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

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Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hong Kong*:  June 1 2013

Forking out for the stork (By Tiffany Ap Pregnancy can be fraught enough, but the medical bills for giving birth in Hong Kong sometimes add an extra layer of anxiety for parents-to-be - Maternity services offered at Hong Kong hospitals present a wide range of choices for almost any budget. Selecting the right one is a personal decision that involves considerations such as affordability, the level of comfort desired during the hospital stay, quality of medical care and intangibles such as the ability to bring in an outside doctor. "Shopping for a hospital is like taking a second mortgage out on your home," says Shannon Ng, describing how the cost of giving birth in Hong Kong can add up. Ng is an expectant mother and plans to have her baby at the government-operated Queen Mary Hospital. "For us, it was about finding the right balance between affordability and good health care." Ng and her partner reached their decision after conducting a cost/benefit analysis on the various options. In the end, they selected a trade-off, utilising Hong Kong's publicly-funded medical system for the delivery of the baby, but supplementing ultrasound scans and prenatal visits throughout the pregnancy with a private doctor. Ng, who is 17 weeks into her pregnancy, estimates the total medical bill for having her baby at between HK$30,000 and HK$40,000. Ng said a big factor in the decision were uncertainties over costs at private hospitals. Private hospitals offer maternity packages based on natural births or caesarean deliveries, but the costs easily add up beyond the advertised price in the brochure. It costs more to upgrade the room, which can range from a shared ward with multiple beds to a private hotel-like suite. An epidural analgesia shot is extra. Some hospitals even charge a fee to have the father present in the room during the delivery. If a mother tries natural labour but ends up needing an emergency caesarean, that will tack on more fees to cover the cost of the operating theatre and an anaesthetist. A last-minute caesarean can easily double the bill, as mothers need to stay longer in the hospital. Most natural deliveries require a three-day hospital stay, whereas mothers who undergo surgery will take about five days to recover before they are ready to go home. The Consumer Council estimates luxury hospital packages start at around HK$100,00 for a four-day plan, but can rise to well above HK$200,000 in the case of a caesarean. Finding the best medical care is another important consideration when choosing between public and private options. Alicia Eaton, a mother of twin boys born in 2012, opted for Hong Kong Adventist. Eaton made sure she toured the maternity ward before booking a space. A radiographer by profession, who had experience working in hospitals, she knew what to survey the scene for. "I noticed there were a few free rooms and the nurses were not running about. I've seen that in public hospitals in Australia where they look really tired and they've been working massive shifts. When that happens, mistakes can be made. But they were not over-exerting themselves. It looked like a pleasant working environment," she says. She also spoke to the nurses to gauge the level of service. "I'd ask things such as what kind of care would [the nurses] be involved in with the newborn? What was the basic wait time to actually deliver? What was the likelihood of sharing the room? How often was the ward overcrowded, if at all?" Eaton says. Eaton says she also peppered hospital staff with questions about specific issues that were flagged by her online research. "Someone commented that if it was busy you might be placed on the surgical ward instead of the maternity ward [after giving birth], meaning you'd be on a different floor to your newborn. That was a concern, but I asked the nurses and they said the likelihood was very low." New Zealander Helen Douglas says she and her partner chose Queen Mary Hospital as the location for the birth of her daughter by caesarean earlier this year. The quality of emergency services was a factor in the decision, according to Douglas, who said she could have taken out medical insurance to ease the cost burden of a private hospital. "Medically it's a good place to be, if something goes wrong [at a private hospital] you end up at Queen Mary Hospital anyway," Douglas says. She was in a ward designed to accommodate eight women, an experience that at times left her longing for more privacy. "It would have been nice to have a private room, but you are there for such a short period of time, it doesn't matter," she says. If you have a private doctor, make sure the medical facility of your choosing allows visits by external healthcare professionals. If there is a conflict, it is not clear that deposits made to secure a private hospital bed will be refunded. Generally, refunds are only issued in instances where there are clear medical grounds that necessitate patient transfer. But whether parents choose the private or the public route, booking early is essential. Devanshi Bhatnagar, who gave birth at Hong Kong Adventist Hospital last year, paying approximately HK$100,000, says she had to make do after a cheaper private hospital closer to her home was booked out. Securing a private hospital spot involves a long waiting process, which means it is necessary to book just 10 weeks into a pregnancy, she says.

Developer Hopewell Hong Kong launches up to US$780m IPO (By Reuters in Hong Kong) Hopewell Tower, where the new mega tower will be built. Hopewell Hong Kong Properties, a unit of Hopewell Holdings, launched on Thursday an up to US$780 million (HK$6.05 billion) Hong Kong initial public offering, according to a term sheet of the deal seen by Reuters. The company is offering 340 million new shares in an indicative range of HK$15.30 to HK$17.80 each, putting the total deal at up to HK$6.05 billion. About 40 per cent of the IPO proceeds will be used to develop Hopewell Centre II, with 22 per cent set aside for the purchase and development of Amalgamation Properties and potential new developments. Another 30 per cent will be used to pay down debt. BOC International and Credit Suisse were hired as sponsors and joint global coordinators of the IPO, with Citigroup, HSBC and JPMorgan also acting as joint bookrunners.

Chinese wonder why their tourists behave so badly (By Reuters in Beijing) Chinese tourists take a break in a luxury store in Causeway Bay. From faking marriage certificates to getting honeymoon discounts in the Maldives to letting children defecate on the floor of a Taiwan airport, Chinese tourists have recently found themselves at the centre of controversy and anger. Thanks to microblogging sites in China, accounts of tourists behaving badly spread like wildfire across the country, provoking disgust, ire and soul-searching. While in the past such reports might have been dismissed as attacks on the good nature of Chinese travellers, people in the world’s second-largest economy are starting to ask why their countrymen and women are so badly behaved. “Objectively speaking, our tourists have relatively low-civilised characters,” said Liu Simin, researcher with the Tourism Research Centre of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. “Overseas travel is a new luxury, Chinese who can afford it compare with each other and want to show off,” Liu said. “Many Chinese tourists are just going abroad, and are often inexperienced and unfamiliar with overseas rules and norms.” When a story broke recently that a 15-year-old Chinese boy had scratched his name into a 3,500-year-old temple in Egypt’s Luxor, the furore was such that questions were even asked about it at a Foreign Ministry news briefing. “There are more and more Chinese tourists travelling to other countries in recent years,” ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Monday. “We hope that this tourism will improve friendship with foreign countries and we also hope that Chinese tourists will abide by local laws and regulations and behave themselves.” Other incidents have attracted similar anger, including that of a mother who let her children defecate on the floor of Kaohsiung airport in Taiwan, just metres from a toilet. She did put newspaper down first. Embarrassment over the behaviour of some Chinese tourists has reached the highest levels of government, which has tried to project an image of a benign and cultured emerging power whose growing wealth can only benefit the world. This month, Vice-Premier Wang Yang admonished the “uncivilised behaviour” of certain Chinese tourists, in remarks widely reported by state media and reflecting concern about how the increasingly image-conscious country is seen overseas. “They make a terrible racket in public places, scrawl their names on tourist sites, ignore red lights when crossing the road and spit everywhere. This damages our national image and has a terrible effect,” Wang said. The central government has reissued guidelines on its main website on what it considers acceptable behaviour for tourists, including dressing properly, queuing up and not shouting. To be sure, the influx of newly wealthy Chinese travelling around world has bought economic benefits widely welcomed in many countries, and many tourists are well-behaved and respectful. More than 83 million Chinese tourists travelled overseas last year, and Chinese expenditure on travel abroad reached US$102 billion last year, the highest in the world according to the UN World Tourism Organisation. By 2020, about 200 million Chinese are expected to take an overseas holiday every year. Criticism of bad behaviour has in the past been levelled at American, Japanese and Taiwanese tourists, when they were also enjoying new wealth and going abroad for the first time. Eventually, experts say, the criticism will fade. “Travelling is a learning experience for tourists,” said Wang Wanfei, a tourism professor at Zhejiang University. “They learn how to absorb local culture in the process, and get rid of their bad tourist behaviour.”

 China*:  June 1 2013

Hotel Manager job at US$330,000/year Could this be the best job in China, or the world? (SCMP) The 'Suitcase House', one of the featured villas at Commune by the Great Wall and designed by Hong Kong architect Gary Chang. Blueprints for a new Australian spy facility aren't the only thing China allegedly wants - they are now also vying against the Aussies to offer the best job in the world, or sort of. Real estate giant Soho China is calling on applicants for a hotel manager position that comes with a two million yuan (HK$2.5 million) annual paycheck, 60 days of paid leave and the most priceless benefit of all - “fresh breathable air” around the clock. According to a post on Wednesday on the company’s official Sina Weibo account, the chosen candidate will be stationed at the secluded Commune by the Great Wall resort, nestled high in the hills beside the wall’s ancient ruins in Beijing’s Yanqing county. The Commune complex is known for its stylish villas and suites designed by different Asian architects. A private path provides access to an untouched portion of the Great Wall of China, according to its website. “Many of the positions at our company are well compensated and everybody is welcome to apply to the job," said Soho China's head of personnel Liu Yu. That was all she said she could disclose. Travel website ranks the hotel No 1 out of 35 hotels in Yanqing county. Most reviews describe the hotel as being “quiet”, “relaxing” and a “unique experience”, but some guests said the hotel was “overpriced” and had poor service. Australia’s tourism promoter launched a wildly successful campaign in 2009 dubbed “Best Job in the World” which opened up a wide range of adventure and outdoor enthusiast positions to applicants around the world. The campaign was run again by Tourism Australia this year and two Hongkongers were shortlisted for jobs as a park ranger and outback adventurer. Australia's Best Job in the World comes with an annual salary of A$50,000 (HK$405,000) and allowances and benefits worth another A$50,000. In 2012, Soho China founders Pan Shiyi and his wife Zhang Xin were ranked 21st on Forbes China Rich List. The company invests in properties in Beijing and Shanghai, most of which are designed in a modern architectural style.

Course teaches Chinese women how to marry 'elite' foreigner in 90 days (By Ernest Kao Shanghai company offers training classes for women seeking elite Westerner husbands - Couples find marital bliss at a mass wedding in Hangzhou, but others may need some help. Enter: Seek-a-Husband training. Droves of women from across China flocked to Shanghai's Love and Marriage Expo this month in hopes of learning a tip or two about how to get hitched. But Liang Yali, founder of the Seek-a-Husband Training Programme, has been teaching such skills in the metropolis for years. Ninety days – that’s all it will take for her training programme to teach single women how to find – and marry – that laowai (expatriate) knight in shining armour, Liang purported, in an interview with the Modern Express newspaper. After a 1½-month courtship, Liang managed to find the American husband of her dreams – you know, the “honest, considerate type” who happens to be a general manager at some big multinational corporation. The two are now happily married. Liang decided to enter the “marriage business” in 2009 after her experiences as a divorced and single mother. She said she had hoped to “mass produce” her happiness to the spurned and desperate. Her Seek-a-Husband course, which specialises in teaching women how to find “elite Westerner” husbands, launched in Shanghai to widespread acclaim – she boasts that her success rate has stayed at a constant 60 per cent – as well as controversy. The programme’s target market is women above 35, divorcees and the so-called shengnu or “left-behind woman”, although clients are getting younger by the day. Nearly 2.87 million mainland couples divorced in 2011, up 7.3 per cent from 2010, according to Ministry of Civil Affairs' statistics. Meanwhile, a survey conducted by the ministry last year showed that 70 per cent of mainland women would tie the knot only with a man who owned at least one flat. “Many Chinese women over the age of 35 experience difficulties finding husbands domestically, but in the west, in many foreigners’ minds, women aged 35 are seen as most attractive,” Liang told Modern Express. She said her courses teach women how to select appropriate targets, use charm and to sell their "intellect". She gave examples of success stories such as how a 35-year-old woman from northeastern China learned a bit of English and managed to find a husband who worked as a manager at a large German construction company. The least expensive one-day course costs 2,800 yuan (HK$3,500), and more advanced modules can be taken for more than 40,000 yuan. There’s also the “unlimited” package, which entitles customers to attend all classes for a cool 100,000 yuan. Liang’s venture has been slammed repeatedly for ethical reasons. It drew heat recently after its youngest client was reportedto be just 17 years old. It has also been criticised for teaching women to “throw money at love” and encouraging young girls to look for rich, expat “sugar daddies”. But Liang stressed that “if your purpose is to find a rich man, please do not sign up. We are in the business of happiness”.

North Carolina mayor seeks good ties (By By Caroline Berg in New York Huntersville Mayor Jill Swain, at Shanghai Zhenhua Port Machinery Co in Shanghai, said she was in awe of the incredible work done at the company and wanted to capture a moment with a couple of the employees. Jill Swain, the 52-year-old mayor of Huntersville, North Carolina, was raised when China was mostly unknown and inaccessible to US citizens. This month, she finally visited the country in an eight-day trek spanning 23,000 miles and seven cities. She joined a small delegation from her state as they sought to increase trade opportunities between the US and China, with a focus on bringing Chinese manufacturing companies to the South. Assisting in coordinating the itinerary was SoZo Group, an investment advisory and economic-development company operating in Hong Kong and the US that helps establish partnerships between companies and communities. Swain and four representatives from Alabama - Dothan Mayor Mike Schmitz, Dothan City Manager Michael West, Thomasville Mayor Sheldon Day and Monroe County Commission Chair Greg Norris - toured Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Bazhong, Nanchong and Langzhong. Swain received an invitation in part because of Huntersville's working relationship with George Harris, SoZo Group general counsel and a lobbyist who represents the town in Washington, DC. Harris accompanied the delegation to China. "The trip was important for me because I thought there would be potential opportunities to bring economic developments into the town of Huntersville," Swain said. The mayor is seeking to diversify the tax base for the town's more than 48,000 residents and to showcase to potential Chinese manufacturing partners what Huntersville has to offer toward economic development. She's also after additional cultural opportunities for the town. The delegation attended 34 meetings and met with Chinese government officials and business leaders spanning a number of manufacturing industries, including aviation, ship-building, heavy machinery, railway equipment, 3D printing and metal production through several receptions hosted by the Asian Manufacturing Association (AMA). "I tend to believe that Huntersville is really poised for more high-tech businesses, and yet there were some manufacturing businesses that we visited that I would be thrilled to have," Swain said, mentioning 3D printing as an example. "The options are limitless." Huntersville is near the large Charlotte metropolis, which has a number of world-renowned universities, including the University of North Carolina, which recently opened an energy facility, according to Swain. "I think we have access to some pretty darn smart minds for any area of research and development," Swain said. "Personally, I'm interested in energy and the green sector and transportation." On June 12, SoZo Group will host a US-China manufacturing briefing in Washington, DC, to announce the host city for the first US-China Manufacturing Symposium in November, which will take place somewhere in the South. "I saw [during the trip] that this is really an opportunity for us to start building bridges and building relationships that may help change long-term the relationship between the US and China," Swain said.

Food firm China's biggest buy in US (By Michael Barris in New York and Joseph Boris in Washington and In what would be the biggest takeover of a US company by a Chinese buyer, Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd has agreed to pay $4.72 billion to acquire Smithfield Foods Inc, the world's leading pork producer, to meet growing demand for US-made pork. The transaction, which also includes $2.38 billion in assumed debt, is China's largest cross-border deal since CNOOC Ltd last year paid $15.1 billion for Canadian oil and gas producer Nexen Ltd. It faces regulatory scrutiny because it would bring a major US business under foreign control. The announcement on Wednesday comes a week before the June 7-8 meeting in Southern California between US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping. It also comes at a time when food safety, along with environmental pollution, is a chronic problem in China, prompting the central government to crack down on some food producers. The country is the world's largest consumer of pork. In a conference call with analysts after the deal was announced, Smithfield CEO C. Larry Pope characterized the transaction as "exporting America to the world" rather than as part of a strategy to import Chinese pork into the United States. The companies had been in discussions for four years before reaching agreement, he said. "We saw the opportunity," Pope said, but "pricing has always been an issue". Shareholders have long been critical of Smithfield's stock price with Pope in charge. Terms of the deal prompted at least one lawsuit by shareholders who claim the company board breached its fiduciary responsibility by accepting an offer that was too low. In March, Continental Grain Co, which owns about 6 percent of Smithfield's outstanding shares, called on management of the Virginia-based company to consider breaking it up into separate segments - hog production, fresh pork and packaged meats - to boost its share price on the New York Stock Exchange. Smithfield stock will no longer be publicly traded once the deal closes, expected later this year. Under the agreement, which requires the approval of Smithfield shareholders, Shuanghui will pay $34 for each Smithfield share. The offer represents a 31 percent premium to the shares' Tuesday closing price of $25.97. Based on Smithfield's 138.8 million shares outstanding, the cash portion of the deal is worth $4.72 billion. The companies valued the deal, including assumed debt, at $7.1 billion, meaning the value of the debt is about $2.38 billion. With annual revenue of $13 billion and more than 46,000 employees, Smithfield, based in a small Virginia town of the same name, has facilities in 26 US states, including the world's largest slaughterhouse and meat-processing plant, in North Carolina. It also has operations in Mexico and 10 European countries. The company's brands include Smithfield ham, Farmland bacon and Healthy Ones lunch meats. It raises some 15 million pigs a year and processes 27 million, producing more than 6 billion pounds (2.7 billion kilograms) of pork. Hong Kong-based Shuanghui owns businesses in food production, logistics and flavorings. The deal gives Shuanghui, which already is the majority shareholder in China's largest meat-processing enterprise, a major foothold in the US food industry. Amid a fourfold increase in the nation's annual per-capita meat consumption, China became a net importer of pork in 2008. According to the Earth Policy Institute, an environmental organization, China has imported about 400,000 metric tons of pork annually in recent years, compared with a global pork trade of almost 7 million metric tons. In the past decade, Chinese pork prices have more than doubled, contributing to a slowdown in consumption, according to Dutch financial-services provider Rabobank. In a statement to China Daily, the National Pork Producers Council, a Washington-based industry group, declined to comment directly on the Shuanghui-Smithfield deal, but it said the sale "does have the potential to increase US pork exports to China, which would benefit all US pork producers". In the companies' announcement, Shuanghui Chairman Wan Long said: "Together we will be able to meet the growing demand in China for pork by importing high-quality meat products from the United States, while continuing to serve markets in the United States and around the world." The proposed takeover is subject to approval by US regulators on antitrust and competition grounds, as well as a review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. The interagency committee, led by the Treasury Department, evaluates large or sensitive deals involving foreign investors that could affect US national security. CFIUS has in the past rejected some proposed acquisitions by Chinese companies. A federal judge in Washington is still considering a lawsuit by Chinese-controlled Ralls Corp that challenges Obama's nullification in September, following a CFIUS review, of a deal for Oregon wind farms near a US Navy weapons-testing facility. It was the first time in 22 years that a US president had blocked a foreign company for national security reasons. A Treasury Department spokeswoman declined to comment, saying federal law bars CFIUS from publicly disclosing information filed with it, including whether a filing has been made. In announcing the deal, Smithfield's Pope cited Shuanghui's recognition of the US company's "outstanding food safety practices" and said those, as well as management, won't change. As the nation's chief regulator of meat products, both domestic and imported, the US Department of Agriculture will also have a say in the CFIUS review. That US producers, including Smithfield, export around the world makes it unlikely that safety concerns about imports would be enough to scuttle the deal. US Representative Randy Forbes, a Republican whose southeastern Virginia congressional district includes the town of Smithfield, said the deal "warrants robust analysis and review to ensure the safety and security of America's citizens as well as the preservation of national economic interests, food safety, and environmental standards". "I look forward to following that review process closely," Forbes said in a statement. Andy Levine, a New York-based partner of law firm Jones Day who specializes in mergers and acquisitions, told Bloomberg Television it was unclear if the deal would clear the CFIUS review. It's "theoretically possible", Levine said, to argue that meat products are a potential national security risk due to food production's role as critical infrastructure. An obstacle for the deal, he believes, could arise from arguments that Shuanghui would have access to sensitive technology. In China, citizens were outraged in March when over 16,000 rotting pigs were found floating in the Huangpu River, one of Shanghai's main water sources. 

Chinese students tackle US foreign policy (By Chen Weihua in Washington Former US labor secretary Elaine Chao (front right) sits among the audience on Wednesday evening before delivering a keynote speech at the 10th Foreign Policy Colloquium held by the National Committee on US-China Relations at the George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs. While Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama look forward to knowing each other's thinking better at their meeting in Sunnylands, California, on June 7-8, a group of Chinese students at US universities are spending three days this week learning how American foreign policy is formed. Elaine Chao, the US secretary of labor from 2001 to 2009, gave the students her views on China-US relations and the unique features of the American culture and society, telling them to interact with Americans and don't be afraid of making mistakes. "You can engage in personal diplomacy," she told some 150 Chinese students on Wednesday at the 10th Foreign Policy Colloquium held by the National Committee on US-China Relations (NCUSC) at the George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs. Chao, the first Chinese and Asian-American woman appointed to the US cabinet, described American society as diverse, individualistic, less hierarchical and full of energy and based on high trust. "I hope students from both countries can learn how diverse each country is," she said. Chao described the stark difference of how decisions are made in each country. As a former deputy transportation secretary, Chao said it takes 20 years to build an airport and 18 years to build a road in the US because "everybody has to agree and consensus has to be built". "China is a very efficient form of decision-making," Chao said. "If the government wants to build a road, it will be built in six months, 12 months or at most 18 months." Yang Liu, a student at North Dakota State University, said the American society Chao described very much reflects what she experienced in the past year. A junior, Yang said she will apply for graduate school to study China-US relations. The Foreign Policy Colloquium is a three-day program designed by the NCUSCR to help Chinese graduate students in various disciplines better understand the complex forces that shape American foreign policy. Each year, about 150 to 200 graduates students from universities across the US travel to Washington for the event, interacting with current and former administration officials and members of Congress, as well as representatives from academia, the military, think tanks, lobbying firms and the media. "These students, among the best and brightest of China, will help shape China's understanding of America's foreign policy," said Stephen Orlins, president of NCUSCR. "Their experience at this program will pay dividends for US-China relations for decades to come." There were almost 200,000 Chinese studying in universities across the US in the 2012 academic year, a hefty increase of 23 percent from the previous year, according to statistics from the Institute of International Education, a nonprofit organization in the US. Chinese Ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai could not attend Wednesday evening's event as previously scheduled. He had to travel back to China, accompanying the visiting US National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon, and to prepare for President Xi's meeting with President Obama next week. Cui, a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, is among a number of Chinese leaders who have studied in the US. He was China's vice-foreign minister before assuming his current post in March. On Thursday, the students will have a day of lectures, including two on US foreign policy given by James Goldgeier, dean of School of International Service at American University, and David Rothkopf, CEO and editor-at-large of The Foreign Policy Group. The students will also get an opportunity to visit key institutions such as State Department, Department of Commerce, Human Rights Watch and Environmental Defense Fund. On Friday, the students will join panel discussions on global, security, economic and trade issues, ending the program on Friday evening with a speech by Orlins on his vision for the future of China-US relations. 

Hong Kong*:  May 31 2013

Pro-Beijing forum attacks advocacy of Hong Kong's special identity (By Ada Lee Defenders of local culture and advocates of autonomy for the city are dismissed as having psychological problems during pro-Beijing forum - A recent outspoken defence of local culture was the result of a "psychological imbalance" among Hongkongers who felt powerless when faced with the mainland's economic growth, said speakers at a pro-Beijing forum yesterday. They said such sentiments about Hong Kong's identity were an insignificant dead end and that their advocates were only giving vent to their anger and "abasement". The event, organised by the Hong Kong Development Forum, was intended to "rethink the rise of nativism", and was hosted by Hang Lung Properties chairman Ronnie Chan Chichung. Professor Lau Siu-kai, former head of the Central Policy Unit think tank, and lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said Hongkongers had long felt superior to people across the border, but that with the mainland's growth they feared they were losing their edge. They also felt their interests were being harmed by travellers buying up stocks of infant formula milk and causing a shortage of maternity beds. They are two sides of the same coin - pride and abasement. The city's leader should look at this psychological issue among Hongkongers and see how we can boost our confidence again. "They are two sides of the same coin - pride and abasement," Ip said. "The city's leader should look at this psychological issue among Hongkongers and see how we can boost our confidence again," she said, adding that some people were "fantasising some collective memory". Lau said the campaign had no clear objectives or strategies and lacked a powerful leader. Peking University law professor Qiang Shigong said the lack of national education in the city made it difficult for Hongkongers to understand the culture on the mainland. Economist Francis Lui Ting-ming said it was impossible for the city to gain autonomy because its economy could not stand without the mainland. Pro-autonomy academic Dr Horace Chin Wan-kan and Civic Party lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching dismissed the arguments expressed at the event as "nonsense". Chin said Beijing should ask itself why Hongkongers had become psychologically imbalanced after the handover, if indeed they had. Mo, who co-launched an initiative named "HK First" to defend the city's culture from "mainland-isation", described Qiang's remarks as moronic. "If we don't defend our culture, Hong Kong will not be Hong Kong in 20 years. We will lose our language and culture," she said.

Mainland Chinese's declining spending hits rents for Hong Kong's street-level shops (By Sandy Li Tenants, hurting as mainland shoppers buy less due to slowing economy and war on officials' luxury spending, negotiate down rental increases - Rents for street-front shops in prime locations are plunging as tenants and landlords adjust to a fall in mainland visitors that has triggered a slowdown in the growth of retail sales. Retail sales by volume were up 10.2 per cent year on year in March, down from a growth rate of 21.9 per cent in February, according to the latest government data. Growth in sales of jewellery, watches and high-priced gifts slowed even more sharply, falling from 27.9 per cent in February to 9.8 per cent in March. Official data for April is due out this week, but retailers of expensive watches and jewellery say sales of items priced between HK$1 million and HK$5 million have dropped by as much as 15 per cent since March as the slowing mainland economy and Beijing's campaign to curb extravagant spending by officials cut into spending by mainland visitors. "For the past several years, the aggressive opening of new jewellery and luxury watch stores in locations such as Causeway Bay saw landlords lifting rents for ground-level shops sky high … to cash in on an influx of mainland shoppers," said Yam Wing-yin, chairman of real estate agency Sheraton Valuers, which specialises in selling and leasing shops. "Today landlords have become more realistic and are lowering their asking rents." Tenancies up for renewal are being negotiated at big discounts to the jaw-dropping rent rises originally sought by landlords. Watch and jewellery retailer Chow Tai Fook recently leased a 4,500 sq ft street-level shop in Yee Wo Street, Causeway Bay, for HK$2 million a month. Although that was 10 per cent up on the rent paid by the previous tenant, King Fook Jewellery, it was 40 per cent below the landlord's original asking price of HK$3.3 million. Hong Kong's oldest retail chain, Sincere Department Store, earlier this month rented a 21,000 sq ft, two-storey outlet on Percival Street for HK$2.1 million a month, about half the HK$4 million sought by the landlord. Sheraton Valuers' Yam said limited supply of triple-A retail space in Russell Street, Causeway Bay, Canton Road in Tsim Sha Tsui and Sai Yeung Choi Street in Mong Kok would ensure that rents in these locations would not come under downward pressure. Tenants who cater for local customers have also seen sales affected by the spending slowdown and are digging in against big hikes sought by landlords. Joyce Peng, who runs a 400 sq ft live-music bar, Joyce is Not Here, in Soho, said spending by her customers was down 10 per cent. Despite that, she said the landlord intends increasing the rent from HK$38,500 a month to HK$68,000 when the lease comes up for renewal at the end of June. "It is outrageous. Rents in the surrounding area have begun easing … I can only afford to continue here at a rent of HK$45,000 a month," she said. Maureen Fung Sau-yim, Sun Hung Kai Properties' leasing department general manager, said it would be healthy to see overall rents adjusting to the present sales climate and stabilising at present levels. But she expected rents in the group's shopping malls to increase when agreements came up for renewal since demand for space remained strong, and existing tenants continued to enjoy growth in sales because of their location.

No plans to replace Hong Kong chief executive, says top mainland official (By Lai Ying-kit Wang Guangya, director of the State Council’s HK and Macau Affairs Office, said the central government had no ‘Plan B’ to replace the chief executive. A senior mainland official assured a delegation of local representatives at a meeting in Beijing that the central government had no plans to replace Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, said a member of the delegation on Wednesday. Wang Guangya, director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, “told us that he had noticed that a rumour was being circulating in some Hong Kong media that the chief executive would be substituted,” said Chan Yung, a district councillor who led the 80-person delegation to the capital. “He said the central government had no ‘Plan B’ to replace the chief executive,” Chan quoted Wang as saying, after their meeting on Wednesday morning. The delegation consisted mainly of representatives from Hong Kong’s fisheries trade. Chan said Wang during the meeting expressed hope that every sector of Hong Kong society would continue to support the Leung administration despite it having made a rough start. “He also wished that Hong Kong could unite and focus on economic and domestic issues,” said Chan. Chan is a district councillor in North District and a Hong Kong delegate to the National People’s Congress. The speculation about Leung’s future was first raised by a columnist from a Chinese-language newspaper. In an article carried in the Apple Daily on Monday, China commentator Willy Lam said that Beijing had decided to sack Leung as his cabinet had been engulfed in a series of scandals since he took office last July. Lam, citing unspecified sources, described as being close to Beijing, said a taskforce led by National People’s Congress chairman Zhang Dejiang had begun work to replace Leung in a so-called “Plan B” for Hong Kong leadership. Asked by the media about the report on Tuesday, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said he had not heard of the rumoured plan to replace him.

Want your own giant rubber duck? Buy one on Taobao (By Patrick Boehler A giant rubber duck manufactured by a company in Guangzhou. If you enjoy the giant rubber duck floating in Victoria Harbour and cannot bear its scheduled departure on June 9, you can now buy one for yourself. "We have been making giant rubber ducks for many years," said a KK Inflatable saleswoman, identified only by her surname Kuang. "We didn't just start this year." The Guangzhou-based producer of inflatables sells versions of the yellow duck on Taobao, China's largest shopping site. Your very own supersized bath accessory could even be 3.5 metres taller than the 16.5-metre-high installation now floating in Hong Kong's harbour. A smaller two-metre-tall duck comes at a bargain of 2,800 yuan (HK$3,500). An inflatable the size of Hong Kong's Rubber Duck by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman comes with a price tag of 118,000 yuan. The 20-metre-tall über-duck costs 149,800 yuan. The company also sells air pumps for 200 yuan. The bird's colour can be changed upon request, and delivery costs apply. The company also offers a three-year warranty for your duck, but does not have a return policy. Kuang declined to say how many of the ducks she has sold so far, but large rubber ducks have already started to appear thoughout mainland China. Another company in Nanjing sells for 3,000 yuan four-metre-tall inflatables that are less authentic-looking. "Our ducks don't float," cautioned a saleswoman surnamed Liu. A nine-metre-tall duck can be ready for shipping within China in a week. KK Inflatable advises the use of a wet cloth or a broom to clean the duck. If you're tired of ducks, Kuang's company also sells supersized inflatable beer cans, fighter jets and Mexican bandits.

 China*:  May 31 2013

The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) plans to create a RMB cross-border business center in Luxembourg to cover Europe, it said on Tuesday. The bank revealed the plan in a seminar attended by ICBC Chairman Jiang Jianqing and the Finance Minister of Luxembourg Luc Frieden. In an interview with Xinhua, Xu Zhi, head of Financial Markets Department of ICBC (Europe), said that last year, ICBC (Europe) made financing cross-border trade in RMB for a total of 10.8 billion yuan (1.7 billion U.S. dollars), and generated a combined total of 25.9 billion yuan in RMB cross-border transaction. Headquartered in Luxembourg, ICBC (Europe) operates a network which covers major European cities, including Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Milan, Madrid, Barcelona, Warsaw and Lisbon. During the first four months of this year, ICBC (Europe) was more dynamic in its RMB business, recording 17.5 billion yuan on the financing of cross-border trade and 16.4 billion yuan on cross-border transactions. In March 2013, ICBC (Europe) helped the French company Renault to issue bonds of 750 million yuan through ICBC (Asia) on the Hong Kong market. According to Li Yanni, director of the RMB cross-border business division at ICBC headquarters in Beijing, the Chinese commercial bank has 400 facilities in 39 countries and regions and better access to capital markets in 18 African countries as the single largest shareholder of South Africa's Standard Bank. Since the launch of RMB cross-border business in 2009, ICBC has actively promoted the implementation of the RMB in cross-border business operations. Its RMB compensation network now covers nearly 70 countries and regions, and RMB cross-border business has reached a total amount of 3,000 billion yuan. Jiang said he appreciated Luxembourg, which has 20 billion yuan of deposits in RMB, as one of the most important financial centers in Europe and in the world and an excellent platform for the development of RMB cross-border business. Frieden welcomed the development of RMB cross-border business of ICBC in Luxembourg and Europe and stressed the "common success" for ICBC and Luxembourg. 

Military ties in focus before summit (By Zhao Shengnan) General Fan Changlong (center right), vice-chairman of China's Central Military Commission, and other Chinese officials meet US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon (center left) and his delegation in Beijing on Tuesday. China and the United States pledged on Tuesday to boost military ties during a visit to Beijing by a senior US official in preparation for a summit in June between the two countries' top leaders. Experts said that military relations between the world's two largest economies have been warming up recently. Washington has gradually realized the importance of the relations to achieve regional stability as it carries out its Asia-Pacific "pivot" policy, they added. "Both countries' defense departments and militaries should strengthen communication and cooperation," Fan Changlong, vice-chairman of China's Central Military Commission, told Tom Donilon, US national security adviser. Donilon was on the last day of a three-day trip ahead of the planned meeting between President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama on June 7 and 8 in California. The top task for the two militaries is now to implement their leaders' consensus to improve military ties, said Fan. This means building a new type of military relationship that is free of a zero-sum mindset and that is in accordance with the development of overall relations, he said. Donilon called for both countries to improve strategic communication and cooperation in "non-traditional security challenges", including peacekeeping, disaster relief operations and actions against piracy, to reduce differences, avoid misjudgment and jointly address regional security problems. 'Important stage' - "An essential part of building a new model for relations between great powers is ensuring we have a healthy, stable and reliable military-to-military relationship," Donilon said. During a meeting with Donilon on Monday, Xi said that Sino-US relations were at "an important stage connecting the past and the future". However, building trust between the two militaries is regarded as one of the main challenges the two countries face in mending relations that have been troubled by issues that include trade disputes and allegations of Chinese cyberattacks, analysts said. Steps to increase positive interactions between the two sides' militaries have been modest so far, including joint anti-piracy drills in the Gulf of Aden and a project to simulate a response to natural disasters. Mistrust lingers - Fan Jishe, a US studies expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the mistrust between Beijing and Washington will likely not be resolved overnight. The US has repeatedly questioned the purpose of China's military modernization, while China is concerned about Washington's new focus on military alliances in Asia and its plans to redeploy more weaponry and troops to the Asia-Pacific region. Through regular and intensified exchanges, Washington aims to know more about the changes in the Chinese military and reduce tension in Asia-Pacific region, he said. Tensions increased in part by Washington's backing of its allies Tokyo and Manila, which have territorial disputes with China, during Obama's first term, he said. Shen Yamei, a researcher on US studies with the China Institute of International Studies, said the two militaries have engaged in high-level contacts to boost ties and that cooperation projects in non-traditional security areas are a relatively easy way for both sides to start deepening interactions. No country can handle such threats, which seldom involve sensitive issues such as sovereignty and territory, alone, she said.

Hong Kong*:  May 30 2013

Hong Kong tech start-ups need more active help (By Mark Sharp There's new life in the tech start-up scene, but science parks may not be the best way to nurture innovation, says Mark Sharp - Studying for his master's degree in 2008 at Stanford University, Daniel Cheng Yuen was struck by how fragmented information was when looking for campus club activities, which run into the thousands. He returned to Hong Kong with a solution: a mobile application called Purpella that centralises the search for events on and off campus. But he lacked the resources to get his start-up off the ground. "For more than three years, I approached people for help. Then, in 2011, I met Kevin," Cheng says. That's Kevin Yeung Ka-wei, an investor and philanthropist who heads the local branch of the UN's World Food Programme and co-founded food bank Feeding Hong Kong. He had never invested in technology before. But Yeung agreed to back Cheng on condition that he first help develop a free app that could help people in Hong Kong search for the most suitable medical professional for their condition. Cheng and a small team came up with FindDoc, which went on to be named Hong Kong's best app last year by the non-profit Internet Professional Association (iProA). Despite the achievement, Yeung laments that the government didn't reach out to Cheng's team beyond a handshake and a photo. In contrast, as Cheng's team prepared to launch Purpella on campuses in America, the offices of New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and his San Francisco counterpart, Edwin Lee, e-mailed to ask if they could offer any assistance. "San Francisco and New York really take innovation seriously because they've both witnessed all the benefits technology created in their cities," Cheng explains, citing tax revenue and job creation as examples. "They really want to help promising start-ups build in their cities. "Their approach is really useful because each start-up has different requirements, in addition to money. There are not enough people like Kevin who appreciate innovation here," he says. Purpella has just launched in New York and Columbia universities. Early results have been encouraging and Cheng and his team are ramping up efforts to launch in more universities. But it irks Yeung that Hong Kong should take a lackadaisical attitude while two US cities actively courted Purpella. "There's only so much individuals like myself can do. Our government needs to want innovation and technology, and it needs to engage meaningfully to help. They need to take the lead in creating that ecosystem. "The current dependence on individuals is just not healthy and not scalable. The fact is that Dan could have built Purpella four years ago," says Yeung. For all the talk a decade ago about fostering a tech hub with multibillion-dollar projects such as Cyberport and the Hong Kong Science Park, the environment for tech entrepreneurship has yet to match the hoopla. San Francisco's richer culture for investment and innovation is one reason Geng Cong is moving there to develop his website for personal histories, called Waslu. He got the idea when his grandfather died, and is leaving his job at an investment bank in Hong Kong to launch his site. "I realised at his funeral that his story, because he's an everyday person like 99 per cent of people, will be forgotten in time. And it's a shame because his story is every bit as valuable as somebody like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. So I wanted to create something that allowed us to preserve the stories of everyday people," Geng says. He says he found little useful information for local start-ups on the Hong Kong government website. "Even if we look at InvestHK, the investment arm of the government, they primarily target overseas and mainland entrepreneurs and SMEs, and multinationals that are setting up an office, or retaining foreign direct investment," he says. A spokesman for the Innovation and Technology Commission says a start-up or tech entrepreneur can apply for financial assistance under the Small Entrepreneur Research Assistance Programme (Serap). Funds are intended for "activities from research and development all the way to commercialisation, helping them to turn innovative technology ideas into some commercially viable products and services." Applicants for Serap funding must provide details on the project, including justifications for funding in terms of innovation and technology, commercial viability, team capability and relevance with government policies or overall public interest. Applicants who pass an initial screening are then assessed by an independent panel drawn from a pool of technologists, professionals, academics and venture capitalists. The ITC says it usually takes fewer than 50 working days to process an application. At the government-run Science Park, start-ups are offered subsidised office space, support services in marketing, finance, technology and management. Financial aid packages range from HK$300,000 for app developers to HK$860,000 for biotechnology start-ups. Its incubation programme has a high survival rate: more than 70 per cent of graduated start-ups are still in operation. "Three of them have been listed in Hong Kong and one in the US," the ITC spokesman says. "These companies have filed over 600 intellectual property registrations, received 220 technology awards and attracted over HK$800 million of angel [or] venture capital investment." But Yeung has doubts about the ability of such parks to nurture true innovation and encourage young "technopreneurs" to realise their ideas. "Innovation has never been about hardware. Innovation is created when great ideas are brought to life by brave and brilliant people with hard work. People and ideas are the key ingredients for innovation. "As an investor, my wish is to play a role in the growth stories of world-class start-ups; ideally, ones that utilise Hong Kong's untapped talent," he says. "But to thrive, innovation needs a healthy ecosystem that supports these people and their ideas. Flashy buildings in remote locations coupled with endless bureaucracy for innovators to obtain much-needed early stage funding helps nobody. "Look at all the most successful tech companies - Apple, Google, Facebook, HP, eBay and Microsoft. Not one started life in a science park. Each was created in a garage or a bedroom. They built their own science parks only after they made it," Yeung says. Adam Lindemann, co-founder of investment firm Mind Fund, says that Hong Kong has lacked the spirit of technology-based innovation and entrepreneurship despite its pro-business environment. But this is starting to change, he says. "What is required is not government support, but acceptance by conservative people that it is good to aim for the next Mark Zuckerberg to come out of Hong Kong." The city has to create home-grown role models - "a few brave pioneers to pave new paths", Lindeman says. The owners of the MaBelle Jewellery chain aim to nurture that pioneering spirit through their social enterprise, CoCoon. Launched a year ago, the Tin Hau-based venture offers a co-working space where tech entrepreneurs can meet fellow start-up founders. "If we have 200 people here, and everyone employs three people - themselves, a co-founder and an intern - that's already 600 good jobs," CoCoon co-founder Theodore Ma Heng says. His father, Maximillian Y.K. Ma, who chairs the Lee Heng Diamond Group, had long lamented a decline in entrepreneurial spirit as the financial sector grew to dominate Hong Kong. His grandfather, who came from the mainland with just a change of clothing and founded the family's diamond trading business 64 years ago, was their original entrepreneur. "My father and his brothers picked up the wholesale business and created another 12 companies. We are the beneficiaries of the Hong Kong society that embraces entrepreneurship." So the family decided to help reverse the decline. "It started off with the vision of building a start-up community, to revive it in Hong Kong", he says. Ma believes the tide is starting to turn on the entrepreneurial front. "The banking community is shrinking, to a certain degree, due to the [unfavourable] global financial situation, and it has released a lot of talent. A lot of bright people got into banking first, but they are thinking, 'What's next?'" The ecosystem is changing, Ma says, and organisations like CoCoon, Startups HK, universities, M21 by the Youth Federation and Good Lab are building up entrepreneurship-related programmes. "I think we'll be reaching a critical mass soon," he says.

Shaw Prizes still favour men of science (By Christy Choi Women researchers notably absent from line-up of laureates and prizegivers say groundwork for success needs to be laid through education - (Left to right) Ching Pak-chung, Council member; Yang Chen-ning, chairman of the Board of Adjudicators of The Shaw Prize; Mona Shaw, chairperson of The Sir Run Run Shaw Charitable Trust; and Kenneth Young, vice chairman of the Board of Adjudicators of The Shaw Prize. It's still a man's world in the Shaw Prizes for scientific research, with only one woman winning an award in the past decade. And while strides are being made to tip the gender balance, the prizegivers said at this year's awards that it was not up to them to give more recognition to female scientists. "That would be paying attention to gender," said Professor Kenneth Young - in reference to the prize's mission to be neutral and without care for the scientist's personal background - at the announcement of this year's laureates yesterday. "The issue has to be addressed elsewhere, starting with education, role-models etcetera. Not at the end." "I imagine it'll be another 10-15 years before we see women [more well-represented among Shaw laureates]", said Professor Ching Pak-chung, Shaw Prize Council member and electronic engineering professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. "I have more and more female students on my research teams." Last year's Shaw laureate for astronomy Jane Luu was the first woman to have won the prize, which awards US$1 million to scientists in the fields of astronomy, life science and medicine and mathematics, for their contributions to the advancement of science and humanity. This year the Shaw Prize for Astronomy went to Professors Steven Balbus and John Hawley for their work on magnetorotational instability, which explains turbulence and where energy goes when objects spin in space. The prize for Life Sciences and Medicine is shared by Jeffrey Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael Young for their work on identifying molecular mechanisms underlying circadian rhythms - showing how humans have an internal clock that moves in approximately 24-hour cycles. And the Mathematics prize was awarded to David Donoho for his work on data compression and removing noise from data. "He's one of the most well-known and influential mathematical statisticians alive today," said Tony Chan, president of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Chan said he was speaking as a professional mathematician and not as a member of the Shaw Prize selection committee. "He's had a huge impact on medical imaging." "Imagine if you could go into an MRI machine, which usually takes about 30 minutes, and be there for a tenth of that time, but get the same result. That's what his algorithms help do." Chan described the process as akin to taking a low-resolution image on a digital camera, and being able to reconstruct all the extra missing information to create a higher-resolution image. The Shaw prize was established by film mogul Run Run Shaw in 2003.

Central pier meant for 'PLA training, berthing' (By Olga Wong For the first time, development authorities lay out instances when the military part of the waterfront will be out of bounds to the public - The military berth along the Central waterfront. The government has specified for the first time the circumstances in which the People's Liberation Army will occupy a military pier at the new Central waterfront, but it declined to estimate how often the space would be open to the public. Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po and his officials came under pressure yesterday from pan-democrat and pro-government lawmakers to commit to the frequency with which visitors could access the 0.3-hectare pier, which is nearing completion along 150 metres of the waterfront. The PLA's Hong Kong garrison would use the area only in when conducting military training, berthing military vessels, running ceremonial activities and carrying out pier maintenance, deputy secretary for development Thomas Chan Chung-ching said. "Except when there are emergencies or special circumstances, the pier will be open to the public," he said. Paul Chan told lawmakers that the army had pledged not to add extra structures to the pier. The site now has four one-storey structures, which house public utilities, and electronic gates that will be activated to fence off the pier when the military is using it. In February, the government proposed rezoning the area from open space to a military site, prompting harbour activists to fear reduced accessibility of the waterfront. The Town Planning Board received close to 10,000 public submissions on the issue before the deadline yesterday. The army's pledge to open up the area when it was not in use, and to provide a road behind the pier connecting the east and west parts of the promenade, has not allayed the concerns. Yesterday, Paul Chan sparked heated debate in the legislature with his stern words that the opponents had ignored the need for military defence and the fact that the city had returned to Chinese sovereignty. "It was a solemn pledge of the army. I hope the public will no longer bear misunderstanding, mistrust and hostility towards the [rezoning]." Kenneth Chan Ka-lok, of the Civic Party, said rezoning meant any decision to open the site would rest solely with the army. "It's not about trust … It's about urban planning." He moved a motion opposing the rezoning, but failed to gain majority support. James Tien Pei-chun, of the Liberal Party, said: "From the point of view of 'one country two systems', there's a need in principal [to rezone]. But can you estimate how many days it will be open to the public? People may be more receptive if you have an estimate." Thomas Chan said the government could not give an estimate on behalf of the army. The New People's Party's Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, a former security chief, said she was responsible for the talks with the army. "Hongkongers lack military knowledge and a sense of crisis … It would be ridiculous if the army had to ask the Rubber Duck to leave when it needed the pier."

No plans to replace Barry Cheung or reshuffle Exco, says CY Leung (By Lai Ying-kit Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said on Tuesday he had no plans to resuffle Exco following the resignation of Barry Cheung Chun-yuen. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said on Tuesday he had no plans for a reshuffle of the Executive Council or to appoint a new member to replace Barry Cheung Chun-yuen. Last Friday, Cheung resigned from all of his public positions – including as a member to Leung’s top policy advisory body – while police investigated Cheung and his failed company the Hong Kong Mercantile Exchange (HKMEx). At first Cheung, HKMEx’s founder and former chairman, took a leave of absence but later resigned amid mounting pressure. Speaking before a meeting with his Exco members on Tuesday morning, Leung said Cheung’s resignation did not raise the need for the appointment of new members as the council did not require a specific number, and in fact, it had more members than either of those of the Tsang and Tung administrations. Cheung became embroiled in controversy after the commodity trader HKMEx could not show it had enough capital for nine months’ operation as required by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SFC). As a result, the exchange returned its licence to the SFC and stopped operations. Some politicians have called for a review of the function and composition of Exco, which they say is losing authority following various scandals involving its members. One area to be looked at, they suggested, was the duration of leave of absence Exco members are allowed to take. Another Exco member, Franklin Lam Fan-keung, has been on indefinite leave of absence since November after coming under investigation by the Independent Commission Against Corruption. Leung was also asked on Tuesday if he had known about the HKMEx financial problems when re-appointing Cheung as chairman of the Urban Renewal Authority. He did not say whether he knew anything at that time. He only said Cheung had been nominated for reappointment by development secretary Chan Mo-po and he had approved it.

More than 170,000 living in subdivided flats in Hong Kong (By Joyce Ng and Peggy Sito) Study commissioned by government to give first indication of scale of problem doubles previous estimate - and actual total may be even higher - Number living in subdivided flats put at 171,000. More than 171,000 people are living in substandard, subdivided flats in Hong Kong, it was claimed yesterday. The estimate is more than double the total of 64,900 given by the Census and Statistics Department last October. And the figure is thought to be even higher as researchers could not examine illegal homes in industrial buildings, said the secretary for transport and housing, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung. See more photographs of Hong Kong's cramped subdivided flats - The study was commissioned by the government to give a first indication of the scale of the problem. Cheung said after a meeting of the Long Term Housing Strategy Steering Committee yesterday: "I can't say whether it's a large or small number, or whether there's an increase, because this is the first time we've done it. But as we draw up the housing strategy, we'll take the data into account." The committee will make its recommendations by August. The study results coincided with another government release, which said home prices are the least affordable since 1999. The mortgage-to-income ratio of a 45 square metre home, for a family earning the median income, surged from 52 per cent in the preceding quarter to 56 per cent in the first quarter this year. And in a further indication of the city's housing woes, it was revealed the number of applicants on the waiting list for public rental accommodation climbed to a 20-year high of 228,400 by the end of March. The administration has identified the problem of subdivided flats as a priority. Low-income families and new immigrants often choose to dwell in such units, conveniently located in old buildings in the urban centre. But poor workmanship means they create fire risks and a danger of leaks and structural overload. The estimate of 171,300 is 2.6 times the figure given by the Census and Statistics Department. The study was carried out by Policy 21, a company set up by academics from the University of Hong Kong. Researchers visited 10 per cent of the city's 18,600 blocks older than 25 years. Blocks of residential or mixed uses were sampled from each of the 18 districts. They found flats were divided into 3.6 sub-units on average and projected there were 66,900 subdivided homes. Of these, 30,600 lacked their own kitchen, bathroom or water supply. Committee member Dr Andy Kwan Cheuk-chiu said the government should focus on the 30,600 units in the worst condition. He said: "They should see if people living there are in need of social welfare and relocation, and whether the buildings have a safety problem." Sze Lai-shan, of the Society for Community Organisation, said the government should reinstate rent control - which Cheung has repeatedly ruled out - and give a rent subsidy to such residents.

Rock climbing is catching on in Hong Kong (By Elizabeth Choi Rock climbing is catching on as Hong Kong's rugged terrain entices more visitors and locals to rise to the challenge, says Elizabeth Choi - Veteran climber Conway Leung leads a mountaineering team up Ma On Shan, also known as Horse Saddle Mountain. Climbing is becoming increasingly popular in Hong Kong, which offers some good locations for enthusiasts of the sport. Rock climbing at Shek O. On any given Saturday, hundreds of people will mill around Central in search of the perfect brunch spot. But for the avid outdoor climber, Central's largest boulders offer a far different type of pursuit. The top of Central Crags scrapes the sky at 316 metres, providing the type of view even the most luxurious rooftop bar would struggle to emulate. Once up there, every iconic building that has graced a Hong Kong postcard is in sight. But the greatest reward of the view is knowing you didn't get to see it by using a lift. "Although it's unlikely to ever become a mainstream climbing destination, Hong Kong offers probably the second best climbing destination in Asia, after Krabi. Few places can match Hong Kong in terms of the sheer diversity of good quality climbs available a short distance from each other," writes Stuart Millis, author of Hong Kong Bouldering. These days, however, it seems more and more are becoming privy to Millis' observations on Hong Kong's enticing topography. The first instances of climbing in Hong Kong can be traced back to 1956 when the British Army was based at Kai Tak airport. "They saw Lion's Rock [in Kowloon] and they wanted to climb it," says Conway Leung, who has been climbing since 1977 and is president of China Hong Kong Mountaineering and Climbing Union (CHKMCU). "Once they climbed it, they learned the rock well. They sketched pictures of it and mapped out its routes by difficulty." These images would become part of Hong Kong's earliest climbing guide. Until 1967, locals did not really climb. But the Hong Kong riots of that year led the government to decide that climbing might be an effective way of diverting youthful energy away from rioting. So the Social Welfare Department decided to introduce it at summer camps led by the British Army, Leung explains. It's a dangerous sport. You must take precautions like learning how to fall properly. The youths didn't have army training, but were interested in army life, so the British Army taught sports like rock climbing," Leung says. CHKMCU was established in 1984 to unify a growing number of groups looking to organise their own climbs. Today it operates as a government-subsidised entity that provides Hong Kong's official certification for climbing sanctioned walls. Hong Kong climbers are largely expats and visitors, but cultural events such as the Cheung Chau Bun Festival, and increased government backing of outdoor sports has led to a bigger interest in climbing among locals. "You can tell by the schools," says Nikolai Ng, a 19-year-old sponsored climber who is widely sought by outdoor skills training companies to lead programmes and design courses. "Many schools are building climbing walls and many even have climbing teams." With the inclusion of sports climbing in the 2020 Olympics, CHKMCU believes that interest in climbing will continue to persist. It recently proposed two indoor and outdoor climbing walls be included in the HK$19 billion Kai Tak Stadium project. The Leisure and Culture Services Department has built at least six climbing facilities in five different areas of Hong Kong, and newly opened private gyms already see several dozen members climbing on any given weeknight. The two-year-old Da Verm Climbing Club in Sai Ying Pun receives an average of 40 members each weeknight. San Po Kong's Just Climb, which opened last May, has nearly 60 climbers every night. Most climb outdoors as well, says Nick Chan, an instructor at Just Climb. The indoor gym provides a place to practice after work in the week. Learning to climb is an accessible sport, since most indoor and outdoor facilities offer beginner courses with basic equipment available for rent. It's important to take proper instruction, experts say. "I would strongly discourage learning from your friends," Rachel Lam, a member of Da Verm, says. "Once you get into it, you realise that it is a dangerous sport. Things such as learning how to fall properly, and many other precautions, should be learned before attempting to climb." Common injuries, like strained tendons or pulled leg and back muscles, can occur when climbers haven't properly warmed up or have acquired bad habits. The initial awkwardness of clinging to a wall on all fours (or worse, falling off the wall) can be off-putting to new climbers. The key is to stick with it after the introductory course. It's also important to maintain the right attitude. "Climbing is an all-body sport," says Patrick Li, an instructor at Da Verm. "It improves your posture and your sense of balance, and it also strengthens your back, leg and forearm muscles." But negative thinking alone can greatly affect your climbing experience, and many climbers acknowledge the sport is as much mental as it is physical. "In the beginning, it isn't easy to climb," says Danny Ho, founder of Just Climb. "You will fall. That is inevitable. But how do you change your attitude to make yourself stronger? What do you do once you fall? That is what climbing is about." Ultimately, there is much more to climbing than muscle strength or better balance, says Ng, a former Da Verm instructor. "Climbing is not only a sport - it's a lifestyle," he says. "When you climb, you have to think. You use strategy to figure out how to go up the rock. You have to be smart about the decisions you are making." Unlike other sports, the risk of death is very real at advanced levels of outdoor climbing. "But everyone helps you. You have your friends, you meet people when you climb and they help you. You have a community," Ng says.

Hong Kong meat traders urge end to beef importer monopoly (By Lai Ying-kit Beef in Hong Kong was 50 per cent more expensive than in the mainland - The retail price of fresh beef in Hong Kong has doubled over the last year says Fresh Beef Traders Alliance convenor Hui Wai-kin. An alliance of meat traders on Tuesday renewed calls for ending the monopoly enjoyed by the city’s sole fresh beef importer, which they said had contributed to rising prices of the meat. Fresh Beef Traders Alliance convenor Hui Wai-kin told local radio the retail price of fresh beef was HK$100 per catty (604 grams) in late April — double the HK$50 per catty in the same month last year. Hui said the increases had driven away an estimated 40 per cent of their customers, who now opted for frozen beef, and caused the closing of a number of meat vendors. Hong Kong imports live cattle from the mainland through its sole distributer Ng Fung Hong. Since 2012, the company has increased its wholesale prices to retailers six times. Hui also said a recent survey conducted by the alliance found that beef in Hong Kong was about 50 per cent more expensive than in the mainland. He urged the government to open up the beef market to stabilise beef prices. Late last year, the government began a study to find out why beef prices kept rising. The results were expected later this year.

 China*:  May 30 2013

China enlists EU states to counter Brussels on tariffs (By Teddy Ng Beijing counters European Commission's tough trade tactics by setting EU states against it and wooing European states outside 27-nation bloc - China, dismayed at the tougher stance Brussels is taking in trade disputes, is seeking to put pressure on the European Commission by engaging EU member states and strengthening trade ties with non-EU European countries, analysts say. The tactic was manifested during Premier Li Keqiang's recent visits to Switzerland and Germany, which is opposing a proposal for tariffs on imports of Chinese solar panels. Li returned to Beijing yesterday. Li's trip came after the EC, the 27-nation bloc's executive arm, accused China of pricing its solar panels too cheaply and proposed the imposition of a 47 per cent tariff on such products by June 5. China is banking on Germany to lead opposition to the proposal, which is reportedly opposed by more than half of the EU's 27 members. "China is trying to benefit from Europe's internal divisions," said Jonathan Holslag, head of research at the Brussels Institute of Contemporary China Studies, adding that China had deepened ties with southern and eastern Europe during the euro- zone crisis. "The main aim is to keep the export channels open and to prevent member states swinging behind a more assertive European Commission." On Monday, the EC warned against "pressure being exerted by China on a number of EU member states". "It is the role of the European Commission to remain independent, to resist any external pressure and to see the 'big picture' for the benefit of Europe, its companies and workers based upon the evidence alone," said John Clancy, spokesman for EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht. China has also stepped up its involvement with non-EU states. It is expected to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) with Switzerland in July, following the signing of its first European FTA with Iceland this year. On Monday, the Ministry of Commerce said negotiations for a similar deal with Norway had entered the "final stage" - after stalling for more than two years over the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to dissident Liu Xiaobo . Feng Zhongping , director of European studies at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said China was forging ties with non-EU nations because of difficulties over a free trade deal with the EU. "China is telling Europe that the Chinese economy is open by having trade agreements with non-EU states," he said. Last year, China and 16 central and eastern European countries, many of them EU members, agreed to set up a secretariat for co-operation. China also pledged a US$10 billion loan and another US$500 million was designated for an investment fund. "China believes that smooth ties with Germany and France can guarantee a stable Sino-European relationship," said Zhao Junjie, a European studies specialist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "But China also interacts with marginalised European nations. By pouring in aid and grants, Beijing hopes these nations will not resort to an anti-China stance." Francois Godement, head of the China programme at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said Germany had rejected the tariff proposal because China could "take tough action against German businesses" such as carmakers. But he said whether the EU would drop the proposal remained to be seen. "There are occasions that member states have said something, but the end result is a different thing," he said. Zhao said China and the EU expected the other side to blink. "Europe does not have many alternatives, and it will feel the heat if China adopts counter measures," he said.

3-D printers help China jet development take off (By Minnie Chan Use of 3-D printing means China's aviation industry is saving money and materials and could soon rival manufacturers in the US - Creating a miniature plastic aeroplane using a household computer and a 3-D printer is no longer just a dream for aircraft enthusiasts. But what about printing out a real plane? Chinese scientists and aviation engineers says it's possible. And they're now starting to print out aircraft components from a 3-D printer without the help of traditional manufacturing processes such as casting, forging and assembling. These can even include key structures such as landing gear, which has to be able to withstand extreme forces. 3-D printing, also known as laser rapid forming, is an emerging manufacturing technology in which blueprints made on computers can be turned into actual products by printers that add layer after layer of material until the finished shape is achieved. It's not clear how many materials Chinese scientists can use when printing out aircraft parts, but Stratasys, the world's leading manufacturer of 3-D printers, says its machines can combine more than 100 different materials to form 3-D products, including wood, plastics and metals. Reports on the mainland have said 3-D printing technology has been used by China's aviation industry. It features in the country's first home-grown commercial airliner, the C919, its first aircraft-based jet fighter, the J-15, its multi-role fighter and bomber, the J-16, its first home-made stealth jet fighter, the J-20, and its mid-sized, fifth-generation jet fighter, the J-31. The J-20 appeared much earlier than Western military analysts had expected. Former US defence secretary Dr Robert Gates once said that China would not have a "fifth-generation aircraft by 2020". Beijing responded by showing him the J-20's successful maiden test flight when he visited the country in January 2011. In the 1980s and 1990s, China took at least 10 years to develop the J-10, its third-generation all-weather jet fighter, currently a mainstay of the People's Liberation Army Air Force. But the development of the J-15 took just three years and it made its maiden test flight on August 31, 2009. The PLA Navy announced the formal establishment of an aviation force for future carrier-based operations earlier this month, and the next day China Central Television reported that the first of its J-15s had been put on the production line early this year. Sun Cong , deputy chief engineer at the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), the nation's leading military aircraft manufacturer, said the unprecedented adoption of 3-D printing technology for his J-15 project had made a significant contribution to its success. "I would like to say that … the world was not astonished by our technology, but by China's efficiency in aviation industry development," Sun, the J-15's chief engineer, told Science and Technology Daily in March. "The J-15 project started without a solid technical basis … but now it has caught up to the technical level of the US' most advanced third-generation, carried-based aircraft, the F/A-18 Hornet." Sun told the Beijing Times the primary force-bearing structure of the J-15, including its landing gear, was formed by high-tensile titanium alloy powder sprayed from a 3-D printer. Aviation engineer Huang Weidong , a professor at the College of Material Science and Engineering at Northwestern Polytechnic University in Xian , Shaanxi , produced a three-metre-long titanium structure that is a key component of the C919's wing, on New Year's Eve last year. He told the Chinese industry website he had been using 3-D printing technology since 1995, with the output of his research commonly used in the aviation, aerospace, machinery, medical and other sectors. "After near 20 years of research and development, [3-D printing technology in China] can produce … products that can replace metal structures made by complicated traditional manufacturing processes," he said. "We have applied the technology to [the aviation] industry, including sizeable titanium alloy structures and aircraft engine renovation, as well as some other high-end components." Another aviation materials specialist, Professor Wang Huaming , from the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, told a workshop at the Chinese Academy of Sciences late last year that China now needed just 55 days to "print out" four hyperboloid cockpit window frames for the C919. He said a European aircraft maker had said it would need at least two years to do the same job, with the cost of making a mould put at US$2 million. "The traditional aircraft manufacturing industry doesn't only need much more time, but also wastes too many expensive materials," Wang said in a video clip of the workshop posted on the internet. "Normally, just 10 per cent of raw materials would be utilised, with the rest all cut and dropped during the processes of casting moulds, forging, cutting and polishing." For example, US-based Lockheed Martin Aeronautics needed 2,796kg of titanium alloy to produce an F-22 fighter jet, but only 144kg of the material actually made it into the plane, he added. Wang, who formed a team of researchers to study 3-D printing materials in 2000, said they were now able to mix many different kinds of materials together to imitate some sophisticated, high-end aircraft components. He said his research team had made many breakthroughs in 3-D printing technology, such as printing out key titanium alloy structures as big as 5 square metres which had been used in many new-generation military aircraft projects. "For me and many Chinese aircraft engineers, we all dream of 'printing out' all kinds of plane components we need one day," he said. He believed 3-D printing technology could soon help the country overcome a long-standing technical bottleneck that was hampering its production of sophisticated aviation engines. Sidney Wong, an engineer and associate director of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University's Institute for Enterprise, said 3-D printing technology could help China speed up the research and development of new generation aircraft. "As 3-D printing technology can save both time and materials, researchers can easily print out all kinds of high-end and sophisticated components they need to assemble prototypes within a short period," he said. "Without the hindrance of making moulds and other complicated traditional manufacturing procedures, the cost of making prototypes is much lower, and scientists and engineers can repeatedly produce more and more duplicates for tests and modification." Wang said China's large-scale 3-D printing technology had surpassed that of the United States because many US counterparts were just using the new technology to produce "knick-knacks". But Luo Jun , chief executive of the Beijing-based Asian Manufacturing Association, said there was "still a certain gap" that Chinese scientists needed to bridge to catch up with their US and European counterparts in the development of 3-D printing. "It's a fact that all sizeable and intricate metal structures and components made by 3-D printers in China can replace those parts made by traditional manufacturing processes … but such an achievement still fails to solve the core problem of China's aircraft manufacturing," Luo said, referring to the engine problem. "3-D printing is an emerging technology, but it still needs to be underpinned by traditional industry … there is still a certain gap between China and the US' technology, including its stability, accuracy, materials and related skills." In August, US President Barack Obama announced the formation of the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, with an initial investment of US$30 million, the National Journal reported. It said the US Army had deployed a helicopter-borne 3-D printing laboratory to Afghanistan, and the military already used 3-D printers to manufacture some non-critical aircraft components.

Confirmed cases of H7N9 bird flu drug resistance (By Agence France-Presse in Paris) Nurses leave a bird flu isolation unit at a hospital in Shanghai. Laboratory tests have revealed resistance in some H7N9 bird flu patients to the only available treatment, said virologists who unveiled “concerning” study results on Tuesday. Three out of 14 patients monitored at a clinic in Shanghai had a genetically-mutated version of the virus that makes it drug resistant, a team of researchers in China wrote in the journal The Lancet. Of the three, one developed drug resistance only after being medicated, “probably as a result of treatment with Tamiflu” – a widely-used antiviral drug, said a statement. This gave rise to fears that treatment might actually cause resistance to the only available drugs. The apparent ease with wich antiviral resistance emerges in A/H7N9 viruses is concerning - “The apparent ease with wich antiviral resistance emerges in A/H7N9 viruses is concerning,” wrote the study authors – insisting that early treatment remained the best course of action. These are the first clinically confirmed cases of H7N9 resistance. On Monday, Chinese health authorities said no new human cases of the deadly H7N9 bird flu strain had been recorded for the second week in a row. A total of 130 people have been infected and 37 died since the outbreak started in China in February. The virus is believed to spread to humans from birds, but fears were that it would mutate into a form transmissible from human to human. The results of a lab study published in the US journal Science last month showed the H7N9 strain can spread among mammals, specifically ferrets, and would do the same between humans under certain conditions. For the new study, researchers followed 14 H7N9 patients admitted to the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Centre between April 4 and 20. All had been given antiviral treatment, either oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or peramivir, which caused virus levels in 11 patients to drop. Tamiflu and peramivir belong to a class of antiviral drugs called neuraminidase inhibitors – the only known treatment for H7N9. Three patients, however, had a “persistently high viral load” in spite of treatment and had to be placed on oxygenation life support machines, wrote the authors. Two of them died. The authors said that apart from throat swabs, they also found virus traces in the blood, faeces and urine of some patients, and urged further studies to determine whether it could spread in ways other than coughing or sneezing. They also noted that two of the drug resistant patients had also been treated with corticosteroids, a drug that is also widely used in flu treatment. The team said there should be further studies to determine whether corticosteroids may aid drug resistance to develop. H7N9 causes severe pneumonia with a fever, cough and shortness of breath and is deadlier than the common, seasonal flu. The World Health Organisation (WHO) had earlier said that the H7N9 virus would likely react to existing antivirals like Tamiflu. The agency said work on a vaccine, which must be strain specific, had started – but observers have said it would probably be too late in case of an epidemic. Last week, the WHO’s deputy head Keiji Fukuda said the world was not ready to deal with a major flu pandemic. H7 influenza viruses comprise a group that normally circulate among birds, of which H7N9 forms a subgroup that had never been found in humans until the Chinese outbreak.

China announces convention on civilized tourist behavior (By Xinhua) The Chinese government on Tuesday promulgated a national convention calling on the Chinese people to take note of their behavior and act as civilized tourists when travelling. A combination of detailed regulations, the convention was issued by the National Tourism Administration and posted on the Chinese central government's website on Tuesday. "Being a civilized tourist is the obligation of each citizen," according to the convention, which singles out "protecting cultural relics" as one of the norms to be abided by tourists. The convention rejects behaviors such as doodling on, or carving characters into, ancient relics, as well as climbing or touching cultural relics. Photos can only be taken of relics when allowed by local regulations, according to the convention. It also promotes seven other norms to be followed by citizens, including maintaining a clean environment, complying with public orders, protecting ecology, protecting public infrastructure and utilities, respecting other people's rights, showing courtesy when with others and seeking appropriate entertainment. It labels actions such as spitting, littering, vandalizing, jay-walking and cutting queues as improper behavior. Graffiti recently left in an Egyptian temple by a teenage Chinese tourist has caused an uproar among other Chinese citizens, who have reflected on how to better regulate behaviors in order to build a good national image. The convention was issued as Chinese citizens have been traveling more both at home and abroad in recent years. Government data show that nearly 3 billion domestic trips were made in 2012, and that outbound trips exceeded 80 million in the same year.

China slams Japan's criticism of Premier Li's speech (Xinhua) Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei on Tuesday criticized a Japanese politician's remarks that Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's speech in Germany "ignored history." On Sunday, Li visited Cecilienhof Palace in Potsdam, capital of the German federal state of Brandenburg, the site of the Potsdam Proclamation in 1945, which set the terms for Japan's surrender in World War II. He said that all the territories Japan stole from China, such as Northeast China, Taiwan and related islands, should be restored to China. On Monday, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga rebutted Li's claim, saying, "That remark ignores history. (Japan) can never accept it." Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who is in Berlin accompanying Premier Li Keqiang on his trip to Europe, has stated China's solemn position on Suga's remarks, said Hong. Hong reiterated that in modern times, Japanese militarists launched an aggressive war against China and illegally occupied and stole Chinese territories, including Taiwan and its affiliated islands. "These historical facts should not be obliterated," he said. In 1945, Japan announced its acceptance of the Potsdam Proclamation as well as its unconditional surrender. Article 8 of the Potsdam Declaration makes it clear that the terms of the Cairo Declaration shall be carried out. In December 1943, leaders of the United States, Britain and China signed the Cairo Declaration, declaring that all the territories Japan had seized from China should be returned. In the China-Japan Joint Statement issued in 1972, the Japanese government also promised to earnestly implement Article 8 of the Potsdam Declaration. "These are unmistakable historical facts," Hong said. He asked the Japanese side to face history squarely, clarify and correct relevant statements and never again make remarks that lack common sense.

Haiyang-6, a Chinese research vessel, is seen at a dock in Guangzhou, capital of south China's Guangdong Province, May 28, 2013. An expedition team of 96 members aboard Haiyang-6 set out for the Pacific Ocean Tuesday to carry out a five-month survey on undersea mineral resources.

Singapore 'looking to widen its yuan role' (By WANG XIAOTIAN) The opening of the Monetary Authority of Singapore's first representative office in Asia in Beijing on Tuesday is being seen by the financial industry as a sign of Singapore's readiness to play a bigger role in the yuan's internationalization. The development is also viewed by Chinese and Singaporean officials as a milestone in further strengthening bilateral financial cooperation. The Beijing office is the authority's third overseas after London and New York. "We look forward to taking full advantage of this milestone collaboration to deepen our financial and economic cooperation and take our bilateral relations to new heights," Tharman Shanmugaratnam, deputy prime minister of Singapore and minister for finance, said in Beijing. Shanmugaratnam, who is also chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, said financial cooperation has become an increasingly important pillar in the relationship between China and Singapore. Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People's Bank of China, said the expanded footprint of the Singaporean monetary authority will not only bring better communication between the two central banks, but should also promote the business of commercial banks from both countries. Shanmugaratnam said economic changes are taking place in China at a time when other Asian nations are "moving up the curve of development, and it will lead to growing connectivity between Asia and China, and new patterns of connectivity in goods and services." China was Singapore's third-largest merchandise trading partner last year. In services, China was Singapore's fifth-largest export destination, and Singapore was China's 13th-largest trading partner in 2012. Singapore was also the third-largest source of foreign direct investment into China last year, after Hong Kong and Japan. Trade: More financial cooperation expected - Bilateral trade between the two countries was further boosted with the signing of the China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement in September 2008, the first comprehensive bilateral FTA China signed with an Asian country. Zhou said,"We anticipate that the financial sector in Singapore can make a bigger contribution to China's ongoing financial reform." Six of the top 10 Chinese banks have a presence in Singapore, while three Singaporean banks have a presence in 15 Chinese provinces. Shanmugaratnam said, "There is potential to further these financial interconnections as China gradually widens and deepens its financial markets." He said the Monetary Authority of Singapore has started holding an annual exchange of views with the China Banking Regulatory Commission on mutual cooperation and market development, and is planning to deepen engagement with China's national securities and insurance regulators. "We hope for more such bilateral collaboration as China continues the progressive internationalization of its financial market and currency," he said. The opening of the MAS Beijing office came a day after Standard Chartered and HSBC Holdings launched the first batch of offshore yuan-denominated bonds in Singapore, and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China's Singapore branch began yuan clearing services in the city state. ICBC said on Tuesday in a statement that it conducted 53 yuan clearing transactions valued at more than 1.6 billion yuan ($259 million), and opened clearing accounts for 49 banks during its first clearing day. "Key banks in Singapore are ready to actively participate in the promising new market," Shanmugaratnam said. According to Zhou, Singapore has become the second- biggest yuan transaction center after Hong Kong since it launched the business in 2009. China and Singapore doubled the size of their currency-swap arrangement to 300 billion yuan in March, a month after the People's Bank of China, the country's central bank, approved the Singapore branch of ICBC as its clearing bank. As of June 2012, deposits of the currency in Singapore stood at about 60 billion yuan. 

Communist Party's moral guardians wade into debate on Chinese tourism behaviour (By Patrick Boehler A Chinese tourist poses in front of a portrait of Sun Yat-sen at Tiananmen Square in Beijing. The Chinese Communist Party's moral guardians have united with the tourism regulators in a joint call for Chinese citizens to behave when leaving their homes to see their country and the world. The party's Central Guidance Commission for Building Spiritual Civilisation and the China National Tourism Administration have re-issued a 128-character-long rhyme that should help tourists remember the rules of "civilised behaviour" on the road. It reminds them to queue orderly, and not to shout and waste food. "Gambling and pornography, we resolutely oppose," the somewhat imperfect rhyme reads. The appeal, which has circulated online, comes days after a 13-year-old boy from Nanjing wrote his name on the 3,500-year-old Luxor Temple in Egypt, starting a heated debate about the wanting behaviour of Chinese tourists abroad. The number of Chinese tourists going abroad has ballooned to 83 million last year, from 10 million in 2000, according to the World Tourism Organisation, making the world's most populous nation also the largest contributor to international tourism. The government also published another list of pleas for domestic tourists that is roughly twice the length in character. Citizens are reminded not to talk too loudly in public and not to step on grass. They should not chase, hurt or feed wild animals and should boycott activities linked with "feudal superstitions". Of course, they should also reject gambling and drugs. The two advisories come a day after Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Hong Lei called on Chinese citizens to behave abroad and repeated similar calls by Vice-Premier Wang Yang. Around the Lunar New Year, the comedy movie Lost in Thailand became an instant hit for parodying the clichéd, hapless behaviour of Chinese travellers in the Southeast Asian nation. In France, constant complaints could even lead French designer Thierry Gillier to reconsider a ban against Chinese tourists at his boutique Parisian hotel Zadig, which is expected to open its doors to guests next year. Gillier was forced in September to apologise after saying he would reject Chinese tourists because many other guests "are looking for quiet hotels with a certain privacy".

Australian PM refutes claims of Chinese cyber hit (By Xinhua) Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Tuesday refuted claims about cyber attacks by Chinese hackers, calling them "inaccurate". An Australian investigative television program this week reported that one such attack had resulted in Chinese hackers gaining access to top secret and detailed blueprints of spy agency ASIO's new headquarters in Canberra. "As the attorney-general has stated - neither he nor the director-general of ASIO intend to comment further on these inaccurate reports," Gillard told the parliament. She did not elaborate on what elements of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Four Corners reports were incorrect. Foreign Minister Bob Carr said that Australia's strategic partnership with Beijing would not be jeopardized over the allegations. "It's got absolutely no implications for our strategic partnership. We have enormous areas of cooperation with China," Carr told Sky News. "I won't comment on whether the Chinese have done what is being alleged or not. "Every Australian knows how economically important it's been to this country to have the relationship we enjoy with China today," he added.

President Xi meets with mayor of Los Angeles (By Xinhua) Chinese President Xi Jinping met with the mayor of Los Angeles on Tuesday in Beijing, and the two sides agreed to strengthen local-level exchanges and people-to-people contact. During the meeting with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Xi said the two sides need to work from the top level as well as from grassroots level and up to push forward the development of China-US relations. He said the roots of China-US relations are deep in the local, non-governmental and grassroots sectors. Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) shakes hands with Antonio Villaraigosa, mayor of Los Angeles of the United States during a meeting on Tuesday in Beijing. "The growth of China-US relations is inseparable from exchanges and cooperation at local levels, and even so with universal participation and the active support of the people of the two countries," Xi said. He said the two sides should start from the local, non-governmental and grassroots levels, take advantage of their specific and mutually complementary characteristics and consolidate the social foundation of China-US relations through substantial cooperation. Xi emphasized that the two sides need to work from the top through lower levels and enhance the structural design for advancing bilateral links. Xi said he will meet with US President Barack Obama in early June to plan for the future development of China-US relations. The Chinese president said that at present, China-US relations are at a crucial stage of opening up to the future. He said in March, he and President Obama had a telephone conversation and reaffirmed their common will to work for the development of the China-US cooperative partnership and actively build a new type of relationship between major powers. Villaraigosa said it is an honor that the China-U.S summit will be held in Los Angeles. He expressed his belief that the summit will be critical for enhancing mutual trust and advancing US-China relations. He said the two countries should respect each other, seek common ground while maintaining differences, strengthen cooperation and realize common development and prosperity. The mayor of Los Angeles said the two sides should strengthen cultural, people-to-people, economic and local exchanges and advance bilateral relations from the grassroots level. Xi said during his visit to Los Angeles last year, he was deeply impressed with the warm welcome he received from the local people. He expressed his appreciation to Villaraigosa for his active role in promoting local-level exchanges and cooperation between the two countries. As the second largest city in the United States, Los Angeles has been a leading city and enjoys great potential in carrying out cooperation with China, the Chinese president said. He also expressed his hope that Los Angeles would continue to advance its cooperation with China by utilizing its own advantages and become an angel city for friendly cooperation between China and the US - Villaraigosa recalled Xi's visit to Los Angeles, saying the visit left a good impression on the people of Los Angeles and helped deepen the American people's understanding of China. The mayor said China's growth has brought about major opportunities for Los Angeles, and the city is ready to serve as a bridge of US-China cooperation.

Hong Kong*:  May 29 2013

Police arrest fifth person in HKMEx scandal (By Phila Siu, Simpson Cheung, Stuart Lau and Bloomberg) Woman was held at the border while Cheung has resigned from posts at Rusal and AIA. Police have arrested a fifth person in its probe into the collapse of Barry Cheung Chun-yuen's Hong Kong Mercantile Exchange (HKMEx). The latest development came as Cheung resigned from his positions in major businesses - as a board member of Russian aluminium producer United Co Rusal and as an independent non-executive director of AIA Group Limited. A police spokesman said last night a 35-year-old woman, surnamed Zheng, had been arrested on suspicion of using a false instrument. It is understood Zheng is from the mainland and was detained trying to cross the border from Hong Kong into the mainland. A search of HKMEx's board of directors and management team found no one by that surname. Police charged three men last week with possessing false instruments with intent. They are Dai Linyi, 65; Li Shanrong, 49; and Lian Chunyan, 50. A 60-year-old man, surnamed Zhu, was arrested last Wednesday on suspicion of possessing false documents. He was released on bail two days later but has to report back to police in mid-July. Cheung has meanwhile resigned from the United Co Rusal board, three sources familiar with the situation revealed. They said Cheung decided to resign from all his public duties to minimise the possible effect the probe could have on public institutions, including Rusal. A Rusal spokeswoman declined to comment. Separately, the AIA Group's board of directors on Saturday issued a statement announcing that Cheung had tendered his resignation as independent non-executive director effective from that day to "attend to other commitments". He had also ceased to be a member of the Audit Committee, Remuneration Committee and Nomination Committee of the board with effect from last Saturday, the statement said. In a related development, the financial problems facing the failed HKMEx were already known a year ago, a colleague of Cheung's revealed. "A year ago, when it wasn't yet a matter of much concern, it was perceived as, 'Oh, it's in bad business; it's cash-strapped'," said Executive Council member Cheung Chi-kong on a TVB talk show yesterday. The blanket resignations of Barry Cheung - known as Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's top aide - were "a firewall" for the government, Cheung Chi-kong said. "To put it colloquially, the one who commits the act bears its responsibility," he said. But Cheung Chi-kong said HKMEx's financial problems had not been a "big issue" a year ago. "Many companies, when faced with cash-flow problems, could issue debentures, look for new shareholder injections [or] expand the capital stock. All the options were there. That's why we were not particularly concerned," he said.

Exco has been losing power and authority since handover, says Legco chief Tsang (By Stuart Lau Jasper Tsang says city's troubled policy-making body has been losing power since the handover and calls for review of its make-up and function - The city's core policy-making authority, the Executive Council, has been losing power since the handover and its function and composition must reviewed, the head of the legislature has urged. His suggestion follows last week's resignation of Exco member Barry Cheung Chun-yuen, who is being investigated by police in connection with his failed Hong Kong Mercantile Exchange. Another Exco member, Franklin Lam Fan-keung, has been on indefinite leave of absence since November after coming under investigation by the Independent Commission Against Corruption. Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing said Exco was not living up to its past role. "During British rule, the Executive Council was a body with actual power. [Its members] had a strong say in front of the governor; their words carried a lot of weight," said Tsang, who sat on the executive councils of former chief executives Tung Chee-hwa and Donald Tsang Yam-kuen. "There was a rule that if the governor reached a decision contrary to the majority view in Exco, he needed to ... give specific reasons on record, which would be seen by the British government. Today, we can't see the Executive Council performing the same function," Tsang said. Exco's website still says that if the chief executive does not accept its majority opinion, he needs to put the specific reasons on record. And the Basic Law stipulates that Exco is the body responsible for helping the chief executive make policy decisions. Tsang noted that the number of Exco members and the ratio between officials, lawmakers and people from public life were "completely unregulated". "The chief executive decides solely who sits on Exco and when to terminate their appointments," Tsang said. Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, a current member, said Exco's power had "diminished in the face of a rise in de facto party politics". "In the old days, when Exco made a decision, that was it. Because Legco was appointed, we can't expect Exco [now] to function with the same decisiveness and authority." Professor Ma Ngok, of the Chinese University, said Exco had become a "political reward" for the chief executive's supporters, resulting in a loss of authority. The Chief Executive's Office said Leung "is willing to listen to" views on Exco's operation. Meanwhile, Jasper Tsang said there was no need to improve on Exco's "already stringent" rules on declaration of interests. Barry Cheung ignored questions from reporters as he left his Repulse Bay home last night.

 China*:  May 29 2013

Experts brew ideas for China tea (By By Hu Yongqi) A worker checks bricks of compressed tea at a factory in Menghai county, Yunnan province, on May 19. The province is a major tea producer and boasts a few national names such as Pu'er. But a few foreign tea experts believe tea could become increasingly popular at dinner tables around the world. Promotion and marketing would be the key, said experts attending the 2013 International Tea Conference in Pu'er, Yunnan province, over the weekend. The value of the beverage is well recognized in China, but not so globally. This can be shown by production, according to Norman Kelly, president of the International Tea Committee. Global tea production has grown 3 percent annually over the past five years, but Chinese tea has been growing 10 percent on average to maintain the nation's status as the world's biggest producer, he said. This year, the price of Pu'er tea, a hugely popular tea produced mostly in Yunnan, almost doubled from last year in China, because of severe drought in the province for four consecutive years. However, Pu'er tea is little known in Western markets such as the United States and Canada. British, Japanese and Indian teas are popular in the international market. Some of their popular teas sell for nine times the price of Chinese teas, said Shen Peiping, deputy governor of Yunnan and president of the Chinese Pu'er Tea Research Institute. Louise Roberge, president of the Tea Association of Canada, said this is not caused by a difference in quality, but mainly by branding and marketing. She has been to China many times since 1985 and is fond of the elegantly made tea at local restaurants. However, in Canada, people have the impression that Chinese teas are of poor quality, she said. Roberge suggested China create promotional materials to educate consumers in French- and English-speaking countries and regions. Tea shows are also a good place to exhibit Chinese products, she said. Joe Simrany, president of the Tea Association of the USA, said Chinese tea farmers and producers must promote themselves overseas as well as the Chinese tea culture. "Considering the high cost, China should focus on supporting several specialty teas in cooperation with local and international media. Fabulous stories about tea history and the production process in scientific approaches will be attractive for foreign consumers," she said.

Diaoyu Islands 'have never been Japan's territory' (By By Zhao Shengnan) Chinese marine surveillance ship Haijian No. 46 (L) tries to approach towards Japanese fishing boats (2nd and 3rd from front) while a Japan Coast Guard boat sails (front), in the East China Sea, near Diaoyu islands, in this photo taken by Kyodo May 26, 2013. The 1945 Potsdam Proclamation, a statement of terms for the unconditional surrender of Japan issued in the names of the United States, China and the United Kingdom, determined that the terms of the Cairo Declaration shall be carried out, including that China's northeast regions, Taiwan Island, Penghu Islands and its surrounding islands, should return to China. The Diaoyu Islands are not within the Japanese sovereignty outlined by the declaration. Mei Zhaorong, former Chinese ambassador to Germany, said this document is historical and legal evidence of China's ownership of the islands, while Li's presence there warns the Japanese right-wing forces not to try to deny the achievements of the world anti-fascist war. Tokyo last September illegally "nationalized" the Diaoyu Islands, which have belonged to China — one of the victors of World War II — for centuries. Japan's relations with China and South Korea became further strained under the hawkish Abe administration, which vowed to hike defense spending and loosen restrictions of the 1947 pacifist constitution. Meng Hong, an expert on German studies at Renmin University of China, said the venue highlighted a sharp contrast between Japan and Germany's self-reflection on its crimes during World War II. "Germany has thoroughly repented while Japan is still messing around," she said. "But Japan cannot erase its crimes." Meng said the Potsdam Proclamation also marked the beginning of China's participation of dealing with international affairs through negotiation. "China, now a major global power, aims to underline the importance of peaceful communication in the face of disputes," she added.

China tourists spend more (By By Hu Haidan in New York Chinese tourists spent $9.2 billion in the United States in 2012, up 19 percent from the previous year, according to US government data. Although the double-digit increase was smaller than the 47 percent year-on-year jump recorded in both 2010 and 2011, China remained the fastest-growing source of inbound US travelers. It again ranked at No 6 in spending by foreign tourists, according to data released last week by the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries, part of the Commerce Department. In a separate report, the office projected that US travel by Chinese travelers would remain strong through this year's third quarter. In a survey of tour operators, four out of 10 respondents expected "higher" bookings compared to the third quarter of 2012, while 45 percent predicted "much higher" bookings. President Barack Obama's administration, in partnership with the travel and tourism industry, is working to promote the US as an international travel destination, spending $150 million for its global marketing campaign this year. The Discover America campaign was launched in 2012 with an advertising pitch in the United Kingdom, Canada and Japan; China was added as a target market this year. California, the most popular US destination for Chinese travelers, and other big states also report increased tourism from China. A $1.6 million marketing campaign by the public-private partnership Visit California encourages foreigners to visit the state's beaches, mountains and man-made attractions. A key audience is Chinese visitors, who spent $1.5 billion in the state in 2011, or an average of $2,900 per visitor, according to Caroline Beteta, CEO of Visit California. Of the $102 billion spent on travel and tourism in California last year, 20 percent was from foreigners. The industry supports almost 900,000 jobs and generates $6.3 billion in state and local tax revenues. Chinese travelers, like many others, favor big cities when visiting the US - Los Angeles, New York and Washington. Boston is also popular due to its concentration of higher-education institutions, which many Chinese parents scout on behalf of their university-bound children. Most families touring college and university campuses in and around Boston prefer having a bilingual guide, according to Evan Saunders, co-founder and CEO of Attract China. The two-year-old firm, with offices in Boston and Beijing, helps advises businesses in the Massachusetts city on how to attract Chinese visitors. Saunders said he has found that the most effective way to get Chinese interested is through social media such as China's highly popular Sino Weibo micro-blogging service. His company uses its Weibo account to give updated travel information about Boston and offer bilingual tour information. In 2011, Massachusetts welcomed 139,000 Chinese travelers, the third-biggest group, after Canadians and Britons. Chinese tourism abroad has soared in recent years, partly due to the ease which foreign visas can now be obtained. According to the China Tourism Academy, Chinese citizens made 70 million trips abroad in 2011, up 22 percent from the previous year. In the US, China as recently as 2008 didn't crack the top 10 among countries of origin for foreign visitors. But the record $9.2 billion from its citizens contributed to $168 billion in total spending on US travel- and tourism-related services last year, according to the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries. The five countries whose citizens spent more in the US were Canada ($26.2 billion), Japan ($16.6 billion), the UK ($13 billion), Mexico ($10.1 billion) and Brazil ($9.3 billion).

Japan urged to face history (By By Fu Jing and Ding Qingfen in Berlin) Premier says order created after WWII must be safeguarded - Premier Li Keqiang urged Japan on Sunday to respect China's territorial sovereignty and the order created after World War II, while offering to work with Germany to achieve more global peace. Premier Li Keqiang and German Chancellor Angela Merkel inspect a military honor guard at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, on Sunday. Li delivered the message in a sober tone before the media after he paid a half-hour visit to Cecilienhof Palace in Potsdam, where Soviet, US and British leaders met at the end of World War II for discussions that culminated in the Potsdam Proclamation. "The site of the Potsdam meeting is a place of historic significance. The Potsdam Proclamation clearly states that Japan must return China's territories of Northeast China, Taiwan and other islands after surrendering," Li said after he carefully read the original declaration in the palace's archive. "The victory and international order had been achieved at the cost of sacrifices of tens of millions of lives," said Li, adding that only by facing up to history can the future be opened up. Any attempt to deny or glorify the wartime aggression is a challenge to international justice, which will not be tolerated by the Chinese people and will be condemned by people all over the world, Li said. Li said Germany is a country that loves peace, and China and Germany will work hand in hand in this endeavor. Observers said Li's first stop in Germany demonstrates Beijing's determination to safeguard its sovereignty based on the outcome of World War II and its commitment to peaceful means when handling international affairs. Li is on the last leg of his four-country visit to India, Pakistan, Switzerland and Germany. He arrived in Berlin on Saturday afternoon and the visit to Ceilienhof Palace kicked off his two-day visit to China's important trade and economic partner. Li told reporters he had a pleasant night watching a soccer match, and he even asked one German photographer about his favorite team. With meetings, dinner and a breakfast arrangement with Chancellor Angela Merkel, Li is expected to discuss the roadmap of bilateral relations and ties with the European Union. Li is also likely to discuss solutions for trade disputes with the German leader, and the two countries will sign a series of multibillion-dollar economic and trade agreements and contracts. The two leaders were expected to discuss economic issues and human rights, as well as international topics such as Iran's nuclear program and the civil war in Syria, German officials said before the meeting in Berlin. During a visit to Switzerland on Saturday, Li criticized the EU for pursuing anti-dumping cases against Chinese solar power and telecommunications equipment manufacturers that he warned will hurt both sides. "The cases over these two types of products will hurt Chinese industries, business and jobs and also damage the vital interests of European users and consumers," Xinhua News Agency quoted him as saying. "We express firm opposition." Germany, Europe's biggest economy, has indicated that it hopes for a negotiated solution in those cases rather than having the EU impose anti-dumping duties. Li is also scheduled to meet German President Joachim Gauck.

New IPOs may begin thaw for China firms (By By Michael Barris in New York) When its shares begin trading next week, online retailer Light In The Box Ltd will end a nearly seven-month drought of US stock market listings by Chinese companies tied to a long-running dispute between American and Chinese financial regulators that now appears closer to resolution. American depositary shares of Light In The Box are expected to begin trading, under the symbol LITB, on the New York Stock Exchange on June 6, following the pricing a day earlier of an initial offering of stock valued at up to $87.2 million. The Beijing-based seller of home improvement, fashion, electronics and other consumer goods said in a US regulatory filing on Thursday that it would sell 8.3 million shares at $8.50 to $10.50 each. The IPO will be the first by a Chinese company in the US since social-gaming operator YY Inc went public on Nasdaq in November. The dearth of listings by China-based companies in recent years contrasts sharply with 2010, when 41 Chinese firms joined US stock markets. But the Light In The Box offering, and a $75 million float announced last week by digital cinema equipment maker GDC Technology Ltd - backed by US private-equity giant Carlyle Group LP - could signal that the market for US IPOs by Chinese companies is turning. A series of accounting scandals and fraud allegations involving US-listed Chinese companies led the US regulators to reject IPO-related audits by Chinese affiliates of the Big Four accounting firms - Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu of the US, UK-based Ernst & Young and PricewaterhouseCoopers, and the Netherlands' KPMG. In an apparent breakthrough announced on Friday, the China Securities Regulatory Commission said it would give the US Public Company Accounting Oversight Board access to documents from the Chinese auditors. The announcement follows a lengthy effort by the PCAOB and the US Securities and Exchange Commission to improve financial disclosure by Chinese companies trading on US exchanges. The agreement will allow the accounting oversight board to see audit records and other documents maintained by the Chinese audit firms, but it falls short of the broad oversight the US regulator had sought. Still, the limited access could be used to investigate fraud allegations against the auditors. Before Friday's announcement, the SEC had said it would accept the audits only if it could review underlying documents, but Chinese regulators said they can't release such information because domestic law considers such information a state secret. The impasse prompted the SEC to sue the Big Four affiliates in China for allegedly violating US securities laws and prevented Chinese companies that hire any of those affiliates from completing a US IPO. The dispute has contributed to lower share prices for some Chinese firms already trading on US exchanges. More than two dozen companies, most of which got a US listing through a so-called reverse merger, have retreated from the market in the past year and a half. A reverse merger, which is much less rigorous than the IPO process, enables a private foreign company to obtain a US stock listing from an existing publicly traded shell company. Also, negative sentiment and allegations of accounting irregularities by short-sellers have led a number of Chinese companies to agree to be taken private in deals with buyout firms. The largest such transaction to date has been Focus Media Holding Ltd's acceptance of a $3.7 billion offer in August from a private-equity group that included Carlyle and Fountain Vest Partners Co. Jim Fink, an analyst for Investing Daily, an online investment advice website run by Virginia-based Capitol Information Group, is optimistic that American investors will warm to the two proposed Chinese IPOs. GDC is majority-owned by Carlyle, "so that US-based imprimatur may be one reason the IPO is being accepted by US investors," Fink said. He said Light In The Box receives 85 percent of its revenue from North America and Europe.

Hong Kong*:  May 28 2013

Hong Kong mulls greater oversight of private health insurance (By Emily Tsang The government may take on a "middle-man role" in private health insurance cases, helping to decide claims, process compensation and register complaints, the health minister said. Food and Health Secretary Dr Ko Wing-man told a radio talk show that the government would soon roll out a plan to consolidate health insurance regulations in an effort to improve coverage and encourage more people to buy it. "The government needs to regulate these insurances and ensure those who brought it were really guaranteed," Ko said on Commercial Radio. "We will have to look into the content and quality of insurance products in the private market." Details of the proposal were still being worked out, but were likely to be unveiled later this year as part of a long-delayed health reform plan. Ko said such changes were necessary because public hospitals currently absorb more than 90 per cent of Hong Kong's patients. Only three in 10 Hongkongers has health insurance. The effort to improve private health insurance follows a 2008 consultation by the former administration that concluded a mandatory insurance scheme was unpopular and that the city should pursue a voluntary one. Ho said the government would attempt to play a go-between role to make sure customers were dealt with fairly. Meanwhile, tax incentives would be given to encourage the people to buy their own medical insurance. The government would not, however, seek to regulate the price of insurance plans, Ko said. Instead, it would set up a financial risk pool to subsidise companies who offer coverage to "high risk" customers excluded under current plans. "We would not want to put the company out of business," Ko said. "In this way, the insurance company would not have to worry about taking an extreme risk … but they may not have the right to turn away people seeking to buy insurance."

 China*:  May 28 2013

China defends Sudirman Cup with victory against ROK (Xinhua) China national badminton team defended its Sudirman Cup title in a convincing 3-0 victory against ROK in the final on Sunday, winning the champion five times in a row. 

NYU Shanghai as a study in globalisation (By Raymond Li New York University Shanghai is the first of a number of joint ventures that could help transform the mainland's lumbering education system - The founding chancellor of New York University Shanghai, Yu Lizhong, likens the joint venture between New York University and East China Normal University to a couple expecting a child. He said it had been love at first sight for both, followed by the honeymoon, and they were now facing the reality of whether they could produce a world-class university and help nurture reform of the mainland's clumsy education system. "Higher education in China has come such a long way that it's no longer about having another school to accommodate more students, but about whether we can produce one of the best schools in the world to set an example for the rest in China," Yu said. "So it's of little significance if we just founded another mediocre university." Yu, 64, said NYU Shanghai would try to set itself apart from most mainland universities with a strong focus on students' needs and the establishment of a "scientific community" to give academics and professors a bigger say in school management. It will be run by a board of directors rather than an in-house Communist Party committee, freeing it from much of the bureaucratic meddling that besets mainland tertiary education. Yu said it would admit 300 students, including 150 from overseas - two-thirds of them American - in its first intake later this year. Nearly 2,000 mainland students applied during its recruitment period, even though it limited first-year recruitment to just 10 mainland regions. It has issued conditional offers to 150 of these, with offers to several hundred others pending their performance in national university entrance exams, or gaokao, next month. While the mainland students will still be required to sit the gaokao, they will also be appraised on their academic performance and community service and in one-on-one interviews, in line with recruitment procedures at Western universities. NYU Shanghai is the mainland's first joint-venture university involving an American university. Another, a partnership between Duke University and Wuhan University, will open a campus in Kunshan, Jiangsu, next year. Meanwhile, the Chinese University of Hong Kong plans to open a campus in Shenzhen in co-operation with Shenzhen University next year. The number of joint-venture universities is rising as part of the mainland's pledge to open up the service industry, including higher education, to foreign competitors. Chinese University vice-chancellor Professor Joseph Sung Jao-yiu said cultivating creativity and innovation would be the main focuses of the new university. "We also hope to play a role in promoting equal access to quality teaching by admitting students not only from prestigious schools in places like Beijing and Shanghai, but also those from impoverished areas," he said. Sung said Chinese University would oversee the academic side of the new school, with Shenzhen University and Shenzhen's city government responsible for administrative affairs and financing, providing 100 hectares of land and campus construction. Chief Secretary Carrie Lam checks out a model of Chinese University's Shenzhen campus. While the Shenzhen government will provide funding of 20,000 yuan (HK$25,000) per student for each of the university's first five years, Sung said its long-term sustainability was one of his biggest concerns. He said the campus would be academically and financially independent and feature interdisciplinary subjects like urbanisation, innovative media and international financing, which would be useful for the development of the mainland and, more specifically, the Pearl River Delta region. In contrast with other joint-venture universities, students will be taught in Putonghua and English to make the institution more accessible to local and international students. Yu, who previously served as president of East China Normal University, said international co-operation was particularly important for mainland universities because it could help them reflect on the way they were run and how they measured up to international standards. East China University has served as a study-away site for New York University since 2006, with about 350 NYU students studying at its campus each year. Jeffrey Lehman, vice-chancellor of NYU Shanghai, said it was part of NYU's global network university initiative. NYU opened its first campus outside the United States in Abu Dhabi in 2010. He said having a doorway in Shanghai made enormous sense because it drove "the country's economy and cultural life". On top of the chance to learn Putonghua and become familiar with China, Lehman said it was exciting for international students to be able to receive such an education in China because they all recognised that what had been happening in China since the 1980s was changing the world. "For domestic students it's all about how classes are taught; we'll teach them in a way in which they're required to be active learners," he said. "They will be pushed to take risks in the classroom, pushed to speak up and to say things that are not absolutely certain or correct, to understand that it's OK to make mistakes." Lehman said NYU Shanghai would have no more than 2,000 students, a tenth of the number at NYU in New York. There are also concerns among regulators over the political and ideological implications of the presence of overseas universities in China - Cheng Fangping, a Renmin University professor who specialises in education studies, said the rising number of joint-venture colleges, which were subjected to strict administrative approval from the Ministry of Education, indicated the high demand for quality teaching on the mainland against the backdrop of globalisation. But he said regulators were unlikely to give overseas universities unfettered access to the mainland market because its own universities were far less competitive than those in developed countries. "There are also concerns among regulators over the political and ideological implications of the presence of overseas universities in China," he added. Yu said joint-venture universities like NYU Shanghai were attractive to many mainland students and their parents because they were much cheaper than studying overseas. Graduates would also receive two diplomas, one from NYU and one from East China Normal University. But he also admitted that there were many challenges and uncertainties in a culturally, politically and ideologically different teaching environment, which would demand a lot of wisdom and frank communication. For example, East China Normal University and NYU differed over whether the Shanghai campus was a mainland university or a portal university for NYU, as officials from the American university had promoted it overseas. He said NYU had to understand that it was absurd to regard NYU Shanghai as an American university. Its first intake will not yet be able to use its 15-storey campus in Shanghai's Lujiazui financial district because construction is a year behind schedule.

China closes the gap with Switzerland, Europe (By Ding Qingfen in Bern and Chen Jia in Beijing) Premier Li Keqiang shares a light moment with some Swiss youths during his visit to the Einstein Museum in Bern, Premier Li Keqiang says the trade agreement between China and Switzerland will bring China closer to Europe, after signing a benchmark FTA with President Ueli Maurer. Premier Li Keqiang concludes a historic free trade agreement with Switzerland that promises to tighten ties with Europe, China's largest trade partner. The free trade agreement between China and Switzerland will benefit both nations and bring the second largest economy in the world closer to Europe, Premier Li Keqiang said during his visit to Bern on Saturday. Both countries can tap the huge potential of cooperation in the financial, culture and innovation industries, Li said after meeting delegates from the Chinese embassy and enterprises in the Swiss capital. "China's pace of growth is within a reasonable range. China is now and will be potentially a great and developing market for a long time yet, and this is an important driving force for the world's economy and a positive factor in the maintenance of world peace," Li said. China and Switzerland signed a Memorandum of Understanding at the conclusion of free trade talks on Friday, lifting cooperation to a new stage. Premier Li had talks with President of the Swiss Confederation Ueli Maurer in Bern late Friday and they agreed to expand bilateral investment and trade, and improve the cooperation in high-end machinery manufacturing, precision instruments, biological pharmacy, energy conservation and environment protection, and modern agriculture. They announced the launch of a financial dialogue mechanism, and cooperation agreements in the horologe business, personnel training and climate change. "China opposes trade protectionism in the European Union and will continue to advocate trade liberalization," said Li, who believes the Sino-Swiss FTA will open up major opportunities for improving economic and trade relationship between China and the whole of Europe. The FTA "sends a powerful message to the rest of the world" that China rejects trade and investment protectionism, and embraces trade liberalization and facilitation, the premier reiterated. China is paying close attention to the EU anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigations on Chinese exports of solar panel products and telecoms equipment, and wishes to resolve the issues through dialogue and consultation, Li said. The EU has pledged to impose punitive anti-dumping duties on Chinese solar panel products that will come up to about 46 percent. The preliminary ruling is to be released on June 6, and the final decision expected by the end of the year. The European Commission reportedly plans to send a formal warning to China that it is ready to levy sanctions against telecoms equipment makers Huawei and ZTE Corp over illegal subsidies. The signing of the memorandum means Switzerland will be the first country in continental Europe to reach such an agreement with China. Premier Li pledged to strengthen and improve the macroeconomic policy, to boost economic growth, control inflation and push forward structural reforms. China's GDP increased 7.7 percent in the first quarter of 2013 year on year, compared to a growth of 7.8 percent for the whole year in 2012. Wang Haifeng, an expert at the Institute of Foreign Economics under the National Development and Reform Commission, said that the upgrading of cooperation between China and Switzerland would facilitate economic development in both countries. "The strong innovation capacity of Swiss manufacturing and service industries will help China accelerate its economic restructuring and speed up the growth pattern transition," Wang said. China is now Switzerland's largest trade partner in Asia, while Switzerland is China's seventh largest trade partner and the sixth largest source of foreign investment in Europe. Bilateral trade between China and Switzerland reached $26.3 billion last year. Switzerland is among the first Western countries to establish diplomatic ties with China. Xu Hongcai, a senior economist at top government think tank China Center for International Economic Exchanges, said closer Sino-Swiss relations in the financial sector would benefit the opening-up of bilateral cooperation. "It is likely to promote the development of an off-shore center for the yuan in Switzerland where the density of banks is the highest in the world. This will help speed up internationalization of the Chinese currency," Xu said. Switzerland is the first stop in Europe for the premier's nine-day, four-country State visit. He ends his tour in Germany, where he will arrive on Sunday.

Runners complete Boston Marathon to honor victims (Xinhua) Runners carry American flags and a Chinese flag as they approach the finish line after completing the final mile of the Boston Marathon course during "OneRun" in Boston, Massachusetts, May 25, 2013. The event was organized to give athletes and spectators an opportunity to complete the final mile of the Marathon that was cut short when two bombs exploded at the finish line.

Chinese premier arrives in Berlin for visit (By Xinhua) Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrived in Berlin on Saturday for an official visit to Germany, the only European Union country included in his first overseas tour since taking office. "Germany is the first EU country I visit since taking office as Chinese premier, which shows that the new Chinese leadership highly values China's relations with Germany and Europe," Li said in a written statement released upon arrival. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrived in Berlin on Saturday for an official visit to Germany, the only European Union country included in his first overseas tour since taking office. Both China and Germany are countries with important influence in the world, and it is China's strategic choice and long-term policy to develop friendly cooperation with Germany, Li said. China, he said, is ready to work with the German side to enhance mutual understanding and trust, expand cooperation and strengthen communication and coordination on global and regional affairs, so as to advance their strategic partnership as well as China-EU ties. Li will meet with President Joachim Gauck and hold talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel. He will deliver a speech at a business luncheon and make extensive contacts with German political and business figures. Also, Li and Merkel will officially launch "the Year of Languages" program between China and Germany, an initiative meant to encourage the two peoples to study each other's language. To further expand bilateral cooperation, a series of documents will be signed regarding cooperation in such fields as energy conservation, environmental protection, investment, agriculture and education. Germany is the last leg of Li's ongoing trip, which has taken him to India, Pakistan and Switzerland.

Hong Kong*:  May 27 2013

HKMEx founder Barry Cheung quits public posts (By Cheung Chi-fai and To Han Shih) HKMEx founder resigns after police invite him to assist probe, on same day that three suspects charged over its collapse appear in court - Exco member Barry Cheung Chun-yuen stepped down from all his public posts last night after being invited by police yesterday to assist their investigation into his failed Hong Kong Mercantile Exchange (HKMEx). His blanket resignations came as three of four people arrested in connection with the investigation appeared in court yesterday charged with possessing false bank documents purported to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. In a statement, Cheung, 54, said: "Although I have never done anything that breaks the law, and my passion to serve the society has not changed, I have decided to resign from all public posts in order to prevent bringing further impact to the organisations I serve." Although I have never done anything that breaks the law, and my passion to serve the society has not changed, I have decided to resign from all public posts in order to prevent bringing further impact to the organisations I serve - Academics and politicians said the case would deal a lasting blow to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's administration. Cheung is widely regarded as Leung's top aide - he acted as his campaign chairman when he ran for the city's top job last year. The chief executive said he had accepted Cheung's resignation, which also covers his roles on the Urban Renewal Authority, the Standing Committee on Disciplined Services Salaries and Conditions of Service, the Commission on Strategic Development, and the Long Term Housing Strategy Steering Committee. Leung reiterated that "law enforcement authorities including the police and the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) will act impartially and continue the investigations of the Hong Kong Mercantile Exchange and Mr Cheung in accordance with the law". A police spokeswoman confirmed that Cheung had been invited to provide assistance. The controversy broke on May 15 when the SFC, which was monitoring the HKMEx's finances, alerted the police commercial crime bureau to suspected serious financial irregularities. Cheung surrendered the HKMEx's trading licence last Saturday. When police made arrests on Tuesday, he announced he would take immediate leave of absence from his public posts. Several lawmakers called for Cheung to resign, but on Wednesday he insisted there was no need to take such a step. Cheung's Exco colleagues Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee and Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung said they respected his decision. Ip said: "I think it is a wise decision given his present circumstances. It helps minimise the negative impact on the government." But a Hong Kong businessman with close connections to mainland officials was less optimistic. He said many senior central government officials were shocked by the HKMEx scandal. "There is a big question mark hanging over Leung Chun-ying's governing capability," said the businessman, who did not want to be named. Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing said the scandal illustrated Leung's poor crisis management. She pointed to his decision to let Cheung a leave of absence rather than removing him. City University political scientist James Sung Lap-kung said the deeper problem lay in Cheung's close relationship with the chief executive. As head of Leung's election campaign, Cheung was "Leung's No 1 aide". "This makes people query how much Leung knew about the person he relies on, or whether he helped cover up [his incidents]." A businessman familiar with the SFC probe said Cheung was unlikely to emerge unscathed.

Tens of thousands of Hongkongers return from Canada since 1996 (By Ian Young in Vancouver Reverse exodus of tens of thousands of Hong Kong-born residents is the 'X-factor' in urban planning - A Cathay Pacific airplane has just taken off at Kai Tak Airport. Tens of thousands of Hong Kong-born Canadian residents have returned to the SAR since 1996, according to an analysis by the South China Morning Post that helps establish the extent of an unprecedented phenomenon shaping both societies. Canadian census and immigration statistics indicate an exodus of more than 65,000 Hong Kong-born residents in the 15 years to 2011. And more than 153,000 may have left from 1981 up to 2011, the analysis suggests. However, this reverse migration is not even acknowledged by Hong Kong because it does not officially recognise dual citizenship. According to a November 2012 Hong Kong government assessment, there were only 16,554 Canadians in Hong Kong. Prominent Canadian urban planner Andy Yan said that understanding the true scale of the flow was crucial to planning policies in both Hong Kong and Canada, which risked being stymied by the lack of hard data. "How do we plan our cities? How many housing units, how many services do we need?" said Yan, an adjunct professor of planning at the University of British Columbia (UBC). "This [reverse migration] is a massive X factor and is the frontier of urban planning." The Hong Kong government regards Canadians as only the eighth most prevalent foreign residents in the city. But the Post's analysis, incorporating Canadian census data released this month, adds weight to the belief that Canadians are by far the most numerous foreign passport holders in Hong Kong. This assessment is shared by Ottawa, which believes there may be 295,000 Canadians in Hong Kong, including Canada-born children of immigrants not included in the Post analysis. However, this estimate is based on a telephone poll, and Canada has no way of accurately tracking the whereabouts of its citizens. Daniel Hiebert, a geographer at UBC who has studied reverse migration and advised the Canadian government on the issue, rejected the official Hong Kong assessment and said the scale of the return flow from Canada to Hong Kong was unmatched. "The impact [of a lack of data] is that we don't exactly know how many of these folk who emigrate from Hong Kong to Canada stay, and it's hard to figure out where they live now. Do they mainly live here or there?" he said. "For a start, this has a big impact on the housing markets. One family might have two or more dwellings, and that has a big impact." A range of social policies, from schooling to health, hinged on understanding the scale of the flow, he said. The Post's analysis is based on the most recent 15 years of Canadian data. From 1996 to the end of the first quarter of 2011, some 64,788 new immigrants from Hong Kong arrived in Canada. But in the same period, Statistics Canada data shows the population of Hong Kong-born residents fell instead by 31,320. Adjusting for mortality leaves a 65,521-person gap between the number of Hong Kong-born people in Canada and the expected number of living émigrés. Hong Kong migration to Canada exploded after the 1984 Sino-British joint declaration on Hong Kong. More than 300,000 Hongkongers migrated to Canada in the 1980s and 1990s, hitting an annual peak of 44,271 in 1994. But in 1998, after the handover, immigration plummeted. Since 2001 there has been an average of fewer than 500 new Hong Kong immigrants arriving in Canada each year. A source in Hong Kong's Information Services Department confirmed that the vast Canadian presence is not officially acknowledged because China's nationality law does not allow for dual citizenship. Returnees from Canada feature prominently among Hong Kong's elite. They include tycoon Li Ka-shing, WHO director general Margaret Chan Fung Fu-Chun, actor Nicholas Tse Ting-fung, and a host of Miss Hong Kong winners including current title holder Carat Cheung. How to pin a number on Hong Kong's floating Canadian population - Establishing the vast number of immigrants to Canada who have returned to Hong Kong has been a long-standing demographic mystery. But instead of attempting to count the number of Canadians in Hong Kong, the analysis by the South China Morning Post calculates the number of Hong Kong immigrants absent from Canada, by comparing 15 years of immigration and census data. There were 241,095 Hong Kong immigrants in Canada for the 1996 census, with 64,788 more arriving by the time of the 2011 census. But by then there were only 209,775 in Canada, a shortfall of 96,108 people. Applying Canada's 0.7 per cent annual mortality rate to the existing 1996 immigrants and later arrivals suggests 30,587 deaths, and 65,521 Hong Kong immigrants who had left Canada. However, a lower death rate may apply since immigrants undergo rigorous health checks. There have been no identifiable spikes in population or immigration of Hong Kong-born people to the US, Britain, Australia or New Zealand from 1996 to 2011, making it highly likely that the vast bulk of the 65,521 simply returned to Hong Kong. The Post's calculation is imperfect. It cannot account for some immigrants from Hong Kong who might have been born in other parts of the world, or who might have migrated from Canada to mainland China. Extending the analysis back to 1981, the number of returnees balloons to 153,247. But because the pre-1996 period coincided with large-scale Hong Kong emigration around the world, it is not possible to state conclusively that all these went back to Hong Kong. The most authoritative estimate of the number of Canadians in Hong Kong to date was made in a 2011 study for the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, upon which the Canadian government's own assessment is based. It used a telephone poll of 35,825 Hong Kong households to find that 1,800 included at least one Canadian. From this, a "conservative estimate" of 295,930 Canadians in the city was extrapolated. That is more than twice the number of Americans and Australians combined, according to consular estimates. The number of Britons in Hong Kong has never been truly established. But the population of Hongkongers in Britain varied little before or after the handover, standing at 72,884 in 1991, peaking at 94,611 in 2001 and estimated at 82,000 by the Office of National Statistics in 2011 . Such slight variation rules out a large pool of British returnees to build on the 22,000 Britons reportedly present in the city during the handover . This excludes people with a British National (Overseas) passport, which does not convey full citizenship.

 China*:  May 27 2013

China Southern Airlines cleared to take Dreamliner (By Charlotte So It is the first mainland carrier to operate the B787 after delays caused by battery problems - The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is set to ply mainland skies after having been given the airworthiness certificate by the aviation authorities on the mainland. China Southern Airlines will be the first mainland carrier to operate the Boeing 787 Dreamliner after the mainland aviation regulator gave the aircraft approval. The Guangzhou-based carrier will take delivery of up to eight B787-8s this year, with the first expected by early next month. The much-delayed delivery was due to incidents stemming from the over-heating of the aircraft's lithium battery. All 50 787s delivered worldwide were pulled out from operations and the aircraft's production suspended. "We will deploy the plane on the Beijing-Guangzhou route for a soft launch before expanding to other domestic destinations," said an official from China Southern who declined to be named. The carrier will put the wide-bodied airliner on international services three months after plying mainland routes. Hong Kong passengers could check out the plane as early as in the winter schedule. China Southern will be the only mainland carrier to operate both the 787 and Airbus A380 aircraft, which was used briefly between Beijing and Hong Kong. China Southern has ordered 10 of the jets, as did its smaller counterpart, Hainan Airlines. It is understood that Hainan Air will take delivery of the first 787 in the middle of next month, with plans for three more by the end of the year. Air China, which has ordered 15 of the aircraft, will not take delivery of the first plane until 2016. Boeing resumed deliveries of the 787 this month after the United States Federal Aviation Administration cleared the plane's return to commercial service on April 19, three months after it was grounded. United Airlines resumed 787 operations on Monday while All Nippon Airways said it would put it into service tomorrow. The Civil Aviation Administration of China approved the aircraft's airworthiness certificate on Thursday. Boeing said earlier this month the 787 programme was on track to achieve a planned production of 10 planes per month in aggregate by the end of the year, including the production lines in Everett, Washington, and South Carolina. The manufacturer has so far delivered about 50 787s to eight airlines and has global backlog orders of 800. Shares in China Southern yesterday dropped 2.08 per cent to close at HK$3.77, in a market that fell 0.23 per cent. Separately, China Eastern Airlines yesterday agreed to issue yuan bonds through Deutsche Bank with the amount depending on the response from bookbuilding to start next week in Hong Kong. 

China may start taxing more luxury goods (By Wei Tian in Beijing and Yu Wei in San Francisco) China may start levying taxes on an increasing number of luxury goods as part of the country's efforts to push forward economic reform, an official with China's top planning agency said on Friday. More products might be taxed, as part of the country's tax reform plans for this year, said Kong Jingyuan, director-general of the department of comprehensive reform of the economic system at the National Development and Reform Commission. Kong made the remarks when answering questions about a guideline with the key tasks to deepen economic reforms in 2013, which was published on the central government's website on Friday. In the guideline, the NDRC pledged to "properly modify the rate and scope of consumption taxes". According to Kong, the changes will be carried out both in terms of rates and structures. Taking into consideration the increasing national income levels, some products that used to be regarded as luxury goods are now seen as daily necessities and thus will not be taxed as luxury products, he said. In addition, he said, some goods that have become more common in recent years, such as luxury cars and yachts, will be subject to luxury taxes. Heavier consumption taxes will also be levied on "heavy-polluting and excessive-energy consuming products", according to the guideline. An earlier report by China National Radio said that a 20 percent extra tax will be levied on cars priced at more than 1.7 million yuan ($277,440). The report cited an unnamed source with the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. China's luxury-goods market is likely to grow by a world-leading 20 percent this year, accounting for more than a quarter of global luxury sales, according to a recent report by Deutsche Bank AG. The bank's economists believe that, despite several months of sluggishness in various economic indicators in China, the second-half outlook remains positive. That's partly due to weak inflation and the foreseeable likelihood of China's central bank keeping interest rates low to spur consumer spending. "It's hard not to be optimistic about the future of luxury goods in China," said John Zhang, a marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. "Chinese people have always tried hard to enjoy better things in life even in bad times, and there's still a good deal of pent-up demand," he said. "In addition, the Chinese economy is still growing at a very fast pace, relative to every other economy in the world, despite its recent slight slowdown." Zhang believes that while the high level of income inequality in China is bad for other sectors, it tends to equate to fast growth in sales of luxury products. The Deutsche Bank report says sales could be affected by Chinese government policies on consumer spending and travel. Last year, authorities introduced bans on officials' use of public money to buy luxury items. According to Zhang, sales could hit a speed bump, but the effects would likely be short lived. In the long term, nothing short of prohibitions will stop deep-pocketed Chinese consumers from snapping up the finer things in life. "For instance, anti-corruption policies have slowed down conspicuous spending on banquets in fancy hotels. However, consumption in private clubs and in less conspicuous restaurants picked up," the professor said. "I think that both consumers and luxury-goods manufacturers will quickly find ways to adapt to the new environment." 

HSBC: RMB to be one top 3 trade currencies (Xinhua) The RMB, or Chinese yuan, would be able to become one of the top three global traded currencies in volumn term by the end of 2015, said Douglas Flint, chairman of HSBC Holdings plc, in London Friday. "The RMB is increasingly the part of nomal day-to-day business for anyone trading or investing in China," said Flint at the Annual General Meeting (AGM). "Every international business with an eye on China should be considering potential benefits for using the RMB, and the RMB investment opportunity has been created around the world, supported by the thriving offshore markets, particularly offshore bond markets," he said. At the same day, Bloomberg, citing with a person familiar with the matter, reported that HSBC will manage an first-ever sales of RMB denominated bonds in Singapore, a city country competes with Hong Kong as the offshore hub for the currency. According the estimates from HSBC, the offshore debt sales in RMB may reach as much as 360 billion yuan, or approximately $59 billion this year. Gradually, Chinese financial market is creating investment opportunities, the process of reform has accelerated, the rise of RMB will continue, said Flint. In volumn term, HSBC expects RMB to become one of top three global trade currencies by 2015, and within five years, it could be fully convertible.

Chinese TV series find a new voice in Africa (By CHEN NAN) Actors from the continent in Beijing for dubbing sessions - When Mao Doudou and Her Sweet Days, a 36-episode light comedy about a modern Chinese couple and their relationship with each other's families, was dubbed in Swahili and broadcast in East African countries in 2011, Omar Ahmed, like many, became a big fan. Nastru Sani (right) and Abdullahi Kassim, both from Nigeria, dub a Chinese TV drama in Beijing. "When we walk on the street and see a poster for the TV series, we can recall the names of the characters, such as Mao Doudou, the daughter-in-law. The series is really popular," the 29-year-old Tanzanian TV presenter said. He never imagined that a year later he would be dubbing for a Chinese TV series, Jin's Happy Life, portraying the father of newly married Xiao Mi. He has to deal with her troubled family relationships. Ahmed said: "I studied Chinese at college, which helped me win the job. Though I had never done dubbing before, I enjoy the TV series and can easily get myself into the character. It's crossing the cultural divide. "You've got to create characters you wouldn't be able to create in any other medium. It's a new and exciting experience for me." With 29 other voice actors from Africa, Ahmed is in Beijing busy dubbing for 10 Chinese TV series and 52 Chinese movies in a project managed by China Radio International. Wang Gangjian, director of the Film and Television Dubbing Center at the radio station, said the center is in charge of the project, from translating to dubbing and post-producing the TV series and movies. Two years ago, when Wang visited Tanzania, where Swahili is widely spoken, the cultural counselor at the Chinese embassy invited Wang to recommend a Chinese TV series to be dubbed in Swahili. The initial plan was to dub and broadcast Ke Wang, or Yearning, which was widely popular in China in 1991. "Ke Wang reflects ordinary Chinese people's lives more than 20 years ago, which were totally different from today's lives. So we decided to do another TV series, close to Chinese people today," Wang said. "That was when Mao Doudou and Her Sweet Days was sweeping China." Thanks to the success of the series in Africa, more Chinese TV series and movies will be dubbed in English, French, Arabic, Portuguese, Swahili and Hausa, for broadcast in Africa in the latter half of this year. "With Chinese TV series being exported to other countries, international audiences will be able to understand more about China," Wang said. Wang added that all the TV dramas being dubbed have been well received in China. They comprise mainly light-hearted comedies portraying modern Chinese people's family lives. or example, Go Lala Go features a hard-working career woman and her relationship, while Jin's Happy Life tells everyday stories about ordinary Chinese people. V: Shows help Africans understand today's China better - "The funny and interesting plots lead overseas audiences to look into Chinese people's everyday lives," Wang said. "If the TV series are aired only with English subtitles, they won't touch the hearts of audiences as much as when they are dubbed in local languages." ohamedi Omari Kaboba, an artist from Tanzania, who has performed in dramas and also dubbed advertisements, applied for the dubbing job because he enjoys watching Mao Doudou and Her Sweet Days. Family relationships are a mutual issue for people anywhere in the world. For us, it also helps us better understand today's China," he said. astru Sani, from Nigeria, has also been chosen to join the dubbing project. The 34-year-old lends his voice to the role of Wu Di, one of the leading parts in the TV drama Beijing Love Story, which revolves around three pairs of lovers. I watched many Chinese kung fu movies before I came to China. I thought Chinese people were all kung fu performers. But when I watched the TV series, I saw a different China, and young people's love stories are just like mine," he said. ani said he portrays an emotional Wu Di, whose heart is broken by a girl. "My own girlfriend went away with a rich guy, like Wu Di's girlfriend, so I can feel the same sadness," he said. hough all the voice actors from Africa have experience in the TV, theater and movie industries, most have never dubbed for TV series and movies before. ang Xiaoyan, who trains these African voice actors, said, "We helped them understand their characters." She dubbed the voice of Ikkyu san in the Japanese animation Smart Ikkyu-san, broadcast in China from 1983 to 1988. ne of the most challenging aspects for the African voice actors is that they have to match the lines said by the Chinese characters and to find the right emotions. ang said, "Before the formal dubbing, we practiced word by word. We have translators to adjust the lines on site, and the voice actors also help find the most accurate words and emotions to express the characters."

'Landmark' Sino-Swiss pact signed (By Ding Qingfen in Bern and Chen Jia in Beijing) China rejects trade and investment protectionism, premier says - China and Switzerland signed a Memorandum of Understanding at the conclusion of free trade talks on Friday during Premier Li Keqiang's visit to Bern, the Swiss capital, in what business leaders called a landmark deal. Premier Li Keqiang joins members of the Jodelclub Saengerrunde Zurich yodeling band during his visit to a farm in the village of Embrach, near Zurich, Switzerland, on Friday. The signing of the memorandum means Switzerland will soon become the first country in continental Europe and the first of the world's top 20 economies to reach such an agreement with China. The deal covers goods and services, environmental protection, intellectual property protection, market competition and labor protection. Li said tariffs for agricultural products, precision instruments and industrial goods will be cut soon under the agreement. He said he wishes to "send a powerful message to the rest of the world" through the agreement that China rejects trade and investment protectionism, and embraces trade liberalization and facilitation. Switzerland is the first European nation Li has visited since becoming premier in March. The country can play an important role as a bridge to help boost economic ties and enhance mutual trust between China and other European countries, analysts said. Preparatory work for negotiations on the free trade agreement between the two countries accelerated since 2010, with the deal to be concluded after nine rounds of talks. Kurt Haerri, president of the Swiss-Chinese Chamber of Commerce, said the agreement is very significant. The reduction of tariffs will enhance competitiveness among Swiss enterprises, especially small and medium-sized ones, which can improve their capacity for innovation, he said. "For large Swiss companies with a considerable global market share in their industries, it will be of increasing importance to gain a certain market share in the fast-growing Chinese domestic market in order to defend their global market positions." Switzerland's central location in Europe and its good infrastructure will also provide great opportunities for Chinese investment, he said. "After a big wave of foreign direct investment flowing into China from large Swiss companies, many SMEs have also invested in China and now - very recently - we have seen an increasing number of Chinese companies investing in Switzerland," Haerri added. Zhang Jian, director of the Institute of European Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, a top government think tank, said the free trade agreement will promote economic growth, and benefit consumption in both nations. FTA: Pact a sign of trade liberalization - In the first quarter, Sino-Swiss trade grew 119.7 percent from a year ago. Trade value between the countries stood at $26.3 billion at the end of 2012, according to the Chinese Commerce Ministry. China is Switzerland's biggest trade partner in Asia, and Switzerland is China's seventh-largest European trade partner. Li pledged to expand FTA negotiations with more countries and deepen opening-up in financing, education, logistics and medical treatment services. To date, China has signed 11 free trade agreements with 19 countries and regions. China and Switzerland also agreed to deepen cooperation in financial regulation, macroeconomic policymaking and capital market development. They will build a dialogue mechanism in financial sectors, which can help to stabilize global financing policy, Li said. He promised to further improve financial opening-up and accelerate market-oriented reforms in stocks, bonds and insurance. This is "consistent with China's need for further development of its open economy", Li wrote in an article for the Zurich-based daily newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung, published on Thursday. China sees Switzerland as an important friend that is closely involved in the opening-up strategy. The agreements and common views achieved during his two-day visit will be "landmark events" for the two nations, Li said. Wang Tao, chief economist in China at financial giant UBS AG, which has a headquarters in Zurich, said China's reforms can unlock autonomous growth in the economy and provide new opportunities for international financial institutions to share the development results. "In the near term, more action is to be expected on increasing the yuan's flexibility, and on capital account opening in China," Wang said.

Hong Kong*:  May 26 2013

Three men charged in connection with HKMEx inquiry (By Olga Wong, Gary Cheung, Ada Lee and Enoch Yiu) Fourth man still being questioned as financiers doubt rescue bid for failed commodities agency - Former lawmaker Chim Pui-chung faces the media. Three men were charged last night in connection with the probe into the failed Hong Kong Mercantile Exchange (HKMEx) founded by executive councillor Barry Cheung Chun-yuen. A 55-year-old man surnamed Dai, a 50-year-old surnamed Li and another 50-year-old surnamed Lian were charged with possession of false documents. They will appear in Kowloon City Court today. Another man, 60, is still being questioned. The news came as financiers and a key shareholder of the HKMEx said they were reluctant to be part of a US$100 million capital-raising effort planned by Cheung. Many said they needed more time to judge the viability of the exchange's business model. The news came as financiers and a key shareholder of the HKMEx said they were reluctant to be part of a US$100 million capital-raising effort planned by Cheung. Cheung has become embroiled in an escalating political and financial controversy after the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) launched an investigation into the HKMEx. The SFC referred the case to police after finding irregularities. Cheung was forced to return the exchange's trading licence and took immediate leave of absence from all public positions. While he insisted he would not fold the company or resign from his official posts, his political career and the future of the HKMEx is increasingly in doubt. It is estimated the exchange will need several million dollars a month to keep running. Former lawmaker Chim Pui-chung, who claimed to have lent HK$8 million to Cheung two years ago, yesterday estimated Cheung - whose New Effort Holdings owns 56 per cent of the exchange - may have lost HK$500 million. It means the estimated losses of the HKMEx could run to more than HK$1 billion. Cheung declined to make any comment yesterday. A source close to the embattled executive councillor said yesterday the investigation had been blown out of proportion by the media for "political reasons". The source said most comments on the case had been "largely inaccurate". The source, who said Cheung would clarify the issues at an appropriate time, added: "The whole thing would be completely different if it was not related to Barry Cheung." A spokeswoman for the HKMEx refused to comment. However, more political figures yesterday joined calls for a deadline to be set on Cheung's leave of absence. One fellow Exco member, who refused to be named, said: "If he does not see how [the incident] can be settled in the next three to six months, he should consider resigning from the Exco and other public duties." Meanwhile, a government source said yesterday Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah "felt sorry about the suspension of HKMEx". The source said Tsang had been aware of the financial difficulties faced by HKMEx for at least a year but did not know a police investigation was likely until it was announced.

Government to underwrite soccer centre's operating costs (By Chan Kin-wa HK$750m facility in Tseung Kwan O will get the go-ahead once the Jockey Club's charity arm approves HKFA's business proposal - Brian Leung Hung-tak, New president of HK Football Association. The government has agreed to underwrite millions of dollars in operating costs for the next 10 years so work can start on the long-overdue soccer centre at Tseung Kwan O. With construction costs soaring from an estimated HK$600 million to HK$750 million, up from HK$103 million when the academy was first mooted 10 years ago, the financially strapped Hong Kong Football Association is now waiting for the Hong Kong Jockey Club's Charities Trustee to give the final go-ahead. The Jockey Club, which has in principle agreed to foot the construction bill, will meet next week to discuss the latest proposal, which has been approved by the government and its Football Task Force. Eight standard-sized pitches are planned to be built on the landfill site at Tseung Kwan O with other support facilities for use for 25 years. If the green light is given, the academy could open in 2016 at the earliest. Hong Kong Football Association chairman Brian Leung Hung-tak said they had proposed the projected construction costs to the Jockey Club but no details could be given because discussions were continuing. "We understand there will be some more questions back and forth between the two bodies but we believe a resolution is very close now," said a source close to the project. "If the project can start in September, we will expect the centre to be open after 30 months, which means it can be ready for the 2016 season. "The cost we proposed is an indicative figure because we don't have the final design yet, but it is based on the estimates done by the previous feasibility study commissioned by the Jockey Club in 2010 and has taken inflation into consideration. "Once the Jockey Club has agreed to the proposal, we would expect a 12-month lead-in period for planning, consultation, getting funding approved and going out to tender for the contractors. Then there will come another 18 months for construction before the facility is ready." One of the areas the Jockey Club would look into seriously before approving the proposal is the facility's business plan submitted by the association. "The construction cost is quite straightforward, it depends on whether the Jockey Club wants to adopt an upscale design or just a low-cost basic model, but what the club really wants to know before they inject the money is whether the facility can survive after they hand it to the association, whether the income projection suggested by the association is feasible. The recent issues of the BMX Park in Gin Drinkers' Bay are something they don't want to see," said a Jockey Club source. The park, which was built by the club for the 2009 East Asian Games before it was handed to the Hong Kong Cycling Association for daily operation, suffered losses of HK$6 million over the past three years and was once closed because of financial difficulties. It has since re-opened on a revised schedule. But the Tseung Kwan O training centre is unlikely to face similar issues because the government will make up for any deficit. It is estimated the centre will incur a deficit of HK$5 million to HK$7 million annually in its first five years of operation. Government funding will be required for at least 10 years, according to the business plan, and the amount will heavily depend on how many business ventures the centre can generate, particularly through overseas clients using it as a training camp.

‘Tatlerisation’ of Hong Kong’s art scene as Kate Moss and co party (By Vivienne Chow VIPs take advantage of Art Basel's glamorous after parties - The debut of Art Basel Hong Kong debut not only brings upon an art overdose but also a party overdose which has seen too many events and parties clashing with each other over the past week. Nevertheless, the fatigue did not stop the city’s most glammed up faces flocking to what could be the biggest art parties in the region. Insiders said they have observed a “Tatlerisation” going on in Hong Kong’s art scene. With less gala dinners and charity balls held today compared to the colonial times, there has been a lack of platforms for the high society to socialise. “I have been to five art exhibitions before Art Basel opens and I’m already exhausted,” said one Hong Kong art collector who does not want to be named. The collector said he has received more than 10 invitations to gallery dinners, which are overlapping with each other. He said he will skip most of them. “They are irrelevant to seeing art,” the collector said. But like it or not, it has been a great week for parties. On Wednesday after the VIPs have done their shopping quietly in the afternoon at the fair, the Convention and Exhibition Centre opened to the vernissage where party goers in five inch killer heels (who might also like art) arrived to mingle, and the real VIPs were off for private gallery dinners. One of them was said to be David Tang’s private dinner for super model Kate Moss. I have been to five art exhibitions before Art Basel opens and I’m already exhausted. The crowd switched to the post-vernissage party thrown by K11’s Adrian Cheng and Modern Media’s Thomas Shao. The party at the Grand Hyatt had to move indoors from the Plateau to Tiffin due to the black rainstorm on Wednesday morning. Nearly a thousand movers and shakers lined up to enter – even Canto-pop singer Gigi Leung Wing-kei had to find a way to jump the queue with her Spaniard husband. Some VIPs such as Swiss collector Uli Sigg turned up late after dinner time. Luxury watch brand Audemars Piguet also threw a party at exactly the same time at the latest “it” place Duddell’s, a private club bringing fine art and fine dining together opened by Alan Lo, Paulo Pong and Yenn Wong. Actor Louis Ku Tin-lok and actress Sandra Ng Kwan-yu attended the watch party after posing in front of paintings at the art fair. But the party week peaked on Thursdau night with the return of Bazaar Art Night. Jointly presented by Bazaar Art China magazine and the Royal Academy of Arts, the gala took place at the Four Seasons Hotel. The event was perceived as THE party of the Art Basel period as top artists, dealers and celebrities from local and abroad were brought together to dine at the long tables beneath the massive light sculpture installation Golden Connection by Peruvian artist Grimanesa Amoros. Many tried to score an invitation frantically to the event weeks before it took place. It was understandable why it was the most sought after party. Some of the art world’s biggest names - German photographer Andreas Gursky, American dealer Larry Gagosian, and curator and writer Hans Ulrich Obrist - were honoured at an award presentation ceremony hosted by Chinese top TV show host Chen Luyu. Some of the most famous Chinese artists – Zeng Fangzhi and Zhang Huan – were spotted mingling at the gala. Representing Hong Kong were celebrities including actress Carina Lau Ka-ling, Gigi Leung Wing-kei and fellow Canto-pop singer Kenny Bee. Socialites Fanny Sit and Yvette Yuen were among the guests. Pansy Ho Chiu-king, managing director of Shun Tak Holdings and an avid collector, was seen socializing in an eye-catching sequined dress. Pictures of Moss and British fashion designer Stella McCartney posing at the hotel have been circulated online. Funnily enough, only a handful from the Hong Kong art scene were present at such an “art dinner” taking place in Hong Kong. Following the dinner, the crowd – having each been given a suitcase of Bazaar Art magazines as a party gift – dragged their suitcases to Fly for the after party thrown by international collector Richard Chang and Hong Kong fashion royalty Dee Poon. The Ice House Street club was so crowded that many had trouble getting in, even one of the hosts. On Monday there were at least five gallery receptions, the preview of Est-Ouest Spring Auctions, and the Asia Society Hong Kong host an inaugural art gala dinner honouring Asian contemporary artists including Lee Ufan from South Korea, Nyoman Masriadi and Zeng Fanzhi from mainland. Tuesday was crowded with nearly 10 cultural events. Japanese artist Takashi Murakami opened the solo exhibition of his new works at Galerie Perrotin in Central. In the same building, White Cube had the opening of the Jake and Dinos Chapman’s epic yet grotesque installation The Sum of all Evil. A number of gallery openings also took place at Pedder Building in Central on that night. The private sector is seizing the chance but the public sector is also joining the game. Embark! Beyond the Horizon, the inaugural exhibition of government contemporary art site Oi! in Oil Street, North Point opened on Thursday. The Hong Kong Arts Centre unveiled its collectors exhibition on the same day and West Kowloon’s M+ also held a VIP tour for its current exhibition Mobile M+: Inflation! Four satellite fairs are held in addition to Art Basel Hong Kong. “There are so many more events compared to the last year. I guess it’s because Art Basel is a big international name,” said arts and culture spokesman Heiman Ng.

 China*:  May 26 2013

China, US to try new tone in desert outing (By Agence France-Presse in Washington) China and the United States are hoping for a new chance to set the course for smoother relations through a secluded desert summit as the Asian power’s leader Xi Jinping projects a more confident style. Xi and Barack Obama will meet June 7-8 at the tony Sunnylands resort in Rancho Mirage, California, their first encounter since the Chinese president took power and three months ahead of their first scheduled run-in at the Group of 20 summit in Russia. The talks come amid rows between the world’s two largest economies over issues that include China’s alleged cyber-hacking, but the two sides expect the encounter to be less about specifics and more about setting a tone. “It may not have a long list of what we call deliverables, but it will enable our cooperation to deliver much more in the future,” said Cui Tiankai, China’s ambassador to Washington. White House national security spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said the casual setting will give Obama and Xi space to discuss “the full diversity of issues” and set “a positive and forward-looking agenda” for Obama’s second term. For the United States, the experience has echoes of four years ago, when Obama entered the White House with hopes of forging a broader partnership with China. But Obama grew frustrated at what US officials saw as the stilted manner of then president Hu Jintao, who rarely deviated from standard talking points. Christopher Johnson, a former CIA analyst on China, said that Xi – thanks in part to his elite background – consolidated power more quickly than many US policymakers had anticipated. “Xi Jinping is much more relaxed and cosmopolitan and more likely to go off the talking points. Hu Jintao was very robotic and oftentimes seemed to be talking more to the Chinese in the room than to his counterpart,” said Johnson, now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The Obama administration has already invested time in cultivating a relationship with Xi, and Vice President Joe Biden spent an unusually long five days in China in 2011 to mingle with him. On a return visit last year, Xi saw old friends in Iowa and took in a Los Angeles Lakers game – gestures more in line with China’s seminal reformist Deng Xiaoping, who famously visited a Texas rodeo in 1979, than the stiff Hu. Beyond the atmospherics, Xi and Obama will have a full plate of issues to discuss ranging from China’s tense relationship with Japan and other US-backed neighbours to the diplomatic stalemate on Syria’s civil war. The United States has stepped up charges that China has fueled cyberattacks against US companies and the government. A report by former US officials on Wednesday even suggested allowing the United States to hit back at hackers. The two governments, particularly in China, likely feel that “if we don’t start putting some strategic legs on this relationship, these irritants could really get out of control, poisoning the relationship in a way that’s hard to undo,” Johnson said. Despite areas of tension, the United States has been pleasantly surprised by China’s steps to rein in North Korea during a recent crisis. Beijing’s support for the isolated state has long been a sore point for the United States. While US policymakers mostly see him as supportive of warm relations with Washington, Xi has spoken of “a new great-power relationship.” According to many forecasts, China will overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy during Xi’s expected 10 years in power. Xi has already traveled to Russia and Africa since taking office in March and will visit Mexico, Costa Rica and Trinidad and Tobago on his way to California. Nina Hachigian, a China expert at the Center for American Progress, said that the California meeting could provide clues on the trajectory of the two nations’ relationship under Xi. She said that the meeting would force both countries to work hard to ensure a smooth meeting. Obama’s national security adviser, Tom Donilon, is heading to Beijing next week to prepare the meeting. “Especially in the US-China relationship, which is fraught with mistrust, having leaders develop a degree of chemistry, understanding and respect is worthwhile. But they also need to make progress on the many serious issues,” Hachigian said.

Shanghai Disney Resort to open at end of 2015 - Covering an area of 1.16 square km, the theme park will be world's sixth Disney amusement park and first on Chinese mainland.

China’s Li starts Swiss visit as free trade deal looms (By Agence France-Presse in Zurich) Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (L, front) is welcomed by Swiss Vice President and Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter, upon his arrival in Zurich, Switzerland. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrived in Switzerland on Thursday for talks set to focus on a landmark free trade deal with the Alpine country, which he has dubbed a touchstone for Beijing’s growing ties with foreign nations. Li, who is on the first stop of his debut visit to Europe since taking over in a once-in-a-decade power transfer in Beijing, flew in to Zurich late on Thursday. He was to give a speech in Zurich on Friday to an invited audience from Switzerland’s financial sector, with which he has said he wants to boost links, amid growing speculation that China could let its currency be traded in selected offshore centres. Li was to head to the Swiss capital Bern for talks later Friday with Swiss leaders including President Ueli Maurer and the foreign and economy ministers. In an opinion piece published on Thursday in the Zurich daily Neue Zuercher Zeitung, Li called his trip “symbolic of China’s openness to the outside world”. Li, who took charge as premier in March, is on his maiden foreign tour and arrived in Switzerland fresh from talks with neighbours India and Pakistan, before visiting top European trade partner Germany at the weekend. Economic issues are set to be high on the agenda in his meeting with the Swiss -- who are not members of the European Union – as the two countries move to sign a free trade accord that has been under negotiation since 2011. “Switzerland will be the first continental European country, as well as the first in a list of the 20 largest global economies, to have concluded a key free trade deal with China,” Li wrote. “This will not only enhance our economic and trade cooperation, but also send the world a strong signal about the fight against trade and investment protectionism, as well as the liberalisation and facilitation of trade,” he underlined. In its first such accord with a European country, China last month inked a deal with Iceland, which like Switzerland is not an EU member. Efforts to strike one with EU countries would be more complicated, however, because Beijing would need to negotiate with the entire 27-nation bloc, not just individual member states. Li said the Swiss deal would have wide implications. “It will give a new impulse to the deepening of relations and trade ties between Europe and China, bring tangible benefits for consumers and business in both countries, and contribute to the growth of world trade and the economic recovery,” he explained. After wrangling notably over Chinese taxes on imported Swiss industrial goods and Switzerland’s rules on China’s agricultural exports, the two countries wrapped up their technical talks earlier this month. That opened the way for a signature, although the deal itself is not set to be inked during Li’s visit, as the two sides’ legal teams are still analysing it. It will also need to get a green light from the Swiss parliament. China is Switzerland’s third major trading partner, after the European Union and the United States. Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter met Li and his delegation on their arrival. “This visit will help boost ties between the two countries,” the foreign minister said shortly afterwards. The Swiss foreign ministry said that, besides economic issues, the talks with the Chinese would cover the areas of “finance, the environment, human rights and international security”. The situation in the Middle East will also be on the agenda. Bilateral trade between Switzerland and China was worth US$26.3 billion last year, with a full US$22.8 billion of that figure represented by Swiss exports to China. That made it one of the rare Western countries to have a positive trade balance with the Asian giant. In contrast, German exports to China last year were worth the equivaliant of $86 billion, and imports from China, US$99.8 billion. Switzerland’s top exports to China are watches, pharmaceuticals and chemicals, and machinery, while textiles and machinery head the list of imported Chinese goods. Chinese premier arrives in Switzerland for first trip to Europe - Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrived Thursday evening for an official visit to Switzerland, his first trip to Europe since he took office in March. 

US schools vie for partners in China (By Chen Jia in San Francisco) US universities are seeking out partnerships in China, hoping to broaden their international reach and provide academic and research opportunities for students and faculty, as two campus presidents' trips to China show. The University of Pennsylvania "is deeply committed to its engagement in China", said Amy Gutmann, president of the Ivy League school in Philadelphia, who hosted a Penn alumni event in Hong Kong on Tuesday. Her visit also is intended to promote the planned Penn-Wharton China Center in Beijing, involving the university's prestigious business school. The center, Gutmann said, "will help build relationships with the local entrepreneurial community in China, bringing together prospective students, alumni and business leaders through various partnerships and programs". Michael McRobbie, president of Indiana University, is on his third trip to China since 2007. He said he would renew partnership agreements with Peking University and return with several new ones involving other Chinese higher-education institutions. "We have seen significant growth in students from China in recent years, and they have added a great deal to our campus and to the Bloomington community by bringing unique experiences and perspectives that they share with others," said Mark Land, an Indiana associate vice-resident. More than 4,700 students from East Asia are enrolled at Indiana, including about 3,250 from the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong. More than 100 students from the university's main campus in Bloomington, Indiana, studied in China last year. The university works hard to ensure that students from China have the appropriate academic credentials, such as high grades from good high schools, test scores indicating strong chances for academic success in the US, and Englishlanguage proficiency, he said. On thursday, McRobbie was to travel from Beijing to Guangzhou for meetings on partnership expansion and the opening of a philanthropy center at Sun Yat-sen University. The center is modeled on and jointly developed with Indiana's Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, the world's first educational institution dedicated to the study and teaching of philanthropy. During another stop, McRobbie will sign an agreement with the University of Hong Kong to establish a dualdegree master's program in public administration between Indiana's esteemed School of Public and Environmental Affairs and HKU's master's program in nonprofit-organization management. The Indiana University president also will sign an agreement with National Taiwan University to generate collaboration between the two campuses' law schools. On May 30, McRobbie is to travel to Shanghai, where he will meet with higher-education leaders and host a reception for Indiana alumni. At a reception, he'll bestow one of the school's highest honors to Tongkui Ju, a distinguished jurist in China and a 1949 graduate of Maurer School of Law at Indiana. Ju will receive the Thomas Hart Benton Medal, given to people who have achieved a level of distinction in public office or service and exempli-fired the values of Indiana University.


China demand for coal stokes world market (By By Du Juan A coal factory in Anhui province. The United States will pursue opportunities to increase coal exports to China, says Platts' Coal Trader International. US expected to increase exports to China and Europe as power plants close - China's coal imports will continue from a more diversified number of sources over the long term, exerting a major influence on international coal prices, according to Platts, a leading source of benchmark price assessments in the energy, petrochemicals and metals sectors. James O'Connell, the editor-in-chief of Platts' Coal Trader International, which delivers price assessments for coal trading in the Atlantic and Pacific markets, says that the US in particular will pursue the opportunity to increase coal exports to the country. He adds that other countries are also expected to export more coal to China, including Indonesia, Australia and Russia. According to data from Platts, US coal exports will increase from 50 million metric tons in 2012 to 270 million tons by 2016, as the country sees a rapid development of its shale gas resources, with more bound for China and India especially. O'Connell says: "In the next 10 years, India will become China's biggest competitor in coal imports from Indonesia, which provides thermal coal at the best prices." The US imported about 40 million tons of coal mainly from Colombia in 2008, but it is now shutting down its coal-fired power plants, and has quickly become a major coal exporter to Europe and China, he adds. The US energy shift is similar to that in other coal-producing countries such as South Africa, which now exports about 62 million tons to Europe, India, Japan, South Korea and China. O'Connell says the real positive for China is that as nations shift their emphasis away from coal-powered generation, supply choices open up for China, reducing coal import prices. In the past year, 38 percent of China's coal imports were from Australia and 34 percent were from Indonesia. It also imported from South Africa, Russia, Colombia, Canada and the US, meaning it has become the center of global coal demand, O'Connell says. Europe is also expected to see a huge reduction in the installed generation capacity of coal-fired power plants by 2020, as it increases its solar power and wind power consumption, again beneficial for Chinese coal-fired power generation companies, price-wise. China imported 290 million tons of coal in 2012, a 59 percent rise year-on-year, ranking it as the world's biggest coal importer, according to the General Administration of Customs. Its average imported coal price dropped 7.4 percent to $99.5 a ton in the past year. Meanwhile, it exported 9.28 million tons of coal in 2012, a record low since 1986. "China has become an important buyer in the international coal market over the past four to five years," O'Connell says. "Its seaborne coal demand accounted for 20 percent of global seaborne coal trading, which was about 1 billion tons in the last year. China usually purchases its coal when prices are low, but its large purchases, caused by its demand, will continue to push prices higher," he says. "Thus, we can clearly see a regulated fluctuation of international coal prices in past years." With China's coal demand from its power generation companies expected to continue until 2020, the country's coal-buying business with other markets such as Australia and Indonesia is expected to rise too. A decade ago, China produced about 1.4 billion tons of coal annually at an average cost of $11 a ton. Last year, its annual output reached 3.7 billion tons, but the cost for each ton of coal rose to $37. The unit cost for Indonesian coal production is currently about $30, according to Platts. As Chinese coal-fired power generation companies benefit from increasing amounts of cheaper imported coal, the domestic coal industry is suffering serious overcapacity, weak demand and a huge decline in profits. In the first four months of 2013, China imported 110 million tons of coal, a 25.6 percent rise year-on-year, at an average price of $91.6 a ton, down 17.8 percent year-on-year. "Coal imports will continue to increase this year, and demand for imported coal will remain higher than for domestic coal," says Dai Bing, director of the coal industry information department at JYD Online Corp, a Beijing-based bulk commodity consultancy. "Imported coal prices are a lot more appealing than domestic ones. In the second half of the year, domestic overcapacity will become even more serious, and a destocking process may lead to another round of coal price cuts." The National Energy Administration is reported to be working on the drafting of new policies on the import of thermal coal as a way of helping domestic coal producers. However, analysts suggest the policies would do little to aid the struggling coal production industry. "The overcapacity in the domestic market cannot be eased by limiting these imports because the new rules will stop the import of inferior coal, not that of good-quality coal at better prices," says Liu Dongna, an analyst at Sublime China Information Co Ltd, a commodities consultancy in Shandong province.

Hong Kong*:  May 25 2013

Langham Hospitality raises US$550m in Hong Kong IPO (By Reuters in Hong Kong) Langham Hospitality Investments, an investment trust controlled by property developer Great Eagle Holdings Ltd, raised about US$550 million in an IPO on Thursday, the first of several issuers looking to benefit from a surge in investors’ demand for commercial property and high-yield securities in Hong Kong. The investment trust offered 852.2 million share stapled units at HK$5 each, putting the total deal at HK$4.26 billion ($549 million), said sources with direct knowledge of the deal, who were not authorised to speak publicly on the matter. The offering was marketed at a range of HK$4.65-5.36 per unit. The trust will debut on the Hong Kong stock exchange on May 30. The IPO was priced to yield 6 per cent a year. The returns compare with an average of 5.1 per cent for specialised REITs in Hong Kong that also bundle hotel properties, according to Asia Pacific Real Estate Association (APREA) data. The investment trust will own the Langham, Langham Place Hotel and Eaton hotels in Hong Kong through a similarly named company called Langham Hospitality Investments Ltd. The share stapled units are made up of a unit in Langham Hospitality Investments, a preference share of Langham Hospitality Investments Ltd and a beneficial interest in a common share of Langham Hospitality Investments Ltd. The listing of Langham Hospitality comes ahead of $2.1 billion worth of deals from real estate investment trusts (REITs) and investment trusts in the city in coming weeks, including an up to $1 billion offering by NW Hotel Investments, which is part of New World Development. Langham Hospitality plans to use 88 per cent of the IPO proceeds to pay part of a loan used to buy the three hotels from Great Eagle, with the remainder of the funds set aside for improvements at the hotels over the next five years and for working capital. Deutsche Bank AG and HSBC Plc were hired as sponsors and joint global coordinators of the IPO, with Citigroup also acting as a joint bookrunner. The banks stand to earn as much as $16.5 million in fees for managing the IPO, equivalent to a 2.5 per cent underwriting commission and an up to 0.5 per cent incentive fee for Deutsche and HSBC, according to the IPO prospectus.

Former Wan Chai police chief convicted of taking bribes from restaurant (By Simpson Cheung Titus Wong Koon-ho in 2012. A former Wan Chai divisional commander was convicted on one count of misconduct in public office on Thursday for taking discounts from a restaurant. Titus Wong Koon-ho, 51, was found guilty of receiving gifts and discounts worth HK$5,500 from Chan Teen Bistro in exchange for turning a blind eye to liquor licence violations in 2011. Wong later approved its licence application, despite knowing that the Causeway Bay restaurant had illegally served alcohol, the Eastern Court heard. Magistrate Adriana Tse called Wong and other defence witnesses dishonest after they gave contradictory evidence. “I considered them as very dishonest and not trustworthy witnesses. So I would not accept their evidence,” she said. She listed 39 points that she considered contradictory and “ridiculous”. During one of the dinners Wong had in the restaurant, he paid only HK$379 for food that was worth US$2,268, but Wong insisted it was reasonable. Wong’s barrister Albert Luk Wai-hung said Wong needed time to look for more mitigation letters. Tse adjourned the case until June 6 for mitigation. Wong was granted bail.

Tokyo plunges more than 7pc as Asian markets fall (By Agence France-Presse in Hong Kong) Japanese stocks plummeted after a spike in government bond yields and unexpectedly weak Chinese manufacturing spooked investors. Asian markets fell on Thursday with Tokyo plunging more than seven per cent as investors took profits after weak Chinese data and signs the US Federal Reserve could start tapering off its massive stimulus measures. Tokyo dropped on record volumes in the afternoon as investors panicked in the rush to take profit, with the index suffering its biggest daily fall since the March 2011 earthquake-tsunami and the ensuing nuclear crisis. Markets also took their lead from Wall Street, where stocks fell after Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke told Congress the Fed could scale back stimulus measures soon if economic conditions improved. Tokyo closed down 7.32 per cent, or 1,143.28 points, at 14,483.98. Sydney slumped 1.99 per cent, or 106.9 points, to close at 5,062.40. South Korean shares slid 1.24 per cent, or 24.64 points, to finish at 1,969.19. Shanghai ended down 1.16 per cent, or 26.73 points, at 2,275.67, and Hong Kong dropped 2.54 per cent, or 591.4 points to finish at 22,669.68. Tokyo plummeted after HSBC said manufacturing activity in China contracted in May for the first time in seven months, in another sign of the weakness of recovery in the world’s second-largest economy. The British banking giant’s preliminary purchasing managers’ index (PMI) fell to 49.6 from a final 50.4 in April, putting it below the 50 mark that indicates contraction. “The negative Chinese indicator triggered today’s selling,” said Hirokazu Fujikiki, strategist with Okasan Securities in Japan. “It was no wonder sizable selling could emerge as Japanese shares rose quite fast recently.” The negative Chinese indicator [PMI] triggered today’s selling. It was no wonder sizable selling could emerge as Japanese shares rose quite fast recently. Earlier in the day, the Nikkei 225 index at the Tokyo Stock Exchange, which closed at its best level in more than five years on Wednesday, had risen 0.23 per cent. Other markets had opened down, taking their lead from Wall Street where the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.52 per cent to 15,307.17 after Bernanke’s comments. He stressed that current economic conditions did not warrant an end to the Fed’s aggressive stimulus measures, and US stocks had rallied during the early part of his highly anticipated testimony. But Bernanke told lawmakers the Fed could start reducing its US$85 billion-a-month bond-buying programme at one of the next few meetings. And stocks took a decisive lurch with the release of Federal Reserve meeting minutes that showed some officials had discussed curtailing bond purchases as soon as June. Bernanke’s remarks caused jitters among global investors - “Fed Chairman Bernanke’s remarks caused jitters among global investors,” said Peng Yunliang at Shanghai Securities. Europe’s main stock markets also slumped at the start of trading, with Frankfurt and Paris down more than 2.0 percent and London slumping 1.42 percent. Selling in Japan picked up pace when the yen jumped against the dollar in Asia afternoon trade, as investors adjusted positions after the recent sharp decline in the value of the Japanese currency. The dollar plunged to 101.63 yen in Tokyo afternoon trade from 103.31 yen in New York late Wednesday. “The market may be entering an adjustment period after a sharp decline in the yen and a surge in Japanese stocks,” said Daisuke Karakama, a market economist at the forex division of Mizuho Corporate Bank. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s pro-spending, pro-growth policies have weakened the yen more than 20 percent against the dollar over the past six months and boosted share prices to their highest level in more than five years. The euro was at 130.62 yen from 132.58 yen and US$1.2875 from US$1.2855. Oil extended losses in Asian trade, with New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in July, dropping 63 cents to $93.65 a barrel in the afternoon. Brent North Sea crude for July delivery shed 60 US cents to US$102.00.

Hong Kong hails the return of the duck (China Daily) The 16.5-metre-tall inflatable rubber duck is seen at Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour on May 2, 2013. Hong Kong has joyfully welcomed the return of a giant inflatable rubber duck, which drew tens of thousands of visitors before it was abruptly deflated for maintenance for almost a week.

Hong Kong's education achievements threatened by rising youth poverty (By Louisa Mitchell) Louisa Mitchell says our great social achievement of educating more girls is being threatened, along with their bright future, by rising youth poverty - University students have just about finished their exams. Those few weeks of sleepless nights, caffeine overdoses, fast food and unwashed clothes worn again are over and the long wait for the results is beginning. Roughly the same proportion of young women as men will have gone through the agonising past few weeks. Women constitute just over half of all students in Hong Kong's public universities today. One of Hong Kong's greatest social achievements of the past few decades has been the turnaround in girls' education. A recent study for Civic Exchange and The Women's Foundation, titled "The Changing Faces of Hong Kong", shows that 70 per cent of women aged 60 or over in 2011 had either no education or had only been to primary school, whereas only two per cent of women in their 20s were in that position (That's still two per cent too many, however). The study also shows that 53 per cent of women in their 20s in 2011 achieved a post-secondary education (degree or non-degree). In 1991, that figure was 18 per cent. Improved levels of educational attainment are a critical factor in improving women's and girls' lives. The recent study also shows that women in their 20s have achieved equality of earnings with men, before marriage, family responsibilities and other limitations when they reach their 30s start to create a gap. The median monthly employment earnings for women and men in their 20s in 2011 was HK$10,000 when foreign domestic helpers are excluded. (The previous column in this series discussed the uncomfortable fact that earnings equality has been achieved at the expense of domestic helpers.) However, inflation-adjusted earnings analysis shows that real earnings for men and women in their 20s have actually declined over the past decade from just over HK$11,000 in 2001 to HK$10,000 in 2011. They are worse off today than in 2001. And they are only marginally better off than 20 years ago, with real earnings at just over HK$9,000 in 1991. So we have a situation where women's educational attainment levels have improved dramatically, but young people's real earnings have stagnated. In addition, the proportion of young men and women aged 25-34 who are living with their parents has increased as they marry later and property prices escalate. Parents work hard to put their children through university, in the hope that they will have a bright future, but youth poverty is increasing. Career prospects are narrow in a society with little job diversity and there are limited options to share in the proceeds of economic growth. If this continues, those few weeks of revision, instant noodles and dirty clothes will not seem like a hardship compared to the disappointment of real life. It is a tremendous step forward for Hong Kong's women that the education gap and the earnings gap for young people starting out in their 20s has closed, but it will be wasted if we allow our young people to suffer the consequences of growing youth poverty. Louisa Mitchell is an independent social policy researcher. This article is part of a series on women and gender issues, developed in collaboration with The Women's Foundation

 China*:  May 25 2013

Hershey center is a sweet deal (By Chen Qide in Shanghai) Hershey, a global leader in chocolate and sugar confectionery, opened its Asia Innovation Center in Shanghai on Thursday. The R&D hub, located in Pudong, will enable Hershey to develop, test and launch new products customized to the tastes of consumers in China and across Asia, said Will Papa, vice-president of Hershey Global Research and Development. "It is our fundamental step toward the company's global target of raising net sales from last year's $6.6 billion to $10 billion by 2017," said Papa. The two-floor 22,000-square-foot R&D facility houses R&D laboratories, a pilot plant for chocolate and sweets and a development center for emerging product offerings.

China, Pakistan to bolster ties (By By DING QINGFEN in Islamabad and LI XIAOKUN in Beijing) China and Pakistan said on Wednesday they will set up an economic corridor to further connect their two economies. The announcement came as Premier Li Keqiang arrived in Islamabad less than two weeks after the Pakistani general election. Premier Li Keqiang is congratulated by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari after being conferred the Nishan-e-Pakistan honor, for the highest degree of service to Pakistan, in Islamabad on Wednesday. Officials and experts said the huge plan will greatly support Pakistan's efforts to revive its economy, while the timing of the visit reflects the deep mutual trust between the two nations. Li met with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and with interim prime minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso on Wednesday afternoon. Later, he and Zardari officiated at the signing ceremony of 11 cooperation documents covering areas including trade, technology and culture. Li said at a joint press conference with Zardari that China and Pakistan have agreed on a long-term plan for an economic corridor to further connect central and western parts of China with Pakistan. "China and Pakistan would like to closely link China's (plans) for expanding domestic demand and developing the western regions with Pakistan's plan for developing its domestic economy," Li said. The plan carries "great strategic significance in maintaining peace and improving livelihoods in China, Pakistan, South Asia and even the whole of Asia", the premier said. Li is the first world leader to visit the country after Pakistani Prime Minister-elect Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (N) party swept to victory in the May 11 general election on a promise to revitalize the struggling economy. The party's election manifesto put the emphasis on large infrastructure projects, while outlining the involvement of the private sector in infrastructure development — widely seen as an opportunity for China. China is Pakistan's second- largest trading partner. Bilateral trade reached $12 billion annually for the first time last year, according to Pakistan's Foreign Ministry, and the two countries plan to raise this to $15 billion in the next two to three years. Tariq Fatemi, former Pakistani ambassador to the United States, said the visit is crucial in drawing up an economic roadmap for the incoming government. "Normally, foreign visitors don't go to countries during the interim setups, but China has recognized that the visit to Pakistan is necessary even at this stage, and that is why they have organized a separate one-on-one meeting with Nawaz Sharif," Fatemi told AFP. Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Song Tao told reporters ahead of the visit that the timing "fully reflects the deep mutual trust and special friendship" between the two neighbors. Pakistan's Foreign Ministry said on the eve of the visit that friendly ties with China are the cornerstone of Pakistan's foreign policy. Former Chinese ambassador to Pakistan Zhou Gang said Pakistan, which shares a 600-km border with China, has an important role in helping to keep stability in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region and implementing China's strategy of developing the western region. Wang Xu, a researcher in South Asian studies at Peking University, said the Pakistani manufacturing sector will be greatly boosted and updated if China can transfer some of its factories to its neighbor. Wang said he believed changes in Pakistani politics will not affect relations, as "major Pakistani political parties all cherish the country's ties with China". Pakistan is the second leg of Li's first overseas trip since he became premier in March. He left Mumbai earlier on Wednesday after a visit to India. After entering Pakistani airspace, Li's plane was escorted by six JF-17 fighter jets from the country's air force. The JF-17 was jointly designed by the two nations. When Li stepped from his plane, the JF-17s flew past the airbase, while a 21-gun salute heralded his arrival. Zardari and Khoso greeted Li on the tarmac at Nur Khan air base and held a welcoming ceremony for him. "The purpose of the visit is to devise a strategy to bolster future cooperation and friendship," Li said in an arrival statement. He hailed Islamabad's "important contribution" in maintaining peace and stability and promoting development in the region and for the world. China will "as always firmly support Pakistan's efforts to uphold independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity and achieve national stability and development," he said. Li on Wednesday also met leaders of Pakistan's political parties, and was conferred the Nishan-e-Pakistan honor, for the highest degree of service to the country, by Zardari and Khoso. Zardari hosted a luncheon in Li's honor, while Khoso hosted a banquet for Li in the evening. On Thursday, Li is scheduled to meet leaders of Pakistan's military, and address a special session of the country's senate.

Capital offers electric cars (By JIN HAIXING and ZHENG XIN) All vehicles booked out three days after launch of rental project - All 15 electric cars in a pioneering rental project have been booked within three days of its Beijing launch, organizers said. High-speed trains represent one of China's achievements in climbing the global tech ladder in recent years. The project, the first of its kind in the capital, is aimed at promoting the private use of e-vehicles. Based at Tsinghua University Science Park in Haidian district, it was initiated by the Beijing Municipal Commission of Science and Technology and launched on Monday. The E150EV electric cars, produced by the Beijing Automotive Group, have all been booked, He Xiaohui, a spokesman for the park, said on Wednesday. He said most customers were people working in the park, where lots of high-tech enterprises are based. Customers can rent the electric cars by the hour, day or month, said Zhan Jingjing, an employee of the project. The cars cost 49 yuan ($8) for two hours, 99 yuan per day and 1,999 yuan a month, which she said is very favorable compared with the cost of renting a normal car. The park has also provided a power charging station that can accommodate 11 vehicles at a time, with 10 slow chargers and one fast one. Three more such stations will be built in the park over the next three months. It costs less than 19 yuan to fully charge a car, which will then run for 120 kilometers. In traffic, the vehicle can last for as many as 160 km as the slow speeds save energy. According to the city's science and technology commission, 750 electric taxis are available in the suburbs, and 2,000 more will come into service this year. The authority said it is also stepping up the construction of fast-charging stations. At Tsinghua University Science Park, e-car users can park in the battery charging station area, and three workers are stationed in the park for any maintenance and repair problems, said Chu Jing, the leader of the project's tech-support team. However, clients are still concerned about safety and repair issues, and called for more support policies. Project customer Chen Haiying, the founder of high-tech Vigend Co, said he hoped emergency recovery services and more car insurance services will be provided. "I will only use the car as an alternative for commuting from home to work," said Chen, who has rented an electric car for three months. Although he would not consider buying an electric car as he already had a fuel car, Chen said he believes e-cars could become a driving force of change in the auto industry. "Just as the emergence of digital cameras changed the traditional camera industry, e-cars could change the car industry as long as the government tries to overcome the disadvantages," Chen said. In European countries such as Finland and Germany there are similar projects to encourage people to rent e-cars, said Kimmo Rauma, chief technology officer at Visedo Co, a manufacturer of heavy duty e-vehicles. The cheaper rental prices could attract more customers, but in the long run, the government should launch tax-deduction policies for electric car manufactures and provide more subsidies to consumers to develop the industry, he said at a forum at the 16th China Beijing International High-Tech Expo, which opened on Wednesday. According to a report by Minister of Science and Technology Wan Gang on Tuesday, as of 2012 China had nearly 40,000 new-energy vehicles, including electric cars, and about 80 percent of them were buses. The country will still focus on the promotion of new-energy buses, but private cars using new energy will also be considered, he said.

Xi-Obama meet a 'first step' (By Chen Weihua in Washington Cui Tiankai (right), China's ambassador to the United States, answers a reporter's question while Tung Chee Hwa (left), the former Hong Kong chief executive, looks on after a meeting on US-China economic relations held at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on Wednesday. Hong Kong-based China-United States Exchange Foundation and CSIS sponsored the meeting. With anticipation running high for the recently announced meeting between Presidents Xi Jinping and Barack Obama next month in California, China's ambassador in the US said people shouldn't expect immediate, concrete results from the informal summit. The Foreign Ministry announced on Tuesday that Xi will meet Obama on June 7 and 8 at Sunnylands, the former estate of deceased publisher Walter Annenberg and his late wife, Leonore. Xi will stop at the Rancho Mirage, California, compound after state visits to Trinidad and Tobago, Costa Rica and Mexico. On Wednesday, Ambassador Cui Tiankai said the first face-to-face meeting between the leaders since Xi became China's president in March would have "special significance". "It may not have a long list of what we call 'deliverables', but it will enable us and enable our cooperation to deliver more in the future," Cui said in a speech at a seminar in Washington on the future of China-US economic relations. He said the two presidents will have a substantive exchange of views on the strategic aspects of their countries' relationship. "This is certainly different from a normal state visit, because for a state visit, we have to spend so much time and energy on formalities and protocol. But that's not the case for this meeting," said Cui, who had just returned early Wednesday from a preparatory visit to Sunnylands. "It's a beautiful place," he said. Orville Schell, director of the Asia Society's Center on US-China Relations, described the site - sometimes called the "West Coast Camp David" for its past retreats of US and world leaders - as "the perfect place for informal and personal discussions". He said it provides "the best of all possible environments for two leaders to get to know each other without undue formalities". The no-neckties setting is "unprecedented" for a meeting between US and Chinese leaders, Cui said. "We are confident this meeting will be the first step, or the beginning of more meetings like this in the future, between our heads of state and between our two governments," the diplomat said. He said Xi and Obama are determined that China and the US will work together to build a new type of big-power relationship, as the Chinese president has alluded. "This is indeed a new effort by both of our nations to try to open up a new (chapter) in international relations," Cui said. Top officials in each country have talked about avoiding a replay of a historical narrative in which existing and emerging powers inevitably become rivals and go to war. The increasingly interdependent relationship between China and the US is also marked by a lack of trust. Many Chinese believe the US strategic rebalancing, or "pivot", toward Asia is aimed at containing China. The US has accused China of unfair trade practices and the Chinese government of orchestrating cyberattacks against American companies, which Beijing denies. Richard Bush, director of the Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution, wrote on the think tank's website that the purpose of the Xi-Obama meeting isn't to bargain or solve problems, "but to set a tone and create a sense of shared fate" between the two men. This, Bush said, will follow from the leaders establishing a good personal relationship, "a precondition for the successful conduct of their bilateral relations". Although the two met in February 2012 when Xi visited the US as China's vice-president, the two days in Southern California will give them more time and an informal environment in which to discuss their respective domestic challenges, visions for the future, the two countries' international roles and how US-China relations fit with all of those, Bush said. The Brookings scholar believes such an exchange is especially important because each president sits atop a complex, massive bureaucracy that is hard to monitor or control. "This is one of the reasons for recent frictions between the two countries," Bush said, without elaborating. "Their California encounter provides Xi and Obama the opportunity to identify and enlarge the areas of overlap in the interests of their two countries, and then, when they return to their capitals, to set priorities in their systems accordingly. "Having seen the value of creating this opportunity, they should seize it," he said. The Sunnylands summit will come a month before US Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew meet their Chinese counterparts in Washington for the annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue meeting, where a number of bilateral issues are expected to be discussed.

Hong Kong*:  May 24 2013

For the first time, more one-child families in Hong Kong (By Amy Nip They comprise 37.5pc of local households, outpacing those with two children, as proportion of childless couples rises, survey shows - Hong Kong's low birth rate has fallen further in the past five years, with the number of one-child families outpacing two-children households for the first time, a survey shows. Of 1,518 married or cohabitating women aged 15 to 49 surveyed by the Family Planning Association in its latest five-yearly study, 37.5 per cent had one child and 32 per cent had two children. The average number of children per household reached a record low of 1.12 last year, compared with 1.49 in 2007 and 1.6 in 2002. The association interviewed the women and 1,059 of their partners between August and December. "The drop can be attributed to the significant rise in the number of people with no children," said Professor Paul Yip Siu-fai, chairman of the association's research sub-committee. Yip added that the proportion of childless families rose markedly from 16.1 per cent in 2007 to 23.4 per cent last year. But it was wrong to say Hongkongers dislike children, he said. The survey shows that most respondents would like to have two children, but 39 per cent of women ended up having fewer children than they wanted - the biggest gap between actual and desired outcome since 1987. Economic pressures, tough working environments and late marriages were all contributing factors. The economic factor is weighing on parents more heavily than before, with 29.7 per cent of women citing this as a difficulty last year, up from 15.4 per cent five years ago. Dr Susan Fan Yun-sun, the association's executive director, said its concern was reflected in a question that asked respondents what government policies would be effective in encouraging them to have children. "In the previous surveys, no policy we proposed was appealing enough to gain more than half of the respondents' support. They were not willing to have more children no matter what. This time, more than 50 per cent of respondents said subsidies for education, medical services and housing would be effective incentives," she said. Late marriage - the average age of marriage for women is now 28 - also makes it harder for them to have two children before 35, the age at which the pregnancy rate drops significantly. Families should think ahead and adjust their life goals so they would not have any regrets, Fan said. The city's fertility rate - the number of children a woman gives birth to in her life - is now 1.2, the same as Singapore, but lower than Japan's 1.4 and America's two. Taiwan's rate is even lower at just 1.1. Yip said the continuing drop in birth rates could become a problem and should be taken into consideration by the government during policy formulation. "Sixty per cent of support given to the elderly comes from their families. If the elderly have no children, the responsibility of taking care of them will fall on the government," Yip said.

 China*:  May 24 2013

Chinese premier attends medal conferring ceremony in Islamabad - Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari shake hands during a medal conferring ceremony in Islamabad, Pakistan, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrived in Islamabad on Wednesday for an official visit to Pakistan, aiming to strengthen ties between the two neighboring countries.May 22, 2013.  Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrived here Wednesday for an official visit to Pakistan, aiming to deepen traditional friendship between the two neighboring countries. Li's plane was escorted by six Pakistani Air Force fighter jets when it entered the country's airspace. The Chinese premier was warmly welcomed at the airport by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and interim Prime Minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso. Li, accompanied by Pakistan's top leaders, inspected the honor guard while a military band played the national anthems of both countries. In a written statement upon his arrival, Li said that as he began his visit, he brought with him the Chinese people's friendship to the Pakistani people. Pakistan, a key Southern Asian country, has made important contributions to peace, stability and development in the region and around the world, Li said. "China and Pakistan are all-weather strategic partners," he said. Li said that since the establishment of diplomatic relations 62 years ago, China and Pakistan have treated each other with equality and mutual trust in political affairs, enjoyed mutual benefit and all-win results in economic areas, and shown mutual understanding and mutual support on issues concerning their respective core interests. "It is the consistent policy of the Chinese government to develop a friendly relationship with Pakistan. The Chinese side would firmly consolidate and develop China-Pakistan relations no matter how the international and regional situation changes," the premier said. China would as always support Pakistan's efforts to preserve its sovereignty and territorial integrity and materialize stability and development in the country, Li added. Li hoped that, through his visit, the two nations could carry forward their traditional friendship, deepen cooperation and plan for the future. He was expected to exchange views with the Pakistani leaders over bilateral ties and issues of common concern so as to advance China-Pakistan strategic partnership for cooperation. During his visit to the Southern Asian nation, Li would meet with Zardari, Khoso, as well as leaders from other political parties, the parliament and the military. He was also to give a speech in the country's parliament. A number of cooperation agreements would be signed in such areas as trade, infrastructure and education. Pakistan is the second stop on Li's first overseas trip since he assumed the Chinese premiership in March. Li left Mumbai earlier in the day after concluding a visit to India.

Hong Kong*:  May 23 2013

Non-Chinese can succeed in local entertainmemnt industry, says actress (By Chris Lau It's difficult for non-Chinese performers to succeed in the local entertainment scene, but some are achieving success, writes Chris Lau - Actress Corinna Chamberlain. Kevin Thornton, Eric Monson, Michael Lance and Sean Oliver, of Metro Vocal Group. The band sing in Cantonese and Putonghua, but are unable to speak any Chinese. While Hong Kong performers often look West to further their careers, the reverse is rare. But there have recently been a few Western entertainers who have carved out niches in local show business – in Chinese. Corinna Chamberlain is arguably the best known, thanks to a breakout role in Inbound Troubles, a TVB Jade comedy series which screened earlier this year. The show demonstrated her flawless Cantonese diction. Since then, she has become a regular guest on chat shows  and reality programmes, and is now preparing her first album – in Cantonese. Chamberlain says that she has not found being Caucasian a problem in going forward in the Hong Kong entertainment industry. “Whether it’s an advantage or disadvantage depends on how you see it, and how you use it,” Chamberlain says. “It’s like the glass half-full, glass half-empty question.” Chamberlain has deep roots in Hong Kong. Her parents came to the city as missionaries, and she was born here. She’s more comfortable using her Chinese name Ming Yan, by which she is better known to the public. A natural performer, Chamberlain studied musicals at the Academy for Performing Arts, where she was engaged  in more local shows than expatriate productions. She took on variety of gigs after graduating, from bit parts in TVB series to singing backup at pop concerts, and appearing as guest singer for Canto-pop stars such as William So Wing-hong and Jade Kwan Sum-yin. While teaching drama and working as a choreographer, she looked for a chance to break into the local entertainment industry. We’re getting to a level where we actually have to speak [the language], or the audience will get bored with you after a while. It was fellow academy alumnus and television personality Wong Cho-lam who gave her a moment to shine. “[Cho-lam and I] are very close friends,” she says. He was her senior at the academy, but they used to take the same dance class, and they quickly bonded. Since then, the pair have collaborated in a couple of musical productions with Wong as director, and Chamberlain his choreographer. Wong invited Chamberlain to take part in Inbound Troubles, which poked fun at the conflicts between Hongkongers and mainlanders. The backstory centred on up-and-coming singers with diverse, mostly socially unfavourable, backgrounds, pursuing their musical passions. Chamberlain played a Cantonese-speaking gwei mui, and the ratings-grabbing series, which aired in January, shot her to fame. “Looking different certainly helps. People remember who I am, and call  me Chan Ming-yan, as soon as they hear me speak Cantonese,” she says. Hong Kong-based a cappella quartet, Metro Vocal Group, also think that the “white factor” works for them. The quartet is made up of vocal percussionist Michael Lance, and vocalists Sean Oliver, Eric Monson and Kevin Thornton, all from the United States. Despite not being able to speak Putonghua or Cantonese, the group covers versions of popular Canto-pop and  Mando-pop songs. Their music videos achieved a buzz on YouTube, and this later led to real-life popularity for the band in the mainland and Hong Kong. The group released their first Cantonese album, No Borders, last year. “As soon as the first Chinese word comes out, the audience is surprised,” Lance says. “They don’t know what to expect when we come out on stage. It’s a niche. It’s something that we found that’s unique. Not many people can do it.” Sean Oliver, who sings lead in the group, says, “People care about it here, because we’re singing in their language.” But unlike Chamberlain, who speaks fluent Cantonese, Metro members need a translation of the lyrics to learn what they mean. Romanisation helps them pronounce the Chinese words. This method has served them well for the past few years, but the group admits they may face stumbling blocks as the wow factor slowly fades. “Now we’re getting to a level where we actually have to speak [the language]. The audience will get bored with you after a while. That’s just the way it goes. If you cannot make your show better, you fail,” Oliver says. They had been invited to appear on radio and television interviews but none worked out as they couldn’t talk back to the host in either Cantonese or Putonghua. Now three members of the group are taking regular Putonghua classes, while Monson gets help brushing up on his Cantonese from his wife,  a Hongkonger. Chamberlain and Metro  are planning to focus their  career in Asia. “I want to enter China and Taiwan. I want to base in Asia, and bring a different perspective to Hong Kong via my arts,” says Chamberlain, who will be releasing her debut Cantonese album this summer. Metro’s plan is to reach out to fans in other parts of Asia, including Malaysia and Singapore. This May, the group will play two gigs in Taiwan: one in Taipei and the other in Kaohsiung. Metro is hoping to conquer Asia one city at a time, it seems.

Hundreds pack waterfront to cheer Rubber Duck’s return (By Agence France-Presse) Pedestrians walk pass rubber ducks outside Harbour City in Tsim Sha Tsui as rainstorm hits the city on Tuesday. Hong Kong on Tuesday joyfully welcomed the return of a giant inflatable rubber duck, which drew tens of thousands of visitors before it was abruptly deflated for maintenance for almost a week. The city has taken the 16.5-metre-tall yellow inflatable duck, conceived by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, to its heart since it was towed into the harbour on May 2 to cheering crowds. Duck mania has gripped the city ever since, with locals and tourists packing the streets near where it is moored to catch a glimpse of it. Stalls and shops throughout the city sold replicas and restaurants created special duck dishes. So many were disconsolate when the cheerful giant-sized bath toy was transformed into a deflated disc resembling a floating fried egg last Wednesday. “It went for a body check and for maintenance, now all the work is finished and it will see everybody again,” said Andrew Yeung, advertising and promotions manager of shopping mall Harbour City which is organising the exhibit. Hundreds packed the waterfront late on Tuesday and greeted the duck with cheers. “I thought that once it got deflated, it wouldn’t come back again. So now I see that it is back, I am very happy,” said 28 year-old Bonibelle Lee, who was carrying a three-dimensional duck tote bag with matching yellow rain boots. Since 2007 the duck has travelled to 13 different cities in nine countries ranging from Brazil to Australia in its journey around the world. Hofman said he hopes the duck, which is due to stay in Hong Kong until June 9, will act as a “catalyst” to connect people to public art.

Li Ka-shing says firms will be profitable with or without him (By Lai Ying-kit Asia’s richest man Li Ka-shing said on Tuesday that even if he retired now, business at his companies would continue to do well. Li, 84, was speaking at an annual general meeting of his Cheung Kong conglomerate. A Cheung Kong company and another firm that is part of his other conglomerate Hutchison-Whampoa have been dogged with controversy recently. Last week, Cheung Kong cancelled the sales of hotel suites at the Apex Horizon development after the SFC launched an investigation into the transactions over concerns the project might constitute a collective investment, which therefore should have obtained prior approval from the watchdog before proceeding with sales. Business at the Kwai Tsing Container Terminals, managed by a subsidiary of Hutchison Whampoa, dropped about 10 per cent year on year in April as hundreds of dock workers went on strike to press for a pay rise and better working conditions. At the meeting, a shareholder asked about the management philosophy Li used to govern his vast business empire, which includes, in addition to ports and hotels, telecoms, supermarkets and property development. Li told told the shareholder there was no need to worry about his management philosophy, and then assured shareholders that even if he were to retire right now his companies would continue to do well. “Unless there are uncontrollable factors, such as politics and wars … [they] should fare well,” the billionaire said. Li did not hold a press conference after Monday’s general meeting, which he normally does. As well, shareholders said they were not allowed to freely ask questions at Tuesday’s meeting as they had in the past. Shareholder questions to the tycoon had to be submitted in writing and those deemed acceptable by his management team were read aloud by the event’s hosts. A video taken by a shareholder and broadcast on local television showed one participant, who appeared to be an activist, asking if Li would continue to exploit his employees. He was immediately escorted out of the room by security guards.

 China*:  May 23 2013

你是否同意美國副總統說中國作為國家不能“不同凡想”或“自由呼吸” Do you agree with United States Vice President that "China as the nation that cannot “think different” or “breathe free” Chinese demand Biden apologise for 'insensitive' commencement speech (By Amy Li VIEW VIDEO ON YOUTUBE  'It was a humiliating experience. And how can a graduation speech be this political?' said a UPenn student, taking issue with Biden's comment that China cannot 'think different' - US Vice-President Joe Biden gave a commencement speech at the University of Pennsylvania on May 13. Chinese students and parents are demanding an apology from US Vice-President Joe Biden for "insensitive" comments, weeks after he referred to China as the nation that cannot “think different” or “breathe free” during a commencement speech at the University of Pennsylvania. “I believe Biden should apologise over his inappropriate comments made at my commencement in the face of at least hundreds of Chinese people,” Zhang Tianpu, a graduating Wharton senior and Chinese citizen, told the South China Morning Post on Wednesday. “It was a humiliating experience,” he said. “And how can a graduation speech be this political?” Zhang and his peers have already drafted a letter to Biden demanding an official apology. The letter has 343 signatures as of Wednesday and will be sent to the university’s president before reaching the Biden's desk. Biden’s comments, which were called "inappropriate", hugely disappointed the Chinese in his audience. They were delivered in the middle of his May 13 speech, reported by the Guardian as “by far the funniest of the recent commencement addresses”. But not everyone appreciated his jokes. Touching on the concern that “the Chinese are going to eat our lunch”, Biden assured his audience that they had nothing to fear. “Their problems are immense, and they lack much of what we have,” he said, citing America’s universities, its “open and fair legal” system, vibrant venture capital markets and innovative minds. The key to all these, Biden argued, was the ability to “think different”, in a reference to Steve Jobs' slogan for Apple. “You cannot think different in a nation where you cannot breathe free; you cannot think different in a nation where you aren’t able to challenge orthodoxy, because change only comes from challenging orthodoxy.” To which Zhang argued: “Come on, my ancestors were challenging orthodoxy even before his ancestors got to America.” Biden mentioned China a second time towards the end when he spoke of his 10-day visit to the Middle Kingdom. Of then president-to-be Xi Jinping, he said: “He’s a strong, bright man, but he has the look of a man who is about to take on a job he’s not at all sure is going to end well. I mean that seriously." In a post that went viral on China’s social media, Zhang interpreted Biden’s message in the following words: “So because China is ---- up, we are well-positioned. We are well-positioned to lead the world into the 21st century, ” he wrote. ”This is what I think he was saying.” In an e-mail sent to The Post, Zhang dismissed criticism that he was overreacting. “After four years of sweat and toil, after four years of spending Chinese New Year without your family, and after four years of eating tasteless food, you have finally earned this day when you can proudly graduate. But you know that all is worth it because you want to learn from an advanced developed country, something you can use to contribute to your hometown. So you decide to call up all of your friends and family to fly across the Pacific Ocean to celebrate with you on this special day. Then, on your graduation day, you get up super early, happily dress up in your academic regalia, and have your friends and relatives seated in the field, cameras ready, recorders turned on, all excited.” “And then all of sudden, the graduation speaker, who is supposed to be there to congratulate you on your achievement, says to you: you and your nation suck. Regardless of whether that statement is true, how would you feel?” Zhang had first ranted on China’s popular social media website Renren. His post has since drawn thousands of comments, from supporters and critics. “Biden isn’t obligated to please China,” commented a reader. “And the right reaction is to catch up with America, instead of whining about it.” “Don’t attribute to political agenda what can easily be explained by stupidity,” another wrote.

Taipei releases satellite record of fishing boat route, refuting Manila’s claim (By Agence France-Presse in Taipei) Chen Ming-tang, deputy minister of Taiwan's Justice Ministry, holds a picture showing a bullet found in the fishing vessel after it was attacked by Philippine coastguards during a press conference in Taipei on Sunday. Taiwan on Tuesday released a satellite record of the route of a fishing boat fired on by Philippine coastguards, flatly rejecting Manila’s allegations that the boat intruded into Philippine waters. The killing of crew member Hung Shih-cheng, 65, sparked outrage in Taiwan, which has announced a series of economic sanctions against the Philippines. Taiwan’s Fisheries Agency said the voyage data recorder from the fishing boat showed it was not in Philippine waters when it came under fire on May 9. “The satellite records indicated that the Guang Ta Hsin 28 had been fishing within Taiwan’s exclusive economic zone throughout,” the agency’s deputy chief Tsay Tzu-yaw said. “Since the Philippine authorities repeatedly alleged that the fishing boat had intruded into their waters, then why not make public the video records they claim they have taken from the coastguard boat?” The Philippines said on Monday it would make “coordinated efforts” with Taiwan to look into the incident. Its coastguards claimed that the fishing boat intruded into Philippine waters and tried to ram their vessel, forcing them to open fire. Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou has termed the killing “cold-blooded murder” based on an initial inquiry by Taiwan, which showed that the boat had more than 50 bullet holes and showed no signs of ramming. The incident has sharply raised tensions between Taipei and Manila, sparking concern from Washington. Philippine Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said on Monday a National Bureau of Investigation team would fly to Taiwan to examine the fishing boat and interview survivors. De Lima said the Taiwanese investigators would be given access to their evidence, including statements from the coastguard. Philippine President Benigno Aquino has personally apologised for the incident but Taiwan has rejected his apology and announced sanctions. These include a ban on the hiring of new Philippine workers, recalling its envoy and staging a naval drill in waters off the northern Philippines. Taipei has repeatedly pressed Manila to issue a formal government apology, to compensate the fisherman’s family and to apprehend the killer. Philippine officials say the issue of a formal apology is complicated by the fact that Manila officially recognises Beijing over Taipei.

Li Keqiang to pay tribute to heroic Indian doctor who treated Chinese troops - Manorama Kotnis, last surviving sibling of Dr Dwarkanath Kotnis. China’s premier will pay his respects on Tuesday to the family of an Indian doctor who died treating Chinese troops more than 70 years ago, becoming a rare symbol of friendship between the two nations. Li Keqiang, like Chinese leaders before him, will take time out of his busy India visit to meet relatives of Dwarkanath Kotnis, who provided emergency medical aid for four years during the Sino-Japanese war of 1937-1945. Manorama Kotnis, one of the doctor’s seven siblings and the only one still alive, will meet the Chinese premier at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel in the financial capital Mumbai, along with four of her younger relatives. “I’m very proud and happy that such a big [personality] still remembers my brother,” the 92-year-old said on Monday at her home in Mumbai’s Vile Parle suburb, where old pictures of her legendary brother sit proudly on display. “He was really courageous and he wanted to go out and help people,” she said. While ties between Beijing and New Delhi have often been strained, with a legacy of distrust from a border war in 1962, Kotnis has remained a widely revered figure in China for his war work, which cost him his life. Born in western Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the capital, he was one of five medical volunteers dispatched from India in 1938, following a request for help from the fellow Asian giant. Manorama, who was a teenager when her older brother left, said the team was only supposed to go for a year. But her brother stayed on for four years, joining the Chinese Communist Party and marrying a Chinese nurse, with whom he had a son a few months before he died of epilepsy in 1942, aged 32. Manorama, a former nutritionist, said he struggled with the workload and the lack of proper food on the frontline, where he was required at times to operate continuously for 72-hour stretches. “He developed weakness because of that. Even in the hospital there was not much assistance.” The Indian family kept in touch with his widow Guo Qinglan, who died last year and whose portrait also sits in the apartment, along with ornamental Chinese gifts from their high-profile visitors over the years. Former Chinese president Hu Jintao met the family in Mumbai in 2006 and they gave him a copy of the Bollywood film Dr Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani (The Immortal Story of Dr Kotnis). A Chinese movie has also documented his life. Li will meet the family on his second and final day in India, which marks his first foreign visit since taking office in March. He is scheduled to address university students in New Delhi before travelling to Mumbai, where he will visit the offices of Tata Consultancy Services, India’s biggest IT outsourcing firm, and meet business leaders in the evening. Li and India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pledged on Monday to resolve a border dispute that has soured ties for decades, saying good relations between the two Asian giants were key to world peace. It is a sentiment shared by Manorama, who expressed sadness that the two countries had failed to forge closer links in the decades since her brother lost his life. “They should come together, live in peace, help each other,” she said.

Clerk praised for saving marriages with 'broken printer' excuse (By Ernest Kao Xiong Ling (right). Photo: Screen shot via Excuses made by Wuhan marriage registry clerk credited with thwarting 500 divorces - Blaming a faulty printer is a convenient excuse for failing to get work done - but this explanation has helped a woman in China’s Hubei province save hundreds of marriages. Xiong Ling, a clerk at the Wuhan city marriage registry was given the title of China's "Most Beautiful Matchmaker” last week for helping to thwart 500 of divorces for nine years, news portal cnhubei reported. Her marriage-saving strategy was to cite excuses such as “the office printer is out of order” and “the network is down” as soon as couples came in requesting divorce. She would often apologise to them for the technical problems and tell them to come back another day. She said most couples would go home, take time to re-think their decision and end up not divorcing. Xiong, 39, who has helped process marriages for more than 30,000 couples during her career, said “love fatigue” was the most common driver of divorce and the best cure was to spend some time apart to think. Her story was met with mixed reactions online. It spurred debate as to whether her actions were “professional” because divorce was a couple’s legal right. “I think it’s a good thing. She’s just telling couples to take some time to reconsider, nothing wrong with that,” said one user on microblog Sina Weibo. Xiong said she respected people's choice to divorce but would often mediate between couples if she saw there was hope for reconciliation.

Maldives resorts on the lookout for Chinese tourists on 'fake' honeymoons (By Amy Li) At least two resorts have revised policies to thwart fake honeymooners - Maldives resort Niyama has recently requested its agents to check tourists' marriage certificates to avoid fake applicants. Guangzhou newly-wed Sara had been hoping for a private holiday when she landed at a Maldives luxury resort with her husband in March. But when six other Chinese “couples”- among them a elderly woman and her adult son - showed up at a sunset dinner, Sara was outraged. The dinner was advertised by the hotel as exclusively for newly-weds. “How could they have been so shameless just for a free meal?” the woman who was identified only as Sara later vented on her microblog. Sara told of one couple who were apparently vacationing with their child. They were later confronted by hotel staff. “How can you possibly be on a honeymoon when your child is already so big?” they were asked, according to Sara's weibo post. The couple were asked to show their marriage certificate. The husband produced a copy of their certificate, while shouting in Chinese: “Of course it’s our honeymoon. Can’t you read? You trash.” The fake honeymoon story shocked thousands of China’s social media users, who criticised the “uncivilised behaviour” of the holidaymakers and even called for a "human flesh search" to locate the culprits. The six “couples”, who Sara said appeared to be related, had booked their vacations through a travel agent, like a majority of Chinese tourists vacationing abroad. To win customers, more Chinese travel agents are encouraging or even assisting their clients to fake marriage documents to qualify for honeymoon perks offered by Maldives resorts, said Jenny Wang, a Beijing-based Maldives vacation agent. Offers include free meals, a complimentary visit to a spa, a basket of fruit or a bottle of champagne, depending on the resort. Most resorts require tourists to apply within six months of their marriage date. But marriage certificates can be easily manipulated on computers, and agents don’t have to break a sweat faking documents for clients. Wang admitted that she had lost dozens of clients to her competitors simply because she wasn’t willing to “help”. “Some people are ready to take any advantage they can,” she said. She said resorts have had Chinese sisters posing as newly-weds because same-sex couples are also entitled to the honeymoon offers. But such couples are usually fake since it's no secret that gay marriage is not legal in China, Wang said. Until recently, most resorts have appeared tolerant about fraudulent honeymooners, which account for about 50 per cent of all tourists on honeymoon packages, according to Wang's estimate. But apparently some resorts have finally had enough. In a letter issued to travel agents last week by luxury Maldives resort Niyama, obtained by the South China Morning Post, honeymoon bookings must now show proof. “It has been brought to our attention recently that honeymoon bookings are being made and benefits requested for clients that evidently are not on their honeymoon i.e./ mother and daughters, sister etc,” reads the letter. Agents must submit a copy of tourists' marriage certificates for future bookings. Wang said she had received similar requests from at least one other resort. The Maldives, which reportedly receives its largest number of tourists from China, is becoming increasingly popular among China's burgeoning middle-class vacationers, who are said to be raucous and tend to travel in groups. Some tourists boycotted a Maldives resort this year after it allegedly withdrew electric kettles from its rooms to prevent Chinese visitors from cooking instant noodles.

Hong Kong*:  May 22 2013

Lawmakers Wong Yuk-man and Albert Chan get suspended jail terms for protest (By Ernest Kao Wong Yuk-man gets a six-week jail term, and Albert Chan Wai-yip is sentenced to five weeks in prison - Lawmaker Wong Yuk-man was handed a six-week jail term, suspended for 14 months, on Tuesday morning for being part of an unlawful assembly in 2011. Also sentenced was legislator and former People Power stablemate Albert Chan Wai-yip, who was convicted of unlawful assembly and must serve five weeks in prison, suspended for a year. Both lawmakers were convicted of organising an illegal rally in July 1, 2011, and were slapped with a fine of HK$4,800 each. Wong and Chan were core members of political party People Power, which rallied scores of people on July 1, 2011, to continue protesting after an annual march organised by the Civil Human Rights Front. The Eastern Court sentencing came just a day after Wong announced his abrupt resignation from the radical pan-democratic People Power, which he co-founded with Chan in 2011. Magistrate Joseph To Ho-shing said that even those with strong opinions about society who break the law should be held criminally liable because no one was above the law. People Power supporters were seen rallying outside the court on Tuesday morning chanting 'Support Yuk-man' while reporters swarmed Wong asking for comment on his resignation. Wong described the sentencing as "unreasonable" and said he would appeal.

Hong Kong not so racist after all as survey errors revealed (By Christy Choi Relax - Hong Kong and Bangladesh may not be as racist as suggested by the world map on racial tolerance published last week. The map, made by The Washington Post based on data from the World Values Survey, showed 71.7 per cent of Bangladeshis and 71.8 per cent of Hongkongers did not want a neighbour of a different race. "In both cases, World Values appears to have erroneously posted the incorrect data on its website," the US newspaper wrote in a correction this week. "The figures for Hong Kong and Bangladesh should be substantially lower at 26.8 per cent and 28.3 per cent respectively." While the results are less startling, they are still high by comparison with much of the world, alongside Malaysia, the Philippines and France. China and Japan are still marginally more tolerant, while India and Yemen are also high on the list. The error has raised questions about the validity of the entire exercise. "I think the Hong Kong and Bangladesh figures were misinterpreted due to a mistranslation of the answer codes," said University of Hong Kong sociologist Ng Chun-hung, who conducted the Hong Kong survey for the project in 2005. "I have written to the World Values Survey team [asking it] to withdraw the Hong Kong tables for the moment and upload amended ones later on." He added it was a "bit dangerous," to use just one question to draw a conclusion, because different cultures could interpret answers differently. "[World Values] is a rather loose network of scholars and the way the surveys were done would depend on the resources available to each scholar," he said. " The error in the Bangladesh results was discovered by Ashirul Amin, a PhD student at Tufts University in the US. The Hong Kong error, found by Chinese-speaking users of internet forum Reddit, was flagged by Engadget Chinese editor Richard Lai. Open data advocate Fu King-wa said it showed "the beauty of open data" because anyone could check information. "That's why I've been one of those lobbying the government for open access for data," said Fu, an assistant professor at the University of Hong Kong involved in Weiboscope, which shows what Sina Weibo users are discussing. While people on social media sites were quick to point out examples that supported the original results, experts had another view. "It's a fair representation of what was going on eight years ago," said Paul O'Connor, assistant professor of anthropology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. "But in the last few years things have changed, with tension between mainland Chinese and Hong Kong Chinese." Because cosmopolitan and Western influences are qualities Hongkongers use to distinguish themselves from mainland Chinese, instances of racism are now less common against those who look different, he said. "I also think this example doesn't give Hong Kong people enough credit. There are a lot of things that Hong Kong people are more tolerant of that other people aren't elsewhere in the world. For instance, Islam isn't a contentious issue in Hong Kong." But he added: "It's still the case that the darker the skin colour the greater the prejudice ... It's still tough for ethnic minorities here." Fermi Wong Wai-fun, of rights group Unison, and a long-term advocate of minority rights, said the findings were consistent with those of her organisation. "I know that Hong Kong doesn't have a race policy, and we're more about promoting Chinese culture than anything, but I'm surprised it's so high," she said. But she added that part of the reason could be that the concept of neighbours in one country is different to that of a densely populated place like Hong Kong: "For Canada your neighbour might be 100 metres down the road, here you're window to window." The Equal Opportunities Commission said it could not comment on the figures as they were unsure of the survey methodology, but said surveys done by the commission and the government do not seem to support the theory that racial tolerance is low.

HSBC still set on hiring more Hong Kong staff despite job cuts (By Kanis Li Chief executive tells shareholders that plan to reduce numbers by up to 5pc may not affect city - Despite plans by HSBC to cut staff globally by up to 5.5 per cent over the next three years, the bank still intends to hire people in Hong Kong, chief executive Stuart Gulliver told shareholders in the city yesterday. Gulliver told a meeting attended by around 600 shareholders, that there would be more "front revenue-producing jobs" created in the city, and "it is quite possible that in … Hong Kong the net headcount won't go down at all" from its current 28,000. He unveiled a blueprint for the bank over the next three years in an investor update last week, saying the group will cut down staff numbers to between 240,000 and 250,000 at the end of 2016, from 254,000 in early 2013. Gulliver said much of the reduction in jobs would be made in a "natural" way and staff numbers could be reduced simply by not rehiring. HSBC shares rose yesterday 1.63 per cent to close at HK$90.25, the highest since March 2011. However, one shareholder told yesterday's meeting he was worried that price could be the peak, because he did not see a sustainable plan for the profitability of the group. Gulliver said the surge in stock price in recent days represented institutional investors' support for the strategy he unveiled at his last investor update. Another shareholder asked if the group's operations in the euro zone might turn into another "Household", referring to Household International, the HSBC's business in the US, which revealed huge losses as bad debt emerged in the 2008 financial crisis. Gulliver said the group hads significant operations in Britain, France and Germany, which had the strongest economies in the euro zone, and the operations there were facing "revenue headwinds rather than a large bad debt". He said the operations in the euro zone were at risk but not another Household in his eyes. Anita Fung Yuen-mei, chief executive of HSBC's Hong Kong office, told the meeting she expected the yuan to be freely convertible within five years. A shareholder asked if the group would consider relocating to Hong Kong from London as Hong Kong was the offshore centre of yuan trading, and the bank might face more regulatory requirements with its headquarter in Europe. However, HSBC's chairman, Douglas Flint, said unless the bank knew all about the liberalisation of the yuan, it was too early to make a guess on the relocation of its headquarters.

Photocall for HK film "Blind Detective" at 66th Cannes Film Festival - Cast members pose during the photocall for Hong Kong film "Blind Detective" at the 66th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on May 20, 2013.

 China*:  May 22 2013

Chinese President Xi Jinping will pay state visits to Trinidad and Tobago, Costa Rica and Mexico from May 31 to June 6, and meet with U.S. President Barack Obama in the United States on June 7-8, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang announced here Tuesday. According to Qin, Xi's visits are at the invitation of President of Trinidad and Tobago Anthony Carmona, President of Costa Rica Laura Chinchilla, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Obama. Qin said Xi's visits to Trinidad and Tobago, Costa Rica and Mexico have important significance for the all-round and in-depth development of China's ties with the three nations, expressing his belief that the visits will inject new vitality to China's relations with the Latin American and Caribbean regions. The China-U.S. summit, first since President Xi took office in March, will be held in California, at Sunnylands, the Walter and Leonore Annenberg Estate, Qin said. Qin highlighted the significance of the meeting, saying it will bolster the long-term, sound and steady development of the China-U.S. relations, and promote the peace, stability and prosperity in the region and the world. The two leaders will exchange their views on bilateral relations and regional and international issues of common concern, Qin added. Thomas Donilon, U.S. President Barack Obama's national security advisor, will visit China from May 26 to 28 to prepare for the summit, Qin said.

Call for moral education to tackle violence by students (By Mimi Lau in Guangzhou Call for values-based education to counter system that engenders little regard for life - A spate of stabbings by pupils in schools in the past month has prompted calls for more attention to be paid to moral education. On April 21, a 19-year-old vocational school student in Fuping county, Shaanxi, was stabbed seven times in the lower back and legs by three schoolmates because he was swaggering. He required 25 stitches. Four days later, a Form Three pupil at a high school in Guangfeng county, Jiangxi , was stabbed to death by schoolmates. Then, on May 7, two attacks occurred at schools in Yanan , Shaanxi. A Form Three pupil died when his throat was slit by a classmate in Fu county and another Form Three pupil was stabbed by a classmate in Yanchuan county. The next day, a district court in Guangxi sentenced a 12-year-old girl to three years in a rehabilitation programme for decapitating a 13-year-old friend because she was jealous that her friend was prettier than she was. A researcher with the National Institute of Education Sciences, Chu Zhaohui , said the attacks were a reflection of a "disregard for human life" that pervaded mainstream society. Since 1949, he said, little respect had been paid to the value of life, with thousands of lives destroyed in the Cultural Revolution that began in the mid-1960s. "This has formed an atmosphere in which human lives are worth very little," he said. A University of Hong Kong expert on youth crime, Dr Eric Chui Wing-hong, said the mainland cases were school bullying at their worst and could be the result of copy-cat behaviour. "It's worrying that teenagers … are growing more tolerant of violence and they see violence as a means to resolve matters, even petty conflicts," Chui said. Young people were challenging the morals of society or their school, he said, and some might even get a sense of satisfaction or feel heroic after attacking classmates. Chui said the recent cases might be related to a performance-oriented education system with little regard for personal development. "We see this trend is worsening," he said. "The mental health education and social services commonly available on Hong Kong campuses are not provided adequately on the mainland. This will further aggravate conflicts among students." Chui said the lack of moral education for young mainlanders was compounded by a school culture that focused on following administrative edicts and pleasing Communist Party leaders rather than parents and pupils. "School administrators are inclined to follow party officials hell-bent on burnishing schools' academic credentials and reputations," he said. "This often results in way too much homework and neglecting the need to develop healthy personalities."

Social-welfare pioneer wins honor (By Chang Jun in San Francisco Zhang Xiulan (center), dean of the School of Social Development and Public Policy at Beijing Normal University, enjoys a lighthearted moment on Friday at a banquet at the University of California, Berkeley, to honor her as the recipient of the 2012 Elise and Walter A. Haas International Award. Joining her are UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau (right) and Professor Emeritus Leonard Miller, who supervised Zhang's doctoral research in the 1990s. Zhang Xiulan, dean of Beijing Normal University's School of Social Development and Public Policy, addressed graduates of the University of California, Berkeley, both as an alumna and the latest recipient of the school's Elise and Walter A. Haas International Award. The awards committee in March chose Zhang, who earned a PhD from UC Berkeley's School of Social Welfare in 1999, as the 2012 recipient of the prestigious award. It was established in 1964 to recognize Berkeley alumni who are natives, citizens and residents of a country other than the United States, and who have distinguished records of service to that country. Zhang, 50, said at a campus reception in her honor on Friday: "I never anticipated that I would receive this. It came as a big surprise." Considered one of China's leading experts on social assistance and welfare, Zhang helped formulate policies on child protection; orphans' rights; health insurance for children; and services for children, family, adults, the elderly and people with disabilities. "In other words, China's most marginalized individuals and communities," she said. After completing her PhD work 14 years ago, Zhang returned to China in 2002 hoping to help introduce the concept and application of social welfare to her native country. "I'm the first Chinese mainlander majoring in social welfare [at Berkeley], and the first Chinese returning to China with this background," she said. "Not many people knew what I was doing." Zhang accepted an offer from Beijing Normal University, which back then didn't offer an academic major in social welfare or teaching staff in the discipline. Zhang began the school from the ground up, using a grant of 100,000 yuan (about $12,500 at the time) and one assistant. She used her own savings to subsidize the operation, including recruitment of faculty. Since those modest beginnings, Zhang has expanded the school into a comprehensive learning institution with 70 faculty members and a multifaceted curriculum. Its name - School of Social Development and Public Policy - reflect the two fields into which she has most heavily invested her time and energy. "You first observe the rapid social changes in China; opportunities are everywhere. You can't help but want to be the driving force to help move the country toward the right direction," Zhang said. She has led her team to serve as a crucial research hub and think tank for China, providing government policy-makers a variety of perspectives on dealing with pressing social issues such as poverty, child welfare, public health and education. Zhang's pioneering work has led to the establishment of programs to assist poor and aging Chinese, as well as support services through various channels for the country's large population of teenage migrant workers. "She was very inspiring among her fellows, and she seemed likely to be among the movers and shakers of her society and the world," said Leonard Miller, a now-retired professor of social welfare at Berkeley who supervised Zhang's doctoral research in the 1990s. "I'm so proud of her, since what she does has such a tremendous impact on the Chinese people, especially the poor and the underserved." In formally presenting Zhang with the Haas International Award, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau said: "Your career exemplifies Berkeley's highest values. Your contributions in education, social reform and public policy have made you one of the most renowned citizens of China." Zhang is the sixth Chinese recipient of the Haas award. Her predecessors include Nobel chemistry laureate Yuan T. Lee (2011) and scientist and former Tsinghua University vice-superintendent Zhang Guangdou (1981).

Hong Kong*:  May 21 2013

Discovery of US plane wreck sheds light on one of Hong Kong's darkest days (By John Carney After stumbling across part of an American plane in Tai Tam Country Park, a war buff has shed light on one of Hong Kong's darkest days - It was January 16, 1945, a day that saw the heaviest American bombing of Japanese targets in Hong Kong. Between 9am and 5pm, 154 tonnes of bombs were dropped, and hundreds of thousands of machine gun rounds were fired. US military archive reports describe the exercise as one of the most dangerous and hazardous ever undertaken by the US Navy aviators as they flew sorties under heavy Japanese anti-aircraft artillery fire. The US carrier task force defiantly described Hong Kong as the worst theatre of the Pacific war up to that point. Nineteen planes were shot down or went missing. It was one of the highest rates of losses for US Navy planes during the war. But for a local amateur military historian, this is only the beginning of the story. In November 2011, Craig Mitchell was out in the hills above Hong Kong searching for evidence of a Japanese gun position that had been set during the battle for Hong Kong in December 1941. Born and bred in Hong Kong, Mitchell, 33, has a fascination about Hong Kong during the war years, particularly the Japanese occupation. What he found was much more than he expected. "The location was about three hours hike up a very difficult hill with no paths, so there was a lot of crashing through thick bush and getting scratched and tangled by plants," he says. "While I didn't find the gun position, as I was leaving I noticed a large piece of metal, clearly very out of place with the surroundings. I recovered it as it looked like a piece of aircraft." From bolt markings Mitchell identified it as part of an American plane. After numerous return trips he found more evidence of a plane crash. Using an 1949 aerial photo of the area and overlaying it on Google Earth with the GPS locations of the finds he had made he noticed a clear indentation in the land nearby. "This eventually led me to a virgin crash site that was undisturbed since the war," he said. "While the main body of the plane was all aluminium and had melted in the subsequent fire and explosion, all of the heavy items such as the landing struts, engine part, propeller hub, armour plates and even an arrester hook were still intact." Mitchell worked out that the plane was a TBM-Avenger. Six were lost that day over Hong Kong and action reports by other pilots said four of the TBMs crashed into the harbour, leaving just two unaccounted for. It was the first time TBMs had been used in an attack on Hong Kong so there is no way it could have crashed earlier. After further research Mitchell found that January 16, 1945, was the only day during the whole war that carrier-based aircraft were used on Hong Kong. Other bombing raids on the city by US aircraft were carried out from bases in mainland China and involved different planes. Of the planes downed that day, two were involved in a mid-air collision and Mitchell believes it's one of these planes that he has uncovered. Diary accounts from witnesses in Stanley prisoner-of-war camp back his claims, saying that two planes did collide and one fell where Mitchell found the plane parts. One vivid account comes from the diary of George Gerards dated January 16, 1945: "Today the first relay of bombers came over at 8.45am and kept up continuous bombing of Hong Kong and even near to us. "Waves of bombers came over. We saw eight planes in one formation, and five in another just behind. They appeared like silver bullets in the sky when suddenly we saw the left-hand plane in the first formation swing over to the right and strike his companion. "A terrific sheet of flame shot out and the first plane came lurching down, but the pilot bailed out and then the second plane made a big effort to get under control but to no avail, the fellow jumped but was caught in his incline and eventually crashed." Having obtained all of the Navy Air mission reports involved in the raids on Hong Kong, Mitchell found that one of the two planes was flown by Lieutenant Richard Scobell with a crew of William P. Walton and John F. Franklin, while Lieutenant Richard Hunt was flying the other with a crew of Eugene Barrow and Louis Garhan. Scobell had been shot down three months earlier during the battle of Leyte Gulf in the Philippines. His radioman was killed and he and his gunner spent more than 24 hours in a life raft before being picked up. "All of the items I found at the site were consistent with the type of planes in the reports and could not be from any other plane - it was certainly a TBM-Avenger," Mitchell says. But he still wasn't sure which of the two planes it was until he read more POW diary accounts. "In the diaries they describe seeing two parachutes. One managed to deploy and was seen to come down safely, while sadly the other parachute from the second plane got tangled in the plane's rear wings and [Scobell] didn't manage to free himself before the plane hit the ground," Mitchell explains. "From the accounts, I determined that the plane I found was the one in which the parachute did open safely." He then set about trying to find out if any of the crew members survived. He found a record that showed that the surviving pilot, Richard Hunt, was taken as a prisoner of war and transferred to a camp in Japan called Ofuna, where he died on February 25, 1945. "Hunt died after being given an injection by the Japanese camp doctor. It's very possible he was murdered," says Mitchell, who is an engineer. "He was very badly burned and also suffered a compound fracture to his left leg. I know that the wreck I found was that of Hunt's aircraft." The witness accounts gave a vague description of where the second plane crashed and Mitchell has been searching for it for more than a year without success. He does not want to give the exact location of the crash site, other than to say that it is in Tai Tam Country Park, because it might still contain the remains of crew members and he doesn't want scavengers to contaminate the site. Mitchell has informed the US consulate in Hong Kong and the police about what he has uncovered. "I am 100 per cent certain of the facts, but it is all circumstantial and I will continue to look for more proof to put it beyond any doubt," he says. If human remains are found, Mitchell will have to stop his project immediately and hand it over to the police. That would also mean the American authorities could begin to conduct DNA analysis so the families of the airmen could be informed and a proper memorial service held. But Mitchell's incredible story doesn't end here. Seven weeks ago he was out searching in the same area and stumbled across a 2,000-pound (907kg) bomb, from which the explosives and fuse had been removed. He immediately informed the police, who collected the material. There were small bits of plane debris scattered around. "From my research I knew that those two planes where carrying the only 2,000-pound bombs lost in HK during the war. All the debris at the site was also attributable to a TBM," he says. Mitchell also identified other items from a TBM- Avenger, and recovered at least one full set of parachute fasteners and clips, valves and clips from a Mae West life jacket. There were also some personal items, including a Philadelphia subway token used during the 1920s and a Zippo-style lighter. "It's been quite a project and I have uncovered reams of information," Mitchell says. "It is quite an amazing story, but hopefully as my search continues there's much more to be told yet."

Hong Kong robot reveals mysterious yellow orbs at ancient Mexican temple (Christy Choi Local dentist who supplied tools for space missions uses his expertise to help shed light on one of Mexico's most enduring mysteries - More than 30 researchers are involved in the excavation at the Temple of the Feathered Serpent at Teotihuacan, 40 kilometres northeast of Mexico City. Project director Sergio Gomez Chavez with Hong Kong's Ng Tze-chuen. Under the Temple of the Feathered Serpent in Mexico lay a tunnel not seen by people in more than 1,800 years. Damp, dark, filled with debris, and deliberately sealed by its creators, the passageway was thought to house the remains of the rulers of the ancient city of Teotihuacan. A robot that recently explored the tunnel found three secret chambers that may shed light on the millennia-old practices of the city, which the Aztecs called the place where gods are born. Sergio Gomez Chavez is an archaeologist who has been working on the preservation of this city for 33 years. The tanned 52-year-old is the director of the Tlalocan Project, and a researcher for Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History. "The tunnel represents the Underworld. The offerings found correspond with this idea that Meso-America had of an Underworld. Now we are identifying human remains." The robot was one of two involved in the project put together by a team that included Hong Kong dentist and science enthusiast Dr Ng Tze-chuen. Ng has previously helped design robots used to explore a secret chamber in the Great Pyramid of Giza, as well as tools to gather soil and rock samples on missions to Mars and the moon. Ng was in Mexico for the robot's foray into the unknown. "It's exactly like the Pyramid of the Sun, but that's all looted already," he said, referring to the largest pyramid in Teotihuacan. "This is in pristine condition." The Tlaloc II-TC carried an infrared camera and laser scanner that allowed for 3-D visualisations of the underbelly of the temple, allowing access to parts of the ruins yet to be excavated. One of the chambers discovered by the robot contained hundreds of yellow orbs, each between 3.8cm and 12.7cm across, covered in what researchers think is yellow jarosite, a rare mineral. In addition, the walls and floor of two of the chambers were covered in a sparkling powder made of pyrite (an iron sulphide), hematite and magnetite (both forms of iron oxide). The minerals were thought to have been used to represent the sky and deeps waters of the Underworld. The three chambers have yet to be excavated, and have only been viewed through the images beamed back from the robot. Researchers have yet to understand the significance of the orbs, but Gomez Chavez said the discovery of the artefacts and chambers would allow archaeologists and historians to get a sense of the system of governing, religion and ways of thinking used by the original inhabitants. The city is believed to have been built around 100BC, and was home to a multi-ethnic population of more than 100,000, which would make it one of the largest in the world at the time. It was mysteriously abandoned around AD700, but would greatly influence the Aztec and Mayan civilisations. Around 30 workers are at the dig site, excavating and cataloguing their finds, much of which will end up on display at the museum in Teotihuacan, and may be loaned to other museums on travelling exhibits. Ng, the Hong Kong dentist, contributed about US$10,000 to the project through his work, Gomez Chavez said. The entire excavation project is budgeted at about 8 million Mexican pesos (HK$5 million). "Tze-chuen has been important in determining how the robot could walk, and how the wheels would work and be durable. He's helped determine how they take samples and images," said Gomez Chavez. "We couldn't step on the soil because it's very humid. The Tlaloc I [robot] had difficulty because of the water in the soil." Some of Ng's design ideas helped get around that problem, he said. Ng has been involved in several high-profile space exploration projects in the past two decades. Ten years ago he designed planetary sampling tools for the British-designed rover Beagle 2 that was dropped on the surface of Mars, but contact was lost before it landed on the planet. Two years ago a Russian probe carrying tools Ng designed to Phobos, one of the planet's moons, veered disastrously off course. He is making new tools for the ExoMars rover mission scheduled for 2018, a joint project of the European Space Agency and Russia's federal space agency Roscosmos.

 China*:  May 21 2013

Chinese premier arrives in New Delhi for official visit (Xinhua) - During his stay, Li will meet Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, President Pranab Mukherjee and other leaders, and deliver a speech on China-India ties. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrived here Sunday afternoon for the first leg of his maiden foreign trip since he took office in March. During his visit, Li will meet Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, President Pranab Mukherjee and Hamid Ansari, Chairman of Rajya Sabha (the Upper House) of India's Parliament and Vice President. He is also expected to deliver a speech on China-India ties and visit India's commercial capital, Mumbai. The two countries will sign a series of agreements on cooperation in trade, agriculture, environmental protection and culture. In a written statement issued upon his arrival, Li extended sincere greetings and best wishes to the Indian government and the 1.2 billion Indian people on behalf of the Chinese government and the 1.3 billion Chinese people. China and India are friendly neighbors linked by mountains and rivers, said the Chinese premier, hailing the development of bilateral relations since the two countries established diplomatic ties in 1950. In the 21st century, political exchanges between the two countries are getting more frequent and practical cooperation is expanding, Li said. Nowadays, both China and India are speeding up their development, making steady efforts to boost their economy and improve people's lives, and sharing deepening convergence of interests, he added. Cooperation between China and India means that the two great civilizations can learn from each other, the two major markets complement each other, the two major emerging economies fulfill common development, and the two neighboring countries achieve mutual benefit and win-win results, according to the statement. It is in line with the fundamental interests of the two countries and the two peoples that China and India maintain peaceful and friendly relations and join hands to realize national rejuvenation, the Chinese premier said, adding it is also a blessing to Asia and the world at large. China regarded India as an important partner and friend, he said. "I am looking forward to exchanging views with Indian leaders on bilateral ties and regional and global issues of common concern," Li added. Li also expressed confidence that his visit would strengthen mutual trust, deepen cooperation, expand common interests and consolidate bilateral friendship, which would inject new vigor into the China-India strategic cooperative partnership for peace and prosperity. The choice of India as the first stop of Li's maiden foreign tour indicates the great importance Beijing attaches to its relations with India. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said China hoped the visit could further cement the strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries, strengthen cooperation in such fields as investment, trade and infrastructure, explore complementary advantages, and achieve mutually beneficial results. China also wants to strengthen communication and coordination with India on international and regional affairs, so as to make greater contribution to peace and stability in the region and the world as a whole, it said. Li told an India youth delegation on Wednesday that "China and India are important neighbors and partners by nature. Bilateral ties are developing continuously and steadily with fruitful results being made in the cooperation of every field." The China-India relationship is not only of great strategic significance to Asia and the world, but also concerns the destiny and interests of the two countries' combined population of 2.5 billion, Li told the delegation. Shortly after Li became premier, Singh congratulated him over the phone. During the conversation, Li said China would, as always, attach great importance to its relations with India and would work with India to further promote their strategic cooperative partnership. Bilateral trade between China and India has grown strongly in recent years, with a total volume reaching 66.5 billion U.S. dollars in 2012. China has become India's second largest trade partner and India is China's largest trade partner in South Asia. The two sides aim to expand bilateral trade to 100 billion dollars by 2015, a goal set by the two countries' leaders. China and India are enjoying sound project cooperation, with India becoming an important market for China in this field. Two-way investment is also steadily increasing.

Weddings: US planners are in demand (By Caroline Berg in New York) Students attend a lecture at the Weddings Beautiful China wedding planner certification program in Beijing. Getting married in the world's most populous country is big business. About $57 billion is spent annually on 10 million weddings in China. The money goes for pre-ceremony photographs, limousine rentals, wedding gowns and honeymoons, while a tenth of the total expense traditionally goes to the wedding banquet, according to the China Wedding Industry Development Report. And about 50 percent of the couples getting married now turn to wedding planners to help organize the ceremony, according to the website of Weddings Beautiful Worldwide, which teaches how to be a planner. When events and marketing professional Ling Ying decided she wanted to get into the wedding business, she looked to Weddings Beautiful Worldwide to study wedding planning and receive certification. Not only did Ling go on to found Weddings by Ling in Beijing, she also contacted Weddings Beautiful Worldwide CEO Gary Wright with a proposal that eventually brought his accredited program to China. "The main reason why Ling felt it was so important to bring the program to China was because Chinese brides are now demanding better service and yet the industry as a whole was lacking a standard of excellence," said Raul Vasquez, president and an independent licensee of Weddings Beautiful China, and also Ling's husband. Weddings Beautiful China is a joint venture with Weddings by Ling - a firm that caters to high-end Chinese couples, expatriates and Chinese celebrities. The program established its flagship location in Beijing in 2011. Another location opened in Shanghai in 2012 and a branch was launched on Thursday in Suzhou - a city known for its gardens and natural beauty. Although smaller than Beijing and Shanghai, Vasquez said brides-to-be in Suzhou increasingly are requesting high-end wedding-planning. "Wedding planners in that region need to step it up a notch if they want to get new business," Vasquez said. "This is where we step in to fill that void." Weddings Beautiful China offers two classes: the certified wedding specialist course, which has made up 90 percent of total enrollment, and the associate bridal consultant course. The certified course is taught in all of Weddings Beautiful Worldwide's divisions around the world, which include Africa, Australia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, the Philippines, Singapore and Taiwan. The two-week course covers the fundamentals of wedding planning, business management, marketing and social media, team work, project management and other "soft" skills to jump-start a career in wedding planning. "[The associate bridal consultant course] is for those who just want to focus on the weddings part of the course and forego the business management part," Vasquez said about the second course offering. "This course is a perfect fit for those who cannot be out of town for more than a week, as students have to fly to our training facilities and stay for the entire duration of the course." The consultant course option costs 9,000 yuan (about $1,460) and the certified course option costs 18,000 yuan. Accommodations and meals aren't included and classes meet daily. For her, Ling believed enrolling in an accredited program such as Weddings Beautiful was "absolutely necessary" for success in capturing the luxury wedding demographic, according to Vasquez. "She felt it would be in her best interest to learn from programs in the US, where the bridal industry is already mature with over 40 years of experience," Vasquez said. "The certification meant that she earned the respect of her peers in the US and serves as a reminder to all her brides that the minute they walk into her boutique firm, they will receive world-class service." Weddings Beautiful's program, which includes 610 pages of content in its English version, was translated into Chinese. Whereas courses in the US are conducted online, China's are classroom based and introduce students to local vendors involved in weddings. "The main thing about China you have to keep in mind is that the size of the market is so dramatic," said Wright, CEO of Weddings Beautiful, which was founded in the US in 1968. "The institution of marriage is a universal thing, but we authorize our licensees to make changes to the curriculum based on local customs," Wright said. "It's the responsibility of our licensee not to do away with any traditions, but to enhance them with the Western influence." Course contents are enriched through adding etiquettes to equip wedding planners with professional knowledge in various fields and also feature Chinese-style wedding practices, such as the red sedan, the couple bowing to one another, serving tea to parents and lively banquets. Weddings Beautiful China has enrolled about 200 students and about 97 percent have received certification, according to Vasquez. "The other 3 percent of students eventually realize wedding planning is not for them," Vasquez said. "For the most part, we are fortunate to have a very smart and dedicated group of students that come to us to learn, be inspired and build a network of industry contacts." Average salaries for a wedding planner in China are between 3,000 to 5,000 yuan per month, if employed by a wedding planning firm. "If you own your own business, you can earn significantly more," Vasquez said. "Most of our students possess an entrepreneurial spirit, so instead of looking for a job with a planning agency, what they really want are brides." Vasquez said the program helps students market themselves to brides throughout China. The Weddings Beautiful China website has a "Find a certified course" feature where wedding planners are listed along with their portfolios and contact information. The program also participates in large events where a few wedding planners are invited to exhibit with the program to provide additional exposure to their brands. Students are also offered opportunities to intern at Weddings by Ling. "I would have to say there are a lot of wedding planning jobs in China, but our students are not motivated by these opportunities," Vasquez said. "They want their brands to deliver a higher standard of service, so they see this as an opportunity to create their own opportunities."

Hong Kong*:  May 20 2013

Hong Kong launches first electric taxis (By Agence France-Presse) Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah (centre) during a launch ceremony on Saturday of BYD e6 electric cars. Hong Kong saw its first electric taxis hit the streets on Saturday in a step towards reducing the city’s high levels of roadside pollution. The 45 bright red cars were launched by Chinese electric vehicle producer BYD, which is partly backed by US investment titan Warren Buffett. Called the BYD e6, the five-door crossover sedans are powered by iron phosphate batteries and take two hours to charge, a statement from BYD said, adding that they can then travel for 300km. The cars have been rented by the Hong Kong Taxi and Public Light Bus Association, which is testing them over the next six months. “The idea of being environmentally friendly is a global trend and the electric car is one good example,” said Wong Chung Keung, president and chairman of the association. “An electric car saves the cost of fuel and will allow our taxi drivers to earn more,” he added, saying that a normal taxi would cost HK$0.8 to run per kilometre while an electric car would cost HK$0.2-HK$0.3. He called for more charging stations around the city to encourage taxi drivers to go electric - BYD said it is setting up 47 chargers in nine charging locations near car parks. Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah was quoted in a BYD statement as welcoming the electric car and saying he was committed to “promoting environmental sustainability by laying the foundation for Hong Kong to become a zero emissions city”. The government announced revisions to its air quality objectives for the first time in 25 years in January last year, after University of Hong Kong research showed pollution-related illnesses killed more than 3,000 residents a year.

MTR Corporation may face heavy fine for train derailment (By SCMP) Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, Secretary for Transport and Housing. The MTR Corporation could be fined as much as HK$15 million over the derailment of a light-rail train in Yuen Long on Friday that landed 77 passengers in hospital, the transport chief said. The MTR apologised on Saturday for the accident - the most serious derailment in the light-rail network’s 25-year history. A recently revised fare-adjustment mechanism that penalises any suspension of services lasting more than eight hours made such a fine possible, Secretary for Transport and Housing Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said at the site of the crash. “If the incident [causing a service suspension] is not something the MTR cannot control, it can be fined,” he said. “And since the suspension lasted for more than eight hours, the maximum fine would be HK$15 million.” Both carriages of the light-rail train left the tracks at about 4.15pm on Friday. Services did not resume until 8.10am on Saturday. Of the 150 passengers, 77 aged between six months and 70 years were taken to five hospitals. Six remained in hospital on Saturday. MTR chief executive Jay Walder, who accompanied Cheung, said: “This is a serious accident. It’s of great concern to the MTR. I apologise to everyone.” Walder said the company would also report the matter to the Legislative Council. The operator had conducted special inspections of 19 other light-rail carriages from the same production batch as the one that derailed and all were deemed safe, an MTR spokeswoman said. The batch was the newest purchased by the company - one of the derailed carriages went into service in 2009, and the other the following year. Cheung said both the police and the MTR were investigating. Whether or not a fine would be imposed would depend on the findings of a report from the MTR. He hoped this would be completed within three days. Cheung said the report would examine whether the accident had anything to do with manufacturing problems. The train parts were made in Australia using German systems. They were assembled by a subsidiary of CSR Corporation - the state-owned manufacturer of both the high-speed trains involved in a 2011 crash in Wenzhou, Zhejiang, in which 40 people died. An official report on the accident blamed it largely on a software bug in the main computer of the train control system at a station. The MTR took over railway operations of the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation, including the light-rail network, in 2007. Before Friday’s derailment, there had been at least three others on the light-rail network in the past decade. There have been six accidents since 2008.

 China*:  May 20 2013

Actors attend screening for Chinese film "Tian Zhu Ding" in Cannes - Actor attend the screening for Chinese film 'Tian Zhu Ding (A Touch of Sin)' by Jia Zhangke at the 66th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France.

CAAC says it 'will not accept' EU measures on emissions (By Wang Wen and Zheng Xin) A senior official from the Civil Aviation Administration of China said on Friday that the country disapproved and "will not accept any unilateral and compulsory market measures", after the European Union threatened Chinese carriers with fines for non-compliance with its Emissions Trading System, or ETS. Speaking at the 2013 China Civil Aviation Development Forum in Beijing, Yan Mingchi, deputy director-general of the policy, law and regulation department under the CAAC, said that "airlines in developing countries should be provided with financial and technological support in their efforts at coping with the effects of climate change". Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport. Eight Chinese airlines are facing possible fines for not paying for their emissions during flights within countries of the European Union. He added that a balance must be maintained between the development of the international aviation industry and emission reduction targets. Eight Chinese and two Indian airlines are facing possible fines for not paying for their emissions during flights within the EU, the European Commission announced on Friday. It said member states could fine the companies under the terms of the ETS, which is designed to cut CO2 emissions. Greenhouse gas emissions from those countries participating in the ETS dropped by 2 percent in 2012, and aircraft operators responsible for 98 percent of the 2012 aviation emissions covered by the ETS have taken the necessary steps to date to comply with the ETS legislation, the EU said in a statement. "All cases of non-compliance will be examined ... in accordance with established procedures," it added. The Chinese and Indian airlines identified have not submitted their 2011 carbon emission data to the EU yet, whereas 1,200 other carriers have already handed over their reports, said the statement. The Chinese carriers could face fines totaling 2.4 million euros ($3.09 million), and the two Indian airlines face fines of 30,000 euros, The New York Times reported. The EU decided to suspend its ETS in February to wait for a global market-based mechanism to cut emissions, to be discussed at the International Civil Aviation Organization's meeting in September. However, Yan insisted that technology and operational improvements are the most effective methods of aviation emission reduction, rather than the carbon tax, and that developing countries should be assisted in achieving those. Statistics from the CAAC show that the Chinese civil aviation industry reduced its carbon emissions by 240,000 metric tons in 2012 compared with 2011. Yan added that the country has continued to attach huge significance to aviation emissions and has made progress through optimizing its airspace structure and other technological methods. China Eastern Airlines Co Ltd became the first Chinese carrier on Friday to get an Airbus 320 aircraft, equipped with special wing-tip devices that cut emissions. The devices, known as "sharklets", are placed at right angles at the end of the wing. They are made from light-weight materials that can offer up to 4 percent fuel reduction, according to Airbus. "China Eastern will introduce 97 more sharklet-equipped A320 aircraft to our fleet," said Shu Mingjiang, its vice-president of flight operations. Shu added that China Eastern plans to add about 200 new aircraft between 2013 and 2015, which will improve the airlines' overall fuel efficiency. The use of advanced biofuels - a recognized safe and efficient method of reducing carbon emissions - in aviation is also becoming a major industry issue for airlines and aircraft manufacturers. Guenther Matschnigg, senior vice-president of the International Air Transport Association, told the Beijing forum that governments should encourage the use of aviation biofuel, and that if all flights used it, carbon emissions could be cut by 80 percent. A spokesman for Air France-KLM Group also added that biofuel is currently the industry's best alternative to helping reduce carbon emission. He added the use of biofuel reduces the ecological footprint in the air and on the ground, and that the French carrier expects the fuel to account for 1 percent of its fuel needs by 2015. Air China took its first test flight using biofuel in 2011, and China Eastern has also completed a test flight using a mix of fuels including used cooking oil - or gutter oil - and palm oil, in April. However, the high price of biofuel is still a challenge to the industry, at almost six times that of conventional fuel.

Beidou set to spread its wings in region (By WANG QIAN in Wuhan) Pakistan to become navigation system's fourth overseas user - China's Beidou navigation system is set to increase its presence in the Asia-Pacific region, with Pakistan expected to become its fourth overseas customer later this month. Huang Lei, international business director of Beijing BDStar Navigation, which helps promote Beidou, or Compass, in the international market, told China Daily the company will build a network of stations in Pakistan to enhance the location accuracy of Beidou. These continuously operational reference stations will be built after the two countries sign a cooperation agreement, which will see Pakistan follow in the footsteps of Thailand, Laos and Brunei in becoming a Beidou customer. Huang said building the network will cost tens of millions of dollars. The system has been delivering services for the Asia-Pacific region since December, with the aim of providing a global service by 2020. The Beidou network has 16 navigation satellites over the region, with 30 more due to join the system by 2020. Huang said foreign aid programs and cooperation agreements are the main ways to promote Beidou in the international market. China National Radio reported in April that under a 2 billion yuan ($317 million) agreement with Thailand, the system's first foreign user, China will build a national remote sensing system based on Beidou for Thailand. It will also build a large satellite ground station with an industrial park for the development and production of Beidou receivers for the wider Southeast Asian market. Similar deals were signed with Laos and Brunei in late April. Laos will adopt Beidou in developing the country's agriculture, and to crack down on opium cultivation, while Brunei will use Beidou in building a modern capital, according to China's Ministry of Science and Technology. The ministry did not give further details about cooperation with these two countries. While industrial experts estimate Beidou can trigger a potential market worth 225 billion yuan across China by 2015, Huang believes a huge potential market exists outside the country. He said Pakistan, Thailand and India are major potential Beidou users in the fisheries sector, because the system can help fishermen send emergency messages to rescue centers, and also inform their families about the latest conditions aboard vessels through a text message service. Liu Guozhi, vice-chairman of the China Satellite Navigation Commission, told the fourth China Satellite Navigation Conference, which ended on Friday in Wuhan, Hubei province, that Beidou is made in China but will be used worldwide. The three-day conference, held annually since 2010, attracted more than 2,000 people from China and overseas. They discussed the latest progress in satellite navigation technology, with the theme of the conference being opportunities and challenges in Beidou's application. Ran Chengqi, spokesman for the China Satellite Navigation Office, said Beidou will work with other satellite navigation systems, and international users are welcome to try the system. Stuart Riley, engineering manager of US-based Trimble Navigation, said this is a good chance to get to know Beidou. “We have been working on a product to support Beidou, which will be announced soon,” he said.

Hong Kong*:  May 19 2013

We love our neighbours, but only if they're like us (By Christy Choi and Jennifer Ngo) More than 7 out of 10 Hongkongers would not like to live next to people of a different race - the highest percentage in worldwide survey - We love our neighbours, but only if they're like us. What's going on in "Asia's World City"? A whole lot of racism, it seems, at least if a new world map on people's attitudes towards race is to be believed. When asked the question "Who would you not like to have as a neighbour?", 71.8 per cent of Hongkongers said they would not want to live next to people of a different race, the highest figure in a survey covering 81 countries that was published in The Washington Post on Wednesday. Respondents were given choices for their answer, such as people of a different race, criminals, drug addicts, and those of different religious backgrounds, and asked to choose. I also think this example doesn't give Hong Kong people enough credit. There are a lot of things that Hong Kong people are more tolerant of that other people aren't elsewhere in the world. For instance, Islam isn't a contentious issue in Hong Kong. The figures, part of a survey by the World Values Survey Association that used the same methodology worldwide, place Hong Kong in an unflattering light. In comparison, 43.5 per cent of Indians, 51.4 per cent of Jordanians and 71.7 per cent of Bangladeshis said the same. In most places the figure was below 40. The local data is from a 2005 questionnaire by Hong Kong University sociologist Ng Chun-hung on behalf of the project. While people on social media sites were quick to point out examples that supported the results, experts had another view. "It's a fair representation of what was going on eight years ago," said Paul O'Connor, assistant professor of anthropology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. "But in the last few years things have changed, with tension between mainland Chinese and Hong Kong Chinese." Because cosmopolitan and Western influences are qualities Hongkongers use to distinguish themselves from mainland Chinese, instances of racism are now less common against those who look different, he said. "I also think this example doesn't give Hong Kong people enough credit. There are a lot of things that Hong Kong people are more tolerant of that other people aren't elsewhere in the world. For instance, Islam isn't a contentious issue in Hong Kong." But he added: "It's still the case that the darker the skin colour the greater the prejudice ... It's still tough for ethnic minorities here." Fermi Wong Wai-fun, of rights group Unison, and a long-term advocate of minority rights, said the findings were consistent with those of her organisation. "I know that Hong Kong doesn't have a race policy, and we're more about promoting Chinese culture than anything, but I'm surprised it's so high," she said. But she added that part of the reason could be that the concept of neighbours in one country is different to that of a densely populated place like Hong Kong: "For Canada your neighbour might be 100 metres down the road, here you're window to window." The Equal Opportunities Commission said it could not comment on the figures as they were unsure of the survey methodology, but said surveys done by the commission and the government do not seem to support the theory that racial tolerance is low. 
WORLD CITY? Hongkongers surveyed didn't want to live next door to:
Drug addicts (10 per cent)
Heavy drinkers (16 per cent)
Emotionally unstable people (17 per cent)
People with a criminal record (42.4 per cent)
People who have Aids (43.1 per cent)
Homosexuals (48.6 per cent)
People of a different race (71.8 per cent)
Immigrants/foreign workers (78 per cent)

Hong Kong train derails in Tin Shui Wai, injuring 62 (By Lai Ying-kit The derailed two-carriage train in Tin Shui Wai on Friday afternoon. Six-two people were injured after a Light Rail Transit train derailed in Tin Shui Wai on Friday afternoon. The accident happened around 4.17pm when the two-carriage train was travelling near Ping Ha Road. The rear carriage pushed the front carriage forward when making a turn, causing it to move off the tracks, a fire services official said. Its driver was trapped in the cabin for a period of time as firemen had difficulty opening the crushed door. An overhead power cable was also damaged in the accident, the official said. The train had departed from Hang Mei Tsuen station and was heading for Tong Fong Tsuen station. At least four people were seriously injured and were rushed to Tuen Mun Hospital, it said. Most others suffered minor injuries, such as scratches, twists and bruises and were immediately treated near the scene of the accident. One passenger told local media the train crashed suddenly when making a turn, throwing many passengers on to the floor. TV footage showed several injured passengers being carried on stretchers by ambulance staff from a train heavily tilted to one side. Victor Kung Wai-kwok, police deputy district commander in Yuen Long, said the police department was still investigating the cause of the accident. Kung said detectives would look into whether it was due to a mechanical failure or human error. They were also checking how fast the train was travelling at the time of the accident. The MTR Corp, which operates the LRT system, suspended services on the five lines travelling in the area following the accident. An MTR spokesman said the train was a new model and it went into service about one and a half year ago. The light rail system runs in the northwest part of the New Territories, between Tuen Mun, Yuen Long and Tin Shui Wai.

 China*:  May 19 2013

'Uncivilised behaviour' of tourists is harming China's image, admits VP Wang Yang (By Agence France-Presse in Beijing) Dire manners due to poor 'quality and breeding' to blame - Vice Premier Wang Yang. The dire manners and “uncivilised behaviour” of some Chinese tourists abroad are harming the country’s image, said a top official who lamented their poor “quality and breeding”, according to state-run media. Wang Yang, one of China’s four vice premiers, singled out for condemnation “talking loudly in public places, jay-walking, spitting and willfully carving characters on items in scenic zones”. Such “uncivilised behaviours” were “often criticised by the media and have damaged the image of Chinese people and caused vicious impact”, he said, according to the website of the People’s Daily, the ruling Communist Party’s mouthpiece. At a government meeting on Thursday on a new tourism law Wang said: “The quality and breeding of some tourists are not high yet.” Chinese consumers have become increasingly affluent on the back of its economic boom and foreign holidays are ever more popular, with shopping often a key activity. Destination countries, including debt-laden European states, have been easing visa restrictions to attract more tourists from China, but reports have also emerged of complaints about etiquette. A mainland Chinese mother who asked her son to relieve himself in a bottle in a crowded Hong Kong restaurant sparked an outpouring of online anger in February. “Improving the civilised quality of the citizens and building a good image of Chinese tourists are the obligations of governments at all levels and relevant agencies and companies,” said Wang, a former party chief of Guangdong province. Authorities should “guide tourists to conscientiously abide by public order and social ethics, respect local religious beliefs and customs, mind their speech and behaviour ... and protect the environment,” he said. Under the new Chinese law, travel agencies will be allowed to revoke their contracts with tourists who “engage in activities that violate social ethics”, although it does not specify examples. Sara Jane Ho, principal of Institute Sarita in Beijing, China’s first high-end finishing school, said that rude behaviour stemmed from “a lack of international exposure and therefore lack of exposure to international etiquette”. “Most Chinese do not behave this way on purpose,” she said. “My students, who are mostly young mothers, explain that you cannot blame us for not knowing how to behave because our parents never taught us. “They grew up in a generation of basic survival; you don’t have the luxury to think about manners and personal space when trying to fight to the front of the food ration line.” She added that “each generation of Chinese is getting better and better with education and travel”. Earlier this year authorities in the wealthy eastern province of Jiangsu urged travellers to “take less cash, never show off money or valuables” after 23 Chinese visitors were robbed in Paris.

Google Maps leads abducted Chinese boy home to family 23 years later (By Amy Li) Incredible story of Sichuan man snatched on his way to kindergarten - Luo is reunited with his parents 23 years after being abducted to Fujian. A Sichuan man, abducted and taken to Fujian province at the age of five, has finally found his way home after spending years trying to work out where he came from. And he says he could not have done it without the help of Google Maps, Fujian’s news portal reports. Luo Gang, who was born in a small town in Guangan city, southwestern Sichuan province, disappeared on his way to kindergarten 23 years ago, said his parents. Heartbroken, they did everything they could to find their son, but to no avail. They eventually gave up and later adopted a daughter. What they didn't know was that their son had been taken to a city in southeastern Fujian province, some 1500 kilometres from Sichuan. Although Luo’s adopted parents loved him and treated him like their own son, he said the desire to find his birth parents had always haunted him. “Everyday before I went to bed, I forced myself to re-live the life spent in my old home,” he said. “So I wouldn’t forget.” But the only memory Luo had of his hometown was of two bridges. He drew a rough map of his hometown from memory, before posting it on “Bring Lost Babies Home”, a Chinese website devoted to locating missing children through the help of volunteers. Soon afterwards, a volunteer wrote back with valuable information - a couple from a small town in Sichuan’s Guangan city had lost a son 23 years ago. The time matched Luo’s abduction perfectly. Luo searched for pictures of the Sichuan town and found they looked familiar to him. To confirm his suspicions, he turned to the satellite version Google Maps. The minute he zoomed in on an area called “Yaojiaba” near the Sichuan town, Luo recognised the two bridges. “That’s it! That’s my home,” shouted Luo, in tears. Luo was pictured in a tearful reunion with his birth parents and grandparents in Sichuan. “In the past years, I couldn’t help crying each time I thought about my son, who could be starving without enough clothes on him,” said his mother. It is unclear whether any criminal charges will be brought against Luo's adoptive family. 

Glogou helps US companies build brands in China (By Yu Wei in San Francisco Iris Huang (second from right), director of global marketing at Glogou, with her team at the company's Silicon Valley headquarters. Baidu is the dominant search engine in China. But for any non-Chinese business pining to capture a smidgeon of the Middle Kingdom market, there is a massive obstacle: The search giant's ad management system is only available in Chinese. Leave it to a group of mostly Chinese engineers based in the Silicon Valley to find a seemingly obvious solution to an obvious challenge. Glogou, established in 2007 and based in Santa Clara, California, is a startup providing digital and mobile marketing ad solutions for mostly American companies trying to tap into one of the world's fastest-growing markets. It recently launched an interface allowing businesses to manage Baidu ad campaigns in English. "Baidu dominates the online search market in China. If you are not searchable on Baidu, basically you are not visible on China's Internet," said Iris Huang, director of global marketing at Glogou. "What we do is to make sure a US company's website is included in Baidu's search results." The company reportedly is the first overseas agent of Baidu, which attracts more than 400 million Internet users in China every day. Glogou also has offices in Boston, Beijing and Chengdu serving more than 65 clients, including IBM, Intel Corp and Marriott Hotels and Resorts as well as universities in the United States such as Columbia University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Though Glogou's client include a list of high-profile companies, Ben Lee, director of customer service at Glogou, said the focus is on small and medium-sized business in the US. But having an English interface isn't the only obstacle US businesses face in China. They still have to know what sells and how to sell it in the country. Glogou offers a market research to see how viable client's products are and to find the most effective marketing channel to reach target audiences. The company recently helped the University of California, Los Angeles, with its Empowered UCLA Extension program, which offers an online host of instructors, peers and counselors for students around the world. Huang said she and her team discovered that using social media would be a great platform for the program to build its brand in China. "We helped them set up a Weibo and Youku page so Chinese students would get to know them through social media," she said. Glogou also has a product called WAVE, or Web Accessibility and Visibility Evaluator. WAVE monitors whether a US business' website in China is effectively building a presence in China, if the site pops up on Chinese search engines and if there is social media chatter about the company. "A lot of foreign company website cannot be seen or completely seen in China. We provide this real-time technology WAVE that can help monitor all this accessibility in China. We identify the problem and develop these technologies to help the companies to solve problems," she said. Lee, the director of customer service at Glogou, said with the company's help, clients' "conversion rates" have improved. "For instance, a company want to advertise on Baidu and spend $100," he explained. "If $100 brings one customer to the company, the conversion rate can be considered as 1 percent. With our help, a company often spends $100 and brings in an average of 2.5 customers." Lee said the rise in conversion rates for Glogou's clients is mostly based on the company's knowledge of the country, the Chinese market and what Chinese customers are looking for. One simple example is the company's understanding of what Chinese home buyers want in the Los Angeles real estate market. In order to sell property to a Chinese buyer, he said, the realtor must not only list a description of the property but give potential buyers information about the location and education environment in the area. "We know many Chinese people buying property are doing it for their kids to attend US schools. This Chinese 'know-how' allows us know how to write ads for customers to immediately attract more targeted customers in China," he said. Hobsons, an Ohio-based education solutions company, recently set up its own Weibo page with Glogou's help to promote its upcoming virtual student fair. Within three months, its Weibo account attracted more than 700 fans. "Glogou and Hobsons partnered to step up social media efforts in China. Glogou seemed the right fit for us: small, agile and quick in understanding our needs," said Daniela Locreille, director of student marketing at Hobsons. "Glogou helped us brand our virtual event fast and accurately and they continue to provide results post-event though social media efforts and in Chinese." Glogou currently has a total of 30 employees, most of whom are Chinese educated in the US. Huang said the company utilizes their Western and Eastern education and cultural knowledge to bridge the gap between US businesses and Chinese customers. "Small and medium-sized enterprises in the US doing business in China face many challenges, from choosing the right partner to effectively planning media planning for social media platforms. Local knowledge of the Chinese culture is essential and technological solutions are a must. Glogou seems to offer exactly what is needed for American firms to operate and prosper in China," said Li Hairong, professor of department of advertising and public relations at Michigan State University. "Most American advertisers need assistance to buy ads from Baidu and other Chinese ad platforms that operate only in Chinese. Glogou sounds like it fills an important need for these advertisers," said Benjamin Edelman, associate professor of business administartion at Harvard Business School. Edelman said Glogou's products are important because they can also help Chinese advertisers. "In a world where only Google offers multilingual ad management features, American advertisers will likely resort to buying only Google ads to reach Chinese users. That would reach only a small portion of the Chinese market. Services like Glogou can help incumbents gain more ads and more revenue, thereby increasing their ability to keep the Chinese search market competitive," Edelman said.

Yuan appreciation burdens exporters (By Li Jiabao) The recent appreciation of the renminbi has had a major impact on Chinese exporters, especially those targeting the Japanese market, Ministry of Commerce spokesman Shen Danyang told a news briefing on Thursday. Exporters are reluctant to accept overseas orders owing to the quick currency appreciation and a lack of confidence in long-term operations, Shen added. The 113rd session of the Canton Fair, China's export barometer, saw overseas purchases edge down 1.4 percent year-on-year to $35.54 billion, but 83.7 percent of the overseas orders were short or medium-term orders within six months, according to the ministry. "Renminbi appreciation further narrows the profits of exporters and a survey by the ministry showed that 77.5 percent of exporters saw profits decline remarkably from January to April, while 6.6 percent of exporters worried about the fulfillment of orders," Shen said. He added that the currency appreciation took a heavy toll especially on small and medium-sized enterprises. Despite the robust trade growth in the first four months of this year, Shen said the ministry remained alert about the outlook for China's foreign trade in 2013. While the economic downturn eased in developed economies, there has been no fundamental improvement in overseas demand, and rising costs of land use and labor as well as financing difficulties remain in place domestically in addition to yuan appreciation against major currencies including the US dollar, the euro and the Japanese yen, Shen said. China's exports surged 17.4 percent year-on-year in the first four months but analysts said the figure was probably inflated by speculative money disguised as trade payments.

Hong Kong*:  May 18 2013

Can you tell where it is yet? Hong Kong pictured from the bottom up (By SCMP) Photographer publishing a book of Hong Kong's buildings - At first glance these photographs might look like part of a futuristic space station. But on closer inspection you'll see that they are in fact skyscrapers photographed from ground level. And they aren't any old skyscrapers: the photographs are taken around Hong Kong. Photographer Romain Jacquet-Lagreze has produced a book called Vertical Horizon which focuses on the city's growing skyline. "This book is like a contemplative dive into the raw nature of Hong Kong and an expression of its vertical elan," he says.

Dumpling eatery Din Tai Fung tops 101 Best Asian Restaurants poll (Reuters) Taiwan's Din Tai Fung, which has locations worldwide, is known for its xiao long bao. Taiwanese eatery Din Tai Fung, which is famed for its dumplings, was crowned Asia’s best restaurant, while restaurants in Beijing claimed the lion’s share of spots in the top 10 of a new survey of the food-obsessed region’s best dining. Din Tai Fung in Taipei was ranked No 1 in the inaugural 101 Best Restaurants in Asia list, released on Thursday by the US-based food website The Daily Meal, which does similar polls in the United States and Europe. The restaurant also has locations in Hong Kong, Australia, the US, among others. “Ultimately we chose ... a place best-known for doing one thing absolutely perfectly,” said Colman Andrews, editorial director of The Daily Meal, adding that they were aware their selection of the restaurant, which has spun off into an international chain, would be controversial. Hong Kong’s The Chairman, Felix, The Drawing Room, Yat Lok Restaurant and Yung Kee were among those that also made the cut. Only one Hong Kong restaurant got in the top 10: Lung King Heen at the Four Seasons in Central. Half of the top 10 restaurants were in Beijing, with Duck de Chine – noted for its Peking duck – at second place, and the Chinese-style nouvelle cuisine Green T. House at third. “Our feeling is that Shanghai has had a good reputation as a restaurant city for some time, due both to a strong regional cuisine and the early incursions of Western celebrity chefs ... but that Beijing is definitely catching up,” said Andrews. “It’s an imperfect analogy, but in a way the culinary contrast between the two mirrors that between New York City and Washington DC. The former is more famous as a food city, but Washington increasingly offers serious competition – usually just with a little less fanfare.” Food critics, writers and long-term foreign residents in Asia, among others, voted on a list of restaurants pulled together over a six-month nomination period, considering cuisine, style, value and overall buzz, to select the top 101. Beijing’s Temple Restaurant was fourth and Capital M, a modern Australian restaurant overlooking Tiananmen Square, was fifth. Another Beijing establishment, Dali Court, hit seventh. Varq, in the Indian capital New Delhi, came in sixth. The top 10 was rounded out by Michel Bras TOYA, Japon, a Michelin three-star restaurant on Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido. Andrews said that Asia’s flourishing restaurant scene was developing some interesting new trends. Five Indian restaurants made the list, including one in Bangalore. “India, indeed, will continue to develop in restaurant terms – and I hope not entirely through the efforts of the top hotel chains – but I also think South Korea shows great promise, and frankly I’m surprised that more of its top restaurants didn’t place on our list.” The top Korean restaurant was The Byeokje Galbi in Seoul, which came in at 30.

 China*:  May 18 2013

Polycom to target medical market in China (By Zheng Xin Polycom Inc, the US-based unified communications provider, says it is expanding its investment in China to target mainly the medical market, a major user of its services. Andy Miller, the company's CEO, said remote medical services are expected to continue to be a huge growth market in China. Unified communications involves integrating various types of communications system, to optimize business processes, such as video conferencing and video services. "The development of video conferencing technology has penetrated into people's everyday lives and the medical field is definitely one of the most significant driving forces," Miller said. Polycom's RealPresence mobile service enables video conferencing on mobile devices using IOS and Android systems, and was highly effective recently when it allowed communication between medical staff and a seven-year-old child who was infected with H7N9 bird flu. Steven Li, Polycom's vice-president of Greater China, added: "It enabled the prompt communication of treatment information between patient, doctors and relatives. It saves lives." Chinese manufacturers Huawei Technologies and ZTE Corp, as well as a number of startups, are also targeting the Chinese video-conferencing market, including the medical services sector. More companies, including many small and medium-sized enterprises, are opting to install such systems to save on travel costs. International Data Corporation, the market intelligence service which specializes in technology and communications sectors, recently predicted the Chinese unified communications and collaboration market will grow 20 percent annually over the next five years, and will be worth $2.53 billion by 2017. It called video conferencing one of the most significant driving forces of the unified communications sector. A separate report by Forrester Research Inc, the independent business and technology research company, claimed that video conferencing and face-to-face video collaboration significantly increase productivity and efficiency, and lower costs. Polycom now claims more than 51 percent of China's video-conferencing market. The company has increased its engineering staff in China, from less than 200 in 2011 to 500 people, who are mainly involved in local product development.

Shanghai battery factory canceled over protest (By Wang Zhenghua in Shanghai) Plans for plant pulled after protests over environmental concerns A Shanghai battery maker has given in to public pressure and canceled its plans for a new lithium battery factory in the city's Songjiang district. Shanghai Guoxuan New Energy said on Wednesday it had withdrawn its investment for the Songjiang program and would return the planned factory site to the local government, without claiming any compensation. The company gave in after hundreds of residents of Songjiang, in Shanghai's southwestern outskirts, held three protests against the planned factory out of concern about potential wastewater and gas emissions from the plant. A fourth protest had been planned for this weekend in downtown Shanghai. A resident named Zhu said on Wednesday that local people viewed the planned plant as a safety hazard. The project has upset many and its cancelation gave people a sigh of relief, she said. "Everybody is texting the news, and there are plans for a celebration," she said. "We are delighted with the company's decision because we love Songjiang and we want a safe and clean environment." Plans for the factory on a 23-acre plot in Songjiang Industrial Park were first announced in a joint news conference issued in August by the industrial park and Shanghai Guoxuan, a subsidiary of Hefei Guoxuan High-tech Power Energy Co Ltd. Despite an official environmental evaluation that claimed the project would cause little air or water pollution, residents were still concerned and started organizing protests last month. In recent weeks, Songjiang government officials tried to persuade residents to accept the project, saying the plant would only be allowed to produce lithium cells and conduct final assembly of the batteries. Officials at Songjiang's publicity office said on Wednesday that the district government would complete any necessary cleanup work after the project has been totally shut down.

Taiwan military vessels take part in a joint marine drill with coast guard patrol vessels in waters off southern Taiwan, May 15, 2013. Taiwan has implemented a new round of sanctions against the Philippines to rebuff the Philippines' response to the killing of a Taiwan fisherman.

China cuts US bond holdings (By Zhang Yuwei in New York) China, the United States' top foreign creditor, slightly reduced holdings of US Treasury issues modestly in March despite an overall increase in demand among foreign investors, according to data released on Wednesday. The Treasury Department said China and No 2 creditor Japan each reduced by a modest 0.1 percent their holdings of US government-issued debt - to $1.25 trillion and $1.11 trillion, respectively. Many other foreign governments and private investors increased holdings of long-term US Treasury securities in March. Net purchases by foreign residents, which includes banks and other financial institutions, were $15.3 billion, according to the latest monthly Treasury International Capital, or TIC, report. Net purchases by private foreign investors totaled $9.7 billion, while the figure for foreign official institutions was $5.6 billion. Ira Jersey, an interest-rate strategist at Credit Suisse Group AG, said the 0.1 percent month-to-month reduction by China isn't very significant. "In general, we are expecting general inflows to continue into the Treasury market from foreign - official and private - sources, although at a slower pace than we had in the last few years, partly because investors are looking at somewhere to get better yields," he said. Despite being a major holder of US government debt, China's hasn't been the biggest foreign buyer, Jersey pointed out. "Other regions in aggregate have been larger buyers for some time," he said. Members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, for example, were leading purchasers of US Treasurys when oil was selling around $100 a barrel "because they had a lot of money from exporting oil to the US," the analyst explained. "A lot of the flows we've seen have been from Europe because they [investors] don't want to own government bonds in Europe." Some investors, including Peter Schiff, CEO and chief global strategist for Euro Pacific Capital Inc, have criticized the ongoing Chinese purchase of US government bonds, saying the US shouldn't rely on China as its bank. But Jersey said a fine "balance" is needed somewhere when two countries have a large trade deficit. The US was on the short end of a $315 billion trade gap with China in 2012. "If one country has a trade deficit to somewhere else, they have to get a financial inflow from somewhere," he said. "As long as there is a policy of having a currency board and having the renminbi stay within a certain band to the dollar, then China has to buy dollars if they have a trade surplus with the US," he said. "And if they don't do that, the only other option is to let the renminbi appreciate, given there is no other way of shrinking the trade deficit." Also on Wednesday, a senior Treasury Department official said currency-rate policies in some emerging markets affect global growth. "Global recovery has been held back by a lack of demand growth in many of the major advanced economies, and by resistance in many emerging economies to moving more quickly toward the currency flexibility needed for a durable rebalancing," Lael Brainard, Treasury undersecretary for international affairs, said at a Bretton Woods Committee conference hosted by the International Monetary Fund. "As a result, it runs the risk of being overly dependent on the recovery in the US," she said. In its most recent report on exchange-rate policies, issued in mid-April, the Treasury Department again declined to label China a "currency manipulator" although it said the yuan needs to appreciate further. "China has taken a series of steps to liberalize controls on capital movements, as part of a broader plan to move to a more flexible exchange-rate regime," that report said. As of early April, the yuan had appreciated 10 percent against the dollar since June 2010, when China moved off its exchange-rate peg.

Stars at Cannes Film Festival 2013

Hong Kong*:  May 17 2013

Critical report on Chinese tycoon's role in ATV to be released, court rules (By Lai Ying-kit Mainland tycoon and ATV majority investor Wong Ching. The Communications Authority can release details of a critical report on mainland property tycoon and ATV majority investor Wong Ching’s role in the day-to-day operations of the free-to-air television station, the Court of Appeal ruled on Wednesday. Last year, ATV won a judicial review to block the authority from releasing the final report to the public, but the authority subsequently took the case to the appeal court. The court on Wednesday also rejected ATV’s request that the authority must disclose the identity of those witnesses who had accused Wong of mismanagement. Some details of the preliminary report were revealed in a judicial review application filed in June last year by the television station. The report accuses Wong of having de facto control of ATV, which violates broadcast rules. It also says ATV executive director James Shing Pan-yu had ceded much of his day-to-day tasks to Wong and he is unfit to hold a broadcasting licence. ATV said it was considering appealing against Wednesday’s ruling.

Working expatriates like to stay in Hong Kong longer: poll (By Eldes Tran Elgin Street in Soho, which offers a variety of restaurants for foreign professionals in Hong Kong. Hong Kong ranks behind only the United Arab Emirates as the most popular place - where professionals working abroad want to stay longer, a survey has found. The city is also in the top 15 most popular destinations in the world for what the report calls an “emerging global professional class”. “Hong Kong remains a top location for finance professionals, and it is a great place to live. It’s not only just about one island,” said Simon Walker, managing director of recruitment firm Hydrogen, which commissioned the survey of 2,000 people in 90 countries. Still, Hong Kong is not the top overseas destination for finance workers. The US takes that honour, followed by Singapore and Australia. Singapore also outranks Hong Kong in the technology sector. (Hong Kong is No 1 in the legal sector, however.) The two cities may be benefiting from a “reverse brain drain”. Returning Asian expatriates are finding better opportunities abroad, said the report, which was released on Tuesday. “Asians who have worked away from home, and whose home countries are now becoming economic powerhouses, are exceptionally valuable as they combine international experience with an understanding of their local culture,” Walker said in the report. Among the top 15 destinations of professionals abroad, Hong Kong is ranked eighth, above China, which is ranked 11th. The United States held on to its status as the most popular location for professionals moving overseas, followed by Britain, Australia, Singapore, Canada and Switzerland. “The United States is still the dominant force, but the UK is definitely on the march,” said Dan Fox of Hydrogen. “We are seeing a lot of Europeans coming to work in the UK. It is all about wanting to work for the up-and-coming companies.” The biggest motivators for staff looking to work abroad were better career chances, new experiences and the potential to earn more, the survey said. 
Top 15 most popular destinations
1 United States
2 Britain
3 Australia
4 Singapore
5 Canada
6 Switzerland
7 France
8 Hong Kong
9 United Arab Emirates
10 Germany
11 China
12 Brazil
13 Italy
14 Spain
15 New Zealand

Hong Kong businessman wins US$70m award in lawsuit against Las Vegas Sands (By Associated Press in Las Vegas) Las Vegas Sands says it won’t be paying up anytime soon, despite a defeat by Hong Kong businessman Richard Suen in a nine-year fight against Sheldon Adelson - Las Vegas Sands has opened four resorts in Macau’s Cotai Strip area, including the Venetian. A jury on Tuesday dealt another defeat to casino mogul Sheldon Adelson in his nine-year fight with a Hong Kong businessman, awarding the former consultant US$70 million for helping Las Vegas Sands secure a lucrative gambling licence in Macau. ut Las Vegas Sands says it won’t be paying up anytime soon. Richard Suen claimed he was owed up to US$328 million for helping the Las Vegas-based company secure a lucrative gambling license in Macau, the only place in China where casino gambling is legal. Las Vegas Sands attorneys argued Suen was owed nothing because he didn’t make good on a promise to aid company executives and deliver a licence. The jury didn’t know it, but the case was a retrial; Suen won the suit in 2008, but the verdict was thrown out on appeal. The jury hearing the retrial deliberated for less than two days before delivering a unanimous consensus. But the fight, now entering its 10th year, is likely to continue through another appeal. “We believe there are compelling and sufficient grounds on which to appeal this verdict, and we will do so aggressively,” Sands spokesman Ron Reese said. Suen remained straight-faced after the verdict was read, as he had throughout the trial, while Sands attorneys pursed their lips and shook their heads. Sands attorney Stephen Peek immediately asked for a retrial, saying a juror had revealed secret prejudices against Adelson. The man in question grew angry during deliberations on Monday and taunted a fellow juror, saying she was afraid of Adelson. The woman later asked Judge Rob Bare if she could sit separately from the rest of the jury because she felt disrespected. She was later convinced to sit with the jury and proceed with the deliberations. On Tuesday, Bare said he found the mistrial argument unconvincing and noted Sands could’ve made the objection before the verdict was announced. As he walked out of the courtroom, Suen, 60, said he would be “eternally grateful” to Sin City. “I believe that justice will be served eventually,” he said. “I’ve always kept my faith with the Las Vegas community, and I’ve been proven right. Twice.” Adelson attended court last week for closing arguments but was absent from Tuesday’s proceedings. Las Vegas Sands has opened four resorts in Macau’s Cotai Strip area, and now makes about 60 per cent of its profits in the city. Sands also operates the Venetian and the Palazzo casinos on the Las Vegas Strip. Suen said he was hired by Las Vegas Sands to curry favour with the Chinese government in the early 2000s and was successful. He first filed his lawsuit in 2004, saying he and his company were promised US$5 million and 2 per cent of net casino profits to help the company win a Macau gambling license. Sands does not deny that a high level executive once offered Suen this “success fee” in writing, but the company’s attorneys argued Suen did not hold up his end of the bargain. The jury rejected Suen’s breach-of-contract claim, but found he was owed something for his troubles. In 2008, Suen was awarded US$58.6 million, but the Nevada Supreme Court overturned that verdict. Among other things, the court said the district judge shouldn’t have allowed hearsay statements during the trial. In the retrial, Suen asked for more than three times the amount of compensation he requested in 2008 because of Sands’ explosive success in Macau. The second five-week trial could end up costing Sands more than US$11.2 million in the award alone. The US$70 million award will accrue interest until it is paid or overturned. Adelson, the 79-year-old chairman and chief executive of Las Vegas Sands, offered business lessons and hammy jokes during his three days of testimony in April. The multi-billionaire said his own business sense helped him to see the opportunities waiting in Macau and convince local officials to license his company. Asked why a fantastically successful company would opt to invest time and resources in a third trial over the relatively minor sum of US$70 million, Reese declined to answer directly. “The company has stated unequivocally that Mr Suen played no role in helping the company win its licence,” he said. Sands ultimately partnered with Hong Kong-based Galaxy Entertainment and was granted one of three gambling licences by the Macau government. The companies could not reach a contract agreement, however, and the partnership was dissolved. Macau then awarded Las Vegas Sands a subconcession, a decision Suen’s lawyers said was a result of their client’s earlier lobbying. In closing statements, Suen trial lawyer John O’Malley drew an analogy to a person who hires a real estate agent to sell his home. Even if the homeowner finds a buyer quickly and easily, the agent still is entitled to collect his commission, or at least a portion of it, he said. On Tuesday, O’Malley urged regulators in Nevada and Macau, who have the power to eject Sands, to pay attention to the lengthy legal battle as it again goes to appeal. “This debt has been outstanding for a long time, and I hope folks think about that,” he said.

 China*:  May 17 2013

South Korean media slams ‘provocative’ photo of Japan's Abe (By Agence France-Presse in Seou) South Korean newspaper front pages show Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seated inside a military jet trainer on Sunday. Major South Korean newspapers splashed a photo of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in a military jet trainer on their front pages on Wednesday, saying it was a reminder of Japan’s colonial-era atrocities. The picture in question showed a smiling Abe giving a thumbs-up while sitting in the cockpit of an air force T-4 training jet emblazoned with the number 731. The number evoked memories of Unit 731 - a covert Japanese biological and chemical warfare research facility that carried out lethal human experiments during the 1937-45 Sino-Japanese War and World War II. The unit was based in the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin, and held prisoners from China, South Korea and the Soviet Union. The press in Seoul suggested the Abe picture was an intended affront to countries like China and South Korea which had suffered under Japanese occupation and colonisation. “Abe’s endless provocation!” said the picture caption on the front page of the country’s largest daily, the Chosun Ilbo. “Abe’s pose resurrects horrors of Unit 731,” ran the headline in the English-language Korea JoongAng Daily. The picture was reportedly taken on Sunday at an air force base in Japan’s Miyagi Prefecture. Abe was visiting the base as part of a tour of areas affected by the 2011 tsunami. The Japanese Defence Ministry suggested the number on the trainer was simply coincidental. “There was no particular meaning in the number of the training airplane the prime minister was in on Sunday. Other than that there is nothing we can say,” a ministry spokesman told AFP in Tokyo. The prominence given to the photo will likely fuel public anger in South Korea which has already been aroused by the recent visit of Japanese cabinet ministers and lawmakers to a controversial war shrine. The Yasukuni shrine in central Tokyo honours 2.5 million war dead, including 14 leading war criminals and is regarded by South Korea and China as a symbol of wartime aggression. South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se shelved a proposed trip to Tokyo in protest at the visits, while President Park Geun-Hye warned Japan against shifting to the right and aggravating the “scars of the past”.

Taiwan sanctions Philippines despite Aquino apology (By Agence France-Presse in Taipei) Taipei slaps sanctions on Manila after rejecting an apology by President Aquino for the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman - Philippine special envoy Amadeo Perez (centre) and Philippine envoy in Taipei Antonio Basilio (right) meet the media during a visit to Taiwan's Foreign Affairs Ministry in Taipei on Wednesday. Taiwanese Premier Jiang Yi-huah said the Philippine government should not "evade the responsibility”. Taiwan on Wednesday slapped sanctions on the Philippines, including a ban on the hiring of new workers, rejecting an apology by President Benigno Aquino for the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman. Philippine coastguards shot dead the 65-year-old last week after they said his vessel illegally sailed into Philippine waters, and outrage in Taiwan at the incident grew amid a perceived lack of remorse in Manila. In a bid to contain the diplomatic fallout, Aquino sent Amadeo R. Perez, chairman of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office which handles relations with Taiwan, to the island on Wednesday to act as his “personal representative” and apologise. “(The envoy) will convey his and the Filipino people’s deep regret and apology to the family of Mr Hung Shih-cheng, as well as to the people of Taiwan over the unfortunate and unintended loss of life,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in Manila. Premier Jiang Yi-huah said Taiwan acknowledged Lacierda’s statement but deemed it “unacceptable” that the death was described as unintended. “Perez did not have sufficient authorisation and this shows the Philippines’ lack of sincerity in resolving the incident and therefore our second wave of eight sanctions are initiated immediately,” Jiang told reporters. These include a “red” travel alert urging Taiwanese not to visit the Philippines and the suspension of exchanges between high-level officials, as well as a halt to exchanges on trade and academic affairs. Jiang urged Taiwanese to support the government in pressuring the Philippine government but said the Filipino people should be treated “calmly”. Taiwan earlier Wednesday had suspended the hiring of Philippine workers and recalled its envoy to Manila in protest at the killing. It rejected an initial apology made by the Philippines’ de facto ambassador early on Wednesday as inadequate. President Ma Ying-jeou insisted Manila offer a formal apology and compensation, apprehend the killer and launch talks on the fishing industry. “President Ma expressed his strong dissatisfaction over the Philippines’ lack of sufficient sincerity and its shifting attitude, and found the Philippines’ reckless and perfunctory response unacceptable,” spokeswoman Lee Chia-fei told reporters. President Ma expressed his strong dissatisfaction over the Philippines’ lack of sufficient sincerity and its shifting attitude, and found the Philippines’ reckless and perfunctory response unacceptable - Lacierda urged Taiwan not to implement its threatened sanctions and to reverse its decision to ban new Filipino workers while appealing for calm. There are 87,000 Philippine workers in Taiwan and labour authorities said nearly 2,000 new applications to work are submitted monthly. Lacierda did not mention compensation, but said Aquino had asked the Manila Economic and Cultural Office to make unspecified “donations” to the dead fisherman’s family. The cultural office represents the Philippines in the absence of diplomatic ties. Manila recognises Beijing rather than Taipei as the government of China. Taiwan’s defence ministry also said it begun a two-day drill aimed at defending its fishermen in waters near a Philippine island. Maritime tensions are already high over rival claims in the South China Sea, adjacent to where last Thursday’s shooting took place. China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei all have competing claims to parts of the strategic and resource-rich maritime region. Taiwan also faces overlapping claims involving Japan and China in disputed East China Sea waters. Analysts said Ma cannot afford to look soft while his approval ratings are low, and his government is apparently also trying to show it can stand tough in maritime disputes. “Taipei wants to send a signal that it cannot be belittled and that its people should not be harmed,” said George Tsai, a political scientist at the Chinese Cultural University in Taipei. “But it should be careful not to give other parties an impression that it will argue its point to death.”

Cross-border shopping exodus expected (By Gao Changxin in Hong Kong and Yu Ran in Shanghai) Shoppers from the Chinese mainland flock to stores in Hong Kong for bargains. Mainland consumers are increasingly traveling to the special administrative region as the yuan continues to appreciate. Emboldened by a strong yuan, already high-spending mainland shoppers are heading to Hong Kong - to shop even more. Flying to the special administrative region during holidays and emptying the shelves there has become a ritual for many mainlanders. But in recent months, the deals on offer have started to look even more attractive. According to figures from the Hong Kong government, during the first three months of the year, retail sales rose by 6.5 percent, seasonally adjusted, from the previous quarter. During the three-day May Day holiday, from April 29 to May 1, about 400,000 mainlanders flocked to Hong Kong, a 50 percent increase from the same period last year, according to the Hong Kong Tourism Board. Cosmetics retailing chain Sa Sa International Holdings, which has around 80 stores in Hong Kong, said its like-for-like store sales grew 17 percent during the three-day period. "With the help of a continued growth in mainland tourist arrivals during the May Day holiday, the group's retail sales in Hong Kong and Macao rose approximately 25 percent during the three-day holiday," said Simon Kwok, its chairman and chief executive officer. Vincent Chow, chairman of Chow Sang Sang, one of Hong Kong's biggest jewelry retailers, also said it enjoyed a double-digit increase in sales. And as media pictures showing long lines outside stores in some of its most popular shopping areas testified, the Chinese Gold & Silver Exchange Society reported a 50 percent surge in gold sales during the holiday period. The continued strength of the yuan has played a major part in the Hong Kong shopping boom. The Chinese currency has been gradually gaining on the US dollar, supported by a flow of "hot money" into the country, said analysts. Last Wednesday, the official daily reference rate for the yuan passed 6.2 against the dollar for the first time since the Chinese government unified its official and market exchange rates at the end of 1993. It closed at 6.1410. And as the Hong Kong dollar is pegged to the US dollar, the yuan is also breaking records against the currency.On Wednesday, the yuan powered through the 0.8 threshold, ending at a record 0.7986. Jing Ulrich, chairwoman of Global Markets of JP Morgan Securities (Asia Pacific) Ltd, said she thinks the yuan could appreciate another 1 to 2 percent against the greenback by the end of the year. "Overall, the yuan is stable, but a strong yuan hurts the Chinese economy," said Ulrich. Liu Binyu, a 26-year-old white-collar worker from Shanghai, said she is going to Hong Kong next week for her second shopping trip of this year, based on the continued appreciation of the yuan. Her list includes cosmetic products, bags and clothes. She was in Hong Kong during Spring Festival, and plans to go back again in August. "Purchasing those branded goods in Hong Kong will save money, and the appreciation of the yuan is making these kinds of items even cheaper," said Liu. Lei Yan, who is in charge of outbound tourists to Hong Kong region at China International Travel Service in Shanghai, said that as the traditional off-peak season for tourism comes to an end, the appreciation of the yuan will definitely increase the number of travelers heading for Hong Kong for short shopping trips during the summer.

Hong Kong*:  May 16 2013

Chow Tai Fook's Adrian Cheng updating Hong Kong empire for a changing China (By Farah Master in Hong Kong) Hong Kong-listed Chow Tai Fook is valued at US$14 billion (HK$108.7 billion), and has more than 1,800 outlets throughout China. He has trained on Broadway and been a Wall Street banker. Now, Adrian Cheng, 33-year-old scion of the world’s largest jewellery retailer and one of Asia’s leading property developers is gearing up for his latest challenge - modernizing his family’s US$25 billion (HK$194.0 billion) empire for what he calls a “new era”. The grandson of Hong Kong billionaire Cheng Yu-tung, who built up jeweller Chow Tai Fook and real estate titan New World Development, Cheng is one of a new generation of business leaders in Asia who are taking over the corporate reins from their ageing rags-to-riches forebears. He and contemporaries including Martin Lee, vice-chairman of Henderson Land, Victor Li, deputy chairman of Cheung Kong (Holdings), and Melco Crown Entertainment boss Lawrence Ho bring an international education and a digital savvy to family-owned empires that have been run along traditional lines for decades. A former Goldman Sachs and UBS banker, Cheng says he is trying to change the corporate culture by removing boundaries and hierarchy within the group. “Change is a big word that everyone is using. (United States President Barack) Obama uses it, but you have to actually feel it,” he says, laughing. Ranked by Fortune as one of the world’s youngest billionaires, Cheng’s business challenges are a far cry from those of his grandfather, who began as a trainee at Chow Tai Fook after the Second World War, when the retailer sold others’ products on consignment. The young tycoon, who studied at boarding school in the United States, Harvard University and then took an arts and culture programme in Japan, says his mission is to equip the family business to cater to diverging retail trends in a rapidly changing Chinese market. “Back then the demographics were very different. It was more simple minded. These days China is so big, it has become a really melting pot market,” says Cheng, dressed fashionably in a charcoal grey jumper and black jacket. With his father, Henry, as chairman of Chow Tai Fook and New World, Adrian is becoming more involved in the group’s overall strategy. He was appointed joint general manager of the property arm last year in line with his grandfather’s succession plans, and is an executive director of the group’s jewellery arm. Chow Tai Fook, which listed in Hong Kong in 2011 and is now valued at US$14 billion (HK$108.7 billion), has more than 1,800 outlets throughout China. The jeweller focuses on three areas: the VIP segment, entry-price buyers and e-commerce, which is growing at a rapid pace. Sales were HK$25 billion (HK$194.0) in May-September last year. New World Development, valued at US$11 billion (HK$85.4 billion), has a property network that extends from first-tier cities such as Beijing and Hong Kong, where it operates the Renaissance Harbour View and Grand Hyatt hotels, to fast-developing industrial cities such as Anshan in Liaoning province. Cheng says his business approach is more entrepreneurial than that of large corporates. An advocate of developing arts and culture, he is expanding his own K11 brand, developing ‘art malls’ across China. Hong Kong’s K11, located in a busy shopping district in Kowloon, has playful ceiling installations and prominent statues, including a winged neon-pink pig, to interact with visitors. A key priority is to position brands internationally, says Cheng, who sits on the Tate Modern’s Asia-Pacific Acquisitions Committee in London. Parties and exhibitions in European cities like Paris are regular events, while annual auction dinners in Hong Kong aim to grow the base of high net worth VIP customers. “They (VIP customers) have been abroad and seen the most expensive stuff. Now it’s not about how big the jewellery is. They care more about the design, the subtle sophistication and they want more craftsmanship,” Cheng told Reuters in his understated office 32 storeys above Hong Kong’s central district. His family owns the entire building, known as New World Tower, one of Hong Kong’s larger skyscrapers. Chow Tai Fook’s products range from gold bars and diamond rings for China’s burgeoning mass market to million dollar custom-made pieces such as the Carmine Flight, a pink flamingo neckpiece with fuchsia sapphires. The group has more than 1 million VIP customers in mainland China and 100,000 in Hong Kong - so many that it has had to sub-categorise them into the “really high-end honourable VIPs, mid-range VIPs and lower-tier VIPs.” “Younger generation management revamping family businesses has been quite prevalent in Hong Kong and China recently,” said Aaron Fischer, head of Asia consumer and gaming research at CLSA. “Adrian Cheng is one of the prime examples, revolutionizing the corporate culture at the family business with fresh ideas and introducing international best practices.” The move to target specific types of customers across China is reshaping the company internally to help it deal with what Cheng calls a tipping point. “Changing corporate culture, changing people’s mindsets and motivating them to follow your vision is the hardest because that needs a lot of granular commitment,” said Cheng, who was trained in classical singing, opera and Broadway music from the age of 12. Sophisticated e-commerce platforms are being rolled out, with a 24-hour support team to react swiftly to any complaints seen on mini-blog sites. Some new collections are only sold online. “It’s getting more competitive because everyone’s going in (e-commerce),” said Cheng, adding the group expects to triple online sales each year for the next five years. Amid all the change in a fast-growth China and online, Cheng holds on to some of his grandfather’s basic business tenets - such as understanding what the customer wants, having confidence and liking what you do, and, most importantly, creating a stable ship, he says. “You need to make sure everything is very stable and is going towards the right direction. Sometimes you need to go back,” he adds, noting some firms dive into China too quickly. Straddling the family’s two main business pillars, Cheng sees potential cross-benefits between the jewellery and property arms for Chinese VIP customers. A regular jewellery buyer, for instance, could be offered a small discount on real estate. “Things are changing so intricately and suddenly it (demand) will just explode and grow exponentially,” says Cheng. “If you don’t see the wave underneath that is growing and catch the trend, you will miss the boat.”

 China*:  May 16 2013

Taiwan's military drills in disputed waters to step up pressure on Manila (By Lawrence Chung in Taipei Navy and coastguard to hold joint exercise on Thursday 'in waters south of Taiwan' to show island's resolve over Philippines' killing of fisherman - Some 200 Taiwanese gathered outside the Philippines representative office in Taipei on Monday to protest the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman by the Philippines coast guard in disputed waters between Taiwan and the northern Philippines. Taiwan would stage military drills to step up pressure on Manila over the killing of a fisherman last week, it said yesterday as angry protesters burned the Philippine flag in front of Manila's representative office in Taipei. Deputy Defence Minister Andrew Yang said Taiwan's navy and coastguard would hold a joint exercise on Thursday in "waters south of Taiwan" to show the island's determination to safeguard its fishermen operating in Taiwan's territorial waters. "The navy will send two more frigates to join other vessels already on patrol in waters south of Taiwan for a joint exercise on May 16," Yang said before briefing legislators on the row. He did not identify the exact location, but legislators said later it would be around waters claimed by both Taipei and Manila as part of their exclusive economic zones, where three Taiwanese coastguard vessels and a navy frigate were on patrol. The navy said it also has another frigate regularly patrolling the area. During Yang's briefing to the legislature, Kuomintang lawmaker Lin Yu-fang demanded to know whether it was possible for the military to stage another exercise in the contested waters before the end of the month. Yang said it "should be no problem" for the military to stage a joint drill with the coastguard before the end of May "if the Philippines fails to respond to our demands" by tonight's midnight deadline. On Sunday, Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou demanded that the Philippines meet the deadline for making a formal apology for the armed attack and to agree to pay compensation, conduct a thorough investigation, punish those responsible for the killing, and negotiate a bilateral pact to prevent a recurrence of fishing disputes. The Ma government said it would impose labour and other economic sanctions if Manila failed to respond. Hung Shih-cheng, 65, one of four crew on a Taiwanese boat in the contested waters, about 164 nautical miles southeast of Taiwan, was shot dead on Thursday by Philippine coastguard members on a fishery bureau vessel. More than 50 bullet holes were found in the 15-tonne Taiwanese boat. The Philippines admitted the attack but said those aboard the fishery bureau vessel were defending themselves after the fishing boat tried to ram it. Manila expressed its sympathy and regret over the incident, but refused to make a formal apology. The Philippine representative to Taiwan, Antonio Basilio, returned to Manila yesterday to report. Before leaving he said his government fully understood the feelings of the Taiwanese public and regretted the incident. Taiwanese Foreign Minister David Lin said Manila's "regret is unacceptable" and that Taipei, which had informed Washington of the incident and Taiwan's stand, wanted a formal apology. Public outrage intensified yesterday with hundreds of fishermen and their supporters demonstrating outside the Philippine representative office in Taipei. Manila and Taipei do not have formal diplomatic relations. Taiwanese hackers launched a cyber attack against Philippine government offices in response to an attack by Filipino hackers on Taiwan's government offices.

France-China Film Festival kicks off in Paris - The 3rd France-China Film Festival kicks off in Paris on Monday. Chinese actress Zhao Wei attended the event.

Visa ready for China market opening (By WANG XIAOTIAN) Global card payments giant open to option of buying local company - Visa Inc, the world's biggest card payments network, is gearing up to participate in yuan-denominated business in China, as regulators prepare to release rules facilitating foreign players to enter domestic market possibly as soon as July. Jeff Liao, country manager of Visa Information Systems (Shanghai) Co Ltd, told China Daily that his fingers are crossed for the opportunity to launch its first single-branded Visa card in China as soon as possible. "We can support banks to issue a Visa product at any time, if the regulations allow," Liao said. He added Visa is also open to the option of purchasing a local company, while emphasizing it could also grow organically through developing its own products. "We're waiting to see what identity Visa can have, what business we can do, and to what extent we can progress to get access to the domestic market." He said the company is yet to apply to the central bank for any kind of renminbi license. Chinese laws require foreign credit card companies to co-brand with Chinese partners to support their card services, or to process interbank point-of-sale transactions. New rules on how foreign players can participate in the domestic payment and clearing system are expected to be announced at the end of July, but when they will become effective is still unknown, according to sources familiar with the matter. A World Trade Organization panel concluded in July 2012 that China acted inconsistently with its market access commitment in maintaining China UnionPay Co Ltd as a monopoly supplier for the clearing of yuan-denominated payment card transactions.

Toys R Us expands in China (By TANG ZHIHAO in Shanghai) Eyeing the tremendous business opportunities in the Chinese toy market, United States-based toy retailer Toys R Us is accelerating its expansion in China and plans to have 100 stores in the country in the next three years. The multinational retailer currently operates 34 stores around China, including the new premises that opened on May 11 in Jiaxing, Zhejiang province. The company will have 50 stores around China by the end of 2013. Toys R Us entered into China in 2006 by opening its first flagship store in Super Brand Mall in the Shanghai Pudong New Area. The company declined to reveal its sales growth rate in the country but said it had achieved double-digit growth in the past few years. Mark Murphy, managing director of Toys R Us in China, said most new stores will be community stores that cover an area of 700 to 1,000 square meters. The community stores will have an additional focus on learning products, which are the most popular products in the country. Murphy said people's desire for quality products is the main reason Toys R Us has been rapidly expanding in China since 2011. In November that year, Toys R Us formed a joint venture with Hong Kong trading company Li & Fung to deepen its penetration of the Chinese market. Toys R Us owns 70 percent of the joint venture. "As the middle class grows in China and children remain very important, I think Toys R Us brand stands for three important things, which are authenticity, safety and quality," said Murphy. The new stores will be opened in first tier cities such as Beijing and Shanghai as well as lower tier cities such as Chengdu in Sichuan province. Total retail sales of toys and games in China soared in value from $3.89 billion in 2007 to $8.3 billion in 2011, an average annual growth rate of 21 percent, according to statistics from global market research firm Euromonitor.

Boeing expects to deliver 787 in China (By Michael Barris in New York and Linda Deng in Seattle and Hainan Airlines and China Southern Airlines will be the first carriers in China to receive Boeing Co's 787 Dreamliner, delivery of which to the world's fastest-growing aviation market has been delayed for years by various problems, a top Boeing executive said. "Boeing expects to first deliver the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to China over the next few weeks," Marc Allen, the US plane maker's China division president, told an audience in Chengdu on Sunday. The timing, however, depends on when China's Civil Aviation Administration certifies the 787. The regulator has issued no updates on its airworthiness-certification process. Wang Yingming, chairman of Hainan Airlines Co parent HNA Group, was recently quoted as telling the Chinese-language National Business Daily that the aircraft is expected to be approved for commercial operation in China sometime this month. Boeing has promoted its newest jet, which can be configured to fly as many as 290 passengers up to 15,750 kilometers, as 20 percent more fuel-efficient than the 767 it's meant to replace. Although smaller than many existing wide-body jets, the 787 can fly longer distances, enabling more long-haul, nonstop service between China and cities in North America and Europe. But lithium-ion batteries overheated and burned on two aircraft, prompting the Federal Aviation Administration in January to order all 787s in the United States grounded until the battery design was modified. The grounding, which the US rescinded in late April, delayed Chinese regulatory approval of the 787. Aviation-safety authorities in Japan and the European Union followed with their own approvals of the battery modification, allowing for 787 flights in those jurisdictions. Some experts told China Daily that the problems could impede Chinese certification of the Dreamliner. "Boeing has to prove the safety of the aircraft before it flies in China," said Li Xiaojin, a professor at China Aviation University in Tianjin. The certification process, he said, will be slowed by the Civil Aviation Administration's inspection for any potential problems with the plane. Liang Pubin, general manager of Hainan Airlines North America, said in an interview that the carrier plans to use the 10 Boeing 787s it has ordered to handle most of its service to and from the US and Canada. If the 787 isn't certified in time, Hainan will begin its Beijing-Chicago route on Sept 3 with Airbus A340-600 planes, Liang said. That service, which augments Hainan's existing nonstop North America-Beijing routes (Seattle and Toronto), will involve one flight departing Beijing Capital International Airport at 12:35 pm local time and arriving in Chicago at 1:25 pm the same day. A second daily flight will depart Chicago at 3:25 pm and land in Beijing at 7:05 the following morning. Hainan has been awaiting delivery of its first Dreamliner since 2010. For China Southern, the first 787 was to have been delivered last year. The first Dreamliner was delivered to Japan's All Nippon Airways in 2011 after a three-year-and-a-half delay due to technical and other problems. The aircraft is Boeing's initial foray into outsourcing some production to suppliers around the world, although the 787 is built primarily at the company's factories in Washington state and South Carolina. Chicago-based Boeing is now producing the planes at the rate of seven a month. Boeing has said China had firm orders for 35 Dreamliners -10 each from China Southern and Hainan, and 15 from Air China Ltd. In addition, Xiamen Airlines announced an order for six 787s, pending government approval.

Hong Kong*:  May 15 2013

Good marks for Hong Kong in World University Rankings, but history is a fail (By Linda Yeung Professor Peter Cunich laments limited resources for the University of Hong Kong's history department. Hong Kong institutions fared reasonably well in the latest QS World University Rankings by Subject, being represented in the top 200 in almost all 30 subjects. History, and agriculture and forestry, were the two subjects for which no local institutions made it into the top 200. The University of Hong Kong was ranked 10th and the University of Science and Technology 12th internationally for computer science and information systems in the poll, which was based on employer and academic reputation, and SciVerse Scopus, the abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed research literature. HKU and Chinese University even made the top 50 for the less popular subject of philosophy, while Baptist University made the top 200. It is easy to see why forestry and agriculture do not have a place in a metropolis like Hong Kong. But history is standard in any school curriculum. HKU professor Peter Cunich blames the poll result on the tiny resources dedicated to history here. "Our Hong Kong history departments are very small by international standards, and none of them are as comprehensive in their coverage of areas or time periods as other top 200 institutions. "Most top 200 institutions would have departments with between 20 and 50 full-time professorial staff covering the full range of time periods and geographical areas," the history professor says. HKU has 11 full-time professorial staff in the department, down from 17 in the early 1990s. The number will come down further next year, says Cunich. The history departments at Chinese University, Baptist University and Lingnan University are also limited in size. Chinese University has about 50 history undergraduates and 14 full-time professorial staff. Size affects a department's global competitiveness, as a small pool of historians means a limited number of supervisors for postgraduate research. HKU's history department is also struggling with tight resources, and an eroding sense of identity since it was merged with the newly created School of Humanities in 2006. It is now joined with philosophy, fine arts, music, linguistics and comparative literature, and the school's resources are shared among them. "You can't sustain your identity when you don't have full control of your destiny," says Cunich. Ironically, HKU's history department is one of its earliest departments. It was founded in 1912, the year the university was created. But it has been receiving a smaller number of postgraduate students in recent years, says Cunich. "This means that we have fewer teaching assistants to help with courses, and fewer graduates with the sorts of degrees that are necessary for teaching at tertiary level. This leads to an impoverishment of the local culture in terms of its historical understanding." But he says that Hong Kong still has some outstanding historians. David Faure, director of Chinese University's Centre for Comparative and Public History, says the rankings are set up for the physical sciences and are based on the output in journals rather than books. "Historians write books. Physics journals are not read five years later, but history books are still read after 50 years," he says. Globally, 678 institutions were identified as being among the top 200 for at least one of 30 subjects. Harvard University was ranked first for 10 subjects, followed by MIT, University of California at Berkeley, and University of Oxford. To find more about the QS rankings, go to

Hong Kong has world’s most expensive retail space (By Reuters in New York) There’s expensive and then there’s Hong Kong. The Asian shopping haven in the first quarter kept its crown as having the world’s highest rent for prime retail properties, at nearly 50 per cent more than for similar districts such as upper Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Rents were more than four times the rate in similar areas in London and Paris, according to a report by global property advisor CBRE Group. The 10 most expensive cities for retailers benefit from strong demand and modest new supply, a recipe for stable record-high prime rental rates, the report released on Sunday showed. In some markets, such as Hong Kong and London, the sky-high rents have prompted some newcomers to look nearby. For example, in London, Mayfair has benefited from those priced out of Bond Street. Annual retail rent in high-end shopping areas in Hong Kong averaged US$4,328 per square foot (HK33,589). “Given that space is so expensive in Hong Kong’s prime shopping streets largely driven by continued demand from international luxury brands, many traditional retailers have moved into more niche secondary retail locations as they still want to be in and access the market, but have been priced out of the prime space,” Joe Lin, CBRE’s executive director of retail, said in a statement. New York ranked second among the most expensive global retail markets, with prime rents averaging US$2,970 per square foot (HK$23,050). Europe’s prime retail markets followed, with London at US$1,053 per square foot (HK$8,172), and Paris at US$1,050 per square foot (HK$8,149). The supply of prime space was tight elsewhere in the Asia Pacific region. An inflow of US retailers helped Sydney maintain its prime rent at an average of US$1,018 per square foot (HK$7,900). Tokyo was sixth at US$895 per square foot (HK$6,946), followed by Melbourne, at US$851 per square foot (HK$6,604). Zurich came in eighth at US$822 per square foot (HK$6,379). Brisbane’s mining and natural resource sectors, and growing population helped push that into the top 10 with its prime retail rents up 15 per cent to US$739 per square foot (HK$5,735). Moscow rounded out the top 10 with rents at US$739 per square foot.

Cheung Kong cancels sale of Apex Horizon hotel suites (By Enoch Yiu) Cheung Kong said on Monday it would cancel sales of hotel suites at a Kwai Chung project and refund the buyers’ deposits after the securities regulator found the sales were unauthorised investments. The property conglomerate chaired by Li Ka-shing, the richest man in Asia, in February raised HK$1.4 billion by selling 360 hotel suites at its Apex Horizons project in Kwai Chung. The sales drew scrutiny from the government as it was concerned that the developer was using legal loopholes to help buyers avoid paying a residential stamp duty introduced in October that was aimed at cooling the city’s overheating property market. The Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) on Monday said it had reached an agreement with Cheung Kong to unwind the sales, with the developer refunding the deposit and any partial payments, plus interest of 2 per cent per annum above the prime rate from the time of the payment to the end of May. It will also offer HK$10,000 to cover the legal and other expenses of the buyers. The SFC investigation found the sales to be a collective investment scheme (CIS), which under Hong Kong law requires Cheung Kong to first seek the SFC’s approval on the promotional documents to make sure it discloses all investment features and risks before any sales take place. The SFC ruled the hotel suite sales to be a CIS as the day-to-day management of the hotel, such as the allocation of guests to rooms, was in the hands of a separate operator and not the individual buyers. The SFC had earlier informed Cheung Kong that it planned to take the case to court with the aim of cancelling the deals, but as Cheung Kong had agree to settle it will not proceed with the matter. Ashley Alder, chief executive of the SFC, said investors who purchase a CIS need much more information than that provided by Cheung Kong to the hotel suite buyers. “The SFC considers that this is a sensible outcome,” Alder said. “The SFC will monitor the progress by the Cheung Kong parties to unwind the sale to determine whether any further action is required.” Cheung Kong disagreed with the SFC ruling on the matter, but agreed to cancel the deals. “We consider that the arrangements do not constitute a CIS and authorisation is not required,” it said in an announcement. “The difference in legal opinion may lead to legal uncertainty in respect of the sale and purchase of the hotel room units, which may affect the buyers’ ownership, mortgage arrangement or subsequent sale of the hotel room units. Cheung Kong told buyers in a letter that “If the buyer does not agree to cancel the provisional sale and purchase agreement, the SFC may bring proceedings in the Court of First Instance and apply for an order of the Court that the contracts be declared void.” A Cheung Kong spokesperson said the company would reconsider an option to list its hotel in the stock exchange here. Ms Tang, who has signed a provisional agreement for sale and paid a deposit of HK$200,000 for one of the hotel units, said she had not decided whether to accept the compensation offer. “I wanted to buy it to live in, and the developer and agents had told me I could do so. They are just outrageous,” she said, adding that the developer’s staff had not let her read the hotel operation agreement when she signed the provisional sale contract. Dennis Kwok, a lawmaker representing the legal sector, criticised the government for allowing the sale to take place. This is the second time the SFC has investigated a Cheung Kong sales plan. In 2001, the SFC investigated a controversial plan that linked rebates for its Victoria Towers development in Tsim Sha Tsui to the performance of the stock market. Cheung Kong eventually cancelled the plan.

Legco president Jasper Tsang orders end to budget bill filibuster (By Lai Ying-kit) The president of the Legislative Council on Monday ordered to end a filibuster on the budget bill by Tuesday. Jasper Tsang Yok-sing ordered that the remaining 131 debates would be merged and ended by Tuesday at 1pm. This would be immediately followed by a vote on each of the amendments. Four radical legislators earlier filed 710 amendments to the budget bill in an attempt to force the government to include a universal pension scheme and a HK$10,000 cash handout in the bill. Legco has spent 55 hours in recent weeks to complete 17 of 148 debates on the amendments. Speaking after a two-hour closed door meeting with lawmakers, Tsang announced his decision to cut short the debate, saying it would otherwise drag on for one more month and affect government operations. “To support the operation of the government, I think Legco has the responsibility to complete scrutiny and vote on the budget bill at a reasonable time,” he said. Tsang said a vote on the bill was expected by next Wednesday, May 22. This would, though, be beyond a May 15 deadline set by the government. His decision was opposed by pan-democratic legislators, who said it seriously weakened Legco’s role as a check and balance to the executive arm. People Power’s Wong Yuk-man, one of four legislators who launched the filibuster, shouted angrily at Tsang. “Shame on you, Tsang Yok-sing. Shame on you!” he said pointing at the Legco president. But pro-government lawmakers supported Tsang’s decision. Ip Kwok-him, from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said it was appropriated to cut short the debate. He said the whole city had to pay a price if the filibuster dragged on.

Transsexual woman wins right to wed, rewriting Hong Kong's definition of gender (By Stuart Lau and Lai Ying-kit) Michael Vidler, solicitor of the appellant, holds the judgment in his hand outside Court of Final Appeal. A transsexual woman won her appeal at the top court over the right to marry a man, rewriting the century-old definition of "gender" in Hong Kong. The Court of Final Appeal, ruling 4-1 on Monday morning, holds that it is “contrary to principle to focus merely on biological features fixed at the time of birth and regarded as immutable”. The court also noted that in present-day multicultural Hong Kong, the nature of marriage as a social institution had undergone far-reaching changes. It further noted that the importance of procreation as an essential constituent “has much diminished”. The judgment states that “whether a consensus regarding a transsexual’s right to marry exists among the people of Hong Kong is not a relevant consideration”, because reliance on the absence of a majority consensus as a reason for rejecting a minority’s claim is “inimical in principle to fundamental rights”. Whether a consensus regarding a transsexual’s right to marry exists among the people of Hong Kong is not a relevant consideration - The woman, 37, identified only as W, twice lost her case in court in a bid for the right to marry her boyfriend. The Registrar of Marriages insisted only a person's gender at birth counts for the purposes of marriage. She had had a government-subsidised sex-change operation, and contended that by not recognising her new gender, the government in effect denied her the right to marry anyone - man or woman. W's solicitor, Michael Vidler, quoted her as saying the decision "is a victory for all women in Hong Kong". "I may have born a man but after transgender surgery at a government hospital more than five years ago, I've lived my life as a woman and been treated as a woman in all respects except as regards my right to marry. "This decision rights that wrong, and I'm very happy the Court of [Final] Appeal now recognises my desire to marry my boyfriend one day, and that desire is no different to that of any other woman who seeks the same here in Hong Kong." Vidler himself called the judgment a "landmark decision". The top court ruled that the statutory criteria adopted in the Matrimonial Causes Ordinance and the Marriage Ordinance are unconstitutional "since they impair the very essence of the right to marry". "Viewing the realities of W's position, by denying a post-operative transsexual woman like her the right to marry a man, the statutory provisions in question deny her the right to marry at all. They are therefore unconstitutional," the judgment says. Section 21 of the Marriage Ordinance stipulates that the union be between "one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others". "We think it would be quite wrong to exclude such a transsexual person from the right to marry in her acquired gender by characterising her as a 'pseudo-type of woman'," said the majority judgment co-written by Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li and Permanent Judge Robert Ribeiro. But the court proposed to suspend carrying out the orders for 12 months because whether new legislation should be enacted is "entirely" a matter for the legislature to decide, it said. W herself, though, will be entitled to the court's decision at the end of the 12-month period whether the new legislation is in place. If the government fails to amend the Marriage Ordinance according to the judges' order, then that part of the Marriage Ordinance that relates to the case will be considered unconstitutional, Vidler said. Dissenting judge, Permanent Judge Patrick Chan Siu-Oi said recognising transsexual marriage is "a radical change of the traditional concept of marriage", adding that there is no evidence whether social attitudes in Hong Kong have changed to the extent of abandoning or fundamentally altering the traditional concept of marriage. He said the change should be made only after public consultation. I am very happy. Finally I can marry my beloved boyfriend in Hong Kong - On Monday afternoon, W said during a telephone interview arranged by her lawyer: “I am very happy. Finally I can marry my beloved boyfriend in Hong Kong.” She added that she would now start arranging their wedding. The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) on Monday afternoon also welcomed the top court’s decision and urged the government to amend the Marriage Ordinance accordingly. "We believe transgender individuals should have the same right as others to live a life of dignity and respect, with full access to participation in every aspect of life," the commission said. "This includes the right to marry the person they love." "The EOC calls on the government to concretely and promptly take action to address the legal amendment recommended by the Court of Final Appeal,” it said. 

 China*:  May 15 2013

Luxury brands blame slowdown on China's gifting crackdown (By Abid Rahman Luxury brands feel the pinch as the mainland reins in gift-giving to curb corruption, writes Abid Rahman - Luxury brands feel the pinch as the mainland reins in gift-giving to curb corruption. The normally upbeat world of luxury goods, buoyed by Chinese demand, has been a little more sober and serious in recent months as slowing earnings at fashion houses and watch ateliers make as many headlines as their latest collections. Pessimists felt slightly vindicated late last year when Burberry shocked the markets halfway into the financial year with news that it expected 2012 sales and profits to slow and come in below expectations. Hermès also gave everyone the jitters when it announced that its first-quarter growth in 2013 was the lowest since 2009, the height of the recession. The company's 10.3 per cent sales growth for the first three months of this year, driven in part by the popularity of Birkin bags in the mainland, was unexpected and it only partially masked the 5 per cent sales decline in its watch division. The biggest luxury conglomerates, from LVMH to Kering (which owns labels such as Gucci and Balenciaga), Richemont and the Swatch Group (which owns Omega and Breguet, among others) all reported significant slowdowns. The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH) has posted rosy headlines for years, and its industry report for 2012 was no different - Swiss watch sales grew 11 per cent overall. A closer look at the data, however, reveals some growing problems and a significant slowdown in two of the largest markets. Hong Kong, the world's biggest export market for Swiss watches, was up only 7 per cent in 2012 and sales in the No 3 market - the mainland - rose an anaemic 1 per cent. The real wake-up call came at the end of the first three months of this year, with the FH reporting that mainland sales were down a massive 26 per cent. Even the usually resilient Hong Kong market fell by 9 per cent, despite the traditional shopping frenzy during the Lunar New Year holidays. To put those figures into context, the FH reported that total global watch sales grew 19 per cent in 2011, with Hong Kong experiencing 28 per cent growth and the mainland a whopping 49 per cent.The watch industry as well as some of the luxury leather and fashion brands blamed their woes squarely on Chinese government policy, specifically its crackdown on ostentation and luxury gift-giving as part of its anti-corruption campaign. Hermès CEO Patrick Thomas has described it as a "momentary" depression, and says the firm expects watch and leather sales to bounce back in the second half of this year as it believes the anti-corruption campaign will lose momentum. Longines is one brand benefitting from the crackdown as officials look to more moderately priced luxury brands, trading down from more conspicuous brands such as Rolex and Patek Philippe. The Richemont group is also betting big on a rebound in luxury watch sales on the mainland and Hong Kong by launching its Watches and Wonders exhibition, an Asian version of its SIHH watch fair, to be held in Hong Kong in September. Hermès and Richemont's stay-the-course stance contrasts with the strategy adopted by other luxury groups such as LVMH and Kering, which are increasingly viewing their China retail operations as loss leaders and pure marketing in the short, medium and long-term. "There has been a shift in the business from Asia to Europe," LVMH chief financial officer Jean-Jacques Guiony said on a conference call with investors and media in April 2012. A lower growth figure for LVMH in the mainland but not for the overall Chinese market could only be accounted for by overseas and tourist purchases, he said. Steep commercial rents and high taxes in Beijing and Shanghai make luxury retail on the mainland a tough proposition. But brands believe Chinese elites' appetite for their products will remain strong, and these customers can still buy in Paris or London, where they will be beyond netizens' scrutiny and luxury goods taxes are lower. Indeed, Guiony noted earlier that high taxes made Louis Vuitton products up to 47 per cent more expensive on the mainland than in France and up to 30 per cent higher than in Hong Kong. After years of double-digit growth, luxury brands now realise Chinese demand is finite. Some hope the downturn is just a blip. The more proactive companies, though, see the beginnings of a trend and are preparing themselves for the impact.

China may postpone IPO resumption: report - Chinese firms seeking to be listed on the stock market may be disappointed once more, as the much-anticipated resumption of initial public offerings (IPOs) is likely to be further delayed, the China Securities Journal reported on Monday.

East China Sea Fleet conducts covert raid training in western Pacific - East China Sea Fleet conducted covert raid training in the western Pacific in recent days.

Top grossing Chinese film sets a record (By Huang Ying) Xu Zheng (left) and Wang Baoqiang performing in Lost in Thailand, the highest-grossing Chinese film with record ticket sales hitting 1.26 billion yuan ($202 million). They starred in both Lost on Journey and Lost in Thailand. Now the producers of the latter face an intellectual property right lawsuit. While the low-budget comedy Lost in Thailand has created a record in ticket sales among China's home-made film productions, it might produce another record, but in a negative way, especially for its producer - Beijing Enlight Media Co. Wuhan Hua Qi Film & TV Production Co filed a lawsuit against Beijing Enlight Media in early March, claiming that it infringed the copyright of Wuhan Hua Qi's film Lost on Journey. It is claiming compensation of 100 million yuan ($16 million), probably the highest figure in an intellectual property infringement case in the film industry in China. The plaintiff is a company registered in 2007 with a registered capital of 10 million yuan, according to information on its rough and ready website. A total of four companies have been sued including Beijing Enlight Media. They are all producers of the film Lost in Thailand. Wuhan Hua Qi charged them with illicit competition and copyright infringement. "Practitioners in the film industry have relatively weak awareness of intellectual property rights protection and very few companies would equip themselves with a complete team of lawyers in a film project or seek professional legal advice in advance," said Shen Zheyan, a cultural industry consultant with the Shenzhen-based CIC Industry Research Center. "In general, they would resort to legal approaches to safeguard their legal rights after the infringements have taken place, which is liable to cause many legal disputes," he added. In the civil complaint which Enlight Media has received from the Beijing High People's Court, Wuhan Hua Qi said Enlight Media carried out misleading promotions for Lost in Thailand on purpose, causing people to believe that Lost in Thailand is the sequel to Lost on Journey in an explicit or implicit way, according to the statement released by Enlight Media on March 7.

Hong Kong*:  May 14 2013

Lai Sun readies HK$18b land war chest (By Sandy Li Lai Sun Development's deputy chairman, Chew Fook Aun, is confident about opportunities on the mainland. The Lai Sun group of companies is touting a war chest of more than HK$18 billion in credit and cash to speed up its land acquisition in Hong Kong and on the mainland. As of January, the group had undrawn credit of HK$13.64 billion, of which about HK$11 billion is for future expansion and HK$2 billion for refinancing of existing loans. It has total cash reserves of HK$6.5 billion. Chew Fook Aun, deputy chairman of Lai Sun Development (LSD), the group's property flagship, said: "Aside from looking for development sites for residential projects, we also plan to add one or two investment properties per year to enhance our rental incom." The enlargement of the property investment portfolio would also help mitigate profit fluctuations caused by volatile development earnings, he said. With a cash reserve of HK$3.5 billion, LSD, chaired by Peter Lam Kin-ngok, who also heads the Tourism Board, submitted a bid for the 495-room Ocean Hotel in Ocean Park before the tender closed on Wednesday. Ocean Park said it had received seven bids for the tender. In March, LSD was one of 11 developers that submitted bids for a hotel site in North Point. It lost out to Sun Hung Kai Properties which won with a HK$2.72 billion offer for the harbourfront site. Chew told the South China Morning Post that he expected LSD rental income would be boosted 50 per cent to HK$600 million from the present HK$400 million once two of its joint venture commercial projects, CCB Tower and another redevelopment in Tsim Sha Tsui, became fully let over the next two years. He said its joint venture partner, China Construction Bank, had indicated its interest to lease up to 18 floors, from an original plan for 12, at the CCB Tower as its headquarters. If the bank went with 18 floors, he said that would leave only two floors available for leasing at the tower. To build up its investment portfolio, LSD has formed a 50-50 joint venture with Henderson Land Development for a commercial project in Observatory Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, at a total development cost of HK$2.3 billion. The project, due for completion in the third quarter of 2015, could yield a total gross floor area of 162,448 square feet. On the property development front, Chew said LSD would generate total sales revenue of about HK$2 billion if all the units were sold at two of its property projects, in Yau Tong and Tai Hang. Its Ocean One project in Yau Tong has 110 units unsold. Another luxury development, of nine units in Tai Hang Road, will be put on sale this year. In November last year, LSD made its first land acquisition in 18 years when it secured a development site in Tsueng Kwan O in a government tender - LSD formed a 50-50 joint venture with Walter Kwok to outbid five others for the Tseung Kwan O residential site, paying a more than expected HK$2.83 billion. Including land costs, Lai Sun said the total investment cost would be HK$6 billion. Chew said LSD and the group's mainland property subsidiary, Lai Fung, would explore development opportunities on the mainland. He expects Lai Fung will pull in as much as 1.5 billion yuan in property sales for this year.

Meeting budget deadline impossible, Jasper Tsang warns (By Stuart Lau The budget bill could not be passed by Wednesday even if the weeks-long filibuster ended, Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing said last night. Officials have warned that funding for public services would be disrupted the next day. Tsang said the bill could not be tabled for a final vote unless the four filibustering lawmakers withdrew the 700 amendments delaying it. Otherwise, even if the filibuster ended - an option legislators are expected to discuss today - the proposed amendments would still have to be tabled for a vote one by one. This made it impossible for the bill to be voted on by Wednesday, Tsang said. "I have come up with … ideas [to handle the situation]. I must … consult [all opinions]," he said. Lawmaker Ip Kwok-him, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said he believed Tsang would announce that he was putting an end to the filibuster, which would be followed by time for lawmakers to discuss it. Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah wrote on his blog that electricity subsidies and public-housing rent waivers scheduled for July to September would be delayed, adding the filibuster was "unbearable". The filibustering lawmakers - from pro-democracy radical groups People Power and the League of Social Democrats - had hoped to use the tactic to secure a universal pension scheme. Civic Party lawmaker Alan Leong Kah-kit opposed any move to end the filibuster, saying it would be contrary to public interest. "Each time a filibuster is ended [by the Legco president], it diminishes Legco's power. In the end, we wouldn't be able to be good gatekeepers for Hongkongers," he said. Pro-government Federation of Trade Unions lawmaker Wong Kwok-kin asked the four lawmakers to drop the filibuster themselves. Even the Equal Opportunities Commission, a statutory body, has stepped into the debate. Chairman Dr York Chow Yat-ngok said the salaries of the body's 80 staff were at risk. People Power's filibustering lawmaker Raymond Chan Chi-chuen said: "It is the government, not us, that is reluctant to solve the problem."

Manufacturing hat-trick (By Enoch Yiu Labour unrest has hit Pauline Ngan Po-ling's relocation of hat-making production to Bangladesh, despite the low wage costs - Pauline Ngan set up a hat-making business because it did not require much capital and there were few competitors. Pauline Ngan Po-ling, deputy chairman and managing director of Hong Kong-listed Mainland Headwear, has stepped up to deal with yet another challenge in her decades-long career as an entrepreneur. When the rags-to-riches hat maker found that the wages and operating costs of her Shenzhen factories were rising too fast, she moved part of her business to a factory in Bangladesh in March to take advantage of the cheaper labour costs there. But last week she fell victim to a call for a nationwide strike by textile workers after the collapse of a garment factory outside the country's capital city of Dhaka, which killed more than 1,000 workers. The strike temporarily shut down her factory, and though production resumed this week, Ngan said the worry of political uncertainty remained. Nonetheless, the company is still looking to move 30 per cent of its total production capacity from mainland China to Bangladesh by the middle of next year. Besides the attraction of low wages, she said, imports from Bangladesh enjoyed an exemption from duties in Europe. Ngan, the third daughter of a Fujian family of six children, came to Hong Kong in the 1980s. The family flourished and all six children went on to establish their own businesses. Ngan and her husband Ngan Hei-keung set up a label printing business in 1984, which later expanded into cap and hat making and led them to open their first factory in Shenzhen in 1992. The rest is history. Mainland Headwear, which is chaired by her husband, expanded into three factories on the mainland with over 3,500 staff making hats for a number of international brands. The company was listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange in 2000 and attracted worldwide attention when it made hats for spectators and tourists as souvenirs when they attended the Beijing Olympic Games. In an interview with the South China Morning Post, Pauline Ngan talked about how she coped with the lean times and also the recent tragic events in Bangladesh. You have several factories in Shenzhen. Why did you need to set up a factory in Bangladesh last year? When we first opened our factories in Shenzhen in the early 1990s, the salary for a Shenzhen worker was just HK$400 a month. Twenty years on, the wage has increased 10 times to about HK$4,000. But over the same period the prices of hats did not increase much, and our profit margin was being squeezed substantially. Under the circumstances we had to pay much more attention to management and cost control. I hired a Taiwanese senior executive who was good at cost control and could use computer systems to enhance work efficiency. Cost control was what led us to set up a plant in Bangladesh, where wages for a garment worker are similar to what they were in Shenzhen 20 years ago. Will the recent tragic events in Bangladesh that saw a garment factory collapse, killing more than 1,000 people, damage confidence in the country? Business operating costs in Bangladesh may be cheap but the political situation is not stable, demonstrated by the strike last week. I hope the situation can be resolved soon. Bangladesh would be a good place for a manufacturer to operate in if it were not for the political uncertainty. It has a lot of workers who want to find jobs. Many are very hard-working and keen to learn.

Three women among eight new senior counsel (By Stuart Lau Latest members, all mothers, make a contrast with trend in Britain, where fewer women are being appointed to the top rank of barristers - Three more women have become senior counsel, joining the top rank of barristers. The elevations of Yvonne Cheng Wai-sum, Audrey Campbell-Moffat and Roxanne Ismail reduce the sex ratio within the male-dominated circle to below seven to one. The trio were among eight barristers raised yesterday to senior counsel - the largest number in a single year since 1990. All three were mothers, Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li noted. Cheng, at age 39 the youngest of the eight, is married to Eugene Fung Ting-sek SC, who took silk - as the elevation to senior counsel is known - a year before her. That made them "apparently the first married couple of senior counsel in the legal history of Hong Kong", Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung said. Yuen went on to disclose a little secret of hers. "Yvonne has a keen interest in Facebook games, especially the one called Words With Friends, which is a game similar to Scrabble," he told the admission ceremony. "Yvonne's command of the English language is so good that she often beats one of our Court of Appeal judges." He called Cheng "a well-known, high-power civil practitioner", Campbell-Moffat a "household name in the criminal bar", and Ismail a "well-known company law specialist". The latest additions make the city's "Inner Bar" home to 12 women and 82 men. "[This] is in sharp contrast to the latest situation in the UK where, as a recent article published in The Guardian pointed out, there has been a significant fall in the number of female barristers appointed Queen's Counsel," Yuen said. Queen's Counsel is the equivalent rank in some other common-law jurisdictions. Before the handover, it was the top rank for barristers in Hong Kong too. The chief justice expressed worries over the changing values of the legal profession. "Through the passage of many years and the numerous developments to make the legal profession more 'marketable', the 'honourable' part of the profession has at times - and I hope really no more frequently than this - been lost sight of," Ma said. "An important part of the honour here is to treat the legal profession as a profession and not primarily as a business." He urged the senior counsel to take up legal-aid cases at least once a year, and warned them against disliking less pleasant or decent clients. The other new members are Paul Lam Ting-kwok, Wesley Wong Wai-chung, Simon Tam Man-fai, Dr William Wong Ming-fung and Mark Strachen. Wesley Wong and Tam serve in the Justice Department.

 China*:  May 14 2013

China to remain influential in Myanmar even as Western firms arrive (By Toh Han Shih in Yangon Market share of Chinese companies to decline but cash resources will help maintain influence - An industrial port in Yangon, Myanmar's largest city. China, the biggest investor in Myanmar, will lose market share to other countries as they rush to invest there, but Asia's largest economy will remain a major investor in the Southeast Asian nation owing to its huge cash resources, observers say. "In the past, Chinese companies played a big role inYangon. In the future, all countries will play a big role, because we want all countries to share in the investment," said Toe Aung, deputy head of city planning and land administration at the Yangon city development committee. "Yes, China used to be the dominant investor, but its relative importance will shrink," said Thurane Aung, director of Dagon International, a Myanmese conglomerate. At present, China is the No1 investor in the country, followed by Thailand, said Thurane Aung, a speaker at the recent Myanmar Urban Development Conference in Yangon, the former capital. "With the lifting of sanctions, more foreign investors will come to Myanmar," he said, mentioning Pepsi Cola and Unilever. "They are moving in fast," he said. "Every week I read news of US investment in Myanmar. I've been seeing German, French and Dutch coming to look for business opportunities in Myanmar." In April, the European Union removed most sanctions on imports from Myanmar, in recognition of the country's political liberalisation, which began in 2011. In November last year, the US government lifted restrictions on imports of most products from Myanmar. One motivation for the Myanmese government's reforms is that it does not want to rely too much on China, said Salil Tripathi, policy director at the Institute for Human Rights and Business in Britain. Myanmar's dependence on China had caused discomfort among its leaders, given the two nations' complex relationship. Beijing has been a supporter of the government while also backing Kachin rebels along the Sino-Myanmese border, said Hugo Williamson, managing director of the Risk Resolution Group, a British risk consultancy. A major Japanese project in Myanmar is the Thilawa special economic zone on the southeastern outskirts of Yangon. In April last year, the governments of Japan and Myanmar signed an agreement to create a master plan for the zone, said Thurane Aung. Myanmese companies and the government own 51 per cent of the project, while Japanese companies and Tokyo own 49 per cent. He said it was a "massive project" but could not give figures for the investment involved. The project will comprise of a port and a 2,400 hectare industrial zone. The Japanese project is "definitely" a result of the political opening of Myanmar, he said. "Japan sees that our government is transparent and democratic, so it wants to help us out." Kenneth Stevens, managing partner of Leopard Capital, an Asian investment firm, said: "Thilawa will take a very long time to develop, because the Japanese are cautious investors." The quality of Chinese infrastructure projects was "acceptable" but there are sometimes problems with after-sales service, said Wunna Htun, director of National Steel & Construction, a Myanmese construction firm. "The quality of European, US and Japanese infrastructure is better than China's. Now Myanmar wants to attract infrastructure investment and technology from the US, Europe and Japan," Wunna Htun added. However, Nicholas You, chairman of the steering committee of the World Urban Campaign, a United Nations initiative to improve the quality of the world's cities, said: "US and European firms are not investing in US and Europe. You don't expect them to invest in Myanmar." In contrast to listed US companies, Chinese companies investing in Myanmar think long term, You added. "China is the only country willing to invest massive amounts of money in infrastructure in Myanmar," he said. "Chinese companies will continue to make long-term investments in Myanmese infrastructure. They have the money." China will remain a major investor in Myanmar, Tripathi said. "There is the competitive advantage of geographical proximity and familiarity with the market. But over time, China's share will drop," he said. Sany, a Chinese construction machinery maker, will benefit even if China loses market share in Myanmar, Sany sales director Cai Hui said. "We are happy to see the Myanmar gate open to more investors," Cai said. "To absorb investment from the US, Europe or China, Myanmar needs infrastructure, and we hope to sell more construction machinery."

Taiwan beefs up naval patrols near Philippines after killing (By Agence France-Presse in Taipei) A Taiwanese coastguard official waves his cap as a fleet of naval and coast guard frigates sets sail from Kaohsiung. The widow of the Taiwanese fisherman mourn as his body is returned on Saturday. Taiwan on Sunday sent four coastguard and naval vessels to strengthen patrols in waters near the Philippines following public outrage over the shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman by Filipino coastguards. “The government is determined to protect our fishermen,” cabinet spokeswoman Cheng Li-wen said in a statement as a frigate and coastguard vessels set sail for the area where the 65-year-old fisherman was killed on Thursday. If the Filipino government fails to respond in a positive manner within 72 hours, the hiring of Philippine workers will be frozen - Taiwan in a strongly-worded statement late Saturday demanded Manila apologise and compensate the victim’s family or face a freeze on the hiring of its nationals. It also asked the Philippines to bring to justice the coastguards responsible and start negotiating a fisheries agreement. “If the Filipino government fails to respond in a positive manner within 72 hours, the hiring of Philippine workers will be frozen,” said presidential office spokeswoman Lee Chia-fei. There are about 87,000 Philippine domestic helpers and other workers in Taiwan and they send home hundreds of millions of dollars a year. More than 50 bullets hit the 15-tonne Kuang Ta Hsin No 28, killing skipper Hung Shih-cheng. “This is nothing but a slaughter,” prosecutor Liu Chia-kai said after examining the ship. President Ma Ying-jeou on Sunday visited the victim’s family on an island off the southern city of Kaohsiung and promised to pursue the strong protest against the Philippine government. Taiwan’s government confirmed that websites of several government agencies, including the presidential office, the defence ministry and the coastguard administration, had been hacked, after internet attacks on Philippine government websites were reported on Friday night. Several fishermen’s groups said they plan to file a protest at the Philippine mission in Taipei on Monday. Manila recognises Beijing but not Taipei. In Manila Abigail Valte, a spokeswoman for President Benigno Aquino, said on Saturday that authorities had launched a “transparent and impartial investigation” into the incident. She expressed hope that economic ties with Taipei would not be affected and added that the coastguard crew involved in the incident had been temporarily suspended from duty to ensure a fair inquiry. Taiwan’s government has come under pressure from the opposition and the media to take action, with the Philippines refusing so far to apologise and saying the coastguard was tackling illegal fishing. Philippine coastguard spokesman Commander Armand Balilo said on Friday the incident took place in Philippine waters and the crew had been carrying out their duty to stop illegal fishing. “If somebody died, they deserve our sympathy but not an apology,” Balilo told reporters. The victim’s son, who was with his father and two other sailors on the boat at the time, has insisted they did not cross into Philippine waters. The incident comes at a time of heightened tensions around the region over rival claims to the nearby South China Sea. China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei all have competing claims to parts of the sea. China’s state media stood by Taiwan over the latest incident, asking Beijing to “teach Manila a lesson”. The media said the Philippines was trying to vent its anger and frustration over a dispute with China about the Spratly islands.

China marks anniversary of killer 2008 Sichuan quake (By Agence France-Presse in Beijing) Students remember victims of the Sichuan earthquake in 2008. Students at Yingxiu Xuankou Secondary School in Sichuan remember the Wenchuan earthquake. China on Sunday marked the fifth anniversary of the Sichuan earthquake that killed more than 80,000, as some said questions remained over the thousands of children who died as their schools collapsed. The magnitude-8 earthquake struck the southwestern province of Sichuan on the afternoon of May 12, 2008, with its epicentre at Wenchuan county. About 4.45 million were hurt in China’s worst quake in more than three decades. 

Hong Kong*:  May 13 2013

SHKP upbeat on Central office outlook (By Bloomberg) Sun Hung Kai Properties, Hong Kong's biggest developer by value, says it is optimistic about the Central office market even after rents last year dropped the most since the 2008 credit crisis. "We don't have big renewals coming up, and we're not seeing major tenants giving up large chunks of space," Lo King-wai, general manager at the developer's agency arm, told a seminar. "If demand comes back, then vacancy can be taken up very quickly." Banks and brokerages, faced with slowing corporate finance activity, have since last year given up space in Central for other districts, where rents can be two-thirds lower. In January, financial services companies accounted for 49 per cent of prime office tenants in Central, CBRE data shows. Central rents fell about 15 per cent in 2012, the biggest full-year decline since 2008, according to figures from Colliers International. Lo said that even with the departures, occupancy at Sun Hung Kai's two biggest Central office buildings, One and Two International Finance Centre, stood at 99 per cent and 93 per cent, respectively. The average vacancy rate in prime offices buildings in the district was about 5 per cent, Craig Shute, senior managing director at CBRE, said at the briefing on Wednesday. While banks had been shrinking, their space in the district might be taken over by expanding mainland firms and international retailers, he said. "That's the beauty of Central," said Eric Wong, chairman of property investor Bricks & Mortar Management. "It's always desirable for people who can make the biggest buck. As the banks start to shrink, you will see other people come in." New office supply in Hong Kong would fall about a third short of total new demand by 2020, CBRE said in a report in October. Lo said average office rents in the city would rise about 5 per cent this year. Merrill Lynch analyst Karl Choi said Central rents would be little changed this year as those elsewhere in the city would gain about 5 per cent to 7 per cent.

Up to radical lawmakers to solve crisis, says John Tsang (Tony Cheung Finance chief meets lawmakers in budget bill filibuster to discuss their demands, but says the ball's in their court. They say he lacks sincerity - Thirty-five pro-government lawmakers are calling for Jasper Tsang to end the filibuster. The budget bill filibuster is set to continue for a 10th day on Monday, after a fruitless meeting between the finance chief and radical lawmakers last night. After the meeting, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah said it was up to the four lawmakers behind the filibuster to resolve the matter. He said an emergency meeting would be held on Thursday to draw up contingency plans to keep the government from being hamstrung. "The meeting was disappointing," Tsang said. "I came in with a lot of sincerity, hoping that they would understand that what they are doing is affecting people's livelihoods, but they were not willing to accept my explanation that I cannot use the budget as a negotiating instrument." People Power lawmakers Albert Chan Wai-yip, Wong Yuk-man and Raymond Chan Chi-chuen, and "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung of the League of Social Democrats, filed more than 700 amendments to the budget bill, demanding a universal cash handout of HK$10,000 or a consultation on a universal pension scheme. The government has warned public services and one-off poverty relief measures could be stalled if the budget bill is not passed by Wednesday. Albert Chan was equally disappointed after the meeting, saying Tsang lacked sincerity and merely repeated himself. Separately, Tsang said that in the 40-minute meeting in his office with three of the four lawmakers, he had tried to persuade them to drop their amendments and end the filibuster. Wong did not attend. "We showed sincerity, otherwise we wouldn't have met … and I explained in detail why their demands won't work," Tsang said. An interim fund will sustain government spending to the end of the month in the absence of the new budget, but Tsang said he would not consider anything further. I came in with a lot of sincerity, hoping that they would understand that what they are doing is affecting people's livelihoods, but they were not willing to accept my explanation that I cannot use the budget as a negotiating instrument - The Treasury Department has cash-flow analyses from departments and will hold an internal meeting to draw up plans to "minimise the effects" should the government run out of money. Tsang denied he was under pressure to take a tough stance after stern words from Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who said on Thursday it was "extremely inadvisable" to cave in to their demands. He also rejected the suggestion that the government was counting on Legco president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing to invoke powers to halt the filibuster. Pressure continues to mount on Jasper Tsang to end the filibuster next week, with 35 Beijing-loyalist lawmakers signing a petition calling for him to take action. One of those, Tam Yiu-chung, chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said: "If the legislature cannot deal with this effectively … public services could be put on hold, and it will seriously harm people's welfare." Five Liberal Party lawmakers refused to sign the petition.

 China*:  May 13 2013

Shanghai vice-mayor set for China Investment Corp (By Jane Cai in Beijing and Daniel Ren in Shanghai) Tu Guangshao is expected to be named as chairman of the US$500 billion sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corp - Beijing is expected to announce appointments to key financial positions in the near future as the new leadership prepares to take bolder steps towards financial reforms. Tu Guangshao, executive vice-mayor of Shanghai, will be named chairman of the mainland's US$500 billion sovereign wealth fund, China Investment Corp, more than two months after Lou Jiwei left the post to become finance minister, sources said. CIC was not available for comment yesterday. The Shanghai municipal government would not comment on the personnel change. The reshuffle comes after a slew of personnel changes in the mainland's securities' regulator and policy and commercial banks this year, as the new leadership, led by Xi Jinping, consolidates power to pave way for deepened reforms in the financial sector. CIC has been under the spotlight since an injection in 2007 of US$200 billion from the mainland's foreign reserves, over unsuccessful investments and the blocking of some of its attempts to acquire foreign assets. The appointment of Tu will come at a time when the sovereign fund is awaiting capital injections to boost investment, and the clarification of the question of whether China will get a second sovereign fund. Tu, 54, has been in charge of finance, taxation and external affairs in Shanghai, the city the mainland leadership aims to turn into a world financial centre, since 2007. Before that he worked at the People's Bank of China, the Shanghai Stock Exchange, and the China Securities Regulatory Commission. An official with the Shanghai financial services office said: "Tu is a capable senior cadre with a good command of English. He's open-minded and keen on financial liberalisation to drive the markets on a par with international practices." The new appointment would be good news for CIC but a loss to Shanghai, the official said. The chairmanship of CIC carries the rank of a minister and the sovereign fund boss will be tasked with helping the country to increase its rising economic profile worldwide and to seal massive lucrative deals to quench the mainland's thirst for resources and sophisticated know-how. Li Xiaopeng, currently a vice-president at Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), will also be joining CIC. Li will be named chairman of the fund's supervisory board, replacing Jin Liqun, who will become chairman of China International Capital, sources said. The former head of China International Capital, Li Jiange, will now head the Shanghai-based Shenyin Wanguo Securities. ICBC, the world's largest bank by assets and capitalisation, will have a new president as soon as incumbent vice-president Yi Huiman takes over from the retiring Yang Kaisheng, bankers said. ICBC declined to comment. The banking authorities have also decided to promote Niu Ximing, president of Bank of Communications, the nation's fifth-largest lender, to chairman of the bank, the sources said. Bocom's former chairman, Hu Huaibang, was recently nominated as party secretary of China Development Bank, one of the country's biggest policy lenders.

Taiwan threatens sanctions over Philippines shooting (By Agence France-Presse in Taipei) President Ma Ying-jeou said on Saturday Taiwan would consider sanctions against the Philippines amid widespread public outrage at Manila over the shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman. “We will definitely seek justice for our fisherman. We will not rule out the possibility of taking any kind of sanctions” against the Philippines, Ma said while inspecting a coastguard drill in central Taiwan. “The Philippines shot an unarmed fishing boat. This is very brutal and cold-blooded,” he said, reiterating Taipei’s demand for Manila to apologise, apprehend the killer and compensate. Some Taiwanese lawmakers urged the government to freeze the hiring of Philippine workers to protest after the Philippines admitted its coastguard had fired at a Taiwanese fishing boat. Taiwanese authorities said 65-year-old fisherman Hung Shih-cheng was killed during the incident, which also left the boat riddled with more than 50 bullet holes. Ma’s government has come under pressure from the opposition and the media to take action, with the Philippines refusing to apologise and saying the coastguard was tackling illegal fishing. Philippine coastguard spokesman Commander Armand Balilo said the incident took place in Philippine waters and the Filipino personnel had been properly carrying out their duties to stop illegal fishing. “If somebody died, they deserve our sympathy but not an apology,” Balilo told reporters. Hung’s son has insisted that the boat did not cross into Philippine waters. The Taipei-based China Times called the incident a “criminal case” and demanded Manila shoulder the full responsibility. “The Philippines’ uncivilised action apparently violated maritime convention, the Taiwan government must take strong counter moves to defend our fishermen’s rights and prevent similar tragedy,” it said in an editorial. The Apple Daily newspaper called the shooting “an act of brigands” and said Taiwanese people “angrily demand the blood debt be paid”. Some Taiwanese Internet users allegedly attacked and temporarily paralysed several Philippine government websites Friday night, according to Apple Daily. The incident comes at a time of heightened tensions around the region over rival claims to the nearby South China Sea. China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei all have competing claims to parts of the sea.

Body of fisherman killed by Philippine coast guard back to Taiwan (Xinhua) Forensic personnel check the body of a Taiwanese fisherman on fishing vessel "Guang Ta Hsin 28," which was fired upon by Philippine coast guard, at a fishing port of Pingtung County, southeast China's Taiwan, in the early morning on May 11, 2013. The body of the Taiwanese fisherman, killed in the shooting incident by Philippine coast guard on the sea on Thursday morning, was taken home with the fishing vessel. The 65-year-old victim, Hung Shih-Cheng, was one of four crew members onboard. The rest of the crew survived the shooting uninjured. The body of a Taiwanese fisherman, killed in a shooting incident by Philippine coast guard on the sea, was taken back to Taiwan early Saturday morning. The body was taken home with the fishing vessel "Guang Ta Hsin 28," which was fired upon by Philippine coast guard on Thursday morning in a sea area 160 nautical miles southeast of the southernmost tip of the island of Taiwan. The 65-year-old victim, Hung Shih-Cheng, was one of four crew members onboard. The rest of the crew survived the shooting uninjured. The vessel was towed back to a fishing port of Pingtung County at around 3:15 a.m. Saturday, as the shooting damaged its oil tank. Hung's family had been waiting at the harbor of Little Liuqiu, a coral isle accessible from the Pingtung coast by ferry. When his body was moved from the cabin onto the deck, several burst into tears and Hung's wife nearly collapsed that they had to take her away from the deck. Hung, a skilled fisherman, had already decided to retire and in order to pass on his son a good ship he had spent about 8 million New Taiwan dollars (270,000 U.S. dollars) in buying this new one, said a neighbor surnamed Chen who was helping Hung's family at their house. "This was the new ship's second sail. What a pity," said the lady who refused to give her full name. At least ten bullet holes were seen all over the vessel body and one bullet penetrated the victim's neck, which could be the cause of his death, said local investigators who were on board shortly after the vessel arrived. Philippine coast guard Friday admitted killing the Taiwanese fisherman but said its personnel opened fire on the fishing boat in self-defense. "It is impossible that our ship would attempt to challenge the Philippine coast guard vessel. Just look at the size of our ship," said angry Hung Feng-huei, the victim's niece. Local fishermen said they had long suffered harassment from the Philippine duty vessels. According to Hung's neighbors, local fishing ships are occasionally detained by the Philippines and a large number of ransom is demanded. Hung's family also complained about slow rescue of Taiwan coast guard. When Hung's son, also on board, called for help, Hung had been seriously injured but still alive. The Taiwan coast guard failed to send a helicopter to take him to hospital, said Huang Shen-jia, Hung's grandson. Hung died when a rescue vessel reached the fishing ship about two hours later, he said. The body of the victim will be sent to Kaohsiung for forensic autopsy, local investigators said. Taiwan's leader Ma Ying-jeou on Friday condemned the Philippines over the shooting and demanded an apology from the Philippine government for the shooting, the arrest of the shooter and compensation for the victim's family.

Li underlines Vietnam ties (By Li Xiaokun and Zhang Yunbi) Premier Li Keqiang meets visiting Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan in Beijing on Friday. Talks highlight how Beijing, Hanoi have great potential in cooperation - China and Vietnam on Friday agreed to properly handle the South China Sea issue, as Premier Li Keqiang met a high-ranking Vietnamese official. Forging good bilateral relations is the joint wish of the peoples of the two neighboring countries, but that "needs good conditions", Li told Vietnam's Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan at Zhongnanhai, the central government's headquarters in downtown Beijing. Nguyen is in the Chinese capital to preside over the China-Vietnam Steering Committee for Bilateral Cooperation with State Councilor Yang Jiechi. Li said "both sides should well control and handle their disparities on the South China Sea issue, and not let it disturb the development of bilateral ties and cooperation", according to a statement released by the Foreign Ministry. Beijing's ties with Hanoi have been overshadowed by their territorial dispute in the South China Sea. The Vietnamese National Assembly last year passed the Law of the Sea, which puts China's Xisha and Nansha islands in Vietnam's territory. Wu Shicun, director of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, said some of Vietnam's actions have broken its promise of keeping stability in the South China Sea. "For instance, Vietnam has encouraged illegal fishing in the area and required support from powers not involved in the South China Sea issue, only to make the situation worse and more complex." Still, the Chinese premier on Friday called Vietnam an "important and close neighbor". "China and Vietnam see each other's development as an opportunity," Li said, calling for the two nations to view bilateral ties from "a strategic and comprehensive height". Nguyen told Li that Vietnam is willing to properly handle the South China Sea issue and beef up the traditional friendship, economic cooperation and cultural exchanges with China. Jia Duqiang, an expert on Southeast Asian studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Li has conveyed two messages to Vietnam — that Vietnam should stop further complicating the territorial dispute, and that Beijing and Hanoi have great potential in cooperation if they can handle the ties well. "Though Vietnam has asked for help from the United States to counterbalance China, it is fully aware that this is not easy to achieve," Jia said. He noted the fact that China is Vietnam's biggest trade partner, with bilateral trade exceeding $40 billion in 2012. The volume is expected to reach $60 billion by 2015. Deals at the China-Vietnam Border Economic and Trade Fair 2012 held in November reached $347 million, up 142 percent compared with the figure for 2010. Besides, Vietnam is in need of more foreign investment to improve its infrastructure. Hanoi is reforming its investment restrictions on private capital for transportation projects. With more than 16,000 students in China, Vietnam is now the fourth-largest source country for China in terms of overseas students.

Hong Kong*:  May 12 2013

Hong Kong is home: Breathtaking timelapse video shows all sides of city (SCMP) Hong Kong is home: Breathtaking timelapse video shows all sides of city - When Javin Lau first arrived in Hong Kong, he said he felt like he had walked onto a movie set. And now the Political Studies graduate from Toronto, Canada, has taken his vision of Hong Kong and produced a breathtaking timelapse video of the city. Titled Hong Kong Is Home and featuring views of the harbour, Kowloon, Central and the New Territories, the video shows both the hectic pace of life in Hong Kong as well as the more tranquil areas. Hong Kong is Home. from Javin Lau on Vimeo. On his Vimeo page, Javin writes: "It (Hong Kong) was a place that I had only seen on TV as a kid, with its strange red taxis, odd stop lights and driving on the other side of the road. "My intent with this project was to illustrate the grandeur of Hong Kong that most people would never get to see." He says that for "an unbelievably dense city, where much of the world can be accessed at your fingertips", it also "has the ability to isolate you from the eight million people around you". When contacted by, Javin said although his studies focused on political economy and international development, he enjoys architecture and cityscape photography, having recently taken an interest to timelapse photography. Hong Kong is Home. I remember when I first arrived in Hong Kong almost a decade ago, I felt like I had walked into an actual movie set. It was a place that I had only seen on TV as a kid, with its strange red taxi’s, odd stop lights and driving on the other side of the road. My intent with this project was to illustrate the grandeur of Hong Kong that most people would never get to see. When I had recently watched the movie Oblivion, it had somehow starkly reminded me of Hong Kong, with the feeling of being so insignificantly small -- almost irrelevant to my surroundings. Hong Kong is an unbelievably dense city, where much of the world can be accessed at your fingertips. But in a city where you can access the material world in a matter of seconds, it also has the ability to isolate you from the 8 million people around you as well. With this piece, I hope that you are able to engage in this contradiction.

 China*:  May 12 2013

India's top diplomat praises cooperation (By Li Xiaokun and Pu Zhendong) Foreign Minister Wang Yi (right) meets with his Indian counterpart, Salman Khurshid, at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing. After the talk, the two signed a protocol on cooperation in bilateral relations between the two ministries of foreign affairs. Top diplomats of China and India met in Beijing on Thursday, right after an end to their three-week standoff along a disputed border. The visit, however, was not under a cloud because of the border incident, as Indian Minister of External Affairs Salman Khurshid is in China's capital preparing for diplomatic arrangements in relations between Beijing and New Delhi this year, observers have said. Foreign Minister Wang Yi met Khurshid in the evening. After the talks, a protocol was signed to boost cooperation of the two countries' foreign ministries. Wang highlighted the significance of Khurshid's visit, saying ties between Beijing and New Delhi are now embracing new opportunities. "At present, the China-India relationship has shown a good momentum of development, as both sides are actively preparing the exchanges of visits between our leaders within this year," Wang said. He said China and India need to work toward the common goal of further pushing forward the strategic and cooperative partnerships. Khurshid said he believes a good working relationship can be established between the two governments, as China and India, two important countries in the world, are playing critical roles on the global stage. As his first visit to China after assuming the position, Khurshid said he will be committed to expanding and deepening bilateral relations. The visit came one day after Khurshid said in India that he was "comfortable" with the way India and China showed "tremendous maturity" in handling the border standoff that started in mid-April. "The incident was handled at a proportional, limited and localized level. This fundamental understanding was developed over the past several years," Khurshid told journalists on the eve of his first visit to China as foreign minister. The issue has now been resolved peacefully with the two countries agreeing to restore the status quo along the Line of Actual Control in the western sector of the border. Beijing called on Monday for the two countries to work together to achieve a fair and reasonable border treaty that is acceptable to both sides. An Indian foreign ministry source in New Delhi told AFP that discussions on a cooperation agreement for better communications on the Line of Actual Control were "most likely". Ye Hailin, an expert on South Asian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the two ministers "will touch upon the border confrontation, but it is definitely not the point of the visit". Khurshid is in China mainly to make diplomatic arrangements with China, he said. It has been reported that a Chinese leader might visit India soon, but that has yet to be confirmed. Khurshid said on Wednesday he eyed "huge potential" in cooperation between the two nations and was expecting to build good working and personal relations with Wang. During the trip, "both countries will discuss the future, and the leadership is committed toward that and the great things India and China can and must do together", he said. He said both countries were ancient Asian civilizations and should "accommodate" each other's fundamental interests on issues such as border disputes with patience. "We can learn from each other's experiences. Although we cannot be completely alike, we could align our position in the future over various issues," he added. The Indian source told AFP that commerce will feature "prominently" in the visit, describing India's trade deficit with China as a "huge issue".

Accusations fly over 'spy nets' (By By Chen Weihua in Washington The war of words over cyber attacks escalated this week with an official Chinese newspaper branding the US "the real hacking empire", two days after the Pentagon explicitly accused China of spying on the computer networks of American companies and government agencies. The US Defense Department on Monday issued a report titled 2013 Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China. Annual Pentagon reports on Chinese military development have been mandated by Congress since 2000. On Wednesday, the official People's Daily published a commentary that said the United States, by promoting the notion of a Chinese military threat, was trying to "sow discord" between China and neighboring countries in an effort to "contain China and profit from it". "As we all know, the United States is the real 'hacking empire' and has an extensive espionage network," the newspaper said. It accused the US of operating an extensive espionage network that targets both adversaries and allies, and it said the nation's intelligence-gathering extends across political, military, scientific, technological and business fields. The commentary described the large US investment in cyber-warfare capabilities and said the country has a 50,000-member "cyber army". "To establish military hegemony on the Internet by repeatedly smearing other countries is a dangerous and wrong path to take and will ultimately end up in shooting themselves in the foot," the paper said. In Beijing, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman on Tuesday described the US defense report - issued the same day - as "irresponsible" and "groundless", echoing previous official Chinese criticism toward Washington over the issue of cyber security. Also on Wednesday, the People's Liberation Army Daily ridiculed the Pentagon report as "sloppy work" that was based on "sheer speculation by netizens chatting on Chinese military websites". It accused the US of "trumpeting China's military threat to promote its domestic interest groups and arms dealers", adding that it expects "US arms manufacturers are gearing up to start counting their money". Washington has issued stern public rebukes over alleged Chinese cyber attacks since a February report by the private Internet security-software provider Mandiant Corp. The company accused China's government of sponsoring a secret military unit in Shanghai that had repeatedly breached the networks of over 100 Western - mostly US - businesses, and stole data from them. For the past two months, "Chinese cyber attack" has become a catch phrase for US media and think tanks, making some believe the whole thing is an orchestrated event. China has insisted that it doesn't condone hacking and that it is the victim of hacking attacks, most of which it says emanate from the US. The Ministry of National Defense has released data that it says support this assertion. The Pentagon report, according to spokeswoman Hua Chunying at Tuesday's regular foreign ministry press briefing, included "irresponsible comments about China's legitimate and normal defense-building and hyping up the so-called idea of a China military threat". "This behavior is not conducive to mutual trust or cooperation," she said. "China is committed to a path of peaceful development and pursues a defensive defense policy. We resolutely oppose any form of hacking attacks." Hua said "China is willing to have constructive dialogue and cooperation with the global community, including the US". After a trip to Beijing in April, Secretary of State John Kerry said the US and China would form a working group on cyber security. On Thursday, Ren Zhengfei, founder and CEO of Huawei Technologies Co, defended the Chinese company in the face of US cyber security concerns. "Huawei has no connection to the cyber security issue the US has encountered in the past, current and future," Ren was quoted as telling local reporters in New Zealand. The telecommunications networking gear that Huawei makes "is almost nonexistent in networks currently running in the US", he said. "We have never sold any key equipment to major US carriers, nor have we sold any equipment to any US government agency." A report last October by two members of the US House of Representatives Intelligence Committee charged that Huawei and its competitor ZTE Corp posed a potential threat to US national security. Much of the House committee's claims stem from the two companies' alleged links to China's army and government. Ren had already left the army by the time he founded the company in 1987. Rick Falkvinge, a Swedish tech entrepreneur and politician, said Washington "needs to clean up its own act before trying to assert the moral high ground over the Chinese for their alleged hack attacks on the US". In an opinion essay on Wednesday on the website of Russia Today, a Russian government-funded media outlet, Falkvinge described the US accusations as "hypocritical and posturing". He said the US-led Echelon program, a system to intercept communications, is used by the US not only for military purposes but also to give American industries "the upper hand in purely industrial applications, in competition with [their] international counterparts". Falkvinge said that so far only two countries are known to have used hacking militarily: the US and Israel, in what is believed to have been a joint attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.

Reports highlight Asian-American impact (By Caroline Berg in New York More than one in four of California's population is an immigrant, making the West Coast state home to the largest number of immigrants in the US. More than half of Californians are Latino or Asian. Latino and Asian entrepreneurs - both foreign-born and native-born - own more than one-quarter of all businesses in the state, while Latino and Asian consumers account for nearly one-third of the state's total purchasing power. Those are among the findings of updated fact sheets for 20 states released on Thursday by the Immigration Policy Center that highlight the demographic and economic impact of immigrant, Asian and Latino communities in each state. In addition to California, the states are Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Vermont. The reports outline the growth of foreign-born populations in those states in 1990, 2000 and 2011; the percentages of immigrants naturalized as US citizens in 2011; unauthorized immigrant populations, and breaks down voting populations by demographics. They also underline contributions by immigrant workers, entrepreneurs and taxpayers in each state. "Take the Chinese community, for example - you have a large infusion of highly skilled researchers and scientists in this country," said Haipei Xue of the National Council of Chinese Americans in Washington. "You don't have to prove that academically or on a statistical basis, you just go to Silicon Valley and you can take a look - practically every third person there is Chinese." The top five states in the US with Asian populations are California, New York, Texas, New Jersey and Hawaii, according to the 2010 US Census. In 2011, California was home to 10.2 million immigrants - greater than the total population of Michigan. California would lose $301.6 billion in economic activity and about 3.6 million jobs if all unauthorized immigrants were removed, according to the report, and New York would lose $28.7 billion and 137,013 jobs. In his area, Xue talked about the technology corridor in Virginia where many computer science companies are based and a significant portion of the workforce is made up of Chinese and Indian engineers. "This is exactly what this country needs," Xue said. "There are so many entrepreneurial Chinese here - everybody's thinking of a startup of some nature now." In the report on New York, 196,825 Asian-owned businesses had sales and receipts of $50.5 billion and employed 224,575 people in 2007 - the last year for which data is available, according to the US Census Bureau's Survey of Business Owners. "I understand the concerns in this country about the low-skilled, low-educated immigrants that have become a drag on the society, including welfare programs," Xue said. "There are always two sides to the coin." Xue emphasized that even on the low-skilled level, the Chinese immigrant community is often an active contributor to US society. For example, a large portion of the Fujianese immigrant population chooses to open and run restaurants in their communities, he said. Erin Oshiro of the Asian American Justice Center is working for reform in the family-based immigration system for Asian-Americans. In some cases, it can take up to 23 years for family members to be reunited on US soil. Apart from the emotional toll, family separations can affect individual productivity. Oshiro said a significant portion of Asian-American immigrant communities rely on mom and pop businesses. They use their families to pool resources, but when families are broken up, it hinders their productivity, he said.. "Given the basic profile of our community, I think the argument that the Asian American immigrant community benefits the country is true," Xue said. "It is undoubtedly true."

Hong Kong*:  May 11 2013

Lu Ping sounds warning on influx of cross-border visitors (By Emily Tsang and Tony Cheung) Ex-Beijing official says visit scheme is 'too open', but urges Hongkongers to consider their feelings - Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying reacting during a question-and-answer session, at which he said 'increasing capacity' was the way forward for local tourism. The Beijing official who was in charge of Hong Kong affairs in the run-up to the handover says too many mainlanders are being allowed into the city. Lu Ping , director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office until he retired in August 1997, also described the rush by mainlanders to buy baby milk formula as "very disgraceful". But Lu and Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying urged Hongkongers to consider the feelings of mainlanders before making hostile comments. In a pre-recorded interview with RTHK, Lu blamed the influx on the individual visit scheme, which he said was "too open". The scheme was introduced by the central government in 2003 to help the city's economy recover from the impact of severe acute respiratory syndrome. He appeared to back Leung's decision to put a zero quota on mainlanders giving birth in the city and capping the amount of infant milk formula that people can take out of Hong Kong. Lu, 86 - who last year advised Hongkongers who waved the colonial flag during protests to leave China - backed a "crackdown on smuggling". But he told the Headliner show in an interview in Shanghai, which will be broadcast tonight: "Hongkongers should consider the feelings of mainlanders … There is no need to voice degrading comments publicly, such as calling mainlanders locusts. "This will only hurt the feelings of each other. Hongkongers should not be too utilitarian. After all, the individual visit scheme has done a lot to help the economy." Asked about the Occupy Central movement - the plan for 10,000 protesters to blockade Central in the fight for "genuine" universal suffrage - Lu sighed and dismissed the idea. Blocking traffic would undermine investor confidence and hurt the city's competitiveness, he said. Lu also said many Hongkongers "failed to understand" that the Basic Law is part of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China. He said: "According to the Basic Law, there is no question that chief executive candidates in Hong Kong should go through a nominating committee before being put to the popular vote … there should be some kind of limit on the number of candidates." According to the Basic Law, there is no question that chief executive candidates in Hong Kong should go through a nominating committee before being put to the popular vote … there should be some kind of limit on the number of candidates. Last year, Lu sent a letter to the South China Morning Post blasting those advocating independence for Hong Kong. He said those who did not recognise themselves as Chinese should renounce their nationality. Meanwhile, speaking at a question-and-answer session in the Legislative Council, Leung said "increasing capacity" was the way forward for local tourism. He also weighed in on the debate about the Sichuan quake relief fund and the plan to rezone a Central berth site from "open space" to "military use" for the People's Liberation Army. The HK$100 million fund was endorsed in Legco last week, despite pan-democrats' efforts to block it, citing fears of mainland corruption. Leung said: "We must not ignore the mainland's progress … otherwise it would be unfair for the majority of diligent and people-oriented mainland officials, and wouldn't help maintaining our relationship with the mainland." On the Central berth, he said the PLA had agreed it would be opened for public recreation when not in use "out of goodwill" to Hongkongers.

Survey puts social order ahead of freedoms, in blow to Occupy Central (By Stuart Lau and Tony Cheung) Poll shows more people back keeping order than democracy; Beijing warns on protest plan - Rev Chu Yiu-ming, Benny Tai Yiu-ting and Chan Kin-man, organisers of Occupy Central. More Hongkongers support the upholding of social order than democratic empowerment or the protection of free speech, a survey found. The results of the Hong Kong Institute of Education poll were released as the head of Beijing's local liaison office was quoted as saying that the Occupy Central movement - the plan by democracy advocates for a mass demonstration next year - would "destroy law and order". In the poll, conducted in March, nearly half the 1,032 respondents said maintaining order came ahead of giving people more say in key political decisions, against a third who said otherwise. Forty-six per cent opted for maintaining order over protecting freedom of speech, while 41 per cent held an opposite view. The margin for error of the survey results was plus or minus 3.1 per cent. The pollster, Professor Chou Kee-lee, associate head of the institute's department of Asian and policy studies, said the results served as a reminder to the Occupy Central strategists. "One way to explain this is that Hongkongers have never had a true taste of democracy, while freedom of speech is what they are currently enjoying," he said. One way to explain this is that Hongkongers have never had a true taste of democracy, while freedom of speech is what they are currently enjoying. University of Hong Kong legal scholar Benny Tai Yiu-ting, an Occupy Central organiser, believed there remained much room to elaborate on the spirit of the movement. His ally, Professor Chan Kin-man of Chinese University's department of sociology, said they were working for both democracy and stability in one go. "Without democracy, society can hardly enjoy stability," he said. In the poll, most of the firm believers in democracy were younger males and worked full-time. Those with a higher education level were less likely to give priority to social stability. Chou said Hong Kong's freedom of speech, together with other core values, stemmed originally from the British authorities and were democratic in nature. "Few [of the respondents] were aware that democracy was indeed the foundation of all these rights and freedoms," he said. The remarks by liaison office director Zhang Xiaoming on Occupy Central were quoted by members of the New People's Party who met him yesterday. Party chairwoman and lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said Zhang told them the movement "would destroy law and order and be tantamount to publicly asking people to break the law".

Top cop defends delayed arrest of Occupy Central volunteer (By Lai Ying-kit Speculation government trying to suppress the pro-democracy campaign - Hong Kong police chief on Thursday rejected suggestion that the arrest of a volunteer over a 2011 protest was related to her current role in the Occupy Central movement, saying attempts had been made to arrest her earlier. The Commissioner of Police, Andy Tsang Wai-hung, was explaining why it had taken almost two years for the police to arrest Melody Chan Yuk-fung for unlawful assembly in the July 1, 2011, demonstration. Chan, who was arrested on Wednesday, is now a trainee solicitor and a volunteer helping Occupy Central – a plan to rally 10,000 protestors to blockade Central district as part of a fight for “genuine” universal suffrage. Her arrest prompted speculation the government was trying to suppress the pro-democracy campaign. Speaking after a District Council meeting on Thursday afternoon, Tsang explained that police had actually decided to arrest Chan in January 2012 and notified her of the decision at that time. “We asked [Chan] to report to a police station but [she] did not turn up,” he said. Tsang said it had taken such a long time as the commander in charge had opted for a “low-profile” arrest, in which officers did not go to Chan’s office to look for her. More than 30 attempts were made to arrest Chan and all were unsuccessful, Tsang said. These included 10 visits to her residence and 20 telephone calls to contact her. Chan, 26, has been charged with one count of assisting the holding of an unauthorised assembly and taking part in an unauthorised assembly.

Cathay Pacific eyes hi-tech 'self-boarding' gates in Hong Kong (By Charlotte So Technology allows passengers onto plane without a manual document check by ground staff, with face-detection cameras at checkpoints - Cathay Pacific Airways is considering installing "self-boarding" gates at the airport, which would speed up boarding procedures and improve its on-time performance. The automatic boarding gate, an advanced version of the gates used at MTR stations, will allow passengers to board without having to undergo a manual document check by ground staff. Face-detection cameras at the checkpoints will recognise the passenger using biometric technology, freeing up airline staff. We are looking at the project along with the Airport Authority and we'll finalise the supplier [of the technology] in the next 12 to 18 months. "We are looking at the project along with the Airport Authority and we'll finalise the supplier [of the technology] in the next 12 to 18 months," Cathay's chief operating officer Ivan Chu Kwok-leung said on the sidelines of the airline company's annual shareholders meeting yesterday. The International Air Transport Association aims to enable secure and "fast travel" procedures for 80 per cent of global air passengers by 2020. "Fast travel" is defined as 10 minutes from check-in to duty-free shops and 30 minutes for the passenger to be on board and ready for take-off. In an experiment conducted by Lufthansa on an Airbus A380 aircraft at Frankfurt Airport, the airline found that using four self-boarding devices and two ground staff enabled it to halve the embarkation time for about 450 passengers to 20 minutes, said Lars Rosenberger, the head of business management airport and airline solutions of Kaba Gallenschutz, a boarding gate technology company hoping to win the contract to supply the boarding devices to Cathay. Air China is putting on trial two self-boarding devices at Beijing Capital International Airport. Kaba is helping set up similar self-boarding programmes in Singapore and Australia. Separately, Cathay said it was benefiting from the weaker Japanese yen, which helped the company achieve double-digit growth in passenger traffic to Japan. The airline plans to increase non-scheduled flights to meet increased demand. The year-on-year growth in passengers flying to Japan came from both the Hong Kong and Southeast Asian markets, Chu said. Traffic from mainland China to Japan was still down as a result of Sino-Japanese tensions over disputed islands in the East China Sea, he added. Chu said the airline had seen a 2 per cent year-on-year increase in demand for flights to the United States and Canada. From July, the carrier will operate 21 flights per week to Los Angeles, up from 17 flights now. It will also increase the number of flights to New York per week to 28, from 25 at present. The airline will add a fifth daily flight to London from June 25.

 China*:  May 11 2013

China brushes off Japan protest over Okinawa (By Julian Ryall in Tokyo and Minnie Chan) Tokyo lodges diplomatic objection to Chinese scholars' assertions on island's ownership - Hercules aircraft parked on the tarmac at US Air Station Futenma in Ginowan, Okinawa. China has dismissed a diplomatic protest by Japan over a commentary in a state-run publication that challenged Tokyo's ownership of Okinawa, home to major US bases. The latest angry exchange could further strain tense relations between Asia's two largest economies, which are involved in a stand-off over a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, called the Senkakus in Japan and the Diaoyus in China. The People's Daily, the Chinese Communist Party's mouthpiece, published a commentary on Wednesday, which said ownership of the Ryukyu islands - of which Okinawa is the biggest - should be re-examined, prompting Japan to lodge the diplomatic protest. "China cannot accept Japan's so-called negotiations or protests," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said yesterday. "The relevant scholars' academic articles reflect attention and research paid by China's populace and academia to the Diaoyu Islands and related historical problems," Hua said. Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the islands were Japanese territory. "Japan lodged a stern protest that we can by no means accept the article in question if it reflects the Chinese government's stance," Suga said. In the commentary, the scholars, Zhang Haipeng and Li Guoqiang from a top government think tank, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, called the Ryukyu Islands a "vassal state" of China's Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties before they were annexed by Japan, suggesting China had a historical claim to the island chain. "Hanging in the balance of history, the unresolved problem of the Ryukyus has finally arrived at the time for reconsideration," the scholars wrote. Analysts in Japan have branded China's efforts to assert sovereignty over the scattered islands of the Ryukyus as "ridiculous" - but equally warned that the claim may be Beijing's opening move to seize the Diaoyus. "I see this as a tactical move by the Chinese Communist Party, but I do believe that China is seeking to capture the Okinawan islands in the future," said Yoichi Shimada, a professor of international relations at Fukui Prefectural University. "It might be difficult for them to invade the main island - that is not a realistic aim because the US Marines are stationed there - but this is part of their plan to take the Senkakus, then some of the more remote islands," he said. Okinawa hosts most of the 50,000 US troops in Japan. Go Ito, a professor of international relations at Tokyo's Meiji University, agrees Beijing's claim to the territory is "quite simply ridiculous". "If Italy applied the same logic, it could claim that pretty much all of Europe is sovereign Italian territory because it was once under the control of the Roman Empire," he said. It was not the first time mainland media had challenged Japan's sovereignty over the Ryukyus from a historical perspective. Last week, World Affairs, a Foreign Ministry semi-monthly, published a similar commentary written by Fudan University professor Lei Yuhong. It said that according to the Okinawa Reversion Treaty signed between Washington and Tokyo in 1971, the US only handed administrative rights over Okinawa to Japan, not its sovereignty. Mainland-based experts said the point raised in the two articles was targeting the US. Professor Wang Hanling, a maritime expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Beijing had no intention of taking over Okinawa, "but those articles carried by official media show that we cannot tolerate what Japan and the US have done to us recently". He said the Pentagon's reiteration of Japan's administrative rights over the Diaoyus in its latest report on China had also made Beijing unhappy. Zhou Yongsheng, an expert on Japan affairs at China Foreign Affairs University, said the articles indicated that some historians were trying to push Japan back to the negotiating table. 

Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei breaks silence to reject security concerns (By Agence France-Presse in Wellington) Ren Zhengfei, CEO and founder of Huawei, smiles during his meeting with local media on Thursday, in Wellington, New Zealand. The reclusive head of Chinese technology giant Huawei on Thursday rejected US cyber-security fears that have seen Washington effectively freeze his company out of government contracts, reports said. In what was billed as his first media briefing outside China in 26 years at the helm of Huawei, company founder and president Ren Zhengfei was interviewed by a small group of New Zealand journalists in the capital Wellington. The New Zealand Herald said the 68-year-old sought to quell any security fears arising from Huawei’s involvement in the South Pacific nation’s NZ$3 billion (HK$19.7 billion) ultra-fast broadband network, now under construction. The US Congress last year raised fears that Huawei’s ties with Beijing meant telecom equipment supplied by the company could be used for spying and called for its exclusion from US government contracts and acquisitions. Australia has also barred the firm from involvement in its new broadband network because of security concerns. Ren, a former engineer in the People’s Liberation Army who founded Huawei in 1987, rejected the security concerns and likened Huawei’s business to laying pipes, the Herald reported. “Our pipe carries the data and information traffic – if the water running through the pipe is polluted, I think it is not the pipe that should be blamed,” he said through a translator. “We are no longer selling our telecom equipment to telecom carriers in the US. If, for example, the United States continues to say ‘We still have this security problem’, that may prove in hindsight that the decision may not be very fact-based.” Fairfax Media reported that Ren suggested “jealousy” might be a factor behind the US disapproval. Time magazine last month named the 68-year-old in its list of the 100 most influential people on the planet, describing him as “the world’s most controversial businessman”. In a hint at why he chose to make his international media debut in the relatively obscure surroundings of a Wellington waterfront hotel, Ren was quoted as saying he was grateful for the opportunities New Zealand had given Huawei.

Japan protests to China over Okinawa claim (By Agence France-Presse in Tokyo) A People's Daily article said Ryukyus were a “vassal state” of China before Japan annexed the islands. Japan has lodged a diplomatic protest with China over an article in a state-run publication that challenged Japan’s ownership of Okinawa, home to major US bases, officials said on Thursday. The People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party, on Wednesday published a call for a review of Japan’s sovereignty over Okinawa, suggesting that Beijing may be the rightful owner. The call came as the two countries are already at loggerheads over islands in the East China Sea. “We have protested both in Tokyo and Beijing over the commentary issued by the People’s Daily, followed by a Chinese foreign ministry comment,” said a Japanese foreign ministry official in charge of Chinese affairs. “We told them that if the Chinese government shares the position of casting doubt about Japan’s ownership of Okinawa, we would never accept it and firmly protest at it,” he said. “The Chinese side replied to us that the view in the commentary was solely held by researchers,” he added. The lengthy article in the People’s Daily argued that the country may have rights to the Ryukyu chain, which includes Okinawa. Okinawa is home to major US air force and marine bases as well as 1.3 million people, nearly all of whom are Japanese nationals and speak Japanese. The authors of the article, two scholars at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, considered China’s top state-run think-tank, said the Ryukyus were a “vassal state” of China before Japan annexed the islands in the late 1800s. “Unresolved problems relating to the Ryukyu Islands have reached the time for reconsideration,” wrote Zhang Haipeng and Li Guoqiang, citing post-second world war declarations that required Japan to return Chinese territory. The article also repeated Chinese government arguments for China’s historical claims over a set of tiny uninhabited islets known as Diaoyu in Chinese and Senkaku in Japanese, over which the two sides are squabbling. Following the article, the Chinese foreign ministry reportedly said “the history of Ryukyu and Okinawa has long called for attention in academia”. The two nations have stepped up a war of words on the Senkakus in recent months, with Beijing’s vessels regularly entering the waters around the Tokyo-controlled islands, stoking fears of armed conflict. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on Wednesday dismissed the article as “injudicious” and said Japan’s ownership of Okinawa “is a fact accepted historically and by the international community”. Analysts said questions over Japan’s right to Okinawa were probably aimed at raising the stakes in the East China Sea dispute.

Kong Qingdong ordered to apologise for calling Beijing student 'dog, traitor' (By Patrick Boehler) Last year he called Hongkongers 'dogs of the British imperialists', 'bastards' and 'thieves' - A Beijing court has ordered controversial Peking University scholar Kong Qingdong to apologise to a law student for calling him a “dog” and a “traitor” online. Kong, who claims to be a descendant of Confucius, is one of China's most prominent nationalistic internet voices. On Wednesday, the Haidian District People's Court in Beijing ordered him to pay 200 yuan (HK$253) in damages to Guan Kaiyuan, a 22-year-old law student at the China Institute of Industrial Relations in Beijing, and cover 1,000 yuan in administrative costs. The court also ruled that Kong had to publish an apology to Guan in a national publication. “The money doesn’t matter to me,” Guan said, speaking on the phone. “What mattered was principle. How can a celebrity get away with going around insulting people?” Professor Kong, 49, gained international prominence when he co-sponsored a dubious Chinese alternative to the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. Last year he caused another stir when he called Hongkongers “dogs of the British imperialists”, “bastards” and “thieves” in an interview. Kong’s insults against Guan were in an online post, which has since been deleted, on Sina Weibo, the country’s largest microblogging platform. Guan had merely criticised a poem by the literary professor for breaching composition rules of a seven-character poem. "You haven't even read the poem, you dog and traitor," Kong wrote, following up with references on Guan's mother. Guan said he would appeal against the ruling, because he said he thought an apology on weibo would send a stronger message against slander. The professor has 2.3 million followers on Sina Weibo. “People told me not to sue him,” Guan said. “A student can’t win a case against such a celebrity, they said, but I believed in the law and my teachers said the case might be a good experience.” Kong, who has not previously commented on the case, could not be reached for comment. His lawyer had argued that because Guan was not using his real name online, insults traded online could not affect him personally, the Beijing News reported.

Tulip flowers blossom in China's Tibet - Tulip flowers blossom at a planting base in Qushui County, Lhasa City, capital of southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, May 9, 2013.

China's CPI rises to 2.4 pct in April - China's consumer price index (CPI) grew 2.4 percent year on year in April, up from 2.1 percent in March, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said Thursday.

Hong Kong*:  May 10 2013

Weak Japanese yen helps Cathay Pacific to soar (By Charlotte So Cathay Pacific said the weaker Japanese yen has helped traffic to Japan, although Sino-Japanese tensions are hurting China-Japan traffic. The weak Japanese yen underpinned double digit growth in passenger traffic to Japan, Cathay Pacific Airways said on Wednesday, adding that it would increase non-scheduled flights to meet the rise in demand. The year-on-year traffic growth to Japan came from the Hong Kong market and from transiting passengers from Southeast Asia, Ivan Chu Kwok-leung, Cathay’s chief operating officer said on the sidelines of the company’s annual shareholder meeting. However, traffic from China to Japan was still under pressure as a result of Sino-Japanese tensions over disputed islands in the East China Sea, Chu said. Chu said the airline had seen an uptick on traffic long-haul destinations, especially on the routes to the United States and Canada, where it rose by two per cent year-on-year. “We are restoring flights to Los Angeles and New York, to the extent that traffic has returned to the level before we cut long-haul capacity last year,” he said. From July, the carrier will operate 21 flights a week to Los Angeles, up from 17 flights a week, and will boost its New York service to 28 flights a week, from 25 at present, he said. Additionally, Cathay will add a fifth daily flight to London from June 25. This year, Cathay will take delivery of nine Boeing 777s and five Airbus 330s to replace older B 747s. He said the freight division was weak this year. After a brief uptick in the fourth quarter of last year, the carrier recorded a 12 per cent year-on-year dip in cargo volume in March. Chu said the airline hoped that shipments of new electronic devices in the second half would help underpin the cargo business. In March, Cathay Pacific reported an 83 per cent dive in profit in 2012 to HK$916 million, blaming falling fares and weak cargo demand. Earlier this month, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said March international passenger demand rose six per cent year-on-year, and capacity was up 3.5 per cent, lifting load factors by 1.8 percentage points to 79.9 per cent. IATA, the umbrella group for airlines, said Asia-Pacific carriers’ traffic rose 5.4 per cent year-on-year in March, with strong growth in the Chinese market and an improvement in Asia trade since the last year fourth quarter underpinning the higher demand. It said half of the growth in international traffic since October had been with Asia-Pacific carriers.

Hong Kong needs new attractions, says tourism chief (By Ada Lee Hong Kong should look into expanding the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens event and organising a large-scale cycling competition to attract more tourists, the new Tourism Board chairman said. Peter Lam Kin-ngok, who took up the position last month, said in a Commercial Radio interview on Wednesday morning that the city would have to find new attractions and a cycling competition on the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge might be feasible after it opens in 2016. The board first hoped to organise a smaller-scale cycling event on the Tsing Ma Bridge next year, he said. “There are a few events, such as the Sevens and the marathon, that inspire me," he said. "These big events can attract a lot of tourists.” As many tourists could not get hold of tickets for the Sevens after they had arrived in Hong Kong, Lam suggested an event be held in Victoria Park or the open space near the government headquarters in Tamar, where they could watch a live broadcast of the event and enjoy themselves. He also said the board had predicted the number of mainland visitors over the three-day May Day holiday might drop because of bird flu and the Sichuan earthquake, but it turned out 300,000 to 400,000 more of them visited Hong Kong that last year – an increase of 15 per cent. Many of the visitors bought gold products because of the drop in the price of gold, he said. Apart from the mainland, the board was also promoting Hong Kong as a tourist destination in other countries, he said, but the city would have to develop new attractions, other than shopping and dining, to lure people to the city and to stay longer once they got here. 


There's no other way... to get home: Blur's Damon Albarn takes MTR in Hong Kong (By SCMP) Britpop legends spotted day after first ever Hong Kong gig - Damon Albarn is spotted on the MTR. Graham Coxon can be seen in the background in purple glasses. After thrilling thousands of delighted Hong Kongers with their first gig in Hong Kong in their 25-year history, you might have expected the boys from rock band Blur to be chauffeured around the city in luxury. But Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon and drummer Dave Rowntree went largely unnoticed when they took a trip on the MTR on Tuesday. At least one passenger recognised the scruffy trio as the Britpop pioneers and promptly snapped a couple of pictures which have been circulating on Twitter and Facebook today. The boys from Colchester, Essex, - famous for hits including There's No Other Way, Tender and Parklife - are in Hong Kong for a week. During Monday night's gig Albarn announced to the audience that, due to the cancellation of a gig in Japan, they would remain in Hong Kong and make a new record. Albarn told the audience: "So we have a week in Hong Kong, and we thought it would be a good time to try to record another record, so we're going to make one here in Hong Kong." It was unclear whether he meant the band would record a new album or just a single. If they were to record an album, it would be the first since Think Tank in 2003. The band reunited in 2009 for a sell-out Hyde Park gig in London and have since released two singles. Last year they went into the studio to record an album with producer William Orbit, but according to NME, Albarn halted recording. There are several recording studios in Hong Kong. When contacted Craig Lomas at Beating Heart Studios in Shek Tong Tsui, he denied they were recording at his studio. David Sum at Zeal Studio in Wong Chuk Hang Road, Hong Kong, also said the band were not recording at Zeal. Red Room, also in Wong Chuk Hang Road, Hong Kong, had not returned's email.

Plane will not wait for you to buy cigarettes, says flight attendant to policewoman (By Ernest Kao) It’s not easy predicting what will go viral on the Chinese blogosphere, but a common theme is one of the “everyman hero” standing up to power. So sensitive is the issue of power abuse these days that rumours of a Hong Kong flight attendant rejecting demands from a uniformed military police officer became an instant hit on weibo. The officer wanted to delay take-off so she could go out and buy cigarettes for her boss. A photo of the People’s Armed Police officer being “confronted” by security began spreading on Sina Weibo earlier this week and eventually made its way into Hong Kong and mainland news. The Hong Kong-bound plane was to take off from Guiyang, capital of southwestern Guizhou province, on Sunday when the officer asked the crew to hold the flight because her superiors had forgotten to buy duty-free cigarettes. “Sorry, I can’t make passengers of the entire aircraft wait for you to go out and buy cigarettes. I need to shut the door now. Please do not interfere with my plane taking off,” the flight attendant had reportedly said to the officer. Hong Kong Airlines confirmed the incident and said the flight had taken off as scheduled. Other details were not disclosed. Internet users lauded the flight attendant for sticking to her guns and refusing to give into demands from an official in uniform. But other netizens dismissed the photo and the story as fabrication. “She’s got an unusually sexy body shape and head full of dyed hair … I don’t think that’s a real policewoman,” said one microblogger. The story is one of many similar “air rage” dramas that have cropped up across the country in the last year. Just last week, a man was arrested at the same airport after he reportedly slapped a female Air China flight attendant on the buttocks. Attacks on air crews have become so widespread that Hong Kong Airlines has been giving basic wing chun martial arts training to its flight attendants since 2011. The airline in August reported an average of three incidents of disruptive passengers every week.

 China*:  May 10 2013

China, Israel boost cooperation (By By Li Xiaokun and Cheng Guangjin in Beijing and Chen Weihua in Washington) China and Israel on Wednesday vowed to join their respective advantages in markets and technology to create a bright future, as leaders of the two nations had their first meeting since the two new governments took office in March. Premier Li Keqiang greets visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Great Hall of the People on Wednesday. Premier Li Keqiang told visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that "the new Chinese government attaches great importance to developing relations with Israel", according to a news release issued by the Foreign Ministry. This is the first visit by an Israeli prime minister to China since then-prime minister Ehud Olmert's trip in 2007. The two leaders decided that the two governments will set up a special workgroup to study bilateral economic and social cooperation and come up with a plan as soon as possible. During the meeting, Li suggested both sides expand trade and investment and raise the level and added value of their trade. He also advised the two nations to combine Israel's high-tech advantage with China's huge market, and he welcomed Israeli investment in cutting-edge technology. Besides, China would like to learn from Israeli expertise in agriculture and will encourage capable Chinese companies to participate in Israeli construction projects, Li said. Netanyahu told Li that peoples of the two nations have long held a great affection toward each other. Israel wants to join hands with China to build a bright future, he said. On Tuesday, Netanyahu and his wife toured Shanghai's Ohel Moshe synagogue, which was home to many of the 18,000 Jews granted refuge in Shanghai from the horrors of Nazi persecution. Netanyahu said his country will forever appreciate Shanghai's assistance to the Jewish people during World War II. After the Wednesday meeting, Li and Netanyahu witnessed the signing of cooperation documents on agriculture, technology, financing and education. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu witnesses the signing of cooperation documents on agriculture, technology, financing and education in Beijing on Wednesday. Li Shaoxian, an expert of Middle East studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said the large business delegation accompanying Netanyahu for the visit and his first stop at China's commercial hub, Shanghai, demonstrates his expectations on the two countries' future economic cooperation. Netanyahu is leading a large delegation, including a group of senior officials on economic affairs and entrepreneurs. He had said that one of his priorities will be pushing forward exports to China. China is Israel's top trading partner in Asia, and the third worldwide, with bilateral trade in 2012 reaching nearly $10 billion. Israeli figures show that in 2012, its exports to the United States and Europe shrank 6 percent and 7 percent respectively compared with 2011 because of the global economic turmoil. However, Israel's exports to Asia surged 5 percent. Israel, on the other side, is an important source of high technology for China. Netanyahu said during his stay in Shanghai that once the high-tech and creativity of Israel find its match in China's strong producing power and wide access to the global market, it will be the best combination. Netanyahu arrived in Beijing from Shanghai on Wednesday, just one day after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas left Beijing. The two leaders did not meet in their rare, nearly simultaneous visits to China, though Beijing said it would be willing to help arrange a meeting if requested. Li told Netanyahu on Wednesday that the Palestine issue is the core of peace and stability in the Middle East, while peaceful settlement through negotiations is the only effective way. China expects the two sides to create conditions to revive the peace talks and seek tangible progress, he said. "China, as a friend of both Palestine and Israel, has all along held an objective and fair stance. We would like to make efforts with all parties to actively push forward the Middle East peace process", Li said. Netanyahu said his country appreciates China's constructive role in the Middle East peace process. LI'S IDEAS Suggestions that Premier Li Keqiang raised to promote tangible cooperation between China and Israel:
• Expand two-way trade and investment and raise the level and added value of the trade.
• Deepen technology cooperation. Join the two nations' advantages in technology and markets through methods including building industrial parks and technique transfer centers together.
• Boost agricultural cooperation. China would like to learn Israeli expertise in agriculture and carry out cooperation in water-saving dry farming.
• Explore charted projects and labor cooperation. China will encourage capable Chinese companies to participate in Israeli construction projects.

Netanyahu meets Li Keqiang in Beijing (By Agence France-Presse in Beijing) Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (left) walks with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, on Wednesday. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing on Wednesday, where the two witnessed the signing of a series of trade and cultural deals. Netanyahu’s arrival on a five-day trip to China overlapped with a journey by Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas, but the two Middle Eastern visitors did not meet each other. The Israeli leader was greeted with full military honours including a 19-gun salute outside the Great Hall of the People in the capital, and called for closer trade ties between the two nations. “Our two peoples are two ancient peoples with a glorious past, a difficult in-between period, and then soaring into the future,” Netanyahu told Li. “I think Israel can be the perfect junior partner for China in its pursuit of economic excellence and competitive advantage by offering our technological capabilities,” he said. No details of the agreements were immediately available. Israel ran a large trade deficit with China last year, importing US$5.32 billion-worth of goods from the world’s second largest economy while exporting US$2.74 billion-worth, according to official Israeli figures. China established diplomatic ties with Israel in 1992, but was the first country to set up an office in the Palestinian territories in the 1960s. The last Israeli premier to visit China was Ehud Olmert in 2007.

China should ‘reconsider’ who owns Okinawa, says People's Daily (By Agence France-Presse in Beijing) Okinawa is part of the Ryukyu island chain and home to major US bases. China’s top newspaper on Wednesday published a call for a “reconsideration” of Japan’s sovereignty over the island of Okinawa – home to major US bases – with the Asian powers already embroiled in a territorial row. The lengthy article in the People’s Daily, China’s most-circulated newspaper and the mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party, argued that China may have rights to the Ryukyu island chain, which includes Okinawa. “Unresolved problems relating to the Ryukyu Islands have reached the time for reconsideration,” wrote Zhang Haipeng and Li Guoqiang, citing post-second world war declarations that require Japan to return Chinese territory. The authors are scholars at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, considered China’s top state-run think tank. The article also repeated Chinese government arguments for China’s historical claims over a set of tiny uninhabited islets in the East China Sea known as Diaoyu in Chinese and Senkaku in Japanese. The two nations have stepped up a war of words over the dispute in recent months, with Beijing’s vessels regularly entering the waters around the Tokyo-controlled islands, stoking fears of armed conflict. Okinawa is the biggest of the Ryukyu Islands, which stretch for about 1,000 kilometres from Japan’s mainland, and was the centre of the Ryukyuan kingdom which paid tribute to Chinese emperors until it was absorbed by Japan in 1879. The island is home to major US air force and marine bases as well as 1.3 million people, who are considered more closely related to Japan in ethnic and linguistic terms than to China. But some Chinese see historical ties as a basis for sovereignty and dismiss Japan’s possession of the islands as a legacy of its aggressive expansionism that ended in defeat at the end of the second world war. China’s government does not make such claims, but state media have from time to time carried articles and commentaries questioning Japan’s authority.

China calls US the 'real hacking empire' after Pentagon report (By Reuters in Beijing) China on Wednesday accused the United States of sowing discord between China and its neighbours after the Pentagon said Beijing was using espionage to fuel its military modernisation, branding Washington the “real hacking empire”. The latest salvo came a day after China’s foreign ministry dismissed as groundless a Pentagon report which accused China for the first time of trying to break into US defence computer networks. The Pentagon also cited progress in Beijing’s effort to develop advanced-technology stealth aircraft and build an aircraft carrier fleet to project power further offshore. The People’s Liberation Army Daily called the report a “gross interference in China’s internal affairs”. “Promoting the ‘China military threat theory’ can sow discord between China and other countries, especially its relationship with its neighbouring countries, to contain China and profit from it,” the newspaper said in a commentary that was carried on China’s Defence Ministry’s website. The United States is “trumpeting China’s military threat to promote its domestic interests groups and arms dealers”, the newspaper said, adding that it expects “US arms manufacturers are gearing up to start counting their money”. The remarks in the newspaper underscore the escalating mistrust between China and the United States over hacking, now a top point of contention between Washington and Beijing. A US computer security company, Mandiant, said in February a secretive Chinese military unit was likely behind a series of hacking attacks that targeted the United States and stole data from more than 100 companies. That set off a war of words between Washington and Beijing. China has said repeatedly that it does not condone hacking and is the victim of hacking attacks – most of which it claims come from the United States. “As we all know, the United States is the real ‘hacking empire’ and has an extensive espionage network,” the People’s Daily, a newspaper regarded as a mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, said in a commentary. The article – which was published under the pen name “Zhong Sheng”, meaning “Voice of China” – said “in recent years, the United States has continued to strengthen its network tools for political subversion against other countries”. “Cyber weapons are more frightening than nuclear weapons,” the People’s Daily said. “To establish military hegemony on the Internet by repeatedly smearing other countries is a dangerous and wrong path to take and will ultimately end up in shooting themselves in the foot.”

Hong Kong*:  May 9 2013

You'd be crazy to ignore the great iBond giveaway (By Jasper Moiseiwitsch The third round of inflation-linked notes is effectively a gift from the government to you - The third round of iBonds is due to arrive in June. The HK$10 billion inflation-linked bond, issued by the Hong Kong government, is a good deal. That fact is reflected in the first-day trading performance of the first two rounds of issuance. The iBond issued in 2011 rose 6.7 per cent in price on day one, and the one sold last year climbed 5 per cent. This kind of first-day gain for a bond from a triple-A issuer (as is the Hong Kong government) is unheard of. It is irrational. Put another way, it is a giveaway from the government, from it to you. And if you cannot bring yourself to hold on to something so dull as an inflation-linked bond for three years, you can at least hold the investment for one day, and sell for a likely profit. The instruments are listed on the Hong Kong exchange and are easily traded. Clearly, Hongkongers have cottoned on to this idea. In 2011, the first year of the iBond programme, investors put in HK$13 billion of orders. Last year, that amount ballooned to HK$50 billion. Which leads to the biggest drawback of the scheme: low allocations. For the first iBond, a subscriber could get an allocation of up to HK$440,000. Last year, however, the average allocation was just HK$30,000. Assuming a subscriber gets a HK$30,000 allocation this time around, and on day one the bond trades up 5 per cent, he or she would get a first day's profit of HK$1,500. That is not nothing, but it is not super exciting either. However, if you oversubscribe, Cindy Fu, Standard Chartered's iBond specialist, reckons that investors could get allocated up to HK$50,000 per person. If you and your wife both subscribe, and your family is allocated HK$100,000 of iBonds, then you are looking at a day-one trading gain of HK$5,000. There are a couple of hurdles. A person has to set up a bond account at a local bank, an account into which the bank can distribute coupon payments and the like. This involves answering a short (three-question) risk assessment survey. The process should take about half an hour. Standard Chartered charges no fee to subscribe to the iBond, or to set up a bond account. Other banks may charge a minimal fee. The bid-offer spread (the difference between the price you pay for the bond, and the price you can sell it for) is also narrow, but you should budget a cost of about 0.1 per cent. A person also has to set aside money to subscribe to the bond. Fu suggests committing up to HK$100,000 to ensure getting the maximum number of bonds. The process, from order to allocation, takes two to three weeks. So that is money tied up that could be used productively elsewhere. Otherwise, there is little downside to iBonds. Hong Kong's rate of inflation is trending down and that is resulting in lower iBond coupons (see table) but demand for the instrument remains strong. The iBond that was issued last year is trading at about a 6 per cent premium to the issue price. The worst-case scenario is this: the bond does not trade up on day one, and you sell at par, resulting in no gain for a bit of hassle. The worst-worst case scenario is that the bond actually trades down in value, in which case you would be obliged to hold a triple-A bond with inflation-linked returns - not a bad outcome in an era of high-powered central-bank money printing. Be aware that iBonds may not be offered next year. Mavis Hui, a spokeswoman for the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau, says the programme is done to promote public interest in bonds, but she adds: "It is a non-recurrent measure." Translation: get them while they last.

Vibrating cinema seats shake Hong Kong (By Charley Lanyon Vibrating seats have been a hit in cinemas, but some viewers say they detract from the film - Watching a film in Hong Kong can be a moving experience. Literally. A trend in cinema seats that had been dismissed as a novelty by serious film buffs has taken hold in the city. Vibrating seats, seats that literally shake and rumble in unison with the action on screen, have become hot ticket items with local film-goers. Broadway Cinemas was among the first in Hong Kong to embrace the new viewing experience in 2010. Of the circuit's 11 cinemas, only two - Broadway The One and Broadway Mong Kok - are equipped with vibrating seats, but vendors report these tickets consistently sell out first. Even though they cost the same as a regular seat, and are more expensive for the theatre to maintain, their draw has proven so powerful that Broadway is renovating another theatre, the Palace APM, to have rows of vibrating seats by the end of summer. A new Broadway theatre planned for Yoho Town will also feature trembling chairs. Broadway sets up its theatres so every other row consists of vibrating seats, giving customers a choice between vibrating and regular viewing experiences. But over at the Grand Cinema in Elements, vibrating seats are so popular it has done away with non-vibrating seats altogether. All of its 1,566 seats spring into action when the movie, in all genres, reaches its climatic - and often ear-splitting - apex. Vibrating seats do have their detractors. Some claim it takes them out of the movie, and others worry that vibrating seats would be inappropriate in more serious or quieter films. But Grace Cheung Yee-seung, Broadway's general manager responsible for theatre operations, says such concerns are unfounded. Vibrating seats, she says, "significantly enhance movie-goers' attachment to and enjoyment of the movie world". And Helena Young, general manager at The Grand Cinema, points out that because the vibrating seats are tied to the volume of the action on the screen, movie-goers don't have to worry about their seats vibrating during quiet films or serious dramas. Still, not everybody is sold. Documentary filmmaker Tammy Cheung Hung admits she has never personally sat in a vibrating seat, but is dubious of the whole idea. "I wouldn't be interested, it's a gimmick," she says. She laughs at the very notion of a vibrating seat: "I'm not looking for that kind of excitement at a theatre. If I wanted an experience like that, I would go to an amusement park." James Marsh, the Asia editor of is more charitable towards the new seats. "[Vibrating seats] certainly added to my enjoyment of Battleship - without the sound system and the seats it would have been totally unwatchable," he says. Still, he admits: "At the end of the day, they're up there with 3-D as an unnecessary gimmick to make the theatre-going experience more enjoyable when technology makes it so easy to watch films at home." Perhaps the seats' detractors are simply in the wrong demographic. Grace Cheung points out the vibrating seats tend to appeal to a younger audience. Neither she nor Young have received a single complaint about the vibrations. Looking at ticket sales, it seems Tammy Cheung is in the minority. In Hong Kong, it seems, going to the movies is starting to become an increasingly shaky proposition.

Actors celebrate for Eric Tsang's 60th birthday at the news conference held for the action movie "Seven Assassins" in Beijing, May 6, 2013. The movie is scheduled to be released on June 9.

 China*:  May 9 2013

Israeli leader Netanyahu visits Shanghai’s old Jewish ghetto (By Agence France-Presse in Shanghai) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (centre) meets rabbis as he visits the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum at former site of Ohel Moshe Synagogue in Shanghai, on Tuesday. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lauded Shanghai for its past role as a haven for Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution on a visit to the city’s former ghetto on Tuesday, as questions loom over the area’s future. Netanyahu, who arrived a day earlier at the start of an official visit to China, toured the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum, which includes the Ohel Moshe synagogue that once served the community, a museum official said. “Seventy years ago, only Shanghai opened the door to provide a sanctuary to Jewish refugees,” Netanyahu was quoted by Shanghai’s Liberation Daily newspaper as saying. From the early 1930s, tens of thousands of Jewish refugees who fled Europe made Shanghai their home. In 1943, the Japanese authorities who had occupied Shanghai ordered an estimated 20,000 Jewish refugees into a “designated area” in the city’s northern district of Hongkou, where they lived alongside Chinese residents. Their movements were restricted but they were never targeted for extermination, despite requests from officials of Nazi Germany, Japan’s ally at the time. “We hope to develop closer cooperation with China, so we can take pride not only in 70 years ago but also in the future,” Netanyahu said. The Israeli prime minister is due to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping and other top officials in Beijing later this week, following a visit by Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas. China supports Palestinian statehood but at the same time Beijing has built business links with Israel since the two countries established diplomatic ties in 1992. Wang Jun of Tongji University, which has a programme with Tel Aviv University to explore redeveloping the ghetto, said the link between Shanghai and the Jewish people could serve as a base for future Sino-Israeli cooperation. “Shanghai protected tens of thousands of Jewish refugees. For Israel, for the Jewish people, the significance is exceptional,” he said. Although the former ghetto area is marked for historical preservation, individual buildings have fallen victim to Shanghai’s race for modernity. During his museum visit, Netanyahu had a coffee at the Cafe Atlantic, a newly opened recreation of an establishment from the 1940s when the area was known as “Little Vienna” for its coffee houses and shops. Shanghai demolished the cafe’s original home in a road-widening project in 2009. Israeli architect Oded Narkis, an organiser of the programme with Tongji, said he hoped Netanyahu’s visit might prompt the city government to develop a comprehensive plan to both redevelop and preserve the area. “That’s the big question, how to do it – to preserve what we can preserve and somehow symbolise the connection between Israel and China,” he said.

Xi proposes four-point plan to resolve Palestinian issue (By Cary Huang in Beijing Palestinian Authority leader arrives in Beijing as Israeli Prime Minister lands in Shanghai ahead of travelling to capital tomorrow - Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a speech during a gala dinner in Shanghai on Monday. President Xi Jinping gave visiting Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas a full state welcome in Beijing yesterday as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a lowkey landing in Shanghai before flying to Beijing tomorrow to meet Chinese leaders. Xi made four suggestions on the Palestine-Israel conflict in talks with Abbas, a week after a top Chinese envoy said Beijing would be willing to help broker peace talks. Analysts said it was a clear sign that China wanted to play a bigger role in Middle Eastern affairs as it sought more resources and markets in the region, from which it has traditionally remained distant. "The arrangement of overlapping visits by the leaders of both Palestine and Israel, even by accident, suggests China’s new leaders’ increasing interest in Middle East affairs and its willingness to play a bigger role in mediating the long-stalled peace talks," said Professor Xiao Xian, director of Yunnan University’s Institute of Western Asian Studies. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said last week that "if the Palestinian and Israeli leaders want to meet each other in China, we will happily provide the necessary assistance." Abbas’ three-day trip is the first by a Middle Eastern leader since Xi took office in March. He is due to leave Beijing tonight, with Netanyahu due in the capital at about noon tomorrow. Xi called for an independent Palestinian state and the peaceful co-existence of Palestine and Israel. He also said negotiations were the only way to peace between Palestine and Israel, principles such as “land for peace” should be firmly upheld, and the international community should provide important guarantees of progress in the peace process. “It is an inalienable right of the people of Palestine to build an independent state, with Jerusalem as the capital and based on the 1967 boundaries, with full sovereignty, which is the key to the settlement of the Palestinian question,” Xinhua quoted Xi as saying. Xi added that Israel’s right to exist and its legitimate security concerns should be fully respected. Abbas later met Premier Li Keqiang, who pledged Beijing would encourage more businesses to invest in Palestine, help with infrastructure, train more people and strengthen people-to-people exchanges. Last week special Middle East envoy Wu Sike said China was willing to make efforts leading to the resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and Chinese leaders would try to bring Abbas and Netanyahu together for such talks. But analysts said that while China was getting more active in Middle East diplomacy, its role in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks would be limited. “The issue has been pursued under the four-party mechanism, which excludes China,” said Professor Yin Gang , an expert on Middle Eastern affairs at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ Institute of Western Asian and African Studies. The four parties are the United States, European Union, Russia and the United Nations. Yin said it was “very unlikely” that China would help break the deadlock in the peace talks or host such talks in China. 

China takes big step towards fully convertible yuan (By Daniel Ren in Shanghai and Victoria Ruan in Beijing) State Council says it is preparing plan for internationalised currency - While the yuan is already convertible under the current account, covering trade, the capital account, which covers portfolio investment and borrowing, is closely controlled. In a move towards internationalising the yuan, the State Council said yesterday it will unveil an operational plan this year to make the currency fully convertible under capital accounts. The plan is likely to include a clear-cut time frame. The cabinet also said it would establish a comprehensive system for individuals' outbound investments, indicating that Beijing would make a renewed effort to relaunch the "through train" scheme allowing mainlanders to directly buy Hong Kong stocks - a plan that was scrapped in 2007. While the yuan is already convertible under the current account, covering trade, the capital account, which covers portfolio investment and borrowing, is closely controlled. The announcement, which followed a meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang , indicated the leadership may already have drafted a time frame for a freer capital flow. It had been speculated earlier that full convertibility would come by 2015. The State Council said the decisions at the meeting were in compliance with directives from the Communist Party's Central Economic Working Conference in December chaired by President Xi Jinping. "The statement shows the leadership has attached great importance to the convertibility issue and the operational plan will give the all-clear for liberalisation," said Li Huiyong, chief economist with Shenyin Wanguo Securities. "Global and domestic economic conditions have pushed the leaders to accelerate the pace for reforms." Global and domestic economic conditions have pushed the leaders to accelerate the pace for reforms - In 2007, Beijing first announced its ambition to internationalise the yuan and promote its use worldwide in step with China's rising economic heft. Liberalisation of the capital account would allow businesses or individuals from home and abroad to freely convert their currencies to buy assets and equities across the border. However, it is likely that, at least initially, the exchange of foreign currencies would still be subject to restrictions by regulators to prevent an entirely free flow of capital. Beijing opened the current account in 1996, allowing companies to exchange foreign currencies for trade deals. The central bank put full convertibility on the agenda in 1996, with 2000 as a target date, but the Asian financial turmoil derailed the plan. As China integrates further into the global economy, with domestic capital seeking fresh markets and foreign funds gravitate to the mainland, an open capital account would facilitate capital flow and investments. "The meeting discussed a lot of issues, but it's not easy to get all of them done," said Industrial Bank chief economist Lu Zhengwei . "The thing that Premier Li is set to do in the near term is to reduce administrative approvals."

U.S. report on China's military baseless, counterproductive (By Xinhua) The U.S. Department of Defense released on Monday a report on China, making groundless assessment on the Asian country's military and security development. This unwise move is not only self-contradictory as Washington has been claiming to boost military ties with China, but also harmful to the aspiration of both countries to forge a cooperative partnership based on mutual respect, mutual benefit and a win-win situation. The Annual Report on Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China (PRC) speculated that China's military modernization is designed to "improve the capacity of its armed forces to fight and win short-duration, high-intensity regional military conflict." By saying that China's military development "serves more narrowly-defined PRC interests and objectives, including advancing territorial claims," the report invoked Cold War thinking and zero-sum game mentality, and misjudged the nature of China's military investment. The drafters ignored the fact that China has repeatedly stated the defensive nature of its national defense policy. The latest of China's white papers, issued last month, made it clear that its armed forces have always been a staunch force to uphold world peace and regional stability. As a global economic power, China has a tremendous number of economic sea lanes to protect. China is justified to develop its military capabilities to safeguard its sovereignty and protect its vast interests around the world. Moreover, the report went further to interfere with China's internal affairs by commenting on the situation across the Taiwan Straits, claiming "the PLA (People's Liberation Army) has developed and deployed military capabilities to coerce Taiwan or to attempt an invasion, if necessary." The essence of the report contradicted the U.S.-China common understanding on developing military ties. During a January 2011 summit, U.S. President Barack Obama and then Chinese President Hu Jintao jointly affirmed that a "healthy, stable and reliable military-to-military relationship is an essential part of shared vision for a positive, cooperative and comprehensive U.S.-China relationship." If acting in accordance with the report, Washington could jeopardize mutual trust between the world's two largest economies and create obstacles in the development of their relationship, one of the world's most important dynamics. Besides, by highlighting China's alleged growing assertiveness with respect to maritime territorial claims, the report could embolden countries engaging in maritime disputes with China, sowing instability in the Asia-Pacific region. The groundless report said China is lack of transparency over its military expenses. On the contrary, China has issued eight white papers on national defense since 1998 to enhance its military's transparency and boost the world's trust in its commitment to peaceful development. It also accused China of cyber spying to gain information to benefit defense industries, military planners and government leaders. As a matter of fact, China has repeatedly stated its opposition to any forms of computer hacking and the country has called for global efforts to fight hacking. According to a recent National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team Coordination Center report, China's cyber security has come under increasingly severe threats, with the United States being the largest source of cyber attacks.

Fishing fleet sets sail for Nansha Islands (By Huang Yiming in Danzhou, Hainan, and Wang Qian in Beijing) 40-day operation involving 30 vessles is second of its kind - A fishing fleet prepares to set sail for Nansha Islands from Danzhou, Hainan province. The operation will last about 40 days. A fleet including 30 fishing vessels - each weighing more than 100 metric tons - set sail from Hainan province for the Nansha Islands in the South China Sea on Monday. The 40-day operation is the second of its kind organized by local fishery associations after Sansha city was established in June last year. Li Nianyou, deputy director of the Hainan provincial department of ocean and fisheries, said the department will make every effort to guarantee the fleet's safety. After leaving from Danzhou in Hainan, the fleet will arrive at the first fishing ground after four days' sailing, according to the department, which did not disclose details of the locations. Chen Rishen, general manager of Hainan Jianghai Industries Co Ltd, one of the organizers of the operation, said the fleet has a 4,000-ton supply ship and a 1,500-ton transport ship to supply the fishing vessels, which will effectively extend the fishing period. The supply ship, about 108 meters long, 15.2 meters wide and 13.8 meters high, will provide supplies including oil, water, food and maintenance services, Chen said. Normally, the fishing season in Sansha runs from March to July when there are mild winds and waves, said Huang Wenhui, director of the fishing bureau under the Hainan provincial department of ocean and fisheries. But due to the long distances involved, there are only about 600 vessels fishing regularly in waters off the Nansha Islands, which is far from sufficient, Huang said, adding that an organized fishing fleet is a good way to explore fishery resources in Nansha. Every year, fishermen in Hainan organize a month-long fishing operation on their own, but not on this scale. Huang Zhengye, a 46-year-old fisherman from the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region who joined the fleet, is optimistic about a good fishing harvest. Experts estimate there are 3.5 million tons of fish in Nansha waters, with less than 3 percent explored. In June last year, China set up its youngest city, Sansha, on the Yongxing Islands, administering the Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha islands and surrounding waters in the South China Sea. Hainan province organized the first joint oceangoing fishing operation involving 30 boats in the South China Sea on July 12.

Brand, design remain key (By Li Jiabao in Guangzhou) International traders negotiating deals at Canton Fair. Net exports accounted for 9 percent of GDP growth in 2012, according to the General Administration of Customs. Under-pressure exporters aim to rekindle fortunes - Chinese exporters are keen to develop a new competitive edge through brand-building and technological development amid grim export prospects this year. "Export businesses are now finding life much harder than before the financial crisis of 2008," Wang Hongren, general manager of jetting machine company Zhejiang Danau Industries Ltd, told China Daily during the 113th Canton Fair. The fair opened in Guangzhou on April 15 and closed on Sunday. Gao Yue, sales manager for international business group Foshan Oceano Ceramics Co Ltd, said: "Our traditional advantage is lower prices than overseas sellers, and bulk shipments to overseas markets earn us remarkable profits despite of narrow profit margins. "But the traditional advantage is vanishing owing to the rising renminbi and increasing costs for labor, wages and raw materials. Meanwhile, orders from major markets remain sluggish." Vice-Minister of Commerce and China International Trade Representative Zhong Shan urged exporters during the fair to build up a new competitive edge, supported by technology, branding, quality and services. Gao said: "Building a brand is a long-term as well as costly process, but is also a step that we must take because we have no other choice for survival." China is the world's largest exporter and second-largest importer, with expanding trade playing a significant role in its economy. Net exports accounted for 9 percent of GDP growth in 2012, according to the General Administration of Customs, and the country's foreign trade dependence ratio - the degree of an economy's dependence on foreign trade - dropped 3.1 percentage points to 47 percent in 2012, but still outstripped the 30 percent in the US, Japan and Brazil. The new leadership outlined an 8 percent trade growth target for 2013 after 6.2 percent growth in 2012 trailed a 10 percent target. Feng Xuelei, sales director of Ecovacs Robotics (Suzhou) Co Ltd, said: "We are first an original equipment manufacturer for the world's top vacuum cleaner brands, but fierce competition forced us to develop our own product seven years ago - the automatic window cleaner, which we named Winbot." The company started overseas sales three years ago and has established branches in Los Angeles and Dusseldorf. Overseas orders in the first quarter of this year rose 30 percent from a year earlier and are expected to grow 40 percent for the whole year, much higher than the 25 percent sales growth in 2012, Feng said. College links - "Independent innovation is the foundation for our own brand," Feng said. "With a research team of more than 200, we invest 5 percent to 10 percent of annual sales each year in technology innovation. "The innovation and industrial design are all completed jointly with colleges in Nanjing, Jiangsu province." Wang Hongren said innovation brings pricing power and increased sales to developed markets despite the debt crisis. "Thanks to the debt crisis, budget-tightened buyers in the US, Japan and EU increased purchases of our products," Wang said. "The function and external features of our machines are basically the same as the products in Japan or Italy owing to improvements in equipment standards and raw-material use. Despite price increases in recent years, our prices are still competitive or just half those of Japanese products." The company makes cleaning machines, selling more than 99 percent of its products overseas mainly the US, the EU and Japan. Sales jumped 56 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier and whole-year sales will increase 50 percent to 60 percent, Wang said. In contrast, Zhang Fenglin, a sales manager at Ningbo A-line Cable and Wire Co Ltd, said the company's overseas sales in the first quarter dropped about 20 to 30 percent year-on-year. "We are a wire-seller to markets in Mexico, the EU and Australia. Purchases by overseas buyers have fallen significantly this year, while labor costs keep rising. Competition from other countries has also diverted orders," Zhang said. Maxim Liubarin, China branch director of SimpliCity Design, an Italian design management company established three years ago, said: "As the economic situation changes, Chinese companies are trying to find new ways." He noted that Chinese companies have a rising awareness of design, and service demand covers corporate identity, visual identity, logo and company style. "We also provide new services sourcing old Italian trademarks to China. This is the direction we are moving in and it's of very high interest," he added. Dan Ah, president of InterGram Brand Communication, said Chinese manufacturers have to invest in research and design for survival. "That will eventually pay off in the long term." Filling the gap - James Piao, branch office president of Goth Design, agreed that China has a "huge demand for design service now". "Chinese local design providers still have quite a big gap to make up. Our prices are on average twice that of local ones as all our design is finished back in South Korea," he added. Liao Zhiwen, general manager of SixVector Design & Consultant, said: "We are good at commercializing designs with a better understanding of China's manufacturing, equipment and industrial facilities, which is our greatest advantage, while overseas design providers have a better knowledge of overseas markets and the culture of overseas consumers." Wang from Zhejiang Danau said brand-building should start from the huge domestic market and then target a specific overseas market. "The core of a brand is the quality and technology. Made-in-China is still medium- and low-end, while most of our brands are not recognized by overseas buyers who prioritize price and quality. "So brand-building should begin with the domestic market through long-term sales and then expand to overseas markets." Wang added that China retains a unique advantage in complete support facilities for different industries, which will resist rising costs and back exporters in the process of brand-building. Du Wei, assistant to the general manager of Ningbo Ningshing Kinhil Industrial Co Ltd, said: "We are using the profit from original equipment manufacturer orders for brand promotion, which costs 5 million or 6 million yuan ($804,000 to $965,000) a year. "Our next step will be to further cooperate with giant customers in major markets to advance market promotion and product sales, to establish our brand and finally get rid of the OEM business." According to Gao from the ceramics company, product upgrading and brand-building add to costs and drive up prices, but the huge domestic market secures a satisfactory profit margin.

Xi calls for Middle East talks (By Li Xiaokun and Zhao Shengnan) President Xi Jinping called for talks between Palestine and Israel on Monday amid an unusual diplomatic situation in which leaders of both countries made separate, overlapping visits to China. President Xi Jinping welcomes his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Monday. Analysts said the simultaneous visits of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu show that China is in a unique position to help solve the Palestinian issue because it maintains good relations with both sides. Xi made the call for talks when meeting Abbas at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. According to a statement from the Foreign Ministry, Xi said "negotiation should be taken as the only way to peace between Palestine and Israel. The two sides should follow the trend of the times, pursue peace talks, show mutual understanding and accommodation, and meet each other halfway". Talks between Israel and Palestine have been deadlocked for four years and there was no indication that a meeting would take place. The president also said that the right direction should be an independent Palestinian state and the peaceful co-existence of Palestine and Israel. "At the same time, Israel's right to exist and its legitimate security concerns should also be fully respected," Xi said. The immediate priority is to stop settlement activities, end violence against innocent civilians, lift the blockade of the Gaza Strip and properly handle the issue of Palestinian prisoners to create the necessary conditions for the resumption of peace talks, Xi said. Objective stance - Abbas said his country highly appreciates China's objective stance on the Palestine issue and expects Beijing to continue playing an important role. They later witnessed the signing of agreements on economic technical cooperation and cultural exchanges. Abbas also met Premier Li Keqiang on Monday. Li said China will use "its own way and its own impact" to promote the peace talks. Also on Monday, Netanyahu began a visit to the financial hub of Shanghai. He is due in Beijing on Wednesday following Abbas' departure on Tuesday. This is the first trip by a top Israeli leader to China since former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert visited in 2007. It is reported Netanyahu is due to sign a number of deals and discuss the issue of Iran. China has maintained close relations with the Palestinians for decades. In recent years, it has also developed good ties with Israel. Speaking to Xinhua News Agency ahead of the visit, Abbas said "it is very good that Netanyahu will visit China too because it is a good opportunity that the Chinese listen to both of us". The Foreign Ministry said last week it would be willing to help set up a meeting between Abbas and Netanyahu if they want to, but the two leaders were not expected to be in the same city at the same time. Bigger role for China - China's special envoy for the Middle East, Wu Sike, told reporters earlier that the fact that Israeli and Palestinian leaders were invited to China for a visit not long after the new Chinese government was formed indicates the importance China's new leadership attaches to Middle East issues. Beijing raised such a proposition for the first time to seek a bigger role in promoting peace in the Middle East, said Li Shaoxian, an expert of Middle East studies at China Institutes of Contemporary Relations. China aims to solidify international consensus, including that Israeli-Palestinian peace remains the core issue of the Middle East, and to address urgent issues such as Israel halting settlement construction, he said. US-sponsored talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down in 2010 over the issue of Jewish settlements. Palestinians say peace talks require a halt to settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, but Israel rejects the demands and says peace talks should resume without preconditions. "The US still enjoys an influential say during the process and China's role can hardly match that of Washington in the region in the near future, but the international community, including China, should all make their contributions to promote the process," Li added. Dual visits 'unprecedented' The almost simultaneous visits by Abbas and Netanyahu are "unprecedented" in Chinese history, which shows the two countries' good relations with China and the great importance they attach to China's role in the Middle East peace process, said An Huihou, former Chinese ambassador to Egypt, Tunisia, Lebanon and Algeria. The propositions made by the new Chinese leadership will further boost ongoing international efforts to restart the talks and strengthen the ever-improving ties between China and Middle East countries, he said. After the meeting, the two sides signed cooperation agreements in economic technical cooperation and cultural exchanges. China, which has long provided assistance to Palestine, hopes to ease the country's financial difficulties and improve its people's living conditions, An said. The Palestinian National Authority has a budget deficit of about $1 billion due to the stoppage of international donations and funds as well as Israel's refusal to pay the tax revenue dues, which represent one-third of the PNA budget, according to Xinhua.

Hong Kong*:  May 8 2013

Dockers' strike over after vote to accept 9.8pc pay rise (By Lai Ying-kit, Patsy Moy and Phila Siu) Striking dock worekrs attend a general meeting in Wan Chai on Monday where they voted to accept the contractors' 9.8 per cent pay rise. Kwai Tsing dock workers on Monday announced the end of their 40-day-long strike after they accepted a 9.8 per cent pay rise offered by four contractors. Mung Siu-tat, a strike organiser, said on Monday the strike was over. The decision was made after a vote during a general meeting of workers on Monday afternoon. Around 80 per cent of dockers attending the meeting voted in favour of the 9.8 per cent proposal while the remaining 20 per cent said they would also go back to work. A written assurance with signatures and stamps provided by the four contractors as proof of the sincerity of the offer was the main reason the workers decided to accept the deal, said Ng Shu-ming, a worker representative. The four contractors are Everbest Port Services, Pui Kee Stevedore Company, Lem Wing Transportation and Comcheung Human Resources. The workers had previously demanded a 20 per cent rise, but recently settled for a “double-digit rate” as the dispute dragged on. Ng said Monday’s result was a "half victory" for the strikers. "At least, the employers have further increased the rate from the previous 5+2 per cent," he said. "Now it is 9.8 per cent and there are employers’ assurances on other work arrangements," Ng said. In the written assurance, the four contractors promise to give meal and toilet breaks.

Turn back the tide (By Charley Lanyon Diver, presenter and educator Paul Rose thinks environmental damage can be reversed if we all set our minds to it, writes Charley Lanyon - Paul Rose’s powerful bearing and wind-worn face make him easy to spot in the crowded lobby. Sipping tea at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Rose seems like a man from a different time. He has lived his life as an explorer in the truest, most classical sense of the word: scaling undiscovered peaks, climbing, diving and blazing a trail to the very ends  of the earth. But Rose is driven by more than a desire to discover; he is on a mission to educate. For Rose, travelling to the world’s most forbidding and endangered places is not enough. He wants to save them. Today Rose is a well known and respected voice in oceanic and polar preservation. His work with the BBC, presenting programmes such as Britain’s Secret Seas, Voyages of Discovery, and Oceans, has brought the case for environmental protection into homes all over the world. He regularly lectures scientists, colleges and corporations to raise awareness about the crisis facing the earth’s oceans and polar regions, and his first book, a companion volume to his work for Oceans, has become a surprise hit. It is now available in bookstores in Hong Kong. Despite his success in the public eye, Rose has remained a tireless explorer. He has participated in more than 8,000 dives – his work for Oceans saw him diving in each of the world’s oceans often spending weeks at a time at sea – and he has worked on the ground and often under the water in Antarctica every year since 1990, winning him both the US Navy Polar Medal and Britain’s Polar Medal. Rose’s life has been one of near non-stop adventure, of audacious explorations, each more ambitious than the last. But perhaps his most unlikely journey of all was from a small boy in England failing school and dreaming of adventure at sea, to a life as one of the world’s foremost divers, mountain guides and polar experts. Rose is highly energetic but as he remembers his past he calms and his eyes take on a far-off look “I grew up in a place called Romford, Essex, an urban area just east of London and a long way from the sea,” he says. Rose spent his days eagerly watching Hans Hass’ underwater documentaries, and Jacques Cousteau travelling the world on the ultimate diving adventure, but most of all he watched Sea Hunt, an action adventure show featuring his ultimate hero, ex-navy frogman Mike Nelson. “All the beautiful women in the world wanted him to teach them to dive,” he says. Rose struggled at school and consistently failed his exams. He felt out of place and not good at anything: “All I had eyes for was diving.” But at the age of 14, a geography teacher took him and the other boys who were failing academically to Wales to spend time outdoors climbing, canoeing and hiking. All of a sudden something clicked in Rose; he knew exactly where he belonged. “I’d never been anywhere like that, and I suddenly realised this was something I could do. Being in nature was where I was at my best.” One moment stayed with Rose his entire life: “I remember peeling potatoes into a bucket. Cold hands, cold water, sitting outside on a step in the rain, peeling potatoes, never having felt more alive. But it’s a long way from there to how do you do that for a living?” Ultimately, Rose managed to pass just one class in school – metalwork – and he secured a job as an apprentice to a toolmaker at the Ford Motor Company. The apprenticeship made him a skilled toolmaker, and while there he met a group of like-minded outdoorsmen. On breaks from the factory, Rose managed to teach himself how to climb, how to sail and how to dive. His work as a toolmaker took him to the US where he gained his official certification as a diving instructor, a commercial diver and a mountain guide. Eventually, he secured diving contracts with Chicago’s police and fire departments. Then came the biggest contract of all: a stint with the US Navy as director of scuba diving at the Great Lakes Naval Training Centre. He was able to leave factory life behind. His life in the wild had begun. Although he has worked with some of the world’s foremost environmental scientists, Rose is a guide rather than a scientist. He handles the logistics and leads large-scale scientific projects in some of the world’s most inhospitable places. He is also a natural educator, a skill that was noticed by the BBC. Rose is the first to admit that nature saved his life, and now, as he sees the damage humanity is doing to the natural world, he wants to return the favour. In dedicating himself to the ice caps and the oceans, Rose has found himself on the very front line of our changing planet. In the course of his career he has seen the waters rise and heat up, ice melt and disappear, and the oceans begin to empty of life as they fill with rubbish: “I’ve been a diver since 1969 and a lot has changed. There’s a lot less life in the sea now and a lot more plastic.” Oceans and ice caps are so far from most people’s urban experiences that we forget how important they are. Rose is dedicated to changing that. This is especially true of his Oceans series for the BBC. “That’s the story of my life: trying to put the oceans into a sense of scale so we can understand them. I’m on a mission to bring global ocean issues into urban areas. We don’t live in the oceans. So I’m trying to bring global ocean issues to where we all live.” We may throw our waste into the seas, but Rose warns that we do so at our own peril. “We should all be worried because on a molecular level our oceans all contain plastic. Every drop of our oceans now has plastic in it. You can go to Antarctica, bring back a water sample and it will have plastic in it.” The ice caps seem even more remote from our day-to-day experience but Rose reminds us how important ice is. Ice regulates the temperature of the planet, and many countries depend on melt-water from ice for drinking water. Too many people are dangerously unaware of the damage that we are doing in the Arctic. Rose does not mince words: “Within our lifetimes the Arctic will become unrecognisable.” Rose’s life seems romantic: a lifetime spent adventuring on the high seas and in remote polar mountain ranges. But it also has a tragic element. Here is a man doomed to bear witness to the destruction of the natural world. But Rose is undaunted by the odds. He is overflowing with a contagious optimism and excitement for the future. Yes, humanity has caused the problem but, to Rose, humanity is also the greatest hope for its solution. “I’ve been at the front line of environmental change all of my life, and I have seen what a difference raising awareness can really make.” Rose is convinced that the biggest challenges facing the planet stem from the fact that there are simply too many of us, and that it is too easy to put our impact on the environment out of mind, when we don’t have to see the damage we do. But his experiences as an educator have made him hopeful. Around the world, in meetings with schools, corporations and governments, Rose sees people becoming aware of our effect on the environment and rallying behind his call that “we’re breaking it, so we can fix it”. He is fond of repeating, “for the first time in history humans are an actual force of nature”. He thinks there are so many of us that if we changed our behaviour just a little bit, and avoided eating overfished types of seafood, took responsibility for recycling plastics, and moved away from a dependence on fossil fuel, we could save the world. Do nothing and we will almost certainly destroy it. Another saying Rose returns to repeatedly is that “we need nature; nature doesn’t need us”. But as he pleads passionately on behalf of our planet’s most faraway places, you can’t help but feel that nature needs people like him more than ever.

 China*:  May 8 2013

China's richest man 'snubs Queen Elizabeth, David Cameron' (By Patrick Boehler) Zong Qinghou talks with journalists after a press conference in Hangzhou in 2007. China's richest man, Zong Qinghou, may be known for his frugality, but he bailed on two free dinners in February, snubbing invitations from Britain's Queen Elizabeth and Prime Minister David Cameron. "The queen invited [me] for February 6; the prime minister invited [me] for the 12th. Lunar New Year was on the 9th," the founder of China's third-largest beverage maker Wahaha told China Entrepreneur Magazine in an interview published on Sunday. "Should I have flown for more then 10 hours, eat and travel back, then fly once again, eat and fly back?" he asked. "That doesn't make any sense." Worth an estimated US$12.6 billion according to the Hurun list of the nation's richest, Zong, 76, boasts about spending less than US$20 per day. The invitation from Buckingham Palace could not be confirmed through the official Court Circular, which lists royal engagements. The queen and the prince of Edinburgh did not have any public engagements on February 6, and the prince of Wales met only a eurosceptic House of Lords cross-bencher. On February 12, Downing Street hosted an annual Chinese New Year Reception, at which David Cameron wished "xin nian kuai le" to the Chinese community in Britain. Zong, 10 years the queen's junior, has been a member of China's parliament, the National People's Congress, since 2003. Once a salt harvester in Zhejiang, he invested in a popsicle and soft drinks factory in 1987 that has since turned into the beverage-giant Wahaha. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas review an honor guard during a welcoming ceremony held for Abbas in Beijing, capital of China, May 6, 2013. Chinese President Xi Jinping here on Monday stressed that China firmly supports the just cause of the Palestinian people. Xi and visiting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas held official talks amidst Abbas's state visit to China. The Palestine issue dominated the talks between Xi and Abbas, the first head of state from the Middle East region to visit China after Xi assumed the Chinese presidency in March. The Palestine issue is the core of the Middle East issue, Xi pointed out. "The issue, already lasting more than half a century, has brought deep suffering to the Palestinian people and remains an important reason of extended turbulence in the Middle East region," he said. So long as the legitimate national rights and interests of the Palestinian people can not be restored, peace between Palestine and Israel would not be realized, "let alone peace and stability in the region." He stressed that the Palestinian issue "should not be neglected at anytime and must be put in an important and noteworthy position." Xi reiterated that Chinese people's support to Palestinian people "is sincere and hearty." China will, as always, support the just cause of the Palestinian people, he said. "Despite turns and twists in peace talks between Palestine and Israel, we believe that the dream of the Palestinian people to establish an independent state can come true provided (you) hold the general direction of peace and make unremitting efforts (in your cause)," he told Abbas. The Palestinian president also stressed that a political solution "remains the best and only way out," adding that his country supported such an option. Palestine wants to address the issue through peaceful talks on the basis of a two-state solution, he said. Abbas also urged Israel to observe international pacts, halt settlement building so as to create conditions for resumption of the peace talks. Palestine is also committed to internal reconciliation and solidarity, he said. Abbas also spoke highly of China's just stance on the Palestinian issue and hoped China will continue to play its part in the process. Abbas is here as guest of Xi from May 5 to 7.

Hilton hotels heading for roll in China (By Wang Wen and Wang Zhuoqiong and A worker fixing a hotel logo on the outside wall of a hotel inn in Beijing managed by an overseas company. China has more than 60,000 hotels with 14,000 given stars. The rapid development of hotels in the country is in sharp contrast to the slowdown of the global hotel industry. US hospitality chain embarks on rapid expansion to catch up with global peers - Hilton Group, the US-based hospitality chain, is launching a mid-scale brand called Hilton Garden Inn in China to cater to the needs of the fast-growing number of business travelers. Francis Lee Wee-Hau, senior vice-president of Development, Greater China and Mongolia, for Hilton Worldwide, said the brand will be launched in five Chinese cities, including Lijiang, Chengdu, Harbin, Dandong and Huzhou, and will be expanded later to more second- and third-tier cities. Meanwhile, the group is also planning to open the doors of its contemporary luxury hotel in downtown Beijing later this year. The hotel, the company's fifth Conrad hotel in China under the Hilton Hotel & Resorts brand, is part of the group's expansion strategy to cash in on the fast-growing and lucrative Chinese tourism market. "Across the 289 rooms in the hotel, we have 'smart luxury' as our core philosophy," said Alex Kassantly, general manager of Beijing Conrad Hotel. Hilton Hotels & Resorts is also on track to achieve its ambition of expanding its presence from the current 32 hotels on the Chinese mainland with more than 12,000 rooms to more than 150 properties with 55,000 rooms in the next several years, he added. By 2015, the group will have hotels in 75 cities across the country. Yang Honghao, a researcher with the China Tourism Academy, said in a report on China's hotel industry that the country has 60,000 hotels with 14,000 given stars. By the end of 2010, nearly 70 international hospitality brands from 41 countries and regions had entered the Chinese market, managing about 20 percent of the country's top-end hotels and taking 80 percent of the profits, according to Yang. With only four brands present in China at the moment among its 10 hotel brands, Hilton Worldwide is working on introducing more brands to China. The variety of brands will suit the rising needs of the Chinese travelers, said Bruce Mckenzie, senior vice-president, operations of greater China and Mongolia, Hilton Worldwide, adding "We plan to open around 10 properties this year (in China) and expect to accelerate the pace of growth moving forward." Hilton's rapid development in the country is in contrast with the slowdown of other international brands during the global economic recovery. The Chinese hotel market has been showing the strain, especially in the luxury and five-star markets, according to Horwath HTL China, a hotel, tourism and leisure consultancy. It said the burgeoning demand and the incredible demographic advantages in a country the size of China will help ease operating conditions and improve performance across other markets. Unlike other international hotel brands, Hilton has often been termed a laggard in China. The company is, however, unperturbed by the tag and has set its sights on remote regions in China, which have few high-end hotels currently, rather than popular or top destinations such as Sanya city in Hainan island. "There is no doubt that the hospitality industry has been affected by the economic environment, but that crisis also means an opportunity," Mckenzie said. According to him, opportunities are still aplenty in China as room supply is still lower than demand. His confidence also comes from the government's plan to increase residents' income during the next seven years. "Higher personal income means more travel, both domestic and international, requiring more hotels in both business and leisure destinations," Mckenzie said. As the second biggest market for InterContinental Hotels Group after the United States, China is expected to have the same number of hotel rooms as the United States by 2025, said Richard Solomons, chief executive of IHG. In 2012, the group saw its businesses in China growing rapidly, with operating profit up 21 percent. Of its 1,053 properties under development globally, more than half are based in China. Last year the hotel group created luxury hotel brand HUALUXE hotels and resorts specifically for the Chinese with a plan to reach 100 cities across China. "It is easy to come in and put hotels everywhere," said Solomons. "But we turned down more deals than those we signed in China. We have to get a real understanding of what drives growth and success. We need to understand what is right for long-term development." The fact that Chinese customers have a bigger demand for value also requires hoteliers to position their brands more clearly, he said. At the same time, it is also important for the hoteliers to play the local card to make their businesses successful as more than half of the revenue comes not from room rents but meeting and weddings, said Solomons. "I think we want to become a Chinese business and eventually say our Chinese business is bigger than our American business," he said. But one of the major challenges for China's hotel industry is human resources. "Human capital is a key factor that supports Hilton's expansion in the Chinese market," said Mckenzie. But China's labor market lends itself to a shorter-than-average employee retention rate, as well as fierce competition for trained and qualified service personnel, said Mckenzie. Hospitality companies need to invest more in building human capital and grooming the talent required to manage expanded operations, he said. IHG also considers the biggest shortage is people. "The hospitality business is not about the building but the experience," said Solomons, chief executive of IHG. "To get the right people in right training and encourage them to stay on in the industry is important," he said.

Top telescope for Hawaii (By Chen Jia in San Francisco Chinese astronomers are helping develop technologies for what it is intended to be the world's biggest optical telescope. The Thirty Meter Telescope, to be built at the summit of Hawaii's Mauna Koa volcano, is a $1.3 billion project led by California's public university system, the California Institute of Technology and the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy. With a segmented primary mirror that's almost 100 feet (30 meters) long, the telescope will have nine times the collecting area of the largest optical telescope now in use, while its images will be three times sharper, organizers have said. "The project will be an important milestone in the 400-year history of telescope development," said Xue Suijian, TMT project manager in the Chinese Academy of Sciences' National Astronomical Observatories. The international cooperation, Xue said, enables Chinese astronomers "to stand with their most distinguished peers around the world" in building the next generation of optical/infrared telescopes for use in several areas of study - the early universe, planets outside of our solar system, dark energy, dark matter and assessment of the super-massive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. "As a signed partner, China could share the rights of managing, operating and using this world-class instrument," Xue said. Besides the Chinese academy, partners to the US and Canadian institutions leading the project include India's Department of Science and Technology and Japan's National Astronomical Observatory. Design development of the TMT is ongoing, with construction scheduled to begin in 2014. Hawaii's Board of Land and Natural Resources in April approved plans to build the telescope on the site of observatories operated by the University of Hawaii at Hilo. The state decision means the group managing the TMT is now free to negotiate a sublease for the land from the university. The telescope will be designed to observe planets that orbit stars other than the sun and allow astronomers to watch new planets and stars being formed. The TMT should also enable scientists to see about 13 billion light-years away for a view of the early years of the universe. According to China's National Astronomical Observatories, the telescope's 30-meter aperture and "integrated wide-field adaptive optics" will combine unprecedented light-collection ability with minimal loss of image quality due to diffraction. Henry Yang (Yang Zuyou), chancellor of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and chairman of the TMT board of directors, was in a delegation led by university system president Mark Yudof that met in Beijing with Chinese Vice-Premier Liu Yandong. "The TMT project is a very good platform for international scientific cooperation, which China has participated in since 2009 and made inspiring technical achievements in," Liu said last month. With government support, Chinese scientists have engaged in other recent international efforts to develop telescopes. One of these is the transfer of the KOSMA telescope from Switzerland to southwestern China under a 2009 agreement between several Chinese institutes and Germany's University of Cologne. Chinese and German astronomers (KOSMA is an acronym formed by its full German name) are setting up the powerful, state-of-the-art equipment in the Tibet autonomous region at an altitude of 4,300 meters, making it the highest submillimeter-wave telescope in the Northern Hemisphere. Testing of the 3-meter telescope is expected by the end of this year. "It is China's first submillimeter-wave telescope that can perform regular astronomical observation and Tibet's first professional telescope," Wang Junjie, a member of the National Astronomical Observatories and the KOSMA project leader, was quoted as saying by Xinhua News Agency.

Hong Kong*:  May 7 2013

Hong Kong, by the books (By James Kidd) We've yet to see the definitive Hong Kong novel, but the city has featured in notable works by many famous authors, writes James Kidd - Has there ever been a truly great Hong Kong novel - or, for that matter, a great novel about Hong Kong? Asking around various literary types, the question was greeted with a unanimous "no". The reasons include Hong Kong's lack of interest in literary fiction, its preoccupation with commerce not culture, and - more fruitfully - the sheer elusiveness of the place. Western writers tend to express this as an exotic otherness; for Asian-born authors, Hong Kong's mystery is the result of almost unimaginably complex currents of global politics, economics and society. Certainly a great deal of Hong Kong literature is populist. Barbara Cartland ( Fragrant Flower, 1976), the Hardy Boys ( The Clue of the Hissing Serpent, 1974) and Nancy Drew ( The Mystery of the Fire Dragon, 1961) have all stopped over. Harry Bosch flirted with Hong Kong for years before finally visiting in Michael Connelly's 9 Dragons (2009). More serious engagement is provided by John Le Carré's The Honourable Schoolboy (1977), which exploits Hong Kong as a hub for an array of vested global interests and almost as many drunken journalists. Martin Booth's Music on the Bamboo Radio (1997) combines boy's-own adventure during the second world war with a fable of cultural exchange. Jane Gardam's Old Filth (2004) transforms the old acronym (Failed in London Try Hong Kong) into a judge's poignantly comic account of a life lived and a life wasted. While the city has yet to produce - or inspire - a book widely regarded as a truly great novel, there are still some rollicking good reads involving the barren rock. David Mitchell puts Hong Kong to spectral literary purpose in Ghostwritten (1999): banker Neal Brose is haunted by the memory of his ex-wife and the ghost of a Chinese girl before collapsing in front of the Big Buddha on Lantau. One of the more memorable, if brief, encounters belongs to Flashman in George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman and the Dragon (1985): "Hong Kong," our naughty hero declares, "is a splendid place to get out of". However, while the city has yet to produce - or inspire - a book widely regarded as a truly great novel, there are still some rollicking good reads involving the barren rock. Here's a selection of the best.

Hong Kong IPO market heats up with Sinopec unit, Galaxy Securities deals (By Reuters) The IPO value of a unit of Sinopec is up to HK$17.4 billion, sources said. A unit of Sinopec and brokerage China Galaxy Securities are launching Hong Kong initial public offerings on Monday seeking to raise up to HK$27 billion in total, injecting life into Asia’s moribund IPO markets where deal values more than halved in the first quarter of the year. The massive initial public offerings have been eagerly anticipated in Hong Kong and their success could trigger a wave of other deals, ranging from hotel operators to banks looking to sell new shares in coming months. Sinopec Engineering, a unit of Asia’s largest oil refiner Sinopec, is offering 1.33 billion shares in an indicative range of HK$9.8 to HK$13.1 each, putting the deal value at up to HK$17.4 billion, sources said on Sunday. At the top end, the deal would be Hong Kong’s largest IPO since People’s Insurance Company of China raised HK$27.6 billion in late November. The offer values Sinopec Engineering at nine to 12 times its forecast earnings this year, added the sources, who declined to be identified because details of the deal are not yet public. China Galaxy Securities, whose larger rivals include Citic Securities and Haitong Securities, is offering about 1.5 billion shares in an indicative range of HK$4.99 to HK$6.77 each, the sources said. The range is equivalent to a price-to-book ratio of 1.19 to 1.49 times. The company initially planned for a dual listing in Shanghai and Hong Kong, but gave up plans for a simultaneous offering in mainland China after the country’s securities regulator froze IPO approvals late last year. The two deals underscore a pick-up in activity after IPO issuance in Asia ex-Japan plunged 56 per cent to HK$25.6 billion in the first quarter, making it the worst start to a year for new share listings since the first quarter of 2009, according to Thomson Reuters data. IPOs in Hong Kong are down 20 per cent so far this year from the same period of last year to HK$8.2 billion, data shows. After holding the crown of global IPO hub for several years, the city had HK$60 billion worth of deals last year, the lowest volume since the 2008 global financial meltdown. Hong Kong’s lacklustre performance is in sharp contrast to Southeast Asia, where a string of deals including BTS Infrastructure Fund and Temasek Holdings-backed Mapletree China REIT have kept bankers busy. The two deals rank as Asia’s biggest IPOs this year. Other large deals likely to hit Hong Kong later this year include a series of commercial real estate spin-offs from Hong Kong property and investment companies, including an up to HK$7.8 billion IPO by NW Hotel Investments, which is part of New World Development. Great Eagle also plans to spin off its Langham hotel chain through an HK$6.2 billion IPO, while property and infrastructure group Hopewell is looking to raise as much as HK$6.2 billion from a spin-off of its property and hospitality business, Hopewell HK Properties. Sinopec Engineering was formed in September, consolidating eight engineering and construction units of Sinopec, as the state-owned giant looks to expand its business overseas. It is controlled by Sinopec Group and Sinopec Corporation, which hold stakes of 2 per cent and 98 per cent, respectively. Citic Securities, JPMorgan and UBS were hired as sponsors of the Sinopec Engineering offering. China Galaxy International, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan are acting as sponsors of the China Galaxy deal, with a group of 13 other banks also helping to arrange it. The number of banks on the IPO puts it near the record 17 hired by PICC for its listing last year.

Hong Kong's iconic pink dolphins are disappearing fast (By Simon Parry and Hazel Knowles) 'Significant' fall in numbers to be revealed amid concerns they may vanish altogether because of pollution, reclamation and increasing sea traffic - A mother with her dead calf in Hong Kong waters in an incident similar to one filmed last week. Hong Kong's iconic pink dolphins are disappearing at an unprecedented rate, experts say. They warn the animals could vanish altogether from the city's waters unless pollution and disruption to the marine environment are checked. Figures due next month will show a major decline in the number of pink dolphins - also known as Chinese white dolphins - found in Hong Kong waters at any one time, says Dr Samuel Hung Ka-yiu, chairman of the Dolphin Conservation Society. Rampant reclamation and development - including the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge and the planned third airport runway - combined with pollution and ever-increasing vessel traffic are believed to have hit the pink dolphin, the city's mascot for the 1997 handover. "They are diminishing their use [of Hong Kong waters], they are not reproducing and they are dying," Hung said. "It is hard to say if they will leave Hong Kong permanently … but [the trend] will become worse and worse." Dolphins have been recorded in Hong Kong waters since the 1600s. Hung said the number shrank from 158 in 2003 to 78 in 2011. The figure for last year, to be released next month, would be "significantly lower", he said. Sightings of dead calves have also risen sharply, with three cases recorded last month alone. The calves are suspected to have died from contaminated milk produced by their mothers. Concerns were highlighted when a boat party videoed a mother and other dolphins trying to support her dead calf on the water's surface last Sunday near Lung Kwu Chau Marine Park. Janet Walker, spokeswoman for Dolphinwatch, which runs dolphin-spotting boat trips, said: "Half the dead ones every year are juveniles and babies. "If the third runway goes ahead and when the bridge is complete, an awful lot of habitat will be lost and there will be a lot more pollution." She added: "If the dolphins are dying it says a lot about the state of our ocean. They are a monitor of the general condition of the marine environment. If they are in trouble, so are we."

May 4 Youth Day Music Festival held in Hong Kong - The May 4 Youth Day Music Festival was held in Hong Kong, south China, May 4, 2013.

 China*:  May 7 2013

China embraces beginning of summer - Sunday is the beginning of the 7th solar term in Chinese lunar calendar, which indicates the coming of summer.

Beijing welcomes second loop subway line (By China Daily) Passengers ride Beijing Subway Line 10 on May 5, 2013. The last three stations were opened to complete the city's second loop subway line on Sunday. With 45 stations, the 57-kilometer line takes 104 minutes to make a complete loop.

Xi urges youths to contribute to 'Chinese dream' (By Xinhua) Chinese President Xi Jinping talks with young people before he delivers a speech at the China Academy of Space Technology in Beijing, May 4, 2013. President Xi Jinping on Saturday encouraged young Chinese people to dare to dream, work assiduously to fulfill the dreams and contribute to the revitalization of the nation. He said the young generation with firm will, strong sense of responsibility and great professional competence is the hope of realizing the "Chinese dream." Xi made the remarks during a discussion with a group of outstanding young people from all walks of life, including space technology engineers, agricultural researcher and electric welder, to mark the country's Youth Day on Saturday. The "Chinese dream" is a much-discussed concept that has been brought to prominence by Xi. It is widely understood to mean the renewal of the Chinese nation. "Young people should be optimistic and tenacious when facing adversities," Xi said, asking them to remain steadfast in their faith, refine their professional skills, embrace innovation, work hard and build noble characters. When visiting the China Academy of Space Technology, where the meeting was held, Xi said the nation places great hope for the youth in achieving scientific and technological innovation. He said young scientists have played a backbone role in China's lunar probe program, unmanned and manned space craft and satellite technology. "A nation will be prosperous if its young generation is ambitious and reliable," said Xi, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee. He expected the young generation to make great accomplishment, and encouraged them to work at the grassroots and the front line in order to hone their skills and enhance abilities required in their career. "Young people should emancipate the mind, advance with the times, forge ahead and innovate so as to gather experience and make achievements," he said. He asked all levels of Party committees and the government to create favorable conditions for young people's career development. This has been the first time for the new Chinese leadership to elaborate the relationship between the youths and the "Chinese dream." In the course of pursuing the road to modernization in China during the past century, young people have always been an important force of realizing social transformation and national rejuvenation, said Zheng Changzhong, a scholar with the School of International Relations and Public Affairs at Fudan University. In an information era, China's development needs the youth to be more united with consensus. The "Chinese dream" concept should be able to play a role of a banner to inspire young people to strive for a better life and a stronger nation, Zheng said. Also on Thursday, Xi told Peking University students to make contribution "with pioneer spirits." The Chinese dream is a dream of the nation and every Chinese including young people, Xi wrote in a letter to students of archaeology and museology major whom he met at the university last year. "Only by integrating individual dreams to the national cause can one finally make great achievement," he said. Xi said he expected young people to "cherish the glorious youth, strive with pioneer spirit and contribute their wisdom and energy to the realization of the Chinese dream." Echoing Xi's remarks, Vice President Li Yuanchao on Saturday said young people should never stop learning or making contributions. He told a group of outstanding young people in Beijing to grasp great opportunities from China's development to achieve progress in their own careers. The Chinese Youth Day was established in December 1949 to commemorate the beginning of the May 4th Movement in 1919, a student protest that grew out of dissatisfaction with the Treaty of Versailles settlement. It is regarded by China as a patriotic movement against imperialism and feudalism.

Hong Kong*:  May 6 2013

Hong Kong universities raise fees by up to 20pc for non-local students (By Shirley Zhao) Inflation, stronger yuan blamed for increases that some fear will deter mainland students - Professor Chung Yue-ping of Chinese University. Hong Kong's eight government-funded universities have raised tuition fees by as much as 20 per cent for non-local students this year, attributing it to inflation and a stronger yuan. Chinese University, the University of Science and Technology and City University have all increased the cost of their undergraduate programmes for non-locals from HK$100,000 to HK$120,000 per year. "Costs have gone up due to inflation and the appreciation of the yuan," said Chouk Yin, of the mainland and external affairs office at City University. "The adjustment is to ensure the quality of our education." The University of Hong Kong will charge non-local undergraduates HK$135,000 a year - a rise of HK$16,000. Polytechnic University, Lingnan University and Baptist University have lifted their fees to HK$110,000 from HK$100,000. The Hong Kong Institute of Education now charges HK$100,000 a year, an increase of 17.6 per cent. Fees for local students will remain the same. There are more than 10,000 non-local students at the eight universities, including almost 6,000 undergraduates. About 77 per cent are from the mainland, according to the University Grants Committee (UGC), a panel that advises the government. Despite the fee increase, HKU's Melanie Wan said she was confident the university would remain attractive to mainland students. "Over the years, HKU has attracted top students from the mainland because of its high-quality education and internationalised campus," she said. "Scholarships are available for outstanding students, and there is financial aid to support those in need." HKU took in 360 mainland undergraduates last year, up from about 300 in previous years. The university said the increase was a one-off and due to the change in the university system last year which extended undergraduate programmes from three years to four years. She said this year the number would return to around 300. Duan Bing of Dongfang International Centre for Educational Exchange, a mainland education consultancy, believed higher tuition fees would not put off mainland students. "Our company has formed a team for the Hong Kong market," Duan said. "This shows how strong the demand is." But some observers took the view it would dent demand. "The increase in tuition will definitely affect non-local students' willingness to come to Hong Kong," said Professor Chung Yue-ping of Chinese University. But "local universities can create more scholarships, provide subsidies for living and allow students to take certain paid jobs to lessen the impact", he added. Wang Siqing, a Guangzhou resident whose 17-year-old son is in his second year of high school, said he wanted to send the boy to a university in Hong Kong so that he could develop "international horizons and critical thinking" skills. "Of course it'll be even better if he can get a scholarship," he said. "But if he doesn't, I'm willing and able to afford his tuition." The cost of educating an undergraduate student in a government-funded programme last year was HK$233,000, according to the UGC.

Contractors make striking Hong Kong dockers 9.8pc 'last offer' (By Phila Siu and Stuart Lau) Striking dockers march to court in protest against Cheung Kong's attempt to seek an injunction yesterday. Four contractors offered their workers a 9.8 per cent pay rise last night in what they said was their final bid to bring an end to the dockers' strike, which enters its 38th day today. The contractors - Everbest Port Services, Pui Kee Stevedore Company, Lem Wing Transportation and Comcheung Human Resources - said they would not engage in more talks over the pay dispute. The striking dockers, who earlier demanded a 20 per cent rise but later softened their stance to ask for "a double-digit rate", said they would discuss the proposal. Stanley Ho Wai-hong, spokesman for the Union of Hong Kong Dockers, said the 530 strikers would not accept it until a general meeting was held today. Non-striking dockers had been offered the increase since Wednesday, the contractors said in a joint statement. The strikers expressed disappointment that their other concerns, including toilet and lunch breaks, were not addressed. Strike-hit port operator Hongkong International Terminals welcomed the contractors' move. The firm said last night that it would give HK$4,000 to all non-striking dockers this month. Labour and Welfare Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung noted that the pay rise was higher than the previous proposal of 7 per cent offered by Everbest. Describing the latest proposal as a "progress", Cheung said he hoped the container port would return to normal business soon. Earlier yesterday, the Court of First Instance heard an application by a Cheung Kong (Holdings) subsidiary for an interim injunction to force the strikers out of their base at the Cheung Kong Center. Lawyers for both sides argued over the dockers' right to use the space. The Li Ka-shing flagship, through its subsidiary Turbo Top, sought to restrain the defendants from entering, occupying, remaining at or in any way trespassing in the Cheung Kong Center and certain areas surrounding the building. Mr Justice Godfrey Lam Wan-ho will decide on Monday whether to grant the interim injunction to force the strikers out of the space outside the building. Simon Westbrook SC, for Turbo Top, said although the space was public, this gave the public only the implied right to use it for temporary and peaceful activities, but the strikers were planning to stay there "indefinitely". Westbrook also expressed concern about a fire hazard from generators and exposed cables in the camping area. Gerard McCoy SC, for the defendants, said ownership of the space outside the building was in the hands of Cheung Kong and the government since both sides signed the Condition of Exchange on the land some years ago. Cheung Kong did not have exclusive possession of the land, he said. McCoy said the police had issued a notice of no objection to the strikers staying there, and as the police were the government's law enforcement agency, this meant the government had approved the strikers' presence.

 China*:  May 6 2013

BYD makes history with California (By Wang Jun in Lancaster Stella Li, president of BYD Motors, receives a gift from Bill Allen, LAEDC president, at BYD's factory opening on Thursday in Lancaster, California. Billboards along Southern California's Antelope Valley Freeway read "Lancaster welcomes BYD", heralding the opening of a bus factory by the Chinese maker of electric vehicles and batteries. BYD Co on Wednesday became the first company from China to announce it will produce vehicles in the United States. It plans to build as many as 1,000 plug-in electric buses a year at a refurbished recreational-vehicle factory in the Mojave Desert city of Lancaster. "We truly are making history," Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris said. "Our community looks forward to working hand in hand with BYD as they develop and perfect their e-bus and energy-storage technology." He said the manufacturing could potentially provide hundreds of jobs as BYD expands operations in the US and represents "a significant investment into our local economy and in California". At a news conference outside the new plant, BYD Motors President Stella Li said the first of 10 zero-pollution vehicles have already been ordered Long Beach and are expected to roll off the assembly line in 2014. She said BYD Motors expects to produce 50 buses a year by 2015 and to continue increasing production, with the intention of reaching the plant's capacity of 1,000 buses annually within two decades. The buses will be powered by BYD's iron-phosphate batteries, which will be manufactured at another plant near the Lancaster bus factory. Li described the run-up to the opening of the company's first plant in the Americas. She said the relationship began in 2009, when company executives were introduced to city officials by Michael Antonovich, a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, and Bill Allen, president of the county's Economic Development Corp. "We have been extremely impressed with the resources of LA County and the leadership shown across many cities, including Los Angeles, Long Beach and Lancaster," Li said. "We were pleased to initiate this vital partnership with BYD, the county and the city of Lancaster and look forward to its continued success with two new world-class manufacturing facilities that will create jobs and enhance the economic vitality here in the Antelope Valley and throughout the region," Antonovich said at Wednesday's news conference. The announcement caps a years-long effort to build a plant that promises "economic prosperity and environmental sustainability," Allen said. The following year, 2010, Parris and other officials visited BYD's headquarters in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen. Upon returning home, Parris led an effort to team up with BYD and California-based builder KB Home to create a prototype solar-powered home using BYD-made solar panels, LED lighting and other technologies including residential energy storage. "This cemented the concept in my mind that BYD must be part of Lancaster's future," said Parris, whose city bills itself as an alternative-energy center. "BYD's developing technologies dovetail perfectly with our community's sustainable-energy goals, while also providing stable green jobs for local residents. BYD zero-emission vehicles are not 'clean energy' but pure energy, which means no pollution at all," the mayor said. "When Chinese and American scientists get together, there's nothing that we can't do." Building vehicles in the US enables BYD customers to take advantage of the federal government's Buy America subsidies to support domestic production. The procurement guidelines covers as much as 80 percent of the cost of the electric buses, and BYD officials said the Lancaster plant meets those criteria. In April, the Chinese company won a $12.1 million contract from the Long Beach transit authority to produce the 10 all-electric buses. "BYD is thrilled to be a part of the new zero-emissions legacy beginning in Long Beach with their electrified public transportation" Li said. "Additionally, our Los Angeles headquarters will continue to expand research-and-development jobs to support these manufacturing facilities as well as sales and HR support for all of North and South America." In Lancaster, BYD purchased a former Rexhall Industries RV factory for its electric-bus manufacturing operations. Rexhall CEO William Rex will stay on as general manager of the newly formed BYD Coach and Bus LLC. A number of Rexhall employees will be maintained as the plant shifts to new ownership. "This truly is the best of both worlds," Parris said. "With this arrangement, BYD benefits from a ready-made, fully permitted facility which perfectly suits its needs and will also enjoy access to the expertise of highly trained personnel with extensive experience in the manufacturing industry. 

Luxury sellers adapt to changing market (By By Meng Jing) Luxury brand logos in a shop window in Beijing last month. High-end demand starts to taper off as authorities target lavish spending - Early last year, eyebrows were raised when 500 grams of high-quality Longjing tea was sold for 180,000 yuan ($29,196) at an auction in China. The record price for the tea brand made it much more expensive than gold at that time. However, this spring the situation has changed completely. The price of the same high-quality Longjing has reportedly fallen to around 2,500 to 2,800 yuan for 500 grams, compared with the average price of 3,200 yuan in 2012. Tea industry experts say that this year's prices are the lowest since 2009. It is not high-end tea alone that is feeling the pinch. Expensive luxury watches from Swiss watchmaker Rolex and fancy dinners at top restaurants are all losing sheen as choice gifts among the well heeled. Frugality has arrived, or rather, been imposed. High-end demand has tapered off this year due to recent government measures aimed at checking extravagant spending and reining in corruption. Though it is still early to estimate the actual numbers, some experts maintain that the trend augurs well for the future, as it will lead to a more broad-based and healthy demand. Others feel that slower high-end product sales will only lead to lower overall consumption. According to data provided by the National Bureau of Statistics, retail sales in China during the first quarter reached 5.55 trillion yuan, year-on-year growth of 12.4 percent, compared to 14.8 percent for the same period last year. Though there are indications that demand is likely to fall further, there are also signs that the demand for high-end goods in China is becoming broader and more sophisticated. Zhao Ping, deputy director of the department of consumer economics at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation under the Ministry of Commerce, said that the government crackdown on lavish spending is good for China's consumption market in the long run. "Less government expenditure on official receptions, vehicle purchases and overseas trips means that more money can be put into the pockets of ordinary people," she said. Zhao insisted that the curbs on conspicuous consumption are good for sustainable growth as they will cater to a broader spectrum of people. 

Five-year visas for foreigners on way (By By CHEN XIN) Draft rule aims to attract talented professionals China urgently needs - Foreign talent will soon be eligible for China visas valid for up to five years, under a draft regulation. The draft was released by the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council on Friday, and public opinion is being sought for a month. It states that China will grant two new types of visa, R1 and R2, for foreign professionals. Both types will be granted to foreign talent and professionals at senior level that the country urgently needs, according to the draft. A R1 visa will come with residency rights, while a R2 visa will allow multiple entry and exits. Liu Guofu, an immigration law specialist at the Beijing Institute of Technology, said R1 visa holders can apply for a residence permit for up to five years, while a R2 visa will allow professionals to stay in China for 180 days at a time. The regulation will be implemented under the Exit and Entry Administration Law, which takes effect in July. Visa holders should be experts recognized by provincial-level governments and above, and professionals that China urgently needs, according to the regulation. Earlier rules endorsed by five ministry-level departments state that foreign professionals working on projects carried out by central government departments and centrally administered enterprises, and talent introduced through provincial-level recruitment programs, can benefit from the new long-term visas. The new State Council regulation does not specify groups that China urgently needs and which are eligible for "talent visas". But Liu said a draft in which ministerial departments had assessed feedback from specialists, including Liu, shows they include candidates with management experience at leading multinationals, specialists in education and science-related fields, and renowned figures in culture and sport. "The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security or the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs may soon release the list of target groups," Liu said. Wang Huiyao, director of the Center for China and Globalization in Beijing, said the new visas will help attract overseas talent. "The regulation will especially lure those who work in other countries but want to spend time working in China," he said. Wang said that in the past China had focused a great deal on how to manage foreigners working in or visiting the country when making or amending visa-related laws and regulations. Rule: 'Green card' mulled- But now the country is aiming to attract global talent by providing more convenient visa policies, like many other countries, including the United States. Quintus Doamekpor, a 34-year-old from Ghana, has been working in China for 11 years. He married a Chinese, has a daughter and works as a language teacher at a school in Yuncheng, Shanxi province. Doamekpor said he has a foreign expert certificate, and his visa must be renewed every year. "I hope to know more requirements for the new visa application and I want to be included," he said. "My ultimate aim is to obtain a permanent residence permit." Liu has suggested that policies should give "talent visa" holders the chance of permanent residency after they have worked in China for a certain period. The government is considering lowering the threshold for permanent residency. The Ministry of Public Security is drawing up a draft regulation, under which foreigners who work in China for 10 consecutive years may be eligible for a "green card". Meanwhile, the State Council regulation states that visa management bureaus and entry-and-exit management bureaus under public security departments can keep fingerprints of foreigners who enter China.

Hong Kong*:  May 5 2013

Many happy yuan returns, Hang Seng (By Enoch Yiu Financial Secretary John Tsang, third from left, raises a toast to Hang Seng Bank at its anniversary reception. While giving his birthday wishes to Hang Seng Bank for its 80th anniversary, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah last night urged the lender to further develop yuan business. The city is vying with rivals such as Paris, London, Tokyo, Sydney and Singapore to become the premier international yuan trading centre. The Monetary Authority last week lowered the capital reserves for bankers doing yuan business to encourage them to offer more yuan loans and products. Last night, the financial chief called on Hang Seng to do more. Hang Seng has been striving to expand yuan business in support of Hong Kong's strategic position as a leading offshore yuan centre - "Hang Seng has been striving to expand yuan business in support of Hong Kong's strategic position as a leading offshore yuan centre," Tsang said last night at the bank's 80th anniversary reception in Wan Chai attended by 2,000 guests. He said Hang Seng was the lead arranger of the first yuan-denominated syndicated loan in the city. The yuan is not yet fully convertible but since 2009 Beijing has allowed the currency to be used for some trade and investment. "The policies of the mainland have promoted onshore and offshore yuan capital flow. The use of the yuan has been further expanded to cross-border trades and investment, leading to greater demand for different yuan services," Tsang said. "Ample business opportunities have been brought to Hong Kong since the opening up of the mainland market." Hang Seng Bank, which started business on March 3, 1933, in an 800 sq ft office in Sheung Wan with 11 employees, is one of the top 50 listed banks in the world and the 18th largest in Asia by market capitalisation. It has about 10,000 staff serving more than three million customers. It has 220 branches in Hong Kong and 46 on the mainland. Louis Tse Ming-kwong, director of VC Brokerage, said the bank had a strong position in Hong Kong. "However, the city is very competitive and profit margin here is thin. The future growth story for Hang Seng Bank will depend on its future expansion in yuan business and the mainland market such as Qianhai," Tse said. Qianhai, in western Shenzhen, is a testing ground for further convertibility of the yuan. Hang Seng chairman Raymond Chien Kuo-fung said: "Hang Seng is committed to playing a role in the further development of the economies of both Hong Kong and mainland China." He said the bank would "capture the increasing business opportunities arising from closer cross-border economic integration and live up to our name as the ever-growing bank".

Economy at risk of overheating warns HKMA chief (By Kanis Li HKMA boss warns rising levels of household debt and high consumer spending could see families left in a vulnerable financial position - Hong Kong's current account balance plunged to 1.1 per cent of GDP at the end of last year from 15 per cent in 2008. Soaring household debt and rampant consumer spending have put Hong Kong's economy at risk of overheating, the city's central bank boss said yesterday. Norman Chan Tak-lam, chief executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, told lawmakers these were "warning signals". In a briefing to the Legislative Council's financial affairs panel, he said the ratio of household debt to gross domestic product had risen to a record 61 per cent from 59 per cent at the end of last year. The previous record was 60 per cent in 2002. Household debt includes credit card loans, personal loans and home loans, which are usually a family's largest debt. The higher the ratio, the more vulnerable people will be when interest rates go up. Chan said the surge in property prices in recent years had fuelled an increase in Hongkongers' spending on consumer items. He was concerned that private consumption has grown faster than GDP since 2005. And because much of the consumption is based on credit, "once the interest rate turns up, the macro economy will be at risk", Chan said. He also pointed to a decline over a short period in the current account balance - essentially, exports of goods and services, plus other income minus imports - as another "warning signal" that the economy is at risk of overheating. Hong Kong's current account balance plunged to 1.1 per cent of GDP at the end of last year from 15 per cent in 2008. Exports were stable during that period, but imports jumped. Raymond Yeung Yue-ting, senior economist at ANZ Banking in Hong Kong, said when the rise in interest rates exceeded the rise in wages, people would be less able to pay their debts. That could result in a surge in the number of homes in negative equity - properties worth less than their outstanding mortgage. But he said a fall in the number of property transactions could ease the risk of the economy overheating. HKMA deputy chief executive Arthur Yuen Kwok-hang said the authority would keep an eye on the risk management strategies of banks when handing out personal loans. Such loans account for about 5 per cent of the total loan book of a bank, he said.

To the amazement of many food lovers, an online survey has named Hong Kong as the city with the best street food on the planet (By Reuters) Clay pot chicken - Quick, cheap and chock full of flavour, street food gives hungry passers-by a lot to love in locales around the world. Trying the local open-air fare is also a key ingredient to sampling any city's culture. That's why online travel adviser has put together its top 10 street-food cities. Hong Kong - With a bustling food scene, Hong Kong offers up everything from sweet tofu soup to dumplings and local spins on international treats, all from street-side stalls. The city is famous for everything from snake soup to egg tarts, and serves up an interesting and tasty mix of Cantonese delicacies and Western favourites. Markets such as those on Temple Street in Yau Ma Tei, the Ladies' Market on Tung Choi Street and Kowloon City are popular places to peruse the street food scene and taste items such as clay pot dishes, fish balls and skewers of stinky tofu. The city's dai pai dongs - open-air street food vendors - have been dwindling since the 1980s when regulations were tightened, but noodle shops and markets still thrive. Some food stalls such as dim sum canteen Tim Ho Wan in Sham Shui Po even made the most recent Michelin Guide - a significant honour from a guide that's notoriously stingy with its stars, reserving them mainly for high-end restaurants.

Bumper year in 2012-13 as tax revenue hits record HK$242b (Dennis Chong Chu Yam-yuen, Commissioner of Inland Revenue. Hong Kong collected record-breaking tax revenue of HK$242.2 billion for the 2012/13 fiscal year, thanks to healthy growth in company earnings. "The economy was quite good in 2011," Commissioner of Inland Revenue Chu Yam-yuen said yesterday, as he announced that profits tax reached HK$125.6 billion, another record. Betting duty also hit an all-time high, rising 5 per cent to HK$16.6 billion. Chu said this was the result of bigger crowds at races and more people betting on soccer. Property tax rose 16 per cent to HK$2.3 billion - another record. Chu expected tax revenue to increase further in the current financial year despite a drop in stamp duty as a result of the government's attempts to cool the overheated property market. In 2010 the government imposed an additional special stamp duty of 15 per cent on homes sold within six months of purchase; 10 per cent extra on those resold within a year and 5 per cent on those resold within two years. Looking ahead, Chu said total tax income was expected to reach HK$245.9 billion in 2013/14. This would be achieved despite an expected 7 per cent drop in stamp duty to HK$40 billion from HK$42.8 billion last year. Despite the growth in business, there was a 2 per cent drop in the amount of salaries tax collected, to HK$50.5 billion, the first fall since 2008. Kenneth Leung Kai-cheong, lawmaker for the accountancy sector, said this was evidence that economic growth only "favoured those at the top". In 2011/12, the top 100,000 earners contributed 65.9 per cent of total salaries tax, followed by 15 per cent given by the next 100,000 taxpayers. Leung added that salaries tax only reflected part of the income of top executives. The city has been under pressure to improve its taxation regime to tackle growing concerns over tax evasion. An amendment has been tabled to the Legislative Council, so the Hong Kong government can conduct tax information exchanges with other jurisdictions. Taxation Institute of Hong Kong president Philip Hung urged the government to make strategic investments with the proceeds on social policies including education and medical services.

Extra help on the way from OpenRice in exploring city's 21,000 eateries (By Amy Nip Restaurants website to roll out upgraded services and expand coverage this month - Extra help on the way from OpenRice in exploring city's 21,000 eateries. Foodies will soon be able to search for restaurants serving their favourite dishes with greater ease after a major revamp of restaurants website OpenRice. Founded in 1999, the website enables restaurant-goers to find, rate and leave comments about the city's 21,000 food outlets. It is now ready to upgrade its services and expand coverage to Taiwan, taking the total number of restaurants covered by the guide to 500,000. New versions of the website and its mobile application will be ready by the end of this month, following its biggest revamp since 2008. "For the time being, searches are mainly conducted by entering the name of the restaurant," the website's managing director Jan Wong Fung-ming said. "After the revamp, people will be able to search by entering the name of a dish or a location." By entering "xiaolongbao", otherwise known as steamed meat dumplings, into the search field, for example, users will able to find restaurants selling the dish, such as Taiwanese restaurant Din Tai Fung. An upgrade to the mobile application will allow users to see a list of restaurants near their current location, listed by their distance from the user and complete with a map showing all the outlets. People will also be able to download discount coupons, make prepayments and bookmark their favourite restaurants. OpenRice will expand its geographical coverage later this year, and a major focus will be Taiwan. "There are a lot of Hongkongers who spend two to three days in Taiwan, and dining is an important part of their journey," Alfred Tsoi Po-tak, chief executive of JDB Holdings, which oversees OpenRice, said.

Legco approves HK$100m Yaan earthquake donation (By Lai Ying-kit HK$21.7 million from government Disaster Relief Fund also donated - Legco approved a HK$100 million donation to the Sichuan government for quake relief works and voted down amendments to restrict it from being used as salaries, meal expenses and entertainment fees. Legislators on Friday approved the government’s funding request for a HK$100 million donation to the Sichuan government to support its quake relief works. The proposal was passed at a Legislative Council finance committee meeting, with the support of 37 lawmakers. 23 others voted against it and one abstained. The donation, announced by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying on April 22, has since then stirred a heated debate among Hongkongers who are concerned that the money will get into the hands of corrupt government officials instead of quake victims. While supporters said Hong Kong should give a hand because of its close bond with the mainland, critics urged the government to alter the proposal by donating the HK$100 million to non-governmental organisations instead. At the special meeting on Friday afternoon, Michael Tien Pei-chun, from pro-government New People’s Party, said Hongkongers donated to victims of the 2004 South Asian tsunami and the 2011 Japanese earthquake unconditionally and should do the same now to Sichuan. “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung opposed the donation, saying that the money would not serve its original objective of providing “urgent” reliefs as it was now two weeks after the quake. “The situation now is much more stable than before. Funds from other parts of the mainland have been flowing in. I don’t see any reason to approve it now,” he said before the vote. Leung also said the government could not ensure the money would go to the people affected by the quake. Civic Party’s Claudia Mo questioned if the HK$100 million was too large a sum given that Beijing and Shanghai each donated only 5 million yuan. Pan-democrat legislators filed amendments to the donation proposal to restrict the money from being used as salaries, meal expenses and entertainment fees. But the amendments were voted down. The legislators failed to hold a vote on the funding request by the end of a previous meeting on the subject last week as there wasn’t enough time for all members who wanted to speak to have their say. In the past, donation requests were usually passed in a single meeting. Hours before the HK$100 million donation was passed, the Hong Kong government approved another HK$21.7 million fund for five NGOs to carry out relief in quake-hit Sichuan. The HK$21.7 million will come from the Disaster Relief Fund and be given to five NGOs to help victims affected by a magnitude-7 quake that struck the Yaan area in Sichuan last month. The grant was approved by the Disaster Relief Fund Advisory Committee, chaired by Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor. Oxfam Hong Kong will receive HK$2.064 million; Save the Children Hong Kong, HK$3.5 million; World Vision Hong Kong, HK$4.67 million; Amity Foundation, HK$5.304; and the Salvation Army, Hk$6.18 million. A government spokesman said it would ensure that the money will be used for quake relief. “The five relief agencies have been asked to submit evaluation reports and audited accounts on the use of the grants after the relief projects have been completed," the spokesman said.

Ex-ICAC chief confident truth will come out in expense scandal (By Lai Ying-kit imothy Tong Hin-ming, Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference member and former ICAC commissioner. Former ICAC chief Timothy Tong Hin-ming on Friday commented for the first time on his expense scandal, saying he would co-operate in investigations related to the matter. In a released written statement, Tong said he felt obliged to explain the matter because it was related to the conduct and integrity of an ICAC commissioner. “I understand the public care about the image of the Independent Commission Against Corruption,” he said.. “The Legislative Council and Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying have launched investigations;' Tong said."I have sought legal advice and will co-operate with the investigations as needed,” Tong said. “I believe the truth will be out once the investigations are completed,” he said, adding that he would not make further comments at this stage. Tong was earlier found to have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars from the public purse on receptions, gifts and duty visits during his five-year tenure as commissioner of the Independent Commission Against Corruption. Some of the spending exceeded the official limits but was approved by Tong himself . On Thursday, Leung announced setting up a four-member panel to examine whether ICAC staff of all ranks complied with the regulations handling expenses and to review the agency’s regulatory framework. The Legislative Council’s Public Accounts Committee will look into two lavish dinners Tong hosted with mainland officials. Corruption complaints concerning Tong have also been made to the ICAC. Tong was appointed in February as a Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference member after stepping down as ICAC commissioner in June of last year.

 China*:  May 5 2013

Beijing talks tough again on US influence in region (By Teddy Ng Foreign Minister Wang Yi makes oblique reference in warning against regional provocation - the second caution in a week - Chinese diplomats have resorted to tough rhetoric against the United States for the second time in a week as they seek to cement ties with four Southeast Asian nations, in what analysts say is a sign that Beijing remains deeply suspicious of Washington. The latest incident occurred when Foreign Minister Wang Yi held talks with his Indonesian counterpart, Marty Natalegawa, in Jakarta on Thursday. They discussed territorial disputes in the South China Sea, which have seen China, Vietnam and the Philippines engage in bitter exchanges. In Singapore yesterday, Wang told Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong that Beijing was ready to forge an "upgraded" relation with the country. Wang said the two sides should consider co-operating to build a regional financing platform, conduct defence and security exchanges, and co-ordinate in international and regional affairs, Xinhua reported. Lee said Singapore was willing to help deepen the strategic partnership between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China, according to Xinhua. Wang told Marty on Thursday that China was committed to maintaining peace in the region, and settling disputes through bilateral negotiations with other claimant parties, which include Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. No single power or nation should be allowed to stir up troubles and provocations in the region for selfish gain - He added: "No single power or nation should be allowed to stir up troubles and provocations in the region for selfish gain." Wang did not name any country, but Beijing has previously shown its dismay at Washington's strengthening ties with East Asian nations, particularly Vietnam, the Philippines and Japan. On Wednesday, China's ambassador to the US, Cui Tiankai , warned Washington not to meddle in a territorial dispute in the East China Sea between Beijing and Tokyo. Professor Du Jifeng , of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Washington had been less critical of Beijing since Barack Obama's re-election as US president, but Beijing was still worried about Washington's strategy in the region. Wang's itinerary reflected such concerns, Du said, highlighting the inclusion of visits to Indonesia and Brunei, countries whose ties with the US were not as strong as those between Washington and other Asian nations. Wang also visited Thailand. US Secretary of State John Kerry has said the US supports a code of conduct to manage the South China Sea disputes, but Beijing is sceptical, believing that such a code could lead to the recognition of sovereignty claims by other parties. Professor Zhang Mingliang , a specialist in South China Sea affairs at Jinan University, said China hoped the four nations Wang visited could help Beijing counter US influence at a regional summit next month. "Even though these nations may not openly support China, Beijing hopes they will refrain from joining Vietnam and the Philippines in criticising China." Analysts expect Beijing will continue to cement ties with its neighbours to counterbalance US influence. Premier Li Keqiang will visit India on May 20. While India is getting closer to the US, analysts said Li would tell New Delhi that it could still be Beijing's friend.

H5N1 flu research sparks ethical and safety debate (By Stephen Chen Scientists swap bird flu gene with one from human virus in laboratory guinea pig tests - Chen Hualan and her team published the research study. A team of top Chinese researchers has found that swapping a single gene of the H5N1 bird flu virus with one from H1N1 human flu makes it transmissible between guinea pigs, representing a jump from bird to mammals. However, their study has reignited an ethical debate over the merits of artificially creating potentially deadly new viruses. The team, led by Professor Chen Hualan from the Ministry of Agriculture's Harbin Veterinary Research Institute, produced 127 novel viruses in the laboratory. After testing them on mice and guinea pigs, the researchers found that four were both deadly and highly infectious, making them possible candidates for the next global pandemic outbreak. The publication of their paper on the website of the magazine Science on Thursday triggered heated debate in the scientific community on ethical and safety issues, including whether the viruses could escape from the lab or be used by terrorists. Flu researchers around the world had agreed a voluntary moratorium on H5N1 research under which transmission studies using ferrets were banned. It followed controversies over two other flu research projects by American and Dutch scientists. They also involved the deliberate manipulation of viruses to make them more dangerous, but the moratorium expired in January. Neither Chen nor the ministry could be reached for comment yesterday, but a co-author of the paper said their work environment was classified bio-safety level 3, which should be sufficient to prevent a leak. He said he did not know where the viruses were stored or how they were guarded. "I was only responsible for part of the project," he said. Professor Xue Yu , a biologist at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, said an accidental leak was possible at any laboratory, even those that were better guarded. "If the virus fell into the hands of terrorists, it would kill more people than a nuclear bomb," he said. They claim they are doing this to help develop vaccines and suchlike. In fact the real reason is that they are driven by blind ambition with no common sense whatsoever. Robert May, a former British government chief scientist and past president of the Royal Society, denounced the study as doing nothing to further the understanding and prevention of flu pandemics. "They claim they are doing this to help develop vaccines and suchlike. In fact the real reason is that they are driven by blind ambition with no common sense whatsoever," May told The Independent newspaper. "The record of containment in labs like this is not reassuring. They are taking it upon themselves to create human-to-human transmission of very dangerous viruses. It's appallingly irresponsible." But Zhao Fangqing , principal investigator at the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Beijing Institutes of Life Science, said that without such research, scientists would be unprepared for the emergence of new viruses in nature. "Just like you can't develop a missile defence system without knowing the missiles, you can't deal with a virus without obtaining and studying it," he said. "The public concern about safety is good, but it should push the research to a higher security level rather than prevent such research at all."

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (L) meets with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Singapore, May 3, 2013. Wang is on official visits to Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Brunei from April 30 to May 5. 

Rekindling memories of Nixon's 1972 visit (By By ZHAO SHENGNAN) Grandson of former president to follow exact route of historic diplomatic event - State Councilor Yang Jiechi talks with Christopher Nixon Cox, grandson of former US president Richard NIxon, in a welcome banquet on Friday in Beijing. Christopher Nixon Cox, grandson of former US president Richard Nixon, accompanied by his wife Andrea Catsimatidis, meets visitors to the Forbidden City in Beijing on Friday. Cox is leading a US delegation to mark the late president's historic visit to China in 1972. Forty-one years after former US president Richard Nixon's landmark visit to China, the two sides are seeking to improve bilateral ties, which are facing "another turning point", as a 40-member delegation from the United States retrace the trip's legacy. "China has become a strong economy. I think the legacy of the trip will endure, and I've seen that through my travels throughout the world," said Christopher Nixon Cox, the son of the 37th US president's daughter, Tricia, on Friday. "He always said we should never leave a billion of the world's most hard-working people in isolation," Cox said. "His philosophy was that a strong and prosperous China would be a pillar for the peace and stability of the world." Cox, the head of the delegation, was born in 1979, the year that Sino-US diplomatic relations were established. After arriving in Beijing on Thursday, he is leading a 10-day "Nixon Centennial Legacy Journey" tour to the same venues in Beijing, Hangzhou and Shanghai that Nixon and his entourage visited in 1972. Nixon's visit that ended 25 years of mutual silence, paved the way for the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between China and the US. The tour is also being regarded as a tribute to Nixon a century after his birth in 1913. It was not easy for Beijing and Washington, with vastly different mindsets and economic strengths, to break the ice and the countries' current leaderships should learn from their predecessors how to properly address their differences. The shared interests of China and the US are much larger than before, said Jia Qingguo, a professor at Peking University's School of International Studies. Kathleen McFarland, a delegation member and former member of the Nixon administration, said the visit marked "an unusual and unique thing in the history of diplomacy". After a generation of silence, the two countries "who probably had least in common and who knew the least about each other", were able to "see the world through each other's eyes" but it was "not eye to eye, because we disagreed on so many things, and we still do", she said. It is important today that the two countries that engineered an unprecedented development are now "at another turning point" and nobody can achieve success through confrontation with a rising power, she added. Zhou Wenzhong, former ambassador to the US, said mutual trust and differences in bilateral relations have coexisted during the past four decades, while Washington needs to be crystal clear where the country's interests are and how will it regards China; "a partner, a competitor or a enemy?" The key is whether Beijing and Washington can properly handle their differences and expand their common interests, said Zhou. "Despite the ups and downs, Sino-US relations have been, and will continue, heading forward as that is in the fundamental interests of the two countries." China, acknowledged as a great power 40 years after Nixon's visit, is also stepping forward to play an important role in solving global problems facing both the US and China, including environmental protection and cyber security, said Robert McFarlane, who dealt with intelligence exchanges with China from 1973 to 1976. Now, the US and China must focus on solving these issues through cooperation to avoid conflict and maintain stability and peace, he added.

GM's bet on Chinese market paying off (By Michael Barris in New York Despite record sales of luxury vehicles in China, General Motors Co posted a 14 percent drop in first-quarter profit amid one-time costs and weaker earnings in its core North American market. The results again show GM, the leading foreign automaker in China, benefiting from its investment in the world's biggest car market. It was the US company's 13th-straight quarterly profit since emerging from a government-led bankruptcy restructuring in mid-2009. Detroit-based GM, which had 15.2 percent of the Chinese market during the January-March quarter, has said it expects to invest at least $11 billion in China between 2013 and 2016, adding four assembly plants and raising capacity by 30 percent to 5 million vehicles. It will boost capacity in the country 20 percent this year from a year ago, Chairman and CEO Daniel Akerson told analysts on a conference call after Thursday's earnings release. "Other Detroit manufacturers are behind the curve in the Chinese market," Jeremy Anwyl, vice-chairman of auto industry information website, told China Daily. "GM stepped up and committed to expanding in China, and it's really paid off for the past several years." Illustrating the role of China in GM's growth, Brian Johnson, Barclays Capital head of equity research for global autos and auto parts, noted that the market accounted for about 40 cents of the 58 cents-a-share profit reported for the first quarter. He also pointed out that margins in GM's Chinese joint ventures were 11.7 percent, up from 10.2 percent in last year's first quarter. Margins in North America were about 4 percent. GM has 12 joint ventures and two wholly owned foreign enterprises in China. Net income for the latest quarter was $1.2 billion, or 58 cents a share, reflecting preferred dividends. A year ago, GM's profit was $1.3 billion, or 60 cents a share. Excluding a special loss item that reduced net income by $200 million, results beat the forecast of analysts surveyed by data provider FactSet of 54 cents. Revenue fell 2 percent to a better-than-expected $36.9 billion. As sales of luxury sedans and sport-utility vehicles in wealthy Chinese coastal cities slow, foreign automakers are turning attention to West China. They hope high-volume sales of functional sedans to less-affluent buyers will offset an expected drop in margins. GM and its Chinese JV partners in 2015 plan to open a $1 billion factory in the western city of Chongqing that will produce 400,000 cars a year. GM sold a record 816,373 vehicles in China in the recent quarter, a 10 percent jump from a year ago. As part of its effort to win over Chinese luxury-vehicle buyers who favor German brands BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz, the US company in February put its XTS Cadillac sedan on sale in China. Buyers responded by snapping up more than 2,000 of the cars in March, despite the $56,000 price. GM China President Bob Ferguson has said he expects Cadillac sales in China to triple to 100,000 by 2015. Worldwide sales rose 3.6 percent to more than 2.3 million. Sales in the US rose 9 percent. Profits in GM's international operations, including China, fell 5 percent to $495 million. Gains in China helped offset weakness in other regions, including India, GM said. Earnings in North America fell 12.5 percent to $1.4 billion. The results came a day after GM apologized and removed a Chevrolet commercial that included a song referring to "the land of Fu Manchu" where girls say "ching-ching, chop suey". The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post deemed the ad "racist" in a headline. "Our intent was not to offend anyone and we're deeply sorry if anyone was offended," Ryndee Carney, a Detroit-based GM spokeswoman, told Bloomberg News. "We're reviewing our advertising approval processes to make sure this doesn't happen again." The English-language ad for the Chevrolet Trax SUV featured a 1920s motif and included music from Austrian performer Parov Stelar, Carney said. The ad had been running on television in Canada since March and was posted to Chevy's European website. 

Crafting beer for world's biggest market (By Caroline Berg Slow Boat craft beer is produced at a microbrewery in Beijing that was opened by Chandler Jurinka and Daniel Hebert in 2011. Their craft brews include the Dragon Boat Ale, Monkey's Fist IPA and the Captain's Pale Ale. China's microbrew enthusiasts are aiming for a revolution in the drinking habits of the most populous nation, reports Caroline Berg in New York. Who wants to brew in an Eastern frontier?" read the ad. " Help us to teach China about beer." The "Eastern frontier" is at the foot of the Himalayas and the job posted on Feb 20 on the website was for a brewmaster at Bad Monkey Brewery in the popular tourist town of Dali in Yunnan, China. Bad Monkey Brewery may be an anomaly in rural China, but it's part of a small yet nascent business: craft-beermaking in the world's most populous nation - and the biggest beer-drinking country. "Our company has witnessed the changes in consumer preferences first-hand in China since 2003," Carl Oakley and Scott Williams, owners of Bad Monkey, wrote in a comment in response to a Wall Street Journal article about craft brewers collaborating in China. "[We have found] many Chinese drinkers who are adventurous enough and affluent enough to pay more for a tastier, higher quality brew." Other craft-beer companies in China include Chengdu Beer and Harvest Beer in Chengdu, Sichuan province; Strong Ale Works in Qingdao, Shandong province; The Old Brewery in Yangzhou and Nanjing Craft Brewing Co in Nanjing, Jiangsu province. The strongest presence in the emerging craft-beer revolution is in Shanghai and Beijing, where six - soon to be seven - homegrown craft breweries exist. "The craft-beer industry in China is without a doubt going to expand rapidly within the next five to 10 years," said Leon Mickelson, brewmaster at The Brew in Shanghai. "I see more and more craft-brew pubs opening up within Beijing and Shanghai, which will raise a lot more awareness and will ultimately benefit the industry as a whole." The Brewers Association in the US says the hallmark of craft beer is innovation, where craft brewers interpret historic styles with unique twists and develop new styles that have no precedent. Craft breweries compete on the basis of quality and diversity as opposed to large, mass-marketed breweries that more often value low prices and advertising. The cost - What does a craft beer cost in China? A bottle of local beer can sell for as little as 1.87 yuan (30 cents). Beijing-based Great Leap Brewing's rotating selection of 12 to 15 craft beers on tap sell for 25 to 50 yuan. The significant cost variation is due in large part to the lack of quality local ingredients and the need for craft brewers to import materials from all over the world. Boxing Cat Brewery, Shanghai's first craft brewery that was established in 2008 and now has two locations, imports about 98 percent of its ingredients, according to brew master Michael Jordan. This is due to quality concerns. "The imported ingredients are not cheap, and I reckon we're paying two to three times what breweries in North America are paying for the same materials," Jordan said. " 'Ouch' to say the least," he said, but to invest in anything other than '`top-shelf quality products would go against Boxing Cat's brewing philosophy". Jordan also said that all the raw materials - including malts - aren't available to his brewery. Big brewers like Tsingtao and Yanjing use malts that are much different in specifications than what Jordan likes to use. Beer isn't new in China. Archaeological evidence indicates beer-type alcoholic drinks were produced in some villages as early as 7000 BC. Those brews were important in ancestral worship and other cultural rituals, and "huangjiu" yellow wine was replaced with beer two millennia ago. China is the largest beer market in the world, with more than 500 breweries. Production increased by 29 percent in the five years to 2011 and reached an all-time high of 50 billion liters for the first time in 2011, according to a 2012 study by Mintel, the international market intelligence group. The US ranked second with 24 billion liters. Beer in China - China's beer market grew 63 percent in terms of value over the same five-year period to reach a total market value of 454 billion yuan in 2011, with the average value per liter of beer sold rising 27 percent since 2007. That trend indicates significant development toward Chinese consumers drinking higher-value beer products, Mintel said. Nevertheless, educating the public on what exactly craft-beer culture is about remains a big hurdle, say China's craft-brew stakeholders. "For an entire society weaned on [industrial lagers like] Yanjing and Tsingtao, it's a huge challenge to tip the scales of this kind of market domination," said Jacob Wickham, co-founder and president of the Beijing Homebrewing Society. "Education and appreciation for real beer is necessary to help fuel China's craft-beer revolution." The China Craft Brewers Association was formed to establish a structured networking framework, assistance in importing raw materials, and to help organize beer festivals. To give craft beer greater exposure, it will be featured at a number of beer festivals. The second annual Shanghai Beer Week will run May 17-26; the second annual Beijing Craft Beer Festival will occur June 22-23 and the 15th annual China International Beer Festival in Dalian, Liaoning province, will be held June 26-August 11. The association also helps connect brewers for collaborations at one another's breweries. "I think most brewers like to help out one another when in a pinch for ingredients or even troubleshooting some issues they might be experiencing," Jordan said. "I find the openness of brewers to be unique and often people are surprised by this." In 2012, Boxing Cat and Beijing's Great Leap Brewing collaborated after attending San Diego's Craft Brewing Conference. Together they produced Yunnan Amber after a Beijing-based tea consultant recommended the brewers infuse their beer with dianhong tea - a strong black tea with a floral aroma - similar to tea from India's Assam region. "We all have our own little house secrets regarding our beers, but we're very open in general," Jordan said. "Most people that have a passion for craft beer want to share that passion with others and help raise awareness for craft beer." Carl Setzer, Great Leap's brew master and co-founder, said people come in every week and talk about how they would like to set up a microbrewery. Once they see how much work it takes, both in navigating the bureaucracy and actual physical labor, they ultimately decide otherwise, he said. After Great Leap became Beijing's first craft brewery in 2010, Slow Boat Brewery opened shortly after in 2011. This weekend, Great Leap is scheduled to open its second location in Beijing as a full-service brew pub. Additionally, the former home brewers of Jing A craft beers moved into The Big Smoke in April and are building their first microbrewery inside the American style restaurant in Beijing. The official English name is the Capital Brewing Co, and the founders plan to have their taps flowing for the public by the end of May. 'The same sandbox' In Shanghai, after Boxing Cat opened in 2008 and established a second location in 2009, three more craft breweries joined the community, including The Brew at Kerry Hotel, Pudong; Shanghai Brewery, which also has two locations, and Dr Beer. "Both cities are massive and we're all capable of playing together in the same sandbox and having our own piece of the pie," Jordan said. "In the end, we need to work together to educate people about flavorful beer and promote our little industry as one solid unit." Lending support to the movement's solidarity, Hops Magazine - the only publication in China dedicated exclusively to beer - was established two years ago, and China's first do-it-yourself guide for home brewers, Get Your Own Brew, was published by Nanjing-based microbrewer Gao Yan in 2011. Mike Sherretz was the first person in China to establish a full-fledged homebrew supply store, based in Shanghai. "Beer is a challenge to source and make in China," Sherretz said. "The Chinese system does not tell you what you can do or how to do things, like importing goods. It only tells you what you can't do; and these [rules] are changing all the time." Sherretz said sourcing ingredients and supplies is a hassle because China's ever-changing policies and rules make everything open to interpretation. For instance, some items are easily imported to some ports, but not allowed at others. Several licenses are required to import brewing supplies, and many are only good for one shipment or six months. Sherretz said the quality and reliability of purchasing supplies off - China's equivalent to - remains questionable. Fakes still abound, he said, although the government is cracking down. "There is a maze of rules and obstacles to work around," Sherretz said. "China has a different way of doing things and many times it is not at all transparent." The rules - Under current law, bottled beer produced in China won't meet quality-control standards for distribution if it tests positive for yeast or any other microbiologicals. Bottled beer must be filtered and/or pasteurized, stripping it of yeast, which destabilizes or removes flavors the brewer intended for the finished beer. Kegged beer isn't held to the same standard. Any licensed restaurant or microbrewery can produce beer on site , and some licenses allow brewing off-site for distribution to other outlets run by a business. "Finding a way to coexist and remain honest with high integrity remains a challenge," Wickham said. Another area that concerns Sherretz is home brewers who choose to supply restaurants and bars with their products without following food-safety regulations. "I am worried these mavericks will cause the government to get involved and destroy the whole home-brewing scene," Sherretz said. "I see this as 'going commercial,' and thus they should follow the regulations that commercial food producers have to follow." Over-saturating the market with low-quality products that misrepresent and mis-educate new consumers about the art of hand-crafted beer also concerns Lee Tseng, Boxing Cat's managing partner and co-founder. Tseng also said he would like importers to push the quality of the craft-beer brands they carry to help the industry move forward. US craft-beer exports hit a record high in 2010 of $546,000 and overall sales quintupled in five years from $91,000 in 2005, according to the US Department of Agriculture. Figures aren't yet available for China's craft-brew industry production and sales. "Growing the Chinese market is our first and foremost responsibility at this point," Setzer said. "We have plans to export our beer to the US in the future, but only after we have left our mark in China." After facing a number of obstacles, including the shutting down of his three-year-old Oktoberfest Brewery, Gao Yan, the home brewing how-to author and founder of Nanjing Craft Brewing Co, is ready to bottle his craft beer. Gao said China's fledgling craft-brewing community began to suffer in 2008 after the government tightened food-safety standards and required all breweries to adhere to strict structure and management codes. By 2010, the government had banned new breweries with production capacities under 50,000 tons, which eventually affected the Oktoberfest Brewery in 2011. Nevertheless, Gao picked his business right back up. "We are aiming at the global market, hoping to launch the first China brewed craft beer in the world market," Gao said. "From package designs to taste designs, I insist the beer to be Chinese." Over the years, Gao has developed many beer styles using local ingredients, such as jasmine flower, oolong tea, sweet yam, Chinese dates and Tibetan barley. Now Gao is launching the first bottled craft beer in China with a 230-hectoliter (196 barrels) batch of his pilot product, the Baby IPA, under the brand name "Master Gao". He is using a contracted brewery, the Qingdao Qingli Beer Co, to help his business pass China regulations without losing its quality values. Gao also has signed up distributors in nine major Chinese cities: Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Qingdao, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Xi'an, Tianjin and Zhengzhou. 'Still looking' "Gao's announcement of the distribution of his Baby IPA is a positive step towards progress for all craft breweries in China," Setzer said. In addition to offering his craft beer through distribution, Gao plans to open five microbreweries this year, starting in Zhengzhou and followed by Xi'an, Nanjing, Shenzhen and Beijing. Gao also is building a new website,, to further encourage the home-brewing and craft-beer revolution in China. The website will serve as a platform for craft brewers and beer lovers in China to communicate regularly. "It is an amazing opportunity to be at the forefront of a craft beer revolution," said The Brew's Mickelson. "To see this [movement] expand rapidly while playing a key part in it is going to be extremely rewarding." Nevertheless, China's craft-beer revolution still has a long way to go. That may be exemplified by the supplementary note that Oakley and Williams added on April 12 to their help-wanted ad posted in February: "Were [sic] Are Still Looking." 

Nixon's grandson retraces historic week (By Chris Davis in New York) Then-US President Richard Nixon shares a toast with Premier Zhou Enlai in February 1972 in Beijing during Nixon's official visit to China. Sandy Quinn, president of the Richard Nixon Foundation, speaks about the upcoming trip to China, on April 24, in Los Angeles. Then-US president's 1972 visit to China broke down wall between '2 great peoples' A delegation of 40 dignitaries from the United States led by a grandson of Richard Nixon arrived in Beijing on Thursday to retrace the 37th US president's 1972 visit to China. Nixon's visit, a diplomatic breakthrough that ended 25 years of mutual silence, cleared the way for the establishment of formal ties between the US and the People's Republic of China. Four decades later, the 10-day "Nixon Centennial Legacy Journey" will feature visits to the same venues in Beijing, Hangzhou and Shanghai that Nixon and his entourage toured. One stop will be the site of the meetings that produced the Shanghai Communique, a joint announcement that it was in the interest of all nations for China and the US to normalize relations and establish economic and cultural ties. To kick off the commemorative tour, China's consul-general in Los Angeles, Qiu Shaofang, hosted a reception at his official residence. "We cannot think of a better way to celebrate the centennial of president Nixon," Qiu said. "Richard Nixon's visit changed the course of history." Nixon was born in 1913 and died in 1994. "Nixon wanted to bring China into the brotherhood of nations," said Sandy Quinn, president of the Richard Nixon Foundation, in the former president's birthplace of Yorba Linda, California. "When you look at what has occurred, the advances in every way, it's amazing." Christopher Nixon Cox, 34, son of the president's older daughter, Tricia, and her husband, Edward Cox, described the trip as a tribute to Nixon a century after his birth. "With this visit, the United States and China come together to honor my grandfather on his 100th birthday and celebrate another generation of friendship between our two nations," said Cox, an investment banker with OC Global Partners in New York. The first batch of the delegation touched down on Thursday morning at Beijing Capital International Airport, the same place where Nixon stepped off Air Force One on Feb 21, 1972, and shook hands with then-premier Zhou Enlai. The airport, now one of the world's largest, was little more than an airstrip 41 years ago. The group will visit the Forbidden City and Tian'anmen Square, and attend a welcome banquet on Friday hosted by State Councilor Yang Jiechi, a former foreign minister, in the Great Hall of the People, where then-president Nixon and first lady Pat Nixon were guests at a state dinner in 1972. In the following days, the group will retrace Nixon's walking route along the Great Wall and see giant pandas at Beijing Zoo. During the 1972 visit, Pat Nixon was so taken with the pandas that Zhou promised to lend Ling-Ling and Xing-Xing to the National Zoo in Washington. The pair arrived two months later. Next stop for the delegation will be Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang province, and a visit to the Six Harmonies Pagoda. That will be followed by a banquet at the Hangzhou State Guesthouse, where Nixon wrote the first draft of what would become the Shanghai Communique. From there it's a ride on the bullet train to ultra-modern Shanghai, with visits to the old parts of the city that Nixon visited as well as a tour of the World Financial Center, the world's fourth-tallest building. This will be capped by a sunset cruise down the Yangtze River. Other notable figures in Cox's group include KT McFarland, a Fox News national security analyst and former aide to Henry Kissinger; Colonel Jack Brennan, a former Marine Corps aide who accompanied Nixon to China in 1972; Robert "Bud" McFarlane, who was Ronald Reagan's national security adviser, and Marjorie Acker, who worked as a secretary for Nixon when he was a senator, vice-president and president. The tour is co-sponsored by the Richard Nixon Foundation and the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries. The association's president, Li Xiaolin, is the daughter of Li Xiannian, who, before serving as China's president during the 1980s, was among the high-level officials who greeted Nixon in 1972. In a statement, the Nixon Foundation called the current tour "a rare and special arrangement made exclusively for the VIP delegation". Upon his departure, Cox said he was "eagerly looking forward" to retracing his grandfather's footsteps. "His vision in opening the door to China, of breaking down the wall that had separated two great peoples from one another, inaugurated a new era of mutual respect and cooperation that not only endures but also continues to strengthen and mature," said Cox, who was born in 1979, the year China-US relations were formalized. "By reliving the week that truly did change the world, we are commemorating one of the most seminal events of the 20th century," he added. "What's more, we are strengthening the bonds of friendship that President Nixon and Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou first forged more than 40 years ago. I know that the spirit of both my grandfather and my grandmother, who shared with the Chinese people the same gracious warmth she extended to the people of more than 75 countries throughout her public life, will be with us," he said. Pat Nixon died in 1993, a year before her husband. It was Richard Nixon himself who, at a farewell dinner in Beijing on Feb 28, 1972, called the visit "the week that changed the world". Its significance continues to reverberate today, with the expression "Nixon goes to China" becoming shorthand for a bold, unexpected political move. Werner Escher, head of domestic and international markets for South Coast Plaza, an upscale shopping mall in Orange County, California, is part of Cox's delegation. He said his company worked with the Nixon Foundation to host a reunion of Chinese and US table tennis players years after their historic "ping-pong diplomacy" matches in China in 1971. "Friendship between China and the US is further served on this occasion by not only tracing the steps of president Nixon's 1972 visit but by providing additional opportunities to know the people of China and for South Coast Plaza to enjoy another of its many China visitations," Escher said.

Obama cabinet picks have China links (By Joseph Boris in New York Two newly nominated members of US President Barack Obama's economic team have ties to international business including in China, which could help strengthen bilateral relations, experts say. In nominating Penny Pritzker as commerce secretary and Mike Froman to be US trade representative, Obama said on Thursday that his priority was jump-starting the country's trade agenda. Pritzker is a Chicago billionaire who serves on the board of Hyatt Hotels Corp, which her family founded, and is a major donor to the Democratic Party. Froman, who will be Washington's top trade negotiator, currently serves in the White House as deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs. "Both Froman and Pritzker are pragmatists who can drive a hard bargain but recognize the value of maintaining good working relationships with major business and economic partners," said Eswar Prasad, a Cornell University professor and former China desk chief at the International Monetary Fund. "Mike Froman's engagement on China-related matters from his perch at the White House and Penny Pritzker's business background both portend well for a constructive economic engagement with China on economic and trade issues," Prasad said. Obama, at a White House announcement attended by both nominees, said Pritzker and Froman will be tasked with carrying out his administration's initiative to increase US exports, mainly by negotiating two major trade-and-investment agreements - the Trans-Pacific Partnership, to which China hasn't been invited; and a pact with the European Union. The nominations, which are subject to confirmation by the US Senate, were welcomed by business groups with an interest in promoting greater trade with China. "If confirmed, it will be important for Pritzker and Forman to work with American businesses to prioritize the real challenges facing the US-China commercial relationship: addressing market-access restrictions, lowering bilateral investment barriers, improving intellectual-property-rights protection and leveling the playing field for American companies that do business with China," John Frisbie, president of the US-China Business Council, said in a statement. "It is essential that the US government have leaders in place who understand the importance of trade, foreign direct investment, and strong commercial relations with China," said Frisbie, whose Washington-based organization represents some 200 American companies doing business in the world's second-biggest economy. The Business Council last week released data showing that China in 2012 remained the No 3 destination for US exports, behind Canada and Mexico, with almost $109 billion in goods purchased. Although the pace of China's economic growth slowed last year, the value of US imports to the country increased 6.5 percent, or $6.6 billion, helping boost the American economy and create jobs, the USCBC said. On Thursday, the Commerce Department reported that the US trade deficit narrowed 11 percent in March to $38.8 billion, including a $17.9 billion gap with China that was the lowest in three years. The reduction from February's $43.6 billion was due to a decline in imports from several countries, particularly China, and could help boost the US economic recovery as American companies earn more from exports while consumers spend less on imported goods. Pritzker's success in the real estate, finance and hospitality industries has earned her credibility among fellow executives, and Obama on Thursday praised her as "one of our country's most distinguished business leaders". Froman, known for skill in trade negotiations and knowledge of international commerce, was lauded by the president as "one of the world's foremost experts on our global economy". Both are close associates of Obama and, if confirmed by the Senate, would be the first permanent heads of their respective agencies in months. John Bryson resigned as the Commerce Department's chief last summer after suffering a seizure that led to two car crashes in California. Ron Kirk resigned as US trade representative in March. Pritzker is the daughter of a co-founder of Chicago-based Hyatt, a chain of hotels including some in China, now CEO of investment firm PSP Capital Partners and its real estate affiliate, Pritzker Realty Group. A net worth of $1.85 billion puts her 277th among the 400 wealthiest Americans, according to Forbes magazine, and No 825 in the world. Pritzker was national finance chairwoman of Obama's 2008 presidential campaign but played a less prominent role in his re-election bid four years later, serving as co-chair. After the 2008 election, Pritzker was seen as a front-runner to be commerce secretary but withdrew from consideration, a move that news reports said was due to possible controversy over her wealth and business relationships. American labor unions have criticized Pritzker and Hyatt Hotels for allegedly allowing worker-safety violations. Pritzker was called "an anti-labor, anti-worker kind of boss" by the Chicago teachers union during her tenure on the city school board, which ended in March. Froman attended Harvard Law School with Obama, and since the administration began in 2009 he has been the president's top adviser on the global economy. He was the main White House negotiator in reaching trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. His portfolio has also included Africa, energy, international finance and climate change. One of Froman's major duties will be spearheading talks to establish both the US-EU Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP. Talks for the latter are aimed at transforming trade in the Asia-Pacific region, though without the participation of China. The 11 countries, including the US, now negotiating the TPP have said they intend to conclude their talks this year. Their next round is scheduled for mid-May in Peru, when the parties are expected to consider Japan's request to join - a move the US has endorsed but that could complicate any possibility of Chinese involvement. Officials in Beijing have criticized the TPP, along with the US strategic rebalancing in the region (the "Asia pivot") as efforts to contain China economically and geopolitically. Still, the US-China relationship would be well served by Obama's new appointments, Cornell's Prasad believes. "The Obama administration has built an economic team that is likely to approach engagement with China and other international partners in a constructive and pragmatic manner, rather than being driven by short-term political or ideological considerations," he said. In between government jobs - he served in the Treasury Department during Bill Clinton's presidency - Froman was an executive with Citigroup Inc, where he helped the financial giant's international insurance business explore expansion into China and other Asian markets. Pritzker, as a board member at Hyatt Hotels, has a say in the chain's operations abroad. The company has operated hotels in China since the 1970s and in April announced plans for a 324-room Grand Hyatt hotel in Changsha, capital of central China's Hunan province, through a management agreement with Huayuan Property Co.

China claims top spot in global PC market (By Gao Yuan) China became the world's largest personal computer market for the first time on an annual basis last year amid weaker global demand, a research firm said, adding that the nation is likely to retain the position in the coming years. The nation's PC shipments in 2012 hit 69 million units, surpassing the United States, which had annual shipments of 66 million, according to IHS iSuppli. China's PC market is projected to grow 3 to 4 percent this year, it added. The Chinese PC market has "distinct characteristics" compared with other countries as the country's rural market has great potential to fuel sales in the desktop PC segment, said Peter Lin, senior analyst for computer platforms at IHS. While desktop PC shipments lagged notebook shipments around the world, each of the segments accounted for 50 percent of the sales in the Chinese market last year. "The equal share of shipments for desktops and notebooks in China is unusual because consumers in most regions tend to prefer more agile mobile PCs, rather than the bulky, stationary desktops," Lin said. The relatively large percentage of desktop PC shipments in China is because of huge demand in the country's rural areas. These consumers tend to prefer desktop PCs, said Lin. Earlier this year, the government announced plans to boost infrastructure construction in rural areas over the next decade. The initiative, with a total investment estimated at 40 trillion yuan ($6.5 trillion), is expected to lift personal incomes in rural areas. According to Lin, the PC market will benefit from the massive investment plan, but shipments of desktops will not surpass those of notebooks until 2014. In addition, China's commercial market was able to drive about half of the PC shipments, IHS said. Like in the rest of the world, PC demand in China remains sluggish as consumers migrate to mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. Global PC shipments totaled 76.3 million units in the first quarter, a decline of nearly 14 percent year-on-year, industry consultancy IDC said in April. The extent of the contraction marked the worst quarter since the company began to release the quarterly PC shipments figure in 1994. The result also marked the fourth consecutive quarter of year-on-year shipment declines, it said. Gartner Inc, a US-based research firm, said that the worldwide traditional PC market is expected to decline 7.6 percent in 2013 because customers are starting to spend more time on mobile devices. "As consumers shift their time away from their PC to tablets and smartphones, they will no longer see their PC as a device that they need to replace on a regular basis," said Carolina Milanesi, research vice-president of Gartner. This is a reflection of a long-term change in user behavior rather than a temporary trend induced by the austere economic environment, said Gartner. Hit by sluggish worldwide PC demand, global manufacturers are vigorously looking for future business models for the post-PC era. The world's No 1 PC vendor, Hewlett-Packard Co, is betting on its enterprise software service sector to keep its head above water. The company's worldwide shipments dived more than 23 percent year-on-year in the first quarter, IDC said in April. Lenovo Group Ltd, China's top PC maker and the world's second largest, said it's shifting the focus to mobile devices although PCs remain the biggest profit generator for the company. Dell Inc, the third-largest vendor by shipments, also said it will beef up its software arm after Michael Dell, its founder, said he will take the company private. "The industry is going through a critical crossroads, and strategic choices will have to be made as to how to compete with the proliferation of alternative devices and remain relevant to the consumer," said David Daoud, research director at IDC's personal computing department. "Vendors will have to revisit their organizational structures and market strategies, as well as their supply chain, distribution, and product portfolios in the face of shrinking demand and looming consolidation," he said.

Hong Kong*:  May 4 2013

Rubber duck sails Hong Kong (By China Daily) A traditional Chinese tourist junk sails past Rubber Duck by Dutch conceptual artist Florentijn Hofman at Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour May 2, 2013. Rubber Duck by Dutch conceptual artist Florentijn Hofman floats at Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour, with the island skyline looms at the background May 2, 2013. The 16.5-meter-high inflatable sculpture, which made its first public appearance in the territory on Thursday, will be shown at the Ocean Terminal for a month. Rubber Duck, created by Dutch conceptual artist Florentijn Hofman, makes its debut at Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong on Thursday morning. It will be floating in the waters of Ocean Terminal in Harbour City for the public to view, visiting until June 9. Harbour city, which cooperated with Hong Kong-based creative studio sent the invitation for Florentijn Hofman’s second largest Rubber Duck – a 16.5 meters, 6 stories high inflatable art piece – to travel to Hong Kong. It is the first time that Rubber Duck has appeared in China and it can also be regarded as the first floating exhibition in Hong Kong. Besides this Hong Kong trip, Rubber Duck has swum in 12 cities in 10 countries – including London, Sydney, Osaka and Auckland –since 2007. Taking a shower with a yellow plastic duck is one of the few childhood memories that adults can enjoy without the boundaries of age or race. This lovely rounded yellow duck resembles a bath toy, and will help people regain a childlike innocence. For Florentijn Hofman, Rubber Duck has cleaning and healing properties too. “Rubber Duck knows no frontiers; it doesn’t discriminate and doesn’t have any political connotations,” he said. 

 China*:  May 4 2013

China Red Cross admits it redirected huge donation (By Mimi Lau in Guangzhou Diversion of artists' 85m yuan gift again raises doubts about troubled organisation's integrity - Students distribute Red Cross stickers in Shanghai. The scandal-plagued Red Cross Society of China has admitted that more than 80 million yuan donated (HK$100 million) by more than 100 Chinese artists to build an art school and fund other reconstruction work after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake was spent on other projects. But the mainland's largest charitable organisation, which is closely associated with the government, denied it had "misappropriated funds", insisting the donations "were not used as intended but largely in line with donors' wishes". They think they have the right to direct funding as long as it's not been misused. A number of artists have asked questions about the whereabouts of the 84.7 million yuan since Saturday. The money was raised at a charity auction of paintings five years ago and was supposed to be spent on projects in Qingchengshan, an important early site of Taoism that was extensively damaged in the quake. Five million yuan was earmarked for an art school in the city, but it was not built and the society had never explained where the money went. The artists' queries have once again raised questions over the society's integrity and prompted the organisation to release an online statement on Tuesday saying the donation had been redirected to building " Bo Ai [Universal Love] Family" projects in about 240 communities including 148 in Sichuan and the remainder in Shanxi , Gansu , Ningxia and Chongqing . The projects are meant to foster community development "in terms of disaster prevention, health and livelihood improvement and promoting humanitarianism". It said the decision was based on the "post-disaster construction trend and the actual needs of quake-zone residents". Each project received an average of 350,000 yuan to spend on construction and "livelihood development" programmes, while the rest was spent on other services, organisational development and campaign expenses. The society apologised for its "inadequate communication and service to donors". It said: "[We] apologise to our donors and shall improve our work in future." The lack of transparency and accountability in Sichuan reconstruction projects has triggered a flood of mainland criticism, and sparked debate in Hong Kong about whether the city should donate to the Sichuan provincial government to aid survivors of last month's smaller quake. Tsinghua University professor Jia Xijin , an NGO studies specialist, said the statement was insufficient because it showed the organisation had betrayed donors' wishes by redirecting donations, which could be labelled "misappropriation". "The Red Cross Society of China must strictly respect and honour the wishes of donors, especially when it involves such a large donation for a clearly designated purpose," Jia said. "They think they have the right to direct funding as long as it's not been misused corruptly, but this is a gross misunderstanding of charitable donations." Last week the Red Cross Society of China received 570 million yuan of the just over one billion yuan donated to help survivors of the April 20 quake centred on Lushan county, with the rest split among 115 other charity groups.

China launches communications satellite (By Xinhua) "Zhongxing-11", a communications satellite, is launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Southwest China's Sichuan province on Thursday. China launched a communications satellite, "Zhongxing-11", at 0:06 am Thursday (Beijing time) from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Southwest China's Sichuan province. "Zhongxing-11" will be mainly used in providing commercial communications services for users in the Asia-Pacific region, according to a statement from the center. The satellite was sent by a Long March-3B rocket into the preset orbit, the statement said. It marked the 176th launch of China's Long March series of rockets.

Chinese companies increase stake in US (By Chen Weihua in Washington) China's direct investment in the United States showed strong momentum in the first three months of this year despite a weak fourth quarter of 2012 and the negative impact of "national security" concerns on some deals. During the first quarter, Chinese companies concluded eight mergers or acquisitions and nine greenfield investments - those involving construction of factories or offices - worth a total of $2.2 billion, according to a report released on Tuesday by Rhodium Group, a New York firm that tracks Chinese investment in the US. M&A highlights were the acquisition by China National Offshore Oil Corp, or CNOOC, of the US drilling operations of Canada's Nexen Inc; auto-parts company Wanxiang Group's successful $257 million bankruptcy-auction bid for electric-battery maker A123 Systems Inc; BGI-Shenzhen's purchase of California-based Complete Genomics Inc; Hanergy Holding Group's purchase of solar technology company MiaSole; and Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Co's stake purchase in Saladax Biomedical Inc. Greenfield deals included a power-generator manufacturing factory in Virginia planned by Shenzhen Superwatt Power International Co, a joint venture involving developer China Vanke Co on a San Francisco condominium project and offices in Silicon Valley for search engine giant Baidu Inc. "Those deals underscore that high-tech manufacturing and modern services are emerging as mission-critical for Chinese investors as their fast-changing home economy matures," said Thilo Hanemann, Rhodium's research director. Chinese acquisitions in the US now under discussion or awaiting regulatory approval have a total value of over $10 billion, the highest ever for the category, according to Rhodium's report. It also found that privately held Chinese companies have increased their investment in the US. Over the past 15 months, they spent more on US deals than in the previous 11 years combined. State-owned enterprises, or SOEs, have long dominated investment by China in the US, but private companies accounted for 80 percent of deals and 50 percent of deal value from January 2012 through March of this year. Hanemann attributed the reduced SOE involvement to changes in the Chinese leadership, a related shuffling of management at major State companies and private companies' growing interest in medium- to large-scale deals. According to the report, US subsidiaries of Chinese companies employed an estimated 32,000 people at the end of the first quarter, 2,000 more than were employed during last year's fourth quarter. That period, much like the fourth quarter of 2011, was slow. Chinese companies closed only eight deals worth $178 million between October and December. Overall, though, 2012 was a record year for Chinese direct investment in the US, totaling $6.5 billion. National security remains a dominant topic in the US-China investment relationship, the report said. A US judge has yet to rule in a lawsuit by Chinese-controlled Ralls Corp challenging US President Barack Obama's nullification in September of a deal for Oregon wind farms located near a US Navy weapons-testing facility. The recent quarter also was marked by controversy generated from a US cyber security firm's claims of hacking by a Shanghai-based military unit. The Chinese government has denied the allegations. Cui Tiankai, China's new ambassador in Washington, expressed concern over barriers to Chinese investment in the US. He said he hasn't been persuaded by US regulators' stated reasons for rejecting some deals. "I'm afraid that will affect investors' confidence," Cui told the Committee of 100, a Chinese American group, last week. "That will, in the long term, turn away some important investors." The Economist Intelligence Unit recently projected a 50 percent jump in such investment, to $172 billion in 2017 from $115 billion last year. Cui said the US has historically been a strong advocate of liberalized trade and investment and pressured China to adopt such policies. "But today it seems that it has been the banner of China. What has been preached to us is not always practised," Cui said, hinting at recent actions that Beijing regards as US protectionism. There is a misperception that Chinese investment in the US is unwelcome, said Viking Weiqiong Tao, a lawyer with Dallas-based firm Kane Russell Coleman & Logan. She cited the Ralls wind-farm case and an October 2012 congressional report accusing Chinese telecommunications-gear makers Huawei Technologies Co and ZTE Corp of posing a national security threat to the US.

US told to be careful in Diaoyu dispute (By Li Xiaokun and Pu Zhendong) Ambassador warns Washington not to 'drop rock on its own feet' Responding to remarks by the US defense secretary about the Diaoyu Islands earlier this week, China's ambassador to the US warned Washington not to "lift the rock off Japan only to let it drop on its own feet". Cui Tiankai's remarks on Tuesday came one day after Russia blasted Japan's hawkish stance on territorial issues while Shinzo Abe was on a state visit to Moscow, the first by a Japanese prime minister to Russia in a decade. Chinese analysts said the ambassador's remarks serve as a reminder to Washington and Tokyo that although China and Japan have achieved a subtle balance in their confrontation over the Diaoyu Islands, a crisis can easily be triggered. At a news briefing at the Pentagon on Monday with visiting Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the two discussed tensions around the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea. "In our discussion today, I reiterated the principles that govern long-standing US policy on the Senkaku Islands," Hagel said, using Japan's name for the islands. "The United States does not take a position on the ultimate sovereignty of the islands, but we do recognize they are under the administration of Japan and fall under our security treaty obligations. "The United States opposes any unilateral or coercive action that seeks to undermine Japan's administrative control, a message General (Martin) Dempsey conveyed to his counterparts last week in Beijing," he said, referring to the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. Cui, who recently assumed the post of ambassador in Washington, said in an interview with Washington-based Chinese media that "it is the Japanese side that has triggered and escalated tensions on the Diaoyu Islands, and it's also Japan that undertook unilateral or coercive action." Ties between Beijing and Tokyo have become strained since the Japanese government illegally "nationalized" the Diaoyu Islands in September. Cui added that what Hagel told reporters about the conversation Dempsey had in Beijing did not match the facts. "The Chinese side . . . unequivocally stated its stance. The US side should have been debriefed about the meetings and known the real situation," Cui said. Zhang Tuosheng, a researcher at the China Foundation for International and Strategic Studies, said China's regular patrols around the Diaoyu Islands since Japan "nationalized" some of the islands have broken Japanese control there and created a fresh yet subtle balance. However, if Japanese rightist groups keep irritating China by moves including going onto the islands, China will respond and a crisis can easily flare up. Both the US and Japan will not want that, he said. "China has never recognized Japan's sovereignty or administrative right over the Diaoyu Islands. And the Chinese side has repeatedly stated this to the US," Cui said. He expressed hope that Washington will avoid sacrificing its long-term benefits for immediate short-term needs on the issue of the Diaoyu Islands. Jia Xiudong, a senior researcher at the China Institute of International Studies, said Cui made a "very straightforward" statement that Washington can easily understand. "The pivot of the ties is how Washington handles sensitive issues such as the Diaoyu Islands and Taiwan. The direction of China-US ties depends on whether the US wants to convey positive energy or just look to make trouble and contain China." The ambassador also commented on the April 23 visit by 168 Japanese lawmakers to the Yasukuni Shrine, where Japan's war dead are buried, including 14 Class-A war criminals of World War II. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the same day questioned the description of Japanese "aggression" in the war, saying the term is vague and subject to interpretation by different sides. "Aggression is aggression. It's not an empty concept, but an anti-human crime as defined by the UN Charter," Cui stressed. Jin Canrong, a professor of US studies at Renmin University in Beijing, said Abe has repeatedly played the historic issue card. "So far there is no sign of Japan easing its stance. Abe's priority will be the upper house elections in July, and the nationalist card is the one most often used in the elections." "But I think after July he will gradually realize the disappointing effect of the right-wing policies." One day earlier in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin showed his toughness at a press conference with Abe on Monday, when he was irritated by a Japanese reporter condemning Russia building power stations on islands over which the two countries have competing claims. "If you want to make trouble and continue to raise tough questions, then you will certainly get a direct and tough answer." "There are Russian citizens living on the islands, and our duty is to take care of their benefits," he said, then ended the press conference.

Hong Kong*:  May 3 2013

Hong Kong seizes 113 smuggled ivory tusks worth HK$3m (By Agence France-Presse) A seizure of ivory tusks in Hong Kong in January. Hong Kong customs officers have seized 113 ivory tusks worth about HK$3 million on the Chinese ivory market, officials said on Wednesday. The smuggled ivory was seized at the airport on Tuesday in a container marked “spare parts” from Burundi which was bound for Singapore, said an official statement. The total seizure, weighing 300kg, was worth an estimated HK$3 million. “Upon X-ray image analysis, the consignment was detected to contain ivory tusks instead of spare parts,” the statement said. Customs officers made the city’s largest ivory seizure in October when they intercepted almost four tonnes worth about US$3.4 million, hidden in shipments from Kenya and Tanzania. In January, customs officers intercepted another container from Kenya carrying 779 pieces of ivory tusk weighing 1.3 tonnes. Anyone found guilty of importing ivory into Hong Kong faces up to two years in jail and a maximum HK$5 million fine. Even so, the city remains a major trading centre for processed ivory goods such as carvings and jewellery. The international trade in elephant ivory, with rare exceptions, has been outlawed since 1989 after elephant populations in Africa dropped rapidly from millions in the mid-20th century to about 600,000 by the end of the 1980s. However, a rise in the illegal trade in ivory has been fuelled by demand in Asia and the Middle East, where elephant tusks are used in traditional medicines and to make ornaments. Africa is home to an estimated 472,000 elephants whose survival is threatened by poaching, illegal game hunting and habitat loss.

HK$172m donated to Yaan earthquake relief, says Hong Kong liaison office (By Amy Li) Lushan middle school was left in ruins after the quake. The school was sponsored by the Hong Kong government. About HK$172 million from Hong Kong corporations and individuals had been donated to Yaan earthquake relief efforts in Sichuan province, according to the central government's liaison office. The figure comes as party mouthpiece People's Daily said a majority of Hongkongers were in favour of funneling HK$100 million of public funds into relief efforts. The donation, proposed by Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, was delayed last week amid concerns that it could be misused by corrupt mainland officials. Thousands of South China Morning Post readers have voted "no" to the proposal in an informal poll, but state media said Hongkongers were still willing to help their fellow countrymen in need. A story by the China News Service said HK$172 million had been donated to earthquake relief by corporations and individuals in Hong Kong, citing the liaison office in Hong Kong. Scholar and poet Jao Tsung-I was among them, said the report. While still grieving for his wife who recently died, Jao gave HK$500,000 to the quake cause. An anonymous Hong Kong man in his 80s, arriving to the liaison office via tram, handed over a HK$5 million check, said the report. About 10,000 cans of milk formula have also been donated, said the report.

 China*:  May 3 2013

SCMP Exclusive: General Motors pulls 'racist' Chevrolet ad over 'ching-ching, chop suey' song (By Ian Young in Vancouver, Canada Car giant 'received some negative feedback' - A still from the Chevrolet ad. Automobile giant General Motors is pulling from worldwide markets an advertisement whose jingle refers to China as “the land of Fu Manchu”, where people say “ching-ching, chop suey”. The television spot for the Chevrolet Trax SUV, which had been running in Canada since early April and was posted to Chevrolet’s European website, disappeared from Canadian TV screens about a week ago, and was replaced with a new edit of the ad without lyrics. In response to queries from the South China Morning Post, GM Canada communications director Faye Roberts said the commercial “received some negative feedback regarding the lyrics in the commercial's soundtrack”. “Once the issue was called to our attention, GM immediately removed the offensive content from the commercial,” she said by e-mail on Tuesday. “As the goal of advertising is to engage an audience and draw their attention to a featured product and it is never our intention to offend the audience, we made a decision to edit the advertisement.” Videos including the lyrics can no longer be found on websites devoted to any of Chevrolet’s English-language markets. However they were still visible on Wednesday morning on Chevrolet Europe’s website and the Chevrolet Quebec YouTube channel, as well as elsewhere on the internet. After receiving the SCMP’s questions, Roberts said the ad would be removed from all Chevrolet sites worldwide. Chevrolet parent GM had previously made no public comment about the advertisement. The retro-styled TV advert, titled “After Midnight”, features the toe-tapping song Booty Swing by Austrian “electroswing” musician Parov Stelar. The lyrics on the offending advertisement go:

Now, in the land of Fu Manchu,
The girls all now do the Suzie-Q,
Clap their hands in the centre of the floor
Saying ‘ching-ching, chop suey, swing some more’

Booty Swing is based on Oriental Swing, recorded by Lil Armstrong and her Swing Orchestra in 1938. That song’s lyrics also refer to Arab sheiks in their harems, and Japanese geisha girls who want to “swing it like Amelicans”. The incident comes at a sensitive time for Chevrolet, which is rolling out the Trax around the world this year after its launch at the 2012 Paris Motor Show. It is Chevrolet’s first compact SUV. China is a key market for GM, where it sold more than 2.8 million vehicles last year and where it has 55,000 employees. Automobile websites reported last October that GM had applied for patents for the Trax in China, but Roberts said there were no plans to launch the Trax there. The Trax hit roads in South Korea, where it is being manufactured, in February. It is arriving in Europe and Canada this spring, then Australia. However, the Trax will not be sold in the US, where it would have competed with existing mid-sized GM models. Before the original ad disappeared from Canadian screens, it had been released in multiple versions in Europe. The UK version muffled the “Fu Manchu” lyrics while the Italian version, for instance, did not. Roberts said that to her knowledge the offending version had not hit TV screens outside Canada. Roberts said after the incident: “As a company, we are reviewing our approval processes for advertising to ensure that it is appropriate for airing in multiple, global markets.” “Fu Manchu” is a stereotypical Chinese villain, the embodiment of the “yellow peril”, who has been described as one of the most racist characters in literature and cinema. The character was created by British author Sax Rohmer who wrote a series of novels based on the depraved master criminal, beginning with 1913’s The Mystery of Dr Fu Manchu. The 1932 film The Mask of Fu Manchu features the villain, played by Boris Karloff in slant-eyed “yellow face” make-up, telling his followers to “kill the white men and take their women”. Most recently, the character was played for laughs by Peter Sellers in 1980 in The Fiendish Plot of Dr Fu Manchu. The films are rarely screened on television because of concern about their racist content. However, the Fu Manchu character has inspired a host of similar Asian villains, including Ming the Merciless from the Flash Gordon comics, James Bond’s nemesis Dr No, and The Mandarin of Marvel Comics. GM’s brands include Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and Opel, as well as the Chinese badges Wuling, Jiefang and Baojun. It says it has been the leading global automaker in China, by sales volume, for eight consecutive years.

Sanya's duty-free shop attracts customers during May Day holiday - Tourists select goods at a duty-free shop in Sanya, a famous tourist destination in south China's Hainan Province, May 1, 2013.

Charity backs underprivileged students in Yunnan province (By Hu Haidan in New York Members of the United Moms Charity Association visit orphans in Yunnan province who are supported by the New Jersey-based organization founded in 1992. Chunhwa Chang was recently recovering from eye surgery, but that didn't stop her from planning a trip to China's Yunnan province later this year. The founder and president of the United Moms Charity Association said she can't wait to see the high-school students her organization has helped over the years. She has had that experience on visits to China dating back to 1992. Although Chang is unable to travel to China right now, others in the charitable group are visiting the southwestern Chinese province to donate money and facilities for poor students. Two weeks ago, United Moms donated 1.27 million yuan ($210,000) to the provincial government in Yunnan to help poor students and make improvements to their schools. Organization members also gave 225,000 yuan in Dali prefecture to help 300 students. "Families are struggling to pay tuition for their kids. Don't event mention the money for lunch at school," Chang said. She founded United Moms 21 years ago as a New Jersey-based nonprofit charity. Most of the money it raises comes from families and organizations in the US, especially among the Chinese-American community. Since its founding, the organization has donated about $3.6 million to various Chinese provinces including Hebei, Xinjiang, Hubei, Sichuan and now Yunnan. In 1998, after six years of research and preparation, Chang decided to focus United Moms' energies on Yunnan province. The mountainous area has the second-largest number of ethnic minority groups among Chinese provinces. Chang said Yunnan has been hit by natural disasters such as landslides, drought, earthquakes and floods, adding to the burden of rural families. Some have had to take their children out of school due to financial hardship. The charity's priority used to be helping students from elementary schools to universities. Since 2012 it has concentrated its work on those in high school. Chang has traveled to Yunnan annually since 1998, spending about six months there to do research, visit students and their families, and meet with local government officials. She learned that the central government will pay tuition for a student's compulsory education, from elementary school through middle school (the equivalent of first through ninth grades in the US). For children of relatively poor families, the government also pays for the student's lunch at school. Students in the equivalent of 10th through 12th grades, however, aren't eligible due to limited public funds for education. "All the money UMCA received is from personal donations," Chang said. "We want to use the money for the neediest students." She said that unlike many Chinese organizations that seek to improve students' grades, United Moms believes it's just as important to encourage students to treat others well and to give back to society. During one trip to Yunnan, Chang spoke to an academically outstanding student whom her organization supported. "I told him that he had to be polite to his teachers and classmates. I even told him that if he refused to help his classmates, I would end his finical support." Visiting the same school a year later, Chang was told by teachers that the star student had become kinder and more helpful, while maintaining his top grades. That student wrote Chang a letter during his second year at university. "He told me he hated me at the very beginning; he didn't want to help others," she said. "But he had to do it, as he was afraid of losing financial support. "He said he eventually realized that while helping others he was also making personal progress. He grasps that even more now and has made lots of friends."

Ambassador takes issue with US remarks on Diaoyu Islands (By China Daily) China's ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai, expressed dismay on Tuesday over remarks by US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel regarding the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea. At a joint news conference on Monday at the Pentagon with visiting Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, Hagel said the two had discussed ongoing tensions in the area. China regards the situation in the East China Sea as a crucial regional security challenge that must be resolved peacefully and cooperatively. "In our discussion today, I reiterated the principles that govern long-standing US policy on the Senkaku Islands," Hagel said, using Japan's term for the disputed territory. "The United States does not take a position on the ultimate sovereignty of the islands, but we do recognize they are under the administration of Japan and fall under our security treaty obligations." Hagel said any action that could heighten tensions or lead to a miscalculation would affect the stability of the entire region. "Therefore, the United States opposes any unilateral or coercive action that seeks to undermine Japan's administrative control, a message General [Martin] Dempsey conveyed to his counterparts last week in Beijing," he said, referring to the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. Cui, who recently assumed the post of ambassador in Washington, was quoted by the People's Daily as saying that "it is the Japanese side that has triggered and escalated tensions on the Diaoyu Islands, and it's also Japan that undertook unilateral or coercive action". "We hope that no other party will lift this rock off Japan, only to let the rock drop on his own feet," Cui said using a Chinese idiom akin to shooting oneself in the foot. Cui also said that what Hagel told reporters about the conversation Dempsey had on his visit to Beijing last week didn't jibe with the facts. "The Chinese side exchanged views with General Dempsey on a wide range of issues and unequivocally stated its stance. The US side should have been debriefed of the meetings and known the real situation," Cui said. Regarding Hagel's comment about the US opposing any unilateral or coercive action aimed at undermining Japan's administrative control, Cui said the history of the Diaoyu Islands is clear. "From a historic perspective, the US side bears a certain responsibility," he said, referring to the ceding of control of the islands to Japan by the United States in 1971. The Americans had maintained control over them since the 1945 victory over Japan in World War II. "China has never recognized Japan's sovereignty or administrative right over the Diaoyu Islands. And the Chinese side has repeatedly stated this to the US," Cui said. The ambassador also commented on the April 23 visit by 168 Japanese lawmakers to the Yasukuni Shrine, where Japan's war dead are buried, including figures China regards as criminals of World War II. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe questioned the description of Japanese "aggression" in World War II, saying the term is vague and subject to the interpretation by different sides. As to whether the US has maintained its neutrality over the Diaoyu Islands dispute, Cui said proof of that will depend on American actions. 

Hong Kong*:  May 2 2013

'Golden week' losing its lustre for Hong Kong businesses (By Emily Tsang, Anita Lam and Lo Wei) Traditional Labour Day holiday spending spree may be in danger of falling flat, with arrivals by tour groups from mainland down on last year - A jewellery store in Mong Kok starts to fill display cases in readiness for the expected rush for gold products this week. Shops and hotels hoping for a major "golden week" boost were left disappointed yesterday. The Labour Day holiday got off to a sluggish start, prompting fears that Hong Kong may have lost some of its appeal for free-spending mainland shoppers. About 270 tours arrived in the city, with 900 more expected before the end of the week. But Travel Industry Council executive director Joseph Tung Yao-chung said the number of tour groups had dropped 15 per cent year-on-year. The Labour Day holiday is one of the most important of the year for Hong Kong businesses. The city usually sees an influx of hundreds of thousands of mainland shoppers snapping up everything from luxury flats to gold and expensive watches. But many in the tourism and retail industry believe the Labour Day holiday has fallen out of fashion. Tung said: "The holiday has not been 'golden' since 2008." And Michael Li Hon-sing, executive director of the Federation of Hong Kong Hotel Owners, said his industry had suffered a major downturn. This was despite many hotels cutting their rates by 10 per cent compared with last year. The overall occupancy rate remained around 80 per cent, about the same as a year ago. But Li said this was only because of international exhibitions also taking place in the city. He described bookings from the mainland as poor and said three-star hotels, where the main source of customers is tour groups, had been particularly hard-hit. Also, the average tourist is not splashing out as much. Hong Kong Retail Management Association president Caroline Mak Shui-king said: "It's true the sales volume per head [of mainland visitors] is falling. "Many visitors are from the second or third-tier mainland cities these days and they tend to spend much less." But Mak remained optimistic that overall sales during the holiday would go up by about 10 or 12 per cent. She added: "The sales agents must just work harder to keep up the sales volume." While the number of tour groups has dropped, more individual travellers are arriving. Figures from the Immigration Department showed the number of inbound individual travellers on Sunday jumped about 20 per cent year-on-year. But individuals tend to be more careful with their cash than those in organised tour groups, where trips to shopping malls are a key part of the itinerary. The picture is also complicated this year because many mainlanders rushed to Hong Kong to buy gold - traditionally a big item for Labour Day shoppers - two weeks before the holiday. Stephen Chan, the owner of Perfect Jewellery in Causeway Bay, said his small shop had only four or five customers during the whole of yesterday morning. He said: "Much of the consumption power was used up in advance. We believe we will see only moderate growth." He expected sales per customer would drop to around HK$3,000 throughout the week, compared with HK$10,000 per head when the price of gold hit a two-year low two weeks ago. One mainland tourist, Zhou Xueling, agreed the "golden week" had lost its lustre and said she preferred doing her shopping in Hong Kong on day trips. "The accommodation is too expensive," she said.

Pictured: Dark storm clouds gather over Hong Kong (By SCMP) Amber rainstorm and thunderstorm warnings issued - It could be a scene from a Hollywood movie: thick black clouds roll across Hong Kong's historic Victoria Harbour ahead of a superstorm. But this was the real thing on Tuesday afternoon as the city prepared for an amber rainstorm. The image below, tweeted by Reuters financial news reporter and presenter Cathy Yang, was taken at 3pm from the 42nd floor of Gloucester Tower in Hong Kong, and shows dark clouds rolling into the harbour. Hong Kong's Observatory issued the amber rain and thunderstorm warning as gusts of 90km per hour were recorded at Tai Mei Tuk. It predicted winds would reach 100km per hour across the city. “Locally, rain and thunderstorms [on Tuesday afternoon] brought more than 10 to 20 millimetres of rainfall to most part of the territory, and rainfall even exceeded 30 millimetres over Sai Kung,” a spokesman said. It brought strong winds across Hong Kong, blowing off stacked containers and a scaffold and halting services at a tourist cable car system. In the Kwai Tsing container ports, several stacked containers fell and hit a truck, injuring its driver. A six-storey-high scaffold collapsed in a Kowloon City site. It hit on a private car but no one was injured. Services of cable car at the Ngong Ping 360 on Lantau were suspended in the afternoon due to the bad weather. The Mobile M+: Inflation! exhbition at West Kowloon Cultural District announced on Tuesday afternoon that it was closing due to the weather. An announcement on its Facebook page read: "Special announcement: Amber Rainstorm warning signal and thunderstorm warning are now in force, ‘Mobile M+: Inflation!’ is closed until further notice. Sorry for the inconvenience caused and we will keep you posted with the latest news.” Last week's sudden downpour caused Paul McCarthy’s Complex Pile - which resembles a giant pile of excrement - to deflate.

Rubber Duck floats to Hong Kong (By China Daily) Hong Kong actor Andy Lau and Dutch artist Florentijn Hofmans (L) pose in front of Hofmans’ installation Rubber Duck in Hong Kong, April 29, 2013. The Rubber Duck knows no frontiers, it doesn't discriminate people and doesn't have a political connotation, according to the artist's website.

 China*:  May 2 2013

China ranks second to US in money to Africa (By Agence France-Presse in Washington) China committed more than US$75 billion to Africa in the past decade, coming close to the level of US money although the nature of Beijing’s support was far different, a study said on Monday. The database released by the Center for Global Development aims to be the most comprehensive account yet of foreign assistance by China, which has faced criticism in Western countries suspicious of Beijing’s motives. The report found that China committed US$75.4 billion to Africa from 2000 to 2011, just under the US$90 billion by the United States and representing about one-fifth of the total from all major donor nations. But the researchers verified that only around US$1.1 billion a year from China was official development assistance as defined by the club of major donors under the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. As defined by the group, aid needs to have economic development as the main objective and any loans must have concessional rates – or at least 25 per cent of the money coming as a grant. “Pound for pound, when you compare the US versus China, the total official finance is roughly comparable. However, different people mean different things when they talk about Chinese aid,” said Bradley Parks of the College of William and Mary, who is executive director of the AidData initiative behind the study. “The composition of the official finance is very different,” he said. Amid the rapid growth of China’s economy, the emerging Asian power has increasingly been seen as a major player in international development, but it has resisted calls to be more transparent on its spending. Faced with opaque data from Beijing, the new database instead draws on thousands of media reports about Chinese projects, tracking them to verify that they are going forward. Western nations have led the charge that China is primarily interested in Africa for its natural resources and ignores the conditions of democracy and good governance on which the United States, Europeans and others insist. The database showed a wide variety of Chinese initiatives in Africa. The most funding went to debt relief, followed by transport and storage projects and then by the agricultural sector. Items funded by China ranged from a defence college in Zimbabwe, whose veteran leader Robert Mugabe is a pariah in the West, to an opera house in Algeria. Ghana was the top recipient of Chinese money, although Beijing gave widely across the continent – except to countries that recognise Taiwan, which Beijing considers part of its territory. Parks, the co-author of the study, said that the researchers’ main goal was to improve public information about Chinese assistance, not to answer questions on Beijing’s intentions. “Frankly, there are a lot of people out there who have taken very strong opinions on one side or the other,” he said. “From our perspective, the value of what we’ve accomplished is to try to create a public good of use to researchers, journalists and civil society organisations and they can draw their own conclusions,” he said.

Beauties turn entrepreneurs (By Xu Junqian) Zhang Wenjing, a model-turned-storeowner on Taobao, China's largest online bazaar, parades products from her online store. More fashion models for online shopping site,, are changing roles. Instead of just posing for the site, they are selling clothes online. Xu Junqian finds out their motivations in Shanghai. Getting paid 50,000 yuan ($8,090) a day to dress in the latest fashion and have their pictures taken is no longer attractive for models working for Instead, more of these beauties nicknamed as Tao Girl, are changing roles — selling clothes, not only modeling them, on the country's largest online shopping bazaar. Competition on Taobao, home to about 1.3 million women's wear stores, is getting fiercer and well-taken photos have become the main bargaining chip for these virtual stores to survive the competition. Seeing the potential, girls who used to make a decent living by modeling on Taobao, are now becoming their own boss. "It's like a fashion trend," says Arzugul Nijat, a Tao Girl of the Uygur ethnic group. "Almost everyone of my Taobao model friends is thinking about opening a store, or has already opened one, on the website." The 21-year-old college student who lives in Shanghai, started a store of her own after her two-year career as Tao Girl. Though she gave up just two months after the "grand opening" because of her "lack of business sense", the spirit of entrepreneurship has been ignited ever since. The 1.65-meter-tall, 43-kilogram petite girl started her modeling career for a Japanese fashion magazine in 2009 and transferred to Taobao because money comes "faster and easier". She charges 1,000 yuan an hour for shooting. Statistics from Taobao showed that by the end of 2012, there are more than 37,000 Tao Girls modeling for its online stores, 85 percent of whom work part time and the average age is 23. The "most expensive face" costs 50,000 yuan a day. One of the base camps of the online models is Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang province, which is also the headquarters of Taobao and home to the country's biggest apparel wholesale market. Online models are paid in three ways: hourly or daily, by the pieces of clothes they put on during one shooting, or based on contract. And the charges vary greatly, from 100 to 200 yuan a day to several hundred yuan for a piece of dress. "An online model doesn't have to be, or rather, cannot be super-pretty or super-curvy," says Nijat, whose "runway name" is Azi. "Everyone can be an online model, because the clothes displayed is sold to everyone." "But once you become the face of the shop, you may be the determining factor for the success of the shop. Tens of thousands yuan of sales may be lost if you jump ship to another shop," she shares. 

Alibaba pays $586 million for stake in Sina Weibo (By Yu Wei in San Francisco Alibaba Group, China's largest e-commerce company partly owned by Yahoo Inc, has spent $586 million for an 18-percent share of Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, in an attempt to monetize the hugely influential social media platform. The two companies said in a statement on Monday that Alibaba has made a payment and has an option to boost its stakes in Sina Weibo to 30 percent. The deal was expected to combine Alibaba's e-commerce strength with Sina Weibo's user base to explore social commerce and develop marketing solutions to merchants. The transaction put the value of Sina Weibo at $3.26 billion. The market capitalization of Nasdaq-listed Sina Corp was $3.67 billion on Monday. Sina's American depository shares rose by 9 percent to $55.03 on Monday. Hangzhou-based Alibaba Group, which Yahoo holds about a 23-percent stake, is the largest e-commerce empire in China. It currently runs a business-to-business online trading platform called, the eBay-like and, as well as the Paypal-like Alipay. Transactions on its websites last year reached about 1.1 trillion yuan ($170 billion). Beijing-based Sina Weibo started as an imitator of Twitter, but later developed features tailored to Chinese users. In November, the number of registered users had exceeded 400 million. But Sina Weibo has been facing challenges to generate equivalent revenue to its huge user base and influence in China, similar what social media sites Twitter and Facebook are trying to do in the United States. Li Kaifu, former Google China president and the founder of an angel investment firm, said Sina Weibo used to rely on advertising, but now with Alibaba's e-commerce platform, it will be an easier way to make money out of its user population. The two companies said the deal is expected to generate approximately $380 million in advertising and revenues from social commerce services for Sina Weibo over the next three years. "The $586 million deal offered by Alibaba is higher than Sina's valuation prior to this news," said Echo He, an analyst from New York-based financial services firm Maxim Group. She said over the longer term, the deal will help Sina's profitability. "Benefit to both sides is long-term. Sina may get Alibaba's business long term and Alibaba may be able to provide its users a public media venue," she said. As part of the alliance, the two companies would cooperate in user account connectivity, data exchange and online payment and marketing. They would explore new business models for social commerce based on the interactions of users on Sina Weibo and on Alibaba's e-commerce platforms, according to Sina. "We believe that the cooperation of our two robust platforms will bring unique and valuable services to Weibo users, as well as making the mobile Internet a core part of Alibaba's strategy," Alibaba Chairman Jack Ma said in a statement. Social media in China such as Sina Weibo is playing a much bigger role in China's consumer market. About 2.5 percent of Taobao's traffic comes from Sina micro-blogging, higher than some social shopping sites such as Mogujie and Meilishuo, according to a report released by analyst firm Hitwise. Taobao and Tmall, the two online shopping sites operated by Alibaba, have nearly 500 million registered users. More than 100 million people visit Taobao or Tmall a day. Yang Miao, a writer from the technology blogging website, said the deal between Alibaba and Sina is by far the largest stock deal in China. "There are 300,000 enterprises registered on Sina Weibo. If the integration is smooth, Weibo will no longer just a branding platform or customer relationship management platform for those enterprises; it will become an integrated platform of brand marketing, communications, online payment, and after-sales service," Yang said.

Hong Kong*:  May 1 2013

Mandarin Oriental has no fear of crackdown by Beijing (By Daniel Ren in Shanghai Hotel firm brushes aside fears that crackdown on wasteful use of public money will hit income - The luxury hotel chain operator Mandarin Oriental, brushing aside concerns that a crackdown by Beijing on wasteful spending of public money will dent hotel revenues, said it would continue expanding in China to tap into the rising affluence on the mainland. "For anybody who does a good job of understanding their customers, China will always be a place to be," said Andrew Hirst, the group's operations director for Asia. "In such a large and diverse market, there is room for everyone to compete, and we will continue to do so in all the cities where we are represented," he said, adding that the group was actively searching for partners and properties on the mainland to consolidate its foothold in the world's second-largest economy. The mainland is now the luxury hotel brand's second-largest source of businesses, trailing only the United States, and mainland customers account for 13 per cent of all visitors to its hotels in China. "We expect this contribution to grow as we increase our portfolio of operating hotels in the mainland in the next few years," Hirst said. The group opened the Mandarin Oriental Pudong, Shanghai, in the Lujiazui finance and trade zone last week, its third project on the mainland, with two more hotels, one in Beijing and the other in Chengdu, in the pipeline. The expansion comes at a time of mounting concerns about a possible oversupply in China's hotel market as global brands aggressively expand in the country. The new mainland leadership's efforts to curb wasteful spending of public money is also believed to be hurting the catering and hospitality sectors. However, Hirst said, the impact of Beijing's clampdown in his company's business was minimal, and he believed the increasing numbers of wealthy mainland tourists would become a growth engine for international hotel brands. China could become the Mandarin Oriental's largest source of businesses in future, he said, and the company's hotels in Hong Kong would also help its mainland outlets woo more domestic travellers in future. Mainland visitors account for about 20 per cent of the revenues earned by the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong and the Landmark Mandarin Oriental.

Boom in local boutique hotels not abating (By Kylie Knott From Dali-inspired foyers to fairy-tale-themed suites, Hong Kong's multiplying boutique hotels are providing luxury in every shade of glamour, writes Kylie Knott - Girish Jhunjhnuwala, founder of the Ovolo Hotel Group. Lodgewood''s reception lounge & Mira Moon's moonshine suite. He looks very much at home in the newly opened Ovolo 2AR hotel in Central. That's not just because Girish Jhunjhnuwala heads the group running the joint, but because anyone would feel at home here. And that's the point - Jhunjhnuwala wants guests to feel comfortable in his properties. In a suite decorated in warm chocolate and cream, the little details make a big impression: a cool stone shower, an Apple TV and super-fast Wi-fi that guests can access all over the city - and a cheeky picture by local artist Tsang Kin-wah. "We really deliberated over the details: should we have a sofa, should we have a side desk? We are targeting guests who want to be connected for business but also want to have fun. So the rooms appeal to those who appreciate design and art." Jhunjhnuwala is an authoritative voice on Hong Kong's booming boutique hotels scene. He saw the demand for short-term stays in the city a long while ago, and left his family's successful watch business to set up Ovolo, initially to operate serviced apartments. That was in 2002, and he hasn't looked back since. The group has become one of Hong Kong's largest independent operators, with two serviced apartments and five hotels (including one that is due to open this year), and another property in Melbourne. "I travelled a lot when I was in the watch industry, and when I was back home in Hong Kong I noticed the city lacked a hip and cool boutique hotel scene. There was real potential for this sort of accommodation, so I followed my instincts and set up Ovolo," Jhunjhnuwala says. "There's no doubt about the rise of the boutique hotel trend globally, and there's no reason why Hong Kong wouldn't follow suit, especially because an increase in property prices in the city has made the construction of larger hotels more difficult. "And with more than 48 million visitors coming to this city every year, and just over 65,000 hotel rooms to accommodate them, supply has not yet met demand. So there will always be opportunity to grow and innovate," he says. Millions of dollars are being poured into the refurbishing and building of "lifestyle" hotels to help meet this demand. Last month, it was the 79-room V Wanchai². But it didn't wear its crown as "Hong Kong's newest boutique hotel" for long - that was handed to the 87-room Lodgewood in Mong Kok, which opened earlier this month. But that will also have to pass on the sceptre, as the 150-room Hotel Indigo opens in Wan Chai in May. In July, two boutique hotels - the Mira Moon, also in Wan Chai, and the Ovolo in Southside - welcome their first visitors. This flurry of openings seems a long way from a decade ago when Asia saw the arrival of its first boutique hotel, the Philippe Starck-designed JIA (now known as J Plus) in Causeway Bay. It was 2004 and the region was playing catch-up with a global trend that started in 1981 when the world's first boutique hotels opened: The Blakes Hotel in London (designed by celebrity stylist Anouska Hempel) and the Bedford in San Francisco. New York City followed in 1984 with the Morgans Hotel designed by the French stylist, Andrée Putman. Putman's portfolio now includes The Putman boutique hotel in Sheung Wan, which opened in 2007. The hotels signalled a shift in the global hospitality landscape - a move away from amenity-heavy chain hotels to smaller, more intimate properties. It also showed that the modern traveller wanted "wow" satisfaction on every level: accommodation with cutting-edge style balanced with the comforts of home; interiors and architecture that inspire; a location that tells a story and artwork that challenges. "Stylish travellers want to take their standard of living with them when they travel. The irony is that in interiors magazines, you'll see the reciprocal influence that contemporary boutique hotel room design is having on people's bedrooms and bathrooms at home," says Grant Thatcher, the Hong Kong-based founder of Luxe City Guides. For regular traveller Lucie McCullough, it's the personal touches that appeal: "I want to feel doted on when I'm on holiday and not feel like I'm one of 1,000 behind a credit-card key door," says the Hong Kong-based interior designer. Every taste is catered for. If you want colonial-style comfort there's the Tai O Heritage Hotel and the Hullet House; lovers of abstract art have the Dali-inspired Luxe Manor; and fans of top designers can get their fix at J Plus or the Mira Moon. For minimalistic Asian-inspired elegance there's the Upper House. The boom in boutique hotels also speaks volumes about the healthy state of the city's tourism industry. According to the Hong Kong Tourism Board, visitor arrivals between January and September 2012 increased 16.3 per cent year on year to reach 35.37 million. Boutique hotel operators reap a few financial perks. They don't have to pay a franchise fee to become part of a chain, and can survive without costly amenities. They also have a higher percentage of repeat business. "Today's seasoned traveller prefers smaller hotels to big chain hotels that often lack character,'' says Vivien Chan, founder and chairman of the V Group that operates V Wanchai². But to keep their competitive edge, boutique hotels must also adapt to the changing needs, tastes and fashions of a market in rapid flux. "V Generation properties are not homogeneously styled hotels and serviced apartments. Each accents its own individuality," she says. "It offers a fresh take for modern travellers." Chan, who plays a hands-on role in the seasonally changing decor, points to details on doors as an example. Each features intricately etched carvings of birds and flower motifs that reappear on the headboard of each bed. Even with the spate of openings, Hotel Indigo general manager Bryan Gabriel believes the trend will continue to grow: "It's an exciting time for Hong Kong's hospitality industry with a number of boutique hotels to open in the next two years." Although "boutique hotel" has become an overused term, Gabriel is thankful that Hong Kong owners have remained faithful to its original spirit. "In the 1980s, when the concept first appeared, the understated glamour was an experience. The label is now flung around so often that it's lost its original meaning, slapped onto descriptions by default," he says. "But [here], we're lucky that a few recently opened hotels still do the term 'boutique' justice." At Indigo, the design highlight is obvious: a giant bronze dragon hugging the building. Gabriel says the target market is equally well-defined. "There's definitely a type of guest: independent, well-travelled, savvy … usually between the ages of 30 and 55 and always people keen to explore the culturally rich neighbourhoods." One of the city's most anticipated openings is the Mira Moon, under the creative direction of Dutch design star Marcel Wanders. It's not for the minimalist, however. With room themes inspired by Chinese fairy tales, the hotel's decor is as trippy as a big night out in Wonderland with an LSD-fuelled Alice. It all starts in the lobby with glazed ceramics, flowery carpets and cut crystal. Those seeking more muted decor should opt for Ovolo Group's latest addition to its portfolio, Wong Chuk Hang Road, which opens later this year. "We've spent two years creating a signature Ovolo hotel that has our hallmark interior design concepts, hi-tech features and services in a building full of unique industrial character," says Jhunjhnuwala. The variety of boutique hotels sprouting up shows that hoteliers are listening to travellers' growing needs and are more than eager to please.

 China*:  May 1 2013

Chinese officials fill up first Sansha cruise in disputed seas (By Chris Luo and Agence France-Presse) But specialists have warned that an unrealistic high standard on the industry by the government may drive some illicit producers to try to cut corners to save money on production and earn a profit. Sansha, on an island in the disputed Paracel chain, is now considered by China part of Hainan province. More civil servants than actual tourists climbed aboard the first Chinese cruise ship to visit disputed South China Sea islands on Sunday. Only 100 of 240 passengers were regular citizens, the Shanghai Morning Post reported on Monday. The rest were civil servants from various government organs in Hainan province. The debut cruise went to the Paracel Islands' Sansha, the newly established prefecture-level city created last year to consolidate China's de facto control. As many as 100 tourists paid between 7,000 yuan (HK$8,800) and 9,000 yuan for the four-day voyage, but stayed in second-class cabins or lower. Officials and civil servants, however, were free to choose more luxurious cabins and pay less, the report said. A price chart obtained by the newspaper also showed that tourists were charged an extra 3,250 yuan per person than civil servants in similar cabins. But the newspaper said the tourists were not bothered by the unequal treatment. A Hunan passenger surnamed Ma said it was worth the money to experience the “original beauty” of Sansha. Everyone was subjected to the same high security checks during boarding, however. Passengers went through security checks twice, taking two hours for the whole process, the newspaper said. Plans to allow tourists to visit the Paracel Islands is the latest stage in China’s development of the territory, which has previously angered Vietnam and caused concern in Washington. Vietnam and China have a longstanding territorial row over the Paracel Islands. Hanoi last month accused a Chinese vessel of firing on one of its fishing boats which had sailed in disputed waters in the area. Officials earlier this month confirmed they would open up the islands to tourism. China has occupied the Paracels since a brief war with South Vietnam in 1974. It is a cluster of about 40 islets, sandbanks and reefs. Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia all have rival claims to parts of the South China Sea, while the United States is also watching Beijing’s increased assertiveness. In his address opening China’s parliament last month, former Premier Wen Jiabao said Beijing should “develop the marine economy... and safeguard China’s maritime rights and interests”.

Chinese-made milk powder better than imported ones, says study by dairy association (By Chris Luo A woman selects milk powder for her child at a supermarket in Beijing. Chinese-made milk powder is better in quality and half the price of imported products, said the national dairy association, in an effort to promote the domestic industry and allay concerns stemming from the 2008 melamine scandal. In a study commissioned by the China Dairy Industry Association, formula made in China, regardless of domestic or foreign brand, had more nutritional content, the Beijing Times reported on Monday. The research also said home-made products cost, on average, only about half the imported ones. A third-party Chinese inspection agency randomly tested 25 milk-powder brands sold in Beijing and capital cities of nearby provinces. The results indicated that all 16 of the domestic products were in line with national nutrition standards. But three of the nine imported products failed to meet national standards in lactose-carbohydrate ratio and calcium-phosphorus ratio. Association chairman Song Kungang said that none of the tested brands, homegrown or foreign, were found to have food safety problems. The foreign brands that didn't meet Chinese standards mostly failed on "nutritional standards," he said. China’s milk powder industry has become a focal point of public anger over food safety in recent years after a spate of scandals. A major crisis emerged in 2008 when a leading domestic brand was found to be using the industrial chemical melamine, usually found in plastics and glue. The scandal has since sickened 300,000 babies and resulted in six premature deaths. The milk-powder endorsement by China’s leading dairy industrial association comes as mainland parents resort to buying the product in Hong Kong and overseas. Overseas milk-powder suppliers and retailers have noticed the demand, and several governments have issued restrictions. The Dairy Industry Association also said the industry has undergone a thorough overhaul in the past years. The current standards are also “among one of the most stringent in the world”, it added.

Models pose for Fuzhou Auto Fair - Model poses for photos with a sedan at Fuzhou Auto Fair in Fuzhou, capital of southeast China's Fujian Province, April 29, 2013.

Technology fair eyes innovation (By LI JIABAO) China's best-known annual high-tech fair aims to boost industrial innovation and serve as a driving force to improve the quality and efficiency of economic growth as the nation's economy slows down, officials said on Sunday. "Industrial innovation will demonstrate an outstanding advantage in building up a new competitive edge and boosting economic development, especially at a time when the economy is not doing well," Xu Qin, mayor of Shenzhen, told a press conference. The 15th session of the China Hi-Tech Fair, jointly hosted by the Shenzhen government and ministries including the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, will be held in Shenzhen from Nov 16 to 21. The fair, with an exhibition area of more than 100,000 square meters, has become China's largest and most influential technology fair. The 2013 session will focus on enhancing the quality and efficiency of economic growth through industrial innovation, said Luo Lei, deputy director of the department of mechanical, electronic and high-tech industries of the Ministry of Commerce. "We do have concerns about the external economic situation as the global economy slightly improved this year and quantitative easing measures in developed economies added negative influences," Xu said. "But strengthening the linkage among industries, academia, research and capital will be an important way to enhance the quality and efficiency of economic growth. "Demand at the 2013 fair will be more robust than in previous years and I am confident the fair will help enterprises with industrial innovations ride out the impacts of the financial crisis, just as it did in 2009 after the onset of the global financial crisis," he added. This year's fair will include high-tech trading, product exhibitions and a forum on Chinese technologies. More advanced technologies and products will be on show to meet demands for environmental protection, while the latest technology from strategic emerging industries and low-carbon sectors will be the focus of the fair's exhibitions, according to Xu, who also heads the fair's organizing committee. The world's second-largest economy grew 7.7 percent in the first quarter, failing to extend a pickup that began in the fourth quarter of last year when economic growth rose 7.9 percent, stepping out of a seven-quarter slowdown. Profits of industrial companies with annual revenue of 20 million yuan ($3.24 million) or more registered 464.9 billion yuan in March, an increase of 5.3 percent from a year earlier, compared with a 17.2 percent gain in the first two months of this year, the National Bureau of Statistics said on its website on Saturday. Xiao Chunquan, a spokesman for the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, said on Tuesday the industrial sector is confronted by considerable pressure. This stems from a lack of robust growth in consumption as well as in investment of fixed assets. The preliminary reading for a purchasing managers' index, a gauge of manufacturing activity that was released by HSBC Holdings Plc and Markit Economics on Tuesday, stood at 50.5. This compares with a final reading of 51.6 for March, indicating an unsatisfactory economic performance in April, said Tang Jianwei, an economist at Bank of Communications in Shanghai. A reading above 50 indicates expansion.

'Taiwan independence' not to be promoted: Ma (by Xinhua) Taiwan will not promote "one China, one Taiwan" nor "Taiwan independence" inside or outside of the island, its leader Ma Ying-jeou stressed on Monday. Ma made the comments when addressing a ceremony, held by Taiwan-based Straits Exchange Foundation, to mark the 20th anniversary of the historic "Wang-Koo meeting," which laid the foundation for peaceful development of cross-Strait relations. "We are all people of Chinese descent and we share blood ties, history and culture," he said, adding that the Chinese mainland and Taiwan have set a precedent for peacefully working out disputes. Ma said he hoped the two sides will continue to deepen cooperation and exchanges in multiple fields, including the economy, trade, culture, science and technology and environment. He said, "It is of significance that we hold the ceremony here today."

Hong Kong*:  April 30 2013

Book sheds light on Hong Kong's war tribunals (By John Carney Clockwise from top left: Japanese vice-admiral Ruitaro Fujita signs Japan's surrender in Hong Kong September 16, 1945; a parade in Central a month later; the Union flag is raised at Government House. A new book by a legal scholar offers rare insight into the military prosecutions of Japanese soldiers in the city after the second world war - Memories of the cruelty of the Japanese forces in Hong Kong have faded over time - and even less is known about the aftermath of the city's second world war occupation. But a new book is set to change all that by turning the spotlight on the military tribunals that were the local equivalent of Europe's Nuremberg trials. Between March 28, 1946, and December 20, 1948, four British military tribunals tried war crime cases from across Hong Kong, Kowloon and the New Territories. They also heard cases involving war crimes committed in Taiwan, the mainland cities of Huizhou, Guangdong (the city was then known as Waichow), as well as Japan itself and on the high seas. Professor Suzannah Linton, a former academic at the University of Hong Kong, will offer insight into this forgotten period in her book Hong Kong's War Crimes Trials, to be published in August. As well as shedding light on the trial themselves and reminding the world of the brutality of the Japanese campaign in Asia, Linton explores key issues in international law that the tribunals raised. They were part of a radical and historic shift towards individual criminal responsibility that had been made Allied policy during the war years, and which was put into practice in Europe and Asia when the war was over. Thousands of Japanese were tried in Asia, whether by the British, Australians, Chinese or Dutch. Of these, 123 were tried by the British in Hong Kong. Linton believes these cases were part of a much neglected Asian tapestry that has become part of the bigger global picture. "They were certainly not problem-free trials, let alone by today's standards," she said. "But, even today, with all the expertise, technology and skills involved, there are many examples of trials that go badly wrong at our international courts and tribunals. In my view, these Hong Kong trials were, warts and all, a genuine effort to do justice in a fair way, and they were remarkable for that time and place and in those conditions." Contributors to the book have worked on many aspects of the extraordinary crimes of the second world war in Europe and Asia, as well as other war crimes - the Rwandan genocide, the horrors of Yugoslavia, the killing fields of Cambodia, the crimes against humanity in East Timor and the depravity of Sierra Leone's war. The contributors have been engaged with the legal institutions that dealt with these tragedies, Linton said, and used that expertise to draw out secrets of the Hong Kong trials. "Those of us involved in this book have all seen the dark side of humanity in our work over the years, and we hope that this book can be seen as part of the wider project of contributing to the truth and doing justice," she said. Despite her experience and past research, Linton was shocked at the scale of what happened in Hong Kong under Japanese occupation. In particular, she pointed to the forced displacement programme that removed a million people from the city, and the famine and starvation that preceded it. She found it disturbing that sexual violence against civilians in Hong Kong, which is said to have been on a very large scale, was almost invisible in the tribunal reports, although they were pursued in a minor way in the cases arising from the invasion. The scale of the prisoner-of-war- camp system in Taiwan and some of the accounts of cruelty and suffering there also had a major impact on her. She found that the atrocities in Hong Kong fitted into a clear and well-established pattern of conduct across Asia during the second world war, in Korea, China, the Philippines and the rest of Southeast Asia and the Pacific. The abuse in Hong Kong's police stations, for example, was textbook Japanese military police practice - it was not "hi tech" and is still used by some regimes to this day: "water torture", which equates to today's waterboarding, burning, beating, and forms of forced body contortions such as "aeroplane torture". But, she said, the way Hong Kong bounced back from this traumatic period is an example of the resilience and spirit that still pervades the city today - people pick themselves up and get on with things. However, Linton does qualify this view when discussing the "amnesia about the past" in the introduction to her book, exploring the reasons why these trials became forgotten. Not that this experience was unique to Hong Kong. While the trials in Europe went on for years - and from time to time old Nazis are still brought to justice - the trials in Asia seem to have stopped by the end of the early 1950s. People did not mull over the Asian trials as they did in Europe, she said. Global geopolitics meant that Japan, and West Germany, became important allies in the cold war. Even the mainland, where records of the trials of Japanese war criminals remain locked up today, half a century on, had a form of reconciliation with Japan and released incarcerated war criminals in the 1950s and '60s. Linton believes that most people moved on and the world moved on, especially in Asia, where independence struggles erupted and new nations were born. Also, every one of the trials of the war was conducted by a victor on the vanquished. "The Hong Kong trials were conducted by a victorious colonial power on a failed colonial power, and this pattern was repeated in Malaya, Singapore, Burma [Myanmar], Borneo and elsewhere in Asia [apart from China]," she said. "Thus, there could have been the reek of Empire's revenge associated with these trials that made forgetting about them desirable." Linton lived and worked in Hong Kong from 2005 to 2011 as an associate professor of law at HKU, and is now chair professor of international law at Bangor University in Wales. In June 2008 she was awarded a research grant by the Hong Kong Research Grants Council to study the war crimes trials that had been held in Hong Kong from 1946-48, but about which next to nothing was known. "With this grant, I was able to identify the relevant files in the UK National Archives, have them electronically copied and made accessible to the public through the database that I created with the assistance of Hong Kong University libraries. This book is the culmination of that research project," she said. Linton learned a huge amount about what happened during the war, and had insights into a forgotten legal process. Colleagues who contributed are all either legal or historical experts, and have written perceptive chapters. In their forewords, mainland judge Liu Daqun and Kevin Zervos, Hong Kong's director of public prosecutions, share their insights into the importance of chronicling this chapter of the city's past. "We have been like archaeologists discovering a lost city in today's concrete jungle of Hong Kong," she said. "We have learned an extraordinary amount about history, and about legal issues, ranging from the procedures that governed the proceedings, to the law of war crimes used, to the concepts of individual criminal responsibility to the pleas of subordinates that they were 'only following orders'." She hopes the book will help Hong Kong's law students realise that something very important happened here in the 1940s, and that the law can be about redeeming humanity and momentous events in history. But above all else, Linton wants to express how very moved she was by the many people, either from Hong Kong or with links to Hong Kong, who contacted her to support the work that she had done. "I know they will agree when I say that remembering the past in order to derive lessons for our generation is critically important, but remembering alone, as a way of honouring the victims must also be done," she said.

Hong Kong losing its competitive edge, Beijing warns (By Joshua But Top official hopes city will forge ahead, but is accused of trying to divert attention from reform. Hong Kong is losing its competitive edge and will be "swept downstream if it does not forge ahead", warns Beijing's man in charge of Hong Kong affairs. Zhang Dejiang, No 3 on the seven-man Politburo Standing Committee, is by far the highest-ranking figure to voice such concerns. But one observer believes Beijing is trying to divert public attention from current political controversies over patriotism and universal suffrage. Zhang sounded the alarm at his first meeting with a political grouping from Hong Kong since taking charge of the Communist Party's leading group on Hong Kong and Macau Affairs. "Every country in the world is trying to get out of the shadow of the global economic crisis," he told a 31-strong delegation of the Business and Professionals Alliance in Beijing yesterday. "Hong Kong's competitive edge is weakening and will fade away if the city does not put its focus on economic development." Quoting Deng Xiaoping's warning that "development is the only hard truth", Zhang said: "Only when the economy continues to thrive will livelihoods improve. Everything else is empty talk. Like a boat sailing against the current, it will be swept downstream if it does not forge ahead." Without elaborating, he said "deep-rooted conflicts in economic development" had begun to emerge in the city. Zhang's comments came on the heels of a similar warning by Zhou Bo, deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, in the city last week. Professor Chan Ka-keung, secretary for financial services and the Treasury, disagreed that Hong Kong was losing its edge. "The city's advantages are in our own hands," Chan said, citing the legal system and financial market as examples. "[The economy] depends on ourselves after all, but we have the necessary conditions to reach new heights." Alliance chairman Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen said he saw Zhang's remarks as a reminder rather than a warning. Leung quoted him as saying the coming three years would be crucial. Leung took aim at the current debate on electoral reform, saying: "The political feud is hindering our competitiveness." Veteran China watcher Johnny Lau Yui-siu said Zhang wanted to shift the public focus from political reform to the economy.

US health leader warns of human-to-human H7N9 bird flu (By Agence France-Presse in Washington) Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. There is no evidence that the deadly H7N9 bird flu has yet spread between humans in China but health authorities must be ready for the virus to mutate at any time, a top US virologist has warned. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), said officials in China had studied more than 1,000 close contacts of confirmed cases and not found any evidence of human-to-human transmission. “That is powerful evidence because if you had a thousand contacts with someone with the flu you would be pretty sure some of them would have been infected,” Fauci said. Nevertheless, Fauci cautioned that authorities needed to be ready for the possibility of the virus mutating and spreading between humans. “It’s unpredictable as are all the influenza. One of the things we need to be concerned about is this might gain the capability of going human-to-human which up to this point has not happened and is somewhat encouraging news,” Fauci said. “But we still need to be very prepared for the eventuality of that happening. ”Researchers are already developing a diagnostic test to identify H7N9, along with a vaccine, with clinical trials due in July or August. “Work is under way on making a diagnostic test to be able to pick it up quickly,” Fauci said. “We have already started on an early development of a vaccine as we did with H5N1 years ago... Hopefully, we will never have to use it.” More than 110 people in mainland China have been confirmed to be infected with H7N9, with 23 deaths, since Beijing announced on March 31 that the virus had been found in humans. Most of the cases have been located in eastern China, although Taiwan has reported one case. Another case has been found in southern China, while Chinese officials confirmed a further outbreak in the central province of Hunan. Chinese authorities have identified poultry as the source of the virus and have confirmed that patients became sick from contact with infected live fowl. A visiting team from the World Health Organisation, which wrapped up a week-long visit to China on Wednesday, said there had been no human-to-human transmission but warned H7N9 was “one of the most lethal” influenza viruses ever seen. Fauci praised Beijing for its handling of the current crisis, contrasting it to the response of the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome in 2002-2003, when China stood accused of covering-up the scale of the crisis. “It was not the case with SARS in 2003 but the transparency has been excellent,” Fauci said. “I am quite satisfied with the Chinese response.” Fauci likened the current H7N9 strain of bird flu “in some respects” to the H5N1 bird flu strain of several years ago. “The similarities are that it is fundamentally a chicken or bird flu that jumps from chicken to humans and is quite severe when it infects humans,” he said. However, Fauci added: “The difference between H7N9 and H5N1, is that H5N1 kills chickens very rapidly so it is easy to identify where the infected flocks of chickens are. H7N9 doesn’t make the chicken sick, so it has been difficult to pinpoint where the infected chickens are.” There have been 566 confirmed cases of the H5N1 strain of bird flu, which killed 332 people in the world - a mortality rate of 58 per cent, compared to 20 per cent for the H7N9 bird flu strain. The H1N1 “swine flu” pandemic o 2009, which appeared in Mexico at the same time of year as the H7N9, eventually infected 60 million people throughout the world and killed more than 12,000. The 1918 Spanish flu, which has been called one of the deadliest plagues in human history, had a mortality rate of only two per cent.

 China*:  April 30 2013

'Punished' for Dalai Lama meeting, British PM cancels Beijing visit (By The Guardian in London) Cameron, 'punished' for seeing Dalai Lama, was to be denied access to senior leaders this month - British Prime Minister David Cameron abandoned a trip to China planned for this month as Beijing punished him for meeting the Dalai Lama. Cameron is understood to have cancelled the trip after Beijing indicated that he was unlikely to be granted meetings with senior figures. He is now expected to visit in the autumn, two years after his first and only visit as prime minister. In a blow to Cameron, who had hoped to hold an annual summit with the Chinese leadership, French President Francois Hollande was on a full state visit a few weeks after the British prime minister was due to visit China. Cameron met the Dalai Lama in London last May. British government sources said tentative plans for Cameron to visit this month were put on hold for the simple reason that the new Chinese leadership only took over in March. But The Guardian understands from diplomatic sources that a visit was firmly placed in the prime minister's diary for this month. This was abandoned when it became clear that the prime minister would be denied the access usually granted to a leader of a member of the Group of Eight. Douglas Alexander, the shadow foreign secretary who has just returned from China, told The Guardian: "David Cameron came to office claiming he would prioritise the UK's diplomatic and trade relationship with China, and yet the real difficulties in relations have now been laid bare. I was in China … and it is clear that the new Chinese leadership is focused on the French president's visit, along with a large number of French companies looking for business." Zhang Xiaojing, the director of Renmin University's Centre for European Studies, said: "I think The Guardian's report quite makes sense, although Cameron's meeting with the Dalai Lama is not the key reason for Beijing's new leadership choosing French President Francois Hollande as their first guest from the EU." The tight schedules of President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang in the two months since the leadership reshuffle were the key reason for putting off the British prime minister's trip, he said. Shi Yinhong, a foreign-relations professor at Renmin University, said: "China looks at Britain, France and Germany as the three most important key UN friends." However, he said, the central government was disappointed that Cameron had met the Dalai Lama "in disregard of Beijing's core interests".

Travel rush seen around China - China sees a travel rush around the country as the three-day May First national holiday comes around the corner.

China, EU 'to renew ties' (By Fu Jing in Brussels and Zhao Shengnan in Beijing) First visit by top EU official to Beijing since the accession of new leadership - Foreign Minister Wang Yi held talks with High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton on Saturday, to further enhance EU-China relations. China and the European Union on Saturday pledged to promote their mid- and long-term cooperation plan, address disputes and strengthen coordination over international affairs, as the first top-ranking EU official visited China under its new leadership. China values relations with the EU, and will continue supporting the integration of the 27-member bloc, and deepen the bilateral comprehensive strategic partnership, Foreign Minister Wang Yi told visiting EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. "You are the very first head of an EU institution to visit China after the inauguration of the new government in China," said Wang, adding the visit's timing was symbolic of the importance "placed by both the EU and you yourself on the Chinese-EU relationship". Ashton, who is also a vice-president of the European Commission, said the European side would like to expand cooperation with China in the field of green economics and global security. Before departing Brussels, Ashton had said in a statement that given China's recent change in leadership, it was time "to renew ties". China's once-a-decade leadership transition saw Wang become foreign minister last month, while his predecessor, Yang Jiechi, moved up to be a State Councilor, as the country's top foreign policy official. Ashton also met China's top political adviser Yu Zhengsheng, Yang and new Defense Minister Chang Wanquan. While listening to Beijing's stances on Europe's economic problems and key global issues - including Syria and the Korean Peninsula nuclear issues - Ashton would have done warm-up work for the upcoming EU-China Strategic Dialogue in June, said Pierre Defraigne, executive director of Madariaga-College of Europe Foundation. Ashton would also have focused on the eurozone's stabilization, which is critical for preserving the unity of the EU Single Market and therefore the capacity of Europe to contain protectionism, especially vis-a-vis China, Defraigne said. The EU has been China's largest trading partner for eight consecutive years and China has emerged as the EU's second largest trading partner. But ties have been strained at times by disputes over market access. "I think she is very keen on seeing a better relationship between the EU and China, not only being better in the political way but also economically, as we are in trouble in Europe," said Frederic Carlier, an analyst with the Belgium-based FCA Consultancy Services. "The leaders should face these troubles squarely, recognize their severity and put them on the table," Carlier said.

Hong Kong*:  April 29 2013

Swire first to sell homes under new 'honest marketing' rules (By Sandy Li Brochures altered for development at Dunbar Place as 'honest marketing' regulations arrive - Swire is launching the first batch of units at Dunbar Place on Tuesday at an average HK$20,869 per square foot. Swire Properties will be the first developer to offer a brand new residential project for pre-sale after new rules to shield buyers from dishonest marketing practices take effect on Monday. The developer will launch the first batch of 30 units at Dunbar Place in Ho Man Tin on Tuesday at an average of HK$20,869 per square foot in terms of saleable area. The units are mainly three or four-bedroom flats with 1,200 sq ft to 1,830 sq ft of saleable floor area, and all come with a balcony. Unit prices are from HK$23.23 million to HK$41.63 million. The sale will be on a first come, first served basis. Adrian To, the general manager for residential at Swire Properties, said the sales brochure for the development "has been revised in accordance with the suggestions given by the Sales of First-hand Residential Properties Authority". The company decided to proceed with the sales arrangement after seeking legal advice, To said. Under the new rules, developers must publish their sales brochures seven days before the official sale and must release the price list three days before the launch, to give potential buyers time to study the details. The authority said it had received and gone through the brochures of two new residential projects, Dunbar Place and Hong Kong Ferry's Green Code. "Both sales brochures are largely compliant with the requirements of the new rules but still have room for further improvement," it said. The authority said there must be sufficient measurements showing the internal and external dimensions of each residential property on the floor plans in a sales brochure. In the description of fitting, finishes and appliances, it said there was no need to mention the brand names of interior fittings in the bathrooms and kitchens. The hard copy of the sales brochure for Dunbar Place, together with the price list and sales arrangement, must be available for collection at any time for seven days before the official sale. The project's show flat also comes with a "bare-shell" unit and a furnished unit. Instead of using a picture in the show flat which purports to show the scenic view from the window, the developer has covered the windows with white paper in order not to cause misrepresentation. Hong Kong Ferry will offer the remaining 146 units at Green Code in Fanling for sale on Monday. The number of construction starts of new flats plunged 56 per cent in the first quarter from the previous quarter. Data from the Transport and Housing Bureau yesterday showed the construction of a total of 1,100 new homes in the first three months of the year.

Monetary authority chief's salary tops HK$9.4m (By Kanis Li City's monetary authority chief now earns six times more than head of US Federal Reserve - Norman Chan saw his bonus rise 20 per cent. The chief executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority received a pay rise of 4.1 per cent last year, giving him a total take-home annual salary of HK$9.41 million. While Norman Chan Tak-lam's basic salary remained at HK$6 million, the raise mainly came in the form of a 20 per cent increase in variable pay, an amount that depends on individual performance and is equivalent to a bonus at private firms. The variable pay component of his package, which amounted to HK$2.45 million, represented 4.9 months' salary for Chan. In contrast, the average variable pay for HKMA staff last year amounted to 2.7 months' salary. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority recently announced a 4.5 per cent rise in basic salary for staff this year. With last year's raise, Chan's pay is more than six times that of the chairman of the US Federal Reserve Board, Ben Bernanke, who makes US$199,700 (HK$1.55 million). But it is still less than his predecessor Joseph Yam Chi-kwong's HK$10.9 million in 2009 and the HK$16.92 million - including bonus - given to the chief executive of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing, Charles Li Xiaojia, last year. Christopher Cheung Wah-fung, the legislator for financial services, said Chan's pay rise was "acceptable" as "the market was quite volatile last year but the Exchange Fund's performance was not bad under the authority's management". The Exchange Fund reported investment earnings of HK$108.6 billion last year, the best since 2007, with an overall investment return of 4.4 per cent. The authority started investing in new asset classes in 2008. The aggregate market value of these investments rose to HK$148.9 billion at the end of last year, from HK$83.6 billion the year before. Among those investments, emerging-market bonds and yuan assets returned 8 per cent while private equity and property generated a 10 per cent return. The authority said it could invest HK$63.8 billion more into these assets. It will post the details of the Exchange Fund's first-quarter performance on May 6. Hong Kong banks' loans grew 12.4 per cent on an annualised basis in the first quarter, the HKMA said. The faster credit growth was due to greater trade financing and loans issued for use outside Hong Kong, it said. That led the Hong Kong dollar loan-deposit ratio to increase slightly to 81 per cent at the end of March. After the government rolled out fresh measures to cool the property market in February, the average loan-value ratio declined to 54 per cent. Mortgage loans drawn down jumped 52 per cent to HK$18.6 billion in March from the previous month while mortgage loans approved grew 16.1 per cent to HK$21.6 billion. The number of applications increased 14.2 per cent to 10,291.

Hong Kong to work on free trade deal with Asean (By Stuart Lau Hong Kong and Asean have agreed to pursue a bilateral free trade agreement, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Gregory So Kam-leung announced in Beijing yesterday. The latest move, however, followed a counterproposal by Asean that came after the city government's original request that it join the China-Asean free trade area, which came into operation in 2010. Asean comprises 10 Southeast Asian member states, including key economies like Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. "In terms of negotiation, there will be a lot of work as there are 10 countries [in Asean]. We can't set a deadline and say the negotiation will be completed this year," So said. "As there are so many countries, the negotiation process will be considerably complicated. "The agreement can help Hong Kong businesses create more opportunities, and, in the long run, help us boost our economic growth." A public consultation would be conducted to gauge the interests of local businesses in the Asean market, So said. Professor Chong Tai-leung, an economics professor at Chinese University of Hong Kong, said one possibility for the counterproposal was Asean's desire to get around the mainland's protectionist trade policies when negotiating with Hong Kong. As Hong Kong already imposes a zero-tariff for most trade activities, it is believed the agreement will be more beneficial for the city than it will for its Asian counterparts. Meanwhile, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, also in Beijing, announced that the early and pilot measures for Hong Kong's services industry currently applicable in Guangdong would be extended to the whole of the pan-Pearl River Delta region, which included a total of eight provinces and the Guangxi autonomous region. He also said he gained assurance from the National Development and Reform Commission that the city would play a role in the preliminary discussions relating to the 13th national five-year plan that takes effect in 2016.

Striking dockers make surprise march to Government House (By Johnny Tam, Jolie Ho and Stuart Lau) Dockers and their supporters turn up in their thousands to protest chief executive's inaction - Participants in last night's unannounced demonstration are stopped by police as they mark the first month of the strike. The striking dockers last night made an unannounced move to mark their walkout's first month by marching to Government House, although their target, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, had yet to return from his Beijing trip. Chaos ensued and traffic lanes on Garden Road were blocked when the dockers tried to break police blockades on their route that started from the Cheung Kong Center in Central, where hundreds of strikers and their supporters had earlier gathered for their second public rally. Strike organiser Stanley Ho Wai-hong, of the Union of Hong Kong Dockers, claimed 3,000 joined the march against Leung's inaction in the past month. The police put the number at 600. Police said the protesters informed them of the plan only in the afternoon, rather than a week in advance as required. Deputy Central district commander Chan Yee-lai said they would gather evidence to see whether there was any legal liability. Meanwhile, the High Court granted an injunction banning the strikers from entering the Cheung Kong Center. "We have no intention of entering the tower to protest, so the ruling won't affect the dockers' determination," Ho said. A war of words over the strike at the Kwai Tsing Container Terminals escalated yesterday, with the Li Ka-shing empire publicly slamming unionist lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan, a key leader in the walkout. Hutchison Whampoa hit out at the unionists' "Cultural Revolution-like criticism". Hutchison - the parent company of port operator Hongkong International Terminals (HIT), whose contractors employ the 450 striking dockers - for the first time took out advertisements in most Chinese-language newspapers to publish a statement. Titled "Behind the industrial action", the statement said: "The Cultural Revolution-like criticism has led the industrial and business sectors to face unprecedented pressure, causing a domino effect". It accused Lee and other unionists of "stirring hostility to the rich and encouraging verbal abuse to hurt and vilify Li Ka-shing". Lee said: "The strikers are only fighting for a pay rise. There is room for negotiation." Also yesterday, strike-hit HIT contractor Global Stevedoring Service told the Labour Department it would bring forward its closure to Tuesday, from June 30.

Legco chief suggests combining debates (By Tony Cheung and Gary Cheung) A mega merger of multiple sessions sparked by filibustering is among Jasper Tsang's options to strike balance between debate and practicality - The head of the legislature is mulling two options to kill filibusters launched by radical lawmakers so as to cut short the delay in the approval of the budget. The Legislative Council began deliberations on Wednesday on 710 amendments to the proposed budget that were expected to take up 148 debate sessions. Legco president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing said that a week before a yet-to-be-defined deadline, he might merge all remaining debates into one session, or impose a limit on how long each session could last. Tsang, sharing his thoughts with the South China Morning Post yesterday, dismissed fears that such actions were tantamount to doing the government's bidding. There was no better solution, he said, because it was unlikely the government would heed the demand of the radicals even if he did not kill their filibusters. "It is difficult to dispute that filibustering is a weapon for the minority to wrestle with the government, but you have to strike a balance," he said. "In this case, I cannot see the possibility of the lawmakers succeeding in forcing the government to give in to their demands." He pledged to listen to legislators' opinions before making a decision. Four lawmakers from People Power and the League of Social Democrats launched the filibusters to protest at the omission of a universal pensions scheme from the budget. The resulting marathon debates ended the third day yesterday without concluding the second session - discussions on Executive Council funds. The session will continue on Monday. On April 19, Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Professor Chan Ka-keung wrote to the Legco secretariat urging it to pass the budget bill by the middle of next month. He said any undue delay in its passage "is clearly not in the public interest". In the Post interview, Tsang suggested he might consider a debate merger. "If I have no other choice in the end, I will have to set a date, and I will notify all the lawmakers in advance," he said. "For example, [I will tell them] we have only a week left … and then we will have to start voting. If I have no other choice in the end, I will have to set a date, and I will notify all the lawmakers in advance - "This will be a final debate on everything. This is a possibility." Another possibility was to impose a time limit. "If there are more than 100 debates to go and we have about 100 hours left, I might suggest [limiting] each debate to one hour, then I won't need to merge everything." But if most of the legislators resisted killing the filibusters, he would consider letting the debates continue. "I don't mind and the government cannot pressurise me," Tsang said. He admitted that his options were not prescribed in legislature rules but the Basic Law gave the Legco president the power and responsibility to decide on the time of meetings. An interim fund of HK$75.5 billion will sustain spending into next month, and pan-democrats have suggested the administration could table a second interim fund. But Tsang said another "stopgap measure" meant the government could forget about winning budget approval.

 China*:  April 29 2013

Beijing cancels finance talks with Tokyo, Seoul (By Teddy Ng Diaoyus tensions and Japanese MPs' visit to shrine honouring war criminals seen as behind scrapping of talks on sidelines of ADB meeting - Beijing has cancelled an annual financial meeting with Japanese and South Korean officials set for next week, amid strained relations over the Diaoyu Islands sovereignty dispute. The decision came shortly after Japan's Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister, Akihiro Ota, said his planned trip to China next week would not go ahead. The cancellation highlights China's unwillingness to hold high- or ministerial-level dialogue with Japan, even as both sides attempt to maintain contact at lower levels. The chief of Japan's defence ministry policy bureau, Hideshi Tokuchi, in Beijing for talks on maritime affairs last night. The defence talks are only symbolic to show that both nations can still hold some kind of talks - "The defence talks are only symbolic to show that both nations can still hold some kind of talks," said Professor Yang Bojiang from the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations. Japan's Finance Ministry said yesterday that the meeting, which was to happen on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank in New Delhi on Friday, had been called off by China, which was serving as chair of the trilateral meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors this year. The meeting was scrapped because "there were no issues that needed to be discussed by the three countries", Japan's Kyodo news agency quoted a Japanese official as saying. In another incident revealing tensions, Ota said yesterday that his three-day trip to China, due to start on Thursday, had been cancelled because of a "co-ordination" problem. Sino-Japanese ties have been deteriorating since September, when the Japanese government announced it was buying three of the five uninhabited Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea. The islands are known in Japan as the Senkakus. Tensions escalated further this week when almost 170 Japanese lawmakers visited Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, which glorifies Japan's wartime past, and both nations sent ships to waters around the disputed islands. Da Zhigang , a Japanese affairs expert at the Heilongjiang Academy of Social Sciences, said the maritime communication mechanism could prevent military confrontation. "But there won't be any significant outcome because neither side will concede much regarding territorial rights."

China military planes 'flew close to disputed isles' (By Agence France-Press in Tokyo) Chinese military planes, mostly fighter jets, made more than 40 flights close to Tokyo-controlled islands at the centre of a territorial dispute on a single day this week, a press report said on Saturday. The flights took place on Tuesday, when eight Chinese marine surveillance ships entered the 12-nautical-mile territorial zone off the islands in the East China Sea, which Japan calls the Senkakus and China calls the Diaoyus, the Sankei Shimbun newspaper reported. The conservative daily, citing senior government officials, said F-15 fighter planes from an airbase on the Japanese island of Okinawa scrambled to intercept the Chinese aircraft which flew in waves towards the skies over the islands. “It was an unprecedented threat,” one of the officials was quoted as saying. Another said: “If such a show of force continues, it is feared it could lead to a situation where the [Japanese] air defence force may not be able to cope.” The report said the military planes included updated Sukhoi Su-27 and Su-30 fighter aircraft. The report, which did not say whether the planes intruded into Japan’s airspace, could not be immediately confirmed by Japan’s Defence Ministry. Chinese government ships have frequently sailed around the five Tokyo-controlled islands in recent months sparking diplomatic clashes. But Tuesday’s flotilla was the biggest to sail into the disputed waters in a single day since Tokyo nationalised part of the island chain in September. On December 13, a Y-12 turbo-prop plane from China’s State Oceanic Administration breached airspace over the disputed islands, prompting the launch of Japanese F-15s. It was the first known incursion ever by a Chinese plane into Japanese airspace, the government said at the time.

Li Keqiang tells France's Hollande China wants more balanced trade (By Agence France-Presse in Shanghai) French President Francois Hollande met Premier Li Keqiang on the final day of his visit in Beijing on Friday. French President Francois Hollande wrapped up a two-day visit to China on Friday, confident that France could achieve more balanced trade with the world’s second largest economy. Hollande became the first Western leader to meet China’s new president Xi Jinping and picked up a deal potentially worth billions for 60 new Airbus aircraft. France runs a 26-billion-euro (HK$261 billion) trade deficit with China and Hollande said Beijing “responded perfectly to the requests that we made”. On the second and final day of his visit, his first to China, Hollande met Premier Li Keqiang. “China is not looking for a trade surplus but wants to import more French goods,” Li said, according to a source close to the delegations. China’s rapid development, far from scaring France, presented a “significant opportunity”, Hollande said, urging Beijing to ease market access. France accounts for just 1.3 per cent of China’s foreign trade compared with around 5 per cent for Germany but Hollande said the food industry and urban development could help diversify co-operation from its traditional aviation and nuclear sectors. Jean-Pierre Raffarin, a former prime minister travelling with Hollande, said the visit had been very useful and would contribute to narrowing France’s trade deficit with China. On Thursday, the first day of Hollande’s visit, the two sides announced a lucrative deal for 60 Airbus planes. The deal, signed in the presence of Hollande and Xi, was part of the French leader’s attempt to press China to help reduce its trade surplus with France. China’s pact with Airbus could be worth at least US$7.7 billion at list prices, although customers generally negotiate discounts from plane manufacturers. The French president later vowed to remove obstacles to Chinese investment in France as he vies to drum up anaemic rates of growth in the euro zone’s number-two economy. Hollande told a press conference on Thursday that during his talks with Chinese leaders he also raised the issue of Tibet and human rights, with all topics discussed in a “frank and respectful manner”. He said such discussions were not the only purpose of his trip, and that they wanted to talk about political partnership, the Chinese presence in Europe and economic growth. On Friday, Hollande highlighted the importance of co-operation between the two countries on a range of issues. “The world needs China and France to deepen regulations, strengthen certain procedures, govern the planet better and to resolve certain conflicts or stave off threats,” Hollande told Li. “We are, like China, aware that we must fight against global warming.” A French source said that both countries’ finance ministers would begin to hold regular dialogue, which would provide a forum for discussing sensitive issues such as the view – shared by Paris – that China’s yuan is undervalued. Hollande had lunch with Xi on Friday with their respective partners, Valerie Trierweiler and Peng Liyuan – both women credited with bringing glamour to their career-politician other halves. Both Hollande and Trierweiler described the lunch as “friendly”. Twice-divorced former journalist Trierweiler made waves in France by winning Hollande away from the mother of his four children while Peng, a popular soprano who carries the rank of general, was until recent years far better known than Xi. Speaking to students in Shanghai, Hollande said stronger ties between the European Union and China were essential to both sides. Europe is “the world’s top economic power... China’s top trade partner and the main destination for Asian exports”, Hollande said. “There will be no recovery in Europe without China, without Asia, and there will be no sustainable development in China without Europe,” he said.

France leads eurozone in offshore RMB payments (By LI XIANG in Paris and WANG XIAOTIAN in Beijing) People walk past the entrance of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China in Paris. Last month, 21.4 percent of the payments made between China and France were denominated in yuan. France now holds the leading position in euro countries for exchanging RMB payments, after recording a 249 percent growth in the value of payments since March 2012. According to the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or SWIFT, last month 21.4 percent of the payments made between China and France were denominated in yuan, against only 6.5 percent a year ago. SWIFT said 95 percent of RMB payments made were institutional transfers, with 5 percent being customer payments. France is ranked fourth in the world in terms of the value of offshore RMB payments— excluding Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland, trailing behind the United Kingdom, Singapore and Taiwan, according to SWIFT. "This is an interesting development as it signifies France's drive to become a leading RMB trading center in Europe," said Lisa O'Connor, RMB director at SWIFT. French acceleration in RMB payments reflects increased competition with the UK since the Bank of England announced that it had signed a three-year currency swap agreement with China in March, she added. "It will be interesting to see how France's work toward setting up a currency swap agreement with China progresses, and the impact that this activity may have on the RMB." Zhao Xijun, a professor at Renmin University of China, said France's location at the heart of the continent means it is perfectly positioned to handle more customer payments than other European cities. "Robust consumer payments have led to more institutional transfers in the currency. "And a large proportion of trade and investment between China and Europe is related to the country, which has helped France accumulate a yuan pool." The RMB continues to ascend the ranks as a major international payments currency. It is the 13th most-used currency overall with an all-time high market share of 0.74 percent. Overall, RMB payments grew in value by 32.7 percent, in comparison to the average increase of just 5.1 percent across all currencies, according to SWIFT. According to a report released by Standard Chartered Bank last week, 150 senior executives it surveyed in 16 locations globally in the first quarter said they planned to increase their use of yuan offshore products. "Many foreign central banks have expressed an interest in holding more yuan assets, and we expect that within two years the currency will be widely adopted as a reserve currency," said Tommy Ong, a senior vice-president at DBS Bank. The Reserve Bank of Australia announced on Wednesday it plans to invest 5 percent of its total foreign currency assets in Chinese sovereign bonds, making the currency its fifth-largest reserve currency after the US dollar, euro, Japanese yen, and Canadian dollar. Philip Lowe, deputy governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, said the People's Bank of China has approved the purchase of about $1.9 billion's worth. The Australia and New Zealand Banking Group said that further liberalization of the offshore yuan market would improve liquidity and is fundamentally positive for the currency.

Relics to be returned (By Lin Shujuan) Two imperial bronze sculptures that were looted from Beijing's Old Summer Palace will come home later this year, thanks to the donation of the French art-collecting Pinault family, China's top heritage authority announced on Friday afternoon. French billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault will return the bronze rabbit (right) and rat fountainheads to China. The State Administration of Cultural Heritage announced the news on its website after a meeting with the visiting Pinaults on Friday morning. The sculptures, of a rat and a rabbit head, were made for the zodiac fountain of Emperor Qianlong's Old Summer Palace, and looted when the palace was razed by invading French and British forces in 1860. The sculptures made news when their auction by French auction house Christie's in February 2009 aroused controversy worldwide. The statues' winning bid was more than 31 million euros ($40.3 million), but the deal collapsed when Chinese buyer Cai Mingchao refused to pay. The Pinault family — the majority shareholder of PPR, whose brands include Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Puma — bought the two sculptures after that. Francois-Henri Pinault, CEO of PPR, promised the donation on behalf of the family, which also owns auction house Christie's, during a meeting with SACH officials on Friday. Earlier this month, Christie's was granted a license that will enable it to become the first international auction house to operate independently in China, which has overtaken the United States as the world's largest art and auction market. The SACH highly endorsed the donation, saying it was "in accordance with the spirit of international conventions" and "of friendliness to Chinese people", which will help push forward the "common international understanding that cultural relics should be returned to their country of origin". Song Xinchao, deputy director of SACH who met Pinault at Beijing's Park Hyatt Hotel on Friday morning, said China hopes to see the return of the sculptures by July and add them to the collection at the National Museum of China. To date, five of the 12 bronze animal fountainheads from the Old Summer Palace have been returned to China through purchases in auctions or donations by overseas Chinese collectors. Like other ancient civilizations, China saw many cultural relics taken overseas when the country was subjected to wars and occupation. According to the Chinese Cultural Relics Association, more than 10 million Chinese cultural relics were taken from the country from 1840 to 1949, a large number of which are now stored at major public museums in Europe and the US. The number of relics plundered from the Old Summer Palace alone is estimated at about 1.5 million, now housed in more than 2,000 museums in 47 countries. A majority of them are being showcased in the British Museum and the Fontainebleau Art Museum in France, experts said. China has been actively seeking the return of overseas relics during the past decade through purchases at international auctions, donations by private collectors or overseas Chinese, and increasingly through diplomatic means based on international conventions. "We're open to any channel for the return of cultural relics," Song said.

Students lower their heads during a silent tribute to the victims of the Lushan earthquake on April 20 at Lushan Middle School, Ya'an city, Southwest China's Sichuan province on April 27, 2013. A public mourning ceremony was held Saturday in Southwest China's Sichuan province for those who died in the 7.0-magnitude quake a week ago. The quake claimed nearly 200 lives and destroyed about 126,000 homes, according to official figures. 

 *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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