s meeting, Xi said that in three decades of diplomatic ties between Beijing and Washington, “we have indeed traversed an extraordinary course and achieved bountiful fruits”. Lew congratulated Xi on assuming the presidency at China’s annual National People’s Congress, and stressed the important role played by the two countries in the global economy. “As the world’s two largest economies the United States and China have a responsibility to maintain strong, stable and sustained growth in the world,” he said. “And we look forward to China contributing more and more to global demand.” Their remarks came at the beginning of the meeting, which was briefly open to reporters and attended by key aides from both countries as well as US ambassador Gary Locke. Xi became China’s president on Thursday, concluding a once-in-a-decade transfer of power in China that formally began with him taking the reins of the Communist Party in November. US President Barack Obama telephoned Xi last week to congratulate him, but also mentioned the importance of addressing cybersecurity threats, which he said represent “a shared challenge”. The administration official who talked to reporters last week suggested Lew would be taking a tougher stance on the issue during his visit. Later on Tuesday, Lew will meet Xu Shaoshi, chairman of China’s National and Development Reform Commission, the economic planning agency that wields approval authority over major investment projects. Lew will also meet newly-appointed finance minister Lou Jiwei, formerly head of China’s sovereign wealth fund.

Xi to talk with Putin to set future direction (By ZHOU WA President Xi Jinping will establish the direction of future China-Russia ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin during his first foreign visit to the country on Friday. The two leaders will push the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination to a higher level, Chinese and Russian experts said on Monday during a video conference held by Russian Information Agency Novosti. Xi and Putin will draw up strategies for the future development of bilateral ties and identify fields of possible cooperation between China and Russia, said Wan Chengcai, a researcher of Russian studies at the Xinhua Center for World Affairs Studies. China-Russia ties are maintaining strong momentum, and Xi's visit shows that China will continue the partnership under the new leadership, he said. According to Wan, the two leaders may talk about economic cooperation projects that could help achieve the goal of increasing bilateral trade volume to $200 billion by 2020. Given that the United States is moving its diplomatic focus to the Asia-Pacific region and the world economy is still stuck in sluggish recovery, the two leaders may also discuss international trends and common challenges, Wan added. Xi's visit shows Russia is still a priority for China's foreign policy, and the two countries will play a constructive role in the healthy development of an international system, said Wu Enyuan, a researcher on Russian studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Choosing Russia as Xi's first destination shows continuity and stability for the China-Russia relationship, which means strategic cooperation between China and Russia will be improved, no matter who leads the two countries, said Alexander Lomanov from the Institute of Far Eastern Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences. Xi's visit has more symbolic than practical meaning as it is the first meeting between the new leadership of the two countries, said Lomanov. China and Russia have enjoyed a healthy relationship since they established diplomatic ties in 1949. The former Soviet Union was the first country to officially recognize New China. The political ties between China and Russia have developed well as the two countries have set up exchange mechanisms between officials from all levels and the two ruling parties. The two countries held the same or similar positions on global issues such as UN Security Council reform, global economic governance, climate change, food security and energy security.

Sun Art to open more than 50 new stores in China this year (By Reuters in Hong Kong) Sun Art Retail Group is expanding in China while foreign rivals like Carrefour and Wal-Mart Storese have had to shut down stores in China. China’s largest hypermarket chain, Sun Art Retail Group, said on Monday it plans to open more than 50 new stores in China this year as it increasingly taps growth in less developed cities. Sun Art’s expansion comes as foreign rivals such as Carrefour and Wal-Mart Stores have shut down stores in China, while other retailers such as Britain’s Tesco and Germany’s Metro are slowing their mainland growth plans. “Sun Art’s same-store sales growth has consistently outperformed its peers,” Nice Wang, an analyst from Yuanta Securities, wrote in a research note. “Effective cost controls have limited the margin dilution effects from new store openings,” Wang said. Sun Art, a joint venture between Taiwan conglomerate Ruentex Group and privately held French retailer Groupe Auchan, said it aimed to boost its market share this year by 0.5 percentage points from 13.6 per cent at the end of last year. “We aim to open more than 50 stores in China this year, with a similar pace in the next few years,” Peter Huang, Sun Art’s executive director, told a news conference. China’s hypermarket industry will be valued at 911 billion yuan in 2015, and the industry is seen expanding at a compound annual growth rate of 15.4 per cent between 2010 and 2015, Yuanta Securities said. Hong Kong-listed Sun Art entered the China market in 1998, three years after Wal-Mart, but overtook the US behemoth in 2010 and has extended its lead since. Sun Art opened 43 new hypermarkets last year, bringing its total to 273 hypermarkets in mainland China at the end of last year. On Sunday, Sun Art posted a 50.6 per cent rise in its last year net profit due to retail network expansion into lower-tier Chinese cities even as an economic slowdown weighed on consumer demand. The company, which sells mostly food, groceries and home appliances at its hypermarkets, said at an earnings press conference on Monday it aims to achieve same store sales growth of China inflation, plus 2 percentages this year. The company’s shares were down 3.7 per cent at the midday break on Monday, a day after the earnings were announced, lagging a 2 per cent drop in the benchmark Hang Seng Index.

Infographic: Who's who in China's new cabinet (By SCMP) Premier Li Keqiang's team - Premier Li Keqiang's team is expected to focus on narrowing the income gap, shifting a heavily investment-reliant economy to a more consumption-based one, as well as taming property prices.

Hong Kong*:  Mar 19 2013

Message from Xi Jinping to Hong Kong: think of national interest (Tony Cheung in Beijing and Colleen Lee) President also expressed hope the prosperity and stability of the city will be safeguarded - President Xi Jinping, in his first open speech as head of state, appealed to Hongkongers to uphold the interests of the nation and the city. "Compatriots in the Hong Kong and Macau special administrative regions should put emphasis on the country, Hong Kong and Macau's overall interest," Xi told delegates at the closing session of the National People's Congress in Beijing yesterday. "[This is] so as to safeguard and foster the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong and Macau," he said. Last March, about two weeks before Hong Kong's chief executive election, then vice-president Xi had also told delegates to the legislature that the city should put the country's overall interest above their personal concerns. Xi's speech yesterday came shortly before new Premier Li Keqiang urged Hong Kong to make good and full use of the central government's policy initiatives that benefit the city. Local NPC deputies and a political analyst said Li's comment referred to some of the 36 economic, financial, tourism, social and Guangdong-Hong Kong co-operation measures announced during his 2011 visit to the city, as well as to the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (Cepa) initiatives that had not been fully utilised. Asked if he had plans to introduce any other measures to help Hong Kong after his "gifts" two years ago, Li said: "One has to take the goods in the gift box out one by one, in order to make good and full use of them." "The two sides [the mainland and Hong Kong] have to work together," the new premier said, adding that Beijing would do its best to advance the initiatives that were good for Hongkongers and would keep the city prosperous over the long term. Hailing the Hong Kong community as open, inclusive and vibrant, Li said there was room for deeper bilateral co-operation. Political commentator Johnny Lau Yui-siu said it was evident that some of the Cepa and preferential measures in place were not being fully utilised. Li's remarks did not rule out the possibility of more preferential socio-economic initiatives being rolled out when necessary, he said. Xi's speech, meanwhile, was to remind Hongkongers to uphold the nation's interests, Lau said.

Aeon Stores to freeze expansion in Hong Kong, and switch focus to China (By Charlotte So A Jusco department store in Shenzhen. Aeon Stores (Hong Kong), which operates Jusco department stores and supermarkets in the region, said it would freeze its expansion in Hong Kong and divert more resources to the mainland, after posting a 41 per cent drop in net profit last year because of losses in new stores. "The economic condition in Hong Kong will inevitably be dragged down by the slow growth in the US economy," said Chan Pui-man, the managing director of Aeon Stores. Net profit tumbled to HK$238.9 million from HK$405.9 million in 2011, as a result of rising operating costs, expenses for new stores and impairment losses in its properties. Generally, investment in new stores can be recouped within 50 months. But rising construction costs in Hong Kong and the global downturn mean it now takes longer. Last year, the group opened five stores in the city - in Tsuen Wan, Tai Wo Hau, Tseung Kwan O MTR station, Tai Wai station and Lohas Park station, bringing the total number to 43. Chan said the company would focus on optimising the performance of the newly opened stores rather than adding new ones this year. The group will invest HK$276 million in capital expenditure. A chunk of it - HK$ 251 million - will be used to fuel expansion on the mainland. As of the end of last year, it operated 25 stores on the mainland, up five from 2011. The company is still confident of the mainland market even though the Sino-Japan tension over the disputed islands recently forced one of its stores to suspend operation. Shares in the company rose 2.08 per cent to HK$19.60 yesterday.

CY Leung to meet Xi Jinping in Beijing and explain cross-border policies (By Tony Cheung in Beijing and Jolie Ho) Chief executive will also meet Premier Li Keqiang and may have talks with Minister of Public Security Guo Shengkun during three-day Beijing trip - Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying is expected to get fresh backing from President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang when he meets the new state leaders in Beijing tomorrow. Hong Kong's leader will use his trip to the capital to explain his cross-border policy to officials and gain their support. Leung arrived in Beijing yesterday, just as the new central government line-up was announced. He will spend the next few days meeting new ministers and heads of departments whose work is related to Hong Kong. The highlight of the trip would be his meeting with the "two state leaders", according to a Hong Kong official. He will make a short trip to the nearby city of Tianjin before returning to Hong Kong on Wednesday. Among the officials he may meet is Minister of Public Security Guo Shengkun. Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok is travelling with the chief executive. Leung and Guo will likely discuss issues including a possible tightening of requirements for mainlanders to visit Hong Kong. The chief executive's stated policy of putting Hong Kong people first - and particularly the drastic curbs imposed on milk powder exports to the mainland - has raised eyebrows in Beijing. Although top leaders are backing Leung fully in public, in private some officials have voiced concerns. Some were particularly unhappy that Leung did not give them advance notice before announcing the curbs, a source said. Leung is expected to explain the policy and help officials understand that the limit on baby formula exports is only temporary and was introduced in urgent response to strong public reaction in Hong Kong. "He has some explaining to do," said Bernard Chan, a Hong Kong delegate to the National People's Congress (NPC). This is Leung's third official visit to Beijing in three months. Other agencies that he may visit include the People's Bank of China and the National Development and Reform Commission. Leung may also meet Politburo standing committee member Zhang Dejiang , the new head of the NPC, and Li Yuanchao , the new vice-president. In Hong Kong, Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man said he hoped the curbs on infant formula exports introduced this month would not undermine the relationship between the city and the mainland. "We have repeatedly said that this is a last resort, and not directed against individual travellers, because the [city's] government does not have a negative attitude towards individual travellers," he said. The measures were directed at parallel-goods traders, he added. "I really don't want to see this incident influence the relationship between people in Hong Kong and on the mainland."

 China*:  Mar 19 2013

Xi Jinping outlines his vision of 'dream and renaissance' (Jane Cai and Verna Yu in Beijing) President Xi says renaissance is within the nation's reach as his premier vows to give priority to economic reforms - President Xi Jinping, in his first address as head of state, said China had to follow its own path while putting its faith in the Communist Party's leadership. China's new leaders vowed to maintain sustainable growth for the world's second biggest economy and "pursue a renaissance of the Chinese nation" at yesterday's conclusion of an annual parliamentary session that completed the transfer of power to a new leadership. In his maiden speech as head of state, Xi Jinping invoked his favourite concept of the "China dream" and laid out a vision of a stronger nation with a higher standard of living for its 1.3 billion people. during his administration. New Premier Li Keqiang, speaking later at a news conference in the Great Hall of the People that wrapped up the two-week annual session of the National People's Congress, gave assurances that the new government's top priority would be to maintain stable growth and that his administration was up to the task, a message likely to be applauded by investors and the market. Both Xi and Li stressed the necessity of deepening reform to deliver sustained growth but neither mentioned systematic political reform. Painting his vision of a great renaissance of the nation, Xi stressed that the "China dream" could only be realised by seeking "China's own path," cultivating patriotism and following the Communist Party's leadership. "We must continue to strive to achieve the China dream and the nation's great revival," he said. Analysts say Xi's speech outlined lofty goals but stopped short of mentioning initiatives that would have real impact. Zhang Lifan, a Beijing-based historian, said: "It stressed that everyone should rally around the Communist Party: Follow us, then we'll have a bright future." On a more down-to-earth note, Li defined the areas of reform for his cabinet in his 107-minute-long debut press conference as premier. They focused on administrative streamlining to make governance more efficient. These included transforming government roles and functions, simplifying bureaucratic procedures and delegating power. "Right now, there are more than 1,700 items that still require the approval of State Council departments... We're determined to cut that figure by at least one third," Li promised. In an effort to show his determination to tackle the obstacles in pushing forward economic reform, he said: "Sometimes stirring vested interests may be more difficult that stirring the soul. "But however deep the water may be, we will wade into the water. This is because we have no alternative. Reform concerns the destiny of our country and the future of our nation." Lu Ting, an economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, welcomed Li's remarks. "He understood very well that key barriers for reforms are vested interests rather than ideology, or 'soul' in his words, and he promised to tread uncharted waters," Lu said. With China's economic environment expected to remain "severe and complex", the government will aim to manage latent risks to avoid "big fluctuations" in economic performance, Li said. Zhang Ming, a political science professor at Renmin University, said such goals indicated China would not see radical changes in the near future. "Political reform was omitted," Zhang said. "The new government will probably make no structural or radical change."

Wang Yi has coped with crises and unusual career moves (Teddy Ng in Beijing Veteran diplomat Wang Yi installed as foreign minister as Beijing selects a cabinet to further China's rise without pushing dramatic change - The ceiling of the Great Hall of the People is reflected on a camera lens. The State Council's new line-up was endorsed by lawmakers in Beijing yesterday. Wang Yi was the first person with extensive foreign experience to lead the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office. New foreign minister Wang Yi has not only established himself as a diplomat who can defuse a crisis, but also as an official able to cope with unusual career moves. Many observers in Taiwan and on the mainland were surprised in 2008 when Wang, then deputy foreign minister, was appointed head of the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office. The move, the first time someone with extensive foreign policy experience had been put in charge of Taiwan affairs, triggered concerns in Japan that better communication between the Taiwan Affairs Office and the foreign ministry was aimed at undermining the relationship between Tokyo and Taipei. Wang had previously served as ambassador to Japan. Some pundits said the move reflected Beijing's increased willingness to accommodate Taiwan's desire for a greater international presence, a complicated issue for Beijing. Wang, the 59-year-old son-in-law of late leader Zhou Enlai's secretary Qian Jiadong , has now returned to the diplomatic arena with his appointment as foreign minister in the latest government reshuffle. Pundits say the move reflects Beijing's desire to improve ties with Japan, which have become increasingly tense due to the territorial dispute over the Diaoyu, or Senkaku, islands. Wang joined the foreign ministry after graduating from university, where studied Japanese, in 1982. In 1983, Wang wrote the speech given by then Communist Party chief Hu Yaobang on his historic trip to Japan, with the mainland media reporting that Hu only made two changes to the draft. After that, Wang was mainly responsible for Asian affairs, serving as a counsellor in the embassy in Tokyo and head of Asian affairs for the ministry. He was made deputy foreign minister in 2001, and posted to Tokyo as ambassador between 2004 and 2007. Wang's job was difficult due to the deterioration in Sino-Japanese ties following then Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits to Tokyo's controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which honours 2.5 million Japanese war dead, including 14 class A war criminals from the second world war. Wang showed he could deal with difficult issues in a flexible manner and helped ease tensions by arranging for Koizumi's successor, Shinzo Abe, to visit Beijing soon after he became the prime minister in 2006, followed by a reciprocal visit by then premier Wen Jiabao in 2007. A US diplomatic cable dated June 15, 2006, released by Wikileaks said Wang told then US ambassador to Japan Thomas Scheiffer that China realised it was difficult for Japan to alter its position on Yasukuni in response to Chinese pressure, but that such concerns could be addressed diplomatically and China was willing to negotiate a "soft landing" that would give "face" to Japan. Wang was also China's representative in the first round of six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear programme in 2003. The other five parties involved in the talks were the United States, Japan, South Korea, Russia and North Korea. North Korea had wanted bilateral talks, but the US insisted on multilateral ones. "China advocated that no matter whether it was bilateral or multilateral, it was important for the nations to engage in talks," said Professor Jia Qingguo , an international relations specialist at Peking University. "Wang is very firm when he talks about China's core interests, but he is very pragmatic and will resort to different ways in dealing with difficult issues. Wang definitely puts a lot of effort into studying the issues facing him, and he can always make the right move at the right time." In addition to defusing crises, Wang is also known as a diplomat open to new ideas and always willing to engage in discussions with academics. One scholar who joined in discussions with Wang said he demanded that young Chinese diplomats enhance their theoretical knowledge, and focus more on analysing the long-term impact of foreign policies in their reports.

Premier Li Keqiang pledges economic reform, sees risks (By Reuters in Beijing) “The highest priority will be to maintain sustainable economic growth,” Li Keqiang said. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said on Sunday ensuring economic growth was the top priority for his government, pledging to fight graft, tackle vested interests and calling for an end to a cyber-hacking row with the United States. Li’s first news conference as premier, at the close of the annual meeting of China’s rubber-stamp parliament that confirmed his appointment, covered topics that have been the principal focus of recent government rhetoric, with a strong emphasis on the necessity of reform to deliver long-term economic stability. The highest priority will be to maintain sustainable economic growth “The highest priority will be to maintain sustainable economic growth,” Li said at the start of the conference that lasted almost two hours and in which he repeatedly stressed the need for economic, social and government reform. “The key is to have economic transformation. We need to combine the dividends of reform, the potential of domestic demand and the vitality of creativity so that these together will form new drivers of economic growth,” he added. “We said that in pursing reform we now have to navigate uncharted waters. We may also have to confront some protracted problems. This is because we will have to shake up vested interests,” said Li, looking relaxed and repeatedly gesturing with his hands. Sometimes stirring vested interests may be more difficult than stirring the soul, but however deep the water may be, we will wade into the water. This is because we have no alternative. Reform concerns the destiny of our country and the future of our nation.” Ting Lu, chief China economist at Bank of America/Merrill Lynch in Hong Kong, said in a note to clients that the pro-reform tone of the speech would go down well with investors. “He understood very well that key barriers for reforms are vested interests rather than ideology,” Lu said. But beyond a specific pledge to cut administrative red tape on some 1,700 processes needing government approval by at least a third, Li’s answers to the 11 pre-arranged questions he took from journalists offered no new policy initiatives. However, he said that planned reform of the controversial system of forced labour camps would come by the end of the year. Reform pledges - The premier pledged to reform capital markets, the currency and fight China’s pervasive corruption crisis, saying that government officials, having chosen public life, should give up thoughts of riches. Li said China’s broad reform effort would also lead to improvements in environmental controls, cutting pollution in the atmosphere and raising food and water safety standards. A growing environmental awareness and willingness of urban people to voice concern about industrial pollution have led the ruling Communist Party to worry about the risk of yet more protests that could undermine social order. Similar worries exist in the leadership about growing discontent over inequality in China, which has one of the world’s widest gaps between rich and poor and which has now reached levels which the government fears could spark unrest. Li reiterated commitments to reform income distribution, improve access to social security and health care and allow welfare benefits to be paid nationwide, regardless of the official residence of the claimant. China’s rigid residence registration, or hukou, system broadly classifies citizens as urbanites or farmers and precludes people from access to basic welfare services outside their official residence area. Economists say it is a crucial obstacle to rebalancing China’s economy away from the investment-heavy, export-oriented model that has lifted hundreds of millions of people from poverty, turned China into the world’s biggest trading economy and has been a policy priority for much of the last decade. Despite its ranking as the second-largest economy globally after three decades of stellar growth, China remains an aspiring middle-income country riven with inequality and dependent on state-backed investment. About 13 per cent of China’s population still live on less than US$1.25 per day, the United Nations Development Programme says. Average urban disposable income is just 21,810 yuan (HK$27,000) a year. On the other hand, according to the latest reckoning by Forbes, China has 122 dollar billionaires. A rival list in the Hurun Report says China has 317 billionaires – a fifth of the total number in the world. Cyber-sniping - Li shrugged off an assertion from one questioner that China was responsible for hacking into US computer systems, restated Beijing’s complaint that it too had been under cyber-attack. “I think we should not make groundless accusations against each other, and spend more time doing practical things that will contribute to cyber-security,” Li said. President Barack Obama also raised US concerns about computer hacking in a phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping last week on the day Xi took office. US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will likely press China to investigate and stop cyber-attacks on US companies and other entities when he visit China this week for discussions on a range of economic issues. Li, 57, officially took over as premier on March 15 from Wen Jiabao whose 10 years in charge is increasingly regarded by analysts as a lost decade in which economic reform slowed and state-backed businesses tightened their grip on the country’s new-found wealth. Li, as head of the State Council, or cabinet, is charged with executing government policy and overseeing an economy in which growth slowed to a 13-year low last year, albeit at a 7.8 per cent rate that is the envy of other major economies. More than any other Chinese party leader until now, Li was immersed in the intellectual and political ferment of the decade of reform under Deng Xiaoping, which ended in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests that were crushed by troops. As a student at the elite Peking University, Li befriended ardent pro-democracy advocates, some of whom later became outright challengers to party control. His friends included activists who went into exile after the June 1989 crackdown. Li drew on his own experiences of rural poverty in the aftermath of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution, which forced intellectuals, industrialists and urbanites to leave cities to work on farms, to explain his drive to deliver a better economic deal to China’s 1.3 billion people, most of whom are poor. “I was a sent-down youth in Anhui province’s Fengyang County and I will not forget the hard times I spent with the local farmers,” Li said. “Reform and opening up have changed the destiny of our country and lifted hundreds of million of farmers out from poverty. It has also changed the life course of many people, including me. Now the heavy responsibility of reform has fallen on the shoulders of our generation.”

Xi vows to press ahead with 'Chinese dream' (By Xinhua) Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks at the closing meeting of the first session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, March 17, 2013. Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged on Sunday to make arduous efforts to achieve the "Chinese dream." "In face of the mighty trend of the times and earnest expectations of the people for a better life, we cannot have the slightest complacency, or get the slightest slack at work," Xi said at the closing meeting of the National People's Congress, China's legislature. "We must make persistent efforts, press ahead with indomitable will, continue to push forward the great cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and strive to achieve the Chinese dream of great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation," Xi said. To realize the "Chinese dream," China must take the Chinese way, he said. People of all nationalities must gain confidence in the theory, the road and the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and forge valiantly and unswervingly ahead along the right road, Xi said. To realize the Chinese road, we must spread the Chinese spirit, which combines the spirit of the nation with patriotism as the core and the spirit of the time with reform and innovation as the core, Xi said. The Chinese people of all ethnic groups must spread the great spirit of the nation and the great spirit of the time, keep strengthening the spiritual bond of solidarity and the spiritual drive of constantly striving for improvement, and step toward the future, always full of vigor and vitality, Xi said.

Hong Kong*:  Mar 18 2013

Hong Kong wins right to host 2016 International Mathematical Olympiad (By John Carney Hong Kong has won the bidding to host the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) in 2016. The event is regarded as the championship mathematics competition for pre-university students. Past IMO medallists have gone on to become recipients of the Wolf Prize - the maths community's equivalent to the Nobel Prize. The IMO Hong Kong Committee was founded in 1986. Tourism sector lawmaker Paul Tse Wai-chun said he believed it was time Hong Kong staged the elite event. "It shows what can be achieved if you put in the effort. The IMO Hong Kong Committee has set an example for the rest to follow," he said. Tse called on the government to support the event, after previous missed chances to make the city an attractive venue for international events. Last weekend, when pollution levels approached the worst ever recorded in Hong Kong, the government snubbed an opportunity to bring one of the world's most environmentally friendly and high-profile sporting events to the city. The new Formula E Championship races will feature cars powered exclusively by electric energy. Organisers regarded Hong Kong as an ideal venue, but the government was not interested. When the event's promoter, Formula E Holdings, made public its preliminary list of eight cities selected to host races next year, Hong Kong's name was missing. "Not supporting Formula E was a missed opportunity but hopefully the government will not make the same mistake again and give financial support," Tse said. "It's about time there was less talk about attracting these kind of events here and more action. This opportunity should be maximised."

Hong Kong celebrates all things green at popular flower show (By Agence France-Presse) It is notorious for its cramped living conditions, traffic-clogged streets and polluted air, but once a year Hong Kong celebrates all things green at the city’s flower show. Though most residents have no outdoor space for gardening, thousands flock to the annual 10-day event, which started on Friday and covers six football pitches in the central Victoria Park. In contrast to the surrounding apartment and office blocks, the park has been overtaken by cascades of orchids - the show’s theme flower - along with tulips and kitsch floral sculptures, from giant ants to pandas and toadstools. Some visitors come just to photograph the lavish displays, but many are picking up plants and gardening equipment. The park is lined with stalls selling seeds, pot plants, compost and garden tools. It’s a testament to the fact that, despite Hong Kong’s cheek-by-jowl and high-rise lifestyle, its residents crave greenery and are making the most of the limited space they have to grow plants. Queenie Wong, 25, who is studying Chinese medicine at Hong Kong Baptist University, holds a tiny fern in a pot, which she has just bought from one of the stalls. “I don’t grow anything at home because I don’t have the space. I’ll take care of this plant in my university office, which is where I spend most of my time,” she says. Like many in Hong Kong, 11-year-old Zoe Shum makes do with a balcony at home for her horticultural ambitions. “I grow bamboos on a balcony, but I wish I had more garden space to grow more things. At school we have lots of plants and they’re really pretty,” she said. For 30-year-old Amy Tang, the show is a chance for her parents to stock up. “I bring my parents here every year because they like to shop for plants for their balcony -- and we like just looking at the flowers,” she said. Hong Kong’s popular image is of a frenetic commercial hub where making a fast buck trumps all other concerns, but flower show chairman Horace Cheung says its seven million people do enjoy connecting with nature. “We may be a busy, densely populated city but there is increasing awareness of how planting and growing things can enrich the environment and our lives,” he said. Small plots for vegetables and flowers, made available to residents as part of the government’s community garden scheme, are heavily oversubscribed, says Cheung. “We have to have a ballot for plots every time they come up because of the demand,” he said. Residents pay HK$400 to do a gardening course which includes working on a 2.25 square metre plot for four months. The year 2011-12 saw more than 10,600 participants across 21 gardens, according to the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, which also runs the flower show. The event was launched in 1968. Organisers expect around 500,000 visitors at this year’s show, which features a series of gardening talks and an information stall to promote sustainable living -- another contrast in a city where avid consumption often outpaces environmental concerns. Joseph Leung, an executive director at Hong Kong theme park Ocean Park, is promoting its vibrant stand at the show, which includes edible plants, recycled containers and an aquaponics section on how plants can grow without soil. He believes Hong Kong residents are indeed concerned about their environment and want to simplify their lives. “People are more interested in sustainable living. I think they have got to a point where they are so busy that they want to stop and go back to basics,” he said. “When it comes to improving our environment we have to start somewhere -- we have to start at home.”

Sold for HK$1m - Henry Tang cashes in on rare wines (By Emily Tsang Christie's auction house estimates the total sale of 811 lots would raise more than HK$29 million - Under the hammer - Henry Tang's rare six magnums of Romanée-Conti are snapped up by a wealthy buyer last night. Former chief secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen's top lot of wine, said to be among the rarest in the world, sold at auction last night for HK$1 million. Christie's auction house estimated the total sale of 811 lots, which started yesterday and continues today, would raise more than HK$29 million. "Henry Tang's love for wine began over 30 years ago," it said. "The upcoming sale represents a small portion of the Henry Tang Collection." Henry Tang's love for wine began over 30 years ago. The upcoming sale represents a small portion of the Henry Tang Collection - The auction - "A Vinous Journey: The Private Fine Wine Collection of Henry Tang" - was attended by dozens of wine lovers and collectors, with some bidding over the internet. But there was no sign of Tang or family members at the function in Central. His campaign for chief executive was devastated last year when it was revealed he had a huge illegal basement at his mansion in Kowloon Tong containing a wine cellar, Japanese-style bath and gym. By 9.30pm most of the wines had been snapped up after keen competition. None of the buyers would comment, although a few said they were only employees bidding for their bosses. One wine expert said the top collection - six magnums of Romanée-Conti 1995 sold for HK$1 million, the upper end of estimates - was among the rarest in the world. These were bought by an internet buyer, who also purchased another magnum for HK$140,000, a little lower than the expected HK$150,000. Wine expert Keith Wong Wing-kit, business development manager of the company Wine Explorer, said that if Tang had bought this wine in 1995, it should have cost him HK$20,000 for each magnum. Another highlight - 12 bottles of Montrachet, vintage 1978 - went for HK$700,000, slightly higher than the expected HK$400,000 to HK$600,000. Today's highlight will be six magnums of Montrachet - vintage 1992, estimated to be worth HK$400,000 to HK$600,000. Sam Tam, Christie's China head of wine, said: "We hope to provide wine collectors with valuable access into Mr Tang's comprehensive collection and share his personal journey in wine." The auction house quoted Tang as saying he was selling because, "I realised I have far too much wine, and I would never be able to consume it in a lifetime".

 China*:  Mar 18 2013

Hunan party chief Zhou Qiang named as mainland's top judge (By Choi Chi-yuk and Keith Zhai) Zhou Qiang unharmed by dissident's death in claiming vote to replace unpopular Wang Shengjun as Cao Jianming stays as prosecutions chief - Hunan party chief Zhou Qiang was named the mainland's top judge yesterday while prosecutions chief Cao Jianming was reappointed for another five years. Zhou, 52, won 2,908 votes of the 2,957 effective ballots cast by National People's Congress deputies to become president of the Supreme People's Court, succeeding unpopular 66-year-old Wang Shengjun. Cao, 57, received 2,933 of the 2,956 votes cast to win reappointment as procurator general of the Supreme People's Procuratorate. A legal scholar, he was vice-president of the Supreme People's Court before being made the country's top prosecutor in 2008. Both elections were uncontested. A source at the Supreme People's Procuratorate said: "Aside from being an expert in legal affairs, Cao is also a clever and easy-going man who always has things done in an orderly way. I welcome his staying put, which will make our work more consistent." Unlike Cao, who remained impassive on the NPC presidium when his reappointment was announced yesterday, Zhou smiled and broke into laughter when his appointment was greeted by lengthy applause from other presidium members, including Shaanxi party boss Zhao Yongzheng and Peking University president Zhou Qifeng. Guizhou party secretary Zhao Kezhi, sitting two seats away, tried to shake his hand. The mysterious death of Tiananmen dissident Li Wanyang in Shaoyang , Hunan, in June did not damage Zhou's political prospects. Zhou told reporters in the Great Hall of People: "I will answer the call of the people and further push forward rule of law." When asked by Hong Kong reporters to comment on Li's case, Zhou ignored the question. Some analysts said Zhou's chance of promotion to the Communist Party's Politburo in 2017 would be slimmer after his appointment as top judge. But others suggested otherwise, saying he stood a good chance of replacing Meng Jianzhu , 65, as the country's top security official. Beijing-based independent political analyst Chen Ziming said: "I personally think that Zhou boasts at least an 80 per cent of chance to land Politburo membership … which, in my opinion, is also the wish of the central leadership, including [party general secretary and president] Xi Jinping ." The South China Morning Post was the first to predict Zhou's promotion to top judge in November, days before the end of the Communist Party's 18th national congress. But in recent weeks, overseas reports suggested he was also a contender to become procurator general.

Expert on Japan becomes China’s new foreign minister (By Agence France-Presse in Beijing) China's new foreign minister Wang Yi (centre) China’s parliament on Saturday approved Wang Yi, a former ambassador to Japan, as the country’s new foreign minister with tensions high between the two Asian giants over disputed islands. Wang, 59, served as ambassador to Japan from 2004 to 2007 and was also a diplomat in China’s embassy in Tokyo from 1989 to 1994. He reportedly speaks Japanese. The change comes as China and Japan face off in the East China Sea over a chain of uninhabited islands claimed by both countries. Japan administers the islands – known in Japanese as Senkaku and in Chinese as Diaoyu. Tensions have simmered for years, but spiked last year when Japan’s government purchased islands in the chain it didn’t already own. That caused widespread anger in China, where sometimes violent anti-Japanese demonstrations targeted diplomatic missions and businesses. Some Japanese in China also reported being attacked or harrassed. Both countries have scrambled jets to ward off moves by the other around the islands as the dispute has escalated. Last month, Japan alleged a Chinese frigate had locked its weapons-targeting radar on one of its destroyers, though Beijing denied the accusation. Besides Wang, the National People’s Congress also approved a new defence minister, several vice premiers and other officials as part of a broad revamp of personnel as China concludes a once-a-decade leadership transition. Communist Party chief Xi Jinping was elected by the rubberstamp legislature as the country’s president on Thursday and on Friday it elevated former vice premier Li Keqiang to the post of premier, sealing the changeover. Wang replaces Yang Jiechi, who has served as foreign minister since 2007. The NPC, meanwhile, elevated Yang to membership in the State Council, China’s cabinet. As foreign minister, Wang will be the formal counterpart of officials such as John Kerry, the US secretary of state, and will be seen as one of the key faces of China’s diplomacy, though Yang may continue to wield influence. Wang has been in charge of Taiwan affairs on the State Council since 2008. Chang Wanquan, 64, a People’s Liberation Army general who in recent years has been involved with China’s space programme, was approved as the new defence minister. As expected, Zhou Xiaochuan was retained as governor of the People’s Bank of China, the country’s central bank, but changes were made in other posts related to the economy. Lou Jiwei, chairman of sovereign wealth fund manager China Investment Corp., was named finance minister, while Gao Hucheng takes over as minister of commerce.

Hong Kong*:  Mar 17 2013

Shoppers take fresh look at farmers' markets (By Shirley Lau) Ad hoc venues selling cheap and locally grown fruit and vegetables take root with consumers - Farmer Leung Chi-wan works some organic magic on his farm in Kam Sheung Road, Yuen Long, which the public are welcome to visit. Janice Leung, co-founder of Island East Markets. As a health-conscious mother of two, Carrie Fong used to face a dilemma between buying mainland produce of questionable quality, or paying exorbitant sums for imported organic food. But she has a solution: ad hoc farmers' markets that sell cheap locally grown organic produce. "These markets are one of the best things to have emerged in Hong Kong in recent years. The vegetables are organic, fresh and inexpensive," Fong says. "You can nearly halve your organic food bill by shopping here than at a posh supermarket." The markets tend to spring up on weekends at whatever public space can handle the farmers and the hoards they draw. Newcomers to the scene will find the food quality a revelation. On a recent shopping trip at the organic food market at Pier 7 of the Star Ferry terminal in Central, Fong spent about HK$200 on local vegetables that could last her family for five days. This includes carrots that cost HK$20 per pound. By comparison, a pound of organic carrots from Australia costs about HK$34 at high-end supermarket City'super. Fong also bought ginger priced at HK$40 per 500 grams. The same amount of non-organic ginger from Japan at City'super would cost HK$75. The food market on the first floor of Pier 7 opens every Sunday and Wednesday. Across the harbour, there is Mei Foo Farm Fest, which takes place near the Mei Foo wet market every Sunday. The latest addition is Island East Markets at Taikoo Place, Quarry Bay, a Sunday market featuring local organic veggies, local handcrafts and live music. The markets sell items ranging from Chinese kale to Italian parsley in a bustling, vibrant atmosphere. Customers are invited to taste cherry tomatoes and strawberries before buying. There is room for haggling - many stalls will cut prices during the final hour of trading. The markets sell produce grown in organic farms in Yuen Long, Fanling and Tuen Mun. Each week they bring in truckloads of fresh vegetables grown without pesticides or any other chemical elements. Most of the produce is certified by the Hong Kong Organic Resource Centre, an independent certification body for organic products established by Baptist University in 2002. The public can visit these farms to examine the farmers' organic standards. "Our products have a safety guarantee. They are certified by Baptist; the water and soil in our farm are inspected [by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department]. They have a pure and fresh taste, and the price is affordable," says Fu Kwai-chong, a farmer who switched to organic methods in 2008. Janice Leung, a co-founder of Island East Markets, says local organic food costs half the price of organic imports, thanks in part to lower transport cost. "In these markets, you deal directly with the farmers, whereas with supermarkets there are many associated costs," she says. Mainland vegetables have also seen sharp price rises of late, making local produce relatively attractive. The Ministry of Agriculture says in the 10 weeks up to January, mainland vegetable prices rose by half as a result of bad weather, wage increases and rising shipping costs. Hong Kong's organic vegetable prices have remained steady over the past few years, says Helen Leung of Kadoorie Farm, which organises the Pier 7 market on Sundays. "The stable price trend of Hong Kong's organic vegetables and the price surge of non-organic vegetables [from the mainland] have led to a narrowing price gap," she says. Twenty-something shopper Peggie Ho concurs. "My mum owns a small plot of farmland in the New Territories. I've witnessed how local organic food is grown and certified. I've also read about hair-raising farming practices on the mainland. Buying organic probably adds 30 per cent to my food bill, but is worth it."

RTHK head refuses to resign after meeting with staff (By Lai Ying-kit The head of RTHK on Friday dismissed accusations that he was interfering with the public broadcaster’s editorial independence and refused to step down amid growing pressure from staff. After a two-hour meeting with staff, Director of Broadcasting Roy Tang Yun-kwong apologised over remarks he made publicly earlier against two popular programs. He said he recognised his earlier remarks might hurt the feelings of staff, but he would stay in his post. He also rejected claims he was on a political mission to “fix” the government-run station. Staff members at the station have accused Tang of meddling with editorial independence and censoring their programme ideas. During Friday’s meeting, the station staff confronted Tang with a number of questions surrounding the issues. But RTHK staff union chairwoman Janet Mak said they were disappointed because Tang evaded the questions. The controversy began after acting assistant director of broadcasting Forever Sze Wing-yuen said he and his colleagues felt pressure from above to carry out “political missions”. Pan-deomcrat legislators said they were now planning to invoke special powers to set up an inquiry into the controversy.

Hong Kong's gross national income (GNI) rose to 562.7 billion HK dollars (about 72.5 U.S. dollars) in the fourth quarter of 2012, up 8.2 percent on the same period last year, the city's Census & Statistics Department announced Thursday. According to the statistics, gross domestic product rose 7.2 percent to an estimated 556.6 billion HK dollars at the same time. Compared with GDP, Hong Kong's GNI was larger by 6.1 billion HK dollars, representing a net external primary income inflow of the same amount, and equivalent to 1.1 percent of GDP in that quarter. After netting out the effect of price changes, Hong Kong's GNI increased 3.7 percent in real terms compared to the corresponding rise of 2.5 percent recorded for GDP. For 2012 as a whole, GNI increased by 4.8 percent over a year earlier to 2,083.6 billion HK dollars at current market prices. After netting out the effect of price changes, Hong Kong's GNI increased slightly by 0.4 percent in real terms in 2012 over 2011. (1 U.S. dollars equals 7.76 HK dollars)

Macao's visitor arrivals in package tours in January increased by 18.3 percent year-on-year to 757,190, according to figures released by the city's Statistics and Census Service (DSEC) Friday. Package tour visitors mainly came from the Chinese mainland ( 562,722), with 250,029 coming from Guangdong Province, followed by those from Taiwan (55,473), South Korea (42,469) and Hong Kong (30, 763), the figures indicated. Meanwhile, Macao residents traveling outbound in package tours increased by 18.9 percent year-on-year to 112,893 in January, with the Chinese mainland (57.4 percent of the total), Hong Kong (18.3 percent of the total) and Taiwan (11.2 percent) being the most popular destinations.

 China*:  Mar 17 2013

Chinese netizens slam British newspaper's 'cultural intervention' over chopsticks article (By Chris Luo Chinese internet users have attacked a British newspaper’s claim that the Chinese should swap chopsticks for knives and forks, calling it a cultural intervention. It is not about chopsticks, it is the disposable aspect that matters, angry Chinese netizens responded on Friday to The Telegraph’s article “Chinese ‘must swap chopsticks for knife and fork’” after it went viral on the Chinese blogosphere. The article, published on Wednesday, reported an appeal from a member of China’s parliament, Bo Guangxin, head of a state-owned timber firm, to reduce the use of disposable chopsticks to reduce timber wastage. The Telegraph article said “he even went so far as to suggest that restaurants offered metal knives and forks instead,” which inspired the headline. Bo said China produced as many as 80 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks each year. To ease the burden on the nation’s environment, he urged people to carry their own chopsticks. The Telegraph’s report and its headline provoked widespread condemnation on Chinese microblogging website Sina Weibo on Friday. “Chopsticks have been part of our culture and tradition for thousands of years. How can we just discard them like that?” a comment read. “It is unfair to blame chopsticks. Instead, use of disposable products should be phased out,” one user said. “The issue is not chopsticks, but what they are made of,” another said. Another comment read, “It is time to impose a ban on disposable chopsticks, but definitely not the use of chopsticks.” Some bloggers urged government to charge for disposable tableware. “Just like plastic bags, the problem can be solved easily,” one user said. Some internet users raised the issue of sanitisation, arguing that the adoption of metal chopsticks, which are common in South Korea, would address this as they are easier to clean compared to wooden and bamboo chopsticks.

Dead pigs show dark side of China food industry (By Agence France-Presse in Jiaxing) Genuine honey is displayed in a supermarket in Beijing. Chinese state media has quoted the China Bee Products Association as saying that half the honey sold in Chinese markets is fake and costs only one tenth of the price to produce. Thousands of dead pigs in a Shanghai river have cast a spotlight on China’s poorly regulated farm production, with the country’s favourite meat joining a long list of food scares. As of Friday, the number of carcasses recovered in recent days from the Huangpu river – which cuts through the commercial hub and supplies over 20 per cent of its drinking water – had reached more than 7,500. Shanghai has blamed the farmers of Jiaxing in neighbouring Zhejiang province for casting pigs thought to have died of disease into the river upstream, but officials from the area have admitted to only a single producer doing so. The city has stepped up inspections of markets to stop meat from the dead animals from reaching dining tables of its 23 million people. From recycled cooking oil to dangerous chemicals in baby milk powder, a series of food scandals in China has caused huge public concern. Pork is king in China, accounting for 64 per cent of total meat output last year, and urban residents with growing wallets and waistlines ate 20.63 kilograms of the meat per person in 2011. Images of Shanghai’s dead pigs have hit the nation’s collective gut, but in Zhulin village, a major hog-raising centre in Jiaxing, the farmers claim their innocence in the scandal. “The government is very strict. We give our pigs vaccinations. If they are sick, they can’t be sold,” said Pan Juying, 57, as she hoisted two baskets of freshly cut grass to feed her eight pigs. But a bloated piglet lying by the roadside a hundred metres away from a stream showed that not all dead animals are properly disposed of. Wang Wei, a veterinarian for the Hengyuan Company which produces medicines for farm animals, said a large number of pigs died from unknown causes in Zhejiang just before and after the Chinese Lunar New Year in February. “It must have been a big pig farm” that was responsible for events in Shanghai, he said in Zhulin’s main street, which is lined with animal medicine and feed stores. “They can’t control an outbreak of infectious disease.” Despite laws against the practice; animals that die from disease in China can end up in the food supply chain or improperly disposed of. In Wenling, also in Zhejiang, authorities announced this week that 46 people had been jailed for up to six-and-a-half years for processing and selling pork from more than 1,000 diseased pigs. China was rocked by one of its biggest-ever food safety scandals in 2008 when the industrial chemical melamine was found to have been illegally added to dairy products, killing at least six babies and making 300,000 people ill. Across China, cheap recycled cooking oil is available made illegally from leftovers scooped out of restaurant drains. Amid public disgust authorities arrested more than 30 people over its sale, but it remains commonplace. In another recent incident, US fast food giant KFC was hit by controversy after revealing some Chinese suppliers provided chicken with high levels of antibiotics, in what appeared to be an industry-wide practice. Zhu Yi, a professor at China Agricultural University, said that the country’s vast number of small-scale farmers were “hard to supervise and regulate”. “Food safety is an issue that requires continuous efforts, you simply cannot put everything right once and for all,” she said. “The current livestock breeding model is too crude, and the standards too low.” But large-scale production also carried risks of its own, she added. “Every country has its own problems,” she said. “The highly industrialized European Union was caught up by the horse meat scandal.”

Hong Kong*:  Mar 16 2013

Cyclist Sarah Lee Wai-sze gets top prize at sport 'Oscars' (By Chan Kin-wa Cycling star rewarded for a magnificent 2012 with top prize at Hong Kong sport's 'Oscars' - Lee Wai-sze shows off the two awards she won last night after a year in which she won an Olympic medal and a world title, among other successes. It was no surprise when cycling star Sarah Lee Wai-sze walked on stage to receive her Bank of China Best of the Best Sports Stars Award for 2012 from the hands of Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor last night. At the annual presentation at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai, the world-class track sprinter won the most votes among eight sports stars of the year, selected through a voting system involving the public, media and the sport community. It was her first major title at Hong Kong sport's "Oscars". The seven other winners were Jiang Tianyi (table tennis), Yip Pui-yin (badminton), Yu Chui-yee (wheelchair fencing), Wong Ka-man (sports for intellectually disabled - table tennis), Ng On-yee (snooker), Geng Xiaoling (wushu) and Hayley Chan Hei-man (windsurfing). It is the sixth time a cyclist has won the top honour following Wong Kam-po (three times), Steven Wong and Kwok Ho-ting, showcasing the success of the sport under head coach Shen Jinkang. "This is a great recognition, not only from the sport community but also the general public," said the 25-year-old, whose previous best at the awards was in the potential stars category in 2010. This is a great recognition, not only from the sport community but also the general public - "The Olympic Games is only held every four years, but I hope I can achieve good results every year in future. In fact, every time I miss out on a gold medal, it means there is still room for improvement." Lee, who has just returned from India where she won two Asian Championship gold medals, paid tribute to coach Shen. "It's his hard work that has turned an ordinary girl from a housing estate into a world champion. It's like a great composer has written a song for me," said Lee, who won bronze in the women's keirin at the 2012 London Olympic Games. Lee said she wanted to share the honour with Wong Kam-po, who received the Sportsmanship award in his last year as an athlete. "I would have liked to have seen Kam-po win the Best of the Best award, as 2012 is his last year in a career of over 20 years, while I still have a lot time in future." Wong, now a coach of the Hong Kong team following his retirement late last year, said he was happy to move on. "Ever since I first won my Junior Stars award in 1992, I wanted to help cycling become a competitive sport. Over the years, with the hard work of a lot of people, we have been making good progress," Wong said. "Now I am not an athlete any more, but I am still very happy I can play another role in helping my beloved sport." But Wong was disappointed not to see up-and-coming cyclist Leung Chun-wing win anything - the 19-year-old 2012 world junior champion failed to get one of the six Junior Stars awards. Leung could not attend the presentation because he is at the Asian Championships and, according to the rules, all winners have to be present at the ceremony. "The organisers should have flown to India to present him with the award if he won it," Wong said.

Hong Kong's rule of law in safe hands, says judge (By Patsy Moy It's fiercely independent and frighteningly intellectual, says judge in right-of-abode case where referral to Beijing is being called for - Hong Kong's judiciary will remain as independent and well-respected as it is today regardless of what cynics may say, according to a top judge. Mr Justice Michael Hartmann did not specify which cynics as he highlighted the judiciary's critical role in Hong Kong's post-1997 prosperity. Now a non-permanent judge of the Court of Final Appeal following his retirement last July, Hartmann was one of the five judges in the domestic helpers' recent right-of-abode challenge. The judges' decision is still pending. Their verdict could have an impact on the residency rights of children born in Hong Kong to mainland parents. The judges were also requested by the government's counsel to refer issues in the case to Beijing. Writing in this month's Hong Kong Lawyer, published by the Law Society, Hartmann said: "Hong Kong is able to boast a very strong judiciary. We have a number of judges who would grace any court in the world. There are a number whose intellectual prowess is formidable, frighteningly so. "But, in my view, what is most important (indeed critical) is the fact that across the board our judges have a fierce sense of independence allied to a desire to do justice according to law. While those characteristics remain, passed from one generation of judges to the next, we need have no concerns. "Whatever the cynics may say from time to time, I have no doubt in my mind, none whatsoever, that the Hong Kong judiciary will remain the vigorous, independent, well-respected institution that it is today." I have no doubt in my mind, none whatsoever, that the Hong Kong judiciary will remain the vigorous, independent, well-respected institution that it is today - Hartmann also explained why he joined the judiciary in 1991. "One of the reasons why is the fact that I joined a top-rate institution. One that, in my opinion, has had a critical role to play in Hong Kong's post-1997 prosperity," he said. "The average man on the street in Hong Kong understands the role we play and understands its importance." He added: "Judges here are drawn from two very proud professions. When a judge puts on judicial robes for the first time, he or she is in no doubt as to what is expected of them; first and foremost, personal integrity. That above all. Incorruptible, independent, educated to the task," he wrote. Hartmann also stressed a career in the judiciary must remain attractive, not only in respect of salary and pension but in respect of working conditions, too. And, just like any large organisation, the judiciary had to remain innovative to keep up with its community's changing needs. The judge described the pressures on judges as "constant" and "unrelenting" and said judicial training was essential to the maintenance of standards. "The volume of cases increases every year. Judges are bound to a wheel of fire, hearing one case after another, constantly having to produce reasoned judgments," he added. " I know judges who take leave simply to catch up with their judgments. It is not uncommon for judges to spend all or most of their weekends researching and writing judgments. "Not only is the volume of cases increasing, their complexity is increasing too. This makes for longer hearings." Hartmann grew up and went to university in British-ruled Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, but left three years after its independence in 1980. "Regrettably, the government of the day saw me not simply as a defence lawyer but as some sort of ally of the defendants," he said. "I was advised that I should leave or be deported - and that was when the decision was made to come to Hong Kong." So it was that in 1983, Hartmann, who is also a novelist, arrived to join the then Attorney General's Chambers as a government lawyer.

US beefs up its system to make visa process easier (By Amy Nip and Jolie Ho) USDA deputy undersecretary for farm and foreign agriculture Darci Vetter with beef on the bone freshly shipped from the US. Applying for a visa to visit the United States is about to get easier from Hong Kong and Macau - but don't expect it to get any faster. Announcing a new website and free phone service yesterday, US consular chief for the two cities, George Hogeman, said the visa application procedure would still take "a couple of days" but would be more convenient. At present, there are five steps in the process: complete an application form; pay the fee at Dah Sing Bank or Banco Comercial de Macau; schedule an interview time at the embassy or consulate; attend the interview; and return to the consulate two days later to pick up your passport. But from tomorrow, while the steps will be similar, applicants will be able to make appointments online or by speaking to a call centre agent via a free phone number. Paying fees and collecting visas will also be more convenient. Instead of designated banks, applicants will be able to pay fees at any 7-Eleven outlet. There will also be a free delivery service for passports, or they can be collected from service centres in Tsim Sha Tsui, Kwun Tong or Wan Chai. Visa pricing will remain the same - starting at US$160, and valid for 10 years. Some 49,000 people in Hong Kong applied for a US visa last year, up 41 per cent from 2008. The US added Taiwan to its visa waiver list last year, meaning Taiwanese passport holders can travel to the country and stay for up to 90 days without a visa. Japan, South Korea and Singapore are also in the program. But Hong Kong has yet to be added to the list. The visa success rate for Hong Kong passport holders is 98.3 per cent, Hogeman said. "Most people get 10-year visas with little or no waiting," he said. Most people get 10-year visas with little or no waiting. He added that a US tourism promotion office would be set up in the city this year. Meanwhile, Hong Kong lifted an eight-year ban on imports of beef on the bone from the United States after the outbreak of mad cow disease there. The first shipments arrived by air last week and will be sold here next month. The US Meat Export Federation said nearly 50,000 tonnes of US beef were exported to Hong Kong last year. It expected the US market share to rise from 28 to 35 per cent in the next 12 months.

Hong Kong's total goods exports ' volume rose 17.4 percent in January compared with the same period last year, and imports' volume rose 24 percent, the city's Census & Statistics Department said Thursday. Breaking down to details, Hong Kong's goods re-exports' volume rose 17.4 percent in January, while that of domestic exports rose 16.9 percent, The price of Hong Kong's goods re-exports rose 0.3 percent in January year-on-year, while that of domestic exports increased 4.4 percent. Taken together, the price of total exports rose 0.4 percent and imports' prices was 1 percent higher. Comparing the three-month period ending January 2013 with the preceding three months on a seasonally adjusted basis, total goods exports' volume increased 8.7 percent. Within this total, re- exports' volume rose 8.9 percent, while that of domestic exports fell 3.3 percent. Imports' volume rose 4.8 percent.

Tang's rare wines up for grabs - at HK$29m (By Phila Siu Henry Tang's six 1995 magnums may fetch up to HK$1 million. Former Chief Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen might have failed in his bid to become Hong Kong's chief executive, but there is one area in which he has not failed - impressing people with his rare and expensive wine collection. And wine lovers with fat wallets are being given a chance to savour his collection when 810 lots go on sale at auction house Christie's tomorrow and Saturday in a sale expected to raise HK$29 million. Wine expert Keith Wong Wing-kit, business development manager of the company Wine Explorer, said Tang had some of the rarest wine in the world. He said that the top lot - six magnums of Romanée-Conti 1995 - is arguably the rarest in the world. Only an 18th Century Lafite can beat this lot in terms of rarity, he said. "It's so rare it's hard to find it anywhere, except in auctions, no matter how rich you are," Wong said. He added that it is rare because Romanée-Conti - the name of the French wine and also name of the vineyard - is one of the best vineyards in the world and changed its selling policy several years ago. In the past, it limited customers to buying one case at a time. But customers now are allowed only one bottle each time. Wong said that if Tang bought this wine in 1995, it should have cost him HK$20,000 for each magnum. The six magnums he is selling are expected to fetch HK$700,000 to HK$1 million. Also drawing Wong's attention is the 12 bottles of Montrachet Domaine de la Romanée-Conti 1978, which are expected to fetch between HK$400,000 and HK$600,000. Wong said this was also a rare wine, but not from the best field in the vineyard. The auction house quoted Tang earlier as saying he was selling because, "I realised I have far too much wine, and I would never be able to consume it in a lifetime."

Poll ‘primary’ was my idea and not Beijing's, says Rita Fan (By Tony Cheung in Beijing Veteran politician says she has no idea how Beijing views 2017 election, after media storm about possible screening of chief executive candidates - A veteran Hong Kong deputy to the National People's Congress says her suggestion that a "primary" be held to select candidates for the next chief executive race is only her personal opinion and does not represent Beijing's view. Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, who is expected to be elected as a member of the NPC's Standing Committee today, said her idea was aimed at shortlisting hopefuls for the vote in 2017 - the first time Hong Kong's leader will be chosen by universal suffrage - rather than stopping pan-democrats or anyone unacceptable to the central government from entering the race. "Some people may have the impression that the system is aimed at [ousting pan-democrats], but it is not what I mean," she said. Article 45 of the Basic Law calls for a "broadly representative" nominating committee to forward chief executive candidates for a popular vote in line with "democratic procedures". Fan said the "democratic procedures" could involve "a voting process" among committee members or "a primary". Speaking at a gathering of journalists in Beijing yesterday, she said: "I think a primary could be one of the many options, but it is not an authoritative interpretation [of the article] … I have no idea what Beijing is thinking, and I haven't talked to them." Fan said the primary could ensure there would not be "too many candidates", which may confuse voters and hinder candidates from elaborating on their election platforms in televised forums. But she declined to say what would be an appropriate number of candidates. Fan also refused to comment on whether a public consultation on the election should be launched in October, as suggested on Tuesday by former chief secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen. A media storm over whether a screening mechanism should be set up erupted on Sunday when Ming Pao Daily quoted "an authoritative person close to the central government" as saying such a mechanism was needed to bar candidates not acceptable to Beijing from running in the 2017 chief executive election. This fuelled speculation that the person was representing the views of the central government or testing the waters for such a move. Fan declined to confirm if she was the person quoted by Ming Pao, but admitted hosting an off-the-record media gathering on Saturday. "I made it clear that what I was going to say must not be used for reporting, so I won't disclose what I had said during the lunch," Fan said. "When I read the news report [on Sunday], I thought 'that could not be me' because there are things that I had not said and the term [an authoritative person] doesn't fit me either, because … I really have no idea what the central government is thinking." On Sunday, the secretary for constitutional and mainland affairs, Raymond Tam Chi-yuen, said no concrete plans were in place for the 2017 election and the government had yet to start its "five step" consultation. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said on Tuesday that the government would start the consultation at a "suitable time". Fan suggested her outspoken style could lose her some support. "If I am re-elected [to the Standing Committee] with far fewer votes in favour of me, and more votes against me, it will be worth some self-evaluation."

 China*:  Mar 16 2013

Li Keqiang named premier of China (By Associated Press in Beijing) China formally installed the Communist Party’s second-ranked leader, Li Keqiang, as premier, as a once-a-decade leadership transition nears its well-ordered conclusion. The largely powerless legislature overwhelmingly selected Li on Friday, a day after legislators appointed party chief Xi Jinping to the ceremonial state presidency. The appointments were foreordained after Xi and Li ascended to the leadership’s top spots at a party congress in November. Since then, they have signaled that they intend to combat widespread official corruption, try to lessen a wide income gap and repair the severely polluted environment - issues that are driving public discontent. The legislature’s annual session and the political transition reach their end this weekend with the appointment of Cabinet officials to manage the economy, foreign affairs and an increasingly fractious society.

Xi Jinping completes rapid transfer of power (By Teddy Ng in Beijing New president takes over the reins in a smooth succession that shows he is a strong leader who has settled party power struggles, analysts say - Hu Jintao (left) shakes hands with his successor as president Xi Jinping, also head of the Central Military Commission. Xi Jinping's formal election as new president yesterday saw him assume full control over the Communist Party, the state and the armed forces in a swift and orderly transfer of power from predecessor Hu Jintao. Only one of the nearly 3,000 deputies of the National People's Congress who voted in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing opposed Xi's succession. Three abstentions were recorded. Xi, 59, was also appointed head of the state Central Military Commission, a parallel government post to the party's top military position which he already held after becoming party leader in November. There was also one opposing vote and three abstentions in that election. Politburo member Li Yuanchao , who is not a member of the party's supreme, seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, was named vice-president, while Zhang Dejiang , a Politburo Standing Committee member, was elected as the new NPC chairman. The transition of power to Xi was smoother than the one a decade ago, when Hu had to wait for two years to take over as head of the military commission from Jiang Zemin. Analysts said the rapid transition of power indicated that Xi was a stronger leader who had settled power struggles among different factions of the party. This was largely due to his upbringing as the son of veteran revolutionary Xi Zhongxun and his close ties to the military, which he began establishing in 1979 when he served as secretary to Central Military Commission secretary general Geng Biao. Beijing-based political analyst Zhang Lifan said: "Xi got more support from the party because he is one of the princelings, who believe that they should inherit leadership." Zhang said Xi was shaping up to be a very different leader from Hu, whose leadership was considered weak. "Xi's style is more like a strongman leader than Hu," he said. Xi bowed to the deputies and shook hands with Hu when the results were announced. His accession to the top party, military and government posts within four months is unprecedented in the past few decades. It took Jiang four years to assume all the top posts after becoming party chief in 1989. The start of Xi's presidency comes amid mounting challenges at home and abroad. Internationally, China's rising power is seen as an opportunity and a threat in equal measure. Domestically, there is growing political awareness among the public, who are making greater demands on their leadership. For the past few months, Xi has rolled out eye-catching campaigns to crack down on corruption, cut official extravagance and streamline governance. But analysts doubt political reform will be on the new leadership's agenda. 

Iowa town thrilled by friendly link to new leader (By Zhang Yuwei in New York Then Vice-President Xi Jinping catches up on old times at the home of Roger and Sarah Lande in Muscatine, Iowa, on Feb 15, 2012. The National People's Congress session in Beijing, where China's new leadership was announced on Thursday, attracted global attention. In the United States, Sarah Lande, a 74-year-old resident of Muscatine, Iowa, was particularly interested in the events at the Great Hall of the People. She had good reason to be. To Lande, it was more than just a significant event taking place in the world's second-largest economy. She said she was "very excited" for her old friend - Xi Jinping, China's new president. "I am excited as an old friend of his, and also excited that the people of China have such a good leader. I'm excited for the US, too, because together with our president, he will find ways for our countries to work together," Lande said. The nearly three-decade friendship was formed in 1985 when Xi visited Lande's city as a young Party official in Hebei province, traveling with a delegation that was learning about agricultural technology in Iowa. Lande remembers this young Chinese official, but never imagined their friendship would last for nearly 30 years. Xi made a stop in Muscatine, a city of about 23,000 by the Mississippi River, last February during his weeklong state visit. Lande recalls her friend as a "warm, caring, listening person" who sat together with a group of 17 old friends at Lande's house where he stayed in 1985. She recalls Xi saying "friendship is a foundation of a good relationship". That impressed this Muscatine native. "In the next 10 years, it is very important for our countries to work together, and you have to get to know each other in order to do that," Lande said. Xi's friendship with Lande is now well known in the small town. But Lande said it is more than something making headlines here and there, it is about being "a good example of how to further that relationship between the two countries". Lande has promoted a closer tie between the small Iowa town and China. The Muscatine Art Center is presenting an exhibition titled The Other Side of the World by Chinese artist Chun Arthur Wang, who created a painting named Muscatine's Golden Key featuring Xi receiving two golden keys from the town during his visits. "Most Chinese had never heard of 'Muscatine' until the Chinese and global press reported on Xi Jinping's return visit to this Iowa town in 2012," said Wang, an art professor with Columbus College of Art and Design in Ohio. "People were touched by the story that Mr Xi did not forget the local family that hosted him for three days during his visit in 1985. The profound friendship between Mr Xi and ordinary American people impressed many Chinese people, including me," Wang said. In Maxwell, a town about 64 km northeast of Iowa's capital Des Moines, the Kimberley family, who received Xi at their farm in February last year, are also excited about the news that he has been elected president. Grant Kimberley, who met Xi both on the farm visit and during a trade mission to China, said Xi sees opportunities to expand Sino-US economic ties and benefit both countries. "I think he understands the importance of agriculture trade with Iowa and the US to ensure a safe and stable supply of food for the Chinese people and that it can serve as the foundation for a positive relationship between the two countries," said Kimberley, who together with his parents welcomed Xi to their family farm. The lasting friendship with Xi also makes Lande feel responsible to promote more exchanges - beyond trade and agriculture - on a local level between the top two world economies.

China hopes new pope will be 'practical and flexible' (By Agence France-Presse in Beijing) Newly elected Pope Francis leaves the Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica in Rome on Thursday. China said on Thursday it hoped newly elected Pope Francis would take a “practical and flexible” attitude. “We hope that under the leadership of the new pope the Vatican will adopt a practical and flexible attitude and create conditions for the improvement of China-Vatican relations,” said foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying. Beijing joined in congratulating Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who was chosen as pope a day before China’s Communist party chief Xi Jinping was named national president. But Hua reiterated the political obstacles that have come between China’s ruling party and the Catholic Church. The two bodies – which both oversee more than a billion people and assert tight organisational control – have clashed over the authority to name bishops and the Vatican’s ties with Taiwan, which Beijing regards as part of China. [The Vatican] should sever its so-called diplomatic relations with Taiwan and recognise the Chinese government as the sole legal representative of all of China - China had “two basic principles in dealing with relations with the Vatican”, Hua said at a regular briefing. “It should sever its so-called diplomatic relations with Taiwan and recognise the Chinese government as the sole legal representative of all of China. “The Vatican should not interfere in China’s internal affairs, including under the pretext of religion.” Experts say China has as many as 12 million Catholics, with about half belonging to the state-run Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) and the rest in “underground” churches, though many operate openly depending on the stance of local officials. During his tenure, the previous pope Benedict sought a measure of accommodation, assuring Beijing that the Vatican had no intention of undermining its rule. But he drew a line at any governmental interference in the Vatican’s right to manage ecclesiastical affairs and insisted that all lay Catholics were members of a single global Church.

Beijing launches spy investigation against Coca-Cola (Stephen Chen Drinks giant accused of using GPS devices to conduct illegal mapping in sensitive areas - Coca-Cola says it uses GPS devices to improve efficiency. China has launched an anti-espionage investigation against Coca-Cola for allegedly conducting illegal mapping in many sensitive areas on the mainland as the spying row between Beijing and Washington escalates. The case is being handled jointly by the National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation and the Ministry of State Security. The involvement of the top intelligence authority underscores the seriousness of the case. "We understand that espionage is a serious charge against a world famous company," said an official from the administration. "We are still in the process of gathering information. "What we can say for now is that many subsidiaries of Coca-Cola are involved and this happens in many provinces. Due to the sheer scale of the case, the complexity of the technology involved and the implication to our national security, we are working with the Ministry of State Security on this." The news came after Li Pengde - deputy director of the administration - openly accused the beverage giant on a national radio programme on Tuesday and said some of its employees were caught using hand-held GPS devices to collect sensitive geographic information in Yunnan province. Coca-Cola issued a statement yesterday saying it was "co-operating fully" with the investigation. It said the GPS they used were "digital map and customer logistic systems commercially available in China". The GPS devices were used to improve fuel efficiency and customer service, it said. Many Western companies use GPS devices to track the whereabouts of their employees as a way to improve efficiency and better planning. But Han Qixiang , director of the administration's law enforcement department involved in the investigation, said Coca-Cola was apparently doing more than that. He said the mapping technology used by the US company was so sophisticated that it was beyond the administration's capacity to analyse its system. Han said that after they reported the case to Beijing, they were told Yunnan was not the only province involved and the case was transferred to the Ministry of State Security. "This involves national security. I'm not allowed to talk about any detail. We are waiting for the central government to make a final decision." Professor Guo Jiming , an expert in GPS mapping at Wuhan University, said the government must be very careful on reaching its conclusion. Only the use of "devices with ultra high sensitivity" or "mapping technology with military-level algorithm" should warrant such a level of concern being raised, he said. Guo said Beijing was sensitive about the use of GPS devices by foreigners because such geographical data could be used by guided missiles to strike key military facilities. Satellite images nowadays have high resolution, but they cannot pinpoint the exact location of an object due to the lack of reference.

China parliament formally elects Xi Jinping as president (By Reuters in Beijing) Xi Jinping, China's new president on Thursday, casts his vote during a parliamentary meeting in Beijing. China’s parliament formally elected heir-in-waiting Xi Jinping as the country’s new president on Thursday, completing the country’s second orderly political succession since the Communist Party took power in 1949. The largely rubber-stamp National People’s Congress chose Xi in a tightly scripted ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in central Beijing, putting the final seal of approval on a generational transition of power. Xi was appointed party and military chief – where real power lies – in November. The 59-year-old was also elected head of the Central Military Commission, the parallel government post to the party’s top military position which he already holds, ensuring that he has full power over the party, state and armed forces. There was virtually no opposition among the carefully selected legislators to Xi becoming president. Xi drew just one “no” vote and three abstentions from the almost 3,000 delegates. In recent memory there is no comparable figure who has such power in his hand [so quickly] “In recent memory there is no comparable figure who has such power in his hand [so quickly],” said Willy Lam, a politics expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. The presidential appointment makes him an “indisputable supremo”, he said. “When Xi travels abroad he will use the title of state president, which entitles him to be on a par with presidents of other countries.” Xi is the son of one of China’s most esteemed generals and known as a “princeling”, the name given to relations of China’s first generation of Communist leaders, who grew up immersed in the ruling party’s upper echelons. Xi bowed deeply and shook hands with his predecessor Hu Jintao upon the announcement of the result, carried live on state television. Xi and Hu exchanged a few inaudible words. Li Yuanchao was also elected vice-president. Vice-Premier Li Keqiang is set to succeed Premier Wen Jiabao in a similarly scripted vote on Friday. Hu, 70, relinquished the presidency after serving the maximum two five-year terms. Hu’s accession to president a decade ago marked Communist China’s first peaceful transition of power. Violent events such as the Cultural Revolution and the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators had overshadowed previous hand-overs. Since taking up the position of the much more powerful post of party chief last November, Xi has focused his rhetoric on fighting corruption and promoting austere practices such as banning senior military officers from holding alcohol-fuelled banquets. Many Chinese hope Xi will bring change in a country that has risen to become the world’s second-biggest economy but is marred by deepening income inequality, corruption and environmental destruction left over from the administration of Hu and Wen. Xi inherits a constituency that is more distrustful of government and well-versed at using the Internet to criticise their leaders. At the same time, his administration must deal with a slowdown in economic growth, juggle the urgent task of calming a frothy housing market, defuse local government debt risks and wean China off its addiction to investment-led expansion. Xi will also have to deal with an increasingly provocative North Korea and tensions with the United States, Japan and Southeast Asia.

Hong Kong*:  Mar 15 2013

New trade restrictions to affect shark fin imports into Hong Kong (By Cheung Chi-fai Three more species - the oceanic whitetip, the hammerhead and the porbeagle - set to gain international protection - The porbeagle shark. The oceanic whitetip shark. The great hammerhead. About 9 per cent of shark fin imported into Hong Kong will require prior approval after an initial endorsement to add three more species to an international treaty to protect endangered species. But shark fin traders based in Hong Kong, which accounts for an estimated 50 per cent of the global fin trade, said they would continue business as usual, despite more formalities. The endorsement, made after a majority vote on Monday by 177 signatories at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora's (CITES) annual conference in Bangkok, was cautiously welcomed by conservationists as the vote's ratification is still required later this week. The three shark species are the oceanic whitetip, the hammerhead - including the scalloped, great and smooth hammerhead - and the porbeagle. The numbers of these species have declined by 70 to 90 per cent in the past three to five decades. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has also listed the scalloped and great hammerhead as endangered species. In 2004, the CITES signatories listed the great white shark, basking shark and the whale shark in appendix two of the convention, making it illegal for parties to move the listed species without import and export permits from signatories. Tracy Tsang Chui-chi, senior programme officer of WWF Hong Kong, cautiously welcomed the news of the latest additions but worried that the regulations might be difficult to enforce. "Unlike the previous three sharks which are relatively easier to be recognised with their larger sizes, the proposed ones could be easily mixed with other shark-fin imports," she said. She urged the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department to introduce random DNA tests on imported shark fin to lessen the likelihood that diners accidentally ate the protected species. Ricky Leung Lak-kee, chairman of the Hong Kong Marine Products Association, said it would be business as usual even after the restrictions were imposed. "We will follow any rules laid down by CITES, which unlike other non-governmental organisations, does not call for a blanket ban on shark fin," he said. He estimated that about 8 to 9 per cent of shark fin imported to Hong Kong were of the restricted species. In 2011, the city imported about 10,000 tonnes of shark fin. Tsang said that in a survey in 2006, overseas researchers had found through genetic tests that about 7 per cent of fin samples from the local market were the hammerhead and oceanic whitetip. About 17 per cent were blue sharks, which are not regulated by CITES. A spokeswoman for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said the department would closely follow the outcome of the convention meeting. She said that since 2004, Hong Kong had imported 6.7 tonnes of CITES-regulated shark products - all basking shark - from Norway. CITES parties also voted yesterday in favour of restricting the trade in Thailand rosewood, which fetches a high price on the international market. The move was thought to be aimed at growing demand for the wood from mainland China.

HSBC, Standard Chartered raise mortgage rates (By Kanis Li) HSBC and Standard Chartered raised the new mortgage lending rate by 0.25 basis points on Wednesday. Mortgage costs for new homebuyers will increase after HSBC and Standard Chartered raised the new mortgage lending rate by 25 basis points, or 0.25 percentage points, on Wednesday. This comes after the Hong Kong Monetary Authority last month ordered eight local banks to hold 50 per cent more capital when doing mortgage business. Other banks said they would monitor the market condition closely. HSBC first announced the hike saying the best lending rate on shelf was raised to 2.85 per cent to 3.15 per cent from 2.6 per cent to 2.9 per cent, and the Hibor-based lending rate would be 2.55 per cent to 2.95 per cent above the Hibor rate. The bank previously had a floor rate of 2.15 per cent, analysts believe there will be a similar hike on it. Standard Chartered immediately followed HSBC with a new best lending rate of 3.1 per cent to 3.5 per cent and Hibor-based lending rate of 2.75 per cent to 3.25 per cent above the Hibor rate. Both banks’ rate hikes are effective from Thursday. Ivy Wong Mei-fung, managing director of Centaline Mortgage Broker, expects other banks to follow the rate hike in the short term. The eight local banks affected by the HKMA order represent approximately 75 per cent of the mortgage business in Hong Kong. Wong expects other small and medium sized banks will follow what the market leaders do. Mortgage lending rates have been stable or even declined during the last year. Deposit rates in Hong Kong remain stable as there is adequate liquidity in the region. “In view of the current mortgage market condition and changing operating environment, we have decided that it is the right time to adjust our mortgage lending rates to ensure our leadership in the business and to further strengthen our risk controls.” HSBC Hong Kong chief executive Anita Fung Yuen-mei said in a statement. Robbie Choi Yee-chuen, head of mortgage and secured loans at Wing Lung Bank, said the mortgage lending rates in the industry had remained low for a long time and he expected more banks to increase their rate. In response to enquiries on the rate hike, a spokesman from the Hong Kong Monetary Authority said they would not comment on the commercial decisions of individual institutions. “Interest rates are subject to a number of factors and homebuyers should be careful and fully assess the impact of an increase of the mortgage rate on their repayment burden,” he said. The authority told eight banks, including HSBC, Bank of China (Hong Kong), Standard Chartered, Hang Seng Bank and Bank of East Asia, to raise the risk weighting of their mortgages to 15 per cent from 10 per cent. Banks must hold capital to cover a certain proportion of their loans, weighted by the riskiness of those assets. The increased cost on mortgages would be passed on to customers, Standard Chartered chief executive Peter Sands said in a press conference in Hong Kong on Wednesday, though the measures would not have much impact on the bank.

Cathay Pacific annual net profit dives 83pc (By Agence France-Presse in Hong Kong) High fuel costs and faltering cargo demand took a huge chunk out of earnings at Hong Kong’s flag carrier Cathay Pacific Airways, which said net profit fell more than 80 per cent. Cathay Pacific said on Wednesday net profit last year plunged 83.3 per cent, as the Hong Kong flag carrier was hit by persistently high fuel prices and weak air cargo demand. The airline said profit stood at HK$916 million (US$118 million), down from the HK$5.5 billion it recorded in 2011. Revenue rose 1.0 per cent to HK$99.4 billion from HK$98.4 billion in 2011. “Economic uncertainty, particularly in the euro zone countries, and an increasingly competitive environment added to the difficulties,” chairman Christopher Pratt said in a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange. “It was a challenging year for the aviation industry generally.” Cathay said it carried a total of 29.0 million passengers last year, a 5.0-per cent rise year on year, but its premium class business was affected by travel restrictions imposed by companies. “The high cost of fuel made it more difficult to operate profitably, particularly on long-haul routes operated by older, less fuel-efficient, Boeing 747-400 and Airbus A340-300 aircraft,” Pratt said. He added that the cost of fuel, which accounts for 41.1 per cent of total operation costs, rose 0.8 per cent year-on-year last year. The blue-chip Asian airline in August posted a first-half year net loss of HK$935 million.

 China*:  Mar 15 2013

Western-style reform not on agenda, says CPPCC chief Yu Zhengsheng (By Cary Huang in Beijing New CPPCC chief Yu Zhengsheng tells delegates party will follow own path and shun 'extremist' ideas of change based on foreign models - Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the CPPCC, addresses the advisory body yesterday. China's new top political adviser has urged members of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference to reject "impetuous and extremist attitudes" in political ideas and said the ruling Communist Party would explore its own political path and shun reform based on Western models. Yu Zhengsheng , who was elected CPPCC chairman on Monday, also called on his colleagues yesterday to reject "extravagance and not to be engaged in any deeds that use their power and influence to seek personal gain". The 68-year-old told them to be "outspoken and straightforward" in advising the government and to reject "indifference and listlessness" in their work. "We should reject impetuousness and extremist attitudes that lose contact with national conditions," Yu said in his first speech since his election, addressing the closing session of the CPPCC's 11-day annual meeting. "We need to more strictly follow the socialist path of political development with Chinese characteristics. "We will not copy models in Western political systems under any circumstances, always adhere to the correct political orientation, and strengthen the CPPCC's ideological and political foundations of collective struggle," Yu told more than 2,000 CPPCC members in the Great Hall of the People. He reiterated a long-standing party principle to the advisory body, urging it to "steadfastly uphold the leadership of the Communist Party and adhere to and improve the system of multiparty co-operation and political consultation under Communist Party leadership". Professor Zhang Ming , a political scientist at Renmin University, said Yu had sent a message that the new leadership would continue to reject calls for bold reform of one-party rule. We will not copy models in Western political systems under any circumstances - "His statement comes amid growing, louder calls for Western-style democratic reform and thus is sending a message that the leadership doesn't want any such bold action in the foreseeable future," Zhang said. Zhang said the former Shanghai party chief had also sent a message to new CPPCC members, telling them not to advocate bold reform. Yu built a reputation as a relatively open-minded economic reformer during his time in charge of Shanghai. His appointment as CPPCC chairman was expected following his promotion to the Politburo Standing Committee in November. Yu called on members to study and try to "comprehensively and accurately understand" the spirit of a series of speeches by new party General Secretary Xi Jinping , who is set to succeed Hu Jintao as president this week. Yu also praised his predecessor, Jia Qinglin , and all former members of the CPPCC for their contributions.

Zhou Xiaochuan, China's central bank governor, speaks at a news conference on China's currency policy and financial reform held by the first session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing, capital of China, March 13, 2013. China should remain on high alert for inflation: central bank governor - China's central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan said Wednesday that China should remain on high alert for inflation and the bank will take measures, including monetary policy adjustments, to stabilize prices.

China tops list for executive gender equality (By Hu Yuanyuan and He Wei and China has the world's highest proportion of women in senior management positions, according to a new study that shows more than 51 percent of top posts are held by females - a huge jump from the survey's previous figure of 25 percent, and well above the global average of 21 percent. According to the report, by international accounting firm Grant Thornton, women now hold 81 percent of human resources director positions in China, and 61 percent of chief financial officer roles, which its researchers said were roles which particularly require detail control and communications skills. The survey, conducted among 200 businesses in China, also shows that women now take up 21 percent of board director positions, slightly above the global average of 19 percent. A fourth of chief executive officers are now women, a huge rise from just 9 percent at this stage of 2012, according to the research. Seventy-five percent of the businesses surveyed said they favored the introduction of quotas for the number of women on boards of directors in listed companies. Globally, 24 percent of senior management roles are filled by women, up from 21 percent in 2012 and 20 percent in 2011, according to the survey. The United States and the United Kingdom rank eighth and seventh bottom, respectively, of 44 economies. Japan reports the least proportion, at just 7 percent. The debate on boardroom equality intensified in the European Union in September when plans were announced to force companies to have a minimum of 40 percent women non-executive directors by 2020. The plan for a quota was subsequently scaled back to an "objective" after facing opposition from Britain and Germany. The Grant Thornton survey shows that Chinese businesses would favor measures to improve gender ratios, particularly the number of women on boards. "Currently, women still lack equal opportunities with men in various sectors. "Businesses have to push women's career development more systematically rather than simply imposing a quota for the ratio," said Xu Hua, CEO of Grant Thornton China. Another recent survey suggested that around 40 percent of female professionals were unsatisfied with their salary levels and annual rises, with 60 percent eyeing a change in job in the coming year as a result. Career International Consulting, a recruiting and human resources firm, surveyed 1,700 Chinese employees aged 23 to 43 in February about their perceptions of professional development. Women accounted for 45.5 percent of the partcipants. While 44 percent of women respondents said they had expected their salaries to grow 20 percent or more last year, only 7.1 percent realized their ambitions. An Ran, the research director of Career International, said women are more disappointed than men in terms of job prospects and income growth, but they generally take a more proactive approach when it comes to professional development. About 45 percent of the women surveyed by Career International said they were looking for new opportunities, while 22.8 percent said they have simply chosen to work harder to get ahead. Fan Yun, who chairs Shanghai Fushen State Assets Evaluation Co Ltd and is a national legislator in Beijing for the annual session of the top legislative body, said younger women should think twice before frequently changing jobs. "Several careers per person sounds utterly implausible to me. Frequent job shifts will bar people from concentrating on their work, and such a habit is likely to reduce commitment to anything in the long run," she said.

Official says China won't take part in currency wars (By Wang Xiaotian A currency exchange service outlet in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. Yi Gang, the central bank's deputy governor, last week urged major economies to avoid the competitive devaluation of their currencies. China won't engage in any "currency wars" by depreciating the value of the yuan through monetary easing policies to shore up the economy, as some major economies have done, said a former deputy central bank governor on Tuesday. "The yuan will continue to fluctuate in both directions as the central bank strengthens market-oriented reforms," said Wu Xiaoling, who is still closely connected to the People's Bank of China and is now the vice-chairman of the National People's Congress Financial and Economic Affairs Committee. The easing policies conducted by some major economies, such as Japan, are similar to "quenching thirst with poison", she said at a press conference. "Printing more money and devaluating the currency could be useful to promote economic growth over a certain period. But if a country doesn't have a sound economic structure or strong growth momentum, it would be poisonous to depend on a looser monetary stance," Wu said. Her remarks come after a report in Japan's leading economic daily Nikkei said that the Bank of Japan's recently appointed leaders might launch fresh easing measures before their first policy meeting next month. The yen was under pressure in Asia on Tuesday as the US dollar strengthened, with 96.7 Japanese yen against the greenback, the highest level since August 2009. The yen has depreciated about 20 percent since the new Japanese government took office at the end of last year. In January, the BOJ announced plans to undertake "unlimited" easing policies to fight against the country's lingering deflation. "Instead of intervening in the currency market to contain appreciation and stimulate exports, China needs to create a fair and competitive financial environment for domestic companies, and continue to promote the reform of the international monetary system," Wu said. She said the yuan's exchange rate is already very close to its equilibrium level as the difference between the onshore rate and its non-deliverable forwards on the offshore market is narrowing. PBOC's deputy governor Yi Gang last week urged major economies to avoid the competitive devaluation of their currencies and said that G20 countries should comply with the group's joint statement and reach a consensus. He added that China takes global liquidity levels into full account when making policy decisions, and will hold on to its prudent monetary stance. The PBOC will maintain its "stable" policies, with tighter control over credit growth and a more open attitude toward financial markets to encourage direct financing, according to Wu. "As the ratio of money supply against total GDP remains high, it's vital for the authorities to tighten the reins on lending activities, which would amplify the money injections," Wu said. Liu Mingkang, the former chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission, said that this year China will face a "substantial" rise of capital inflows. China's consumer price index jumped to 3.2 percent in February, a 10-month high and up from January's 2 percent, as capital inflows accelerated. The country's lending pace slowed in February as new-yuan loans extended by banks fell to 620 billion yuan from 1.07 trillion yuan in January. The PBOC's recent shift to a policy-tightening bias and growing official concern over inflation pressures mean that a stronger yuan will be part of the policy response, said Irene Cheung, a strategist at the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. However, the depreciation of the yen would have a limited impact on China's economy, especially in terms of trade and capital flows, said Peng Wensheng, chief economist and managing director of China International Capital Corp Ltd. He said that if the yuan strengthened 20 percent against the yen, the real effective exchange rate of the yuan will go up 1.5 percent, leading to a decline of 2.5 percentage points in China's exports.

Samsung's annual sales volume in China jumps (By Gao Yuan in Guangzhou A Samsung mobile phone store in Shanghai. With 17.7 percent of the market share in the country, the company sold more than 30 million smartphones in China last year. Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, the world's largest mobile phone and television maker, said on Tuesday its sales volume in China hit $14.3 billion in 2012, a jump of more than 50 percent year-on-year. The South Korean company said that it is ready to expand its lead in the consumer electronics sector this year and that it will also boost its business-to-business units. "Last year, we registered the best-ever performance as the world's largest consumer electronics maker, and China is becoming one of the most important markets for Samsung," said Park Jae-chun, chief executive officer of Samsung Greater China. In 2012, the company grabbed the top market shares in the mobile, display and flat-panel TV sectors in China, said Park. Data from research company Strategy Analytics showed that - for the first time ever - Samsung topped China's smartphone market in 2012, with its sales nearly tripling year-on-year. With 17.7 percent of the market share in the country, the company sold more than 30 million smartphones in China last year, up from 10.9 million the previous year. Samsung's long-time rival, Apple Inc, ranked third, behind local electronics giant Lenovo Group Ltd. Analysts said that as the number of smartphone users in China continues to grow, Samsung may cement its dominance even further because it has a more diversified product line than competitors such as Apple. A total of 460 million smartphones will likely be sold annually in China by 2017, estimated IDC, an industry consultancy. Park also pledged to provide additional services for commercial customers in China to boost revenue. Although the company did not disclose detailed expansion plans for the B2B sector, the retail, pharmaceutical and hospitality industries are likely the target areas for Samsung. "Samsung's B2B business in China is not as active as its consumer sectors. We need to build customer awareness and fully engage with innovation strategies," said Quan Song, head of Samsung China's B2B department. The only area where Samsung found itself struggling in China was in the household electrical appliances sector, although its global market share continued to increase. Local TV makers such as Hisense Co Ltd took the lead in terms of market share, while Samsung's share slumped in the first three quarters of last year, data from industry research firm China Market Monitor Co Ltd showed. "The Chinese TV market will be dominated by the top companies in the future, companies with thin market shares will find it difficult to survive," said Li Jixiang, vice-president of CMM. Samsung is now eyeing the higher-end of the TV market. China's demand for 3D or smart TVs could be above 53 million units this year, according to CMM. Less than 35 million 3D or smart TV sets were sold in the country last year. On Tuesday, the company released an 85-inch HD smart TV targeting the wealthiest consumers in China. The new product is scheduled to enter the Chinese market in June.

US, China signal hope over Web security (By Chen Jia in San Francisco China and the United States are expressing hope for developing their relationship in the sensitive and controversial area of cyber security, just days before the new Chinese leadership takes power. On Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the foreign ministry in Beijing, Hua Chunying, briefly commented on remarks the day before by Thomas Donilon, President Barack Obama's national security adviser. Donilon said in a speech in New York that the US is deepening partnerships with emerging powers and building a "stable, productive and constructive relationship" with China. He said both countries' leaders endorsed the goal of building a new model of relations between an existing power and an emerging one. Hua said China-US relations are at an important stage of transition, and that China hopes to enhance coordination and cooperation with the US. Chinese legislators at the annual session of the National People's Congress in Beijing are expected to select the country's president on Thursday, along with the premier, based on the nomination of the new president the following day. The high-level remarks are being seen as expressions of mutual goodwill amid China's once-a-decade leadership change and the start of Obama's second term. Hua also said that China will engage in dialogue and cooperation with the international community, including the US, on cyber security - a contentious issue between the two countries recently. "The security of cyberspace is a global issue, which needs rules and cooperation, instead of a cyberspace war," the ministry spokeswoman said. "China is willing, on the basis of the principles of mutual respect and trust, to have constructive dialogue and cooperation on this issue with the international community including the United States to maintain the security, openness and peace of the Internet," she added. On Monday, Donilon had described cyber security as "a growing challenge" that the two sides should address. In February, a Virginia-based Internet security firm, Mandiant Inc, issued a report alleging that it had traced the origin of multiple attacks against US and other Western companies to the Shanghai headquarters of secret unit of hackers backed by China's military. Hua, calling Internet security a global issue, reiterated the official response that China is also vulnerable and has been one of the biggest targets of hacking attacks in the world. The National Computer Network Emergency Response Coordination Center said on Sunday that in the past two months, more than 11,000 websites in China were attacked by computers from other countries. One-third of these attacks were traced to the US, it said. The United States has invested heavily in and become increasingly reliant on networks while also developing cyber weapons, according to George Koo, an international business consultant and board member of San Francisco-based New America Media, which produces programs aimed at specific ethnic groups in the US. The US- and Israeli-developed Stuxnet virus is believed to have been used to dismantle centrifuges at an Iranian nuclear fuel-enrichment facility. As the first country believed to have launched a cyber attack in peacetime, the US has ceded the moral high ground and is in no position to define appropriate cyber conduct, Koo said. He cited a blog post by Jeffrey Carr, CEO of Taia Global Inc, another US Internet security firm, who said more than 30 countries are able to run "military-grade network operations" necessary to mount the kind of sophisticated attacks cited in Mandiant's report.

Hong Kong*:  Mar 14 2013

Hong Kong Philharmonic tribute to Leslie Cheung (By Vanessa Yung) A decade on from Leslie Cheung's tragic suicide, a HK Philharmonic show pays tribute - Cheung in Days of Being Wild. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the death of much-loved Canto-pop and movie idol Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing. So it's perhaps surprising that the upcoming Hong Kong International Film Festival won't be holding a major retrospective to remember the star who lit up the screens for more than two decades. But the Hong Kong Philharmonic will be staging a tribute concert next week to "salute this cultural icon". Cheung recorded more than 30 albums and appeared in nearly 60 movies, so it will be a challenge to come up with a definitive concert that fully represents the artist's career. But Raff Wilson, the Philharmonic's director of artistic planning, says the programme will try its best to tell Cheung's life story. "We're going to look a little bit at Leslie's childhood influences. He named himself after Leslie Howard, so we're going to start with a piece from Gone With the Wind, in which the great Hollywood film star starred. Then we'll have a piece from 1994's He's a Woman, She's a Man [for which Cheung won his first best original song at the Hong Kong Film Awards]," he says. The orchestra will also play music from 1990's Days of Being Wild - for which Cheung took the best actor prize at the 1991 Hong Kong Film Awards - Farewell My Concubine (1993), Ashes of Time (1994) and Happy Together (1997), in which the music is "evocative and sticks in people's minds", says Wilson. "Music is such an important part of going to a movie. Of course, you're concentrating on the plot and the visuals, but the music also makes a strong impression. So when we play these pieces, we hope that people will be taken back and remember all their experiences [from that time]. "But we don't want a sad or tragic event. It'll be a mood of fond remembrance, with people coming to pay tribute to him." The concert will be accompanied by film footage and stills projected onto a big screen, and the orchestra will be conducted by Gerard Salonga. Cheung - affectionately known as "gor gor", or elder brother - was suffering from depression when he leapt to his death on April 1, 2003, at the age of 46. His last concert series opened in 2000 and his last movie was the psychological horror, Inner Senses, in 2002. Wilson says the centrepiece of the concert will be the world premiere of a specially rearranged piece by Eli Marshall, written for Ashes of Time. It will be performed by sheng player Wu Tong. Also on the programme are Astor Piazzolla's nostalgic tango pieces from Happy Together and Chinese opera-influenced compositions from Farewell My Concubine, which have been rearranged for the orchestra. "When you go to an orchestral concert [of film music], you tend to get a different perspective on the music than when you hear it in the movie. "The music is more prominent and you do get a different impression. I think that's a great part of film music in concert," says Wilson. Mar 19-20, 8pm, Concert Hall, HK Cultural Centre, 10 Salisbury Rd, TST, HK$160-HK$480 Urbtix. Inquiries: +852 2721 2030

Sudden death of top fund manager a reminder of high pressure in financial sector (By George Chen) Bosera Asset Management CEO Li Kai suffered a brain haemorrhage on bus trip to work - Jardine House (left) in Central, where Bosera's offices are located. Keith Li (inset). Hong Kong's financial community was in shock on Tuesday at the sudden death of one of the city's top fund managers during a bus trip. Li Kai, chief executive of Bosera Asset Management (International), the Hong Kong-based offshore arm of Bosera, suffered a brain haemorrhage on a bus from Hong Kong to Shenzhen. The 41-year-old, known to his foreign colleagues and clients under his English name Keith Li, is the latest member of the financial services industry - where working pressures have risen sharply since the 2008 global financial crisis - to die suddenly at a relatively young working age. Wu Sheng, an influential mainland private equity fund manager, died in 2011 at the age of just 40. According to mainland media reports, in 2009, Sun Yanqun, a senior executive in charge of investment portfolios at the fund management joint venture of JP Morgan in Shanghai, died at the age of 41. Li's colleagues at Bosera, one of the mainland's largest asset management houses with more than US$30 billion under its management, were informed of his death on Tuesday, according to sources. Calls to Bosera for more information went unanswered this morning. A source with working ties to Li described him as "a nice person in very low profile." Li divided his time between Shenzhen where Bosera's headquarters are located, and the Hong Kong office which opened in 2010, he said. Li was considered a founding member of the Hong Kong office. Li joined Bosera in 2003 when the mainland's mutual fund industry was still in its infancy. He previously worked for Invesco and Merrill Lynch, two other well-known international asset management firms. Bosera boasts several big global institutions among its so-called QFII clients and helps them invest in the mainland's capital markets through the Qualified Foreign Institutional Investors scheme in China. Bosera is also one of the major fund managers to manage a large portion of the money of the mainland's national pension fund.

 China*:  Mar 14 2013

Yum China sales up in February amid turnaround, shares jump (By Reuters) Yum reaps more than half of its overall sales in China, where most of its nearly 5,300 restaurants are KFCs. KFC parent Yum Brands reported an unexpected 2 per cent rise in February sales at established restaurants in China, boosted by Lunar New Year and easing worries about a food safety scare that drove away customers. Shares in Yum jumped 6.6 per cent in extended trading to US$72.32, their highest level since November, after the results were far better than the estimated 8.7 per cent drop expected by three analysts polled by Consensus Metrix. Yum also said on Monday that first-quarter same-restaurant sales in China fell 20 per cent, less than its prior forecast for a 25 per cent drop. The company last month warned that plunging China sales would cause this year’s profits to shrink rather than grow. It also said it expected KFC same-store sales in China to turn up by the fourth quarter. Yum China’s latest results “would seem to imply that the recovery is potentially going to be faster than what we thought”, Bernstein Research analyst Sara Senatore said. The fast-food operator reaps more than half of its overall sales in China, where most of its nearly 5,300 restaurants are KFCs. It does not normally report monthly China sales results, but is doing so while it works to turn that business around. A new Reuters analysis of comments on weibo – China’s version of a social media site – showed that the number of angry posts about KFC has shrunk, suggesting that public outrage over contaminated chicken found in some of Yum’s food supply is fading. While trends are moving in the right direction, Yum’s China crisis is far from over, analysts said. “You’re still taking about a negative double-digit comp right now,” said Morningstar analyst R.J. Hottovy. Yum still must rebuild consumer trust and repair its image in China, where it has long enjoyed a reputation for serving high-quality food, Hottovy said. Yum China’s February results included flat same-restaurant sales at KFC and 13 per cent growth at Pizza Hut Casual Dining. Lunar New Year raised February restaurant sales in the mid-teen percentages and offset a similar hit in January, Yum said in a statement. As a result, the overall impact of the holiday was neutral for the first quarter, which includes only January and February. The division, which is Yum’s largest, posted a 37 per cent drop in same-restaurant sales for January. That included a 41 per cent fall at KFC and a 15 per cent decline at Pizza Hut Casual Dining. Diners in China started cutting back on visits to Yum’s restaurants in December after news reports and government investigations focused on chemical residue found in a small portion of its chicken supply. Yum was not fined by food safety authorities. The company has apologised for the chicken incident, vowed to end ties with smaller poultry suppliers that have not modernized their operations and pledged to further tighten its food safety procedures. “I do think they’ve said all the right things so far. It’s just going to take some time for consumers to get over the negative perception,” Hottovy said.

China's wealthy take 2.8tr yuan overseas - and it's expected to double (By Amy Li) Around 3pc of overall GDP leaving China, report says - Shoppers pose for a picture in front of a Chanel luxury boutique at the IFC Mall in Shanghai. China’s top affluent citizens sent 2.8 trillion yuan (HK$2.5 trillion) overseas in 2011, about 3 per cent of the nation's gross domestic product that year, said a report by the Boston Consulting Group and China Construction Bank. Hong Kong has attracted the largest number of these wealthy investors, followed by the US, Canada, Switzerland, Singapore and Australia, said the report, based on a survey of more than 2,000 high net worth individuals, those with more than 6 million yuan in liquid assets. That wealthy class holds 33 trillion yuan in total assets and has been diversifying investment in foreign countries to seek higher return, better protection and to meet immigration needs, said BCG partner Huang He, according to The money tansferred overseas by wealthy investors is expected to double in the next few years, said the wealth report.

Liu Yang, China's first female astronaut: A dream gives people vision (By Wu Jiao, Zhao Shengnan and Hu Haiyan) While she orbited Earth last year, China's first female astronaut Liu Yang believed she was as close as anyone could get to the China dream. As she attended the country's annual national legislative session as a new deputy, Liu recalled her experiences in space. "After realizing my dream of space flight, people have asked me about my next dream. I know they expect me to say that my next dream is to land on the moon or Mars," she said. "But while that's understandable, it's really not accurate: My ambition is to be a qualified astronaut who serves my country well." For Liu, the China dream is one in which all Chinese can achieve their personal ambitions. "I was born in 1978, at the beginning of China's reform and opening-up era. My family's standard of living has improved steadily over the past 30 years and my life's dream and career path have changed constantly; from dreams of becoming a bus conductor to a lawyer, then a pilot and finally an astronaut. All these changes took place as the country developed and grew stronger, said the 35-year-old member of the People's Liberation Army Air Force. Liu said achieving her dream of space travel was the result of a great deal of hard work by many people. Similarly, the China dream is interconnected with every person in the world's most-populous country. She exemplifies a unique version of the China dream. Just as every reader has his or her own understanding of Shakespeare's Hamlet, there are many different dreams, but many people share a common dream.

China remains pillar of US policy on Asia (By Zhang Yuwei in New York) Thomas Donilon, national security adviser to US President Barack Obama, talks to Suzanne DiMaggio, vice-president for Global Policy Programs at the Asia Society, about the Obama administration's views on the path ahead for the United States in Asia. The Asia "pivot", the United States' strategic shift in focus to the world's most populous continent, marks a new phase - with opportunities outweighing challenges - as regional powers China, Japan and the Republic of Korea undergo leadership changes, President Barack Obama's national-security adviser said on Monday. Outlining China as a major "pillar" of the US rebalancing on Asia policy, Thomas Donilon said the world's two biggest economies should continue building a "constructive relationship" and pointed to "substantial progress" made in the four years since Obama took office. "The president places great importance on this relationship because there are few diplomatic, economic or security challenges in the world that can be addressed without China at the table and without a broad, productive and constructive relationship between our countries," Donilon told an audience at the Asia Society in New York. In a speech on Asia policy during Obama's second term, Donilon said the administration is well positioned to build on existing relationships with the new leadership headed by Xi Jinping. "Taken together, China's leadership transition and the president's re-election mark a new phase in US-China relations - with new opportunities," said Donilon, who has served as Obama's top national-security aide since October 2010. The US and China, he said, should focus on improving the quality and quantity of cooperation while promoting "healthy economic competition". The "pivot" was among the major foreign-policy initiatives of Obama's first term, highlighting a US strategy to assert military might in the Asia-Pacific region. Some experts see the policy as a means of balancing China's influence there. The Obama aide, who served as assistant secretary of state for public affairs under President Bill Clinton, said he disagreed with the view of some that China's rise inevitably creates conflict between the two countries. The United States welcomes a "peaceful, prosperous" China, Donilon said in his speech. "We do not want our relationship to become defined by rivalry and confrontation," he said. "And I disagree with the premise put forward by some historians and theorists that a rising power and an established power are somehow destined for conflict." Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, a political-risk-assessment firm, told CNN in January that the emergence of China on the world stage has "enormous implications" for both economic and political conflict. "Here you have a situation for many decades where Americans felt that China's rise was in their interest - already Japan understands that China's rise is not in its interest, it's a bad thing," Bremmer said. "Increasingly, the US is very, very conflicted." Donilon, however, said on Monday that such a result can be avoided if both sides manage their relationship wisely. "There is nothing preordained about such an outcome; it is not a law of physics but a series of choices by leaders that lead to great-power confrontation," he said. "But it falls to both sides - the United States and China - to build a new model of relations between an existing power and an emerging one. Xi Jinping and President Obama have both endorsed this goal. "To build this new model, we must keep improving our channels of communication and demonstrate practical cooperation on issues that matter to both sides." While looking ahead to opportunities, the White House adviser also urged the nations to tackle a few challenges, including deepening their military interaction and strengthening economic ties. "A deeper US-China military-to-military dialogue is central to addressing many of the sources of insecurity and potential competition between us," Donilon said. "We need open and reliable channels to address perceptions and tensions about our respective activities in the short term and about our long-term presence and posture in the western Pacific." He also cited cyber security as a "growing challenge" the two countries must address. "Economies as large as the United States and China have a tremendous shared stake in ensuring that the Internet remains open, interoperable, secure, reliable and stable," he said. "Both countries face risks when it comes to protecting personal data and communications, financial transactions, critical infrastructure, or the intellectual property and trade secrets that are so vital to innovation and economic growth." In February, private US Internet-security firm Mandiant issued a report accusing a secret Chinese military unit in Shanghai of being behind years of cyberattacks against US companies. China has denied the accusation. China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi on Saturday said that "cyberspace needs rules and cooperation, not war", and he urged the US to end "irresponsible rebuke or criticism" of China. "The international community is closely interconnected on the Internet, therefore cyberspace needs rules and cooperation, not war," Yang told a news conference on the sidelines of the NPC session in Beijing. "We oppose turning cyberspace into another battlefield, or to capitalize on virtual reality to interfere in other countries' internal affairs."

Hong Kong*:  Mar 13 2013

Lantau campsite to take bookings over holidays (By Johnny Tam) Locals can now reserve a spot to pitch their tent at popular Pui O during long mainland breaks - There was barely a spare patch of grass at the Pui O site in October. Hongkongers planning to stay at a popular Pui O campsite during the upcoming long mainland public holidays will be able to book in advance, to avoid getting squeezed out by visitors from across the border. The new arrangement is a reaction to overcrowding during the "golden week" holiday last October at the campsite on southern Lantau Island. Mainlanders were blamed for some Hongkongers being unable to get camping spots. Advance bookings will only be taken for the Pui O campsite managed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. The service will not be availale for the department's other campsite at Butterfly Beach Park in Tuen Mun, or to 40 other designated campsites in the city's country parks, managed by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department. "During the Mid-Autumn Festival last year, which was coincidentally also a "golden week" holiday on the mainland, a large number of visitors arrived to use the campsite facilities, causing serious overcrowding problems," a spokeswoman for the Leisure and Cultural Services Department said. "To avoid a recurrence … new booking arrangements are in place for the three coming long holidays in mainland China," she added. Those are the Labour Day "golden week" in May, the National Day "golden week" in October and the Lunar New Year holiday next year. New booking arrangements are in place for the three coming long holidays in mainland China - The bookings are only open to Hong Kong residents. Those making a booking should submit an application one month before the date they want to camp. Civic Party lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching said the arrangement was a direct response to a public need, but it was saddening that "Hong Kong land for Hong Kong people" has to be extended to "Hong Kong parks for Hong Kong people". "This immediate measure is better than nothing. But for the longer term, the government has to review the city's tourism policy and evaluate how many tourists we can take every year," Mo said.

MTR profits dip 6.6pc amid slowdown in property sales (By Anita Lam) Profits dip 6.6pc - and another year of slower growth is forecast with review of formula for adjusting fares likely to curb price increases - Jay Walder, Chief Executive Officer of MTR Corporation. The MTR Corporation faces another year of slower growth despite plans to sell 5,000 flats, it emerged yesterday. The company announced a 6.6 per cent drop in underlying profit to HK$9.78 billion in the year to December, mainly due to lower returns on property sales. Presales of flats at four developments - Tsuen Wan West Station, Austin Station, Lohas Park Phase 3 and Century Gateway in Tuen Mun - will start this year. But no sales will be booked in time for this year's results, which will include only those of the remaining 166 units of Riverpark at Che Kung Temple Station. That means earnings from its property division will shrink. Another factor will be MTR Corp's income from fares. Though fare revenue jumped 7.7 per cent to HK$14.39 billion last year, the outcome of a review of the adjustment mechanism for ticket prices is scheduled to be announced later this month. While the company remained tight-lipped about its negotiations with the government, market expectations are that the review will be unfavourable for the company. It is understood the government will add factors such as service quality and affordability to the existing fare adjustment formula, which could make it more difficult to increase fares. It is anticipated the review will lead to a curbing of fare rises, after prices increased three years in a row under the existing formula. MTR Corp deputy chief executive Lincoln Leong said that while income from property sales varies from year to year, the recurrent non-fare businesses - such as advertising at stations, property rental and management - maintain stable growth. The firm reported an increase of 10.3 per cent in contribution to revenue from station advertising and 9.5 per cent from property rental and management, which together made up one-fifth of the company's earnings. The company declared a final dividend of 54 HK cents, bringing the year's total payout to 79 HK cents - 3.9 per cent more than for the previous year. Leong pledged the company would maintain a robust dividend payout policy. The city's only rail operator continued to take up a larger market share of the public transport network. MTR Corp chief executive Jay Walder said the firm maintained a service reliability rate of 99.9 per cent, despite several disruptions last year. The number of incidents that caused delays of more than five minutes was cut by 23 per cent. Figures from the Transport Advisory Committee show, however, that the number of complaints against the MTR rose 49 per cent last year to 385. Most were about delays and because of unclear directions from staff when there were service disruptions.

Lantau group looks to court mainland China tourists (by Phila Siu) The alliance of businesses wants to develop the island to help divert visitors from overcrowded areas, but its plan has been met with scepticism - The alliance says luring mainland tourists away from busy areas like Causeway Bay to new malls on Lantau Island could help ease overcrowding in the city. A business alliance's proposal to develop Lantau Island into a commercial zone to divert tourists from overcrowded districts has sparked heated debate. The plan by the Lantau Economic Development Alliance - which comprises 10 Lantau-based companies and community groups such as Disneyland, AsiaWorld-Expo and Ngong Ping 360 - has been met with scepticism from district councillors who challenge its feasibility. The alliance's vice-chairman, Andrew Kam Min-ho, yesterday said the Hong Kong-ZhuhaiMacau bridge's expected completion in 2016 was an opportunity to divert mainland tourists from the busy Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui areas to Lantau Island. "The problem at present is that the tourists are overcrowding some places," Kam, who is also Disneyland's managing director, told a Commercial Radio show. "And the rents have become high because of it. Even the MTR is more crowded [in the busy districts]." He said that if more shopping malls were built in Tung Chung, a new town on Lantau, tourists would be drawn there and more jobs could be created for the locals. "Sometimes tourists don't just want to buy high-end products … Shops on Lantau Island could sell more popular commodities [and] tourists could buy daily products there [too]," he said. The alliance's chairman Allen Ha, who is also the AsiaWorld-Expo chief executive, said the alliance recently submitted its proposal to the government. Lawmaker and Islands district councillor Tang Ka-piu supported the plan, agreeing with Kam that some frequent mainland visitors preferred to buy daily items over higher-end goods. But Yau Tsim Mong district councillor Chan Wai-keung cast doubt on the feasibility of the plan. "It's all about the reputation of the district," he said. "Mainland tourists like to tell their friends that they went shopping in Tsim Sha Tsui's Canton Road and not in Tung Chung. It takes time for a district to develop its reputation." Chan also said tourists would not go all the way to Tung Chung to shop for daily items when they could do so in places that were more accessible, such as in Sha Tin or Sheung Shui. Central and Western district councillor Cheng Lai-king said it would be hard to divert tourists from the busy districts such as Causeway Bay to Tung Chung unless all the high-fashion shops moved there as well. "It's like, if you visit Beijing, of course you want to go to Wangfujing," she said. Wangfujing is a popular place for shopping and dining in Beijing's Dongcheng district. The alliance will be holding a recruitment event at the AsiaWorld-Expo on March 23, where 1,000 jobs will be on offer.

Architect Bing Thom realises homecoming dream with cultural contract (By Kylie Knott) Being chosen to build the first of 17 venues at the West Kowloon Cultural District has been an emotional journey for Hong Kong-born Canadian architect Bing Thom, writes Kylie Knott - Architect and designer Bing Thom. XIQU CENTRE, HONG KONG - In addition to 2,000 square metres of training and education facilities, there will be two auditoria of 1,100 and 400 seats (the latter to be developed in phase two) and a traditional tea house for performances with audiences of up to 280. If I was offered the chance to do one project, this would be it," architect and designer Bing Thom says of the project that has lured him back to the city of his birth. His Vancouver-based Bing Thom Architects, in association with Hong Kong architects Ronald Lu & Partners, recently beat four other finalists in being chosen to design the HK$2.7 billion Xiqu Centre for opera, the first of 17 cultural venues to be built in the West Kowloon Cultural District. "It was a great moment and a true homecoming," he says. "Chinese opera needs reinterpreting, needs to be elevated so it appeals to a new generation. To be part of this project, part of something rooted in Hong Kong tradition, is exciting … I feel very lucky." The 72-year-old is softly spoken, but has plenty to say on a range of subjects, including corporate greed, the obstacles to sustainable development and his days as a touring musician. In fact, Thom believes his background in music gave him a perspective that played a role in the winning design. "Years ago I played the clarinet in a concert band touring Europe and America, and this stage experience has helped greatly when designing performing arts venues - it's something not many architects have. For an artist, the first five seconds on stage are vital - they are either inspired by the setting or they feel let down and so must work themselves back up, which can affect their performance. So, to have this perspective, a view from the stage, helped with the design process." To be part of something rooted in Hong Kong tradition, is exciting … I feel very lucky. Having one foot in the East and the other in the West was another advantage. "I'm an outsider who understands the inside situation. I can argue, but I know not to insult. … If you look at Hong Kong's history over the past 200 years you see a city that has survived and prospered - but never compromised. We adapted. I can also adapt between the two cultures: am I Hong Kong Canadian or Chinese Canadian? Either way I must immerse myself in a place and carry that other attached identity so I can look at things in a fresh way." The opera centre - a curvaceous, modern structure that will be a symbolic gateway for the district - presented many challenges for the architect. He had to balance tradition with technology while considering the historical, social and economic context. "These all help shape a building … we must let it grow from the inside out and from the outside in." Making sense of a fading art with the aim of reviving it was also challenging. "We looked at the essence of Chinese opera: dance, singing, acting and acrobatics. We knew that some things would change but the question was what would not change? In traditional opera men enter stage right and women stage left, but in 50 or 100 years will this be the case? And there were the climatic considerations. Hong Kong can be humid but other times quite pleasant. There are times when the air conditioner is running like crazy and times when you heat a place like crazy - so could we design a building that could function in its natural state while we controlled the extreme states: the heat, the cold, a typhoon?" Designing a building to reflect a city with a mixed identity was also difficult. "Hong Kong has a unique identity crisis. A former British colony now under China - it has a mother and father next door. But what is the cultural expression of this building? Chinese opera is authentically Hong Kong, but is considered a low form of art. How can we elevate it so it finds its place with other art forms?" Thom's name may not ring bells with the average Hongkonger, but his portfolio speaks for itself. He doesn't, however, have a "favourite child". "The project I'm most proud is the one I'm working on at the time. It's like your children - you love them all equally but the next one is the best." Some of his more inspired "offspring" include the Arena Stage Theatre expansion in Washington, with its sleek curves, the grandness of the Surrey City Centre Library in British Columbia, the acoustically perfect Chan Centre for Performing Arts in Vancouver and the zinc-clad Canada Pavilion at Expo 92 in Seville, Spain (of the 110 international pavilions erected, it was the only one kept as a legacy of the fair). And while each building is different, a common thread that runs through all is a commitment to using great architecture to improve the urban context and social condition, as well as an acute instinct to preserve. Thom was born in Hong Kong in 1940 and moved to Canada with his family when he was nine. He studied architecture at the University of British Columbia and the University of California, Berkeley before moving to Tokyo in 1971 to work under Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki. A year later he returned to Canada to work for Arthur Erickson, the Vancouver-born modernist architect known for his innovative designs in concrete and glass that would influence Thom's work. In 1981, Thom set up his own firm. Now he will return "home" every few weeks until his latest project is completed in 2016. "It's great to spend more time in Hong Kong - I have many fond memories of growing up here. Yesterday I went for a walk and spotted a temple grafted onto a huge rock in front of a tree," he says, hands tracing an arch above his head. "To me, that is Hong Kong. That is adaptability. That temple adapted." But while waxing lyrical about the city's adaptability, he has a less palatable message for property developers and officials. "The city's had enough reclamation. You can have too much real estate. What's interesting is I've had my practice for 30 years employing on average 35 to 40 people. I have a condominium in Vancouver that I developed and this condo has made me more money than all my years of practice. One apartment? How can that be an honest day's work? Society must regenerate itself; it must not let real estate dominate because that's when you lose the incentive to work. And I see this happening now in China. I'm not against private ownership of property, but when it's taken to such an extent that it becomes carnivorous - when it eats up everything - that's when it's bad. That's why art is more important than ever. It is time for Hong Kong to reinvent itself." Known as a fearless critic, even of his own industry, Thom has no time for young architects who preach the importance of sustainability but fail to embrace it in their daily lives. He also believes users of buildings need to be better educated about their role in sustaining them. "The only energy crisis we have in this world is human. We're getting lazier and technology is feeding this. Unless people change their habits we will never solve the sustainability problem. "I always consider three factors with my buildings: natural light, natural ventilation and natural materials. A building is just another layer of clothing - in hot weather it has to be able to adjust and the building must breathe, so there is a relationship and responsibility between people and the building."

Hacker gets community service for crashing online Hong Kong CE poll (By Lai Ying-kit) Vincent Chan Cheuk-yin leaves Fan Ling Magistrates Court after being sentenced for crashing a university website running a mock chief executive poll. A man who disrupted a University of Hong Kong website running a mock universal suffrage election for the chief executive position was sentenced on Monday to perform 160 hours of community service. Vincent Chan Cheuk-yin, 29, earlier pleaded guilty in Fanling Court to one count of attempted criminal damage. Chan paralysed the university’s website last March 23 when the university’s public opinion programme was holding a simulated open election for the chief executive position, two days before the official closed-circle chief executive election by a 1,193-member committee, consisting mainly of pro-Beijing politicians and business people. Chan’s denial-of-service attack involved him bombarding the website’s online polling system with over 20,000 hits, or information requests, between 12.30am and 3.30am on that day. In doing so, he overwhelmed the site’s capacity to handle the requests, rendering it unusable. As a result, people wanting to cast a vote through the internet could not log on and organisers had to switch from electronic votes to using paper ballots. Despite Chan’s attempt to disrupt the election, more than 220,000 people were able cast votes using paper after the attack. Police later located Chan’s IP address and arrested him at his Sheung Shui home. In mitigation, Chan had earlier told the court that his aim was for Hong Kong people to get more of a feeling of what it was like to be deprived of a vote to choose their leader.

Almost all of Hong Kong's major service industries' business receipts showed sharp increases in terms of value in the fourth quarter of 2012 when compared with the fourth quarter of 2011, the city's Census & Statistics Department said on Monday. According to the figure released, double-digit increases were recorded in the courier, warehousing and storage, insurance, real estate, accommodation services, information and communications, financing (except banking) industries and so on. On a seasonally adjusted quarter-to-quarter comparison, more than half of the major service industries recorded increases in business receipts in the fourth quarter of 2012 when compared with the third quarter of 2012. For 2012 as a whole, most major service industries recorded year-on-year increases in business receipts, including warehousing and storage and courier industries.

 China*:  Mar 13 2013

China's maritime enforcement plan 'a threat' to Japan (By Julian Ryall in Tokyo) Scholar says the decision to unify law enforcement agencies under a single authority will greatly boost Beijing's naval capacity in the East China Sea - A view from a Chinese B-3837 marine surveillance plane shows the disputed Diaoyu Islands claimed by China and Japan. A Chinese marine surveillance vessel is flanked by two Japan coast guard patrol ships in the East China Sea near the Diaoyus in September. China's decision to place all its maritime law enforcement agencies under unified control is likely to dramatically enhance Beijing's naval capabilities and poses a significant threat to Japanese interests, analysts in Japan say. Beijing intends to bring up to 17 organisations - the largest being the Public Security Ministry's coastguard operations, the Agriculture Ministry's fisheries patrols and the anti-smuggling operations of the General Administration of Customs - under one umbrella led by the National Oceanic Administration. The restructuring, announced at the National People's Congress on Sunday, is in part a response to tensions with a number of neighbouring states - notably Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines - over territorial issues. "This will give the new organisation greater authority and co-ordination capabilities at a higher level in the Chinese government, while at a functional level it will give these naval assets more partnerships in exercises, for example, when it comes to disputed territories," Masayuki Masuda, a China analyst at the National Institute of Defence Studies, said. With a unified command structure, the new entity will be able to co-ordinate its maritime forces and "pose a very serious challenge" to Japanese forces in waters close to the disputed Senkaku archipelago, which China calls the Diaoyus, he said. This suggests that China feels uncomfortable with the Senkaku situation and that they are aware they need to step up their patrols in the region to show Chinese sovereignty over the islands - "This suggests that China feels uncomfortable with the Senkaku situation and that they are aware they need to step up their patrols in the region to show Chinese sovereignty over the islands," Masuda said. "China wants complete control of the situation and this poses the danger of an unexpected escalation of one of the territorial disputes, with Japan or any of the other nations." Go Ito, a professor of international relations at Tokyo's Meiji University, agreed that Beijing's proposal is "very significant for its impact on Japan's efforts to protect its maritime interests". Ito said physical ownership of the islands was not China's priority because the barren and inhospitable isles offered little to its residents. More important, he believes, is the ability to use sovereignty over the territory to extend China's exclusive economic zone farther away from its shoreline and to simultaneously limit other countries' access to the waters of the East China Sea. "China's concept of an EEZ is different to how other states understand the concept and how the United Nations recognises such territory," he said. "Beijing is also making intentional obstacles to the freedom of navigation of ships in the South China Sea. In order for China to protect its interests and claim these zones are under its control, it needs to strengthen the coercive capabilities of its maritime forces, so this proposal is very importent." Enhancing naval capabilities to claim territory is being done in tandem with other measures, Ito said, such as the introduction of the Spratly and Paracel islands on maps of Chinese territory printed in Chinese passports. And while China officially claims that the addition to its nationals' travel documents is merely a declaration of its hope that one day the islands might be recognised as Chinese territory, Ito expects the argument to come full circle in "a few decades" when Beijing could claim that because the islands had been on Chinese passports for many years, they must be Chinese territory. "Strengthening its naval forces is very important for China, but at the same time it severely damages Japan's interests," he said. "The size of Japan's maritime territory is larger than that of China at present, but Beijing expanding the areas that it claims - this is truly a case of 'gunboat diplomacy' - will inevitably bring the two nations into further confrontation."

Tourists enjoy cherry blossoms on the bank of the West Lake in Hangzhou, capital of east China's Zhejiang Province, March 11, 2013. 

New rules mean lean times (By LI WOKE) Huge cut in State-funded banquets leaves its mark on catering industry - China's catering industry is expected to suffer a downturn after the government ordered an end to extravagant meals by people working for State-owned institutions and enterprises, a recent report said. The sector experienced a period of fast expansion from the beginning of the 1990s, with annual growth of more than 13 percent, according to a report conducted by Liang Da, a senior economist with the National Bureau of Statistics. Liang said the annual growth rate of catering industry sales surged to more than 20 percent from 1991 to 2012, when the industry revenue contributed around 18 percent to the growth of total retail sales of social consumer goods. According to the statistics bureau, the revenue of the country's catering industry reached 2.33 trillion yuan ($374 billion) last year, a year-on-year increase of 13.6 percent. Revenue from restaurants that make more than 2 million yuan a year hit 779.9 billion yuan last year, a year-on-year increase of 12.9 percent. Industry experts attributed the sizzling success to an improvement in people's living standards, the accelerating pace of life, a trend for dining out as well as an overall increase in business. However, Beijing unveiled new rules at the end of last year in a bid to stamp out corruption and improve State efficiency. They included banning lavish meals and unnecessary overseas trips as well as over-the-top welcoming ceremonies and the imposition of road blocks to facilitate transport for VIPs. It has not taken long for restaurants to feel the effects. The week-long Spring Festival Holiday, which began on Feb 9 this year, is traditionally an opportunity for the Chinese to indulge in shopping sprees and dining out. This year the turnover of high-end restaurants in Beijing decreased by about 35 percent. It fell by more than 20 percent in Shanghai and 30 percent in Zhejiang province, said the Ministry of Commerce. Data from the China Cuisine Association revealed nearly 60 percent of restaurants canceled dinner reservations during the Chinese Lunar New Year. Most of them were high-end restaurants or five-star hotels. Ma Wenfeng, a food industry analyst with, said the slowdown in the country's catering industry was also caused by the sluggish economy. He added that annual sales growth across the catering sector was more than 10 percent but over the past several months the rate dropped to 2.5 percent, the slowest rise since the 2003 SARS outbreak. The country's gross domestic product in the fourth quarter of last year reached 7.9 percent after seven straight quarters of slowing down. It was the slowest year of growth for China since 1999, according to the statistics bureau. "The industry is facing a new round of reshuffling and adjustment," said Bian Jiang, deputy secretary-general of the China Cuisine Association. Cheng Hao, the owner of a Yunnan style hot pot chain in Beijing, said he might consider shutting down some of his outlets that are not in prime locations or reporting good returns. "If the economic situation continues like this, closures are the only way out for me," he said. Chen Junhai, an executive at Wangshunge Restaurant Group, which has 12 outlets in Beijing, said the move to eradicate public-funded extravagance had been a big blow to many high-end catering businesses. About 30 percent of Wangshunge's income comes from business customers hosting luxury banquets to entertain VIP guests, Chen said. "While some restaurants were having a hard time, some companies were using the downturn as an opportunity to readjust their business," Bian said. Quanjude and Pianyifang roast duck restaurants introduced half-price dishes and smaller portions immediately after the anti-corruption rules were announced. Goubuli and Three Coins restaurants encouraged customers to order only what they could actually eat or take a "doggy bag" home. "The country's catering industry still has huge room for development despite the downturn because there is great potential in the chain store business model and in untapped markets, such as the countryside market, which need to be further explored," Liang of the statistics bureau said in his report.

Number of dead pigs found in Shanghai river rises to 3,323 (By Chris Luo) Fears over drinking water after discovery of rotting animals - Dead pigs are strewn along the riverbanks of Songjiang district in Shanghai, China. A sanitation worker watches a dead pig being collected from Shanghai's main waterway. Chinese officials have found a total of 3,323 dead pigs in a Shanghai river as of Monday afternoon and discovered swine virus in one of them, but they have stressed that the disease is not known to be infectious to humans. The virus is known as Pocine Circovirus type 2, or PCV-2, a statement posted on Shanghai Agricultural Commission’s official account on China’s Twitter-like Sina Weibo said on Monday morning. The statement stressed the virus is not known to cause disease in humans but noted China had seen an increasing occurrence of this kind of virus causing sickness in pigs. On Thursday, dead pigs were found floating at the Songjiang district section of the Huangpu River that flows through Shanghai. The city’s Water Authority reported the number of dead pigs found to be 3,323 as of Sunday evening, local internet portal reported on Monday morning. The commission conducted tests on multiple organs from five samples, and found the virus present in one sample, while ruling out five other commonly seen diseases, it said in a statement. The city’s water authority said it had closely monitored the quality of tap water since the dead pigs were discovered and said the water quality remained “normal”, state media Xinhua reported. After the sick pigs died [they] just dumped them in the river…Constantly. Every day. Based on the labels found on the dead pigs’ ears, officials said the pigs were raised in Jiaxing, Zhejiang province, which is located on the upper reaches of Huangpu River. Jiaxing local media reports last week said more than 18,000 pigs from one village had died from illness in the last two months. The reports have sparked fears that residents dumped all of the diseased animals in the river. CCTV reported local residents near Huangpu River saying that dumping dead, diseased pigs in the river was common practice. “After the sick pigs died [they] just dumped them in the river…Constantly. Every day,” one villager said. “They are everywhere, and smell very bad,” another said. Popular blogger and angel investor Xue Manzi on Monday morning criticised the government on China’s Twitter-like Sina Weibo for deliberately blocking the news about the dead pigs in Jiaxing, suggesting a connection between the two. “Over ten thousand pigs died, but only 1,200 of them were found in Huangpu River. Where were the rest of the dead pigs?” he asked in the post which was retweeted for more than 23,000 times as of Monday afternoon.

Shanghai Disney Resort unveils resort concept (By Xie Yu) The Shanghai Disney Resort Management Co on Thursday unveiled a scale model that shows the company's concept for the new theme park. The 1:100 model of Shanghai Disneyland has an 11-acre green space at the center of the park, and shows the design and scale of Enchanted Storybook Castle, the iconic central attraction of the theme park. On its opening day, expected to be in 2015, the resort will include Shanghai Disneyland, two hotels, a 46,000-square-meter retail, dining and entertainment venue, recreational facilities, a lake, and associated parking and transportation hubs, the company said in a statement. Earlier reports said the investment in the resort is expected to be 24.5 billion yuan ($3.94 billion) for the theme park and 4.5 billion yuan for the hotels and other facilities. "Walt Disney Parks and Resorts has been helping families create shared memories for nearly 60 years," said Tom Staggs, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts chairman. "Shanghai Disney Resort will bring a classic Disney Parks experience to mainland China and will immerse Chinese guests in a whole new world of creativity, imagination and adventure that only Disney can deliver." Fan Xiping, chairman of Disney's Chinese joint venture partner in Shanghai Disney Resort, Shanghai Shendi Group, echoed Staggs' enthusiasm. "The Shanghai Disney project will be the perfect combination of Disney global standards with local best practices, and will truly be 'authentically Disney and distinctly Chinese'," he said. Mike Crawford, the resort's general manager, added: "We are excited to see the resort development move into an intensive phase of construction, and look forward to providing more updates in the future as we reach key milestones."

DC students raise money for dream trip to China (By Chen Weihua in Washington) Runners take the road in the Rock Creek Park in Washington DC on Saturday morning to raise funds for a group of eight students at the Washington Latin Public Charter School, who plan a trip to China in late March. The students, from families with financial strains, have all studied Chinese for years. Saturday morning was chilly but sunny in Washington's tranquil Rock Creek Park, where few people would have associated a 5-kilometer race with China until several teenagers introduced themselves in Mandarin before assembled students, teachers and parents. The race was a fund raiser for eight students at Washington Latin Public Charter School who are planning a 10-day trip to China during their upcoming spring break, having studied the country's main language for years. Through that class, the students have become fascinated with China's culture and history. But long-distance travel is expensive. For Brandi Clark, a high-school junior at Washington Latin, this would be her first trip outside the United States. She and her parents were excited about the trip, but she admits to being nervous about the flying time required. Brandi signed up for Mandarin class three years ago. "I didn't know our school had a Chinese class until I got to high school. I am pretty excited," the 17-year-old said. "The culture and music are really interesting, both the traditional and also the pop music in China," said Brandi, who describes herself as a musician and a singer. The trip planned by the eight teenagers goes beyond traditional sightseeing. They will be exposed as much as possible to the daily experiences of ordinary Chinese. After a tour of Beijing, the students will venture off the beaten path by taking a train to Changsha, in central China's Hunan province, where they will stay on a school campus, visit food markets and hospitals, have a Hunan cooking lesson, volunteer at a high school and an orphanage, and engage in other activities to help them understand the lives of local people, said Christina Stouder, who teaches Chinese at Washington Latin and is the trip organizer. This will be the first time since its founding in 2006 that the District of Columbia school, which aims to prepare students for college, has sent students to China. The school bills itself as providing "a classical education for the modern world", which Stouder said includes giving students a foundation for developing into global citizens through extensive study of languages, including Mandarin, French and Arabic. "US-China relations are more important than ever as economic ties deepen between our two countries," she said. "It's vital that we nurture more young people who have a solid understanding of and connection to China. "While students gain proficiency in Mandarin through our language classes, they must experience the language and culture in the group if they are to gain a nuanced understanding of China," said Stouder, who lived in China for four years, during which she taught children of migrant workers in a rural Hunan province village. She said that while efforts have been made to contain costs, each student will be required to pay $2,800 for the trip - no small amount, and too much for some families to bear. Stouder hopes people will donate to help make the students' dream a reality. "Each contribution helps our students realize a lifetime opportunity and promotes great intercultural understanding and global awareness," she said. Adults who participated in the 5km run each paid $20 in registration fees, while students paid $10. A total of $3,000 was raised from the Saturday event, said Stouder, adding that $380 of that was spent to cover the cost of using the park space and police service. Muneerah Abdusshahid, a Washington Latin senior who has studied Chinese for six years, believes the trip will be a good experience. She is especially excited about the rural village where she and her classmates are to meet local residents. "Miss Stouder has a lot of connections in Changsha," Muneerah said. Asked if he's ready for Hunan cuisine, junior Amal Riley said: "I like spicy food."

Seeking new opportunities overseas (By CAI XIAO) Europe seen as easier location than the United States for business deals - Sany Group Co and Zoomlion Heavy Industry Science and Technology Development Co, China's two biggest construction-machinery makers, have both successfully integrated their European assets and will continue to pursue acquisitions overseas. Sany and CITIC Private Equity Funds Management Co paid 360 million euros ($475 million) in April 2012 for concrete-pump maker Putzmeister Holding GmbH to add technology and expand overseas. Putzmeister is a German company that was one of the biggest operators in the sector of concrete pumps for about 30 years. "Although the deal was completed within a year, the revenue of Putzmeister increased a lot in 2012. The company's unions and staff are satisfied with the new management," said Zhu Gang, of CITIC Private Equity Funds, the man responsible for the deal. He declined to reveal detailed growth figures. Zhu said the acquisition was important for technology, brand and a sales and service network in Europe. A Putzmeister/Sany combination could be an effective match, he insisted. "We won't give up any opportunity for mergers and acquisitions and restructuring to strengthen Sany and we expect more mergers and acquisitions abroad," said Xiang Wenbo, president of listed unit Sany Heavy Industry Co. Zoomlion also did successful M&A in Europe. "The profit of Compagnia Italiana Forme Acciaio SpA in 2012 increased about 80 percent over that in 2008 when we acquired the Italian concrete machinery manufacturer," said Gao Zhen, a managing director at global equity private firm Mandarin Capital Partners that took part in the acquisition deal of CIFA with Zoomlion. Zoomlion and investors of Mandarin Capital Partners, Hony Capital and Goldman Sachs purchased CIFA in 2008 for 271 million euros. Gao said the integration of manufacturing deals is complicated. Since 2008 his company has kept the local teams as well as taken measures to improve supply chain management, production, research and development. Gao said Zoomlion is going to purchase shares from the three equity investors. Details will be revealed later. Of the purchase in 2008, 25 million euros were from Mandarin Capital Partners. "Although the state of the construction-machinery sector was weaker last year than previously, we are showing confidence in the urbanization of China and thus Zoomlion's Chinese businesses," said Gao. "European and emerging countries are paying attention to infrastructure construction so the outlook for the global market is also optimistic." Gao added Europe is a suitable market for Chinese companies to seek opportunities. However, the United States market is difficult to enter because of strict examination and approval procedures as well as technology barriers. Although the globalization move of Sany in Europe was smooth it met challenges in the US. On Sept 28, 2012, US President Barack Obama ordered Ralls Corp, controlled by Sany, to divest all of its interests in the wind-farm project that consisted of locations near or within restricted naval airspace. The decision was the first overseas purchase blocked by a US president on national security grounds in 22 years. Xiang of Sany Heavy Industry Co said they are not asking for the president to cancel the ban but would like an honest explanation and compensation.

Yu elected chairman of top political advisory body (By Xinhua) Yu Zhengsheng was elected chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the top political advisory body, here Monday afternoon. Yu was elected at the fourth plenary meeting of the first session of the 12th CPPCC National Committee.

Hong Kong*:  Mar 12 2013

New World Development plans separate stock listing for hotels (By Peggy Sito) Spin-off comes amid high valuations and points to end of high growth in industry, analysts say - New World Development is mulling a spin-off and listing of its hospitality assets, a move that some analysts see as an indication that the fast growth experienced by the hotel industry is coming to an end. The spin-off proposal comes little more than a month after Great Eagle announced a spin-off plan for its hotel properties in an attempt to cash in their value amid an influx of mainland travellers. Mainland visitors drove the city's tourist arrivals to a record of more than 46 million last year. "No decision has yet been made as to which assets would be included in the spun-off entity, the transaction structure, as well as whether or when to proceed with the proposed spin-off," the company said in a statement to the stock exchange yesterday. In June last year, New World had invested in 16 hotels with 7,235 rooms in Hong Kong, mainland China and Southeast Asia. The hotels included the 64 per cent-owned Grand Hyatt in Wan Chai and the 78.8 per cent-owned Hyatt Regency in Tsim Sha Tsui. Sonia Cheng Chi-man, the daughter of chairman Henry Cheng Kar-shun, oversees the hotel division. Analysts said New World wanted to cash in while hotel valuations remained high, but they expected the rapid revenue growth in the sector would end soon. You cannot find buyers for such a big chunk of assets if the market has already peaked. No one knows when the peak will come - "You cannot find buyers for such a big chunk of assets if the market has already peaked. No one knows when the peak will come. Therefore, the best time to sell is when the sector is near the end of the high-growth period," said Alex Wong Kwok-ying, a director of asset management at Ample Capital. According to a global survey by British business travel agency Hogg Robinson, daily room rates in Hong Kong averaged £211.35 (HK$2,460) last year, up 2 per cent from 2011. Hong Kong was ranked the fourth most expensive corporate travel destination. But given the uncertainty in the global economy and the slowdown in business, the hotel market in the Asia-Pacific was slated for a period of slow growth as organisations became more aware of costs, the survey said. Adrian Ngan Wai-hung, an executive director of Citic Securities' real estate equity research department, said New World had decided to sell as hotels were enjoying good valuations because of booming tourism. Ngan said he believed the company also wanted to strengthen its war chest for future project developments.

New strategy to close the net on sex traffickers in Hong Kong (By Jennifer Cheng and Xenia Chan) Initiative will see officials mapping cases of exploitation, including enforced labour and abuse of helpers, with more aid for victims - Kevin Zervos, Director of Public Prosecutions. Hong Kong has launched a bold initiative that could lead to a fundamental change in the way the city tackles international human traffickers and their victims. Justice officials will record and map cases of sex trafficking, enforced labour and abuse of domestic helpers in the fight against what Director of Public Prosecutions Kevin Zervos has described as "modern-day slavery". The initiative - prompted by growing international concern over human trafficking and trans-national exploitation - is being led by assistant DPP Catherine Ko Po-chui. It aims to develop a strategy to deal with a problem the United Nations estimates brings misery to 27 million people worldwide. Officials deny the move is a response to a US State Department report that labelled Hong Kong a transit point and destination for people from the mainland and Southeast Asia who are trafficked for forced labour and prostitution. Zervos said: "We want to ensure there's an integrated approach to the problem of human exploitation, not only as a criminal offence, but also to address any underlying social problem. "We need to deal with human exploitation in a comprehensive, consistent and compassionate manner, in particular with those who have been exploited." He said while the city's law enforcement authorities and courts had been effective in prosecuting those behind exploitation, there was no "systematic data collection" to monitor trends and indicate the size of the problem. He added: "I have been aware of the increasing problem of human exploitation in other jurisdictions. We need to start moving with the times." Last year the US State Department's Trafficking in Persons Report recommended that Hong Kong "enact a stringent, comprehensive anti-trafficking law". It also called for the city to adopt international standards as set out in the 2000 United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children. Adopting the protocol, which defines human trafficking victims as people who are subjected to "sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs", would broaden the definition of trafficking in the city. It has already been ratified by the mainland and applies to Macau. Human rights lawyer Michael Vidler welcomed the initiative. He said: "Hong Kong badly needs a paradigm shift when it comes to human trafficking. "There needs to be a regime in place to identify and protect victims. It is incumbent on the government to establish such a regime. If no protection is offered to victims, no one will be willing to step forward."

On the ground: Caritas Hong Kong and the fight against human trafficking (By Xenia Chan) "Getting help should not be a matter of luck," said Phoebe Lam Bik-che, a social worker at Caritas Hong Kong. In the busy streets of Central, the doorway to hope and redemption hides inconspicuously among the noisy signs. Humble, low-key and reflective of its Catholic settings, a sense of peace is present within the Diocesan Pastoral Centre for Filipinos, the Caritas Hong Kong office that focuses on reaching out to domestic workers. Caritas Hong Kong is a local, non-governmental organisation that works with the marginalised. This particular office supports two shelters for women, which sometimes takes in victims of human trafficking. Phoebe Lam Bik-che is the social worker and project officer of this particular division. It’s obvious the passion and heart Lam has for the issue of human trafficking, as she fights on behalf of survivors of trafficking - giving them hope for justice. Of the human-trafficking cases she’s seen brought to court- already a small amount - only two with traffickers as defendants have been successful. Hong Kong has had 14 official cases of human trafficking since 2008. While the low number of trafficking cases identified each year suggests that the problem is not severe in Hong Kong, the stories Lam has heard say otherwise. Some women are tricked: they are told they will be given waitressing jobs in Hong Kong, or are given a “free” tourism trip to Hong Kong by a friend but find themselves in the sex trade instead. Others are told they will work in the sex trade and earn several hundred thousand of dollars a night, but instead work for next to nothing. All of the women in sex trafficking cases enter under foreign domestic worker papers, tourist visas, or under illegal paperwork compiled by their traffickers. The women are told not to bring money into Hong Kong, but upon arrival, are ordered to pay back fees (airfare, documents, etc.) of up to HK$10,000. Without the money, they are locked in boarding houses until they agree to pay. Some are given the choice between serving drinks for HK$80 per hour, or providing sexual services for HK$2,000 to HK$3,000 per client. Around HK$800 of which go towards paying off their debt, while traffickers will take the rest. Others are treated worse. There are stories of girls being gang-raped repeatedly for HK$100 per customer for five minutes each. The trafficker pockets all of the money. Many of these women come from countries where it is common to fear the police, who are often corrupt. Little wonder then, that they do not run for help here in Hong Kong when opportunity arises. Even so, those who are brave enough to go to the police face a likelihood of being shamed, derided, called a liar, or locked up for being in Hong Kong illegally, and then deported. A lucky few manage to get in contact with the Philippine consulate and the human trafficking unit of Hong Kong Police’s Organised Crime and Triad Bureau (OCTB), which, Lam says, treat the women with respect, care and concern. The women are then put in contact with Lam, who brings them to stay in the shelter while they await for both their own and their traffickers’ trials to begin. This is not the end of their journey. Even during the waiting period, before their case makes it to trial, they and their families are harassed, intimidated, and threatened. Afraid for their families and their reputations, many victims do not follow through on the cases, choosing instead to serve time in jail for being illegally in Hong Kong and then deported home, with no justice served. Even those who do follow through on their cases often face disbelief in almost every level - from the interpreters to the judges, and their cases are often thrown out. One victim recounted to Lam that although she didn’t regret testifying against her prosecutors, but she was disappointed that she herself ended up in prison, while her traffickers got off scot-free. It was because the judge could not believe that she didn’t run away when she had the chance. In aftercare, there are problems as well. As foreign nationals, victims have to pay much more than locals for medical care, and are unable to pay the bills on their own. “I am so thankful to the OCTB,” Lam said. “Caritas cannot cover all of the costs - we’re a non-profit organisation and we are stretched so thin. One time, the hospital kept placing the bill next to a trafficking victim and asking her when she is going to pay, while giving her dirty looks. We do not have the resources to help the girls, and the girls do not have the money. “In this one particular case, the OCTB stepped in and covered the bill for the victim - all HK$49,000.” Hong Kong has a misconception of human trafficking, Lam said grimly. “Everyone in the system - the police, lawyers, judges, interpreters, doctors, nurses, immigration officials, social workers - needs more education on this topic. Laws need to be changed and made clear, to protect victims,” Lam said. “The Hong Kong government should work with other governments to prevent human trafficking. There needs to be more awareness. It should not be on the victim to get help, and getting help should not be a matter of luck.”

 China*:  Mar 12 2013

US is top source of hacking attacks on China, says Xinhua (By Reuters in Beijing) China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi on Saturday rejected accusations that the country’s military was behind massive hacking attacks on US. The United States was the origin of more than half of the hacking attacks on China in the first two months of this year, state news agency Xinhua said on Sunday, amid escalating tensions between Beijing and Washington over the use of the internet. Beijing and Washington have been squaring off for months over the issue of cyber attacks, each accusing the other of hacking into sensitive government websites. China has long singled out the United States as the top source of intrusion on its computers. China’s top internet security agency, the National Computer Network Emergency Response Co-ordination Centre (CNCERT), said the hacking attacks from other countries have become “increasingly serious”, Xinhua said. For the first two months of the year, 2,196 control servers in the United States “controlled” 1.29 million host computers in China, making it “the top-ranking country” that hacked into servers and host computers in China, according to Xinhua. “A large amount of facts have proven that for many years, China has been one of the primary victims of cyber attacks,” an unnamed official from the China National Internet Information Office told Xinhua. In February, the Defence Ministry said that two major Chinese military websites, including that of the Defence Ministry, were subject to about 144,000 hacking attacks a month last year, almost two-thirds of which came from the United States. A US computer security company in February said that a secretive Chinese military unit was likely behind a series of hacking attacks mostly targeting the United States, setting off a war of words between Washington and Beijing. China has denied the allegations and said it was the victim. The hacking dispute adds to diplomatic tension between China and the United States, already strained by Chinese suspicion about Washington’s “pivot” back to Asia and arguments over issues from trade to human rights.

Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi warns Japan to return to talks on islands (By Teddy Ng in Beijing) Outgoing foreign minister says tensions could rise to dangerous levels without negotiations - Outgoing Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi arrives for a news conference on the sidelines of the National People's Congress in Beijing. Referring to the dispute over the Diaoyu Islands, or Senkakus, he urged Tokyo to respect history. China's outgoing Foreign Minister has warned Japan to return to the negotiating table to settle its territorial dispute or risk seeing tensions between the two countries spiral out of control. At a press conference wrapping up China's diplomacy over last year, Yang Jiechi said tensions in the East China Sea had been triggered by Japan's "seizure" of the Diaoyu islands, called the Senkakus by Japan. He urged Tokyo to respect history and told Washington not to interfere in regional affairs. In a sign that the dispute is still simmering, three Chinese surveillance ships sailed near the disputed islands yesterday, marking the sixth straight day that Chinese vessels have been seen there, the Japanese coastguard said. "The root cause of the Diaoyu Islands issue is Japan's illegal seizure and occupation of China's territory, and the situation is caused single-handedly by the Japanese side," Yang said. Japan should "correct its mistakes" and resolve its dispute with China through dialogue to prevent the situation escalating further or "even getting out of control", he said, adding that Japan should be refrained from "inflicting" pain on other Asian nations as it did during the second world war. Tensions flared last month when Tokyo accused Chinese frigates of locking their fire-control radar on a Japanese destroyer and a military helicopter. China's envoy to Japan, Cheng Yonghua, said at the time that a high-level bilateral summit suggested by an envoy of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was unlikely. Professor Da Zhigang, an expert in Japanese affairs at the Heilongjiang Academy of Social Sciences, said yesterday that China wanted Japan to resolve the dispute through negotiations, and was unlikely to take tough action against Tokyo. But Abe said the issue was not negotiable after he took office in December. Yang said yesterday that China's position within Asia Pacific was complicated because of territorial disputes with its neighbours and North Korea's nuclear programme, but welcomed co-operation with the United States. China and the US had more "converging interests and frequent interactions" in the region, but Washington should respect Beijing's interests, he said. "Asia Pacific affairs should be handled by all countries in the region through consultation." Yang urged Washington to properly handle Taiwan issues. "It is more important for China and the US to show big vision and courage to seek common ground while shelving differences," he said. Yang also rejected accusations by Mandiant, a US cyber-security firm, that the PLA was behind computer hacking of US institutions and corporations. "We oppose turning cyberspace into a new battlefield, or using the internet as a new tool to interfere in other countries internal affairs," he said. On North Korea's nuclear issue, Yang said six-party talks were a better way than sanctions to resolve the problem.

China reshuffles ministries in bid to streamline government (By Associated Press in Beijing) Entrance to the Railways Ministry in Beijing. The agency will be split under new restructuring. China announced plans Sunday to streamline government ministries, doing away with the powerful Railways Ministry and creating a super-agency to regulate the media and realigning other bureaucracies in a bid to boost efficiency. The plan introduced to the rubber-stamp national legislature is being pushed by the newly installed Communist Party leadership and reflects its priorities to reduce waste and address quality of life issues for a more prosperous, demanding society. Among the changes, the corruption-plagued Railways Ministry will be split, its regulatory responsibilities going to the Transport Ministry and its operations to a commercial entity. The food and drug agency will see a boost in authority to try to end the safety scandals that have been a source of public anger, and two censorship arms, one for broadcasters and one for print media, will be merged. We should attend to our duties and must not meddle in what is not our business - The restructuring, the seventh since China began market reforms 30 years ago, marks the latest periodic attempt to reduce government meddling in the economy and society. Despite the effort, the government’s role in the economy and the power of state companies have grown over the past decade, often to the detriment of private and foreign companies, which face a welter of industrial and other policies that have raised barriers to success. This time, the streamlining plan includes guidelines to limit and better define the central government’s responsibilities, limiting its issuing of permits for projects and setting of standards. “Departments of the State Council are now focusing too much on micro issues. We should attend to our duties and must not meddle in what is not in our business,” Ma Kai, secretary-general of the State Council, or Cabinet, told the legislators. He said that overlapping government functions has often led to buck-passing. Underscoring the government’s determination is the abolishing of the Railways Ministry. With deep ties to the military, the ministry has resisted previous rounds of reform and has continued to serve as both regulator and operator. Under the new plan, operations will be spun off into a newly created China Railway Corporation, responsible for building railways and managing freight and passenger services. Safety, quality and other regulatory standards will be the purview of a state railway administration under the Ministry of Transport. Another influential bureaucracy, the family planning commission, which oversees enforcement of the much disliked one-child policy, will be merged with the Health Ministry in a sign that the government may be shifting emphasis away from birth limits in favour of a more health-centred approach to family planning. In another boost, the government will pull together separate agencies involved in fisheries and other maritime law enforcement into one administration. The move appears aimed at better asserting China’s claims in waters disputed by Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines and other nations around the East and South China Seas. The food and drug administration is being elevated in status to ministry level to give it added powers in hopes of improving enforcement and ending the lax enforcement that has led to repeated scandals over toxic medicines and tainted foods from milk to meat. In a separate report to the legislature, the head of the supreme court, Wang Shengjun, said Chinese courts had sentenced more than 20,000 people for making and selling adulterated milk powder, recycled cooking oil known as “gutter oil” and the steroid clenbuterol, which makes pigs produce leaner meat.

China calls for cyber rules (By Zhao Shengnan and Wu Jiao) Foreign minister says nations should cooperate on making Internet safer - Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi has rejected accusations that the Chinese government and military are behind cyber attacks on Western websites, calling for "rules and cooperation", instead of a cyberspace "war" or politics-driven smear campaigns. Yang is the highest-level Chinese official so far to respond to recent hype in Western media about alleged military-backed hackers from China, fanned by a report from US Internet security firm Mandiant last month saying it had traced a host of cyber attacks to an address in Shanghai. Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi acknowledges the media after his news conference on China's foreign policy on Saturday. Yang was talking to reporters on the sidelines of the annual session of the National People's Congress, and described the claims as part of a politically motivated smear campaign. "Those reports may have caught the eye of many people, but they are built on shaky ground," said Yang, voicing his opposition to "turn cyberspace into another battlefield, or capitalize on virtual reality to interfere in another country's internal affairs." China's Ministry of National Defense had scorned the accusations as "unprofessional and false" shortly after the report was released. It also said China has never directly accused the US government of being behind the attacks even though its military computers suffered "a large number" of overseas attacks, with "a considerable number" of them originating from the US judging from the IP addresses. Observers say it is difficult to verify the hackers' origins as the IP addresses can be disguised. Cyber security has become an increasingly prominent issue as security threats in a peaceful era, and seems another way for Western powers to apply pressure to contain China's rise, they say. Wen Weiping, a professor at the School of Software and Microelectronics at Peking University, put forward his explanation on the belligerence. The US believes it is justified to launch military attacks on any country that launches cyber attacks threatening its cyber space, he said, and it must raise a fuss against such alleged attacks to build up a case. Wen said the US also aims to strengthen its cyber security forces as a deterrent and maintain its advantage during the information war. "What is black is black, and what is white stays white. Anyone who tries to fabricate or piece together a sensational story to serve a political motive will not be able to blacken the name of others nor whitewash themselves," foreign minister Yang said. China, a frequent target of cyber attacks, supports international regulations under the United Nations to keep the Internet peaceful, free and secure, he said, saying the relevant parties should stop irresponsible attacks and accusations against China. "The international community is closely connected through the Internet, therefore cyberspace needs rules and cooperation, not war." The effort to formulate a worldwide policy for a more regulated Internet failed in Dubai last December after many Western countries said a compromise plan gave too much power to the United Nations.

Hong Kong*:  Mar 11 2013

Hong Kong universities ranked highly but lack international students (By Linda Yeung) Hong Kong's universities are ranked highly but they lack international students. A chronic shortage of hostel beds is a major drawback - Local and overseas students learn dancing at Baptist University. Hong Kong's elite universities are basking in global recognition. But despite high rankings for outstanding teaching and research, one thing is lacking on the campuses of Asia's "World City" - truly international students. The University of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology were No23 and 33 respectively in last year's QS World University Rankings, and ranked among the world's top 100 institutions together with Chinese University in the latest Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings. And HKU went from No39 in the world to No36 in an international reputation survey involving global scholars. However, statistics from the University Grants Committee - the government's higher education funding body - show that while the proportion of students enrolling at local universities who were not local was 14 per cent for the 2011-12 academic year, eight out of 10 came from the mainland. Academics agree that bringing in more international students benefits the city and the institutions, as well as both local and non-local students. In 2010, the grants body urged the higher education sector to embrace internationalisation and called for more collaboration between the government and universities. It also urged institutions to help non-local students integrate into campus life, increase high quality exchange opportunities and recruitment from abroad. But local universities face challenges in making international students feel at home in the city - a chronic shortage of hostel accommodation is now a big problem. "In Hong Kong this problem is a limiting factor in student exchanges, which has become really important for the breadth of education," says Mark Wainwright, a member of the grants committee and an emeritus professor from the University of New South Wales. In Hong Kong this problem is a limiting factor in student exchanges, which has become really important for the breadth of education - His view is echoed by another veteran grants committee member, Colin Lucas, who is also chairman of the British Library Board. He said: "One of the very important aspects of why bringing students in and sending students out is so crucial is because if local students do not have a closer appreciation of the realities of different cultures, different ways of doing things, they will find it much more difficult to operate constructively and positively for themselves and for the communities they belong to in a world when they go out to it. Hong Kong universities are responding to this very well but there is a long way to go." The government's long-held ambition of building an international education hub does not impress Lucas. "I am not sure if an education hub is a fruitful way of thinking about it. If you are very good, people will come." One senior academic dubbed the territory's internationalization policy a mess, bemoaning the fact that Hong Kong lacks a campaign to promote itself as an education destination. Instead, the academic says: "Some universities just recruit mainland students with top grades to improve their reputation." The two grants committee members believe the city has the potential to attract a far more diverse student body, as it offers an English-language education in an Asian environment. "It is close to many Asian countries which have an influence and multicultural societies," Lucas says. Finding somewhere to stay is not the only problem for international students. Despite the fact that most local university courses are offered in English, understanding the local culture can prove challenging. May Hyunji Ku, president of the International Student Association at Chinese University gave a mark of six out of 10 for the level of integration of international students at local universities. Her main frustration is that many local students are reluctant to speak English, and the fact that many of the elective courses and extracurricular activities that appeal to her are conducted in Chinese. That means communication between local and non-local students is limited, she says. "They don't understand each other because they don't talk," says the third-year business student. "The local students' biggest goal is to get a good grade. Exchange students want to learn more about the culture and they go out more. They tend to hang out with themselves." More can definitely be done at an institutional and a personal level. "More resources need to be put in," admits Peter Li, director of Baptist University's international office. "The commitment of senior management at any institution is very important. It also remains a question how well students utilise the chance of meeting foreign students. Teachers could add more international elements to their courses or engage in joint research with overseas academics." Institutions have made great strides in setting up student exchange agreements with overseas campuses. Chinese University is leading the pack, with up to 24 per cent of its undergraduates spending a term or so at an overseas institution last year, compared to 16 per cent at Baptist University, 5 per cent at Polytechnic University and 8.7 per cent at HKU and HKUST. HKU, however, had the highest number of students from outside the mainland enrolled for full-time study last year at 1,231. By contrast, the Hong Kong Institute of Education had just eight students from the rest of Asia and two from the rest of the world. Baptist University had 10 non-Asian students and 17 from the rest of Asia. Hong Kong has seen a rising number of applications from close at hand, with students from Taiwan and South Korea applying in growing numbers. But the lack of hostel beds and the prospect of students being forced into Hong Kong's pricey private rental market is a drawback. Polytechnic University and HKU are short of 1,795 and 1,900 hostel places respectively, in terms of meeting a target of enabling undergraduates to live on campus for at least one year. "A long-term solution is for the government to provide us with land to build hostels," a HKU spokesman said. As reported by the Pos t, at least 12,000 non-local university students are living in flats because of a lack of hostel places. Baptist University expects to meet its shortfall of about 1,400 by completing residence halls in Tseung Kwan O by 2014 and others at a former Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education site in Kowloon Tong. The university is still vying for more space and is locked in a battle with the government over the rest of the Kowloon Tong site. While the university wants to develop the southern portion of the site into a Chinese medicine teaching hospital, the government is eyeing it for building flats. A two-month public consultation was launched in late January on the issue. Li says the extra bed spaces would offer a good opportunity to build a stronger international exchange program.

Residents welcome URA plan to rip down Sham Shui Po block (By Jennifer Ngo and Joyce Ng) Urban Renewal Authority will move tenants to public housing if eligible, or compensate them, to make way for a new 25-storey development - Seventy-year-old Cheng Lung-ming, who has lived in the same subdivided flat on Tonkin Street for over 20 years, applied for public housing a few days ago. A crumbling, heavily subdivided corner block in Sham Shui Po, built more than 50 years ago, will be replaced with a 25-storey development by 2021 under plans announced by the Urban Renewal Authority yesterday. The proposal was welcomed by residents of the block on the corner of Tonkin and Fuk Wing Streets, who said the environment was "terrible". It will be the authority's 15th project in the district, one of Hong Kong's most decrepit. "It's an old building. It's time for it to be taken down," said Cheng Lung-ming, 70, who has lived in the same subdivided flat at 38 Tonkin Street for 20 years and applied for public housing just a few days ago. "I live alone, so it doesn't matter too much where I go. Of course, it would be best to stay [in Sham Shui Po]." It's an old building. It's time for it to be taken down - Another tenant of a subdivided flat, Lau Kai-hiu, 57, welcomed the move, as long as he could get public housing. Lau had a stroke a few years ago, so using the stairs of his decrepit building has become difficult. "The environment around here is terrible. There are leaks everywhere, and cement chunks falling off," he said. The buildings the URA hopes to acquire were built between 1955 and 1958, span 13 street numbers and are five to seven storeys high. The 1,270-square-metre site shelters an estimated 110 households and 27 businesses, but the URA said the exact number of residents had yet to be determined because of widespread illegal subdivision. The proposed new development will provide 7,460 square metres of residential area - some 145 small- to mid-sized flats - and 1,490 square metres of commercial floor area. The estimated cost is HK$1.03 billion. An authority spokesman said it was believed some flats in the buildings were divided into "coffin-sized units" stacked on three levels, as advertisements displaying "TV rooms for rent" - a euphemism for the tiny units - were put up on the staircase walls. Eligible tenants will be moved to public housing or compensated, URA director of acquisition and clearance, Ian Wong, said. But some residents said private agencies had been snapping up flats in recent months, which might affect the authority's acquisition plans. If there are no objections to the project and approval is granted by the Development Bureau, the structure should be completed by 2020-21.

Vincent Lo backs chief executive on Chek Lap Kok mall (By Tony Cheung in Beijing) A new Airport Authority board member says he will push the chief executive’s idea to build a shopping outlet at Chek Lap Kok. Vincent Lo Hong-shui, a prominent supporter of Leung Chun-ying, said the government should accommodate the needs of both locals and tourists. Lo is the chairman of Shui On Land and a local delegate to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). He was appointed to the Airport Authority board in January. Speaking on the sidelines of the CPPCC in Beijing on Saturday, Lo said that proposals to limit the number of times a mainland visitor could travel to Hong Kong were “strange”. “We should think positively, about how we could build more facilities and better accommodate them,” Lo said. Asked about a new shopping outlet proposed for the airport, Lo said: “Yes, Leung Chun-ying also asked me to do something about this when he appointed me to the Airport Authority.” Lo said they were looking into the proposal and he hoped progress could be made soon. He also said that more tourists would visit Lantau Island once the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge was completed. Leung said in his election manifesto the city needed to increase its business capacity and maximise areas near the airport. Lo said that while maintaining growth in tourism could help the economy, Leung’s priority was still solving the city’s housing woes. He suggested Leung consider encouraging private sector participation in building subsidised homes so as to speed up the process.

 China*:  Mar 11 2013

China looks to Russia, Africa after transition (By Agence France-Presse in Beijing) China’s new president will pay a state visit to Russia and three African countries, the foreign minister said Saturday, with Beijing looking to step up diplomacy after a protracted leadership transition. Chinese Foreign minister Yang Jiechi said the visit would take place “soon” and that Tanzania, South Africa and the Republic of Congo would comprise the African destinations. Communist Party leader Xi Jinping is due to be named state president during China’s annual National People’s Congress (NPC) parliament session under way in Beijing, which will conclude the country’s once-a-decade leadership transition. Xi took over the ruling party reins in November. Yang did not provide exact dates for the visit, but the legislature wraps up on March 17 and a summit of BRICS nations -- Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa -- that the president will attend in South Africa starts March 26. The choice for the new president’s first overseas visit appears to combine respect for China’s historical ties with Russia, with which it shares a long border, and Beijing’s increasingly prominent role in Africa. “China and Russia are each other’s biggest neighbours,” Yang told reporters at the NPC, at what was likely to be his last press conference as foreign minister. “We want to work with the Russian side to seize the opportunity... to inject new and strong impetus to the growth of the comprehensive strategic partnership.” Russia and China stand together on several global diplomatic issues, including the two-year conflict in Syria, where the two permanent UN Security Council members have blocked resolutions that would have introduced sanctions against Bashar al-Assad’s regime. “We don’t protect anyone,” Yang said of China’s position on Syria, re-iterating Beijing’s stance that the crisis could only be resolved through “dialogue and negotiations” and not by military means. He said Syria’s people were “bleeding and suffering” and that China was “distressed and concerned”. The visit to Russia also comes at a time of increasing tension on the Korean peninsula, where the Security Council just slapped new sanctions on North Korea for its February nuclear test. China is the North’s sole major ally and by far its biggest trading partner, including being its primary energy supplier, but while it backed the UN move Yang said sanctions were not “the fundamental way” to resolve the issue. Since the UN resolution was passed the North has responded with fresh threats of nuclear war, vowing to scrap peace pacts as its rhetoric reached a frenzied pitch. Any successor to Yang, in office since 2007, has not been named but vice foreign minister Zhang Zhijun and Wang Yi, a former ambassador to Japan, are names mentioned as potential replacements. Asked about small, uninhabited islands in the East China Sea administered by Japan but claimed by China, Yang reiterated Beijing’s position that they are China’s and blasted Tokyo for its “illegal seizure and occupation” of them. Tensions in the long-simmering dispute spiked last year and both sides have scrambled jets to ward off moves by the other. Yang called on Japan to work with China to “prevent the situation from further escalation, or even getting out of control”. The presidential trip to Africa comes with China’s resource-hungry economy, the world’s second biggest, obtaining many of its raw materials from the continent and Beijing’s influence in it growing. Sino-African trade has ballooned in the last decade and reached $166.3 billion in 2011. China became the continent’s largest trading partner in 2009. Current Chinese President Hu Jintao has overseen a deepening of relations with Africa, making several visits to the continent and hosting a summit of 48 African leaders in Beijing in 2006. “China and African countries are good brothers, good friends and good partners,” said Yang. But China’s emergence as a key investor in Africa has also been accompanied by periodic tensions amid complaints by some that Chinese workers are filling the jobs created by the investments.

China on Friday unveiled a detailed plan to support the country's small and micro-sized enterprises as they still face many challenges. The plan was made to implement a guideline released in April 2012 by the State Council, or China's Cabinet, to support the healthy growth of those companies, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) said in the plan posted on its website. Small and micro-sized companies have faced great operating pressures, rising costs and financing difficulties since 2012, according to the plan. It aims to promote the growth quality and efficiency of those enterprises by providing better public services, further improving financing services and alleviating their operating burdens. The country will support more than 500 financing guaranteeing firms to help small enterprises get financing this year, the plan said. China will also provide training for 500,000 company management personnel and 1,000 business leaders, according to the plan. Small and micro-sized firms serve as a significant channel for creating jobs, a major platform for entrepreneurship and an important force of scientific innovation, the State Council said.

Chinese fleet patrols South China Sea (Xinhua) A marine surveillance fleet departed from Sanya in south China's Hainan Province Friday afternoon for regular patrols in the South China Sea. The team, consisting of three China Marine Surveillance (CMS) ships -- Haijian 83, Haijian 262, and Haijian 263, as well as Haijian B-7103 helicopter, will patrol waters around the Xisha Islands for nine days. It is the first time for the Chinese maritime helicopter and ships to be dispatched to patrol the Xisha Islands at the same time since Sansha City was officially set up in July last year, said Chen Huaibei, head of the patrol team. He said the patrolling missions will include inspecting the islands and marine resources and ecology, and setting up a profile for each island. "Haijian" is the Chinese equivalent of "marine surveillance." The CMS ships are under the administration of the State Oceanic Administration. They have performed regular patrols and law-enforcement activities in waters under China's jurisdiction since 2006.

Hong Kong*:  Mar 10 2013

Rational approach can ease tensions, liaison chief Zhang Xiaoming says (By Tony Cheung) Beijing's top representative in Hong Kong yesterday called on Hongkongers to adopt a broader strategic view and a rational attitude in tackling the problems arising from integration between the city and the mainland. Zhang Xiaoming, director of the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong, said he hoped that the chief executive elected by universal suffrage in 2017 would be patriotic and have both the central government's trust and Hong Kong people's backing. These criteria - in line with Beijing's expectations of the city's leader - were given two days after Yu Zhengsheng, a Communist Party Politburo Standing Committee member, emphasised the importance of ensuring that Hong Kong was ruled by patriotic forces. Zhang was speaking at a closed-door meeting with local deputies to the National People's Congress in Beijing. His remarks were made amid heated debate on whether a limit introduced by the Hong Kong government - banning travellers from taking more than two tins of infant formula out of the city each day - was appropriate. Zhang is the third senior mainland official to raise the topic of the milk-powder conflict between Hong Kong and the mainland this week. Yu and another Politburo Standing Committee member, Zhang Dejiang , who is tipped to head the Communist Party's leading group on Hong Kong and Macau affairs, had earlier stressed the importance of handling the conflicts rationally. Ma Fung-kwok, deputy head of Hong Kong's NPC delegation, said Zhang Xiaoming acknowledged that "minor problems" had arisen from mainlanders buying luxury homes in the city during visits. [Mainlanders buying luxury homes in Hong Kong] could have caused fluctuations in prices, and if it hindered the local services from satisfying Hongkongers' needs, the problems have to be … tackled quickly. "It could have caused fluctuations in prices, and if it hindered the local services from satisfying Hongkongers' needs, the problems have to be … tackled quickly. We must not avoid them," Ma quoted Zhang as saying. Meanwhile, Hong Kong should avoid hurting mainlanders' feelings when tackling these matters. Ma said Zhang also called for Hongkongers to take a "broader strategic view" in their relationship with mainland China, instead of just sticking to the interests of the city alone. "[Zhang emphasised that] Hong Kong has to look at problems with a long-term point of view, and in analysing whether something is beneficial for Hong Kong, the nation's development strategies must [also] be taken into account," Ma said. A local NPC deputy said Zhang also noted the controversy stirred in the city from Yu Zhengsheng's remarks that it would not be good for the country nor the city if "opposition forces" ruled Hong Kong after universal suffrage was attained in 2017. "He said that what Yu said was in line with the central government's stance - that the chief executive must love China and Hong Kong," the deputy said. Choy So-yuk, a Hong Kong NPC delegate, said: "Every government would have [similar] requirements for a regional head. But it is still meaningful to mention this again."

Artists drawn to Hong Kong's bright lights (By Charley Lanyon) Hong Kong is one of the world's most expensive cities, so why are foreign artists making their home here? Charley Lanyon canvasses some views - Fox Daniels with one of her works. Hong Kong sucks. It's expensive and stressful," says Korean-American artist Jin Meyerson. A big name in the art world, he has worked in New York, Paris and, most recently, Seoul. This morning, however, he is standing in his new studio, a converted industrial space in Fo Tan. The artist abroad is not a new phenomenon. Impoverished, emerging artists are often drawn overseas by the promise of a receptive audience, cheaper living and a more bohemian culture. So why are so many foreign artists now making their home in Hong Kong, a city famous for its high cost of living and a tendency to favour wealth creation over artistic expression? Most assume the driving force is the chance to get a break on the mainland. The Chinese market for art is booming and it is thought that Hong Kong offers foreigners a relatively easy point of entry. Not so for many emerging modern artists, who say that notion is outdated. "I always use the internet to show my work and get opportunities," says French artist Charles Munka, who has made his home in Hong Kong for the past four years. "The world is getting smaller. Perhaps where you happen to be in it doesn't matter so much." For many, one of Hong Kong's biggest draws is that it's unlike the mainland. Laurent Segretier, a French photographer who lives and works in a shared flat in Causeway Bay, tried to make his home in Shanghai and Shenzhen but soon became frustrated. "China wasn't easy to live in and the language barrier started to be a real obstacle for my personal development. It was difficult to get resources such as books and most of my favourite websites were censored ... Living in China is not that cheap any more and it's much more difficult to collaborate or produce works over there in terms of quality and copyright." For Segretier, Hong Kong offered the perfect balance between the energy of Asia and liveability. "I fell in love immediately ... I could finally share my thoughts and understand the world I was living in." Also, the relative inexperience of the mainland art-buying public turns off some artists. Fox Daniels, a painter based in Yuen Long, finds the Chinese art market's innocence and openness exciting, but Meyerson has a less charitable and more commonly held opinion. "The Chinese market is really cheesy. It's hard to make anything that's serious over there." Many artists still perceive the Hong Kong art market as more sophisticated. Its convenience, widely spoken English (and increasingly French) and modern infrastructure aside, it seems there is something about Hong Kong that speaks to Western artists of a certain generation. The city inspires them. As Portuguese sculptor Joao Vasco Paiva sees it, the city "as a sculptural background is the perfect setting for what I do". Hong Kong still has a cultural cachet in the West unlike any other Asian city. Another French artist, Cedric Maridet, knew nothing about Hong Kong before coming here but still had a romantic image of the city in his head "from films by Wong Kar-wai or Johnny To Kei-fung." Segretier's image of Hong Kong was based on sci-fi movies and books he became fascinated with. "In my head Hong Kong was like a massive light-blinking ship floating into a grey, heavy, cloudy sky." For some growing up in the West in the 1990s, Hong Kong became a symbol for the futuristic Asian megacity imagined in pop culture, citing the anime classic Ghost in the Shell or films such as Blade Runner. What they found when they got here did not disappoint. Munka remembers his first impressions: "Hong Kong looked like a giant playground to me with its highways twirling around hills, and layers of towers, textures and lights, next to the roughness and chaos of the city's backstreets and alleys." For artists like Daniels, who draw their inspiration less from the cityscape and more from social stratification, Hong Kong offered a treasure trove: "I like the extremes of society ... Wherever you go you see these different layers of society on top of each other, whereas in places like London or Paris, or America, those worlds stay apart. That's what makes Hong Kong so sexy." Still, Hong Kong historically has not been an environment for nurturing artistic growth. There are many adjectives used to describe this city, but bohemian is not one of them. Despite the recent influx, professional artists remain rare in Hong Kong. It can be a lonely existence but the lack of a large artistic establishment is part of what makes Hong Kong so refreshing to many artists. Segretier explains: "It's not Brooklyn or Berlin, but it helps me to not live in the bubble of an art village." Without having to spend so much time living the public life, artists can focus and get down to creating art. Says Paiva: "What was missing here were the things to see - good shows, good concerts, different subcultures, good bookshops, a contemporary art museum. All that was missing, but for me it was good. I consumed less and produced more. Berlin is cheaper, for sure, but it's full of artists and because of that to have some visibility one has to spend more time networking than actually working." By not being part of any scene, artists can preserve a sense of being observers, something that is especially true in the cultural mix of Hong Kong where an authentic understanding of local culture seems, for many Westerners, always just out of reach. Paiva relishes the perspective that being an expatriate gives him. "Not being a true local, but also not being a tourist ... makes for the right balance so I can dwell in abstraction." Even Meyerson, who came to Hong Kong because his wife got a job here, concedes that his very discomfort inspires and informs his work. "My work has always been about displacement. I was adopted at the age of four ... so everything I do is about displacement and I enjoy that about living in Hong Kong." And, of course, there is less competition, which is always a good thing for emerging artists trying to establish themselves. There remains one large, some would say insurmountable, obstacle keeping Hong Kong from reaching its potential as a haven for artists - the rent. Most well-known overseas places for artists started out as low-rent areas such as Paris in the '20s or Brooklyn in the '90s. Unfortunately, the last of Hong Kong's low-rent neighbourhoods are disappearing rapidly. Already the high cost of living leaves artists scattered across the city: living on outlying islands and commuting into crowded studios in Mong Kok, hiding out in technically illegal industrial spaces or being forced to share crowded live-work apartments with an ever-growing number of roommates. Nearly every artist tempers a love of Hong Kong with the anxiety that they may not be able to afford to stay much longer. Even though Hong Kong as an idea appeals to artists all over the world, there is real reason to worry that without low-rent options for artists, the influx of creative people to our shores might be over before it really gets started. 

US$14 million High-end restaurants arrive in Macau casinos (By Mischa Moselle) A wave of long-awaited high-end Chinese restaurants have opened in Macau's casinos, writes Mischa Moselle - Barbecue pork from Jade Dragon. Perhaps only in Macau could it seem logical to spend US$14 million on a single restaurant - that's the investment in City of Dreams' Jade Dragon, which will officially open late next month. The restaurant is the latest in a new generation of high-end venues in the territory. Restaurants are a way of offering a proposition that differentiates one casino resort from another. But the food is not just there to attract the gamblers. As Macau's government worries about diversifying revenue sources, casinos have found that the more dining tables they can offer, the more gaming tables they are allowed. At one time, resorts planned to broaden their appeal with large number of restaurants offering regional Chinese cuisines. That has not happened but there are now several venues offering a variety of cuisines. The result of the resorts' willingness to spend is a large number of openings. Here are some of the better high-end experiences to be had by foodies visiting the city. Jade Dragon, City of Dreams - Where did that US$14 million go? The display plates, laid out at the start of the meal - but never to be used - cost HK$5,000 each, according to Kristoffer Luczak, vice-president of food and beverage at Melco Crown Entertainment, owners of City of Dreams. The restaurant's ornate murals were painted by two artists from Hangzhou. The venue, with its 11 private rooms, is on two storeys and an open kitchen takes up just over a quarter of the space. The restaurant has its own Chinese herbalist to concoct tonic soups. Here, even the char siu is made from premium black pork ( porco preto) ham and from a cut that gives a particular succulence. Other highlights include a herbal soup with mushrooms, wood-fired crispy chicken and deep-fried oyster that could win over the most hardened objector to having the bivalve cooked. Desserts return to the Pearl River Delta with a milk tea ice cream, based on one of Hong Kong's favourite drinks, and a variation on the local egg tart - this one has a caramel topping. Wing Lei, Wynn - Wing Lei's appeal has spread beyond its mainland client base to attract a loyal local following, and the key has been the quality of its dim sum. The noise level is also appropriately high. While presentation varies from chic individually plated portions to traditional dim sum steamers, the emphasis is on traditional, mostly Cantonese, flavours. An exception is the steamed cod roll with preserved seeds, a Taiwanese dish that wraps fish around tofu and seeds that have an olive-like flavour and consistency. While dim sum such as steamed prawns and baby spinach dumplings, steamed layered bean curd skin and spring rolls offer consistency rather than surprises, there is a neat twist on char siu bao. The sweetened crust gives a crunch to a well-made classic. The chef gives a nod to some years spent in Hong Kong, with a version of "typhoon shelter" crab that smothers a claw in garlic. Here the crispy chicken is tea-smoked, while dessert is a sexy deep-fried egg custard roll. Golden Flower, Wynn Macau - Head chef Liu Guozhu was chosen by casino owner Steve Wynn to give him the best Chinese restaurant in the world. Liu has been famous since the age of 16, when he was chosen to cook for foreign dignitaries staying at the Beijing Hotel, perhaps most notably for Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger and Margaret Thatcher. The restaurant is happy to help you pair wines with its food, but the point of dining here is to match teas with the cuisine. The idea behind tea and food matching is to pair strongly flavoured teas with strongly flavoured foods, light teas with light dishes and white tea with dessert. Liu is a specialist in several cuisines, but focuses on Tan cuisine here. The late 19th century invention of a scholar for the then ruling Qing dynasty, Tan cooking is all about the chicken stock. The stock for dishes such as stewed fish maw with crab claw in supreme chicken soup or whelk and jasmine in chicken soup is cooked for eight hours. The flavour, Liu says, comes from taking an old hen and poaching it for long enough to release and then reabsorb its fats. With most dishes relying on cooking costly ingredients in the same base, this is chicken soup for the rich Chinese soul. For a cheeky pudding, try the Imperial Dessert, a concoction of red bean paste, glutinous rice and a yellow bean paste that tastes like a sweet hummus. It is nicknamed "donkey rolling in the dirt" because that's what it looks like.

Rafael Hui, Kwok brothers plead not guilty, case transferred to High Court (By Lai Ying-kit) Rafael Hui Si-yan (centre) appears at Eastern Court in Sai Wan Ho on Friday to enter a plea in his corruption case. Raymond Kwok Ping-luen (centre) appears at Eastern Court in Sai Wan Ho on Friday to enter a plea in his corruption case. Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong appears at Eastern Court in Sai Wan Ho after appearing at a preliminary hearing into his corruption case on Friday. Former chief secretary Rafael Hui Si-yan and the billionaire developer Kwok brothers on Friday pleaded not guilty to bribery charges in one of Hong Kong’s most high-profile cases. Hui, the most prominent ever charged in a corruption case, is accused of receiving payments of HK$34 million from Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong and Raymond Kwok Ping-luen – who co-chair Sun Hung Kai Properties, the world’s largest developer by market value. The alleged offence took place when Hui was chief secretary – Hong Kong’s second highest ranking official – and an Executive Council member between 2005 and 2009. Appearing in Eastern Court on Friday afternoon, Hui, the Kwok brothers and two others charged in the case all pleaded guilty to a total of eight charges including bribery and misconduct in public office. A magistrate transferred the case to the High Court – where severe cases are handled – for a next hearing to be scheduled. The five defendants have been freed on bail. They are ordered not to discuss directly or indirectly with any listed witnesses any matters related to the case. The arrest of Hui and the Kwok brothers by the Independent Commission Against Corruption last July shocked Hong Kong. Hui has become the most prominent former official to have been charged over bribery in the city’s history.

 China*:  Mar 10 2013

US designers like Chinese style (By Kelly Chung Dawson in New York) The Chinese luxury website stages a fashion show in Beijing. The Beijing-based company formed a partnership with the industry group Council of Fashion Designers of America to promote US designers in China, a fast-growing global luxury market. On the heels of an exchange program that brought designer Uma Wang to New York last year for a six-week apprenticeship with established American counterparts, a leading US industry group has signed its first Chinese partnership with, a high-end online fashion retailer based in Beijing. The moves signal an ongoing desire of the Council of Fashion Designers of America to break into China's fashion market, which will account for about 20 percent of global luxury sales by 2015, according to consultant McKinsey & Co. "We are thrilled to introduce Shangpin to our members and look forward to opening new paths for our designers into China," Steven Kolb, CEO of the designers council, said in a release. "During these exciting times, we will support the overall growth of American fashion into China." Launched in 2010, Shangpin already offers a number of CFDA-recognized brands including Diane Von Furstenberg and Stuart Weitzman at full price for in-season styles, capitalizing on a business model that diverges from the last-season discount approach of most e-commerce sites. The site's revenue totaled 200 million yuan (about $31 million) in 2011, and customer transactions now average $300, according to the privately held company. The company's name is a play on the Chinese characters for shang ("fashion"), and pin, which translates to both "taste" and "quality." Shangpin, which has over 300 million "VIP members", will now support a wider selection of the 400 or so designers represented by CFDA in growing its business in China, particularly in second- and third-tier cities where luxury brands have yet to open stores. E-commerce has become increasingly important in a country where even domestic companies have trouble reaching consumers outside major metropolises. Cities such as Nanjing, Shenzhen and Dalian have a growing middle and upper class of consumers who are eager to spend on luxury, so online shopping is a way to link them to brands, especially Western ones. "We look forward to sharing our insights on the Chinese market with the members of the CFDA," said David Zhao, CEO of "China is a challenging market to enter because there are limited distributors to cover such a large geographical area. This is why e-commerce in China, much more than in the West, is the most effective distribution and marketing platform for designers who want to reach Chinese regions where traditional brick-and-mortar stores do not exist. "Shangpin currently sells into more than 400 cities across China and has a pulse on the evolving Chinese consumer," he said. The site offers a no-questions-asked return policy for a week after purchase and free FedEx delivery anywhere in China, with goods arriving in elegant black-and-gold shopping bags. In an interview with Jing Daily, designer Tracy Reese (who dressed Michelle Obama for the US first lady's speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention) said: "China's a market that we want to explore. We need to learn so much more to do it effectively. The site gives us great exposure to the market and Chinese consumer." Online shopping transactions in China totaled 10.73 billion yuan in 2011, up from 6.36 billion yuan the previous year, and are expected to reach 37.24 billion yuan in 2015, according to iResearch. Boston Consulting Group said that 37 percent of Chinese respondents in a survey said they shop aspirationally, with the intention of "trading up"; only 17 percent of US respondents said the same. But in China, where Western styles are still relatively new, many consumers need guidance in choosing how to spend their money, Zhao said. The site offers 24/7 customer service from fashion specialists who are well-versed in merchandising and personal style, according to the company. The site also spotlights celebrities including Jennifer Aniston and Victoria Beckham in its featured apparel. "Compared to those from around the world, especially luxury shoppers from the USA and Europe, Chinese online shoppers need more coaching time in terms of interpreting the culture, the story of luxury and fashion brands, especially for emerging high-end brands," Zhao told CNN in 2011. Although the CFDA declined to comment on its ongoing China Exchange program, Wang's stay in New York last summer was an attempt to build links between China and the US, Kolb told China Daily in 2012. The exchange was funded by Silas Chou, president and CEO of Novel Enterprises Ltd, a Hong Kong textile manufacturer. Chou is also co-chairman of Michael Kors Corp. Proenza Schouler's Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez will visit Shanghai as part of the program, according to the CFDA. "To succeed as a designer today, you can't think of boundaries anymore," he said. "Every designer is now saying 'China, China, China,' so for us [partnerships like these] are an opportunity to help bridge the US and China. It's about collaboration and mutual benefit."

Beijing renews calls for calm on peninsula (By Zhou Wa and Qin Zhongwei in Beijing, Zhang Yuwei in New York) China on Friday called for calm and restraint on the Korean Peninsula, as analysts said the risk of a flashpoint is increasing. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea announced that it will sever a military hotline with the Republic of Korea, nullify non-aggression agreements between the two and totally abrogate the joint declaration on the denuclearization of the peninsula. The statement from the DPRK's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea came hours after the United Nations Security Council on Thursday passed a new resolution expanding sanctions on the DPRK for its Feb 12 nuclear test. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters at a daily briefing on Friday that parties should "exercise calm and restraint, and avoid actions that might further escalate tensions," describing the situation as "highly complex and sensitive". "Safeguarding peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia is in accordance with the common interests of the whole international society," Hua said. Given the rising tensions on the peninsula, the possibility that a "small-scale military conflict may happen accidentally" cannot be ruled out, said Yu Shaohua, director of the Department for Asia-Pacific Security and Cooperation Studies at the China Institute of International Studies. But a massive military confrontation is unlikely, she said. Neither the DPRK nor the ROK wants to take the initiative to militarily provoke the other, and they are now mostly verbally targeting each other, she said. The latest UN sanctions may help prevent the DPRK from conducting further nuclear tests, but sanctions alone cannot solve the problem. "Peaceful talks need to be created," she said. Ted Carpenter, senior researcher at the Cato Institute, a US think tank, said, "Washington and its allies need to accept that it may be too dangerous to try to isolate a nuclear power instead of trying to establish a constructive relationship" with the DPRK. The ROK expressed its deep regret on Friday over the DPRK's latest statement, Yonhap news agency reported. "It is regrettable" that Pyongyang has "unilaterally annulled past non-aggression and denuclearization agreements and moved to escalate tensions", ROK Ministry of Unification spokesman Kim Hyung-suk was quoted by Yonhap as saying. The official said the DPRK should take steps to acknowledge and respect formal agreements that can lead to the building of trust. The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution with tough new sanctions on Thursday, which is the 15-member council's fifth involving the DPRK since 2006. It imposes additional financial curbs on the DPRK, such as blocking transactions that could aid its nuclear and ballistic missile activity, prohibiting bulk transfers of cash, restricting access to Pyongyang's financial sector and banning exports of luxury goods to the country. Li Baodong, China's permanent representative to the UN, said that while it was "an important step" for the council to approve the new sanctions, "adoption of the resolution itself is not enough". "This resolution is a very important step, but one step cannot make a journey," Li told reporters after Thursday's council vote. "We need a comprehensive strategy to bring the situation back to dialogue. We need wisdom, persistence and perseverance. "We want to see full implementation of the resolution," the Chinese diplomat said, urging resumption of the long-stalled Six-Party Talks aimed at denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. On Friday in Pyongyang, state media reiterated a warning that it will launch pre-emptive nuclear strikes on the US. White House spokesman Jay Carney said the US is "fully capable" of defending itself against a ballistic missile attack from the DPRK. The top US envoy on the DPRK issue, Glyn Davies, cautioned Pyongyang not to miscalculate, saying the US will take necessary steps to defend itself and its allies, including the ROK, where more than 30,000 US troops are based. Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin warned that "new threats or trying to build up the military muscle in the region ... might be taking us away from the need to resume Six-Party Talks", which he added must be an international priority for all countries. 

China’s February exports surge, imports fal (By Associated Press in Hong Kong) An employee works on a steel production line at an export factory in Dalian, Liaoning province. China’s exports surged more than expected last month. China’s exports surged more than expected last month in a possible sign of stronger global demand. China’s customs agency said on Friday that exports jumped 21.8 per cent to US$139.4 billion in February. That’s down from the 25 per cent growth in January but much higher than many economists had been forecasting. The strong growth also comes even though February had fewer working days than usual because of the Lunar New Year holiday. The agency said imports fell 15.2 per cent to US$124.12 billion while the trade surplus widened to US$15.2 billion.

Space station dream closer (By Xin Dingding) A space lab will be launched in two years ahead of a key fueling experiment vital for the building of a space station, a leading official with the manned space program said. Shortly after the lab goes into orbit, a freighter will be launched. Tests and research on the freighter technology have produced encouraging results, said Zhou Jianping, chief designer of the manned space program and a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. The space lab, Tiangong-2, will be built using backup craft for the Tiangong-1 space module. Tiangong-1 was launched in September 2011. Tiangong-2 will have a number of upgrades and modifications, the most important being its ability to refuel from the freighter, he said. China will work to build a space station after the Tiangong-2 space lab completes its mission, Zhou added. "It's like air-to-air refueling, but the technology used in weightless space poses new challenges," he said. The space lab will also conduct experiments, he said, without elaborating. The Shenzhou X spacecraft, carrying three astronauts, will be launched in June and dock with the Tiangong-1 module, he said. Docking was successfully carried out by the unmanned Shenzhou VIII in 2011 and by the manned Shenzhou IX in 2012. "After that, there will be no more manned dockings for the Tiangong-1, but it will continue to orbit Earth," he said. "It is likely that the two Tiangong vehicles will be in orbit at the same time," he said. China plans to build a space station around 2020. Experiments were conducted last year to see if two men can survive in an enclosed space, where oxygen, water and food are partly recycled, said Ye Peijian, a lunar exploration specialist and a national political adviser. New center - Earlier this month, Zhou was quoted by Xinhua News Agency as saying that China's fourth launch center, on the tropical island province of Hainan, will be ready in two years. The center, under construction since 2009, will be able to launch space station capsules and cargo ships. The carrier rockets to be launched at the center include Long March-7 and Long March-5. It is designed to handle as many as 10 to 12 rocket launches a year. The three existing centers are used for different missions. Jiuquan is located in the desert of Gansu province and is the only manned spacecraft center. Taiyuan in Shanxi province is capable of launching satellites into both medium and low orbits and finally Xichang in Sichuan province is used for powerful-thrust rockets and satellites. The three sites have carried out more than 100 launches. However, the centers are landlocked in western or northern plateau and mountainous regions, lack commercial development and are inconvenient for transportation. Long Lehao, a carrier rocket expert with the Chinese Academy of Engineering, previously said that rockets to be launched from Wenchang in Hainan would consume less fuel to get into orbit, because of its location. "A satellite launched from Hainan will be able to extend its service life by three years as a result of the fuel saved," Long said.

Hong Kong*:  Mar 9 2013

Hong Kong drops 3 places in tourism rankings (By Ng Kang-chung) Is Hong Kong losing its charm as the Pearl of the Orient? The city slipped from 12th to 15th place in the World Economic Forum's tourism competitiveness rankings yesterday. Singapore scored top marks in the Asia-Pacific region, maintaining the 10th slot where it also sat in the previous WEF survey of 140 countries in 2011. The only other regional finisher in the top 20 was Japan, which jumped eight places to 14th from 22nd - overtaking Hong Kong. Hong Kong was marked down for "environmental sustainability", ranking 118th on that indicator. Other weak areas for the city included "health and hygiene", ranking 50th, "tourism infrastructure" (71st), and "national resources" (84th). But the city took top place for "ground transport infrastructure" and "availability of qualified labour". "[Hong Kong's] transport infrastructure is among the most developed in the world," the study said. "Additionally, Hong Kong benefits from strong safety and security, as well as a conducive business environment." Among the top 20 of the WEF report, 13 were from Europe. Switzerland remained in the top spot, followed by Germany and Austria. A spokesman for the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau noted that Hong Kong was still near the top among major economies in the Asia-Pacific region. The city's travel and tourism competitiveness would get a boost, he added, from planned upgrades at the Ocean Park and Disneyland theme parks, and the opening of the cruise terminal in Kai Tak this year. Tourism in Hong Kong employs about 230,000 people and accounts for 4.5 per cent of gross domestic product. Last year 48 million visitors came to the city, up 16 per cent from 2011.

Fallen queen of commerce expected out of jail today (By Danny Mok, Austin Chiu and Patsy Moy) High-profile businesswoman Lily Chiang Lai-lei, jailed in June 2011 over a HK$3 million share-option scam, is expected to be released on parole today - International Women's Day. Chiang, 51, is expected to walk out of Lo Wu Correctional Institution where her husband Gino Yu will be waiting for her, said her sister, lawmaker Ann Chiang Lai-wan, vice-chairwoman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong. She does not want the children to see her in the prison - The disgraced former chairwoman of Pacific Challenge Holdings and the first woman to chair the General Chamber of Commerce, was jailed for 3 ½ years after being convicted of fraud, conspiracy to defraud and authorising the issue of a prospectus that included an untrue statement. Co-defendants Tahir Hussain Shah, 45, and Pau Kwok-ping, 54, were jailed for two years and 19 months, respectively. The daughter of industrialist Chiang Chen was appealing against the conviction this week, claiming the trial judge made a fundamental flaw in the fact-finding exercise. The Court of Appeal yesterday reserved its judgment on the appeal. Ann Chiang said that her sister, who will have spent more than 21 months in prison, was hoping to make up for lost time with her four children, the youngest of whom is four. Speaking to the Post, Yu said he visited his wife once a month but their children did not go to see her. "She does not want the children to see her in the prison," he explained. Yu said they were divided by a glass panel on his visits. The appeal, he added, would try to "clear the name" of his wife.

Article 23 law is an obligation, says mainland expert (By Gary Cheung in Beijing) Hongkongers reminded of duty to pass national security legislation in fight for the right to vote - Hongkongers should not ignore their obligation to enact national security legislation even as they fight for universal suffrage, a leading mainland expert on the Basic Law says. Rao Geping, a member of the Basic Law Committee, told the South China Morning Post on Monday that passing the national security law required under Article 23 of Hong Kong's Basic Law - and pursuing universal suffrage in a "comprehensive manner" - were more crucial than technical issues such as the nomination threshold for chief executive candidates in 2017. Rao was speaking amid heated debate on universal suffrage. Some democracy activists, impatient at the city government's lack of consultation on introducing universal suffrage in 2017, are planning an Occupy Central movement in protest. Hongkongers, he said, should "fully and accurately implement" the Basic Law, rather than doing so in a selective manner. Stressing that it was his personal opinion, Rao said Hongkongers should not simply enjoy their rights while disregarding their obligations. "Enacting legislation to implement Article 23 is an obligation stipulated in the Basic Law," he said. "Yet nearly 16 years since the handover, the legislation has yet to be enacted. You can't choose Basic Law clauses you like while ignoring others you dislike." Yet nearly 16 years since the handover, the legislation has yet to be enacted. You can't choose Basic Law clauses you like while ignoring others you dislike - Rao said proposals like the Occupy Central movement were irrational and irresponsible. In 2003, the city's government shelved the proposed national security laws after more than 500,000 people joined the historic July 1 march against them. Rao, who is also deputy director of the Institute of Hong Kong and Macau Affairs and a law professor at Peking University, said many mainlanders believed it would set a bad precedent if Beijing allowed Hong Kong to introduce universal suffrage without passing the national security law under Article 23. "It would undermine the authority of the central government and the Basic Law," he said. Rao said the process of achieving universal suffrage would be smoother if the problem surrounding national security legislation could be resolved earlier. Enacting the legislation would involve some difficulties, he acknowledged, but those should not be used as an excuse to turn a blind eye to the issue.

Second state leader stresses Hong Kong's role in security (By Colleen Lee, Gary Cheung in Beijing and Emily Tsang) New head-to-be of top legislature stresses city must show understanding of ‘one country, two systems’, after earlier warning on subversion - Zhang Dejiang shakes hands with Hong Kong NPC delegates at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing yesterday. Hong Kong delegate Maria Tam Wai-chu talks to Zhang Dejiang during the open discussion. A second state leader yesterday stressed the importance of Hong Kong safeguarding national security, a day after another warned the city against becoming a base for subversion. Politburo Standing Committee member Zhang Dejiang, who will supervise Hong Kong and Macau Affairs and head the nation's top legislature, called on Hong Kong delegates at a closed-door meeting to help deepen the implementation of the "one country, two systems" concept, Xinhua quoted him as saying. Zhang also said the Hong Kong public should develop a fuller understanding of the concept - an expression often used by Beijing in showing its concerns that some Hongkongers placed the "two systems" ahead of the "one country" idea. Zhang, ranked third in the party hierarchy, made the comment just a day after the fourth-ranked fellow Politburo Standing Committee member Yu Zhengsheng warned against Hong Kong becoming a base for subversion on Wednesday. Unlike Yu, Zhang did not mention universal suffrage, the chief executive election or "subversion". He stressed Hong Kong must safeguard national security as stated in last year's 18th party congress report - which sums up the governing philosophy of the party for the next five years. "He used it to show that the central government's policy on Hong Kong remains unchanged," said Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, one of the 36 Hong Kong deputies of the National People's Congress at the meeting. He used it to show that the central government's policy on Hong Kong remains unchanged - She added: "What I have heard [from Zhang] today were the clearest remarks over the past few years on Hong Kong's achievements and advantages." Another deputy, Michael Tien Puk-sun, said Zhang mentioned that conflicts between Hong Kong and mainland China were "expected". Tien quoted him as saying: "We need to handle it with a cool head and take concrete measures." Several other deputies also described Zhang's comment as "more positive and less stern" than Yu's. Zhang and Yu are expected to head the nation's top legislature and top political advisory body respectively. Zhang will take over from party chief Xi Jinping as the head of the party's leading group on Hong Kong and Macau Affairs - effectively the highest decision-making body on the two special administrations. Political commentator Johnny Lau Yui-siu believed the comments were triggered by recent events, such as some protesters in Hong Kong waving colonial flags and a plan to occupy the roads in Central to demand universal suffrage. Wang Gaungya , director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office under the State Council, said "a minority of people used Hong Kong as a bridgehead of subversion".

Displays of Hong Kong's colonial flag offend Beijing (By Gary Cheung, Colleen Lee and Li Jing in Beijing) 'Centrifugal forces' and symbols of a former era will not be allowed, Politburo Standing Committee member tells CPPCC delegates - A state leader yesterday denounced Hong Kong activists who waved colonial flags during recent protests and warned that "opposition" and "centrifugal forces" would not be allowed to rule the city after universal suffrage was introduced. Yu Zhengsheng, a member of the Communist Party Politburo Standing Committee - and tipped to be the next chairman of the nation's top advisory body - is the first high-level mainland official to address controversies involving Hong Kong. In a closed meeting with Hong Kong delegates to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, Yu also referred to the parallel trade in infant milk formula and mainland women giving birth in Hong Kong. One delegate quoted Yu as saying that Hong Kong could not become a base and bridgehead for subverting the mainland. "When he spoke about the election of the chief executive by universal suffrage in 2017, Yu said 'opposition' and 'centrifugal forces' could not be allowed to rule Hong Kong after universal suffrage was attained," the delegate said. "It is not good for Hong Kong and the country," Yu was quoted as saying. Again quoting Yu, the delegate said: "The Chinese people will not accept some Hongkongers waving the colonial flag." The Chinese people will not accept some Hongkongers waving the colonial flag. However, Yu also told Hong Kong delegates to the CPPCC yesterday that he understood the grievances in Hong Kong towards mainlanders coming to the city to compete for resources. Delegate Tam Yiu-chung said Yu, who served as Shanghai party secretary from 2007 to 2012, spoke of tensions in that city over people who came from other parts of the country to give birth. "Some Shanghai residents are unhappy with this phenomenon and municipal authorities have had to increase the number of beds for obstetric services to solve the problem," he said. Delegate Chan Yuen-han, quoted Yu as saying that some Shanghai residents were unhappy about students from other provinces and cities competing for university places. Another delegate said Yu mentioned that 40 per cent of patients at Shanghai hospitals came from other parts of the mainland. "It was because the standard of medical service in Shanghai was more advanced. We resolved this simply by building two extra hospitals," Yu said. Yu also told the delegates that, under the "one country, two systems" formula, conflict between Hongkongers and mainlanders should be handled by Hong Kong's administration. "He is confident that the Hong Kong government can handle the matter properly," Chan said. Yu also said the government's resolve in implementing the "one country, two systems" principle and supporting the chief executive would never change. Members of "We are Hongkongers, Not Chinese" wave Hong Kong Flag of the colonial era in front of Central Government's Liason Office in Western District on 1st October 2012, the National Day of China. 

KMB plans route reorganisation to ease congestion, cut emissions (By Lai Ying-kit) KMB will reorganise its bus lines in Northern District this summer in the first stage of a territory-wide bus route reorganisation. The Kowloon Motor Bus Company will reorganise its bus lines in Northern District this summer in the first stage of a territory-wide bus route reorganisation, the transport secretary said on Thursday. Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung said the reorganisation would involve cutting or merging underused and overlapping lines to increase efficiency. The frequencies of bus services on busy routes would be increased and new routes would be added where necessary, he said. After Northern District, a similar route reorganisation plan will be implemented in other districts in the second half of the year, Cheung said. The reorganisation aims to reduce road congestion, operation costs and gas emissions from buses. Cheung was speaking after meeting the heads of 18 district councils to discuss the plan. KMB, the city’s largest franchised bus company, recently announced a 4.9 per cent average bus fare increase – which will come into effect on March 17. The company recorded a loss of HK$15.2 million in the first half of last year, citing rising fuel prices and difficulty in reorganising many of its underused routes due to opposition from local communities.

Subversion warning on 2017 CE race (By Eddie Luk and Winnie Chong) A top Beijing leader has warned against turning Hong Kong into a base for subversion. Politburo Standing Committee member Yu Zhengsheng also warned about the danger of "forces" confronting the central government in the 2017 election in which the chief executive will be elected by universal suffrage. "This will go against the interest of Hong Kong and the country," he said. Yu, tipped to be the next chairman of the Chinese Peoples' Political Consultative Conference, issued the stern warning at a meeting with delegates from Hong Kong during which he also appealed for residents to be more accommodating and understanding in their relationship with mainlanders. Yu is the highest official yet to warn of subversion. A source familiar with what transpired at the meeting said Yu was concerned that protesters had waved the British colonial flag during demonstrations which he described as the work of "extremists" trying to subvert the SAR. "Hong Kong cannot become a base and the bridgehead from which to subvert the socialist system in the mainland," Yu stressed. Speaking at the closed-door meeting with the delegates, Yu said he noted some individual activists had waved the British colonial flag and fought for independence for Hong Kong. Yu said if these activists' moves are allowed to continue their actions, the results will be unimaginable. He said he hoped that Hong Kong delegates will speak out against any evil trend in the city. Yu called for pro-establishment political parties and community organizations to stay united and to consolidate the patriotic powers in the SAR as he realized that the pro-establishment camp was split after the chief executive election last year. Yu said all the rows are now over and cited as an example splits within the Chinese Communist Party in the past. He said he hoped that Hong Kong delegates would support chief executive Leung Chun-ying to govern based on the laws. He also said that party secretary- general Xi Jinping has pledged that the central government will adhere to the principle of "one country two systems" and support the chief executive. Civic Party chairman Alan Leong Kah-kit said it was "most unfair" for Yu to repeat the accusation of voices in Hong Kong calling for independence. "Everybody knows those who waved British flags were simply expressing their discontent at Leung Chun-ying's administration," Leung said. "It is most unreal to say these people were calling for Hong Kong independence." Leong said Yu's accusation is detached from reality and does not help promote harmony in the SAR. Democrat Albert Ho Chun-yan said there are always people with extreme opinions in any free and open society. But Hong Kong people will not accept Yu using this excuse ahead of any discussion on Hong Kong's political reform. "The small number of people waving British-Hong Kong flags do not represent all Hongkongers," Ho said. "We fear that this is being used as an excuse not to proceed with political reform."

Hong Kong filmmakers find Google support for documentaries (By Ernest Kao) (From left, seated) Jessey Tsang, Leung Ming-kai, watchmaker William Shum and director Chris Ng Ho-yin. Three independent documentary filmmakers are banking on Hong Kong’s penchant for “googling” what they don’t know to promote their latest works and rally support for the city’s film culture. Google and the Hong Kong Art Centre’s Incubator for Film and Visual Media in Asia (IFVA) have collaborated to launch the Hong Kong Search Stories project, which premiered on Wednesday. According to the search giant, the project aims to provide local filmmakers an opportunity to “bring theory into practice, through inserting new and innovative elements into local film”. The three winners of IFVA’s 18th greenlab short film project, Jessey Tsang Tsui-shan, Leung Ming-kai and Chris Ng Ho-yin, were chosen to present their 2½ minute YouTube films, which document the lives of three individuals and how search technology has helped change their lives. Leung’s Search for the Dream of the Red Pavilion tells the story of an actress raised in the US returning to Hong Kong to rediscover her roots. Ng's film Search of Tourbillon is about a young entrepreneur leaving his job in finance to become a watchmaker. “I gave up my job at an investment bank to become a ‘post-80s’ entrepreneur, it's almost like a dream come true,” said Ng’s protagonist William Shum, who went on to establish watch brand Memorigin. He said he used Google Maps to locate watch retailers that would promote his tourbillon watch. Tsang’s short-film, Search for the Taste Buds, follows traffic accident survivor George Tang, who rebuilds her life exploring the delicate relationship between food and human beings. “It really tells the story of how life and technology is so intertwined nowadays,” said Tsang. This will be the second time Google and YouTube will step into the realm of cinema. In 2011 they produced a documentary drama featuring crowdsourced clips from all over the world that was also screened in Hong Kong movie theatres. “Besides widening the horizons for local films through this collaboration, we also hope that the stories inspire viewers to set off on their own journeys of search and exploration,” said Google Hong Kong sales director Stella Cheung. All three Hong Kong Search Stories films will be showcased at the IFVA Award Presentation Ceremony on March 16 at the Hong Kong Arts Centre. 

Ex-TVB chief Stephen Chan acquitted of bribery (By Lai Ying-kit) Stephen Chan Chi-wan arrives at District Court to hear his verdict on Thursday. A judge on Thursday maintained his previous decision to acquit former TVB general manager Stephen Chan Chi-wan and his former assistant of bribery charges over show payments. The ruling was the result of a two-day hearing that was held after the Court of Appeal sent back the case to District Court Judge Poon Siu-tung. Poon, who was asked to reconsider his earlier decision to acquit the pair in 2011, maintained that Chan and Edthancy Tseng Pei-kun had reasonable defence against the charges. In his new verdict on Thursday, Poon said the case was different from a corruption case because Chan made no attempts to hide the earnings and the money could not be regarded as secretive paybacks. The charges referred to Chan and his former assistant Tseng receiving HK$112,000 for a new year’s eve TV special in 2009 and not telling his employer. The show in question was held at Kowloon’s Olympian City mall. Chan was paid through a company run by Tseng, the court heard. Poon said the show was aired by TVB and several of its departments took part in its production. He said it was reasonable to believe that Chan received tacit approval from TVB to get paid for the show. Chan is now a senior executive at Hong Kong private broadcaster Commercial Radio. He is also known for hosting talk shows and interviews with local celebrities.

MTR super unit to run train services (By Winnie Chong) The MTR plans to merge its three operations control centers into one super unit to oversee train services. Head of operating Alan Cheng Kwan-hing said the centers at Tsing Yi, Fo Tan and Kam Tin will be housed under one roof in a "Super OCC" at Tsing Yi to boost efficiency. The Fo Tan center, which oversees East Rail and Ma On Shan Rail services, will be transferred to the Tsing Yi super center at the end of this month. Meanwhile, the Kam Tin center, which oversees the West Rail services, will relocate in June. To prepare for its new role, the operations center in Tsing Yi has undergone a HK$117 million facelift. Facilities and equipment in the 700 square meter unit have been upgraded. Also, a large rear-projection mimic display has been installed to show real-time situation of trains operating on the East Rail line. "The new Super OCC is designed with our network expansion in mind. It will house the controls of four of the five new rail lines being constructed," MTR Corp chief executive Jay Walder said. Furthermore, the merger will be more effective in mobilizing trains, monitoring the platform situation and passenger flow. To prepare for the merger, Cheng said the MTR has been conducting seven to eight tests at night.

 China*:  Mar 9 2013

Women in China top the world in holding senior business roles, survey shows (By Enoch Yiu) Survey shows more females in China hold senior roles than those in advanced economies - The report, released yesterday, surveyed chief executives or chairmen of 6,627 companies of all industry sectors globally. Hong Kong women were placed sixth, holding just 30 per cent of top management posts in the city - mainly in human resources and marketing. Having women in the top jobs will add more balanced views to the decision-making process, and we can understand our female customers better - In the gender stakes, the city lagged behind the Philippines (37 per cent), Thailand (36 per cent), Vietnam (33 per cent) and Taiwan (31 per cent). Both mainland China and Hong Kong were ahead of the global average of 24 per cent, and also ranked above Singapore at 27 per cent, the United States at 20 per cent, Britain at 19 per cent and Japan at only 7 per cent. A separate survey by MasterCard released yesterday supported the finding that mainland women were well represented in business, with 40.9 female business owners to every 100 male ones, a ratio that ranked third in the Asia-Pacific region only below Australia (50.9 female to every 100 male) and New Zealand (42 female to every 100 male) and higher than Hong Kong (24.9 female to every 100 male), with India (13.2 female to every 100 male) at the rear. In politics, the MasterCard survey showed there were 27.1 female political leaders in China for every 100 male. That was below New Zealand, Taiwan and Australia, where there were 40 to every 100 males; but higher than Japan and India, which had only 12 to every 100 males. The World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report 2012 ranked China 58th out of 135 countries for political empowerment of its women. Jerry Chang, managing director of headhunter Barons & Co, said China's one-child policy meant mainland women were under less pressure to arrange childcare, and this allowed them to have more time for business. At ANZ Bank Hong Kong, women fill about 40 per cent of senior roles, including that of its chief executive, Susan Yuen Su-min. "Having women in the top jobs will add more balanced views to the decision-making process, and we can understand our female customers better," she said. Amy Chiang, senior manager at Grant Thornton Hong Kong, said with an increasing number of female business owners and growth in women's purchasing power, gender diversity within board members naturally led to better performance.

Meet the never-touch-a-pan generation (By Lu Feiran) Dubbed as the "never-touch-a-pan generation," today's Chinese young people are mostly lacking in basic domestic skills, such as cooking, cleaning, washing and housework. Usually parents and ayis take care of all the chores even though the children are married and move out. MANY sheltered urban young people don't know how to cook a meal, sew on a button or iron a shirt. They are known as the never-touch-a-pan generation. Lu Feiran reports on changing lifestyle. Nearly eight years after getting married and having a three-year-old boy, 34-year-old Jenny Zhang, together with her husband and the toddler, is still living with her parents. Although before they got married, the couple believed they could look after their parents better if they lived together, the fact is that the parents do almost all the chores. "I don't know how to cook," says Zhang, a saleswoman at a chemical reagent company. "And since we both go home rather late every day, it's not realistic for us to cook our dinner after work." Zhang's life is quite representative of the situation many young people in Shanghai nowadays. While parents are proud of their children's achievements in education and career, some of them worry that their children are totally lacking in basic domestic skills, such as cooking, cleaning, ironing, doing washing, housework, and generally taking care of themselves. It's the instant-noodle, take-out generation. Mothers and ayis (domestic helpers) do everything and it's especially unmanly for a young man to do women's work or iron a shirt. Men and women too can go through life without sewing on a button. A recently coined buzzword describes these inept and helpless young people - bu zhan guo (2??′1?). It literally means "non-stick pan" and is pronounced the same as "never touch a pan." "My husband and I don't give much thought to this but it would be wrong to say we are not worried at all," says 60-year-old Lu Yun, Zhang's mother. "Who will take care of them when we are too old to do the housework?" She admits, however, that she and her husband didn't bother to teach their daughter how to cook before she got married. "On one hand, we only hoped she could focus on study and later on work," says Lu. "We thought cooking was something she would naturally know how to do, but now it seems we were quite wrong." Since many young people tend to live near their parents after they marry and spend a lot of time with their in-laws, they never need to learn to do chores by themselves. Young couples who want more freedom and don't live with or near their parents find other ways to take care of tedious domestic details. If they can, they hire an ayi for cooking and laundry. Or, if they live nearby, they can dine frequently with their parents and then go back to their own home. Of course, these are young people with some means and many blue-collar young people learn to take care of themselves. Sheen Li, a 37-year-old mother of two girls, says their ayi has worked for them for more than 10 years. She cooks, cleans and does laundry, ironing, shopping and everything else. "My husband is unable to do virtually anything, while I spend most of my time taking care of our daughters," Li says. "Our ayi is very kind and helpful. We love her cooking and trust her like family." Meanwhile, 28-year-old Zhang Wen, an assistant legal adviser, and her husband live just across the street from their parents home. "My husband and I go to my parents' place to have dinner every day," she says, "and sometimes we bring some food back home so we can reheat it for dinner the next day." Zhang says she can cook several simple dishes, while her husband is a typical bu zhan guo. "He only knows how to make instant noodles," she says. Many young people choose to buy their own apartment near their parents' after they marry. This gives them privacy, and it's also convenient to take care of their parents as they get older. People call this kind of separation "the distance of a bowl of soup," indicating that the small distance means children can send their parents a bowl of hot soup, which arrives when it's still hot. 

Developer shows design of future Shanghai Disneyland - As the construction of Shanghai Disneyland is in full swing in Pudong District, the Shanghai Disney Resort Management Company today unveiled a new image of its theme park. The image showed just a section of a 1:100 scale model of Shanghai Disneyland, offering a glimpse of a lush 11-acre oasis in the core of the park and the unique design of its centerpiece, the Enchanted Storybook Castle. The whole resort will have two themed hotels, a 46,000-square-meter complex for shopping, dining and entertainment, a lake, parking lots, and a transportation hub.

National permits to unseat 'hukou' (By REUTERS) The country's new leaders are planning a system of national residence permits to replace the household registration or `hukou' regime, a government source said, a vital reform that will boost the urbanization campaign and drive consumption-led growth. The hukou system, dating to 1958, has split the population along urban-rural lines, preventing many of the 800 million registered as rural residents from settling in cities and enjoying basic urban welfare and services. Critics have called for changes for years and a government researcher said a policy of a "unified national residence permit system" will be adopted in a document to be published after the ongoing parliament session. Benefits and entitlement under the new system will be "basically equal," although changes will be eased in slowly, he said. "The trend is to dilute the urban-rural household registration divide," said the researcher, who declined to be identified because the plan has not yet been made public. Previous administrations experimented with nominal reform for years but did not deliver on calls to overhaul the hukou system, which affords different welfare and civic services to urban and rural citizens. At the National People's Congress, outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao said hukou reforms should be accelerated to drive an urbanization effort to underpin economic development. Zhang Ping, head of the National Development and Reform Commission, the main economic planners, said guidelines for the urbanization plan will be launched in the first half of this year. "Urbanization is the biggest potential force driving domestic demand in the years ahead," Zhang said. Plans are to spend 40 trillion yuan (HK$49.9 trillion) to bring 400 million people to cities over the next decade as the new leadership of incoming president Xi Jinping and premier Li Keqiang seeks to create a wealthy world power with economic growth generated by affluent consumers. Wen said consumption is the key to unlocking the full potential of domestic demand and it would also help deliver growth of 7.5 percent this year, after 2012 saw the slowest pace of growth in 13 years. Hukou reform can also unlock the funds of about 200 million rural residents working in cities as migrants, who spend much of their incomes on benefits like medical services and children's education, given free to urbanites. If this demographic shift is successful, China will enjoy continued economic strength, analysts say. If not, it could lead to social and political instability. "If they don't get it right, instead of growing a middle class, they are going to grow a huge underclass in the city, and that's very scary," population expert Kam Wing Chan at the University of Washington said. A key reason the reform has been delayed is money, with city governments dragging their feet on equal welfare citing lack of funds. Migrants have for years lamented inequalities in the hukou, like the lack of medical coverage or equal access to higher studies. "In the countryside we generally want to change our rural hukou for city hukous," said Wang Baiqiang, an 18-year-old who left a village in Henan for a job in an Adidas factory in Jiangsu province, 14 hours away by bus. "It's just better if you have a city hukou if you live in that city," he said.

Temasek-backed China REIT surges after record Singapore IPO (By Reuters in Hong Kong) Mapletree Greater China Commercial Trust rose as much as 10.2 per cent in its debut on Thursday, underscoring demand from yield-hungry investors after the Temasek-backed trust raised US$1.3 billion (HK$10.1 billion) in Singapore’s biggest REIT offering. The real estate investment trust, which is backed by Singapore state investor Temasek Holdings, rose to S$1.025 in early trading, compared with a 0.1 per cent decline in the benchmark Straits Times Index. The REIT consists of office and retail developments in mainland China and in Festival Walk, an up-market shopping centre in Kowloon Tong in Hong Kong. The trust priced the IPO at S$0.93 per unit, at the top of its marketing range. At that price, the REIT would yield 5.6 per cent for the financial year ending in March next year and 6.1 per cent for the following year. The projected returns compare with an average of 5.05 per cent on retail REITs and 4.82 per cent for office REITs listed in Singapore for the 12 months through the end of January, according to Asia Pacific Real Estate Association (APREA) data. In Hong Kong, retail REITs posted an average yield of 4.6 per cent, while office REITs had 5.46 per cent in the same period. Temasek will remain the largest shareholder of the REIT after the IPO, through its indirect holding of Mapletree Investments, the sponsor of the trust. Mapletree Investments, which will hold 35 per cent of the REIT after the listing, is wholly owned by Temasek’s Fullerton Management. Citigroup, DBS, Goldman Sachs and HSBC were hired to manage the IPO.

Hong Kong*:  Mar 8 2013

Cheung Kong aims for record HK$40b homes sales this year (By Peggy Sito) Company bucks trend by aiming for HK$40 billion from selling 5,200 flats in HK and 2,500 homes on the mainland as rivals scale back - Cheung Kong plans to pre-sell the 1,648-unit joint-venture Lohas Park phase three project in the first half of this year. Cheung Kong expects to bank between HK$35 billion and HK$40 billion from property sales in Hong Kong and the mainland this year, a record for the company. Bucking the trend of its major rivals which are scaling back their sales targets, Cheung Kong said it would be making more than 5,200 Hong Kong flats and 2,500 mainland units available for sale this year, also a record high. Analysts said Cheung Kong was adopting its regular strategy of pushing sales volume to secure earnings. But Lee Wee Liat, the head of property research at BNP Paribas Securities (Asia), believes that the developer's aggressive sales plan could be an indication of its caution on the market outlook. "Cheung Kong has always been the guy which focuses on asset churn. It sells whatever it has," Lee said. "This is a good strategy if you think property prices are already at the top. You sell more to get volume to offset less upside in prices." Justin Chiu Kwok-hung, an executive director at Cheung Kong, said the company had targeted HK$30 billion from property sales in Hong Kong, and between HK$8 billion and HK$10 billion from the mainland. The company achieved property sales of HK$27 billion in Hong Kong and HK$3 billion on the mainland last year. Last week, Sun Hung Kai Properties and New World Development lowered their sales targets for this financial year by 8.5 per cent and 20 per cent respectively, in anticipation of the government's cooling measures softening demand in the property market. Chiu said more pre-sales consents would be approved by the government this year, compared with last year, and that would allow his company to sell more homes. He said home prices could go up or down, but the range would be within 10 per cent this year. Five projects will be sold in Hong Kong. The first will be the 402-unit development in Kwok Shui Road, Tsuen Wan. In the first half, the company plans to pre-sell a 1,648-unit joint-venture project with Nan Fung Development, known as Lohas Park phase three. Others include City Point at Tsuen Wan West MTR station, a small project in North Point and the Fung Yuen development in Tai Po. Five projects in three mainland cities are planned for sale. They include 600 villas at the La Grande Ville development in Beijing and two projects in Guangzhou. This year, Cheung Kong will sell its developments in Shanghai for the first time, including a 273-villa project in Jiading district and an apartment building containing 734 units in Putuo district. Paul Louie, the regional head of property research at Nomura, said he was waiting to see how Cheung Kong set the price of its residential project in Kwok Shui Road. Louie said the price premium between new and second-hand homes would continue to narrow as demand dropped. Shih Wing-ching, the founder of Centaline Property, was quoted by Hong Kong Chinese media as saying that the Hong Kong housing market could see a big correction. Shih said speculators and investors were being forced to leave the market. He said and the doubling of stamp duty on all properties above HK$2 million announced last month was the "last straw that breaks the camel's back".

Frugal Hong Kong women rank 2nd in world as savers (By Enoch Yiu) Females here are just behind their Singapore counterparts when stashing cash every month, a survey of 15 markets on savings habits shows - Hong Kong's women are the second-best female savers on earth, salting away more money than women anywhere else except Singapore, according to a global HSBC study on how well people save for their retirement. The frugal women of Hong Kong save US$521 a month on average, compared with US$336 for Asia and US$243 globally. Singaporean women top the list at US$536 a month. Hong Kong women are slightly more disciplined savers than the city's men. Sixty-one per cent of women here save every month, versus 59 per cent of men. Hong Kong women, however, save less than men in dollar terms - at US$521 a month for women and US$565 for the men. But men in Hong Kong earn HK$3,500 more than women per month, on average, according to government figures for 2006. The HSBC study did not take into account the gender gap in income. The HSBC study surveyed more than 15,000 people in 15 markets worldwide, in August last year, including Britain, Germany, Russia, Japan, Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan. "Globally, men seem to be better savers than women" both in terms of their regularity and amounts saved, said Diana Cesar, head of retail banking and wealth management for HSBC's Hong Kong office. Globally, men seem to be better savers than women" both in terms of their regularity and amounts saved - Women globally usually save for short-term goals - such as taking a holiday - instead of for retirement, the survey found. Around the world, 46 per cent of women save regularly compared to 50 per cent of men. In terms of the money being saved regularly, women save 35 per cent less than men per month. The money women save lasts only 10 years after their retirement, on average, the study found. Yet women usually live 23.3 years after retirement, compared to 18.5 years for men. Hence women often experience financial hardship after retirement. Cesar said: "We noticed that over half of Hong Kong women in their 40s and 50s are concerned about their ability to cope financially in retirement. This suggested that although Hong Kong women may have made some preparations for later years, they are not confident this is sufficient and thus tend to save more." Hong Kong women who seek help from a professional financial adviser would have about 140 per cent more retirement savings than those who did not, she said. In Asia as a whole, men set aside US$380 every month for retirement compared with US$336 for women. Mainland women save US$219 a month, which is almost equal to men at US$226 - the narrowest gap in Asia. The biggest gap in the region is in Australia, where women save US$255 to the men's US$433. "As women expect to live longer in retirement, they are facing a bigger retirement savings void and thus a bigger challenge," Cesar said. "It is important for them to start planning early."

Displays of Hong Kong's colonial flag offends Beijing (By Gary Cheung, Colleen Lee and Li Jing in Beijing) 'Centrifugal forces' and symbols of a former era will not be allowed, Politburo Standing Committee member tells CPPCC delegates. A state leader yesterday denounced Hong Kong activists who waved colonial flags during recent protests and warned that "opposition" and "centrifugal forces" would not be allowed to rule the city after universal suffrage was introduced. Yu Zhengsheng, a member of the Communist Party Politburo Standing Committee - and tipped to be the next chairman of the nation's top advisory body - is the first high-level mainland official to address controversies involving Hong Kong. In a closed meeting with Hong Kong delegates to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, Yu also referred to the parallel trade in infant milk formula and mainland women giving birth in Hong Kong. One delegate quoted Yu as saying that Hong Kong could not become a base and bridgehead for subverting the mainland. "When he spoke about the election of the chief executive by universal suffrage in 2017, Yu said 'opposition' and 'centrifugal forces' could not be allowed to rule Hong Kong after universal suffrage was attained," the delegate said. "It is not good for Hong Kong and the country," Yu was quoted as saying. Again quoting Yu, the delegate said: "The Chinese people will not accept some Hongkongers waving the colonial flag." The Chinese people will not accept some Hongkongers waving the colonial flag - However, Yu also told Hong Kong delegates to the CPPCC yesterday that he understood the grievances in Hong Kong towards mainlanders coming to the city to compete for resources. Delegate Tam Yiu-chung said Yu, who served as Shanghai party secretary from 2007 to 2012, spoke of tensions in that city over people who came from other parts of the country to give birth. "Some Shanghai residents are unhappy with this phenomenon and municipal authorities have had to increase the number of beds for obstetric services to solve the problem," he said. Delegate Chan Yuen-han, quoted Yu as saying that some Shanghai residents were unhappy about students from other provinces and cities competing for university places. Another delegate said Yu mentioned that 40 per cent of patients at Shanghai hospitals came from other parts of the mainland. "It was because the standard of medical service in Shanghai was more advanced. We resolved this simply by building two extra hospitals," Yu said. Yu also told the delegates that, under the "one country, two systems" formula, conflict between Hongkongers and mainlanders should be handled by Hong Kong's administration. "He is confident that the Hong Kong government can handle the matter properly," Chan said. Yu also said the government's resolve in implementing the "one country, two systems" principle and supporting the chief executive would never change.

Thieves flock to gem show despite heavy security (By Clifford Lo) The five-day 30th Hong Kong International Jewellery Show at the Convention and Exhibition Centre (above) ends on Saturday. The heavy security at the Hong Kong International Jewellery Show has been put to the test since the show opened on Tuesday after numerous reports of theft and the arrest of a Mongolian man for stealing valuables from two booths on Wednesday. In the first two days of the show at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai, police received five reports of theft involving more than HK$500,000 worth of jewellery. On Wednesday, a 28-year-old tourist from Mongolia was arrested after he snatched 12 rings worth US$3,600 from a booth in one of exhibition halls. An employee from the booth gave chase and managed to stop him leaving until police officers arrived and handcuffed him. A police spokeswoman said the officers recovered 10 of the rings at the scene but the other two rings were still missing. Officers also seized two bracelets and one necklace, worth a total of US$5,000, on the suspect. Subsequent investigation showed the three items were stolen from another booth earlier in the day. “We are investigating whether he has accomplices,” a police officer said. Police are also hunting for five Chinese women in connection with one of the three unsolved thefts that took place on the opening day of the jewellery show. Around midday on Tuesday, the five women visited a booth pretending to be buyers. While some of the women diverted the attention of the booth’s employees, others stole the diamond,” the officer said. He said the theft was captured on surveillance cameras. The booth’s employees only discovered that the diamonds were missing on Tuesday night. The exhibitor called the police on Wednesday morning after checking security footage. On the opening day of the show, a Philippines tourist, wanted over the theft of a ruby bracelet at a November show, was picked up in one of the exhibition halls. Watch and jewellery fairs in Hong Kong attract thieves from South America, the mainland and other countries. In addition to private security guards hired by the organisers, more than 100 uniform and plain clothes police officers are on duty at the show that has attracted more than 3,300 exhibitors from 49 countries. More than 100 surveillance cameras are used in the exhibition halls and inside booths. The five-day 30th Hong Kong International Jewellery Show at the Convention and Exhibition Centre ends on Saturday.

China advancing pilot zone for mainland-HK cooperation (Xinhua) China's top economic planner said on Wednesday that the mainland is in the process of implementing most of the measures aimed at boosting mainland-Hong Kong cooperation in a pilot zone neighboring Hong Kong. "The construction and opening up of the Qianhai pilot zone is being advanced smoothly," said Zhang Ping, head of the National Development and Reform Commission, China's top economic planner, at a press conference on the sidelines of parliament's annual session. Only six of the 22 measures regarding the establishment of the zone need further discussion, such as issues related to lawyers' practices, since the judicial systems of the mainland and Hong Kong are different, Zhang noted. "We are hopeful of coming up with plans to solve those problems in the first half of this year," he added. The pilot zone, a stretch of 15-square-km reclaimed land in Qianhai Bay in western Shenzhen near Hong Kong and Macao, is considered a testfield for the mainland's financial opening up, after steps taken by the government to boost the internationalization of the Chinese currency RMB, or the yuan. More than 180 financial enterprises had registered in Qianhai by the end of November, accounting for 76 percent of all the companies introduced into the area, according to data from the Qianhai Administration Bureau. New Communist Party of China (CPC) chief Xi Jinping chose Qianhai as the location for his first inspection tour outside Beijing after being elected general secretary of the CPC Central Committee in November. The Qianhai zone will take on reform measures in the sectors of finance, taxation, legal system, talents, education and medical treatment, and telecommunications. Efforts will be made to encourage financial innovation in Qianhai, including preparations for a cross-border loan issuance experiment and the establishment of a trial zone to run cross-border RMB businesses.

 China*:  Mar 8 2013

Energy trade surplus for US (By By LAN LAN) China, US' clean energy trade worth $8.5b in 2011, report says. The United States enjoyed a $1.6 billion trade surplus in clean energy trade with China in 2011, showing that US companies still hold an absolute advantage over their Chinese counterparts, according to a report released by the Pew Charitable Trusts on Wednesday. The two countries traded more than $8.5 billion worth of clean energy goods and services in 2011, the last year for which data are available. "There is competition but also collaboration among China and the US. It would be beneficial for both countries to collaborate on clean energy," Phyllis Cuttino, director of Pew's clean energy program, told China Daily. The report includes three major clean energy sectors, solar, wind and energy smart technologies. Solar energy accounts for 56 percent and energy smart technologies account for 35 percent of the surplus in the three sectors. In 2012, the main factor was that there were fewer imports of solar panels from China, while there were more products from countries such as South Korea, Japan and Malaysia, said Nathaniel Bullard, clean energy and China analyst for Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which compiled data for the report. The weak currency and slumping market demand also had an impact, he said. "If the price is going down, the value is going down naturally, the volume is going down as well, because of the trade cases," he said. Tensions between China and the US in the new energy sector in recent years and several high-profile trade cases have led to a misunderstanding that China has become a dominant supplier in this sector. In October, the US Commerce Department set anti-dumping duties ranging from 18.32 to 249.96 percent on solar-energy cells imported from China. In December, the US Commerce Department set final anti-dumping duties ranging from 44.99 to 70.63 percent on utility-scale towers made in China. Ren Dongming, deputy director of the center for renewable energy development, under the National Development and Reform Commission, said China's clean energy imports shrank considerably in 2012 and were largely affected by the trade cases. "The year 2012 was the most difficult year for Chinese solar companies. Most of them shut down, only a few survived, but are still struggling," said Ren. "The costs of China's solar products and components have been greatly increased, and that has also hurt US manufacturers' interests," Ren said. The two countries traded more than $6.5 billion worth of products in the solar sector in 2011, and the US had a $913 million surplus in this sector. More than $923 million worth of wind energy goods and services were exchanged between the two countries in 2011 in the wind energy sector and the US firms held a net trade surplus of more than $146 million. In the energy smart technology sector, which includes smart meters, light emitting diodes, advanced lithium-ion batteries and electric vehicles, the US enjoyed a net trade surplus of $571 million. The data showed that China's clean energy industry has an advantage in large-scale manufacturing and high-volume assembly of certain clean energy products such as solar modules and LED fixtures. "Policy choices, not China's exports, will determine the direction of the US clean energy industry in the months and years ahead," the report said. The uncertainties surrounding US clean energy policies are likely to have the greatest impact on domestic manufacturing in the clean energy industry, Cuttino said. Some industrial insiders said the US needs an energy policy that can attract investment. "China has very strong renewable energy targets for wind and solar. The countries that really attract large private finance or have high growth investment are the ones with stable energy policies," Cuttino said.

China eyes residence permits to replace hukou system (By Reuters in Beijing) China’s new leaders are planning a system of national residence permits to replace the household registration or ‘hukou’ regime, a government source said, a vital reform that will boost its urbanisation campaign and drive consumption-led growth. The hukou system, which dates to 1958, has split China’s 1.3 billion people along urban-rural lines, preventing many of the roughly 800 million Chinese who are registered as rural residents from settling in cities and enjoying basic urban welfare and services. Critics have called for changes for years and a government researcher told Reuters a “unified national residence permit system” would be adopted as policy as part of a 10-year urbanisation plan to be published after the current annual session of parliament. Benefits and entitlement under the new system would be “basically equal”, he said, although the changes would be eased in slowly. He did not say how long it would take. “The trend is to dilute the urban-rural household registration divide”, said the researcher, who was briefed on the details but declined to be identified because the plan has not yet been made public. Urbanisation is the biggest potential force driving China’s domestic demand in the years ahead. Previous administrations have experimented with reform on the fringes of hukou for years but have not delivered on calls to overhaul the system, which affords different welfare and civic services to urban and rural citizens. In a speech to parliament on Tuesday that laid out the blueprint of the new leaders, outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao said hukou reforms should be accelerated to drive an urbanisation effort that he said would underpin economic development. Zhang Ping, head of the National Development and Reform Commission, China’s main economic planning agency, said on Wednesday that guidelines for the urbanisation plan would be launched in the first half of this year. “Urbanisation is the biggest potential force driving China’s domestic demand in the years ahead,” Zhang told reporters. China plans to spend 40 trillion yuan (US$6.4 trillion) to bring 400 million people to cities over the next decade as the new leadership of president-in-waiting Xi Jinping and premier-designate Li Keqiang seeks to turn China into a wealthy world power with economic growth generated by affluent consumers. Wen said consumption was the key to unlocking the full potential of domestic demand in the economy and would reduce excess, inefficiency and inequality. It would also help deliver growth of 7.5 per cent this year – a level China barely beat last year when growth eased to 7.8 per cent, its slowest pace in 13 years. Hukou reform can also unlock the funds of about 200 million rural residents who work in cities as migrants and spend much of their incomes on benefits like medical services and education for their children, which are given free to urban dwellers. If policymakers successfully harness this demographic shift, China will enjoy continued economic strength, analysts say. If not, it could lead to social and political instability. “If they don’t get it right, instead of growing a middle class, they are going to grow a huge underclass in the city, and that’s very scary,” said Kam Wing Chan, a population expert at the University of Washington. “Without granting urban hukou to rural urban migrants it is very hard to turn them into the middle class. They will always be second class,” he said. If they don’t get it right, instead of growing a middle class, they are going to grow a huge underclass in the city, and that’s very scary - One of the main reasons the reform has been delayed is money. Local city governments have dragged their feet on plans to give migrants equal welfare, saying they lack the fiscal means to foot the bill. “If the central government is serious they’ve got to talk about how to finance this,” said Tom Miller, an analyst with GK Dragonomics and author of the recently published book China’s Urban Billion. The state researcher who declined to be identified said the urbanisation plan would broadly put the burden of funding on central and local governments, enterprises that employ migrants and individuals. He did not discuss specifics. “In doing so we can ensure that some people can transition from being rural to urban citizens and ensure basic public services for this segment of people,” he said. Another key reform needed in the urbanisation plan would be new rural land management rules, although the researcher said there would be few details on this. Peasants now do not have the freedom to sell their land at market prices, which has exacerbated China’s wide rich-poor gap and made many reluctant to fully abandon their rural plots. Officials like Chen Xiwen, head of the Central Committee’s rural working group, have cautioned against urbanisation, saying it could lead to a shrinking of farms as land is converted to other uses. Migrant workers have for years lamented inequalities in the hukou system, like the lack of local medical coverage or equal access to higher education. “In the countryside we generally want to change our rural hukou for city hukous,” said Wang Baiqiang, an 18-year-old who left a village in Henan province last month for a job in an Adidas factory in the coastal province of Jiangsu, 14 hours away by bus. “It’s just better if you have a city hukou (if you live in a city),” he said.

Pilot property levy will be expanded, says official (By Wei Tian) Shanghai, Chongqing tax plan to be 'gradually' rolled out elsewhere A senior research official attached to the Ministry of Finance has said that an expansion of a trial property tax on second homes, first launched in January 2011 in Shanghai and Chongqing, is "probable" this year to shore up the finances of cash-strapped local authorities and curb property prices. Recent rises in China's housing prices have fueled calls for an expansion of the tax, which has been limited to the two cities until now. Speaking at an entrepreneurial conference in Beijing, just days after new efforts to curb property prices were announced by the government, Jia Kang - a director of the research institute of fiscal science which is affiliated to the finance ministry - said the tax expansion would not be aggressive but more regions will be included in a pilot program "gradually". Jia, also a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee, did not disclose which areas will be included in the tax policy expansion, but added that "to introduce a property tax in cities like Beijing will be much more complicated, as there are too much resistance". His comments come after another round of price tightening measures announced on Friday, targeted at property transactions, including individuals selling properties having to pay a 20 percent tax on sale profits, as well as raised down payment requirements and interest rates on second home mortgages. The Shanghai property tax model covers only buyers of second homes, while the Chongqing program levies it on both new and existing high-end houses. "Chongqing's assessment on existing properties was largely due to its very limited amount of high-end properties, but such policies in first-tier cities like Shanghai will have a much larger tax base as well as bigger impact," said Jia. He said further property taxes could play an important part in improving the current financial strains on local governments, which are seeing sharp declines in fiscal revenue due to less land sales and lower GDP growth. "To develop more local tax streams for local governments will be a very important task this year, including property tax and resource tax," he said. However, some said they doubted the effectiveness of wider property tax policies in lowering housing prices. Mei Xingbao, a former president of China Orient Asset Management Corp, who is also a member of CPPCC, said: "The introduction of a property tax will lead to a rise in transaction costs, but it is unrealistic to expect them to bring down housing prices immediately." In 2012, Shanghai and Chongqing both saw monthly rises in housing prices, even with the trial property tax programs in place. Mei agreed that a property tax is good at optimizing income distribution and building a stable fiscal income source for local governments. "The foundation of any successful expansion of a property tax would be to establish a sound housing information system as the basis of levying the tax," he added. Jia said there aren't any technical difficulties in establishing such a system. "The main obstacles are the vested interest of various departments, which tend to keep information to themselves," he added.

Hong Kong*:  Mar 7 2013

Hot pursuits: Hong Kong's country parks are the place to be (By Jeanette Wang) Hong Kong's country parks are a magnet for a growing number of hikers, runners and ultra-marathoners. Ultra-runners Claire Price (red shirt) and Kami Semick pound the Wilson Trail in Tai Tam. A foodies haven, a finance hub, a party town - Hong Kong is all of these things. And the time is ripe to add "a hiker's heaven" to the list, with record numbers of runners and hikers flocking to the city's extensive network of nature trails. Some 1,200 people will take part in Saturday's RaidLight Lantau trail race - double the number of last year's inaugural event. The race was booked to capacity in two months - three months earlier than last year - with many more on the waiting list, says race director Clement Dumont. A quarter of the participants will fly in from 15 countries, including about 150 from Singapore and many from Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Taiwan. "We have had to limit the participation as it grew too fast," says Dumont, who's also one of Hong Kong's top trail runners. Runners are also seeking longer distances. In response, organisers of the Lantau race added a 100-kilometre category to last year's 50-kilometre and 15-kilometre races. It will be the fifth trail race of 100 kilometres or longer in Hong Kong this year, in addition to the Oxfam Trailwalker, the Vibram Hong Kong 100, and - both announced last month - the HK168 and The North Face 100. Participation in the 100-kilometre Trailwalker is rising: last year 4,715 people took part, 12 per cent more than in 2011 With a quota of about 500 four-person teams, the race is always oversubscribed - there were 2,913 team applications last year, 22 per cent more than in 2011. The Hong Kong 100 in January had 1,200 runners from 30 countries, says race organiser Steve Brammar. The first race in 2011 had 250 participants. But not everyone runs; leisure hiking is also on the rise. Local hiking tour company Walk Hong Kong conducted more than 550 tours for a total of nearly 1,800 people last year - 40 per cent more than in 2011. "Hong Kong has some of the best and most accessible trail running terrain in the world so it is no wonder that people want to get out and enjoy it," says Keith Noyes, race director of King of the Hills, a series of off-road races held since 1984. Hiking and trail running offer a way to escape urban life, get some fresh air, reconnect with nature and exercise. Noyes says the Sars epidemic played a part in making Hongkongers take up outdoor exercise. Trail running is a great way to increase fitness, strength, agility and balance due to the varied terrain, says Emma Drake, a trail runner and physiotherapist. It especially works the buttocks, calves and core, and is healthier for the joints than road running. It's also a lot more fun. Even if you run the same trail day after day, no two steps are the same because the route is subject to weather and human traffic. In a way, the trail has a life of its own. "It's exhilarating and uplifting - you feel so free when you're out on the trails away from the traffic and crowded, noisy streets," says Claire Price, one of Hong Kong's top trail runners. "It's refreshing and a real mental boost for me." Trail running attracts a certain kind of person, say race organisers. "They tend to be overachievers and quite successful," says William Sargent, organiser of the Barclays MoonTrekker night race. "Ninety per cent work for multinational companies; overall, 70 per cent work in banking and finance. The average age is between 25 and 35. About 60 per cent are expats, but there is growth in the local segment." Michael Maddess, who set up Action Asia Events in 1980, will organise at least 17 races this year, including a trio of three-day ultra-marathons in Nepal, Mongolia and Lijiang. A survey of competitors over seven of his races showed that slightly more than half were between 25 and 39. One in five was a CEO, managing director or business owner, one in three was at manager level and 40 per cent earned more than US$100,000 a year. Before, people with a midlife crisis used to buy a Porsche. Now, these people take up an endurance challenge. "Before, people with a midlife crisis used to buy a Porsche," says Pierre-Arnaud Le Magnan, managing director of Vimtech, co-organisers of the Lantau race. "Now, these people take up an endurance challenge." It's no surprise that shops selling outdoor apparel and equipment have seen a boost in sales. "People are willing to pay more for better and lighter gear such as headlamps, windbreakers, trail running shoes, compression tights and hiking poles," says Ryan Cheng, director of RC Outfitters. The store started as a 300 sq ft outlet in 2001 and now has 7,500 sq ft across its Mong Kok and Causeway Bay outlets. RacingThePlanet, the local organiser of desert foot races, started selling outdoor gear in 2009 and has doubled its revenue each year, says Eric LaHaie, former vice-president of global sales. "Asia-Pacific sales are growing much faster than Europe. Hong Kong is by far the fastest growing market, and recently China and Taiwan have taken off," he says. Last month, LaHaie launched Stack Active, a joint venture with US-based sports media website for the Asian market. Even businesses not directly related to the sport are wanting in. Last year Barclays signed a three-year sponsorship deal with MoonTrekker, and Action Asia Events launched a trail run series sponsored by MSIG Insurance. "These sponsors realise that trail runners have disposable income - lots of it - and want to do events in Hong Kong and abroad," Maddess says. But with the increasingly packed race calendar, organisers say it's getting harder to find sponsors and race dates. Also, support from authorities is lacking. Dumont says that, unlike Europe and North America, trail events here don't get any support from the government, despite their huge tourism potential. Major hiking events, including MoonTrekker and Trailwalker, have been promoted to tourists through visitor centres and online, says a Tourism Board spokesman. Promoting Hong Kong's nature is part of the board's long-term strategy for marketing the city. Since 2009, its "Great Outdoors Hong Kong" campaign has offered a guidebook and free trail tours, which were taken up by about 500 visitors last year.

Survey ranks HKU behind rivals in Singapore and Tokyo (By Chris Luo) The University of Hong Kong is trailing behind rival universities in Singapore and Tokyo, according to the latest World Reputation Rankings. The 2013 rankings, published on Monday, ranked the University of Hong Kong 36th in the world. Despite slowly climbing up the rankings from 42nd and 39th place in 2011 and 2012, respectively, the school still trails behind the National University of Singapore at 22nd and University of Tokyo at 9th place. The Times Higher Education magazine said the rankings, compiled by international news agency Thomson Reuters, were based on responses from around 16,300 leading academics. They were asked to nominate no more than 15 of the world’s best tertiary institutions. The magazine’s editor Phil Baty said the status of Asian universities rose this year. “New forces in higher education are emerging, especially in the East Asian countries which are investing heavily in building world-class universities, so traditional elites must be very careful,” added Baty. The magazine’s world university rankings, based on more comprehensive criteria, put the University of Hong Kong at 35th place, also behind the National University of Singapore at 29th and Tokyo University at 27th place. The weekly Times Higher Education is considered one of the world’s most authoritative sources on higher education, along with QS World University Rankings, and Academic Rankings of World Universities.

Former health chief York Chow to head EOC (By Lai Ying-kit) Former health secretary Dr York Chow Yat-ngok has been appointed the new chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission. Chow will take over the equalities watchdog from Lam Woon-kwong, who is leaving due to concerns of potential conflicts of interest with his role as the Executive Council convener. A government spokesman said on Tuesday that Chow was appointed to a three-year term starting April 1. Chow was secretary for health, welfare and food from 2004 to 2007 under Tung Chee-hwa’s administration, and secretary for food and health from 2007 to last year under Donald Tsang Yam-kuen’s government. An orthopaedic surgeon by profession, Chow is also president of Hong Kong Paralympic Committee and Sports Association for the Physically Disabled, and an adviser of the New Life Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association. The government spokesman said Chow had extensive experience in public administration and possessed proven leadership, management and communication skills. We are confident that under his leadership, the EOC will continue to actively promote equal opportunities and eliminate discrimination in the community - “We are confident that under his leadership, the EOC will continue to actively promote equal opportunities and eliminate discrimination in the community,” the spokesman said. Lam, whose EOC term ends on March 31, has been the commission’s head since early 2010. He earlier announced his departure after his appointment in July as the convener of Exco, a top advisory body to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, raised concerns over a potential conflict of interest. The government expressed gratitude for the contribution Lam made over the years: “During the term of office of Mr Lam, the EOC made important achievements in many areas including implementing the four anti-discrimination ordinances as well as their respective Codes of Practice, enhancing the EOC’s public image and corporate governance, and raising public awareness on equal opportunities in various areas through publicity and public education.”

Standard Chartered posts tenth year of record profits (Reuters in London) Standard Chartered reported a pretax profit of US$6.9 billion for 2012 on Tuesday. Standard Chartered notched up a tenth successive rise in annual profit with a 1 per cent gain that was capped by the bank’s big fine for breaking US sanctions on Iran and rising regulatory costs. London-listed Standard Chartered, which has benefited from Asia’s growth through the last decade, said new regulations including tougher liquidity and capital rules and a UK bank tax were costing it “well north” of US$500 million a year. Many banks have said extra global regulations, brought in to make them safer after the 2008 financial crisis, are hurting profitability and could restrict their lending. But very few have quantified the impact on their bottom line. A European Union proposal to cap bankers’ bonuses at double their salary was also a worry, the bank said. “We are concerned about it because we are a global bank and 97 per cent of our staff are outside the EU and we’re concerned about our ability to be competitive in attracting and retaining talent,” Chief Executive Peter Sands said. Asked if it could prompt the bank to leave London, he said it was “too early to draw conclusions on what action we would take as we don’t know what we are dealing with.” Standard Chartered said it had cut its last year bonus pool by 7 per cent from a year before to US$1.43 billion, after it was fined US$667 million by US regulators for breaching sanctions related to Iran and three other countries. Sands said his bonus would fall 10 per cent on the year to US$3.15 million. Decade of hiring - The Iran-related fine was a rare blip after a decade of buoyant growth and few problems for Standard Chartered. It was accused of moving millions of dollars through the American banking system on behalf of customers in sanctioned countries. The bank reported a pretax profit of US$6.9 billion for last year, up from US$6.8 billion in 2011 but just short of an average forecast from analysts of US$7 billion. Its shares rose 2.8 per cent by 10.56am GMT, outperforming a 1.6 per cent rise in the European bank index. The bank, led by former McKinsey consultant Sands for more than six years, added 2,200 staff last year and has said it could expand by a similar amount this year, although it plans to keep any cost increase below its rise in income. Income in Malaysia, China and Indonesia grew by more than 10 per cent last year. Income rose 10 per cent in Hong Kong, its biggest market, mirroring the strong performance there by its rival HSBC on Monday. Income in India, one of its biggest markets, fell 12 per cent as the economy slowed and its currency weakened against the dollar.

 China*:  Mar 7 2013

'Naked officials' to be banned from cadre elections (By Ernest Kao) Officials with family members residing overseas - the so-called "naked officials" - will be barred from running in Ningbo's cadre elections, the Zhejiang Online news website reports. The report on Monday highlights the Communist's Party's increasing concern over the exodus of capital and talented people from China. According to Ningbo’s Muncipal Organisation Department, the new conditions will follow a "point-based" competitive selection process - a first for the seaport city in the northeast of Zhejiang.The report said candidates would also go through rigorous screening and tests. Striving to push a younger generation of cadres forward, candidates qualify for running if they are born after 1980, possess a bachelor’s degree and have at least three years work experience. County level officials have a lower age limit of 28-years-old. The term “naked official” refers to party or government officials in China, who have immediate family members residing overseas, sometimes as foreign nationals. Such conduct has drawn heavy scrutiny in recent years as it is thought to go hand-in-hand with corrupt officials transferring ill-gotten gains out of the country. Chinese Academy of Governance professor Zhu Lijia was quoted in a Beijing Evening News report in January as saying there are now an estimated 1.2 million naked officials in China. Xinhua revised the figure to 1.18 million. In China, the Communist Party and government cadre or "ganbu" system is similar to the civil service system in other countries.

China destroys Ikea, Nestle, Kraft food products in latest quality inspections (By Associated Press in Beijing) Chinese authorities have destroyed Ikea, Nestle and Kraft food products in the latest round of quality inspections. Chinese authorities say they have destroyed nearly two tons of chocolate cake imported by Sweden’s Ikea for violating food quality standards. The Shanghai quarantine bureau said this week that Kraft cream cheese and 2.7 tons of Nestle chocolate bars also were among dozens of imported products destroyed in its latest round of quality inspections. Chinese authorities have stepped up food inspections in recent years after a series of scandals over fake or shoddy goods. The disclosure in December that suppliers of KFC violated rules on drugs use in poultry caused sales for the restaurant chain to plunge. KFC estimated sales in January dropped 37 per cent and the company announced tighter quality control measures in an effort to win back customers. The Shanghai quarantine bureau said it destroyed 1,872 kilos of chocolate almond cake imported by Ikea that it said had excessive levels of coliform bacteria. Ikea spokeswoman Ylva Magnusson said the cakes were destroyed in November and December but the company’s head office had only found out about it on Monday. “The product was stopped and destroyed. So none of the cakes made it to our restaurants,” she said. The cake made by a Swedish supplier is sold in Ikea stores in a majority of the countries where it operates. Magnusson said the company is looking into whether the cake should be withdrawn from sale elsewhere. The Nestle chocolate contained too much sorbitol, a sweetener that in large amounts can cause bowel problems, the agency said in a statement. Phone calls to spokespeople for Nestle and Kraft in China were not answered.

Tokyo blamed for islands tension (By ZHANG YUNBI) China's maritime growth aims to defend and help regional peace: spokeswoman - Japan has sabotaged its consensus with China and invalidated the basis for China's restraint, the spokeswoman for the National People's Congress said on Monday, blaming Japan for escalating tension over the Diaoyu Islands. Fu Ying also rejected allegations that China was seeking to establish hegemony through its maritime growth. Beijing's defense policies help maintain regional peace and stability, Fu said. Observers warned that Tokyo must take the blame for souring Sino-Japanese ties because it has repeatedly gone back on its word and betrayed an agreement it made with Beijing decades ago about shelving the dispute. Fu, on behalf of the country's top legislature, said China is willing to resolve tension through negotiations, and she quoted the Chinese proverb "One hand alone cannot clap" to indicate that Japan has failed to engage in negotiations. The Japanese government in September illegally "purchased" part of the Diaoyu Islands, and Fu said the move went against the consensus and in turn shook China's basis for maintaining restraint. "That's the reason why China's patrol vessels have been seen around the Diaoyu Islands," said Fu, also a vice-minister of foreign affairs. Lu Yaodong, director of the department of Japanese diplomacy at the Institute of Japanese Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Japan's behavior and inability to honor promises it made has damaged ties and deadlocked diplomacy over the islands. "Japan's illegal ‘purchase' smashed the status quo, and the move betrayed its previous promises of resolving sensitive issues through dialogue and reconciliation," Lu said. Chinese Ambassador to Japan Cheng Yonghua told Xinhua News Agency on Sunday that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's administration has not handled the situation well, and the islands have become the "biggest challenge" to improving China-Japan relations. Three China Marine Surveillance ships patrolled the islands in the East China Sea on Monday, the Japanese coast guard said. In response to a question about China becoming a maritime power, Fu said the buildup was necessary as China engages with the global community more. "But the path still lies in seeking peaceful development, cooperation and win-win situations, especially maritime cooperation with neighboring countries," Fu said. Some countries, including Japan, have labeled China's maritime buildup as a threat to freedom of navigation. But Li Guoqiang, deputy director of the Center for Chinese Borderland History and Geography at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, dismissed these concerns. "Some neighbors have challenged China's maritime rights and interests because of their own strategic and national interests," Li said. Meanwhile, China's foreign and defense policies are conducive to security and peace in Asia, Fu said. "It's not good news for the world that a country as large as China is unable to protect itself," she said when citing the tragedy inflicted on the country by militarism in the first half of the last century. Qu Xing, president of China Institute of International Studies, said some international voices have questioned China's path of peaceful development. China should firmly guard its lawful rights and interests when threatened, and its diplomacy "should be flexible enough to stop situations spiraling out of control", Qu said.

China is second on Forbes list of richest (By Yu Wei in New York) China again finished with the second-highest number of billionaires on Forbes magazine's annual list. Forbes' 2013 list of the world's richest people, published Monday, includes 122 billionaires from the Chinese mainland, 39 from Hong Kong and 26 from Taiwan. Last year, 95 billionaires from the Chinese mainland made the list, down from 110 in 2011, due to depressed stock prices in the world's second-biggest economy. Of the 1,426 billionaires on the list, 442 are from the United States, followed by China, Russia (110) and Germany (58). The head of beverage giant Wahaha Group, Zong Qinghou, regained the title of richest man on the Chinese mainland. Zong ranked 86th on the Forbes list with a net worth of $11.6 billion, up 60 places from last year. He is the only Chinese mainland billionaire whose net worth exceeds $10 billion this year, according to Forbes. Zong, 67, was followed by property tycoon Wang Jianlin (128th), whose Dalian Wanda Group acquired US movie theater chain AMC Entertainment Holdings last year; and Liang Wengen (158th), founder of construction machinery maker Sany Group, which has been active with acquisitions in Europe and investment in the US. Robin Li, chairman and CEO of search-engine giant Baidu Inc, was the fourth-richest in the Chinese mainland, ranking at 172, followed by his Internet peer Ma Huateng (173rd), chairman of Tencent Holdings Ltd, the most valuable Internet company in China by market capitalization. Zong, who is also a deputy in the National People's Congress, China's main legislative body, seemed unfazed by his status. "I am a man making money from selling water, and everything about my company and myself is transparent, so I don't feel any pressure at all," Zong said at a news conference before the opening of the Congress' annual session. Economic growth, urbanization and consumer spending have been the main drivers of China's growing ranks of super-rich. Chinese gross domestic product increased 7.8 percent, to 51.9 trillion yuan ($8.2 trillion), in 2012. Although slower than the 9.3 percent recorded in 2011, the growth rate last year was still highest among the world's major economies. China has maintained average annual GDP growth of more than 8 percent since 1980, to $8.2 trillion from $295 million. On a per capita basis, GDP was 30 higher times during that period, rising to $6,110 from $292. Ann Lee, an adjunct professor of economics and finance at New York University and author of What the US Can Learn From China, said the rapid increase in the number of Chinese billionaires might not be a good thing, especially with income inequality a hot-button issue in the country. "If Chinese policy makers do their job correctly, China's middle class will grow, but the number of billionaires should not grow as fast," she said. The richest Chinese and their companies were aggressive in international markets last year. Zong said on Sunday that Wahaha, which makes soft drinks and bottled water, will adopt different models for international cooperation and acquisition of a foreign company or investment. "I am making milk powder with international dairy materials for other brands," he said. "This is a win-win business. If I acquire a foreign company and enter a foreign market, I may be driven out of that market. Some foreign markets are not doing well, but the Chinese are hard-working and can make money, so the local competitors will want to drive us out." Wahaha disclosed last year that it was interested in buying dairy farms in Australia to secure milk sources, but no deal has been reached. Ma, of Tencent, also said on Sunday that his company wants to make its Wechat, a cross-platform instant messaging service, the foundation for international expansion. The service has over 300 million users including 10,000 in the United States, where Tencent recently opened an office.

Hong Kong*:  Mar 6 2013

Happy hours (By Pavan Shamdasani) As HK pubs morph into steep, sleek lounges, happy hour loses its mirth. Our roving reporter discovers there are still reasons to be cheerful - Any happy-hour drinker's Hong Kong Island itinerary should include Psychic Jack Lounge in Central, where a password uttered from the bar's Facebook page buys its speaker a free drink. Traditional hostelries like Typhoon (left), Agave (top right) and Carnegie's in the Wan Chai district. With rent skyrocketing and every casual pub in Hong Kong turning into an overpriced lounge, the once ubiquitous idea of an affordable happy hour has devolved into a mere 20 per cent off at best. You can always drink at home via Club 7-Eleven, but where can someone sit in a bar and enjoy a decently priced after-work drink? Here's a Hong Kong Island itinerary. Start in Central. On the surface, 24-hour bar Insomnia in Lan Kwai Fong might seem like the last resort for early-morning partiers, but venture inside on a Tuesday night and experience possibly the best happy hour in town: free drinks between 9pm and 11pm, in exchange for a business card. While such an outpouring of benevolence might seem foolhardy, Raphael Yip, administration manager at Step by Step Group, says it's a long-term strategy. "Tuesday's a weekday and one of our quieter times, so we're trying to keep new customers happy by giving them complimentary drinks, and hoping they'll come back over the weekend," Yip says. "The name cards let us build a database, so we can send out future promotions." Similarly, every Friday and Saturday evening, Psychic Jack Lounge on Wyndham Street offers a free drink in exchange for a password - the secret phrase resides on the bar's Facebook page. Next stop, Wan Chai. The city's famed red-light district is a regular hot spot for weekday women taking advantage of the inventory of ladies' nights, with bars such as Agave, Carnegie's, Joe Bananas, Skitz and Typhoon all serving free beverages for the fairer sex every Wednesday evening. Men can get their drinking kicks too. Devil's Advocate has a Standard Chartered night on Wednesdays, with select drinks selling for just HK$20 between 9pm and 1am, if bought with one of the bank's notes. Both Joe Bananas and the Queen Victoria pub have a daily "crazy hour", with beers and mixed drinks also priced at HK$20. Carnegie's has the deal too, but they go one step further with a daily promotion: including Tuesday's vodka night, Friday's Corona night and Saturday's Jager night, where the specified drinks cost HK$10 and standard drinks HK$19. Finally, finish in Causeway Bay. While the numerous Western-centric bars offer sleek vibes and compendious cocktail variations, those willing to forgo that for a bucket of beers would do best to visit a local-friendly pub: the Bartlock Centre on Yiu Wa Street hosts a number of local upstairs bars where dice, darts and drinks are cheap and cheerful. Our personal favourite: Forever Lounge on Tung Lo Wan Road. With a look as cheesy as its name, and buckets of six beers for HK$138, it's value added.

Sogo operator banks on mainland shoppers' sprees (By Celine Sun in Beijing) The Sogo stores in Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui had 7.8 per cent growth in sales revenue last year. Lifestyle International, the operator of Hong Kong's Sogo and Shanghai's Jiuguang department stores, expects a rising tide of mainland tourists and economic recovery across the border to fuel retail sales growth this year. The company's stock edged lower by 0.31 per cent to close at HK$19.24 yesterday after it reported slowing growth in turnover. Net profit grew 10.2 per cent to HK$2.1 billion. The Hong Kong-based retailer has benefited from the surge in mainland shoppers visiting the city since the start of the individual visit scheme in 2003. However, some local politicians and businesspeople are calling on the city to cap the number of inbound mainland tourists, especially during festivals and national holidays. Secretary of Security Lai Tung-kwok said last month the government was reviewing the policy and would take action after considering the city's handling capacity. Lifestyle International managing director Thomas Lau Luen-hung said the company was "prudently optimistic" about business prospects for this year, and expected average same-store sales to show single-digit growth. Although the tougher economic times were prompting more mainland tourists to hold back on buying high-priced goods, this did not affect the firm's business as its stores offered goods in a wide range of price categories, Lau said. Turnover rose 7.6 per cent to HK$5.52 billion last year, but Lau said the slower growth would not affect investment plans. The retailer is seeking new sites in Kowloon and on Hong Kong Island because it will vacate its Sogo Tsim Sha Tsui site in February next year. The Sogo stores in Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui had 7.8 per cent growth in sales revenue last year, accounting for 74 per cent of its total revenue and 21.3 per cent of revenues in the city's department store sector. Sales at the Jiuguang store in Shanghai fell 2.9 per cent mainly due to weak market sentiment and store refurbishment. It also operates three stores in Suzhou, Dalian and Tianjin. The company plans to launch another store in Shenyang this year and renovate its Causeway Bay store. A final dividend of 27.6 HK cents per share was declared.

Zero quota on mainland mums in Hong Kong hospitals 'bad for economy' (By Patsy Moy and Stuart Lau) Preventing mainland mothers from having babies here could harm medical tourism and is not a long-term fix, warns Basic Law expert - Senior Counsel Johnny Mok believes the courts, not the administration, should resolve the right-of-abode issue. Government measures to stop floods of mainland mothers visiting Hong Kong to give birth could hurt the city's medical tourism industry, a member of the Basic Law Committee has warned. Senior Counsel Johnny Mok Shiu-luen also told the South China Morning Post that using administrative means, such as the zero-quota policy for mainland mothers in the city's maternity wards, would not resolve the legal right-of-abode issue. Mok was speaking for the first time since last week's Court of Final Appeal hearing involving the controversial right-of-abode issue for foreign domestic workers, which is expected to have an impact on the residency rights of children born in Hong Kong to mainland parents. He said using administrative measures to handle a legal issue, would not solve the problem in the long term. Not only does [the zero quota policy] not provide a permanent solution, it could bring adverse impacts to Hong Kong - "Not only does [the zero quota policy] not provide a permanent solution, it could bring adverse impacts to Hong Kong," Mok said. "For instance, if Hong Kong wants to aggressively develop medical tourism, including its maternity services, for mainlanders and visitors from other places the right-of-abode issue needs to be addressed. "Medical tourism can bring a lot of economic benefits to Hong Kong. However, the administrative means that ban the entry [of potential users of medical services] hampers the development of this industry." But Dr Kwok Ka-ki, a private doctor and Civic Party lawmaker, challenged Mok's stance. He said some mainland mothers wanted to give birth in Hong Kong to gain permanent residency for their children, not because of the city's maternity services. Kwok said: "Maternity services don't involve high-end medical technology. So I don't think the zero quota policy would have an impact on medical tourism. Patients who really need the high-end medical technology in Hong Kong are more likely to be those who suffer from severe illness, such as cancer." Lawmaker Dr Leung Ka-lau sided with Mok, saying that many mainland mothers genuinely wanted to seek maternity services in Hong Kong, and were not travelling to the city with a hidden right-of-abode agenda. Mok, who is one of 12 members of the Basic Law Committee, wanted the courts to decide who has right-of-abode in Hong Kong. "I strongly believe [the zero quota] should not be a long-term solution. You are now using administrative means to tackle a legal question. Should we simply [use the administrative means] to dodge the question and to bypass the court?" Leung and Kwok said the ultimate solution for the right-of-abode saga was to amend the Basic Law. Allowing mainland mothers to use our maternity services should not amount to giving their children a Hong Kong identity card. "They are completely two [different] things," Leung said.

Beijing urges HK delegates to play 'exemplary' roles (By Cary Huang and Colleen Lee in Beijing) Outgoing chairman of the nation's top political advisory body highlights development of the city - At the CPPCC session yesterday are (from left) President Hu Jintao, Xi Jinping, Premier Wen Jiabao and Vice-Premier Li Keqiang. China's top political advisory body opened its nine-day session yesterday with outgoing chairman Jia Qinglin calling on Hong Kong and Macau delegates to play a greater role in their special administrative regions and the nation's economic, social and political development. In a keynote speech to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), Jia also urged political advisers to "rally closely around the party Central Committee with comrade Xi Jinping as general secretary". Veteran politician and newly promoted Politburo Standing Committee member Yu Zhengsheng presided at the opening ceremony. He is poised to become the new chairman of the advisory body during the session. Jia said: "We should maintain close contact with CPPCC national committee members from Hong Kong and Macau, and get them to fully play their positive role in developing the economy, improving people's well-being, advancing democracy and promoting harmony in their special administrative regions and the country's agenda." Jia summarised the top advisory body's achievements in the past five years but also pinpointed areas that need improvement. The achievements included the guiding of Hong Kong CPPCC members to "play exemplary roles in implementing the principle of 'one country, two systems', increased contacts and exchanges with political organisations, social groups and influential figures in Hong Kong", and "supporting Hong Kong delegates to inform young people of China's national conditions". Liberal Party chairwoman Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee said the fact that Jia's report included more details about Hong Kong affairs showed the leadership had paid more attention to the development of the city. Jia acknowledged what he called inadequacies under his stewardship, including institutional and functional flaws, and a lack of efficiency in the body. He vowed to strengthen the body's supervision of the government. The annual session of the National People's Congress - the nation's top legislature - opens tomorrow. It will rubber stamp a new state and government leadership line-up and complete a once-in-a-decade power transition that began in November.

Hong Kong retail sales in January up 10pc (By Lai Ying-kit) Hong Kong’s retail sales recorded a 10.5 per cent year-on-year increase to HK$47.7 billion in January. Hong Kong’s total retail sales recorded a 10.5 per cent year-on-year increase to HK$47.7 billion in January, the government said on Monday. This came despite a difference in timing of the Lunar New Year this year and last year. The festive season, which traditionally sees vibrant business, fell in January last year, but in February this year. This means January’s increase came without the usual Lunar New Year sales boost. After netting out the effect of price changes over the period, the increase in retail sales was 10.4 per cent. In volume, miscellaneous sales of consumer durable goods – such as computers, musical instruments and medical goods – posted the largest increase, surging by 212.6 per cent. Motor vehicles and parts grew by 46.8 per cent, while electrical goods and photographic equipment rose by 27.4 per cent. Jewellery, watches and clocks, and valuable gifts also increased by 10 per cent. On the other hand, sales of footwear, allied products and other clothing accessories dropped by 6.5 per cent. Clothing apparel fell 3.3 per cent and commodities in supermarkets decreased by 5.3 per cent. A government spokesman said that labour market conditions looked broadly stable and the city can expect further growth in inbound tourism, which should help retail sales in the near term.

China vows to uphold judicial independence of Hong Kong (By SCMP) NPC spokeswoman Fu Ying speaks at a press conference on March 4. Hong Kong’s judicial independence will not be affected, particularly on the matter of mainland mothers, a spokeswoman for the National People's Congress told the media on Monday. A press conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing offered a preview of the annual session of China's highest legislative body. Spokeswoman Fu Ying answered reporters' questions: On 'one country, two systems' In response to a Hong Kong reporter’s questions about Beijing’s powers over Hong Kong, Fu said: “The central government implements the ‘one country, two systems’ policy towards Hong Kong. It is a highly stable policy, and has been consistently executed. There is ‘tightening’ of the policy to speak of. "The reality since Hong Kong’s return has shown that the central government’s ‘one country, two systems’ policy has been a success, and should not waver. We must strictly observe the Basic Law in dealing with Hong Kong affairs.” On the mainland mothers issue - In reference to Hong Kong-born children of mainland parents, Fu said: “We have indeed noticed that Hong Kong society pays a lot of attention to the issue, and they hope there can be a proper solution to it. There have been many proposals about thie issue, and asking for the National People’s Congress interpretation is one possible path of solution. "We should say that Hong Kong’s judicial independence will not be affected, because Article 158 of the Basic Law states that Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal has the right to ask the NPC for an interpretation of the Basic Law.” On defence spending - Fu defended China's defence budget, saying its vast investments in the armed forces have contributed to global peace and stability. However, in a break with previous years, no figure for this year’s defense budget was presented at the news conference. Fu said the figure would appear in the overall budget to be released on Tuesday. Chinese defense spending has grown substantially each year for more than two decades, and last year rose 11.2 percent to 670.2 billion yuan ($106.4 billion), an increase of about 67 billion yuan. Only the United States spends more on defense.

HSBC net profit drops 16.5pc (By Agence France-Presse in London) Asia-focused banking giant HSBC said on Monday that net profits sank by 16.5 per cent to US$14.03 billion last year, a year in which it was rocked by a US money-laundering scandal. Profit after taxation had stood at US$16.8 billion in 2011, London-headquartered HSBC said in a results statement. Pre-tax profits meanwhile fell six per cent to US$20.65 billion. HSBC’s performance was hit by a US$1.9-billion fine to settle US allegations of money laundering that were said to have helped Mexican drug cartels, terrorists and Iran. The bank’s results were also dented by a vast US$5.2-billion charge against the value of its own debt. And it set aside an additional US$1.4 billion to cover customer redress programmes in Britain. That took its total annual bill to US$4.3 billion. However, HSBC added that its capital position improved following a string of asset sales, including its stake in Chinese insurance giant Ping An. And bad debts – or consumer loans that have turned sour – fell to US$8.31 billion from US$12.13 billion last time around. HSBC also revealed that its cost-cutting programme had exceeded the group’s targets. Two years ago, in 2011, the bank announced a large restructuring programme, including plans to save up to US$3.5 billion by this year and to axe 30,000 jobs globally. However, HSBC added on Monday that it generated extra savings of US$2.0 billion, giving an annualised total of US$3.6 billion. “HSBC made significant progress last year. First and foremost, we grew our business. We increased revenues, performed well in most faster-growing markets and enjoyed a record year in commercial banking,” said chief executive Stuart Gulliver. “We’ve made the business easier to manage and control by disposing of non-core businesses and surpassed our sustainable savings target. “We also agreed a settlement with the US and UK authorities in respect of our past anti-money laundering and sanctions failings.” Gulliver will meanwhile receive a deferred annual bonus of just under £2.0 million as part of a total package worth £7.4 million. That compared with an overall figure of £8.0 million in 2011. HSBC is Europe’s biggest bank by assets, was founded in Hong Kong, and sees Asia as its main market despite being headquartered in London.

Hong Kong sets baby formula limits (By Li Yao) Violators detained for trying to carry more than allowed into mainland - Since it took effect on Friday, 45 people have been detained in Hong Kong for violating a new limit on the amount of infant formula than can be taken to the mainland. The detainees, 26 Hong Kong residents and 19 from the mainland, tried to carry 178 cans of milk powder, each weighing 1.2 kg, through customs into the mainland, Lai Tung-kwok, head of the Security Bureau of Hong Kong, said on Sunday. Under an amendment to Hong Kong's export and import law, from March 1, a person can carry only two cans, or 1.8 kg, of baby formula out of Hong Kong, and the person must be at least 16 years old. Violators face fines of up to HK$500,000 ($64,500) and two years in jail. Among those detained was a 47-year-old man who confessed to attempting to cross the border with 11 cans of milk powder on Friday. Nine of the cans were confiscated on Saturday and he was fined HK$5,000. The law amendment was passed to prevent the influx of traders who buy milk powder in Hong Kong and resell it on the mainland for a profit, mainly to families who have no faith in mainland-produced infant formula. Many Hong Kong residents complained about formula shortages because of that trade. Lam Xiu-ling, 31, a teaching assistant at a primary school, from Fanling in the New Territories of Hong Kong, says her year-old son goes through a can in five days. She said the formula shortage was once so acute that it took her two days to find a store with a supply. Lam said she hoped more rigorous supervision of the dairy industry on the mainland would result in safe products for babies. The limit was introduced to prevent the traders from disrupting the Hong Kong market, Tam Yiu-chung, a member of the Hong Kong's Legislative Council, told media on Saturday while in Beijing for the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. Even with limited purchasing allowed for mainland parents, baby formula from Hong Kong cannot possibly meet the huge demand on the mainland, Tam said, and the answer lay in raising consumer confidence with higher food safety standards. He said mainland authorities could also consider allowing more imported milk powder. Lyu Xinhua, spokesman for the CPPCC and former commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong, said on Saturday that 99 percent of milk powder produced on the mainland meets quality standards, but people have low confidence in these products and prefer foreign brands sold in Hong Kong. Xu Jing, 31, mother of an 8-month-old girl in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, said she believed that 99 percent quality rate given for milk powder produced on the mainland was inflated. Even if the quality is improving, she said, consumer confidence may not turn around in one or two years, and parents will never use their children, in many cases, their only child, as guinea pigs. Also, the new generation of parents have more financial resources and time to think about not only how to keep their children safe, but also to make sure they are fit and healthy, Xu said. Xu uses milk powder bought in Hong Kong to feed her daughter, because of Shenzhen's proximity. She said her family there also had to visit a dozen stores to find one that has stock and had been hit by increased costs. "We saw prices go up about 30 yuan per can," she said. "That means 120 yuan more a month." It is a headache Li Fang will face in about seven months. The 37-year-old Beijing mother has a 5-month-old daughter who she plans to breastfeed until she is 1 year old. Li, a journalist, is also suspicious of the authenticity of the claim that 99 percent of milk powder produced on the mainland meets quality standards. She said information on such matters is not transparent. Li said she will buy formula from Hong Kong, and many of her friends are doing the same if they can afford the higher expenses. "I don't like the new limit because it affects my own interests," Li said. "But I also understand it is necessary." Wang Dingmian, former vice-chairman of the Guangdong Dairy Industry Association, said Hong Kong's new regulation will have a limited effect on the mainland market, which has an estimated sales volume of 43 billion yuan. The sales volume of formula sold in Hong Kong to mainland customers is estimated to be 1 billion yuan, accounting for less than 3 percent of the market share on the mainland, he said. Wang said price hikes due to reduced supplies under the new regulation were seen mainly in Guangdong province, where many people take advantage of the proximity and border pass conveniences to be parallel traders. Foreign brands may increase their supply to the mainland market and appear to gain because of the new regulation, Wang said. The dairy industry on the mainland should think about why foreign brands are trustworthy among Chinese consumers.

 China*:  Mar 6 2013

Hollywood looks east (By Zhang Qidong) A camera crew films actor Daniel Henney in a chase scene for Shanghai Calling. US film companies are seeking partners in China to co-produce films so they can get around the restriction on the number of imported movies each year. Zhang Qidong reports from San Francisco. That was the situation American screenwriter and director Daniel Hsia found himself in as he tried to find a producer to make a co-production in China of his film Shanghai Calling, so it could qualify as a "domestic film" and bypass the Chinese restriction of only 34 imported movies released in China every year. Enter co-production veteran Janet Yang, who served as Steven Spielberg's eyes and ears in China for the filming of Empire of the Sun (Warner Bros 1987) and also represented major Hollywood movie studios as they reintroduced films to China after a two-decade hiatus. Yang helped secure financing for the movie in the US and China and got talent in both countries to work on the script and film shooting. He did this while engaging China Film Group, China's largest film producer and distributor and the main importer of foreign films, to assist with regulatory matters, distribution and post-production. After three years, Shanghai Calling was released last July in Shanghai and this month in the US. "American and Chinese filmmakers are now like lovers," Yang says. "They are actively dating, getting to know each other, checking each other out. Some of them are getting engaged, and some will be married." What's motivating Hollywood to do co-productions is money. It wants to capture part of China's $2.75 billion box office. A co-production agreement between a US and Chinese film company offers the best opportunity for doing that because it guarantees a movie will be released in China. Co-production also spreads the financial risk and makes available Chinese talent, shooting locations and production services. China's 2012 box office of $2.75 billion may seem big, but it represents only an average of 0.3 admissions per-capita movie attendance in the country, according to China Media Monitor Intelligence. The US box office total for last year was $10.8 billion, according to CNN. The Chinese domestic film category accounts for 55 percent of China's annual box office on average. To qualify as a co-production and be labeled a domestic film, a movie usually needs at least one Chinese actor, some scenes filmed in China, content somehow related to China, and co-financing and revenue-sharing with a qualified local partner. Movies also must be reviewed by the State Administration of Radio Film and Television, which prohibits violence, pornography and content that may "incite ethnic discrimination or undermine social stability". "Chinese audiences are flocking to the movies to watch Chinese films (and) Hollywood fare and co-productions and appear eager for more," says Kate Bedingfield, Motion Picture Association of America spokesperson. New cinema screens continue to be added at an average rate of eight screens per day in 2012. The total number of cinema screens in China now stands at more than 14,000 and is expected to more than double by 2015, she says. Some co-productions have been major box office hits. Journey to the West achieved the biggest opening day ever in China, grossing 76.85 million yuan ($12.3 million) on Feb 10 - the biggest single-day gross for any film released in China, grossing 122 million yuan on Feb 14, and the highest weekly gross for any film released in China with its opening week gross of 583 million yuan. It took the movie only eight days to reach a $100 million box-office take, the shortest time yet by a film to reach that mark.

Firms urged to buy abroad (By Hu Yuanyuan) In 2012, there were 40 M&A deals valued at $11.1 billion involving Chinese companies in the United States, which, after Canada, is the second-largest destination for China's M&A capital, according to data from KPMG's Global China Practice. The United States is expected to be the No 1 destination for Chinese companies seeking mergers and acquisitions in 2013, industry experts from international accounting firm KPMG said. "Because of the strong capability in high-end manufacturing, competitive energy prices in the US, the strong support from local governments and the huge potential of the consumer market, the US is quite attractive for Chinese investors," said Peng Yali, director of research with KPMG's Global China Practice. In 2012, there were 40 M&A deals valued at $11.1 billion involving Chinese companies in the US, which, after Canada, is the second-largest destination for China's M&A capital, according to data from the company. "We've met a number of US local government officials who are eager to bring Chinese investors to get involved in the construction of local infrastructure. Chinese entrepreneurs should take the opportunity to strengthen their investment in the infrastructure and real estate sectors, especially in developed economies," Peng added. A number of Chinese property developers have already made some investments in the US this year. China Vanke Co, the country's largest real estate developer by market value, for instance, has teamed up with US real estate firm Tishman Speyer Properties to jointly develop a plot of land in San Francisco. Wang Shi, Vanke's chairman, said Vanke signed an agreement last month to invest in its first project in the US. It set up a special team last year to research business development in the US. The move marked the developer's first venture into the US market and demonstrated its commitment to explore the international market. Wanda Group, the country's largest commercial property developer, has revealed it plans to invest $10 billion in the US over the next decade, particularly in hotels, retail and commercial property. The company last year took over AMC Entertainment for $2.6 billion to become the world's largest cinema chain. According to Peng, there are many M&A opportunities in the country's high-end manufacturing and new-energy sectors. "However, in the traditional natural resources field such as petroleum, Chinese companies may face more pressure in taking over local firms," said Peter Fung, global chairman of KPMG's Global China Practice. Chinese investors will be quite active in looking for M&A opportunities in the resources, services, high-tech manufacturing and new-energy industries, KPMG's research showed. Also, more Chinese companies will prefer cooperation in overseas M&A, such as the cooperation between State-owned enterprises and private firms, or involving other investors in third-party countries, it added. Overall, in 2012, 329 China outbound M&A deals were completed and the value of 253 deals was revealed. The total value of these deals reached around $66.5 billion, an increase of 244 percent on a year earlier, KPMG statistics showed. Because of the high value of some big deals completed in 2012, it was a harvest year for China's outbound M&A both in volume and in value, Fung said. Meanwhile, private enterprise showed great potential in China outbound M&A deals. From the viewpoint of volume, the annual growth of private M&A deals overseas increased from 43 percent in 2009 to nearly 69 percent in 2012. There is a great desire to use overseas M&A as a strategy for private enterprises to go global, to build international brands and to bring technology and know-how for use in the domestic market. Although private enterprises take an active role in outbound M&As, quite a number of them are pretty low profile, Fung added. "Because some governments are quite sensitive to Chinese State-owned enterprises' acquisitions in the resources sector, private enterprises may have a bigger chance in that field," said Fung. But given the value of the M&A, State-owned enterprises will still dominate the market, he added. On the inbound sector, there were 548 'announced' or 'completed' inbound M&As, totaling slightly more than $40 billion. This compares unfavourably with 2011, which saw more than 800 transactions totaling approximately $ 58 billion. The transaction size and number of transactions showed a more than 30 percent decline year-on-year.

Yao Ming stands for improving China's sports programs - For Mo Yan, China’s first Nobel literature laureate, entering the CPPCC venue requires intricate plotting, like his novels. (By He Dan and Gao Qihui) Former NBA star Yao Ming, now a member of the CPPCC National Committee, speaks at a news conference on Sunday. "Players cultivated under the current State-sponsored system always lack a work skill, which may give them trouble after retirement," Yao added. Public concern about retired athletes was raised in 2011 when former world gymnast champion Zhang Shangwu was found performing for tips and begging in Beijing's subways. Zhang is not the only former star athlete to fall on hard times. Zou Chunlan, a former national champion in female weightlifting, was found working as a laborer in a public bathhouse. Although the General Administration of Sport has created some special funds to retrain retired athletes and help them look for jobs, such efforts are inadequate to meet the demands of the large number of retired players, Yao said. Such a phenomenon stirred a public outcry to overhaul China's State-sponsored sports system. Yao's advice on that is: "Let the market decide what it is capable of supporting. Those sports not self-sufficient should be left to government." Sports with limited popularity, like diving, gymnastics and weightlifting, still need government backing. The State-sponsored system in such relatively unpopular sports still has its advantages, Yao said. "They would face the risk of extinction if they were left to the market right now," Yao said. On the other hand, sports like tennis, basketball and football should be left to the market, Yao said. China also should realize that sports and education are compatible in people's personal development, said Yao, who added that he is unhappy about some schools' decision to cancel long-distance running in physical education classes to avoid injuries. A sudden death caused by marathon running at the end of last year prompted some Chinese schools to end long-distance running. Canceling long-distance running because of concerns about students' health starts a vicious circle, as the lack of high-quality exercise will make students' health even worse, Yao said. "I want sports to make more contributions (to education) and be an important part of education," Yao said.

China's defense policy key to Asia's stability: spokewoman (Xinhua) Fu Ying, spokesperson for the first session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC), speaks at the news conference on the first session of the 12th NPC at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, March 4, 2013. China's defensive military policies have played a core role in maintaining peace and stability in Asia, a spokesperson for the annual session of China's national legislature said here Monday. "China's peaceful foreign policies and its defensive military policies are conducive to security and peace of Asia," Fu Ying, spokesperson for the first session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC), told a press conference. "It's not good news to the world that a country as large as China is unable to protect itself," she said. Fu made the comments in response to a question about China's defense budget in 2013, but she broke with past tradition of revealing the figure at the press conference, which is held one day before NPC's annual session. Compared with many other parts of the world, Asia has been largely peaceful after the end of the Cold War, which created a favorable environment for development, the spokesperson said. "That is why Asia is so attractive now," she added.

Hong Kong*:  Mar 5 2013

Hong Kong's first home-brewing contest held at The Globe in Central (By John Carney) Judges (from left) Clark Hopton, Jonathan So and Jeff Boda taste some of the home-brewed ales on offer at The Globe. Homer Simpson calls it "the cause and solution to all of life's problems" - and beer was all that mattered at Hong Kong's first home-brewing competition yesterday. Ale enthusiasts enjoyed a selection of highly-original tipples as The Globe bar in Central played host to the city's top home-brewers. The event was open to anyone who had brewed beer here since November. Twenty contestants took part - 20 entered beers and one a cider - and samples of each brew were on hand for the public to judge and taste after the judges had made their final decision. Overall winner was Rohit Dugar who has been creating his own home brew for only two-and-a-half years. "Obviously, I love drinking beer but I fell in love with the whole beer-making process too," Dugar, 33, said. "It's all about experimenting with different flavours and being creative." The investment banker from Mid-Levels felt that whether a beer was good or bad was very subjective. "What one person may like, another may think is awful. It can be very personal too. I entered another beer in the competition and no one liked it at all. But my wife loves it," he said. German home-brewer Christoph Schneider, originally from Hamburg, now lives in Kowloon Tong and is an assistant professor at City University. He could not have agreed more with Dugar's philosophy. "Not everyone has to like your beer, but you have to try to be different," he said. Beer-lovers were out in force in T-shirts with slogans such as "The Beer Necessities", "Make Beer, Not War", and "Bad Beer Is The Enemy - Just Ask Your Brother, Counsellor Or Best Friend." Home-brewing was made legal in Hong Kong in 2000, although all bottles must be labelled: "Not for sale".

AsiaSat seeks US$306m financing from US Export-Import Bank (By Bien Perez) Firm will use cash to build and launch two more satellites to meet increasing market demand - Asia Satellite Telecommunications (AsiaSat) is looking to obtain a US$306 million long-term loan from the Export-Import Bank of the United States to finance its latest expansion program. The Hong Kong-based company, whose major shareholders are Citic Pacific and General Electric, plans to use the funds for the construction and launch of two new satellites, AsiaSat 6 and AsiaSat 8. In a filing with the Hong Kong stock exchange yesterday, the regional satellite operator said the US bank would hold a board meeting early this month to consider AsiaSat's loan application and determine the relevant terms, such as the final amount, if approved. The lender, known as the Ex-Im Bank, published a notice about AsiaSat's proposed loan in the US Federal Register on Thursday. The bank serves as an independent US government agency principally engaged in private export financing. AsiaSat, which has been operating since 1990, said it had a strong cash flow and sizeable cash balance. The two new satellites were designed to provide a broader range of services to meet increasing market demand for satellite capacity across the group's markets, it said. The company posted an 8 per cent rise in net profit to HK$395 million for the six months to June last year, up from HK$367 million in the previous year. Revenue climbed 37 per cent to HK$1.1 billion from HK$802 million. As at June 30, AsiaSat had total capital commitments of HK$2.74 billion and was debt-free. AsiaSat has four satellites in orbit - AsiaSat 3S, AsiaSat 4, AsiaSat 5 and AsiaSat 7 - which provide access to information and communication channels for more than two-thirds of the world's population, stretching across the Asia-Pacific region to Russia. AsiaSat 2 was retired last year, while two more satellites, AsiaSat 6 and AsiaSat 8, are under construction and slated to launch in the first half of next year. In February last year, AsiaSat signed with the Californian-based company Space Exploration Technologies to launch AsiaSat 6 and 8 from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

Mainland mums help teach moral education at Hong Kong kindergarten (By Jennifer Cheng) Tuen Mun kindergarten with children from across border encourages parental involvement - Mainland mothers share their book-reading skills with children at Tuen Mun. In a Tuen Mun kindergarten, nestled in a public housing estate, almost half of the 220 children live across the border and spend three hours travelling to and from school. Despite the long hours, 19 mothers take that journey with their children for a lesson of their own: how to read a storybook aloud to a class. They want to do their bit teaching moral education at the Yan Chai Hospital Yim Tsui Yuk Shan Kindergarten. The idea initially was to help children get in touch with their emotions - joy, anger, sadness and fear. "We want to teach the children how to use words rather than actions to express themselves," principal Hilda Pang Mei-ling said. But understanding that parents were their children's role models, Pang decided to educate them as well by training the mothers to read storybooks to the children, teaching them to dramatise the various characters and to make props. The 19 mothers who volunteered went through five workshops held by the Hans Andersen Club, a non-profit organisation that trains storytellers. When the mothers were ready for their debut, the Sunday Morning Post sat in on the class of four-year-olds. Three of the mothers, reading in Cantonese and Putonghua, narrated the story of a dragon that could not control his fiery breath and set his friends and food aflame. The dragon finds himself lonely, until he begins to control his breath. The moral of the story is the importance of anger management. Lam Tan-ping, a Hongkonger who lives on the mainland for work reasons, told of the time she lost her temper at home. Her five-year-old son said: "Mum, you're going to burn me!" Pang said the course benefited the mainland parents. "When we tell children to line up, some of them look for the head of the line in order to queue jump. We teach them to look for the back of the queue," she said. "We find that mainland parents who send their children to study here are eager to adopt Hong Kong practices." This did not mean mainland mothers needed more help at the school, she said. "There was a time when we had to teach Hong Kong children not to jaywalk, and they in turn would pull their mothers back from jaywalking." The Hans Andersen Club received funding from Operation Santa Claus, a campaign organised by the South China Morning Post and RTHK.

Li Ka-shing's firms deny links to Rafael Hui Si-yan (By Niall Fraser) Companies say Apple Daily report connecting them to former top official is baseless. Two companies controlled by Hong Kong's richest man, Li Ka-shing, issued a strongly worded public denial of a story linking them to Rafael Hui Si-yan, the former government No 2 who is accused of corruption. Cheung Kong (Holdings) and Hutchison Whampoa "categorically denied" a report in Apple Daily yesterday, describing it as "baseless and misleading". The denial comes just days before Hui, 64, and the billionaire Kwok brothers - Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong, 61, and Raymond Kwok Ping-luen, 59, who head Sun Hung Kai Properties - are due to appear in court to enter pleas in Hong Kong's biggest-ever corruption case. It follows revelations that Hui is to face a new charge that he "concealed" payments of more than HK$11 million from former Sun Hung Kai executive director Thomas Chan Kui-yuen and ex-Hong Kong stock exchange official Francis Kwan Hung-sang. In a statement, Cheung Kong (Holdings) and Hutchison Whampoa said: "The companies categorically deny a report from Apple Daily today that former Chief Secretary for Administration Mr Rafael Hui Si-yan has ever 'worked' or provided any service for the Group or Chairman Mr Li Ka-shing. The entire report is a sheer fabrication and misleads the public. "The Group or the Chairman himself has never engaged Mr Hui in any capacity to work or provide service for him or the Group while Mr Hui was with the Government or after he had left the Government." It said the Apple Daily report "seriously damaged the reputation of the Group". The paper's editor-in-chief, Cheung Kim-hung, said the report was made according to reliable sources.

C.Y. Leung gets boost on national stage (By Colleen Lee in Beijing) Hong Kong's embattled chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, received a boost yesterday when his leadership abilities were praised at a press conference ahead of today's CPPCC. "I am familiar with Mr Leung Chun-ying," said Lu Xinhua, the CPPCC session's new official spokesman. "He is not only committed to Hong Kong and ambitious, but also very capable. I believe Hong Kong will be a better place under his leadership," said Lu, a former commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong, in response to questions regarding Leung's performance. Asked about Hongkongers' concerns over the nomination threshold of the 2017 chief executive election, Lu said it would need further discussion. "The concrete arrangements of universal suffrage will require the SAR government to have a rational discussion with different sectors of the community to seek consensus in accordance with the Basic Law and based on the decision of the National People's Congress Standing Committee," Lu said. Lu said he agreed with Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing that the central government would agree to elect the chief executive in 2017 by universal suffrage and that voters would elect someone who loved the nation and Hong Kong. In view of the anti-mainlander sentiment in Hong Kong sparked in part by the parallel-goods trading of infant milk formula, Lu called on people not to exaggerate the differences between the two sides and expressed confidence that the problem could be overcome. Meanwhile, former chief secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen was yesterday among six newly elected Hongkongers to sit in the 323-strong presidium of the CPPCC. Ten others were re-elected. Veteran delegates said the Hongkongers were very likely to be elected to the body's Standing Committee on March 11. The other five Hong Kong delegates are Hospital Authority chairman Anthony Wu Ting-yuk; Peter Lee Ka-kit, son of Henderson Land Development chairman Lee Shau-kee; Lam Shu-chit, Hong Kong Federation of Fujian Associations chairman; Yin Xiaojing, a deputy director of the central government's liaison office; and Liu Changle, chairman and chief executive officer Phoenix Satellite Television. Anthony Wu is in the presidium of the CPPCC. Henry Tang is in the presidium of the CPPCC. 

 China*:  Mar 5 2013

Deputy foreign minister Zhang Zhijun tipped to be next Taiwan affairs chief (By Teddy Ng in Beijing) Zhang Zhijun tipped for top cross-strait role when incumbent is appointed foreign minister - Zhang Zhijun (left) is expected to replace Wang Yi. A reshuffle is looming in the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office with the likely appointment of Deputy Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun as its new head. He would replace Wang Yi, who is expected to be transferred to head the Foreign Ministry at this week's National People's Congress. Zhang, who is also the Foreign Ministry's party secretary, is said to be Beijing's choice because it wanted to continue appointing senior diplomats to head Taiwan affairs, which often involves complex international relations. Taiwan's United Evening News said Zhang was "reluctant" to take the job because his ambitions were not in Taiwan affairs. Beijing traditionally appoints diplomats with experience in American affairs to head the Foreign Ministry. The current minister, Yang Jiechi , was US ambassador from 2001-2005. Zhang was earlier tipped to become the next foreign minister or the head of the Communist Party's international department, and stands a chance to become a State Councillor in future. Before taking up his current post in 2009, he spent many years in the international department dealing mainly with US affairs. But sources said the rising tension between Beijing and Tokyo over the Diaoyu Islands, which Japan calls the Senkakus, had made Wang, China's envoy to Tokyo from 2004 to 2007, the front runner for foreign minister. Sources said the naming of Zhang to replace Wang also indicated a lack of politicians well versed in Taiwan affairs. A reshuffle in the Foreign Ministry is already under way. Zhang Yesui , ambassador to Washington, returned to Beijing last week and is expected to replace Zhang Zhijun. Deputy Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai is expected to become the new envoy to the US. Japan's Asahi newspaper reported last week that Wang had been sent back to the Foreign Ministry after more than four years in the Taiwan office because of his strong connections with Japanese politicians. Diplomatic sources said appointing Wang as foreign minister did not mean Sino-Japanese ties had overtaken the US relationship in importance, but indicated the trust the leadership had in him to defuse the crisis.

Top political advisory body opens first session in Beijing (By Reuters in Beijing) Ahead of this week's meetings, Xi Jinping says party's future on the line if officials do not learn from the past - President Hu Jintao (left to right), Vice-President Xi Jinping and Premier Wen Jiabao at the opening session of the CPPCC on Sunday. China's top political advisory body opened its first session in Beijing on Sunday, days before the annual full meeting of parliament at which Communist Party leader Xi Jinping will take the reins of state power from President Hu Jintao. The National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) started its meeting at the Great Hall of the People, where committee Chairman Jia Qinglin delivered a report, saying China had overcome "severe challenges" and made "extraordinary achievements" in reform, said state media Xinhua. "We should actively assist the Party and government in the work of getting the people to voice their demands, coordinating their interests, and safeguarding their rights and interests," Jia said. The CPPCC meeting is attended by about 2,200 members who will discuss major issues but does not pass legislation. That will be done by the National People's Congress, which is set to meet on Tuesday and at which Xi will take over from Hu. Xi has made fighting pervasive graft a central theme since assuming the top job in the party and military in November. On Friday Xi took another swipe at corruption, saying the Communist Party would be able to mark its 100th birthday in eight years time only if officials can learn from the selfless sages of the past, according to remarks published on Sunday. The Communist Party marks the 100th anniversary of its founding in 2021, one year before the second of Xi’s two five-year term ends and he steps down as party chief. “Only if the capabilities of all party members unceasingly continue to strengthen, can the goal of ‘two 100 years’ and ‘the dream’ of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese people be realised,” Xi said in a speech marking the 80th anniversary of the Central Party School, which trains rising officials. “Two 100 years” refers to both the party and the People’s Republic of China lasting at least a century each. The People’s Republic turns 100 in 2049. The Communists swept to power and founded the republic in 1949 after winning a civil war and forcing Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang, or Nationalist, troops to flee to Taiwan, which Beijing still claims as its own. The concept of “two 100 years” has been alluded to in state media over the past few weeks, but this is the first time Xi explicitly mentioned it in his speech on Friday, which was carried in whole by the People’s Daily, the party mouthpiece. Xi has warned in the past that corruption threatens the party’s very survival and launched a campaign to prevent waste and graft. He also banned the 2.3 million-strong People’s Liberation Army from binge drinking and told it to be combat-ready. The Chinese leader peppered his latest speech with references to aphorisms from virtuous officials and philosophers from ancient China, including Confucian philosopher Mencius (372 to 289 BC) and Zhuge Liang (181 to 234 AD), a statesman and strategist lauded to this day for his wisdom and devotion to his monarch. “Leaders and officials must study China’s fine traditional culture ... which contains extensive knowledge and profound scholarship,” Xi said. “Spare no effort in the performance of one’s duty until the end of one’s days ... I will do whatever it takes to serve my country even at the cost of my own life, regardless of fortune or misfortune to myself,” he added, quoting two classical texts. But party members must also not forget the teachings of Karl Marx and late Chairman Mao Zedong, Xi said. Stability and survival remain the Communist Party’s watchwords as the world’s second-largest economy grapples with an upsurge of protests and social tensions over growing inequality, environmental degradation and graft. Ensuring the party makes it to its 100th anniversary and does not go down as just a footnote in China’s long history is one of Xi’s key challenges. “Even the Nationalist Party is over 100 years,” one source with ties to China’s leadership said, referring to Taiwan’s ruling party and onetime rival to the Communists in running all of China which was founded in 1912. “If the Communist Party cannot reach 100, it would only be a dot in China’s 5,000-year history,” the source said, requesting anonymity to avoid any repercussions. “The Communist Party turning 100 will be Xi’s most important [set] event during his 10-year rule.”

CPPCC members arrive for opening session - Member of the 12th CPPCC National Committee arrive at the Tian'anmen Square in Beijing, capital of China, March 3, 2013.

Former World Bank chief economist Justin Yifu Lin reaffirmed his assertion that China can maintain an 8-percent annual growth for another 20 years. Lin said he was not talking big, as China's economy has great potentials in capitalizing on the late-mover advantages. "Should such advantages as a late mover be fully capitalized on, China might continue to maintain an 8-percent annual growth for 20 more years," Lin, a professor with Peking University, said in a speech on China's economic outlook and challenges on Friday. Lin said a sound government financial status, a large number of programs with high return on investment, high civilian bank deposits and foreign exchange reserves are beneficial to the economic growth in short terms. He however pointed out that China is still facing multiple challenges such as urban-rural gap, income gap, backwardness in social development, resource-environment conflicts, unbalanced foreign trade, overheated investment, education, technological and creative capability, corruption, as well as legal and political mechanisms. "Whether China could maintain continuous economic growth relies on if these challenges could be addressed," Lin said.

Conference stands firm on islands (By Zhang Yunbi and Ding Qingfen) Tokyo must "shoulder all consequences" if it prompts any friction by using military vessels and planes to harass regular Chinese patrols around the Diaoyu Islands, a Chinese official warned on Saturday, as tension over territorial dispute continued. Lyu Xinhua, the newly appointed spokesman for the first session of the 12th National Committee of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, made the remarks in his debut briefing in response to a question from China Daily regarding the islands situation. Lyu Xinhua, spokesman of the first session of the 12th CPPCC National Committee, addresses a news conference in Beijing on Saturday. Zhu Xingxin / China Daily. Beijing urged Tokyo to stop any territory infringement, especially "irresponsible remarks" by Japanese leaders, and make significant efforts in improving relations, the spokesman said. Yang Bojiang, an expert on Japanese studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the spokesman's remark signals a solemn warning against Tokyo's recent provocations, as "in the past year, Japan has taken initiatives at every key timing to escalate the islands situation". The Japanese government last September illegally "purchased" part of the islands, a move that has dramatically strained Sino-Japanese ties. Beijing has enhanced regular patrols around the islands since, and in December Japan scrambled fighter jets in an effort to prevent China Marine Surveillance aircraft from flying. Chinese officials have also charged that Japan tarnished the image of the Chinese military by spreading groundless allegations about the so-called radar targeting a Japanese gunboat by China. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in a policy speech on Thursday to his country's lower legislative house, cited the alleged 'radar lock-on' incident as "a dangerous move that may escalate the situation". Liu Jiangyong, an expert on Japanese studies and deputy dean of the Institute of Modern International Relations at Tsinghua University, said Japan has broadcast its baseless allegations against China to induce the international community to step up pressure on China. "Consensus has been reached within Japan that blaming China and hyping the threat of China can help the government win more domestic public support," Liu said. As a peace-loving country, China will not incite trouble, "nor will it be afraid of any troublemakers", said Lyu, the spokesman of the top political advisory body's annual session. "We will never back down on issues related to China's territorial sovereignty," Lyu said. During Abe's latest trip to Washington in late February, his appeal for greater support from Washington received a cold response from President Barack Obama on issues regarding the dispute and policies toward China. Wang Fan, assistant president of the China Foreign Affairs University, warned that some key territorial issues, including the Diaoyu Islands dispute, have been utilized as "bargaining chips" to rein in China. "Some countries are resorting to territorial issues to derail China's steady pace of development and even prompt it to change its peaceful development strategy," Wang warned. The spokesman confirmed that diplomatic communications have continued between Beijing and Tokyo in an ongoing effort to manage the crisis. China has been hyped as a threat to neighbors, but China has never posed a threat in its defense positions, Wang said, and it is "never a stumbling block but a protector" of navigation freedom in the region. "It is also necessary to clarify that China has shown consistency in guarding sovereignty in the past century, and this has nothing to do with the rising strength of the country," Wang said. Meanwhile, analysts predicted that it is unlikely for Tokyo, in the near future, to change its stance on the islands dispute. As the Japanese upper house election will probably be held in July, coming out on top in the power reshuffle is the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's top priority. That means Tokyo will give little ground while trying to pit its strength against Beijing, Yang Bojiang said. "We are still unlikely to see major conflict between China and Japan taking place over the islands, as China has upheld dialogue as the best option while the US has told Japan to act calmly," Liu Jiangyong said . The sessions of the National People's Congress, which is China's legislature, and the National Committee of the CPPCC, the top political advisory body, will open on Tuesday and Sunday, respectively.

Hong Kong*:  Mar 4 2013

Jackie Chan’s China appointment draws Hong Kong ire (By Agence France Press in Hong Kong) Jackie Chan arrives at the hotel served as an accommodation for the CPPCC members in Beijing. Hong Kong action star Jackie Chan this week joins China’s top political advisory body in a move analysts say highlights Beijing’s growing “soft power” efforts to project unity between itself and the former British colony. But the 58-year-old actor, famous in the West for “Rush Hour” and “Police Story”, faces a backlash in his hometown where the mainland is viewed with increasing suspicion. According to professor Sonny Ho, co-director at the Centre for Greater China Studies, Chan was selected to appear at the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) because his stardom could help promote ties. “Jackie Chan is acting under the soft power and united front of the PRC (mainland) government,” he said. The “united front” strategy, he said, was a campaign to promote a strong and peaceful homeland, unified with Taiwan. China’s growing clout over the past decade has seen actors from Hong Kong and Macau drafted into patriotic movies that glorify the country’s past, from the mighty Han Dynasty to the early Communist Party era, Ho added. The appointment of the martial arts star however was met with derision online in Hong Kong where Chan’s reputation has taken a nosedive in recent years over his pro-Beijing stances such as calling for limits on the right to protest. Dissatisfaction towards Beijing has risen in recent years over a range of issues from alleged political interference to an influx of mainlanders blamed for driving up property prices and for shortages of baby formula. The announcement of Chan’s appointment was greeted with online derision. “Yet another movie star turns into a CPPCC member. Since when did this negative social trend become so popular?” one user posted on the Sina Weibo microblog site. “Sure, add another big dope to a veritable congregation of big dopes,” ‘ianson’ commented on the website of the South China Morning Post newspaper. The CPPCC is a 2,000-strong advisory body which includes China’s other token political parties and a few celebrities, including former NBA basketball star Yao Ming. The conference, which convenes on Sunday, functions as a high-profile organisation but it is more toothless than China’s essentially rubber-stamp legislature, the National People’s Congress (NPC), which opens its annual session on Tuesday. However the NPC, with nearly 3,000 delegates, has a higher profile this year as it will confirm the completion of China’s once-a-decade power transfer. At the meeting, new Communist Party boss Xi Jinping will be installed as Chinese president, taking over from Hu Jintao. Chan, who is known for his martial arts skills and daring comedic stunt work, provoked a furious fight-back last December after reportedly suggesting in a Chinese magazine interview that protests in his native city should be restricted. And in 2009, he landed in hot water for telling a forum that “we Chinese need to be controlled”. Pro-democracy Hong Kong lawmaker Emily Lau said his appointment was more evidence that Beijing was not prepared to take the city’s concerns seriously. “Maybe he represents a certain segment of the population but he has also upset quite a number of people. So if Beijing decides to appoint him, it shows you what kind of views they want to listen to, which is quite unfortunate.” But while increasing numbers of entertainers have allowed themselves to be co-opted by Beijing, Lau was not hopeful many would be willing to voice dissent. “The last time Hong Kong artists came together was on June 4, 1989 (after the Tiananmen Square crackdown on pro-democracy protests),” she said. “Now, many of them are very frightened of upsetting Beijing. The mainland is also now the biggest market so they cannot afford to let go of those commercial opportunities.”

Tsang defends budget measures as prudent (By Joshua But) Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah said on Saturday he had to be fiscally prudent when developing the economic policies he announced in last Wednesday’s budget. Tsang told RTHK programme Hong Kong Letter that extravagant economic policies would fail in the long-term. “If I spent money extravagantly for the sake of popularly, not only would our generation suffer, but also the next generation,” he said. Tsang added that fiscal prudence was the principal responsibility of the financial secretary and he had to ensure taxpayers’ money was used in the right areas. Tsang also said he was “not disappointed” with negative feedback from the public - even people saying the budget lacked new ideas. “New ideas are not my primary concern. It does not matter if our measures are old, but are able to help the needy and move the city forward,” he told Commercial Radio. He noted that government expenditure had increased more than 10 per cent in the coming year. “[Such an increase] is rare globally,” explained Tsang.

Egypt holds memorial ceremony for Luxor balloon explosion victims - The Egyptian government held on Friday a memorial ceremony in Luxor for the victims of a recent hot balloon explosion that killed 19 tourists of different nationalities. A man presents flower to the victims in the balloon explosion in Luxor, Egypt, on March 1, 2013. Luxor governorate held a mourning ceremony here for the victims of the explosion.

 China*:  Mar 4 2013

Wait for US visas set to grow if severe budget cuts kick in (By Patsy Moy and Agence France-Presse) Queues for visas at already swamped US embassies are likely to get longer if major budget cuts kick in at the State Department. Faced with ballooning demand, the State Department had started recruiting more consular officers to deal with the rising volume of traffic, deputy acting spokesman Patrick Ventrell said this week. But if the "sequester order" took effect, the department would be forced to cut back its programs, including consular services, he warned. In Hong Kong, Joseph Tung Yao-chung, executive director of the Travel Industry Council, called on Washington to grant visa-free assess to SAR passport holders to help resolve any delay if there were budget cuts. "Hong Kong provides visa-free access for US residents and I don't see why their government can't offer us the same treatment, which would save them a lot of manpower in issuing visas," Tung said. According to the Hong Kong Immigration Department, 147 territories do allow visa-free access for SAR passport holders, including the UK. Hong Kong provides visa-free access for US residents and I don't see why their government can't offer us the same treatment, which would save them a lot of manpower in issuing visas - An employee at Hong Thai Travel said it usually took about two weeks for a Hong Kong resident to obtain a US visa. The process includes an interview and applicants are informed of the result of their application on the day of the interview. In the US, it was apparent there was no legislative solution that would stop automatic budget cuts - the so-called sequester - kicking in yesterday, forcing a wide range of government agencies to trim their services. "We've had a huge influx of new consulate officers in hotspots like India, China, Brazil, where you have middle-class folk who are trying to come to the US for the first time to visit and spend their money," Ventrell said. About 90 per cent of people seeking a US visa around the world are interviewed within three weeks of applying. In China the waiting time is about five days, while in Sao Paulo, Brazil, it was cut from 140 days to two.

China targets 15 pc of satellite launch market - The Long March 2C rocket carrying two satellites blasts off in Taiyuan, Shanxi, last year. China wants to boosts its share of the satellite launching business. China is looking to increase its share of the global commercial satellite launching business, targeting a 15 per cent share by 2020. China has just 3 per cent of the market now, but the goal laid out on Saturday by a leading space programme official points to its ambitions to be a major player in space. The deputy head of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, Liang Xiaohong, told the official Xinhua News Agency that China hopes to accomplish that by establishing strategic alliances with major launch services providers and satellite manufacturers, along with developing its own technology. China’s main competition in the launch market comes from Europe and the US - Liang said China’s first solid-fuel rocket that could be launched on short notice would make its first flight by 2016.

Beijing blasts Japan ahead of legislative session (By Associated Press in Beijing) The spokesman for China's legislature’s chief advisory body, Lu Xinhua. China has issued another scathing attack on Japan over an islands dispute, just days ahead of the opening of the Chinese national legislature’s annual session. The spokesman for the legislature’s chief advisory body, Lu Xinhua, told reporters at a Saturday news conference that if any unintended clash occurred as a result of their patrol boats and planes operating close to one another, Japan would “be held solely responsible for all consequences.” The longstanding dispute between China and Japan over the islands flared anew after Japan purchased three of the five in the group from their private owners in September. Beijing says the islands have been Chinese for centuries, but Japan refuses to acknowledge counterclaims. Chinese ships have repeatedly crossed into Japanese waters around the islands and confronted Japanese coast guard ships.

Models dressed in creations by designer Guo Pei communicate with each other at the "Chinese Bride" flagship store in No. 22 Waitan in Shanghai, east China, March 2, 2013. A wedding dress show was held by Guo Pei, the owner of the flagship store "Chinese Bride" and also a prominent designer who has created ceremonial dresses for both the CCTV Spring Festival Gala and the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Deputies to 12th NPC arrive in Beijing - The first session of the 12th NPC is scheduled to open in Beijing on March 5.

The presidium of the first session of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) hold their first meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, March 2, 2013. 

Chinese firms still short of 'global admiration': Poll (By HE WEI) Chinese companies are struggling to translate their economic might into a worldwide reputation, according to a study released by Fortune magazine. Not a single Chinese company was ranked in the top 50 in its annual "World's Most Admired Companies List" for 2013, widely considered among the most definitive report cards on global corporate reputation. Only nine Chinese firms appeared in the top 10 firms named across some 57 different industry groupings, of which 26 covered globally competitive industries and 31 were US-oriented industries. Fortune determined the candidates by using the Fortune 1,000 listing and the Fortune Global 500 listing. International companies must have $10 billion in revenue and rank among the 15 largest by revenue within their own industry, according to Hay Group, which facilitated the research. The top 13 companies in the survey were from the US, with the list topped by Apple Inc, for the sixth consecutive year, followed by search engine Google Inc and e-commerce giant Inc. The first non-American company to appear on the list was German car giant BMW at 14, with the second and third non-US companies both Asian, Toyota Motor Corp at 29, and Singapore Airlines Ltd at 31 on the list. The only other Asian company in the top 50 was South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co at 35. Three Chinese newcomers were listed highly in their own industry-specific rankings. Lenovo Group Ltd grabbed seventh spot in the PC sector. China Minmetals Corp claimed fifth place among metal producers. And COFCO, China's largest food vendor, was identified as the second most-admired trading company. Other Chinese firms listed as having an industry-wide reputation included Baosteel Group Corp, Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd, and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd. This year's survey was in sharp contrast to last year's Fortune Global 500 List, which highlighted 79 Chinese firms as among the world's top revenue earners. The Most Admired list gauges reputation rather than earnings, and surveys top executives and directors from eligible companies along with financial analysts, said Zhou Zhanhong, acting executive editor-in-chief of the Chinese edition of the magazine. "Lenovo's success indicated that its transparent operation and acquisition of IBM's PC business unit have gained traction among global investors," Zhou said. In comparison, the more discreet business strategies of China's Huawei Technologies Co, while also a heavyweight player in the telecom segment, fueled suspicion among the international business community, Zhou noted. Tom Doctoroff, the Shanghai-based North China head at advertising firm JWT, said that despite an increasing overseas presence, Chinese enterprises still have a lot of work to do on their global branding and image. "The key question is this: When will Chinese brands move from just being recognized for their scale and stature, to those admired for their innovation and reputation, enjoying a loyal, long-term customer base?" He said that Chinese brands currently thrive on price and value and not for being "perceived as offering superiority, or for a specific attribute or benefit".

New leaders to face foreign-policy issues (By Zhang Chunyan in London, Liu Jia in Brussels and Pu Zhendong in Beijing) Improving ties with neighboring states is among the many emerging challenges in Chinese foreign policy in the next five years, as Beijing anticipates new leadership this month, experts from China and abroad said. China should concentrate first on reassuring its neighbors, and the rest of the international community, of its intentions, said David Fouquet, a senior associate of the Brussels-based European Institute of Asian Studies. "This 'strategic reassurance' must persuade the Asia-Pacific region that China will not behave aggressively or try to coerce its neighbors, even if the United States were not engaged in the region," he added. Fouquet's comment came before China's annual meeting of the National People's Congress, the country's top legislature, which will begin on Tuesday and will be a debut for the new leaders. The meeting, which marks another major political event following the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in November, is attracting international attention. It will see the election of a chairperson, vice-chairpersons, secretary-general and members of the 12th NPC Standing Committee, as well as the country's president and vice-president. The NPC will also choose the premier and vice-premiers of the State Council, or China's cabinet, as well as State councilors, ministers for government departments, ministers in charge of commissions of the State Council, the governor of the People's Bank of China, an auditor-general, as well as the State Council's secretary-general. Other foreign "China hands" agreed with Fouquet's opinion. Nadine Godehardt, an associate at the Asia division of the Berlin-based German Institute for International and Security Affairs, said: "China needs to engage even more with her immediate neighborhood. "The Chinese leadership should clearly articulate the goals and, more importantly, the limits of China's foreign policy. Hence, clear answers to questions like what are China's core interests and what is absolutely not negotiable for the Chinese leadership will actually improve China's image in the region and in the US," Godehardt said. Otherwise, Godehardt added, China's neighbors will align themselves closer to the US and nourish US President Barack Obama's new foreign policy direction, the so-called pivot to Asia. The 18th Party Congress reaffirmed China's commitment to peaceful development, one of the most important guidelines for the country's foreign policy. Li Haidong, a professor from the Institute of International Relations at China Foreign Affairs University, said harnessing the changing world situation, driven by the US strategy of its pivot to Asia, will be a major challenge for the new Chinese leadership. "Since the outbreak of the 2008 global financial crisis, the US strategic focus has been shifting from anti-terrorism to seeking a new pivot," Li said. "Rebalancing in the Asia-Pacific region, as the outcome of this pursuit, resulted in a new round of policy adjustments of countries in the region. "Against this backdrop, territorial disputes in the East and South China seas have been intensified to different degrees," Li added. "China needs to invest more in Sino-US ties and foster the strategic mutual trust." When it comes to international issues, observers noted that China could, and should, play a role of more responsibility and engagement. Godehardt said: "China's decision to stay neutral regarding many foreign-policy questions is actually one reason for misunderstandings that emerge between China and the US or China and Europe. "Being neutral raises as many questions as any benevolent or bellicose political statement. In the case of China, it particularly leads to assumptions about whether the country actually wants to be a responsible power and what this would exactly mean," Godehardt added. Wang Zaibang, vice-president of the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, echoed those views. He said that with its rising influence, China should now actively participate in international affairs, including regional disputes like the Syrian crisis, and unconventional threats like anti-piracy operations. "As a responsible country, China should contribute its share of strength to facilitate the establishment of a more peaceful and secure international situation, and inject sufficient impetus to the development of other countries," Wang said.

Hong Kong*:  Mar 3 2013

Rafael Hui faces new corruption charge (By Niall Fraser) Former government number two Rafael Hui Si-yan is to face a new charge that he “concealed” alleged corrupt payments of more than HK$11 million when Hong Kong’s biggest ever corruption case returns to court next week. The new charge comes seven days before ex-chief secretary, Hui, 64, and the billionaire Kwok brothers – who head the property giant Sun Hung Kai Properties – are due to return to court to enter pleas in the case which has attracted global publicity. Prosecutors have also amended the original charges to allege that the brothers who run SHKP – the world’s biggest property developer by market value – Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong, 61, and Raymond Kwok Ping-luen, 59, – paid Hui HK$8.5 million in bribes, HK$150,000 more than was outlined in the original charges. A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice said on Friday: “Having reviewed the available evidence, prosecutors have amended charge five to reflect the fact that the total amount of money paid by Thomas Kwok to Rafael Hui was HK$8.5m. The charge had originally identified the amount paid as HK$8.35m,” the spokeswoman said. The added charge of failing to declare, disclose or conceal his receipt of HK$11.182 million from SHKP executive director Thomas Chan Kui-yuen, 66, former Hong Kong Stock Exchange official Francis Kwan Hung-sang, 62, and others forms part of an existing conspiracy charge. The prosecuting authorities have decided not to proceed on the charge of conspiracy to offer advantages to a public servant against Hui and Raymond Kwok. But will allege misconduct in public office relating to the alleged HK$11 million payment. The spokesman said the decision was taken “following a further review of the available evidence”. However, it is understood that in order to prosecute a public servant under section 4 of the prevention of bribery ordinance – that is offering an advantage – the accused person must have been a public servant at the time. Hui wasn’t, and as a result prosecutors have opted for the misconduct in public office route, alleging that the misconduct in office was linked to the earlier alleged payments. “We have concluded that this charge is not part of the core allegations against the defendants and, in light of the other charges, that it is unnecessary to proceed further.” On March 8, the prosecution will start a committal hearing – at which the defendants will indicate their pleas – before the presiding magistrate decides whether the case should be forwarded to the High Court. More than 70 witnesses will be called when the case is expected to come to trial next year.

Henry Tang promises to support wife in court over illegal basement (By Tong Cheung) Henry Tang Ying-yen speaks to reporters at Chek Lap Kok airport before travelling to Beijing as a newly appointed member of the CPPCC. Failed chief executive candidate and former chief secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen promised on Friday to accompany his wife to court on March 13 when she faces a charge of having an illegal basement in their Kowloon Tong home. Tang, who was appointed to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) a month ago, also hinted that his family was “prepared” for any outcome from the upcoming trial. Tang’s wife, Lisa Kuo Yu-chin, was among four people charged last month over a 2,250 square foot illegal basement at their house at 7 York Road, Kowloon Tong, but Tang himself escaped any charges. The existence of the luxurious illegal basement first came to light in the run-up to last year’s chief executive election, which, along with Tang’s handling of the ensuing scandal, damaged his campaign for the top job. After the chief executive election it was revealed that his opponent and the current chief executive Leung Chun-ying had illegal structures on his Peak home. Tang spoke of the case for the first time before setting off to Beijing for the CPPCC meeting, which opens on Sunday. “During the campaign for the executive, which I lost, I had the … full support of my family,” Tang said. “Therefore I will support my wife when she goes for the first hearing on March 13; I will be there to support her both spiritually as well as physically.” He added that his family had become more united since the chief executive campaign. When asked whether he is “prepared for the worst”, Tang said the family had made adequate preparations whatever the outcome. Tang also said he hoped to contribute on mainland affairs as a local delegate to the CPPCC – China’s top political advisory body. “This is the beginning of the [Beijing government’s] 12th five-year plan, and Hong Kong has a very special place in this plan, so I will be humble, observe [the CPPCC’s work] and make the best of this new opportunity for me to contribute to both Hong Kong and the mainland.” Tang was hotly tipped to be elected into the standing committee of the CPPCC, but he declined to comment on that. He said he believed his experience as a former legislator and chief secretary, and his business connections, will help him fulfil his role as a CPPCC member.

 China*:  Mar 3 2013

Brazil seeks Chinese help building oil refineries (By Reuters in Brasilia) Brazilian oil giant Petrobras is seeking help from Sinopec to help it complete diesel refineries in Brazil by 2018, reflecting the growing links between Brazil and China. Brazil’s government said it is seeking Chinese help to finish work on two oil refineries, a sign of strengthening ties between the emerging powers as well as financial troubles at state-run oil giant Petrobras. Petrobras’ chief executive Maria das Gracas Foster was in China negotiating a partnership with China Petroleum & Chemical Corp (Sinopec) that would allow the company to finish diesel refineries in two northeastern states by 2018. Petrobras is under pressure to build refineries and boost its fuel output as Brazil’s economy has boomed over the past decade. But the company’s cash flow is also under strain as the government has forced it to sell petrol at a loss in recent years. “Petrobras is facing a certain financial difficulty,” Energy Minister Edison Lobco told reporters in Brasilia. “I recommended that its president go to China to negotiate with a large state-run Chinese firm.” He did not specify what shape the partnership might take, what the financial details would be, or what Sinopec would gain. A Petrobras spokeswoman declined to provide further information. China has recently agreed to invest in other oil producing countries in exchange for guaranteed oil supplies. Industry sources this month said Russia’s state-owned Rosneft seeks to borrow up to US$30 billion (HK$232.7 billion) from China in exchange for possibly doubling oil supplies. This would not be Petrobras’ first deal with China, which recently became Brazil’s largest trading partner. In 2009, China Development Bank signed a US$10 billion (HK$77.6 billion) 10-year loan deal with Petrobras, under which the state-run oil company would supply Sinopec with 200,000 barrels a day through 2019. Petrobras will also rely on China to build parts of four platforms that will be placed in the off-shore Santos Basin, it said in a statement on Monday. Though only 3 per cent of the floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessels that will connect to the platforms are being built in China, it was a rare sign of Brazil outsourcing such work to the Asian giant to improve efficiency. Lobco said Foster would seek additional international partnerships on other petroleum projects, including production and exploration, in other countries. The company, which produces some 90 per cent of Brazil’s oil, faces rising debt under the weight of a five-year, US$237 billion (HK$1.84 trillion) corporate investment plan, the world’s largest. Searching for cash, the firm is trying to sell some of its assets, including most refineries located outside of Brazil. Soaring costs and stagnant production led Petrobras to seek a partnership with Venezuela’s PDVSA to help build another refinery in Pernambuco state seven years ago, but PDVSA has not yet paid for its 40 per cent stake in the Abreu e Lima refinery that is supposed to begin operations this year. In September, Petrobras said it would seek help from South Korean-American refiner GS Caltex to build Premium II, which will likely cost US$11 billion (HK$85.3 billion), according to a report from the Ceara state government’s development agency. Petrobras is trying to reduce its dependence on imported fuels by building more domestic refineries. Premium II was initially planned to transform Brazil’s growing oil output into “clean” diesel for export, but may be needed to meet surging demand for vehicle fuels in Brazil.

Mekong River murderers executed by lethal injection - Myanmar drug lord Naw Kham, who was convicted of murdering 13 Chinese sailors on the Mekong River in 2011, was executed on Friday afternoon.

US must assure China of its strategic intentions (By CHEN WEIHUA in Washington) As long as the United States maintains its focus on Asia from military and economic standpoints, it will continue to face an uphill battle to convince many in China of its strategic intentions. Various polls have shown that many Chinese see the US rebalancing in a negative light, saying it poses a serious threat to China's security. The Chinese business community says the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free trade agreement that the US has been pushing as the key economic component of its strategy in Asia, is designed to exclude China, the world's second-largest economy. Yang Yi, former director of the Institute for Strategic Studies at the PLA National Defense University, blames the US rebalancing policy for the worst lack of trust between China and the US since they established diplomatic ties in the late 1970s. He described the US rebalancing strategy as being based on the misperception that a rising China is a threat and that China wants to keep the US out of Asia. He complained about increasing US military activity in the Asia-Pacific over the past two years since the rebalancing policy took effect, and said that Washington's Asia-Pacific policies have to some extent been hijacked by its allies in East Asia. While US officials and pundits often insist that the US has been invited back to Asia by some of China's neighbors who are frightened of an assertive China, many Chinese contend that the US rebalancing strategy has emboldened some of China's neighbors to take advantage of mistrust between the two nations. "Bilateral relations have been damaged in the last two years. It's time for the US and China to reassure each other. It's critical for the two countries to review the mistrust and to avoid confrontation," Yang said. He said he hoped the US would include rather than exclude China, and said the US Congress should lift some restrictions imposed on military exchanges between the two countries. "The most difficult part for you to accept is that (the US) should be prudent in making decisions on undertaking joint military exercises with sensitive countries in sensitive areas at a sensitive time," Yang said, alluding to US allies in the Asia Pacific, such as Japan and the Philippines, embroiled in territorial disputes with China. In a column for The New York Times last month, Joseph Nye Jr, a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School and a former assistant secretary of defense, warned that the US rebalancing toward Asia must not be aggressive and should make sure China does not feel encircled or endangered. "The world's two largest economies have much to gain from cooperation on fighting climate change, pandemics, cyberterrorism and nuclear proliferation," Nye wrote. Citing his experience with the Clinton administration in the 1990s, Nye said that administration rejected the notion of containment. "If we treated China as an enemy, we were guaranteeing a future enemy. If we treated China as a friend, we kept open the possibility of a more peaceful future," he added.

Hong Kong*:  Mar 2 2013

Ang Lee's Oscar shows Asian cinema has come of age (SCMP Editorial) Ang Lee holds his award for Best Director for 'Life of Pi' at the 2013 Vanity Fair Oscars Party. A story about an Indian boy cast away at sea accompanied by a starving tiger has cemented Ang Lee as one of the world's master film directors. The Taiwanese filmmaker competed against the likes of Steven Spielberg and won his second Oscar for best director for Life of Pi. While he was not the hands-down favourite, his victory was not a complete surprise, either. With Lee, Asian cinema has come of age. Based on the best-selling book of the same name, the movie exploited the most advanced visual technology to recreate a fantastic fable that digitalised into existence a zebra, an orang-utan, a hyena, phosphorescent jellyfish and a fusillade of flying fish. There were awesome three-dimensional scenes in which the hero and his tiger look suspended in horizonless infinities, a haunting visualisation of the book's deep spiritual message. Here is that rare work that uses technology to carry a message, rather than overwhelm it. The Oscar judges clearly recognised Lee not just for the film's technical virtuosity but for that most elemental of craft - storytelling. It's significant that Lee, in his acceptance speech, thanked the city of Taichung for subsidising the movie. That was an acknowledgement of what strategic official backing can sometimes achieve and deliver for the artistic community. Movies from Asia have increasingly made headway in the international market. Hong Kong, too, has its film fund, which has bankrolled several international award-winning movies, though none has been comparable with Lee's achievement. We have yet to recover our cinematic glory of the 1980s and 1990s, but we certainly have the talent and potential. Our government can't do it for us, but it can help facilitate an arts-friendly environment for a world-class city like Hong Kong. With an oeuvre that spans across historical times, genres and cultures, Lee shows what a cosmopolitan Chinese, deeply rooted in his own culture yet attuned to today's highly connected globe, can achieve on the world stage.

Sun Hung Kai first-half profit falls, but beats forecast (By Reuters) Asia's No 1 developer by market value posts second best six-month profit ever - Sun Hung Kai Properties, the world's No 2 and Asia’s largest developer by market value, posted its second best six-month profit ever on Thursday. Sun Hung Kai Properties, the world’s No 2 property company by market value, posted a 1.9 per cent drop in underlying profit for the fiscal first half to beat forecasts, and was upbeat on the sector’s outlook despite tightening measures. Analysts attributed the weaker results to an absence of large-scale projects during the period and have said investors should watch the progress of the company’s new launches closely after a series of new measures to cool the overheated Hong Kong property market. Asia’s largest developer by market value reported an underlying profit of HK$11.5 (US$1.5 billion), beating forecasts of HK$10.64 billion by four analysts polled by Reuters. The result compared with an underlying profit of HK$11.8 billion a year earlier. The result was still the second best six-month profit ever for Sun Hung Kai, controlled by the Kwok family which were listed third on the 2012 Forbes ranking of Hong Kong’s richest people. The outlook for Hong Kong’s powerful property tycoons has been overshadowed by a series of tightening measures, including higher stamp duties and home loan curbs on transactions announced on Friday. It was the sixth round of policy measures since October 2009 to rein in property prices. Home prices rose an average of 20 per cent last year, doubling from a trough in 2008 and driving the market beyond record levels set in 1997. Sun Hung Kai said in a statement a healthy Hong Kong economy, riding on a strong mainland economy, would likely help support prices. Its local competitors have so far seen little impact from the cooling steps, including a 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers imposed in October. On Wednesday, New World Development recorded a 91 per cent year-on-year rise for net profit in the fiscal first half, while Sino Land’s underlying net profit jumped 80.5 per cent during the same period. “Because the implementation of measures is so frequent, it will somehow affect the sales schedule,” said Lau Ka-fai, chief analyst at Midland Realty. “But overall we still believe property developers should continue to sell more units to the market.” Sun Hung Kai’s billionaire Kwok brothers, Raymond and Thomas, are facing charges in an alleged bribery case in which they are accused of paying a senior government official to favour their interest. The high-profile hearing involving the co-chairmen has been adjourned to next month. Analysts said the case was unlikely to have any financial impact on the company but potential succession issues remained if the Kwok brothers were found guilty and asked to resign. “The corruption case will take at least one to two years to settle and there will unlikely be any conclusion in 2013,” Raymond Ngai, research analyst at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in Hong Kong, wrote in a note in January. Sun Hung Kai, which also holds a portfolio of office space that includes Hong Kong’s tallest building, International Commerce Centre, said net rental income grew 10.6 per cent to HK$5.8 billion. The company declared a dividend of HK$0.95 per share for the period. The company’s shares have fallen 5.7 per cent so far in February, its biggest monthly decline since the arrest of the Kwok brothers in March 2012, amid renewed concerns that both Hong Kong and China would launch more curbs to cool their property markets. The Hong Kong property sub-index, which inludes other property bellwethers such as Li Ka-shing’s Cheung Kong, has fallen 5 percent so far in February, lagging a 3 per cent drop in the benchmark index. Sun Hung Kai’s shares rose 0.8 per cent on Thursday ahead of the results, lagging a 2 per cent rise in the benchmark index.

Tsang defends budget against criticism for doing 'too little' (By Tony Cheung) Tsang says first budget under Leung Chun-ying government 'balanced different needs' and defended statement that he is also 'middle class' - Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah was grilled on Thursday morning for doing “too little” to alleviate the needs of the lower and middle classes after unveiling his sixth budget a day earlier. Speaking on a radio programme, Tsang emphasised that his first budget under the Leung Chun-ying government “balanced different needs”. “New thinking is not the first thing on my mind when I was preparing this budget,” he said. “My first consideration is quality – whether we could make effective use of our limited resources to help the needy, and pave the way for our society’s future. I think my budget has met these objectives.” However, callers – including many who identified themselves as low-income – criticised Tsang for doing too little. “Have you understood the needs of the poor?” asked a father of two, who identified himself only by the last name Chan. “Everything has become more expensive since the minimum wage [law], and of course, you have no idea about [prices] … Could you consider raising school textbook assistance rates, and providing subsidies for buying [educational] tools?” Tsang responded that the administration could consider boosting the subsidy. The financial secretary pointed to the 15.6 per cent increase in total public expenditure as evidence that the government was concerned about the society’s needs. The government will be spending more than 60 per cent of its money on areas such as welfare, medical services and education. On Wednesday, Tsang said he “understands the middle class, because I am also middle class”, raising questions about the definition of the term. Critics note Tsang earns more than HK$300,000 a month. But Tsang defended himself, saying “I think it may not be necessary to set a limit on the salary [when defining what is middle class], in fact it is a lifestyle … I have read articles which say the middle class are those [people] who drink coffee and like French movies – I like movies and tea, so there’s not much difference [between mine] and middle-class lives.” Tsang added that he grew up in a middle-class family, and still hangs out with people from the middle class. The financial chief also restated that advisory bodies have been studying retirement protection, free kindergarten education, among other matters, and they will submit proposals to the government in due course. On a caller’s suggestion to drop Hong Kong’s currency peg to the US dollar to curb inflation, Tsang reiterated that there was neither need nor intention from the government to do so.

Paul Chan announces end of land application list system (By Lai Ying-kit) Hong Kong’s government will scrap the land application list system – under which developers can trigger land auctions – in order to increase its control over the city’s land supply. Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po announced on Thursday the land application list system would be cancelled at the start of the 2013-14 financial year in April. Under the system, a developer who wants to acquire a site on the application list submits a price to the Lands Department, which cannot be less than 80 per cent of the undisclosed price set by the government. If a developer’s submission meets this criterion, this triggers a public auction for the site. The system was introduced in 1999 and was intended to complement the government’s regular land sales. Regular land sales were in turn scrapped in 2002 because the economic downturn was pushing prices down. Starting in 2010, the government began selling land again, but on an irregular basis, in an effort to boost supply and cool what were by then rising property prices. Chan said fewer sites had been triggered under the application list system since 2010 when the government took a more active role in increasing the land supply. In the 2011-12 financial year, 27 sites were sold through government-initiated sales – by either auction or tender – while only one was triggered by developers. In the 2012-13 financial year, the government initiated the sales of 22 sites while developers triggered only two. Chan also said the decision to scrap the land application list system was to allay concerns that land supply would continue to be limited by developers if they were reluctant to trigger auctions. By scrapping the system, “the government can refer to market demand and maximise efforts to increase the land supply,” he said. Chan also said that 46 residential sites, including 28 new sites, were included in this year’s list for sale. The sites could provide up to 19,300 flats.

Chinese team arrives in Egypt over balloon crash (Xinhua) Workers prepare a hot air balloon for take off at a launch site near Egypt's ancient temple city of Luxorbefore it exploded and plunged to earth on Tuesday. A Chinese Foreign Ministry work panel arrived in Egypt on Wednesday to deal with the aftermath of a deadly hot air balloon crash, in the wake of nine Hong Kong tourists dying in the tragedy in the country. Meanwhile, officers from the Hong Kong Immigration Department and the tourist company's staff members also flied to Egypt to help. About 10 family members of the victims will later arrive in Cairo at 5:00 pm local time (GMT 1500), according to embassy official. Chinese Ambassador to Egypt Song Aiguo, said the embassy will discuss issues regarding the tragedy with the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, including the reasons behind the crash, the identification of the dead bodies, the arrangement of the remains of the victims and the compensation for the dead. Qiu Xuejun, the head of the five-member work panel, for his part, urged the Egyptian government to launch a thorough investigation into the incident, and pledged to support Cairo to comfort and compensate the family members of the victims. Earlier, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said the work panel, which left Beijing on Tuesday evening, will work with the Chinese Embassy in Cairo in dealing with developments. A hot air balloon carrying 20 tourists exploded and plunged to the ground in Egypt's Luxor city on Tuesday, killing 19 people including the nine from Hong Kong.

 China*:  Mar 2 2013

China Nobel winner Mo Yan defies critics (By Agence France-Presse in Beijing) Nobel literature laureate Mo Yan has hit back at critics who accused him of being too close to China’s government, saying in a newspaper interview he does not write on behalf of the ruling Communist party. The writer scooped the Nobel in October for what judges called his “hallucinatory realism” and has won praise from literary critics, but is also fiercely attacked by Chinese dissidents who brand him a Communist stooge. I have emphasised repeatedly that I am writing on behalf of the people, not the party - “I have emphasised repeatedly that I am writing on behalf of the people, not the party,” he said in an interview with the German newspaper Der Spiegel, adding: “I detest corrupt officials.” Mo Yan hit out at exiled-Chinese dissident author Liao Yiwu, who called him a “state poet”. “I know (Liao) envies me for this award and I understand this. But his criticism is unjustified,” he said. “My political views are quite clear. One only has to read my books.” In a style influenced by the magical realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Mo Yan’s works deal with some of the darkest periods of China’s recent history, and are often infused with politics and a dark, cynical sense of humour. His latest novel, 2009’s Frog, is considered his most daring yet, with a searing depiction of China’s “one child” population control policy and the local officials who ruthlessly implement it with forced abortions and sterilisations. Literary critics have said he has dodged censure by deftly avoiding overt criticism of the current authorities. He is also vice-chairman of the officially endorsed China Writers’ Association. The author is among the estimated 80 million members of China’s Communist party, and re-iterated his insistence that literary merit is separate from politics, rejecting dissident artist Ai Weiwei’s early criticism of his Nobel victory. “Which intellectual can claim to represent China? I certainly do not claim that. Can Ai Weiwei?” he asked, adding: “Those who can really represent China are digging dirt and paving roads with their bare hands.” Mo Yan repeated a statement made after his Nobel victory that he hoped Chinese Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, jailed in 2009 for calling for democratic change, could “regain his freedom as soon as possible”. But he said he was frustrated with repeatedly being asked about Liu’s case, saying that the requests reminded him of “rituals of repetition in the Cultural Revolution”. “If I decide not to speak, then not even a knife at my neck will make me speak,” said the author, who was born Guan Moye but whose pen name means “not speak”. Mo Yan said his recent work tackled the question of individual responsibility for crimes committed during China’s tumultuous 20th century. “Few people ask themselves, though: ‘Have I also hurt others?’” he said. “I was jealous of the achievements, the talents of other people, of their luck. Later, I even asked my wife to have an abortion for the sake of my own future,” he said. “I am guilty.”

Marine patrol ships start coast guard mission in South China Sea - A formation of three marine patrol ships started their coast guard mission in South China Sea on Thursday.

Mainland, Taiwan look to possibilities in aerospace (By AN BAIJIE) Lien Chan, Kuomintang honorary chairman, inspects spacesuits while visiting the Beijing Aerospace Control Center on Wednesday. Anything is possible. Fan Liqing, spokeswoman for the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office, used the well-known catchphrase on Wednesday to describe how cross-Straits cooperation can fare in aerospace. The mainland is eager to cooperate with Taipei on space research and development, she said at a news conference. Her remarks came as Kuomintang Honorary Chairman Lien Chan led a delegation visiting the Beijing Aerospace Control Center on Wednesday. During the visit, the delegation met the three astronauts who went to space in June on the Shenzhou IX spacecraft. Liu Yang, China's first female astronaut, was a focus among the visitors, and most of them took photos with her, China Central Television reported. Sharing a light moment, Lien's wife, Lien Fang-yu, asked the female astronaut to take her into space during the next space mission, the report said. It's the first time that Lien Chan has been to the Beijing Aerospace Control Center. In 2005, when Lien was the KMT chairman, he led a delegation to the mainland at the invitation of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. It was the first time in 60 years that leaders of the CPC and KMT had met. The Beijing Aerospace Control Center is not mysterious to Taiwan visitors because many Taiwan reporters have already been there, Fan said at the news conference. Yang Liwei, China's first astronaut, called for cross-Straits aerospace cooperation in July when he met with a visiting summer camp group of 38 Taiwan students, Xinhua News Agency reported. Plant seeds from Taiwan were sent into space on mainland spacecraft, marking the first step in the cross-Straits cooperation in aerospace technology, Yang said. That cooperation can be promoted in the research of aerospace medicine, biology and materials, he said. Mainland aerospace authorities would like to train astronauts from Taiwan, Yang said. Fan, the spokeswoman, said that cross-Straits economic cooperation and personnel exchanges have increased since 2008, and the peaceful development of cross-Straits ties is in line with the interests of people on both sides of the Straits. Lien's visiting delegation, with representatives from Taiwan's political, business, religious and media sectors, arrived in Beijing on Sunday and left on Wednesday evening. Mainland leaders, including Party chief Xi Jinping and President Hu Jintao, met the delegation during its stay. Both sides expressed confidence in the peaceful development of cross-Straits relations, and Lien said that making the Taiwan Straits peaceful is a common desire of Taiwan society, Fan said. Residents from more mainland cities will be permitted to travel as tourists to Taiwan in 2013, and work on this issue is being carried out in an active, yet prudent manner, she said. Ten mainland cities, including Guangzhou, Chongqing and Fuzhou, were allowed to issue travel visas to individual mainland tourists last year. The number of mainland tourists to Taiwan — both group and individual visitors — reached a high of 1.97 million last year, up 57.5 percent year-on-year, according to the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council.

Yuan rises to 13th as payment currency (By Michael Barris in New York) Growing demand has led China's yuan to overtake the Russian ruble as a currency used for global payments, according to SWIFT, a messaging system used by international banks. SWIFT, or the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, said on Wednesday that use of the yuan in January jumped 24 percent from December, enabling it to capture 0.63 percent of global payments, an all-time high. That made it the 13th most-used currency overall, ahead of the ruble and Danish krone, according to SWIFT. A year ago, the yuan was used in 0.25 percent of all global payments, putting it 20th among currencies. The year-on-year increase in use of the yuan for payments, as measured by transaction value, was 171 percent. In contrast, use of the ruble in January declined 5.4 percent from December. While its share of global payment market was 0.56 percent, up from 0.52 percent in January 2012, the ruble fell to 15th place among currencies from 14th a year ago. Denmark's krone displaced the ruble, sliding into 14th from 13th. The Hong Kong dollar moved into ninth place, with 1.02 percent of global payments, up from 0.95 percent and the No 10 spot a year earlier. For China, the SWIFT report affirms that becoming the world's second-biggest economy has sparked greater use of its currency. For instance, the yuan is used for business transactions in Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia. Meanwhile, derivatives-exchange operator CME Group Inc this week began to offer yuan-denominated foreign-exchange futures contracts in Hong Kong. In another step up for the currency, in January the private equity regulator for the Chinese mainland began allowing overseas yuan capital to boost private-equity investments. James Wills, a senior business manager for SWIFT, said in an interview that the yuan is "slowly increasing" its share of the world market. "But it's a very young currency in this marketplace and it takes many, many years to establish a currency," he said. In recent years, the yuan, also known as the renminbi (RMB), has seen "very steady, very constant" growth in global payments, Wills pointed out. "It would be a natural expectation that the RMB is going to be a very important currency, and continue to grow as an important currency." By loosening its grip on the country's capital account, the Chinese government has given foreign investors, manufacturers and traders greater incentive to hold yuan for investment or payment settlements, according to Gregory Chin, head of China research at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, a Canadian think tank. Increasing use of the yuan has compelled Daniel Hwang, chief currency strategist at Gallant Capital Markets in New York, to predict that US payments in yuan will increase this year. Wills suggested that the yuan would increase its stature even further if it were adopted as a global benchmark for the commodities market. "You have a lot of commodities that are denominated in non-RMB - US dollar for petroleum, [Britain's pound] sterling for some metals," he said. "The RMB is not used as a global benchmark for a lot of commodities. And over time, if that changes, then you will see more activity in the RMB." According to SWIFT, a Belgium-based, member-owned cooperative, the euro remains the leading world-payments currency, accounting for 40.17 percent of transactions, down from 44.04 percent a year ago. Following the euro are the dollar (33.48 percent, up from 29.73 percent in January 2012), the British pound (8.55 percent, down from 9 percent) and the Japanese yen (2.56 percent, up from 2.48 percent). Next are the Australian dollar, Swiss franc, Canadian dollar, Singapore dollar, Hong Kong dollar, Thai baht, Swedish krona, Norwegian krone and the yuan.

Hong Kong*:  Mar 1 2013

Hong Kong posts budget surplus as economy set for stronger growth (By Reuters in Hong Kong) Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah expects economic growth to be 1.5 to 3.5 per cent this year. Hong Kong expects economic growth to come in 1.5 to 3.5 per cent this year, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah said in his annual budget speech on Wednesday, while offering a raft of relief measures, tax concessions and sweeteners. “The intricate external environment will remain unstable in the year ahead,” said Tsang, warning of potential instability from currency wars and a trade slowdown to the financial hub’s small and open economy. A poll of eight banks estimated that Hong Kong’s gross domestic product this year would grow 3.1 per cent, accelerating from GDP growth of 1.4 per cent last year, its slowest rate since 2009. In a budget short on bold steps, Tsang offered a mixed bag of policies, including various relief measures for the poor and elderly, a marginal corporate tax and salary rebate and moves to bolster the city’s financial sector and private equity industry. The intricate external environment will remain unstable in the year ahead. Soaring land revenues and profits taxes swelled public coffers to a bumper HK$64.9 billion fiscal surplus, bucking previous government expectations for a deficit. While Tsang unveiled no major property moves in his address, he pledged to continue bolstering land supply, and earmarked HK$4.5 billion in the coming five years to seek out potential new areas for land reclamation outside of Victoria Harbour “on an appropriate scale” in the densely populated city. Tsang said 46 sites, including 28 new sites, would be offered for sale in the new fiscal year, which begins on April 1. Last week, the government announced a new round of property cooling measures including higher stamp duties and home loan curbs to ease some of the world’s most expensive home prices. Asian economies are battling against rising inflation partly caused by hot money flows from loose monetary policies at home and abroad, with governments raising stamp duties and tightening lending in response to the threat of a property bubble. To lure more private equity funds amid competition with Singapore – that has signed a raft of tax treaties granting exemptions to the industry there – Hong Kong said it would extend profits tax exemption for offshore funds to include transactions in private companies which are incorporated or registered outside Hong Kong. “This will allow private equity funds to enjoy the same tax exemption as offshore funds,” Tsang said. Hong Kong is also considering laws to allow the Open-ended Investment Company (OEIC) structure for funds popular in mature markets such as Britain. Investment funds established in Hong Kong can only take the form of trusts presently. The OEIC structure, allowing managers to create and redeem shares when money is invested or pulled out, scores over trusts by being cost effective as well as faster to launch products. “The OEIC proposal is a direct response to Singapore moving ahead as a choice of fund domicile but is more problematic as alternative managers probably want other structures as well,” said Philippa Allen, head of ComplianceAsia Consulting. The government also said it would expand the size of its government bond programme from HK$100 billion to HK$200 billion in the next five years, while proposing a new inflation-linked retail “iBond” issue worth HK$10 billion. Authorities granted a relatively modest corporate tax rebate of 75 per cent for the 2012/13 financial year with a ceiling of HK$10,000 per business. Individuals, meanwhile, would also enjoy a salaries tax reduction of up to HK$10,000 for the same period. In terms of relief measures, with Hong Kong facing one of Asia’s worst income gaps, Tsang pledged an extra HK$8.3 billion for elderly allowances, while an extra HK$15 billion would be injected into a community poverty alleviation fund. Public housing rents would also be waived for two months and electricity subsidies of HK$1,800 to every household. The relief measures, involving a total of HK$33 billion, will help to ease the pressure on the middle class, grass-roots and small and medium-sized businesses, Tsang said.

The profit before taxation of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (HKEx) in 2012 is about 4. 85 billion HK dollars (around 625 million U.S. dollars), a significant decline of 20 percent from 2011, according to the annual result unveiled Wednesday. According to the result, the average daily turnover value on the Stock Exchange suffered great loss from 69.7 billion HK dollars in 2011 down to 53.9 billion HK dollars in 2012. New listings and Initial Public Offerings (IPO) fundraising also dropped last year. Chairman of HKEx Chow Chung Kong believed the performance was mainly due to the sector's post-financial crisis slowdown in advanced economies and slower growth in the mainland of China. However, HKEx's acquisition of London Metal Exchange (LME) last year was a significant milestone for the company, giving the company new capabilities and positioned it to broaden its ties with the mainland of China, said the chairman's statement. "We will work closely with our LME colleagues to expand LME's current business, move into new areas, and develop its untapped potential," said the statement. The range of RMB products in the markets of HKEx expanded in 2012 as more issuers used the company's listing facilities for RMB products, said the statement. In the securities market, there were more RMB bond listings, including the first by the Central Government's Ministry of Finance, as well as the first RMB Exchange Traded Funds (ETF) and RMB equity security listings. In our derivatives market, RMB Currency Futures, the world's first exchange-traded deliverable RMB futures, was introduced. "RMB products constitute an important part of our strategy to take advantage of opportunities from the internationalization of the RMB and outward investment from the mainland of China," said the statement. Looking into the future, Chow believed the quantitative easing policies implemented in the key financial markets including Europe, Japan and the United States, would help improve market sentiment. Nonetheless, the low interest rates and expansion of money supply could cause higher inflation than desired. The effectiveness of these easing policies on improving the performance of the global economies is yet to be proven. Hong Kong would however continue to benefit from the progress of the mainland China's economy in 2013. "Our markets experienced increased turnover at the end of last year and the beginning of this year, and we saw renewed investor interest in IPOs. While the global economic outlook remains challenging, we believe we are well positioned to weather any storms that might come our way," Chow said in the statement. (1 U. S. dollar equals 7.756 HK dollars)

 China*:  Mar 1 2013

China's first lady gives marching orders to military perk (By SCMP) Peng Liyuan performs in Luoyang. China’s de facto first lady, famed military singer Peng Liyuan, seems to have gone out of her way to keep a low profile since her husband Xi Jinping was anointed as the Communist Party’s top leader at its 18th National Congress last November. But as Xi pushes forward a high-profile campaign to rid the Party and military ranks of corruption and waste, Peng found herself in the news again as a model Party member more than ready to answer her husband’s marching orders. Cai Xiaoxin, a military researcher who has a verified real-name account on China’s social media platform Weibo, wrote on Wednesday that Peng had voluntarily given a flat she owned back to her military unit. According to Cai, the flat was in a military compound in west Beijing, that had been awarded to Peng many years ago. Free or heavily-subsidised housing is among the most coveted perks Party, government and military officials can receive, especially amid soaring property prices across the country in recent years. “She sets a good example in answering Chairman Xi’s orders to tighten up military discipline and fight against corrupt practices,” Cai wrote, referring to Xi’s position as the head of the Central Military Commission. Cai’s post did not give more details about Peng’s generous gesture. She sets a good example in answering Chairman Xi’s orders to tighten up military discipline and fight against corrupt practices Peng, 51, has been a household name in China since the early 1980s, a soprano well loved for her lusty rendering of Chinese folk songs. She married Xi in 1987, and is now the president of the People’s Liberation Army Academy of Arts, with a rank equivalent to a major general. 

US denies petition for Lunar New Year (By Caroline Berg in New York) Growing Asian population says students should get the day off - China's 1.3 billion people celebrated the two-week Lunar New Year holiday this month, and now 39,780 people want it to be a national holiday in the United States. "The Asian population represents a large percentage of the US population and is growing ever more," the petition sent to the White House with close to 40,000 signatures said. "Please make this important holiday widely recognized and make it an official day off for students too." The petitioners got a response from the White House office that handles such petitions -the Office of Digital Strategy - but they are not going to get a holiday. "Even though it would take an act of Congress to make Lunar New Year a federal holiday, we're happy to speak out to ensure that this important celebration is widely recognized and treated with respect," read the response. The office compared Lunar New Year to Rosh Hashanah, Easter or Eid al-Adha, the Islamic Feast of the Sacrifice. "It's an occasion that makes us richer as a culture and stronger as a people - even without being a federal holiday," the office said. The White House established the "We the People" online petitioning system on Sept 22, 2011, and since then has received almost 9.2 million signatures on more than 141,000 petitions, according to the office.

Hong Kong*:  Feb 28 2013

19 tourists including 9 from Hong Kong killed in balloon explosion in Egypt's Luxor - Nineteen tourists were killed in a balloon explosion Tuesday morning in Egypt's Luxor governorate, state-run al-Ahram online reported. (By Lai Ying-kit and Agence France-Presse in Cairo) A hot air balloon exploded as it was flying over Egypt’s ancient temple city of Luxor on Tuesday, killing 19 people including nine tourists from Hong Kong. Nationals from Japan, France and Britain were also reportedly among the dead, according to an Egyptian security official. On Tuesday in Hong Kong, Raymond Ng, general manager of the travel agency Kuoni, which organised the Hong Kong tourists’ trip to Egypt, held a press conference. Ng said that nine of the 19 tourists involved in the accident were Kuoni’s clients and they “very probably” died in it, according to internet news reports and a report from the agency’s tour guide in Egypt. However, he said that he had received no official confirmation from Egyptian officials about the conditions of the nine Hongkongers people yet. “Our tour guide did not board the balloon but managed to report back to us that nine of our tour members were on board the balloon when the accident happened,” he said. “We are very sorry about the accident and we send our deepest sympathy to their families.” The nine were part of a 15-member tour group that was on the fifth day of their 10-day visit to the North African country. The group left for Egypt on February 22. The nine dead included four men and five women, aged 33 to 62. They came from three families. The accident took place around 7am in Egypt. Ng said the 40-minute balloon flight was an optional activity for which the nine tourists had to pay US$190 in addition to their package tour fee. The remaining six members and the tour guide did not take part. Ng said that according to local employees, the balloon caught fire about an hour after it had set off, plummeting to the ground two minutes later. An employee at the company operating the balloon, Sky Cruise, said the pilot and one tourist survived by jumping out of the basket before it hit the ground. Both were taken to hospital. “This is terrible, just terrible,” the local employee said, declining to give her name. “We don’t yet know what happened exactly or what went wrong,” she said. Ng said Kuoni had a good working relationship with the balloon operator and had done business with it for several years. He also said the company’s staff members would head for Egypt later on Tuesday to arrange assistance to the tour group and the families of the affected tourists. Meanwhile, three officers from the Immigration Department will also fly to Egypt to help. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said he was saddened by the fatal accident in Egypt. He said the Hong Kong government would liaise with the Foreign Ministry’s Hong Kong office and the Chinese embassy in Egypt to help the tour group and the families. Television footage on Hong Kong’s Cable TV news channel showed emergency service vehicles rushing to the scene of what appeared to be scorched earth where the balloon had landed. The balloon, which was carrying 21 people, was flying at 300 metres over Qurna, in Luxor’s West Bank, when it caught fire and crashed, an Egyptian security official said. Luxor is one of Egypt’s most renowned archaeological sites and home to the famous Valley of the Kings and the grand Temple of Hatshepsut. The two survivors of the accident, including the balloon’s pilot, had been taken to hospital, he said. Security services cordoned off the scene of the crash in Luxor’s dense sugar cane fields, as police and residents inspected the charred remains of the balloon. Luxor Governor Ezzat Saad imposed an immediate ban on all hot air balloon flights in the province as Prime Minister Hesham Qandeel ordered an investigation into the accident. In Japan, tour company JTB said four Japanese tourists were involved in the accident, and two were confirmed dead. A spokesman at Japan’s foreign ministry said the government was still seeking further information. Two French tourists were confirmed dead, the French foreign ministry said. "I can confirm that sadly two of our citizens died in this accident," French foreign ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot said in Paris. "We are in contact with their families." A British tour company said that two of its guests had also died in the crash. "We can confirm that two of our guests are in local hospitals, but tragically two of our guests have died in the hot air balloon incident in Luxor, Egypt this morning," the company said in a statement. The British Foreign Office would not confirm the death toll, saying only that "we believe a small number of British nationals are involved in an incident in Luxor this morning", and that consular staff were offering assistance. In 2009, 13 foreign tourists were injured when their hot air balloon hit a phone mast and crashed at Luxor. Sources at the time said the balloon was overcrowded. 

The big picture (By Raymond Zhou) Films attain universal appeal through many means, and one of them is a plot with multinational elements. It could be a cheap shot, but when it works, it transcends national boundaries just like the emotions and aspirations it embodies. There are two general directions for either art or entertainment: One is to go for the specific, and the other for the broad-spectrum. There are movies that are so personal that they resonate with only a few viewers who are among its target audience. On the other end of the scale, some movies can be understood and enjoyed by virtually everyone in the world. By no means does this denote quality per se as both have their champions and masters - auteurs like Terrence Malick on one hand and Charlie Chaplin and James Cameron on the other. Manly matters Hollywood produces all kinds of movies, and many reach a global market. But little do we realize that many American films are limited in their appeal to domestic audiences, just like releases in most other countries. But, people outside the US equate Hollywood with pictures of global reach because those are the ones that they are exposed to and that speak to them. China's film industry wants to be the next Hollywood. We want to create screen stories that can sell across the world. But we do not possess the secret formula. We invite Hollywood insiders to our forums and they politely dispense cliches that massage Chinese egos yet rarely shed light on practicalities. Well, you cannot blame them. Sometimes even Hollywood cannot predict if what they have on hand is a hit or a dud. Before Life of Pi opened, I came upon a story in The Los Angeles Times, in which Fox executives displayed a mix of sacrifice for art's sake and a resignation to the worst possible fate to come. It turned out the movie grossed $109.3 million in its domestic box-office, but garnered $461.6 million elsewhere, including $90.8 million in China, turning it into a surprise hit. There are many reasons why it made it big in overseas markets, and I would like to highlight one of them: The story and the way it is told is very international. Yann Martel, the author of the novel from which the movie was adapted, is a Canadian who grew up in a diversity of cultures. Ang Lee, the director, is immersed simultaneously in Chinese and Western backgrounds. The story is mostly Indian, with a nod to the French. (Knowing the French word for "swimming pool" will give you much of the fun for the first 30 minutes.) In other words, this film is not quintessentially American, which may account for its less-than-perfect critical reception in the US. Another movie that got downright hostile feedback on its home turf is Cloud Atlas, directed by the Wachowski siblings and Tom Tykwer, a German. The original is by an English novelist, who set one of the six tales in Asia. The South Korea-related plot is not as location specific as San Francisco because it is set in the future and the use of "yellow face" for the male character drew criticism from Asian Americans. But the movie gives the impression it is not about one country, but about the future of mankind. Like Life of Pi, Cloud Atlas was better embraced in China - mostly because the concept of reincarnation, which is embedded in the structure of the mammoth saga, went down smoothly with the Chinese. Even though most Chinese filmgoers, who tend to be young, may not believe in Buddhism, the idea that a Caucasian man can be reborn as a black woman is not shocking at all. As a matter of fact, the central character in Mo Yan's novel Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out repeatedly finds another life as an animal, not even as a human. For a film, going global can take many roads, and one of them is a global story. Of course, a geographically specific tale, say, set in a remote village where people speak a dialect nobody outside understands and customs are so esoteric as to clash with everything we know as acceptable, may also find wide resonance as basic emotions are universal. Most Chinese movies that have so far gained a global, albeit limited, audience are sold on the strength of specificity and audiences outside China take to them because they are so different and, shall I say, exotic. In an era of growing globalization, stories that involve more than one country are a natural outcome. If Pi's family did not travel outside India but ran into a boat accident on the Ganges, there would be no French chef, Chinese sailor or Mexican fishermen. It would be a purely Indian tale, at least on the surface, with a narrower appeal. Now, global stories on screen are nothing new. Both Hollywood and European cinema actually excel in this. Gladiator, the 2000 Oscar winner, is about ancient Rome, but it stars an Australian actor and everyone in the movie speaks English. The 1974 version of Zorro, which was imported into China and screened to great acclaim, is a French-Italian co-production, starring French heartthrob Alain Delon who speaks English in the version I saw. (It could have been dubbed into multiple languages, as was the norm with European co-productions of that time.) Unbeknownst to us, the story was set in California before it was part of the US. So, if you're a purist, you would agonize over such racially blind casting and myriad inaccurate details.

 China*:  Feb 28 2013

China’s future success depends on rule of law, says Locke (By SCMP) China’s future success will depend on the fair application of its laws, says United States ambassador to China Gary Locke. “China has a bright future, but this success depends on the implementation of rule of law,” Locke stressed in Beijing on Monday, reported. Locke made the remarks while opening the Philip Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition at the Renmin University of China. The student debating competition was a simulation of a dispute between countries before the international court of justice. Locke said that for any modern government to rule effectively, it has to do so in accordance with the rule of law. It also has to continuously update its laws – as society changes. In his speech, Locke discussed the development of laws and legal ideas in the United States. But he noted that China had a much longer history of this than America. Citing an old Chinese proverb: “A prince who commits a crime will endure the same penalty as a plebeian,” Locke credited China for introducing the idea of “equality before the law” more than 2,000 years ago. He also acknowledged China’s recent progress in modernising its legal system and training its lawyers. “Thirty years ago, China had six law schools and about 2,000 lawyers. Today, China has over 600 law schools and more than 230,000 law practitioners,” Locke noted. Other speakers opening the competition were German ambassador Michael Schaefer and his Canadian counterpart Guy Saint-Jacques. Teams from 39 schools in China participated in the competition. The winning teams will take part in an international competition in Washington in the end of March.

Classic concoction (By Shi Yingying) Kathleen's Waitan has a rooftop bar, which offers diners an excellent view of Shanghai's famous Bund. The owner of Kathleen's Waitan wants her new restaurant to be known for cocktails from the prohibition era during the 1920s and 30s. Shi Yingying takes a sip. Think you can stump the bartender from Kathleen's Waitan (meaning Bund in Chinese) by ordering a drink that not many had heard of? Go ahead and try. The restaurant and bar is trying to make a name by serving cocktails that have not been popular since the 1920s - the ones that Americans sneaked to make in their backyards during the prohibition era. When asked why she chose the concept of cocktails rather than wine, Kathleen Lau, the restaurant's owner, says she loves the whole culture of classic mixed drinks. "When I was planning this restaurant and I looked at all the restaurants in Shanghai, each one talked about their wine collections, and I thought, you know what? "In Shanghai, private collectors have better selections than restaurants. What am I doing trying to compete with them?" And there's no skill to picking wines, the only thing about wine is you pick the country, the grape and the year, you read the magazine and somebody tells you this is great wine, she says. Once you step into Kathleen's Waitan, a dark wooden bar counter immediately grabs your attention. In Lau's words, "It's a stage and our bartender isn't hiding. She is inviting you to watch her performance with every careful motion." The stage has its own audience with a big square table, which could easily sit 12 people. Christoffer Backman, the restaurant's beverage operation manager, refers to it as the "communal table" because it offers the space where people can interact more with bartenders. "I want to launch a revolution, where customers not only sit back and watch our mixologists perform, but also join us and learn how to make cocktails, like Americans during the 20s and 30s," Lau says. According to her, Americans could only make their own drinks at home, as alcohol was considered illegal during the prohibition era. "And it tasted awful, people had to figure out how to make it taste better - they added juices, they added fruit, they added bitters - and they created a piece of art and legacy," says Lau. Kathleen's Waitan's menu features four cocktails they label as "prohibition", four from "pre-prohibition", few "post-war" cocktails and some original signature drinks - variations on the classics invented by Giancarlo Mancino, world renowned Italian bartender who is also the bar consultant. Dark 'n' Stormy, for example, has a special ginger beer flavor. Fresh ginger and lime and a hands-on style makes it glamorous, sought after and the pinnacle of social drinking, as well as a spicy ginger accent for Shanghai's cold winter. The drink gained popularity among the maritime community and was brought home by sailors who frequented Bermuda. Some may think cocktails are too feminine, such as the breakfast martini, made for those who wished to have something sweet in the morning. But cocktails like the Negroni were originally concocted for men. As Backman' puts it, "that's the one putting hair on your chest". If those old-fashioned cocktails can't satisfy your modern stomach, you can head to the rooftop bar, which gives a bird's eye view of the Bund. Wait a second, is there a private dock? Lau smiles and nods. "If you're the boat owner and you can take care of your own permit for sailing it on the (Huangpu) river, we'll take care of your permit for mooring on the dock," says Lau, adding that it might be the city's first restaurant with access to a private dock.

 *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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