China.Hawaii Chamber of Commerce ®
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Hong Kong, China & Hawaii News Archive for Year 2002  Archive Jan 1, 2003.........:>
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China President Hu Jintao USA State Visit January 19 - 21 2011

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Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hong Kong*:  Oct 02 2013

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

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

 China*:  Oct 02 2013

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

Hong Kong*:  Oct 01 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

 China*:  Oct 01 2013

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

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

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

Hong Kong*:  Sept 30 2013

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

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

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

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

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

 China*:  Sept 30 2013

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

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

Hong Kong*:  Sept 29 2013

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

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

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

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

 China*:  Sept 29 2013

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

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

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

Hong Kong*:  Sept 28 2013

ICAC to overhaul spending rules after Timothy Tong expenses scandal (By Lai Ying-kit The Independent Commission Against Corruption will conduct an overhaul of its rules on officers’ expenses following an overspending scandal involving its former head Timothy Tong Hin-ming. Incumbent ICAC commissioner Simon Peh Yun-lu said on Thursday this would be a “comprehensive” review of the agency’s standing order, which governs the conduct of its officers. “This will be a very radical review. We will review the whole standing order,” he said. “The aim is to identify inadequacies and areas that need improving.” Peh made the remarks after he testified at an inquiry by the Legislative Council’s public accounts committee that looked into his predecessor Tong’s expenses scandal. Peh also said the anti-corruption agency had held two internal briefings to enhance officers’ understanding of requirements in the wake of recommendations by an independent committee review. Last month, the independent committee found that Tong had breached the rules pertaining to entertainment expenses, gifts and duty visits on 42 occasions during his five-year tenure, from 2007 to last year. Among the irregularities, the committee criticised Tong for engaging in “excessive non-official activities” during two duty visits to Yunan in 2009 and 2010. On an official trip to Brazil, two senior officers who accompanied Tong had upgraded their seats to business class without approval, which cost HK$186,000, the committee said in its report. During Thursday’s inquiry, Peh also explained why expense figures the agency gave to Legco earlier differed from those listed by the independent review report. He said this was because the Legco public accounts committee and the independent committee had looked at different aspects of the case.

Derailment fears spark MTR probe into train 'design faults' (By Lai Ying-kit Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung Bing-leung. The MTR Corporation has been asked to submit a report after concerns were raised over the safety standards of a Chinese-made train to be used on its new South Island link. The report request came after local newspaper Apple Daily alleged on Thursday in an article that some of the bottom parts of the new, unmanned train were oversized as a result of “design faults”. The newspaper said this could put the train at risk of derailment as the protruding parts could hit electric cables, signal lamps or concrete pit covers on the track while the train was in motion. The train is manufactured by CNR Changchun Railway Vehicles, a central-government-owned company that has also made some of MTR’s new trains in recent years. Ten train sets of three cars are now in production. Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, responding to the newspaper report, said on Thursday that officials had asked the MTR Corporation to submit a detailed report on the issue within three days. “The government is concerned about any report on safety issues concerning railway trains,” he said. “That is the reason we have asked the MTR Corporation to give a swift response.” Cheung said that before the new trains could be used on the track to serve the public, they would have to pass tests by the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department to ensure their safety. “The safety requirements for the new trains to be serving on the South Island Line are same as those for other railway trains now in service,” Cheung said. The South Island Line will be a semi-circular line connecting Aberdeen with Admiralty. The project is expected to be completed by 2015. 

 China*:  Sept 28 2013

Ready for China's '4th of July' (By Chen Jia in San Francisco) San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee (right) and Chinese Consul General in San Francisco Yuan Nansheng attend the Chinese national flag-raising ceremony on Wednesday at San Francisco City Hall to mark the upcoming National Day of the People's Republic of China on Oct 1. "Congratulations! Happy Independence Day!" No, it's not the Fourth of July. It's San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee on Wednesday morning toasting government officers and Chinese community leaders who came for the annual Chinese national flag-raising ceremony at City Hall to celebrate the coming Chinese National Day. "We want to show our appreciation for the Independence Day of China that is coming up on Oct 1," the Chinese-American mayor told the group assembled on the balcony of city hall. "This is to recognize an important relationship - the Chinese-US relationship, surely one of the most important relationships in the whole world." One of the reasons for that, he added, was because "we have such a great consul general in San Francisco". Yuan Nansheng, the Consul General of China in San Francisco, attended the ceremony and expressed his gratitude to Lee, who will lead a business delegation on a second tour of China in October. "I am very excited about this second trip to China," Lee said. "It's a very good cause and we have a lot to do. "There are so many people doing business with each other in China and US, we want to continue those relationships," he said, adding that they also wanted to continue talking about art, cultural and entertainment exchanges between both sides as well. He noted that the Golden Gate Warriors - San Francisco's NBA team - will bring two games to Chinese basketball fans - one in Beijing and one in Shanghai - on Oct 15 and Oct 18 respectively. We know the Chinese love sports, after the country hosted a very successful Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008, he said. "The Chinese are very excited about basketball. It is a very good meeting ground of a lot of people, government officials and sports enthusiasts," he said. The business delegation will arrive at China on Oct 14 and stay until Oct 20, including two days in Beijing and four in Shanghai. "We lost a lot of ground in working with China and so many other international markets as the previous administrations did not pay attention to international trade," he said. "This is the most important thing we are doing," Lee said. "It's not only important for San Francisco but for the whole United States." As a representative of the San Francisco mayor's office in China, ChinaSF is helping coordinate the mayor's upcoming trip. Darlene Chiu Bryant, executive director of ChinaSF, told China Daily on Wednesday that many senior officials' meeting itineraries are still being arranged, but talks between the Ministry of Commerce and Lee in Beijing are certain. "On the Shanghai stop, we want to introduce San Francisco opportunities to more Chinese restaurant operators who are headed overseas for market expansion," she said. Thanks to the help of ChinaSF, more than 26 Chinese companies have recruited in San Francisco over the past five years. It has also helped many local companies provide services or establish a presence in China. On the mayor' first trip in early April of this year, the delegation's stops included Hong Kong, Beijing and Guangdong.

Rich should fight poverty too: Ho (By Michael Barris in New York From left: British Foreign Minister William Hague, French FM Laurent Fabius, Russian FM Sergei Lavrov, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Chinese FM Wang Yi pose for a photo during the 68th session of the UN General Assembly in New York on Wednesday. Developed nations should enlist their "affluent multitudes" to aid in the fight against world poverty and hunger, Hong Kong's former Secretary for Home Affairs told a United Nations meeting. "Every one of us, rich and poor, from the north and the south, the haves and have-nots, has a role to play," Patrick Ho said Wednesday. The deputy chairman and secretary general of the China Energy Fund Committee, a Hong Kong-based nongovernmental think tank, was among more than 20 speakers reporting on their nation's or organization's progress in achieving eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG). The UN's 189 member states and more than 20 organizations agreed to achieve the goals by 2015 after the UN's Millennium Summit in 2000. The goals include eradicating poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowering women, reducing child mortality rates, combating HIV/AIDS and other diseases, and ensuring environmental sustainability. Although developed countries have boosted funding in support of the effort to achieve the goals, more than half the aid has been toward debt relief owed by poor countries, UN reports show. Much of the remaining aid funding goes towards natural disaster relief and military aid, which do not further development, according to the reports. Noting that global efforts at achieving the goals have "always been concentrated on the underprivileged", Ho suggested that an effort be made, after 2015, to "also rally the affluent multitudes in the developed countries into action, and revisit an old concept of 'sustainability as a core value' for all". "Our consumption should cater to what we need rather than what we want and desire, for desires can be insatiable and have no limits," Ho said. "It warns against greed, and calls for moderation." He urged the group to formulate "a set of specific goals on changing our unsustainable lifestyle", saying "the principle of sustainability should be incorporated into our daily lives and manifested by our every deed and action. "It should not be just a slogan, policy, or a campaign," Ho said. "It should be our way of life." Ho emphasized China's progress in meeting the Millennium Goals and in helping to halve the number of people living in extreme poverty. "Out of the 700 million lifted out of poverty, 500 million are from China alone," Ho told the meeting. While 1.2 billion people live in extreme poverty and 12 percent of the world remains chronically undernourished, "a third of the food produced globally for human consumption, or 1.3 billion tons per year, gets wasted", he said. The United States, he said, produces $200 billion in "avoidable" food waste a year. The US' energy use contrasts sharply with those who are "permanently blighted" by energy poverty, Ho said. Although 1.6 billion people, or 22.5 percent of the world's population, lack access to modern energy services, the US, with just 5 percent of the world's population, "drives 25 percent of the world's cars, consumes 20 percent of the world's total energy and uses 40 percent of the world's gasoline", Ho said. In an interview after the meeting, Ho acknowledged that nations' overall progress in reaching the goals has been uneven. Some countries have reached many goals, while other countries are struggling to achieve even one, reports show. In 2008, the World Bank estimated that the number of people living on less than $1 a day had been halved, mainly due to China's and India's poverty-fighting efforts. Notwithstanding these strides, areas such as the sub-Saharan Africa regions have yet to make any drastic changes in improving their quality of life, according to UN statistics. Critics also have complained about the difficulty of measuring progress in reaching the goals.

Hong Kong*:  Sept 27 2013

US consul Clifford Hart gets another blast from Beijing over democracy (By Tanna Chong and Adrian Wan in Beijing) US envoy Clifford Hart addresses the AmCham lunch about his impressions of US-Hong Kong relations. Washington's top envoy in Hong Kong might have thought he was being careful when he said on Tuesday that the US would not take sides when it came to the city's democratic development. But Clifford Hart's comments in his first public speech in his new role managed to reignite Beijing's anger. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday again told the US to stay out of Hong Kong affairs. While Hart said Washington supported "genuine universal suffrage" but had "no prescription" when it came to democratic development, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said no other country should have any say in the city's constitutional development. "The issue of political development is Hong Kong's internal affair, and China's internal politics," ministry spokesman Hong Lei said. "No countries should make irresponsible remarks. We request that the relevant countries align their words with their actions, and do more that helps Hong Kong become prosperous and stable." The Beijing-loyalist Wen Wei Po published an editorial saying Hart could be "facing a gloomy ending if he continues meddling in Hong Kong's political development". It said: "Clifford Hart has ignored a warning from the Chinese government and is blatantly intervening in the city's political development. Such an act is a violation of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations." It was referring to the treaty that forbids diplomats from interfering in the internal affairs of host states. In May, the Foreign Ministry also quoted the document in a warning to Hart's predecessor, Stephen Young. The daily pointed an accusing finger at an invitation the consulate posted on Facebook on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech, asking people what their dream was. Most of those who posted replies said they wanted an independent Hong Kong.

Retailers keen on fringe areas such as Gough Street and Hollywood Road (By Peggy Sito Slowdown in trade and rocketing rents in prime districts are causing top brands to move out to areas such as Gough Street and Hollywood Road - The Ralph Lauren shop opened in Gough Street last year led the way for other brands. Hong Kong's retail sector is going through a transformation, driven mainly by a slowdown in the growth of retail sales. The slowdown has ended the relentless rise in rents in prime shopping areas such as Russell Street in Causeway Bay. Meanwhile, in secondary shopping areas such as Percival Street in Causeway Bay, shops are being left vacant as retailers either quit the market, call a halt to expansion plans or go in search of cheaper rentals. But the movement away from overpriced upmarket locations has delivered benefits to several districts formerly regarded as being on the shopping fringes and has injected new life into areas such as Gough Street and Hollywood Road. Ralph Lauren leased a ground-floor shop at 2-10 Gough Street in Sheung Wan for HK$240,000 a month last year, while Malaysian pewter manufacturer Royal Selangor International has just opened a 2,000 sq ft store in Hollywood Road. Chen Tien Yue, director of Royal Selangor, said: "The area is evolving. The mixture of tenants will continue to change in the next of couple of years." Chen said the company wanted to secure a good location before rents in the area increased. US fashion brand J.Crew is due to open a shop for men's clothing in Gough Street. The moves are being driven by cheaper rents, say agents. "You can pay HK$250,000 for a shop in the area, or pay a million plus for a shop in the city's core area,'' said Nicholas Bradstreet, deputy managing director of property consultant Savills. While shoppers might welcome the arrival of the brands in the area, existing residents may think otherwise, regretting the increased traffic and attention in what was a quiet corner of the city until now. But the trend is likely to gather momentum. More mid-priced European brands have now expressed interest in opening in Hollywood Road and Gough Street, which could be on track to becoming a stylish new shopping area close to the core Central district. Helen Mak Hoi-lun, a director of retail services at consultancy Colliers International, said: "The streets are in better shape nowadays and our international customers have identified the area as one of their leasing options outside the traditional shopping districts." The area around Gough Street and Hollywood Road could even become comparable to London's Covent Garden as a shopping and tourist site, she said. Mak said its growing appeal to retailers had already seen a year-on-year increase in rents of more than 10 per cent to between HK$150 and HK$200 per sq ft. Some longer-term leases coming up for renewal were being rewritten at double their previous rates, she added. This is in stark contrast to what is happening to rents in prime shopping areas. Shops in Russell Street, Causeway Bay, and Queen's Road Central are being offered at unchanged rents, as the city adjusts to the slowdown in spending on super-luxury items by mainland visitors. As a result, retailers who once clamoured to enter the Hong Kong market and were willing to pay sky-high rents are looking for hard bargains. Some, such as the cosmetics retailer Bonjour, have shut some stores. Landlords have responded by cutting rents to re-let their premises. Mak said: "The owner of a 2,000 sq ft street shop in Percival Street was asking for a rental of HK$1.2 million, but has now cut that to HK$1 million."

Chairmen of the board - Hong Kong's last few chopping block craftsmen toil on (By Charmaine Che Just a handful of the craftsmen who make traditional chopping blocks are still in the business, and they're proud of what they do - Leung Chun-kit, owner of Lee Hang Cutting Board, goes to work on a block at his shop in Sham Shui Po. Leung has been working in the business for more than 30 years, but says it is doomed. Semicircular and circular chopping blocks stacked outside Leung's shop, awaiting delivery to clients. The trendiest thing worn at Kwun Tong's Lok Wah market is a bloodstained apron, tucked around the naked beer belly of a balding butcher. The carnage is striking: layers of pork fat lie in bamboo baskets as flies buzz around bloody pork knuckles and ribs dangling from crude metal hooks. In the middle of it all is Lo Wai-hung, a 61-year-old man kneeling on the floor of the dilapidated market, hammering away at a thick slab of wood. He's not a butcher, but one of the few craftsmen left in the age-old business of making traditional chopping blocks. As in many other Hong Kong industries, mechanisation and a drain of manufacturing to the mainland have pushed traditional local craftsmanship to the brink of existence. Lo is the personification of that trend; he's the only chopping block maker left in Hong Kong still making his product by hand. Traditional chopping board makers - zum ban sifu in Cantonese - go to the markets personally, equipped with their tools and a few blocks of wood. They have to remove old, worn out chopping blocks from whatever hole or frame they are installed in and fashion new ones to fit by chipping at and shaving a new piece of wood. As each installation is different, they must fit boards precisely to the specific dimensions. Once, these craftsmen dominated the market for household chopping boards. Today almost all supermarkets, butcher's stalls and restaurants in the city still depend on their custom-made boards. But their numbers have been dwindling since the 1990s when imports from the mainland gradually dominated the market for domestic chopping boards and made inroads into the commercial market. To stay competitive, many local board makers stopped custom-fitting chopping boards, instead opting to mass produce them with machines. Now, there are only four makers who can custom-fit a block in Hong Kong. Is it a dying art? "Of course it is," says Lo, as he removes a worn chopping block from a butcher's table, revealing a nest of two dozen cockroaches and leeches feasting on blood that had oozed into the cavity that held it. He says: "Just look at this and ask yourself - would youngsters these days want to do a job like this?" Known to his clients as "Brother Hung", Lo is a veteran of the trade and has been making chopping boards for 34 years. Lo fled Guiyang , in Guizhou province , for Hong Kong when he was 20 years old after being rejected as a People's Liberation Army recruit because he had a liver ailment during the Cultural Revolution. Upon arriving in 1972, Lo had few job options because his studies had been cut short by the turmoil on the mainland. With only a primary school education, he began working in Hong Kong in the textile industry before going to work in his uncle's chopping board business in 1979 for HK$1,800 a month. Lo says making chopping boards is a skill that is "easy to learn but difficult to master". "It requires a lot of subtle force to shave off the uneven edges of the chopping board, and great precision to hammer away at the ridges," he says. "That's why I am soaked with sweat even after making one chopping board. "I tried to teach students before, but they gave up after two weeks because of how tough the labour was and the difficulty of the job," he says. He recalls fracturing bones in his fingers and bruising his hand many times. "Accidents happen often in our profession," he says. "There have been cases of board makers having half their hands sliced off or having to reattach the tips of their fingers [after mishaps with] the sharp edges of their machines." Board makers use topwood and pine wood from Southeast Asia and Africa. Leung Chun-kit, a chopping board maker for 33 years who owns Lee Hang Cutting Board in Sham Shui Po, says: "Topwood is tougher, which is better for chopping red meat, but pine is more pliable, and thus more suitable for cutting fish … also, termites don't eat it." Leung says there is a misconception among consumers that plastic chopping boards are more hygienic than wooden boards. "When you hack at the board, there will inevitably be bits and pieces of wood or plastic attached to the meat," he says. "While many believe plastic is smoother, sturdier, lighter and more clean, it is actually more hazardous to one's health if ingested." For Leung, his trade is not about money, but about interest. "It's an honest profession that helps me sustain a living," he says. "But above all I am interested in it. It is very rewarding for me to see that after the wood has gone through so many stages of production in many different companies and countries, that the users are satisfied with their chopping board." However, as the price of raw materials rises, Lo says it is increasingly difficult to make a living from making the boards. What he once sold for HK$50 he now sells for HK$420 to cover higher production costs. Higher material costs have prompted another man in the trade - Au Kam-hung, owner of Man Kee Chopping Board, the biggest and oldest name in the business - to diversify into furniture, kitchen utensils and even clothing. His newest venture is a cake shop. "I go where the market flows," says Au. "Yes, it is certainly a dying industry, and even our own children are unwilling to learn the tricks of the trade, let alone the next generation. But why be so nostalgic? When all of us one day retire and pass away, demand will once again draw in new talent." However, Leung and Lo have a different take. "There are no youngsters coming into what is perceived to be an antiquated and obsolete profession," Leung says. "But though this trade is tasteless, it is still a pity to let it die out," he said, borrowing a Chinese saying. Lo says: "It is something that is very unique to Hong Kong. Nowhere else in the world are there chopping board makers like us that cater to such a specific need. Once we're gone, there really will be no one left."

Alibaba to seek US IPO after Hong Kong talks break down (By Reuters in Hong Kong) Alibaba IPO could have added 5pc to HKEx daily turnover - Alibaba has declined to comment on a report that it will pursue its initial public offering in New York instead of Hong Kong. Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding will pursue an IPO in the United States after talks with Hong Kong regulators broke down, a move bound to set off a dogfight between the two main US stock boards for the offering. The loss of the sale, which bankers have estimated to be worth more than US$15 billion, is a blow to the Hong Kong stock exchange, as the deal would have added to its clout and its trading volumes. The negotiations foundered after regulators decided they would not allow Alibaba’s partners to retain control over board nominations, maintaining that all shareholders should be treated equally, sources said. A US listing for Alibaba would come at a time when the NYSE Euronext is seeking to snatch business away from the Nasdaq OMX Group, traditionally home to tech companies, after Facebook Inc’s debut was marred by glitches on the exchange. Social media network Twitter is leaning toward picking the New York Stock Exchange over Nasdaq for its highly anticipated initial public offering, a person familiar with the matter said. Alibaba, which some analysts estimate to be worth up to US$120 billion, is the most anticipated internet IPO since Facebook’s US$16 billion offer last year. The company commands 80 per cent of China’s e-commerce market and consumers bought a combined 1 trillion yuan of goods last year through Tmall and Taobao, Alibaba’s main market platforms, up 58 per cent from 2011. The decision ends weeks of negotiations between Alibaba, the Hong Kong stock exchange and the city’s securities regulator over Alibaba’s shareholding structure. “We’ve come to the end of dialogue with Hong Kong and we’re pivoting to the US to start the listing process,” said a company source familiar with the discussions. Alibaba has engaged US law firms to start working on its IPO and will soon be hiring banks to manage the listing, added the company source, who was not authorised to speak publicly on the matter. The choice of New York should make it easy for Alibaba founder Jack Ma and his management team to keep a tight grip on the company with a dual share structure used by internet companies such as Google and Facebook. Impact - A US listing by Alibaba would come on the heels of a 25 per cent rally in the Nasdaq Composite index so far this year. It would also come at a time when shares of Chinese internet companies are surging, with Tencent Holdings and Baidu up 62 per cent and 50 per cent respectively this year. “Certainly, from a market perspective it’s a terrific time to be in the market for the internet companies out of China,” said a source familiar with the Alibaba plans. “We’ve all seen how Tencent, Baidu, etc, have traded and the global internet stocks are doing great.” The IPO would ride a wave of bullish views on the company after its revenue soared 71 per cent in the first quarter to US$1.4 billion, with profits nearly tripling to US$669 million, according to figures released in July by Yahoo, one of its key shareholders. Yahoo, which owns 24 per cent of Alibaba, and Japan’s Softbank which is its biggest shareholder with 35 per cent, stand to reap huge windfalls from an IPO as Alibaba’s market valuation would add billions of dollars to the two companies’ assets. Yahoo is also keen to sell part of its stake. Ma, former chief financial officer and co-founder Joe Tsai, and other company executives own about 10 per cent. Singapore state investor Temasek Holdings and China Investment Corporation are among other investors in Alibaba. Hong Kong’s failure to secure the mega listing means both lost revenues and the marketing clout to attract other deals, rubbing salt into wounds caused by falling trading volumes and a thin IPO pipeline. The IPO was of such significance to Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEx) that top exchange officials took the rare step of lobbying the Securities and Futures Commission to make rules more flexible so that it could list in the city, according to a local media report. Hong Kong regulators and exchange officials held tough to their stance of not allowing an Alibaba shareholding that was deemed unfair by other stock holders. “As enshrined in our charter, in the event of a conflict, public interest is put ahead of shareholder interest at HKEx,” Charles Li Xiaojia, chief executive of the exchange, wrote in a blog post on Wednesday. The conflict between the commercial interest of the HKEx and its powers as a regulator has prompted some calls for the exchange to be stripped of regulatory powers. “This ongoing conflict of interests for HKEx is not in the interests of Hong Kong or investors at large,” David Webb, a member of the SFC’s Takeover and Mergers Panel said last week. He argued HKEx’s listing unit be merged with the SFC’s corporate finance division to create a new listings and takeovers authority. While the financial impact would have been small to begin with – analysts surveyed by Reuters estimated an Alibaba IPO to add about US$25 million to HKEx’s annual revenues - the knock on effects were expected to be huge. Alex Wong, a director at Ample Financial Group estimated Alibaba would add about 5 per cent to HKEx’s daily turnover and attract huge retail interest similar to that of Tencent. Tencent’s market value has grown to about US$96.5 billion from just US$800 million when it listed in 2004. It accounts for about three per cent of HKEx’s average daily turnover and is among the top five traded stocks on the exchange.

 China*:  Sept 27 2013

Smithfield voters approve deal (By Michael Barris in New York A customer inspects a Smithfield product in a supermarket in midtown Manhattan on Tuesday. Largest takeover of US company by China ever - Calling it a "great transaction" for shareholders, US farmers and agriculture, Smithfield Foods Inc. CEO Larry Pope announced shareholders had approved the pork giant's acquisition by Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd, the biggest Chinese takeover ever of a US company. "The partnership is all about growth, and about doing more business at home and abroad," Pope said Tuesday about the $4.7 billion acquisition, and he promised to keep things "business as usual - only better" at Smithfield. More than 96 percent of the votes cast backed the transaction, representing about 76 percent of the company's outstanding stock, Smithfield said. The acquisition, valued at $7.1 billion including debt, is expected to formally close by Thursday, after which the Virginia-based company's New York Stock Exchange-listed shares will cease to trade publicly, it said. The world's largest pork processor will then begin to operate as a wholly owned Shuanghui unit. Shuanghui, China's biggest meat processor, will pay Smithfield shareholders $34 cash for each share held, a 31 percent premium to the price when the deal was announced in May. Proxy advisory firms Glass Lewis & Co and Institutional Shareholder Services had recommended that Smithfield shareholders back the deal. Unhappy with the offer, New York hedge fund Starboard Value LP, a 5.7 percent Smithfield stakeholder, had said it would vote against the transaction if it could not find a more lucrative alternative offer. Starboard reversed course last week and said it would vote for the acquisition after failing to find a more lucrative alternative bid. The proposed acquisition sparked debate over the deal's implications for US food safety. Both companies asserted the merger was driven by growing pork demand in China and not a strategy to export pork to the US. The merger failed to raise antitrust concerns because it doesn't give Smithfield - already the world's largest hog farmer and pork producer - a larger share of the US pork market. Two weeks ago, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a collection of federal agencies that reviews foreign purchases for their national-security implications, approved the transaction at the end of an extended 45-day investigation, clearing the way for the shareholder vote. Smithfield voters approve deal - Some analysts predict the Smithfield deal will be a watershed event that will lead to more transactions tied to an ambitious effort by Beijing to obtain raw materials and technology needed to run China's growing economy. China's robust growth over the past three decades, putting it on course to overtake the US as the world's largest economy by 2020, has been accompanied by problems with food security and safety, as well as environmental pollution and health care. Erik Gordon, a law professor at the University of Michigan Law School and Ross School of Business, told China Daily in an interview Sunday that any unexpected developments tied to the deal in the next five years could affect the outlook for future Chinese acquisitions in the US. More deals could be in the offing "if Smithfield works out well for the Americans over the next five years", Gordon said. But "if Americans are fired, if Smithfield refuses to disclose information that is customarily disclosed in the US, or if anything else that is unusual happens, it will increase the fears and suspicions," Gordon said. "If China wants to acquire more US companies, it will have to handle Smithfield carefully," he said. Smithfield and Shuanghui have said the acquisition won't result in major changes to Smithfield's management or workforce. Smithfield has more than 46,000 employees. With annual revenue of $13 billion, it 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. Michael Swanson, agricultural economist for Wells Fargo & Co Bank in Minnesota, said he expects the Smithfield acquisition will pave the way for more deals by providing a way for Chinese protein companies to learn how to manage food-related diseases. "Given the longer historical emphasis on food safety, US protein companies will have an advantage in controlling food borne pathogens until Chinese processors adopt the capital and practices required to compete," the analyst said. The acquisition will help China, the world's largest consumer of pork, meet growing demand for the meat as its ever-prosperous citizens eat more protein. Smithfield's brands include its namesake ham, Farmland bacon and Healthy Ones lunch meats. It raises some 15 million pigs a year and processes 27 million, producing more than 2.7 billion kilograms of pork. Shuanghui, based in Henan province, owns businesses in food production, logistics and flavorings. The Smithfield acquisition is China's largest cross-border deal since CNOOC Ltd paid $15.1 billion last year for Canadian oil and gas producer Nexen Ltd.

China to inaugurate Shanghai FTZ on Sept 29 (By Xinhua) China will officially launch the pilot free trade zone in Shanghai on Sept 29, taking a solid step forward to boost reforms in the world's second-largest economy. China will officially launch the pilot free trade zone in Shanghai on Sept 29, taking a solid step forward to boost reforms in the world's second-largest economy. Preparation work is going smoothly, sources with the Shanghai municipal government said on Tuesday. Covering almost 29 square kilometers, the zone will be created modeled on existing free trade businesses in the country's economic hub -- Waigaoqiao Free Trade Zone, Waigaoqiao Free Trade Logistics Park, Yangshan Free Trade Port Area and Pudong Airport Comprehensive Free Trade Zone. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said earlier this month that for the pilot FTZ, a negative list approach will be explored and priority will be given to easier investment and greater openness. China's legislature has given the green light to the State Council, or the Cabinet, to modify laws related to foreign enterprises in the zone. As authorized by the National People's Congress Standing Committee, the State Council will suspend administrative approvals covering foreign-funded enterprises, Chinese-foreign equity joint ventures and contractual joint ventures. The State Council approved the pilot Shanghai FTZ on July 3. In the pilot zone, goods can be imported, processed and re-exported without the intervention of customs authorities. 

China poised to surpass US as top trader (By Li Jiabao in Beijing and Amy He in New York and World economies still mend, as Beijing optimizes exports - Thanks to a recovery in the global economy and reform at home, 2013 is likely to see China replace the United States as the world's largest trader, a Ministry of Commerce spokesman said on Tuesday. "The primary force for trade improvement comes from the government's efforts at stabilizing the economy and boosting foreign trade with supportive measures," Shen Danyang said at an economic seminar in Beijing. He added that China's share of global exports will keep increasing after expanding from 10.3 percent in 2010 to 11.5 percent in the first half of this year. Data from the General Administration of Customs showed that the nation's total volume of imports and exports in 2012 amounted to $3.86 trillion, second only to the US, which it trailed by $15.64 billion, according to the World Trade Organization. China's foreign trade has regained steam in recent months. The first eight months saw China's trade rise 8.3 percent from a year earlier with exports up 9.2 percent and imports increasing 7.3 percent, according to the ministry. "The trade improvement will extend into the fourth quarter of this year, though fluctuations from the holidays, such as September and October, may technically distort the monthly trade figures," Shen said. At the end of July, the State Council introduced measures to simplify customs clearance, cut administrative fees and increase financial aids. The recovery of the world economy as well as the US economy improved the external environment while China's efforts on upgrading its foreign trade "enhanced the comprehensive competitiveness of enterprises", Shen noted. He added that China's foreign trade was "splendid" in the first half of the 12th Five-Year Plan period (2011-15), with export structure significantly optimized, export markets diversified, trade pattern improved and imports enlarged. Markets outside the US, the European Union and Japan accounted for 62 percent of China's overall exports in 2012, compared with 55 percent in 2010. Private enterprises made up 42 percent of China's total exporters in export volume in the first half of this year, compared with 32 percent in 2010. Trade with major partners is more balanced as imports registered $1.8 trillion in 2012, up 30 percent compared with 2010. Reforms and opening-up were the major reasons for the strong performance of China's foreign trade in recent years, Shen said. China signed free trade agreements with 18 economies to reduce tariffs and facilitate trade and investment, which greatly boosted the country's trade. The special economic zones, including the free trade zone being piloted in Shanghai, also helped drive trade growth, according to Shen. "In the next two years, China's foreign trade will be more splendid than the first half of the 12th Five-Year Plan," Shen said. "The domestic economy will bring more support to the country's trade development as the government deepens reform and further opens up the market. Policies of stabilizing trade and encouraging the strategic emerging industries will also be in favor of trade development," Shen added. The country's drive to establish a global free-trade network, including the China-Japan-South Korea FTA, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, and the China-Australia FTA, which is in negotiations, will speed up the country's trade growth, according to Shen. "It's sure that China will be the world's largest trader, but the added value of its exports is still much lower than the US," said Wang Haifeng, a researcher with the Institute for International Economic Research at the National Development and Reform Commission. Joshua Meltzer, a fellow in Global Economy and Development at the Brookings Institution, echoed Wang's sentiments. If China were to overtake the US in import and export volume, it would be a "milestone", Meltzer said, but it would "possibly reveal some of the challenges that China's going to be facing, given the composition of its growth". Meltzer said he believes that it's clear to top leadership in China that the country needs to transition the economy away from being overly dependent on exports, and invest in one that relies more on domestic consumption. He said the upcoming free trade zone establishment will help Chinese trade. "Free trade, loans, and these processing zones, it's something that a lot of economies in Asia have developed over the years, which have certainly boosted trade," he said.

Hong Kong*:  Sept 26 2013

Government to shell out HK$11.7 billion to phase out old commercial diesel vehicles (By Shirley Zhao) Subsidy scheme is increased - but put back a year - A scheme will provide a subsidy to vehicle owners to encourage them to out pre-Euro IV commercial diesel vehicles. The government will dole out another HK$1.7 billion on top of its HK$10 billion scheme to subsidise fleet operators to phase out pre-Euro IV commercial diesel vehicles, union leaders said. The revised scheme will provide those who want to scrap their vehicles and those who want to replace them the same amount of subsidy, which is another change from the original plan, said association representatives after a meeting with environment protection authorities this morning. The scheme will be put to the Legislative Council for discussion on October 2. According to Chiang Chi-wai, chairman of Lok Ma Chau China-Hong Kong Freight Association, the maximum subsidy has increased from 30 per cent to 33 per cent of the replacement cost of a Euro III diesel vehicle less than 13 years old. A 30 per cent subsidy will be granted to a Euro II vehicle aged between 13 and 16, and a 27 per cent subsidy will be given to a Euro I or pre-Euro vehicle more than 16 years old, said Chiang. The deadline was also postponed for a year to 2017, 2018 and 2020 in the revised plan, he said. Representatives of a total of nine fleet operators’ associations attended the meeting, according to Chiang, and they all agreed with the revision. “Although we asked for a maximum of 40 per cent subsidy, the revision is quite close to our request,” he said. “We think the plan can pass the LegCo, because it’s not a huge increase of subsidy.” Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing said he was “cautiously optimistic” that the revised scheme would be accepted by different shareholders. “The subsidies offered for those who want to scrap or replace their vehicles have been increased, while deadlines set for them are also more flexible than before,” said Wong. “We hope the air quality in Hong Kong by 2020 would meet the new and more stringent standards that will be in effect next year,” he added. “It is a bottom-line that we won’t give up on.” The scheme, described by Loh as the "biggest of its kind in the world", aims to phase out more than 80,000 commercial diesel vehicles, excluding franchised buses, in three stages, depending on their emissions standards. Operators of old vehicles whose emissions are regarded by World Health Organisation as carcinogenic will not be allowed to renew their licences once the deadlines pass.

 China*:  Sept 26 2013


China to lift ban on Facebook – but only within Shanghai free-trade zone (By George Chen) Cai Mingzhao, head of China's State Council Information Office, meets Facebook's Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg in Beijing on Sept. 10, 2013. Beijing has made the landmark decision to lift a ban on internet access within the Shanghai Free-trade Zone to foreign websites considered politically sensitive by the Chinese government, including Facebook, Twitter and newspaper website The New York Times. Government sources informed of the decision told the South China Morning Post on condition of anonymity that the authority in charge of the Hong Kong-like free-trade zone in Shanghai, the first such zone on the mainland, would also welcome bids from foreign telecommunications companies for licences to provide internet services within the new special economic zone. The mainland’s three biggest telecommunications companies China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom, which are all state-owned enterprises, have already been informed of the decision to allow foreign companies to compete with them for business in the free-trade zone in Shanghai, said the sources. The Big Three didn’t raise complaints as they knew it was a decision endorsed by top Chinese leaders including Premier Li Keqiang, who is keen to make the free-trade zone a key proving ground for significant financial and economic reforms, the sources added. “In order to welcome foreign companies to invest and to let foreigners live and work happily in the free-trade zone, we must think about how we can make them feel like at home. If they can’t get onto Facebook or read The New York Times, they may naturally wonder how special the free-trade zone is compared with the rest of China,” said one of the government sources who declined to be named due to the highly political sensitive nature of the matter. However Beijing’s decision to open up internet access only applies to the free-trade zone and not anywhere else in the country, the sources said. In late August the State Council, China’s cabinet, approved the launch of the free-trade zone in Shanghai, which will span 28.78 square kilometres in the city’s Pudong New Area, including the Waigaoqiao duty-free zone, Yangshan deepwater port, and the international airport area. Government sources told the Post earlier this month that the free-trade zone could be eventually expanded over the next few years to include the entire Pudong district, which covers 1,210.4 square kilometres, if the first-phase launch is proved a success in helping China to restructure its economy. The government hopes the free-trade zone will attract more foreign investment and liberalise the nation’s foreign exchange and interest rate system, making capital flow much more easily. Facebook and Twitter – banned on the mainland since 2009 – have played important roles in political movements in the Middle East in recent years, and Beijing is concerned about the impact of new media on social stability. Although China’s economy is now already the world’s second largest, just behind the United States, Beijing keeps tight control over the media. It blocks access to several internet websites through the Great Firewall of China, the colloquial name for the Golden Shield project which is operated by the Ministry of Public Security. Dozens of major foreign news sites including the online edition of The New York Times, which last year alleged that family members of former Chinese premier Wen Jiabao had accumulated massive wealth through secretive investments that may have involved bribery, are also currently banned on the mainland. Foreign visitors and many foreigners who reside on the mainland for work and study have complained about difficulties in accessing those news sites. Occasionally even the world’s No 1 search engine Google and its email service Gmail are unavailable. Bosses at social media networks and major media companies whose websites are banned on the mainland have lobbied Beijing for years to lift these bans. More recently, Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg met Cai Mingzhao, the head of the State Council Information Office in Beijing, and an official photograph of the meeting was published on the Chinese government’s website, though Facebook said Sandberg’s visit to China was mainly to promote her new book. Allowing foreign telecommunications companies to compete with state-owned telecommunications enterprises is a long-awaited breakthrough that would be welcomed by several former top leaders, including former premier Zhu Rongji, but there has been little progress in the past partly due to domestic political pressure. Wen succeeded Zhu as premier, and was in turn succeeded by Li just earlier this year, in the mainland’s No 2 most powerful job after President Xi Jinping. State media has described the Shanghai Free-trade Zone, which has won direct and decisive support from Li despite open opposition from some industry regulators, just as important as Deng Xiaoping’s decision to open up the Shenzhen special economic zones to foreign investors about three decades ago.

Maryland, Xi'an seek new link (By TODD BALASOVIC in Beijing Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett meets with Xi'an Mayor Dong Jun during a 10-day visit to China, where they set framework to establish the two as sister cities. On the outskirts of the US capital of Washington, one county is hoping to connect with China's biotechnology sector to create a "port of entry" into the US for Chinese medical companies. A delegation of 86 government and business representatives from Montgomery County, Maryland, concludes a 10-day trip to China on Wednesday after visiting some of the nation's top hospitals and technology parks in hopes of attracting Chinese investors and establishing links with companies in biotechnology and life sciences. "There are huge opportunities," Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, who led the delegation, told China Daily. "But the question is - which are the ones that we want to pursue?" Meeting with government, business and health officials, the group traveled to Shanghai, Xi'an and Benxi before finishing their tour in the capital of Beijing. While in Xi'an, Leggett met with the city's mayor, Dong Jun, to establish the two as sister cities. He said they hope to finalize the arrangement during a planned visit from Dong to Montgomery County in March next year. "The sister-city relationship allows us to really market the county. Not solely in economic terms, but also in political terms and cultural exchanges," Leggett said. During a visit to Benxi, in China's northeastern Liaoning province, delegates examined plans for the city's "China Medicine Capital" pharmaceutical park. In Beijing, Leggett attended a formal dinner with representatives of China Fortune Land Development, one of country's top industrial parks, and real estate investors, who expressed interest in investing in Montgomery. Located just outside Washington, Montgomery County is home to the headquarters of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The proximity to such government health-focused institutions makes Montgomery a "port of entry" for Chinese pharmaceutical and biotechnological companies, said Jonathan Genn, executive vice-president and general counsel for the Global LifeSci Development. The $3 billion Global LifeSci Development project, which will officially open next spring, is adjacent to the FDA and is a life-sciences park designed to attract medical professionals from across the globe. With direct support from FDA in the form of memorandum of understanding, the park will offer access to the regulatory body responsible for approving the sale of new medicines in the US, Genn said. "No matter where in the world the next great innovation in public health happens, the next great discovery, the only way and the only place that discovery can get into the public health market in America is through the FDA, right next door to our development," Genn said. The county also has a satellite campus of Johns Hopkins University, one of the top health-education institutions in the US. Elaine Amir, executive director for John Hopkins University in Montgomery, said during a visit to Benxi Central Hospital, that plans were set in motion to develop information technology medical exchanges that would make it possible for doctors and researchers from both institutions to collaborate online. Montgomery County is the largest in Maryland, with a population of more than 1 million. It has the biggest Chinese population in the greater Washington Metropolitan area. Despite its large Chinese community, current investments from China into Montgomery are minimal, which Leggett hopes will change following the delegation's visit. "This is one of the reasons why we are here," he said. "Already many [Chinese businesses] understand the assets we have to offer."

Beijing seeks greater cooperation in space (By WANG QIAN) A man tries on the space suit of China's astronauts during an exhibition of the 64th International Astronautical Congress in Beijing on Monday. China is seeking to deepen international cooperation and communication in the outer-space industry, a senior official said at the 64th International Astronautical Congress on Monday. "We will focus on commercial cooperation in the space industry and training of satellite control personnel for foreign countries in the coming years," said Ma Xingrui, head of the China National Space Administration. He said China will pursue the peaceful use and exploration of space. The country's first space station, now under construction, will be open to foreign scientists and astronauts. Ma received the 2013 Allan D. Emil Award on Monday for his contributions to the remarkable progress of China's space industry. He is the second Chinese to win the honor, after Liu Jiyuan, former chairman of the Chinese Society of Astronautics, won the award in 2003. China has already established cooperation deals with 26 countries and regions in the space industry. As part of the country's effort to enhance international cooperation in space, China Great Wall Industry Corp, the country's only authorized commercial provider of international launch services and satellite in-orbit delivery, plans to sign six to nine satellite construction deals in the next three years, said company President Yin Liming. Yin also said that eight to 10 international launch services will be operated during the same period. He said that the communication and exhibitions during the congress would strengthen the confidence of international clients in Chinese satellites and launching services. "It will bring more commercial opportunities for us," Yin said. China Great Wall Industry Corp, a subsidiary of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, has launched 43 satellites and 37 launch services for international clients, from 18 countries and regions, as of September. "We will further explore the potential market for satellite application and seek more international business opportunities," Yin said. China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp is using the event to showcase its achievements such as the Long March family of rockets and its meteorological satellites to attract international business. China hopes to have a 10 percent share of the global satellite market and 15 percent of the international commercial launch market by 2015, China Great Wall said. It currently has a market share of about 3 percent, with its main clients from Asia, Latin America and Africa. The country has been providing launch services to international clients since 1990, when a communications satellite was sent into space on a Long March 3 booster. About 3,600 representatives from around the world are taking part in the congress, according to the organizing committee of the 64th International Astronautical Congress, a five-day event that opened on Monday. The congress is held every year by the International Astronautical Federation and one of its national societies, and attended by agency heads and senior executives of the world's space agencies. China previously hosted the congress in 1996. The theme of this year's conference is "prompting space development for the benefit of mankind".

Gold rush for new coin (By China Daily) Fifty million new edition five-yuan coins issued by the People's Bank of China on Monday sold well among coin collectors, reported. The limited edition coin, which will be circulated in the currency market with the same denomination as the ordinary five-yuan notes, is already hard to buy in banks due to demand. 

Hong Kong*:  Sept 25 2013

Wong Kar-wai's Grandmaster nominated for an Oscar (By Lo Wei Wong Kar-wai's film about martial arts master put forward for Academy Award - Hong Kong filmmakers have chosen Wong Kar-wai's The Grandmaster to represent the city at the Oscars. It is hoped the film about wing chun master Ip Man will be among the five nominees for best foreign-language film at the 86th Academy Awards in March. The Federation of Motion Film Producers of Hong Kong said yesterday the US version of the film, starring Tony Leung Chiu-wai as Ip and Zhang Ziyi, was chosen from the 40 local films screened in the past year. "The film is very artistic and it shows a lot of local Chinese elements," federation chairman Crucindo Hung Cho-sing said. "The Oscar academy usually chooses films that reflect the country's features, so there's a big chance it will be a nominee." The US version is 22 minutes shorter than the 130-minute version released in Hong Kong and the mainland. Another popular choice was boxing drama Unbeatable, directed by Dante Lam Chiu-yin. Comparing The Grandmaster to previous films based on Ip Man, board member Patrick Tong Hing-chi said earlier ones focused more on action, while Wong's version was more emotional. "He paid a lot of attention to shooting techniques," Tong said. "The kung fu moves are very elegant." The action film hit cinemas in January after more than a decade in the making and three years in production. The Grandmaster opened the Berlin International Film Festival in February. In May, Wong was given the Order of Arts and Letters by visiting French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. Wong's work has long been acclaimed in France. He won best director at Cannes in 1997 for Happy Together and picked up a Cesar, the French equivalent of an Oscar, in 2001 for In the Mood for Love. The Film Development Fund offers HK$1 million to films that win a foreign-language Oscar, but it hasn't had to pay out yet.

Bugs attack HK$10m palm trees near Disneyland in latest tree disaster (By Candy Chan and Olga Wong) Trees near Disneyland bought for HK$10m by government are attacked by bugs in new blot on city's poor greenery management record - The palm trees on Magic Road, crammed together with their crowns drying out. Palm trees costing millions of dollars that line Magic Road to Hong Kong Disneyland are dying after being attacked by at least one kind of invasive foreign pest. It is the latest in a series of disasters to befall trees in the city - from the brown root rot invasion, which has hit banyan trees in Kowloon Park, to an earlier infestation of bugs along Magic Road. Many experts blame poor management by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. The 72 Canary Island date palms are crammed together in pairs, their crowns overlapping and their leaves drying up and turning yellow. They will die "unless they get immediate treatment", said Professor Jim Chi-yung of the University of Hong Kong. He also warned of the danger of dead trees falling onto cars. The government bought 100 palm trees from Australia in 2001 for HK$100,000 each - a total bill of HK$10 million and 10 times the price of normal palms. Last night the department said at least one of the palms had to be replaced because of its deteriorating condition. Jim suspected the palms were being attacked by the red palm weevil, which originates in Southeast Asia. These beetles are known for attacking trees that are already in a weakened state. In 2004, about 16 of the palm trees outside Disneyland had to be burned after being attacked by red palm weevils. But another exotic pest, the coconut leaf beetle, was found in the trees in May, a leisure department spokeswoman confirmed. The department is applying insecticides to the trees twice a week, but it has still not determined which of the two pests is responsible for the latest attack. Jim added: "The trees could have been under stress for a long time for several reasons, including poor management." A landscape consultant doubted that the trees could be saved. "They are incurable. No fresh leaves can grow," he said. Just weeks ago, it was decided to remove some dying 400-year-old banyans in Kowloon Park because of brown root rot disease, again exposing the poor management of the city's greenery. Hong Kong, which lacks a tree protection law, has lost more than one-tenth of its 527 heritage trees since 2004. Despite the opening of the Tree Management Office in 2010, trees are still supervised by more than 10 agencies, which lack the resources and trained staff necessary, causing confusion and a lack of co-ordination. In 2009, a fatal accident involving a falling tree brought the problem of tree management to the public's attention. The government subsequently appointed the chief secretary - the city's second most powerful official - to oversee efforts to improve tree management. But in April, the government was accused of covering up the spread of brown root rot disease, which was first identified in Kowloon Park in 2007.

 China*:  Sept 25 2013

HAWAII IS IGNORING THE CHINESE MARKET spending practically NOTHING TO PROMOTE HAWAII IN CHINA - Maldives now a destination of choice for Chinese visitors (By Agence France-Presse in Male) China now the biggest source of tourists to the Maldives, as countries' economic ties grow as part of what analysts say is bid to contain India - A Maldivian hotel guide (left) directs arriving Chinese tourists, who make up nearly a quarter of the island nation's visitors. Travellers departing flight LV199 from Shanghai into the international airport of the Maldives, many dressed in designer labels, are an unmistakable sign of China’s interest in the far-flung archipelago. Their arrival – visitors from the mainland are now the biggest group of tourists to the Indian Ocean islands – has been accompanied by greater diplomatic engagement in the Maldives by Beijing, which is investing widely around South Asia. Recently married Chen Hui and Fang Ye, 20-something business executives from near Shanghai, are returning for their second trip and heading to a resort by speed boat where over-the-water bungalows start at US$500 a night. “Most of our friends come here on their honeymoon,” Fang told reporters, who said they were looking forward to doing some fishing and posing for photos on the sun-kissed white sands that draw nearly a million visitors a year. The Maldives has been promoted as a destination in China’s media, she said, with the Islamic republic benefiting from its status as an “approved destination” by the Communist Party government. Chinese now comprise nearly a quarter of all tourists annually, triggering a recruitment race for Mandarin-speaking hosts, waiters and diving instructors at five-star hotels. “I think we will do our best to develop our friendship and co-operate in the economic field,” Across the water from the airport island lies the cramped capital Male, where Chinese aid paid for the foreign ministry, a waterfront building built in the shape of sails that evoke the nation’s sea-faring character. In the Sultan Park neighbourhood stands the two-storey national museum, another gift from China that opened in 2010. It hit the headlines two years later when Islamist rioters broke in and smashed invaluable Buddhist artefacts. Around the same time, Beijing opened an embassy, giving it a permanent diplomatic presence – and better access to the frequent Chinese swimming casualties who underestimate the dangers of the country’s turquoise waters. “I think we will do our best to develop our friendship and co-operate in the economic field,” Beijing’s ambassador in Male, Yu Hongyao said in an interview when asked about China’s vision for relations. “Gradually we will give aid to Maldives,” he added. He said that bilateral trade volumes remain “very small” but that talks were planned to discuss future joint projects, including possible road construction and education schemes. China’s interest in the Maldives fits a pattern of investment around the Indian Ocean, referred to by some analysts as a “string of pearls” strategy to contain India’s rise. The Maldives consists of more than 1,100 islands scattered across the equator, which sit aside the world’s most important shipping channel on which goods from the East travel to markets in the West. Its strategic location was appreciated by former colonial masters in Britain, which ran a military base here until 1976, and where China was once rumoured to be eyeing an uninhabited atoll as a submarine base. Ambassador Yu laughs off what he calls alarmist reporting in the Indian media and stresses the Maldives is an independent country with a diplomatic relationship with Beijing stretching back more than 40 years. India continues to be by far the biggest foreign influence in the country, but its uncontested hegemony has waned recently – as it has in other historically pro-India neighbours like Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Nepal. Outgoing president Mohamed Waheed dispatched ministers to Beijing after taking power last year and visited himself later in the year. Most significantly, he alienated New Delhi by ejecting Indian firm GMR, which was operating the national airport. The second round of presidential elections, due to be held on September 28, will therefore be critical for the future trajectory of the country and its eagerness to embrace Chinese aid. Mohamed Nasheed, who was ousted as president in February last year by mutinous police officers and replaced by Waheed, has overcome his sense of betrayal by New Delhi for failing to prevent his overthrow. “Our foreign policy is ‘find a friend, be good to that friend and don’t play the friend off against any other’,” he told reporters on September 5 shortly after visiting India, where he met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. His opponent in the run-off, Abdullah Yameen, would be likely to take a balanced approach but has personal family reasons to be grateful to India. His half-brother, long-time autocrat Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled until 2008, was saved from a coup by late Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, who dispatched paratroopers to the atolls in 1988. Out at the Anantara holiday resort, where tourists Chen and Fang are beginning their holiday, such thoughts seem a world away as they are welcomed on the jetty by a traditional drummer and staff bearing cold face towels. Employees such as spa attendant Huang Jing Fang are on hand 24 hours a day to cater for their every need. “Maldives is like a dream place for Chinese people, and me also,” Huang told reporters. “That’s why I came to work here.”

Media, former defense chiefs Robert Gates and Leon Panetta blast Obama's Syria policy (By Xinhua News) U.S. President Barack Obama has always had his detractors among conservative media and the Republican Party (GOP), but now his former employees as well as mainstream media are chiming in, hammering him over his Syria policy. In later August, Obama threatened to strike Syria for an alleged chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21 by the Syrian government, but added that he would first seek Congress' approval. However, Russia brokered a deal on Sept. 14 to put Syria's chemical arms under international control for destruction by mid- 2014. With the dust not yet settled, it remains unknown weather the plan will work, and there is no plan B if the current plan fails. Joining critics, Obama's first two defense secretaries, Robert Gates and Leon Panetta, on Wednesday upbraided their former boss for his handling of the Syria crisis. "To blow a bunch of stuff up over a couple not a strategy," Gates said in a speech in Dallas, Texas. Speaking at the same event, Panetta also expressed criticism, saying Obama should have backed up his "red line" rhetoric with action, arguing that the "credibility of this country is dependent on him backing up his word." Obama previously warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against the use of chemical weapons, saying this would be a "red line" that will lead to direct U.S. intervention. Media criticism of Obama is also widening, and underscores the country's affliction with Iraq syndrome - a desire to avoid another Middle East conflict perceived to have little to do with U. S. national security interests. U.S. media has at times been critical of the president, most notably after news broke of U.S. government agencies monitoring journalists. But outside of GOP critics and conservative media outlets, rarely has the criticism been so scathing. Time magazine, for example, whose top editor Richard Stengel is stepping down for a position in the Obama administration, ran a searing story earlier this month trashing the president's Syria policy. The magazine opined that Obama "willingly jumped into a bear trap of his own creation. In the process, he has damaged his presidency and weakened the nation's standing in the world." The author of the article argued that Obama's handling of Syria has been "one of the more stunning and inexplicable displays of presidential incompetence that I've ever witnessed." The Economist, a centrist publication out of London with a large U.S. readership, wrote that the deal with Russia is "flimsy because it will be so hard to enforce," and that "America's credibility as an ally has been undermined." "Whereas Mr. (Vladimir) Putin has stood firmly by Mr. Assad, even while 100,000 people have perished, the West has proved an inconstant friend to the opposition," the magazine wrote in this month's print edition. Still, it remains to be seen whether media criticism will continue, as Friday saw Assad meet his first deadline in the chemical weapons disarming process, and media may cut the president some slack if the plan continues on the right track. The New York Times recently ran a story that quoted Obama administration officials as saying that Obama's policy on Syria has been nimble and flexible, taking into consideration the many twists and turns in a complex situation. "All the critics would like this to be easily choreographed, a straight line and end the way they'd all individually like it to end," former White House advisor David Plouffe told the New York Times in a recent interview. "That's not the way the world works for sure, especially in a situation like this. I think it speaks to his strength, which is that he's willing to take in new information," Plouffe said. But others said the president's Syria policy leaves many holes unplugged. "Obama's handling of the Syria crisis demonstrates a high degree of amateurism," Nile Gardiner, director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at The Heritage Foundation, told Xinhua. "And that was reflected from the start at the issuing of a 'red line' without thinking it through."

Regulation cuts spending on official meetings (By Zhao Lei) China has issued a new regulation on spending for official conferences, pledging to streamline government work and curb extravagance. The regulation, which was published on Monday and takes effect on Jan 1, applies to the central organs of all political parties, the top legislative and political advisory bodies, central government departments and publicly funded organizations overseen by the central government. It aims to close loopholes in the current regulation, which has failed to constrain unnecessary meetings and extravagance, said a statement from the Ministry of Finance, which led the drawing-up of the regulation. Organizations covered by the document must include spending for their conferences in their annual budgets and give details on each item in the expenditures, the regulation stipulates, adding that no cost beyond the budget will be allowed. Spending must be settled through a bank transfer or government credit card instead of cash. Conferences with fewer than 50 participants should use the organizer's meeting room rather than venues in a hotel. Five-star hotels shall not be used unless the conference is hosted in the name of the Communist Party of China Central Committee or State Council, and such meetings must be approved by the two before being held. Organizers are forbidden to charge attendees for their meetings or ask their local branches or companies to pay for conference spending. They are also banned from choosing places outside Beijing if participants are mainly based in the capital. Dinners during a government conference shall not be served with expensive dishes or liquor. Decorations and flowers shall not be placed in meeting venues. Sightseeing and souvenir will no longer be offered for participants, according to the regulation, which also requests that related organizations make public the name, topic, participants and costs of their conferences unless they contain confidential government information. A tougher standard is also applied to control the number of participants, and all conferences, with the exception of those hosted in the name of the CPC Central Committee or State Council, will be limited to two days. The only clause that may allow meeting organizers to relax a little is that spending standards for each participant will be slightly lifted, a consideration to offset the swelling cost. "The move shows the Party and the central government are determined to further improve government work and root out officials' extravagance rather than just making some empty promises," said Wu Hui, an associate professor of governance at the Party School of the CPC Central Committee. "Though the government made rules on government conference spending long ago and keeps promising to implement them strictly, some government officials always find loopholes," he said. "This time they will find it virtually impossible to ignore or sidestep the regulation because the loopholes are closed and the guidelines are clearly detailed." In addition, the new version has a larger coverage compared with the existing one, and meetings convened by publicly funded organizations and small-scale workshops will also be subject to the stringent rules, he said. 

Hong Kong*:  Sept 24 2013

China Central government adviser on Hong Kong rejects civil nomination for 2017 中國中央政府對香港顧問拒絕 2017 民間提名 (By Stuart Lau Proposal to limit public to 'non-binding' recommendations for 2017 candidates is as flexible as Beijing will be, says state researcher - Beijing may allow the Hong Kong public to make "non-binding" recommendations for candidates for the 2017 chief executive election. But that would be the biggest compromise it considers acceptable, a state researcher on the city's affairs has said. The proposal was recently floated by University of Hong Kong Professor Albert Chen Hung-yee, a member of the Basic Law Committee, who suggested nominations would have to be vetted by a committee and decided on a one man, one vote basis. But pan-democrats have criticised the idea as being undemocratic, saying such a small committee would work to advance Beijing's interests. In an interview with the South China Morning Post , professor Dong Likun, a senior research fellow of the Institute of Hong Kong and Macau Affairs, said: "I know [Albert] Chen well. His proposal is probably the biggest concession that the central government would consider accepting." "There has been a lot of flexibility shown already ... There cannot be more [concessions]," said Dong. "There must be a nominating committee to vote [on the recommendations]. That is not negotiable," he said. Dong said Chen's proposal should be used as the basis for further discussion. "More discussion on this is beneficial to Hong Kong's well-being, as long as there is no compromise to the basic principle of the Basic Law - [that is] the right of nomination by the nominating committee," Dong said. Chen's proposal has been viewed as an effort to seek a middle ground among differing factions in the electoral reform debate. Pan-democrats have called for a public nomination - that anyone who can secure a certain number of nominations should be declared a candidate. Earlier this month, Beijing's liaison office director Zhang Xiaoming rejected the idea of public nomination, saying it was against the Basic Law. Dong also emphasised the need for the elected chief executive to be a "patriot" and "love the country" - another concept that is questioned by pan-democrats, who argue that this is not written in the Basic Law. While accepting such "patriotism" is not explicitly required by the law, Dong argued it was "implied" in principle in the structure of election arrangements stated in the mini-constitution. "A chief executive must be patriotic and must support the stance of the central government," Dong said. "The bottom line ... is that he or she cannot be anti-central government." Professor Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, convenor of pan-democratic group Alliance for True Democracy, disagreed. Cheng reiterated that the alliance's proposal - that "public nomination" should be obligatory - was in line with the Basic Law because the nominating committee should come from the public. Cheng hoped that Beijing would be flexible. "In 2010, although every Beijing loyalist said no to the creation of 'super-seats' in the Legislative Council, Beijing finally agreed," he said. Political commentator Ivan Choy Chi-keung, of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said there was no sign Beijing had already reached any conclusive decision on electoral reform. He added that the central government had a "significant number" of political advisers like Dong, whose opinion should be regarded as personal.

China’s FREE TRADE ZONE (FTZ) plan a ‘political message’ to Hong Kong 中國的自由貿易區(FTZ)計劃給 香港的 “政治消息" (By Agence France-Presse in Hong Kong) The Pudong financial district, as seen from Shanghai Tower, is set to be transformed by plans for the city's free-trade zone. Plans for China’s first free trade zone -- seen as a threat to Hong Kong’s status as a finance hub -- are also a tool to dampen political protest in the city, analysts say. The FTZ in Shanghai will allow unfettered exchange of China’s yuan currency as part of a bold push to reform the world’s second largest economy, according to proposals revealed exclusively by AFP earlier this month. Experts have already urged Hong Kong to improve its economic environment, including tackling high rents and labour costs, if it wants to compete with the new trade and finance hub. But senior Beijing officials last week warned the ex-British colony that it also needs to curb increasing political dissent if it wants to thrive and analysts say the promotion of Shanghai is an indirect message to Hong Kong to cooperate politically, or be marginalised economically. “Beijing is using a softline economic approach to groom Shanghai to compete with, or possibly replace Hong Kong. The implicit message is clear that if Hong Kong continues to have political squabbles, its economic status will suffer greatly,” Sonny Lo, a social scientist at Hong Kong Institute of Education, told AFP. Yu Zhengsheng, the leader of Beijing’s top advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, and Wang Guangya, director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, both called for “unity” in the city last week. “(Wang) called on us to think clearly whether Hong Kong should be a city for political struggle or economic development,” said Walter Kwok, part of a Hong Kong delegation addressed by Wang in Beijing Tuesday, according to Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post. Yu spoke to the same delegation, asking Hong Kong to “stay united and comply with the Basic Law under all circumstances,” if it wanted to enhance its competitiveness, the Post reported. He described Hong Kong society has having unwelcome “noise”, local media said. Ma Ngok, a political scientist at Hong Kong’s Chinese University, said the remarks by Beijing officials were a bid to “create a stabilising force” amid current political unrest. Under British rule, Hong Kong was transformed into one of the freest world economies and an international finance centre, outpacing economic development in Chinese cities. Doubts were cast over its ability to retain its status after the handover from Britain to China in 1997, while Shanghai flourished during a period of stellar economic growth overseen by president Jiang Zemin. After Jiang retired from the last of his national posts in 2005, several members of his powerful “Shanghai Gang” political clique were dismissed in corruption trials, widely seen as a move by new president Hu Jintao to rein in the city’s powerbase. But with Xi Jinping taking over from Hu in March this year, Shanghai appears to be back on the map, as mainland critics increasingly gun for Hong Kong over anti-Beijing democracy protests. In the past 10 years, the southern Chinese territory has witnessed frequent demonstrations and increasing discontent, with opposition groups denouncing the city’s government as a puppet of Beijing. Pressure from democrats is increasing as Hong Kong approaches the deadline for the introduction of universal suffrage, which Beijing has pledged for 2017. Some activists have threatened to seize the main streets of key business district Central next year to force officials to guarantee a fair electoral system. Asia’s richest man Li Ka-shing, based in Hong Kong and considered pro-Beijing, also said Tuesday that the city’s pro-democracy movement Occupy Central could harm its economy. Although Hong Kong is a semi-autonomous region of China, Beijing sees Hong Kong as a subordinate, political analyst Johnny Lau told AFP. “The thinking is that if you (Hong Kong) can coordinate with me, I will let you in. But I (China) can also make several places like Hong Kong in the mainland,” he said of China’s FTZ strategy. “Beijing has lost its patience... this is a wake-up call.”

Expressly oriental: Eastern influences dominate London Fashion Week (By Francesca Fearon Floral themes and an Eastern sensibility imbue spring-summer 2014 designs at London Fashion Week, writes Francesca Fearon - There was a moment on the first day of London Fashion Week when I wondered where I had landed, seeing Chinese designers Yifang Wan and Ping He on the catwalk and with a special presentation of Design by Shanghai at the Royal Opera House. London Fashion Week lures leading lights from around the world because many international designers trained at its famous art colleges. The city has a well-earned reputation as a creative hub and the international fashion press and buyers flock there during Fashion Week fearing they might miss out on something new. The city was sizzling with energy this week, with Burberry anchoring the spring collections and Americans Tom Ford and L'Wren Scott making it their preferred location. Given time, maybe other top labels such as Victoria Beckham, Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen can be lured back to their hometown. Natalie Massenet, founder of Net-a-Porter and chairman of the British Fashion Council, claims that London is "a place where fashion stars are born". The presence of the Chinese designers highlighted a subtle oriental theme threading through several of the collections. J.W. Anderson's supremely technical collection of structured, pleated and textured dresses, and origami-folded bib dresses brought to mind Issey Miyake. He draped and twisted fabrics and experimented in a conceptual way that we've not seen since Hussein Chalayan's early days. Holly Fulton's crane and coy carp prints, meanwhile, had more obvious roots in the orient, along with fan-shaped bodices. L'Wren Scott similarly was inspired by the East with her bamboo and wisteria embroideries stretched across a tautly tailored pantsuit and cheongsam dresses. Obi belts cinched kimono-style jackets over pencil skirts creating a tall, slender silhouette. There was a distinctly sports luxe mood running through the collections, something that London designers are doing rather well because they like the casual urban style of parkas, bomber jackets and sweatshirts, but also have a strong sense of femininity in their collections in terms of embellishment and colour palette. Juxtaposing sportswear and solid footwear with rose pinks and floral embroideries counterbalances the potentially cloying sweetness with an element of toughness. Erdem and Christopher Kane, for example, used sports silhouettes with dissected flower prints and iridescent fabrics (Kane), or flower and feather appliqués in graphic black and white (Erdem). These garments are also a key element of Richard Nicoll's aesthetic with T-shirts, shorts and biker jackets in white piqué cotton, with a smattering of sports fabrics for dresses, and silver stripes for a bit of cool glamour. Antonio Berardi, usually noted for his figure-hugging red carpet dresses, loosened up his look with luxe sportswear - his oversized sweatshirts and jackets came in duchess satin, silky pink cloqué and silvery animal prints. Roksanda Ilincic, meanwhile, used a large yellow neoprene jacket and black cigarette pants with flat ankle boots to ground her fluoro-bright collection of long skirts. Simone Rocha, meanwhile, dressed her models in pearl chokers but gave the collection an edge by embroidering clear plastic for coats and dresses, using black wet lace for full skirts and coats and accessorising the lot with masculine sandals. With the exception of Tom Ford's high-octane collection of spidery lace and mirrored-mosaic micro dresses with ankle or thigh boots and slick tuxedos that seem destined for the late-night partying of the jet set, London was focused on a feminine colour palette and a bouquet of flower prints, albeit reworked and reduced in scale. Mary Katrantzou created pretty floral print babydolls encrusted with beading by the famous Paris embroiderer, Lesage. Preen's digitally placed flower prints on crisp white tops and dresses with asymmetric hemlines looked fresh and wearable.

Hong Kong can be both democratic and economically competitive (By SCMP Editorial) Having stayed quiet for a while, Asia's richest man stole the limelight last week by warning Hong Kong about Shanghai's new free-trade zone. Li Ka-shing said Hong Kong people may be underestimating the potential challenge posed by the new trade zone, which could well surpass our city unless we step up our game and enhance our competitiveness. This seems to be the new united-front message, reinforced a day later by Yu Zhengsheng , the chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Committee. The head of the nation's top consultative body told a group of prominent local representatives that the city must stayed united to increase our competitiveness. There appears to be a consensus in the local business community and in the nation's corridors of power that Hong Kong desperately needs greater economic competitiveness and less political combativeness. In this context, Li, the supremo of Hutchison Whampoa and Cheung Kong (Holdings), is preaching to the choir. He believes Shanghai's role in economic reform by loosening controls on capital flows and expanding foreign investment will elevate the competitiveness of the mainland economy. Coupled with efforts to make the yuan fully convertible, Hong Kong may be left behind. At the same time, Li spoke out against Occupy Central, the political protest movement launched by University of Hong Kong legal scholar Benny Tai Yiu-ting. He warns such protests will undermine the city's international image, with incalculable risks. This is an assessment shared by many local business leaders and government officials, including Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who has also denounced the Occupy plan. But this way of looking at social development in Hong Kong is creating a false dichotomy. Enhancing economic competitiveness and advocating democratic reform are not two incompatible goals. Indeed, many have argued that the one needs the other. Nevertheless, Li's and Yu's warnings are timely. Some of the more physically aggressive tactics used by radical activists are to be deplored. Throwing objects at the chief executive and other senior officials, and fighting with police officers in street protests are not acceptable. But the twin achievements of universal suffrage and economic competitiveness will likely make our city even more successful in future.

 China*:  Sept 24 2013

Ukraine to become China's largest overseas farmer in 3m hectare deal (By Mandy Zuo Three million hectares will eventually be used to provide grain and meat for Chinese consumers - China will plough billions of yuan into farmland in Ukraine that will eventually become its biggest overseas agricultural project. The move is a significant step in China's recent efforts to encourage domestic companies to farm overseas as China's food demand grows in pace with urbanisation. Under the 50-year plan, Ukraine will initially provide China with at least 100,000 hectares - an area almost the size of Hong Kong - of high-quality farmland in the eastern Dnipropetrovsk region, mainly for growing crops and raising pigs. The produce will be sold to two Chinese state-owned grain conglomerates at preferential prices. The project will eventually expand to three million hectares. Ding Li, a senior researcher in agriculture at Anbound Consulting in Beijing, said the deal was a big move for China compared with earlier overseas agriculture. In April 2009, China had slightly over two million hectares of farmland abroad, he said. "So three million hectares would mean a very big project." The agreement was signed in June between the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps and KSG Agro, Ukraine's leading agricultural company, XPCC said in a statement. XPCC, also known as Bingtuan, is a quasi-military organisation established in Xinjiang in the 1950s to reclaim farmland and consolidate defences against the Soviet Union, whose "granary" at that time was, ironically, the Ukraine. The statement did not reveal the value of the investment, but the Kyiv Post reported last month that it would be more than US$2.6 billion. The newspaper called it an "unprecedented foreign investment" in Ukraine's agriculture sector. This would make it China's biggest reported lease or purchase of farmland overseas. The Beidahuang Group, China's largest agribusiness, based in Heilongjiang province, and the Chongqing Grain Group have made similar moves to expand abroad. The farming project was an important part of China's food security programme and a response to the central government's strategy of outsourcing the production of food to farms overseas, the statement said. It would also help the XPCC expand, and provide jobs abroad for Chinese labourers and boost their incomes, it said. China has made substantial agricultural investments elsewhere, notably in South America. Beidahuang acquired 234,000 hectares to grow soya bean and corn in Argentina, while Chongqing Grain paid US$375 million for soya bean plantations in Brazil and US$1.2 billion for land in Argentina to grow soya beans, corn and cotton. Although China's domestic grain output had grown for 10 straight years, Ding said demand for imported grain had also grown. It imported nearly 14 million tonnes of cereal and cereal flours last year, an increase of more than 150 per cent from 2011. The trend is making it more difficult to fulfil Beijing's ambition for the country to remain 90 per cent self-sufficient in food production. "As urbanisation speeds up, consumption has led to greater food demand and domestic grain prices have stayed above global prices," Ding said. "Therefore, China has been importing more and more grain." A country with well-developed agriculture, Ukraine is one of the world's top 10 wheat exporters. Professor Tian Zhihong, a specialist in international agricultural trade at China Agricultural University, said Ukraine offered a number of advantages for the XPCC, such as excellent soil and experience in international trade. The XPCC investment would also help upgrade farm technology in Ukraine, which was still relatively basic, Tian said. Chinese agricultural co-operation with Ukraine started in 2011, when the then vice-premier Zhang Dejiang signed a memorandum to create a model farm in Ukraine. Last year, the Export-Import Bank of China approved a US$3 billion agricultural loan to the country. A fund for joint construction projects was set up, with contributions of US$600 million expected this year. XPCC is also investing in Ukraine in other ways. It has signed a memorandum earlier this month with the Autonomous Republic of Crimea on infrastructure investments in the peninsula, including an expressway, a government housing project and a bridge across the Strait of Kerch.

A J-15 jet takes off from China's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, as part of the recent sea trial that took the carrier the furthest yet from its home port of Shandong province's Qingdao city and lasted the longest yet in terms of time. More than 100 takeoff and landing tests were completed on the carrier before it returned to Qingdao on Saturday.

Bo Xilai gets life in prison (By Xinhua) Former Chongqing Party chief Bo Xilai (C) listens to his verdict inside the Jinan Intermediate People's Court in Jinan, Shandong province September 22, 2013. The court sentenced Bo to life in prison on Sunday after finding him guilty of all the charges he faced of corruption, taking bribes and abuse of power. Bo Xilai, former secretary of the Chongqing Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and a former member of the CPC Central Committee Political Bureau, was sentenced to life imprisonment on Sunday for bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power. He was deprived of political rights for life. The Jinan Intermediate People's Court in East China's Shandong province announced the verdict on Sunday morning. Bo has been found guilty of accepting bribes worth 20.44 million yuan (about $3.3 million), according to the verdict. The court also decided that there was insufficient evidence supporting that he accepted 1.34 million yuan worth of air ticket fees as bribes. Bo's wife and son accepted air ticket fees from businessman Xu Ming, according to the indictment during the first trial in August. The court session started at 10:05 am. Presiding Judge Wang Xuguang announced the judgment. Bo, 64, was former secretary of the Chongqing Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and a former member of the CPC Central Committee Political Bureau. The trial of Bo was held from Aug 22 to 26 at the court in Jinan, capital of East China's Shandong province. At the trial, prosecutors demanded a heavy sentence for Bo, while he denied most of the charges. At their summarizing statement, prosecutors said the evidence presented in court and during cross-examination fully demonstrated clear facts and evidence is sufficient to charge Bo with the crimes. Although the country's legal system has a principle of tempering justice with mercy, a heavy sentence in line with the law should be handed to Bo, as he committed very serious crimes, refused to plead guilty and was not subject to any terms of leniency by law, they said. Li Guifang and Wang Zhaofeng of the Beijing -based DeHeng Law Offices represented Bo at the trial. More than 100 people, including Bo's family and relatives, deputies to people's congresses, political advisors, ordinary citizens and journalists observed the trial. During the trial, both the prosecution and defense had fully cross-examined the evidence and witnesses and expressed their opinions. The Jinan court's microblog at Sina Weibo, a leading Chinese social network, published the trial transcripts.

Car-Free Day gains momentum in China (By China Daily and Xinhua) Volunteers ride bikes to promote low-carbon travel in Guilin city, South China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, Sept 21, 2013. With the year's theme "Green Transport & Clean Air", 153 Chinese cities have taken part in World Car Free Day campaign and people are encouraged to take public transport, ride bikes or walk. The campaign first originated in France in 1998 and initiatively launched in China in 2007, aiming to promote environment-friendly transport and ease the city's traffic congestion. Residents were encouraged to get around by foot, bicycle or use public transportation, according to the Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport. In order to make traveling across the city more convenient, all 17 subway lines will extend their service time for 30 minutes on Sunday. Government officials and locals took part to support the city's efforts in promoting green transportation and bringing about cleaner air. However, as the first workday after the three-day Mid-Autumn Festival, and the day that cars are not required to be taken off the road based on their license plate numbers, Sunday's traffic was unlikely to ease much, especially during peak times, the commission predicted. Other cities took part as well. In Zhengzhou, capital city of central China's Henan Province, 90 percent of government cars were not allowed to be on the road. Shanghai Public Transportation Card Company held a public transportation promotion and offered a lottery with 1 million yuan ($163,400) worth of gifts. It is the seventh year that the country has observed Car Free Day.

Hong Kong*:  Sept 23 2013

Leaving Las Vegas: The Killers return to Hong Kong (By SCMP From art rock darlings to stadium-filling rock gods, The Killers have taken the heady ride to fame in their stride, writes Charley Lanyon - HONGKONGERS ARE A forgiving bunch. It’s been three years since The Killers, one of the biggest rock bands in the world, cancelled their much-anticipated appearance in Hong Kong. Now, The Killers are making good, with plans to appear at the AsiaWorld-Expo on September 24, and the excitement in the city is palpable. Band members are confident – to the point of nonchalance – that they won’t disappoint this time around. “We’re just going to get up there and do what we do,” says drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jnr over the phone from Los Angeles. To say that The Killers are big is an understatement. In the past 12 years they have gone from a humble local indie band in Las Vegas to one of the biggest rock’n’roll acts on earth. They routinely pack stadiums and have sold more than 20 million records to date. Still, they are an unlikely success story. First off, as we mentioned, they are from Las Vegas, a city whose name is as synonymous with cultural wasteland as it is with glitz and gambling. Vegas is where big stars go to die, not where they are born. Vannucci takes issue with the idea that Vegas is somehow lacking in culture. It has lots of culture, he argues, just maybe not the type of culture we, as humans, should be proud of: “People go to Vegas to lose their minds, to wager their mortgage and their marriage. So, we saw a darker version of humanity. Maybe that influenced our sound.” It is that sound that is the most unlikely part of The Killers’ success. The group got their name from a fictional band in a New Order music video and their debt to that band is obvious at first listen. But their influences go deeper and embrace an unlikely cohort of American musicians: the dark, low-tempo danceability of New Wave, the shimmering guitars of U2, the structured, straightahead rocking of Bruce Springsteen. The Killers managed to synthesise these disparate styles – none of which were too popular when their first album, Hot Fuss, dropped in 2004 – into a sound that seems at once dark and safe, hard-edged and easily accessible. When asked how this bit of musical alchemy took place, Vannucci begs off: “I think we just got lucky in a lot of ways. We come by it honestly. It’s all just the s*** we grew up listening to. We were just lucky to get four people in a room who liked the same stuff.” The Killers have been at it for more than 10 years and in that time their music has evolved. Their newest album, 2012’s Battle Born, found the group toying with a new straightforward hard-rocking sound. “What makes your ears perk up changes from when you’re 20 to when you’re 30,” says Vannucci. “For me personally, the older I get the more I get into heavier sounds.” For Vannucci the change in musical styles has as much to do with what is fun to play as it does taste: “I think it has to do with playing live and being a drummer, the physicality of drumming. People can feel if you are tickling the drums or f***ing banging them.” Even with their often esoteric influences and constantly evolving sound, The Killers have managed to sustain an almost unheard of level of universal appeal. Thirteen-year-old girls and their parents can finally agree on a favourite song and everyone from pop fanatics to diehard rock snobs have tapped their feet to The Killers. Each new album brings hit singles that dominate the airwaves: the inescapable Mr Brightside, Somebody Told Me, and Smile Like You Mean It from their debut Hot Fuss; When You Were Young from the follow-up Sam’s Town (2006); and Human from Day & Age (2008). Even though the musical landscape has changed radically since they came on the scene, The Killers have managed, somehow, to stay comfortably on top. At their core The Killers are proudly, defiantly old fashioned. At least Vannucci is: “I feel really good about getting in before the age of MySpace or Facebook, tweeting or YouTube and everything like that. It feels good to be part of a time when you advertised your band with things like flyers.” The Killers remain a true no-frills rock’n’roll band, an increasingly rare phenomenon in the contemporary music business. Here are four musicians that actually play real instruments, something Vannucci is proud of: “The last thing I want to do is pay money to watch a guy who stands on stage pushing buttons.” These days, few groups are able to sustain The Killers’ level of popularity for as long as they have. Most bands in their position would have burned out, or sold out long ago. Neither seem in danger of happening to The Killers, though Vannucci does remember a time when the group had to get their priorities straight: “In the early days they’d always try and get us to wear something stupid and we had no idea. We were fresh out the garage and there was Dolce & Gabbana saying to put on this suit. I’d never had a US$3,000 suit, but then you realise: ‘Hey we’re getting used.’” Now the band has developed a proven technique to stay relevant, true to themselves, and out of trouble: get to work. “What we do is we write songs, we make records and we do shows. We don’t do red carpets and all that s***.” In light of their famous work ethic, what’s next for The Killers? Vannucci sounds excited if a bit non-committal: “We have a best-of thing coming out soon with a couple new tracks on it, and then we’ll see what happens.” The band members have been experimenting with other projects – Vannucci’s debut album Big Talk was released in 2011 – since the group took a year and a half hiatus in 2011 following the death of lead singer Brandon Flowers’ mother (hence the cancellation in Hong Kong). Since then it has been harder to get all of the band members in the same room to record. “Putting out an album takes a few years of commitment,” Vannucci says, “and I know a couple of us are doing some other things.” Still, for Vannucci slowing down is not an option: “I need movement. I like momentum.” Just don’t expect to see him on the cover of People Magazine anytime soon. “We just want to make songs that will be liked and appreciated in 100 years from now. At the end of the day, I’m not concerned with what f***ing kind of shoes I’m wearing.”

 China*:  Sept 23 2013

US not to levy punitive duties on Chinese shrimps (By Xinhua) Frozen warmwater shrimps from China, Ecuador, India, Malaysia and Vietnam does not hurt or threaten the US industry, said the US trade authority in a final ruling Friday. The US International Trade Commission (ITC) therefore determined to deny a ruling by the Commerce Department on final countervailing duties (CVD) on shrimp imports worth of some $1.9 billion from the five countries. As a result of the commission's negative determinations, no countervailing duty order will be issued on imports of this product. The ITC said in a statement that "a US industry is neither materially injured nor threatened with material injury by reason of imports of frozen warmwater shrimp from China, Ecuador, India, Malaysia, and Vietnam that the US Department of Commerce has determined are subsidized." Four of the six-member commission voted in the negative, while two others voted in the affirmative. The US Coalition of Gulf Shrimp Industries late last year filed a petition to the US trade regulator to seek protection. The Commerce Department then instituted the investigations in January and set final countervailing duties (CVD) on Aug 12, 2013. Under the Commerce Department's ruling, Chinese exporters that have sold frozen warmwater shrimps in the US market would have to face 5.76 percent in countervailing duties. The ITC revealed that the US industry comprised 48 producers and 2,050 workers. The US shrimp consumption market amounted at 1.3 billion pounds (about 591 million kilograms), with the imports taking up 35.7 percent. Thailand, Indonesia and India were the three largest import sources, and China took the seventh place.

Hong Kong*:  Sept 22 2013

Price for back-door entry into HKEx rises (By Enoch Yiu Cost of short cut to trading on HK exchange now as much as HK$180 million, still seen as cheap for mainland firms amid IPO suspension - The price of gaining entry into the Hong Kong stock exchange through a back-door listing has increased sixfold since 2006. Mainland firms seeking a back-door listing as a short cut to trading in Hong Kong's internationally renowned stock exchange have to pay up to HK$180 million, almost six times that of 2006. The suspension of initial public offerings by mainland authorities means more companies from across the border are expected to seek back-door listings here, which are seen as a cheaper alternative to the formal listing process. That is good news for shareholders and creditors of troubled companies undergoing provisional liquidation, according to veteran liquidator Derek Lai, the Asia-Pacific leader of restructuring services at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu. Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing statistics show there are 11 suspended companies undergoing restructuring that have applied to resume trading. Since 2006, such relistings have included Fu Ji Food and Catering Services, Ocean Grand Chemicals, 3D Gold and Mansion House. "A listing status in Hong Kong is one of the most valuable assets of many listed debt-ridden companies put under provisional liquidation. The higher the price paid by the white knight for their back-door listing, the more money the shareholders and creditors can get," Lai said. In the case of Fu Ji Food and Catering Services, creditors received 20 per cent of what they were owed, with remaining debts translated into a 7 per cent share of the company. In the case of Ocean Grand Chemicals' restructuring in 2008, creditors received 50 per cent of debt back in cash and shares. In a back-door listing, investors buy the majority shareholdings of the target company and inject their own businesses into the listed unit. The original business and assets of the company are sold later. Normally, companies need to have three consecutive years of profits totalling HK$50 million before listing while mainland firms need lengthy approval, which may take several years. Back-door listings may take only a year to complete. "If a company applies for a new listing, it would need to pay all the fees to the investment banks, accountants and lawyers for the preparation work, even if the application eventually fails," Lai said. Between 2005 and 2006, the value for these listings were only about HK$30 million because the exchange seldom approved any back-door listing. The exchange had accepted more in the past few years, Lai said. The exchange in recent years has been more willing to accept back-door listing deals for firms restructuring debt. Lai recently completed the restructuring of Fu Ji Food and Catering Services, which was a supplier to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The firm was rescued by another mainland firm and resumed trading in July. A source at the HKEx said the exchange had not changed its back-door listing policy but had always insisted on the quality of assets injected into the company. In the past few years, white knights had included bigger state-owned companies, with strong business and assets injected into the back-door listing, making it easier to gain the exchange's approval, the source said. "If the troubled firm can complete its debt restructuring and resume trading, the creditors and shareholders can get at least some of their money back from the back-door listing deal. The buyer secure a listing status. It is a win-win situation for everyone, and a happy ending," Lai said. Fu Ji Food and Catering Services' shares dropped 60 per cent when they resumed trading, compared to what they were priced at before their suspension in July 2009.

Hong Kong bloggers could be affected by rumour law, experts warn (By Stuart Lau Legal experts warn that those who use weibo and violate rules could be detained in mainland - Microbloggers in Hong Kong could also fall under the mainland's new rules on internet rumours if Beijing considers their posts 'seriously prejudicial to national interests', legal experts warn. Microbloggers in Hong Kong could also fall under the mainland's new rules on internet rumours if Beijing considers their posts "seriously prejudicial to national interests", legal experts warn. The mainland's judicial authorities recently declared that anyone who posts an online message deemed to be defamatory and forwarded more than 500 times or viewed more than 5,000 times could be jailed for up to three years. Hong Kong has its own legal system and enjoys judicial independence. However, legal experts in the city and on the mainland warn that people in the city who use mainland sites to post microblogs, known as weibo in Chinese, could still face the legal consequences. While mainland police can't make an arrest in the city and there is no extradition between the two sides, people who post "libellous messages" could be detained and charged if they cross the border, said Professor Dong Likun, a senior research fellow at the mainland-based Institute of Hong Kong and Macau Affairs, a think tank under the State Council's Development Research Centre. "If the weibo posts in Hong Kong disseminate false remarks with malicious intention and cause serious damage to the rights of the mainland [government], the mainland [government], as a victim, can sue the person [in Hong Kong] according to the damage," he said. Alternatively, the mainland government "can take legal action under the mainland laws once the person is found to be on the mainland". Dong said both options were complicated and would only be used in "very exceptional cases". Professor Zhao Yun, director of the Centre for Chinese Law at the University of Hong Kong, said as long as the person who posts the offending message stayed in the city he would most likely be safe from the reach of mainland law enforcement agencies. Also, the national security provision in Article 23 of the Basic Law has never been enacted, so making an arrest locally would be nearly impossible. He also said he believed mainland authorities would adopt a more lenient threshold against Hong Kong residents when it came to applying the new rules. Weibo have become increasingly popular in the city. Sina Weibo has 2.5 million Hong Kong users, according to a company report released this year. Because many Hong Kong weibo users have amassed a strong following on the mainland, some microbloggers in the city are concerned about the possible effects of the new law. One veteran mainland journalist based in Hong Kong whose Weibo account has attracted a million followers said: "I hope I can survive in this tense environment." He refused to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue. Professor Chow Po-chung, who teaches political philosophy at Chinese University and has 54,000 followers on Weibo, said he would start to worry if an influential blogger was detained. Praising the site as the only way he could communicate with mainlanders, Chow said he had observed a "quieter" online climate since the the new rules were issued on September 6. But he noted that Weibo "has always had a lot of censorship".

 China*:  Sept 22 2013

United States probe of bank hires must go beyond Asian princelings (By Ian Barclay and Seth Berman) Ian Barclay and Seth Berman say the US probe into banks' hiring of Asian princelings has wider implications, including for companies that routinely employ the children of important clients - United States probe of bank hires must go beyond Asian princelings. According to media reports, the US government is currently examining whether J.P. Morgan violated US anti-corruption laws by hiring the children of Asian government officials allegedly with the intent of bribing their parents to obtain business. What began as scrutiny of the company's Hong Kong office has since widened to encompass other Asian countries, and is reported to include other banks and hedge funds as well. Executives from every sector are nervously considering their hiring practices, and wondering what the investigation might mean for them. After all, in Asia and beyond, busi-nesses have long recruited not only the best and the brightest but also the most well connected. Examples of law firms, management consultancies, private equity firms, oil and gas companies and pharmaceutical giants hiring children of politicians and officials the world over are too numerous to mention. Executives from every sector are nervously considering their hiring practices - It surely did not escape the notice of the management consultancy McKinsey that the then 22-year-old Chelsea Clinton, while undoubtedly well educated at Stanford and Oxford, was the daughter of a former president, a sitting US senator and potential future president. The reality is that relationship banking is about precisely that - relationships. Access to key relationships is why the top banks have always hired those who can open doors and introduce new business - especially in new or less open markets. Indeed, the hiring of family members of influential people is not confined to the children of government officials. It has long been common practice for companies to hire or provide internships to the children of key clients. This has led some people to wonder whether the current probe implies that the US government is attempting to rewrite the rules of hiring and to criminalise abroad conduct routinely practised at home. Given that the investigation is in its early stages - J.P. Morgan has not been charged or even accused of any wrongdoing and may never be - it is a little hard to know the government's theory. However, it is almost certainly more nuanced than many are suggesting. The US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act prohibits providing, with corrupt intent, anything of value to a foreign official to influence their decisions. The government investigation seems to be focused on trying to determine whether certain princelings and children of officials were hired with the expectation that their employment would lead their parents to direct business to the bank. Thus, the government is apparently looking for evidence that hiring decisions were made with the intent to obtain business from the parents, not merely because the individuals were well connected. This distinction is of great legal significance, but may not be so easy to untangle from legitimate business decisions. After all, every hiring decision at a company is done in an effort to further the company's business interests. In the end, the legal difference may be hard to prove as it sits at a point on a continuum from what is legal under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act - such as hiring the child of a well-connected government official with the hope that the hiring will lead to important introductions that might bring in new business; to the questionable - hiring a government official's child with the hope that the new employee's own parents will direct government business to the firm; to the clearly illegal - hiring a government official's child under an explicit or implicit agreement that as a result the government official will direct government business to the firm. The investigation will require the careful examination of decision-making and negotiations surrounding both the hiring decisions and the deals and contracts with the entities to which these new employee's parents were connected. The recent probe is a wake-up call for businesses everywhere. Because the motives for hiring the child of an important government official can be mixed, including some combination of qualifications, hoped for connections, and potential improper influence, the entire process must be carefully managed. Businesses should consider whether they need to conduct enhanced employee background checks of officials' children that go way beyond what many currently use. These are required not only to verify their employment and academic history and confirm the lack of a criminal record, but also to understand their political connections or family ties. The system should also be overseen more carefully than most hiring decisions to ensure that decisions are made in a defensible and appropriate manner. Not knowing how exposed their businesses are or how tough the US authorities will be has many senior executives concerned. Beyond the C-suite, the hiring probe also has many diligent and qualified sons and daughters of officials and politicians worried that they may be barred from employment in future or have their careers and achievements dismissed based on nepotism and corruption. Greater transparency and scrutiny around hiring should be welcomed by everyone, but must not focus only on Asia or the Chinese princelings - it has to include the children of politicians and officials worldwide. Ian Barclay heads the Asia practice of Stroz Friedberg, a global risk management firm, and is based in Hong Kong. Seth Berman, a former prosecutor with the US Department of Justice, heads the international offices of Stroz Friedberg and is based in London

American firm loses government contract over ties to China's ZTE (By Bloomberg in Washington) Government agency says device marketed as American-made is produced by Shenzhen's ZTE, which officials have linked to spying - The customs agency's findings may make it more difficult for ZTE to expand its US sales. The United States government stripped a videoconferencing system contract from a domestic company after a federal agency said the device marketed as American-made is really Chinese, a product of a company that US lawmakers have linked to spying. The technology is produced by Shenzhen-based ZTE, China's No 2 phone-equipment maker. It worked with CyberPoint International, a small business based in Baltimore, in the state of Maryland, to make its videoconferencing device available to US agencies via contract. CyberPoint's Prescient unit built and installed firewalls in the system, which it said "substantially transformed" the product. US Customs and Border Protection disagreed, saying the government should treat the products as Chinese, according to a ruling published on Thursday in the Federal Register. The decision is the latest impediment to US growth for ZTE, which was effectively blacklisted last year by a congressional committee that said its products may aid Chinese spying. "It's somewhat devastating for them," said Ray Mota, founder of US-based ACG Research, a networking- equipment-industry consulting company. "They'll have to restrategide on how to approach this market and come up with alternatives." After the ruling, the videoconferencing equipment was "promptly removed" from offerings on a supply schedule contract, Mafara Hobson, a spokeswoman for the General Services Administration, said in an e-mail. ZTE's system, using security made by CyberPoint's Prescient unit, had been available for sale to US agencies through the GSA contract since last year. No agencies had ordered the product, Hobson said. ZTE doesn't plan to give up on its efforts to boost its US sales. "Over the years, ZTE has invested hundreds of millions of dollars into the US," David Dai Shu, director of global branding and communications for the company, said in an e-mail. "We are committed to serving the US market and will continue to grow the business." The customs agency's findings may make it more difficult for ZTE to expand its US sales, ACG's Mota said in a phone interview. A product on a federal contract would have given ZTE "an extra level of credibility" when selling to US businesses, Mota said. CyberPoint had asked the customs agency, part of the Department of Homeland Security, to rule on the origin of the videoconferencing system several times since May last year, according to the ruling. Customs officials decided the government should treat the device as Chinese because vital videoconferencing parts, such as the video board and the filter board, came from China. "Since the hardware components that impart the essential character to the finished product are of Chinese origin, we find that the country of origin of the server for government procurement purposes is China," according to the decision. Prescient disagreed with the ruling and hadn't decided whether it will appeal against the findings, Jerry Caponera, CyberPoint's general manager for global partnerships, said in an e-mail. "Given the widespread concerns over the security of foreign-made products, we were prepared for this eventuality, but are committed to finding ways to make foreign-made products more secure for the US marketplace," he said.

Post-80 parents spend big on early education (By Fan Feifei) For many parents it's a case of the early bird catches the worm, and they are willing to pay to ensure their kids to be the first on the lawn, as Fan Feifei reports. Wang Yi, 33, a post-80 generation father working in the IT industry, sends his 2-year-old daughter to an early education center at a shopping mall each Sunday. "I want her to meet and communicate with other children," he said. The price of lessons at the education center is relatively high, but Wang said the family could afford it. He purchased 100 lessons for more than 10,000 yuan ($1635) when he registered his daughter at the center half a year ago. Belgian John Lee plays with children from an early education center in Tianjin on April 5. He can speak Chinese fluently, and is now one of the most popular teachers in the center. "She often has two classes because my wife and I need to work from Monday to Friday, so we haven't got the time to accompany her during the week," he added. At the center, Wang's daughter plays musical games, and does activities to develop her fine motor skills. "Her mother also has classes with her, where they interact and share some fun together," said Wang. He said his daughter has become bolder since joining the center and she likes to talk with her friends there. "The early education center is a transition for her. We hope it will help her adapt quicker and more easily when she enters kindergarten in six months." He added that when she gets older they want her to study English and learn the piano, and prepare for the International Mathematical Olympiad. They are willing to invest on her education, he said. Other parents are also willing to open their purse strings to pay for their children's education. Tan Diqiu, a post-80 generation mother, spends about 10,000 yuan a year on early education for her two- year-old son. "Although the cost of early education is really expensive for an ordinary family, we don't want our son to lag behind other children," she said. She is a little worried because her son will go to kindergarten very soon, which is expensive. "The public kindergartens are relatively cheaper, charging about 1,000 yuan to 2,000 yuan each month, however, the places are very limited. We will have to consider some private kindergartens, which will cost 3,000 yuan to 4,000 yuan per month," she said. "My husband and I can only spend time with our son at the weekends, because of our work, and his grandparents look after him. If we could have more time with him, we would not consider letting him attend the early learning center." With people enjoying higher incomes nowadays, the majority of post-80 generation parents — the first generation born under the one-child policy — are willing to spend and spend and spend on education, partly to keep up with the Jones and partly to try and give their kid an advantage in the competition to get into a good school. According to a report released by Answer Marketing Consulting, more than 20 percent of children have lessons at early education centers and the spending on early education and training courses ranges from 1,000 yuan to 10,000 yuan per year; although some parents are prepared to spend as much as 20,000 to 30,000 yuan a year on their child's early education. "Many post-80 parents identify with idea of the early education. They want their children to receive the best education and they don't care about the money," Zhang Xiaoping, the center director of Baby Care, an early education institution told China Daily, Zhang said they provide courses for children aged from 0 to 3, covering music, science, reading, art and so on. Each class lasts 45 minutes and the price is 180 yuan per class. Jin Zhang, the manager of the business development department at Lovely Kids, said post-80 parents paid more attention and invested more in early education compared with post-70 parents. "I estimate that post-80 parents spend, on average, 30 percent of their monthly household expenditure on early education for their children. Some rich families even spend 20,000 yuan a year " said Jin. He said the center provides courses for kids between 0 to 3 years, in which the parents and kids play games together, while children over the age of 3 will have lessons on their own. But while parents seem happy to spend big bucks on their children's early education, there are some education experts who doubt its value and say it's a waste of money. "I don't think sending children to early education centers is reasonable or wise," said Liu Yan, an expert researching preschool education at Beijing Normal University. "Parents are a child's first teachers. What parents say and do has a subtle effect on their children. Although some early educational centers can no doubt teach some skills to children, good development depends on learning within the family", she said. She suggested that parents would do better by learning how to be good parents, such as teaching children in accordance with their aptitude and respecting children's interests. Jia Rongtao, a family education counselor and chairman of Rongtao education group also advocates parents improving themselves and "setting a good example for their children". He said that parents should remember that the main purpose of early education centers was to make a profit, and parents needed to demonstrate a sense of responsibility and try to cultivate the right values in their children, such as a willingness to help others. He said that even if they have only one child, parents should not spoil their child.

Finally, it's time for mooncakes (By By Caroline Berg in New York High-end chocolate makers like Godiva, shown here in Manhattan, are hoping to capitalize on the ancient Chinese tradition of mooncakes, a confection eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival, which is today. Every year around late summer, boxes of mooncakes fill the shelves at grocery stores and bakeshops in China. In 2007, Belgian chocolatier Godiva made its first foray in Asia's mooncake market. Now, for the rst time, Godiva's unique chocolate mooncakes are available in the US. "We've heard stories of people asking friends and families whenever they're traveling back home [to the US] during this time to bring back the Godiva chocolate mooncakes," Michelle Chin, vice president of integrated marketing and communications for Godiva North America, told China Daily. "We gured it was a good opportunity to test that theory out to see if that's something they really want here in the US, and it's proving out quite nicely." Mooncake is a bakery product traditionally eaten during the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, which celebrates the moon and is held on the 15th day of the 8th lunar calendar month. is year, that's today. Mooncakes are typically round or rectangular and consist of a variety of llings, such as lotus seed paste, sweet red bean paste, nuts and seeds, or a combination of lotus paste with a salted duck egg yolk in the center. Godiva is the first major chocolatier to oer US customers an alternative to the traditional mooncakes. eir chocolate versions are being sold in select Godiva stores and online. Ashley Guzman, a supervisor at the Godiva shop in Times Square, New York, said the mooncakes have been selling well. "I can tell you, every Asian person in the community who has come into our shop has been very happy to have their culture represented," Guzman told China Daily. "I've learned a lot from the customers. They like to tell the stories behind the holiday and talk about the traditional mooncakes." Depending on the store and availability, customers have a choice between buying an individual mooncake, which comes in two flavors — Mandarin cherry hazelnut or orange-currant crisp — for $6.50 each, and Godiva's nine-piece Mid-Autumn Festival mooncake collection for $50. The centerpiece of the collection is a dark chocolate mooncake with a layered lling of orange, red currant and lemon zest, with chestnut pear rice crisp. Surrounding the centerpiece mooncake are eight smaller mooncakes comprised of three avors. The milk chocolate variety is lled withapricotand peach ganache with a hint of ginger on a layer of Turkish hazelnuts and Louisiana pecan praline. Two of the pieces are dark chocolate lled with passion fruit juice and mango crystal ganache on a layer of Australian macadamia praline, caramelized hazelnuts and soy nuts. e remaining three pieces are white chocolate lled with pomegranate juice and strawberry crystal ganache on a layer of Belgian almond praline and caramelized crispy rice. "People like that the moon-cakes are already cut into individual pieces," Guzman said. "Traditionally, the centerpiece chocolate is saved for the grandmother or grandfather in the family, depending on who's still alive. If they're both alive, well, then, the grandparents have to fight for it," Guzman said with a laugh. Guzman said customers have been both Asian and non-Asian, and customers tend to buy the individual mooncakes for family and friends and save the nine-piece package for corporate gi giving. She also said selling the mooncakes has been eective in introducing customers, many of which are foreign tourists, to the Mid-Autumn holiday and moon-cake tradition. "We had some Brazilian tourists come in looking for something with marzipan. I told them that we don't have anything with marzipan, but we do have this [Mandarin cherry hazelnut] mooncake that has a marzipan taste," Guzman said. "They ended up loving it and then they're curious about the mooncake and want to know more about them." Chin said Godiva changes its mooncake fillings every year.

Hong Kong*:  Sept 21 2013

After summer fiasco, Hong Kong Stadium pitch fixed and ready for football (By Olga Wong and Thomas Chan) Ground staff work on the pitch at the Hong Kong Stadium ahead of last July's clash between Manchester United and Kitchee. The Hong Kong Stadium’s pitch is ready for the 2013-14 football season that begins on Saturday, the Leisure and Cultural department said on Friday. The stadium’s pitch became the laughing stock of the football world when a game between Manchester United and local team Kitchee in July was almost called off because of the pitch's poor condition after heavy rains had left it muddy and grassless in spots. After 53 days of intensive care and repair work, the stadium will reopen on Saturday to host a match between First Division teams South China and Kitchee. A “special priority maintenance programme” had been implemented that included the transplanting thick undamaged turf from the pitch’s peripheral areas to its previously damaged central ones, a department spokesman said. The less damaged peripheral areas have been filled in with new sod and reseeded. The newly transferred turf might turn yellow during the next few weeks due to the change in growing environment, but it would grow green again after the grassroots took hold in the new area, the spokesman said. Hong Kong Football Association chief executive Mark Sutcliffe, who inspected the pitch a few days ago, said it was “good enough” to host Saturday’s match.

Super Typhoon Usagi, 'world's strongest storm of 2013', heading for Hong Kong (By Lai Ying-kit and staff reporters) China issues I-class emergency alert ahead of the most powerful storm of the year - Super Typhoon Usagi, believed to be the most powerful storm on Earth in 2013, was on Friday on course to make landfall just kilometres from Hong Kong, according to storm-track predictions. A warning issued late on Thursday by Hong Kong's Observatory stated the storm, which intensified last night to a super typhoon, will "pose a threat to Hong Kong" on Sunday. Its storm tracker showed the typhoon to be on a direct trajectory toward the city, although it could change direction with two days still to go. "By that time the weather will deteriorate significantly, with high winds and rough seas," the Observatory said. "If you are planning to travel out of Hong Kong or [have] other activities [scheduled], please be reminded that changes in the weather may affect your plans." Typhoon expert Professor Johnny Chan Chung-leung, dean of the School of Energy and Environment at the City University of Hong Kong, said on Friday the power of Usagi could be on par with Typhoon Megi in 2010 and some of the major ones that hit Hong Kong in the 1980s. Very often the force of typhoons that reach the southern Chinese coast are weakened by first hitting Taiwan or the Philippines. But as Usagi was passing between Taiwan and Philippines, it won’t have a chance to weaken before it reached the southern coast of in China, said Chan. Cheng Yuen-chung, senior scientific officer of the HK Observatory, said Usagi could become the strongest typhoon of the year to hit Hong Kong, especially if it wasn’t interrupted by a land mass before reaching the city. Xinhua reported that Chinese authorities on Friday had issued a disaster relief alert ahead of the typhoon which it said was expected to hit coastal regions of southern China’s Guangdong Province on Sunday. As of 8pm on Friday, Super Typhoon Usagi was centred about 690 kilometres north-northeast of Manila. It is forecast to move northwest or west-northwest at about 18 kilometres per hour across the western North Pacific in the general direction of the Luzon Strait. Winds of 205 kilometers per hour were expected to bring torrential rain and destructive gusts. Philippine weather bureau forecaster Alvin Pura said the super typhoon had gathered strength and speed with gusts reaching 240 kph. “It is the strongest typhoon in the west Pacific region this year,” a weather forecaster at the Taiwan Central Weather Bureau said. "Usagi is this year's most powerful tropical storm by wind speed anywhere in the world," Cheng Ming-Dean, director of Taiwan’s Weather Bureau added. The Wall Street Journal reported the super typhoon's winds reached speeds of 160mph on Thursday, making it bigger than Typhoon Utor, which passed within 600km of Hong Kong in August. An Observatory spokesman said: “By and large typhoons that pass the Luzon Strait have a relatively big impact on Guangdong coastal areas. It was difficult at the present time to estimate whether Usagi would hit Hong Kong head-on, he said, because the typhoon is still a long way from the city. “A slight change of idirection can make a considerable difference in terms of its impact on Hong Kong,” the spokesman explained. Taiwan's authorities urged residents on southern parts of the island to carry out precautionary measures as Usagi approaches. China's state news agency Xinhua reported a "yellow alert" had been issued as the storm approaches. Cathay Pacific is following the progress of the storm. The airline's schedules are currently operating as normal. More details at The Beijing National Meteorological Center has issued a yellow alert - the third highest in China's four-tier warning system. The nation's State Oceanic Administration (SOA), which is responsible for China's coastline, also initiated an I-class emergency response for the typhoon, the highest level on the nation’s maritime disaster response system.

 China*:  Sept 21 2013

Wang and Kerry meet in DC (By Chen Weihua in Washington) Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his counterpart US Secretary of State John Kerry hold a joint press conference following their meeting at the State Department on Thursday morning during Wang's visit to DC. China and the United States are committed to building a new type of major power relationship by expanding concrete cooperation and holding candid talks on differences, according to the nations' top diplomats. Visiting Washington, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that China is ready to work with the US to make preparations for more high-level engagement and push forward mutually beneficial cooperation. "We look forward to working with the US to ensure that we will be able to translate the defining feature of this new model of major country relationship - namely non-conflict and confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation - into all aspects of the China-US relationship to bring benefits to our both countries and beyond," Wang said on Thursday at a joint press conference with Secretary of State John Kerry at the State Department. The new type of major country relationship was reaffirmed by Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama when they met in Sunnylands, California, in early June. Wang, who is on his first trip to the US since becoming foreign minister in March, said he believes there is tremendous potential for the two nations to work together to further expand and deepen their cooperation. On Thursday afternoon, Wang met US Vice President Joe Biden, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Foreign Affairs Committee Director Ed Royce. Biden said he and President Obama both believe that the success of humankind in the 21st century largely depends on how the two countries deal with their relationship and how the two peoples cooperate in tackling with common global challenges. He said he is very optimistic. Kerry said the US has a vested interest in China's growing prosperity and partnership, not only in the Asia-Pacific region, but also around the world. He described the new type of relationship as based on "practical cooperation and constructive management of differences". "We recognized the need to avoid falling into a trap of seeing one another as strategic rivals," said Kerry, who has met with Wang several times in the past months.

Hong Kong*:  Sept 20 2013

Drop in shark fin imports not all good news (By Sophie le Clue) Sophie le Clue says shark fin imports are not falling as quickly as some figures suggest and the fact Hong Kong remains the leading destination is cause for concern, despite some welcome steps by the government - Recently, we have been hearing persistent claims of declining shark fin imports into Hong Kong. But many of the reports - both in local and international media - have been guilty of peddling misinformation, which has created confusion around the real issue. Claims from the shark fin industry of a drop in imports of some 30 per cent - and even one report of 70 per cent - are exaggerated. Data from the Census and Statistics Department clearly indicates a 19.8 per cent drop in imports from 2011 to 2012. What's more, for the 15 years up to and including 2011, shark fin imports have remained relatively constant at about 10,000 tonnes a year, albeit with some fluctuations. That contrasts significantly with the figure of 1,162 tonnes recently reported for 2012. The exaggerated drop in the 2012 figure, which was widely reported, is probably a result of the fact that the codes under which shark fin products are reported were revised in the 2012 government data. A large quantity of fins were recorded against a previously rarely used code and omitted from the total figure reported. The decline also started well before major airlines, led by Cathay Pacific last December, took the bold and much welcome step of banning the carriage of shark fin. About 15 per cent of all shark fin is imported into Hong Kong by air; the majority still comes by sea. Yet, despite the 2012 decline, Hong Kong has retained its leading and historic position representing about 50 per cent of the global total, indicating that the drop is likely to be global in nature. The good news could be that demand and consumption are falling - which has also been widely reported. The bad news could be that there are simply fewer sharks in the oceans, a very real possibility according to scientists. Or, it could be a combination of both. Whichever way, until we see a significant downward trend that can be attributed to reduced consumption, there is much reason for concern. Overfishing is driving many shark species towards extinction and by the time we see such a trend emerge, it will probably be too late to do anything about it. Given the importance of sharks to the marine ecosystem, it is surely imperative that we follow the precautionary principle - that an activity shouldn't be continued if the consequences are potentially damaging - and seek to regulate the trade. Another issue frequently reported is the impact it has on fishermen, including claims that non-governmental organisations are responsible for reducing demand and thus depriving poor communities of their livelihoods. While the rationality of this argument is without question, we should look more closely at the real situation and those who raise it. In reality, it is the traders who profit from shark fin, not the fishermen. About 10 years ago, fishermen along the southeastern coast of Mozambique switched to catching sharks - purely to sell the fins to Asian traders - as the meat had little monetary value and was eaten by local villagers. But, by 2011, the fisherman had to switch back to catching reef fish as shark populations had dwindled due to over-fishing, also depriving the locals of a previously constant source of protein. These fishermen would have gained far more in terms of food security and future livelihoods from the sustainable management of shark fisheries. In contrast, in Hong Kong's infamous shark fin district, it's not uncommon to see Bentleys, Ferraris and the occasional Rolls-Royce parked beside shark fin wholesalers. Surely that's not a coincidence? Finally, are many shark species at risk of extinction? The answer - if observing the internationally recognised International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List - is a resounding "yes". Of the 262 shark species where there is sufficient data to assess their conservation status, 54 per cent, or 142 species, are at risk of extinction either now or in the near future. Confusion arises as the trade in Hong Kong is regulated through The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, under which only eight species are on the list, five of which were only added this March following years of contesting claims. It's hardly surprising there are so few on this list when you consider the lobbying that goes on as countries seek to avoid regulation of the trade in a lucrative, albeit endangered, species. While NGOs have been relentless, with good reason, we should not forget that last year 41 of the world's leading marine scientists wrote to the Hong Kong government expressing concern over the impact of the fin trade on global shark populations. The government seems to have done its research and, last Friday, it issued an internal circular recommending that shark fin should not be served at official functions and, furthermore, when functions are organised by others, the relevant bureaus and departments should notify their hosts in advance that government officials will not be eating shark fin. This is also a way to use a unique opportunity to educate others. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and his administration should be applauded for taking what is hopefully a first step in addressing Hong Kong's role in the decimation of shark populations worldwide. Sophie le Clue is director of environmental programmes at Hong Kong-based ADM Capital Foundation

 China*:  Sept 20 2013

It's the real deal: Class explains genuine vs fake (By By Xu Junqian) A luxury appraisal class organized by has attracted the attention of some of the country's richest and least busy women (and a few men), who bore bags with the logos of Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Dior. Luxury appraisal courses gain favor among the wealthy as counterfeit goods become harder to distinguish, Xu Junqian in Shanghai reports. The record summer heat left Shanghai's famed Tianzifang, an alley usually crowded with tourists and sightseers during the weekend, nearly deserted on a recent scorching day. One or two residents in slippers and pajamas took advantage of the rare quiet to chat with their neighbors in the passageway. Crowds of busy tourists, appearing and disappearing as fast as summer showers, took some snapshots of the "must-see sight" listed by almost every tour guide, then quickly rushed into the air-conditioned mall across the street. Even in shopping malls, sales staff will replace authentic goods with high-quality fakes, according to Lin Li, a 22-year-old college student, who attended a luxury appraisal class in Shanghai. But in a three-floor industrial-style loft building tucked deep in one of the alleys, which on weekdays houses art galleries and fashion designers who have their stores nearby, the summer heat gave way to something more "serious". It was the first luxury appraisal class held in the city, perhaps even the whole country. The three-hour course, held on a Saturday afternoon when the temperature crossed 40 C, was organized by, a Chinese fashion-industry trade journal. It charged 200 yuan ($32.70) a person for what the organizers called "the elementary-level course" to distinguish authentic luxury products from the fake. "The first day that enrollment was announced, the class was filled," said Ye Qizheng, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of the website. The original plan was to admit about 20 people, a number Ye said usually took weeks to achieve for earlier courses such as fashion trend prediction. But for the luxury appraisal class, more than 40 people called and mailed "from all over China" on the first day, forcing Ye and his team to take the notice off their website. "I browsed 50 pages of Google searches to find a course of this kind. I was thrilled to learn (there is) one taking place in Shanghai," said 28-year-old Yang Yijing, who traveled with her boyfriend all the way from the Ningxia Hui autonomous region for the course. Yang, the daughter of a local well-off car dealer, said she had been wanting to "do some business involving secondhand luxury goods" after returning from Milan, Italy, where she finished graduate studies in luxury management in 2012. As she found that what she'd learned overseas had little practical use in her hometown, where "luxury needs little management but only a presence", she decided to focus on something more novel but also potentially profitable — selling expensive cast-offs, or in Yang's words, "vintage luxury". As she said, "the first thing I need to learn is telling the real from the fake, and it's something you can only learn in Asia, where fakes are produced." Yang's needs seem to be well-catered for in the course. Li Na, the 33-year-old lecturer, is a professional luxury appraiser who has been working in secondhand luxury stores in Japan for a decade. "Louis Vuitton items produced before and after 2006 have different ‘birth certificates'," Li told the class. That's just one thing she's learned in the past 10 years in the industry. Sitting in front of her were some of the country's richest and least busy women (and a few men), who bore bags with the logos of Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Dior. They paid rapt attention, even when the air-conditioner stopped working in the middle of the lecture. "Two-thirds of the people came only to learn, with a simple thirst for knowledge," said Ye, the organizer. "As more and more people are buying luxuries, the wealthy want to distinguish themselves with limited editions and vintage luxury items. "Stuff of this kind is not easily found in official stores, and the risks of getting knock-offs are high." Lin Li, a 22-year-old Shanghai college student, who came to the class alone, agreed. Despite being rather coy about her parents' professions, Lin said she traveled at least three times a year overseas to do luxury shopping. "I have been told that even in domestic shopping malls, the sales staff will replace the real goods with what they call ‘high-resolution replicas'," as she put it. Li, the appraiser, told another side of the story. She noted that although she now lives and works in Japan, she has to travel frequently back to China, to "go deep into" counterfeit manufacturing sites in Shenzhen and Guangzhou to keep up to date with the highly volatile industry. Once, she was offered 1 million yuan by a counterfeit factory to be "the technological counselor". 

A simple but pure festival tradition (By Ye Jun) Clockwise from above left: The zilaibai, Cantonese egg yolk with white lotus paste mooncakes, ice skin moon cake and zilaihong mooncakes. Although bakery products have changed through the years, some of the most popular recipes remain the original ones, Ye Jun reports. Like any classic food, the Chinese moon cake has seen a lot of changes over time. But sometimes, traditional styles are still the most popular. Beijinger Wang Junjie still likes the taste of zilaihong, a Beijing-style moon cake. "When I was a kid, my family was so poor. We yearned for holidays such as the Mid-Autumn Festival, so that we could eat mooncakes," says the 55-year-old. "But now mooncakes are available year-round. It is like a holiday every day, so I no longer feel that special yearning." Beijing's traditional mooncakes are zilaihong and zilaibai. The handmade, hard-crust mooncakes are made up of rock sugar, walnut kernels, pumpkin seeds and qinghongsi, candied tangerine peel slices. Zilaihong uses red sugar in the dough, while zilaibai uses white sugar. The taste is simple but pure. Wang is a Chinese executive pastry chef at Summer Palace Chinese restaurant, China World Hotel. Under his supervision, the hotel produces 12 different moon cake gift boxes, with more than 30 flavors. These boxes contain the most popular styles of mooncakes: Beijing, Su (Suzhou), Cantonese and Yunnan. They each have their own unique ingredients and combinations. For example, Cantonese-style mooncakes typically use red lotus paste, white lotus paste and mashed bean stuffing. Mashed jujube is mostly Beijing style. Yunnan-style mooncakes use ham and rock sugar. But over time, styles have changed, and people cannot always distinguish mooncakes by region. "For instance, everybody uses five nuts for stuffing, no matter where they live," chef Wang says. There are different stories about the origin of mooncakes, which are believed to be around 1,000 years old. The moon cake was an offering to the god of the moon, and for the Chinese the round shape means "reunion". Lin Huoxiong, director of research and development with Imperial Palace Cantonese Restaurant, says Cantonese people always eat mooncakes with tea.
"It is usually paired with chrysanthemum, pu'er or tieguanyin (a Fujian oolong)," he says. His restaurant, which opened in Beijing in 2002, makes both Cantonese-style mooncakes and a Chaozhou-style crispy crust moon cake adapted from a popular turnip crispy cake.

Hong Kong*:  Sept 19 2013

Shanghai free-trade zone will hit Hong Kong quicker than expected, says Li Ka-shing (By Peggy Sito Hong Kong needs to develop more quickly or risk being left behind, warns tycoon, as he urges people to unite to improve the city - Li Ka-shing, chairman of Cheung Kong and Hutchison Whampoa, says Hong Kong will lag behind if it does not accelerate the pace of its development. Shanghai's new free-trade zone will have a bigger and quicker impact on Hong Kong than most people imagine, Asia's richest man, Li Ka-shing, said yesterday. "[The free-trade zone] will have a big impact on Hong Kong," said Li, who chairs Cheung Kong (Holdings) and Hutchison Whampoa. "It has different aspects, including financial services. When the yuan becomes fully convertible, it will benefit the development of Shanghai." Hong Kong would lag behind if it did not accelerate the pace of its development, he said. The landmark project signals Beijing's determination to raise the competitiveness of the mainland economy. It plans to elevate Shanghai's role in economic reform by loosening controls on capital flows and expanding foreign investment in its free-trade zone, to officially open next week. Asked if Shanghai would surpass Hong Kong in the next five to 10 years, Li replied: "I do not want to predict. But it will be faster than most people expect. "It is just like you are running a 1,000-kilometre race. When you run one-third of the race, you see [your competitor] still behind you. But you are already surpassed [by your competitor] in the first half of the race. It is all about the speed." The speed at which the Shanghai project has taken shape has caught market watchers by surprise. It has overshadowed similar plans for Qianhai in Shenzhen, Hengqin island in the Zhuhai special economic zone, and Nansha, in Guangzhou. Li urged Hongkongers to unite to improve the city, and said his flagship companies would not pull their assets out of Hong Kong. "I will absolutely not move our domiciles from Hong Kong," he said. "After many years Cheung Kong and Hutchison will still be here." His remarks followed widespread reports that Li was pulling assets out of Hong Kong and the mainland, with plans to offload HK$40 billion of assets, including the possible sale of the ParknShop supermarket chain. Li said selling ParknShop was a commercial decision. "If [this move] is interpreted as pulling out from Hong Kong, the amount may be too small," Li said, joking that "to me, if I sell this building [Cheung Kong Center], you should start to worry." Li said Hong Kong's property market had become unpredictable because it was subject to government policies, but the impact of cooling measures on developers and other sectors would be reflected next year. Property transactions in Hong Kong dropped to their lowest level in a decade in the first half of the year. There were 39,077 property transactions lodged with the government registry as a series of housing policy measures and the continued tightening of mortgage requirements weighed on the real estate industry. It was the lowest number of transactions since the 35,200 deals recorded in the first half of 2003, when the city was gripped by fears about Sars. Separately, a member of the Friends of Hong Kong Association quoted Wang Guangya, director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, as saying there were several economic hubs that needed support from the central government. "Wang said the country had more than a son, referring to the several hubs, but it would reserve the best policies for Hong Kong," said Chan Wing-kee. Commenting on the Occupy Central movement for greater democracy, Li said: "Personally I do not agree with occupying Central. It will adversely affect Hong Kong's image as a financial city and have a negative impact on the city's economy." There were many ways to express an opinion, he said, and it was not necessary to choose such a method to fight for democracy.

 China*:  Sept 19 2013

China refuses to blame Assad for Syria gas attack (By Agence France-Presse in Beijing) UN chief Ban Ki-moon condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria as a ”war crime” on Monday. China on Tuesday refused to say whether a United Nations report into a sarin gas attack in Syria showed that government forces had used the banned weapons. The United Nations on Monday revealed details of the attack, which the United States, Britain and France said showed that President Bashar al-Assad’s forces had carried it out. Russia said that further investigation was needed. Foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a regular briefing that Beijing would have a “serious look” at the report, but did not say whether China thought that government forces were responsible when asked. “The relevant investigation should be carried out by the UN investigation team on an impartial, professional and independent basis,” he said. China has repeatedly said that it opposed armed intervention by foreign powers in Syria. UN chief Ban Ki-moon condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria as a ”war crime” after UN experts said they had gathered evidence that surface-to-surface rockets took sarin gas into the opposition-held Damascus suburb of Ghouta on August 21. Ban would not say who had carried out the attack. The US ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, said the use of a 122mm rocket and high quality sarin showed the responsibility lay with regime forces. But Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin said after a Security Council meeting on the report that there should be more investigation. Moscow has in the past sided with Assad in blaming opposition rebels for the use of chemical weapons. More than 110,000 people have been killed by the 30-month-old conflict in Syria according to activists, while the UN has said more than two million have become refugees.

Hong Kong*:  Sept 18 2013

Lack of funding and young volunteers threaten fire dance (By Elaine Yau Organisers of fire dragon dances continue their traditions despite a lack of funding and young volunteers - Ng Kwong-nam (left) and brother Ng Kong-kin, organisers of the Pok Fu Lam fire dragon dance, work on the centrepiece. The brothers hope the festival will popularise village traditions. This year will mark the 55th time Chan Tak-fai has taken part in the fire dragon dance, a tradition that has been staged annually in Tai Hang for more than 130 years as part of Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations. "The dance has been held every year since 1880, except when Hong Kong was under Japanese occupation," says 67-year-old Chan, a former telecommunications worker. Chan, who started as a fire dragon carrier when he was 12, has risen through the ranks to become the dragon dance's commander-in-chief. For three consecutive nights from Wednesday, he will be directing 300 people as they hoist up a 70-metre straw dragon studded with incense sticks and manoeuvre it through the streets to Victoria Park and back again. As in previous years, the event is expected to draw large crowds. But Chan is struggling to keep the tradition alive despite its popularity. Funding and succession are the problems, he says. "The falling birth rate means it's more difficult for us to get young recruits. If we can't get enough male participants, we might consider loosening the rule to allow women to carry the dragon as well," Chan says. The cost of staging the dance has risen to about HK$500,000, and Chan and his supporters are finding it tougher to get donations. "We can't make the rounds of households for our fundraising drive like we used to," he says, because gaining access to modern residential blocks is difficult for non-residents. Many of the same issues hobble organisers at Pok Fu Lam village, an old enclave of about 500 households, which will be staging a similar parade, albeit on a smaller scale. Chinese medicine practitioner Ng Kwong-nam and his brother, Kong-kin, helped revive the tradition in Pok Fu Lam village after it was suspended from the 1980s to the '90s. This year, the dancers will take their 30-metre fire dragon beyond the village boundaries for the first time, making their way to nearby Aberdeen before finishing in Waterfall Bay. Ng Kwong-nam is delighted their fire dragon has been restored to its former glory through collaboration with the Southern District Council. "It will be a big performance," he says. "Seven nine-metre baby dragons will join the king dragon this year." Although he has taken part in the rite since he was nine, 53-year-old Ng says that most Hongkongers do not know that the Pok Fu Lam fire dragon exists. "Most people only think of Tai Hang when they're talking about the fire dragon dance. So my brother and I decided to shoulder most of the responsibility in organising the dance. We want to promote the culture of our village through it." The village's fire dragon tradition began in 1910, with processions held on the eve of the Mid-Autumn Festival, as well as on the day itself; police used to block off Pokfulam Road for the dragon's passage. But because of traffic congestion, they were banned from using the road a decade ago, and the fire dragon now only appears on one day. "We don't have the geographical advantage of Tai Hang, as our village is made up of narrow winding alleys which aren't good for navigation. You need space for the dragon to flex its body to show its ferocious spirit," Ng says. In 2010, the Pok Fu Lam fire dragon dancers were included in the Southern District Council's tourism promotion programme for the first time. The programme paid for the making of DVDs, workshops and booklets about the tradition. But there was only a small subsidy for the extravaganza itself, and most of the HK$50,000 required comes from the villagers' own pockets. The Ng brothers don't take issue with the scarce funding, but they do complain that government bureaucrats are creating obstacles for them. "Why can't they just block the road? It's just for several minutes once a year. They block roads for the annual Standard Chartered marathon for half a day," Ng Kwong-nam says. The fire dragon dance received a big boost in 2011, when the Tai Hang tradition was included in China's third list of intangible cultural heritage, along with the Cheung Chau Bun Festival, the Tai O Dragon Boat Parade, and the Yu Lan Ghost Festival (Hungry Ghost) celebrated by the Chiu Chow community. According to legend, the Tai Hang fire dragon dance was created in response to a plague that had beset the village, killing dozens of young men. An elderly villager had a dream in which a spirit said the misfortune would end if villagers bundled grass into a long dragon, covered it with incense sticks, and burned them as offerings to a python that they had killed. Since then, residents have gathered 1,000kg of pearl grass every year to make the dragon. Four years ago the Tai Hang fire dragon extended its route to Victoria Park to entertain visitors on Mid-Autumn Festival night at the invitation of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department - an acknowledgement of its cultural significance. Even so, Chan is having trouble identifying a suitable successor to take his place as commander-in-chief of the Tai Hang dragon. "I was chosen to take the helm because of my perseverance. The commander- in-chief must speak Hakka, as all ritual greetings must be made in that dialect," he says. "The job requires lots of dedication. In the past I had to take two weeks off work to prepare for the performance. The chief is responsible for the promotion and selection of personnel for both leadership and rank-and-file posts. It's not easy to find a person with leadership skills and real passion for the dance." But for the time being, Chan will do his best to keep the fire dragon burning. "As someone who was born in Tai Hang, I don't want a tradition that has been passed down for generations to fade away." Lau Kwok-wai, executive director of the Conservancy Association Centre for Heritage, argues that the government could do more to preserve time-honoured customs in the community. "Changes in social environment and urban renewal programmes have put many such traditions at risk. Besides getting people to make oral historical records of the traditions, I don't see much being done to preserve them," he says. "The fire dragon dances already fare quite well compared to other lesser known traditions. The government commissioned the South China Research Centre at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology to compile a list of the intangible cultural heritage in Hong Kong [in 2009]. "But how the government will go about preserving the heritage on the list is unknown," says Lau.

Replacing old Hong Kong buses will save hundreds of lives, says study (By Ernest Kao If 5,000 vehicles built to earlier emission standards are replaced now with cleaner models, the health and economic benefits will be huge - Older buses belching out toxic fumes can make life unbearable for pedestrians in congested inner-city streets in Hong Kong. Replacing Hong Kong's ageing buses with those meeting newer, more stringent emission standards could help save hundreds of lives, a study shows. The study, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis, says that 1,260 lives can be saved in the next 13 years if the city's 5,170 buses built to Euro I, II and III standards are replaced now with cleaner Euro V models. At an estimated cost of HK$15 billion split evenly between the government and bus operators, the bus replacement would generate HK$26 billion in "net economic benefits" for Hong Kong by 2026, including lower hospital costs and regained productivity, the study says. The government already plans to phase out all pre-Euro V buses in 18 years and under this plan Euro IV models would stay on the roads in the meantime. The European emission standards define acceptable limits for exhaust emissions, with newer standards meeting stricter levels. Author Leung Weiwen, of Singapore Management University, said the proposals could be seen as the minimum subsidy needed to give private bus operators an incentive to replace all their pre-Euro IV buses. Academics and environmentalists said the proposal had merit, but doubted its feasibility. Clean Air Network chief executive Kwong Sum-yin said she would support such a plan, but realistically it would not happen. "The government and bus companies have a contract to phase out pre-Euro V buses in 18 years and neither side will be willing to breach this contract," she said. Leung arrived at his figure by calculating the decrease in mortality rate per decrease in air pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide , which is toxic by inhalation, and PM10, fine air particles which can penetrate deep into the lungs. His work was based on a 2010 study by the Boston-based Health Effects Institute, which found natural-cause mortality in Hong Kong to increase 0.9 and 0.6 per cent respectively for every nitrogen dioxide and PM10 increase of 10 micrograms per cubic metre of air. He used Hospital Authority data, which recorded an average of 39,900 deaths from natural causes between 2008 and 2010. Seventy per cent of Hong Kong's franchised bus fleet are Euro II buses or lower. Euro II buses alone can emit twice as much nitrogen dioxide and PM10 as Euro V buses, Leung said. The Hedley Environmental Index estimated there were at least 195 premature deaths and 400,000 doctor visits last month and eight million doctor visits in 2011 as a result of bad air. Sarah McGhee, a professor of health economics at the University of Hong Kong, said Leung's findings were credible but his plan's feasibility was doubtful because it would require bus firms to find HK$8 billion on top of the government's HK$6 billion subsidy to replace non-Euro V buses.

Hong Kong Marathon may ban mobile phones after 'selfies' caused accidents (By Alvin Sallay Mobile phones could be banned from next February's Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon after runners were accused of causing pandemonium at this year's event by stopping to take pictures of themselves. Mobile phones could be banned from next February's Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon after runners were accused of causing pandemonium at this year's event by stopping to take pictures of themselves. The bank's chief executive, Benjamin Hung Pi-cheng, yesterday called on organisers to try to stop the practice and blamed it for causing accidents during the race, which saw many competitors cross the finish line bloodied and bruised. The injured included Hong Kong triathlete Joyce Cheung Ting-yan, who survived a nasty fall to go on to win the women's 10-kilometre race. Hung said: "The problem was that a number of runners were trying to take self-portrait pictures using their smartphones. What we are trying to do is to encourage people not to do that. The problem was that a number of runners were trying to take self-portrait pictures using their smartphones... At the end of the day we want this to be run safely STANDARD CHARTERED CHIEF EXEC "It not only endangers themselves but endangers a lot of people running behind them. "We want people to apply a little bit of common sense and discipline. At the end of the day we want this to be run safely." Hung said he did not discount the possibility of banning competitors from carrying mobile phones. "That is something organisers will have to deal with," he said. Next year will see 1,000 more people taking part, with the number of runners setting off on February 16 reaching 73,000. "This year we haven't gone up significantly on numbers but we have added extra races in both the full marathon and half-marathon to encourage people to upgrade themselves from the 10-kilometre event to the longer race," Hung said. The Hong Kong Amateur Athletic Association yesterday announced the registration process for next year's event. People can sign up for the marathon from October 15; the half-marathon from October 22; the 10-kilometre races from October 29; and the wheelchair races from November 5. In a bid to attract leading runners from overseas, prize money for the marathon has been increased to US$300,000 (HK$2.3 million) from US$258,400. The association said numbers had now reached saturation point. William Ko Wai-lam, chairman of the organising committee, said: "There is a huge demand but we have to take into consideration the road capacity, with the route remaining the same as this year."

 China*:  Sept 18 2013

Private equity firm KKR to invest in mainland China property market (By George Chen KKR, one of the world’s largest private equity firms, is looking to make property investments on the mainland despite concern, even inside the government, about whether the red-hot real estate market is turning into a bubble. Henry Kravis, one of the three co-founders of KKR, said in Hong Kong yesterday that the firm would be happy to make minority investments rather than buy out companies in the world’s fastest growing economic region. KKR, formerly known as Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, recently launched a US$6 billion private equity fund for deals in Asia, its second Asia-dedicated fund. “Years ago, when we walked in and saw the CEO of a company, the first question we typically would ask is if the company was for sale. If the answer was no, we wouldn’t have a lot to talk about,” said Kravis, whose firm was made famous by the best-selling business book Barbarians at the Gate,about the 1988 leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco. “But today, it is more about what the management of any particular company wants and how we can be helpful to them,” said Kravis, who co-founded KKR in 1976 with his cousin George Roberts and Jerome Kohlberg Jnr. “Most of our investments today in Asia are minority investments. We’re perfectly comfortable with that.” Joe Bae, managing partner for KKR in Asia, said it would go after sectors in which the government saw a strong need for improvement; for example, on the mainland, businesses related to food safety and water treatment. It is also keen on property deals, and some of its long-time competitors, including two US firms, Carlyle and Blackstone, have snapped up property on the mainland recently – high-end  commercial real estate in Shanghai, in the case of those two firms. When Bae was asked if he might be concerned about industry risk in the mainland’s property sector, where some analysts have warned of sharp price falls in coming years, he said: “Obviously, the real estate market has been a lot stronger than people expected in terms of volume growth and even price. But you can’t generalise about China’s property business. “Real estate in China is by nature a very local business, so I think you really need to have very targeted bets: in which city, what [type] of real estate – residential, commercial or retail.” Bae said the exit from the property market globally by some traditional real estate holders, including many major banks, since the 2008 financial crisis had created opportunities for private equity funds to put money into the sector. Kravis said he did not like people to think of KKR as a capital provider. His vision was to make the firm a “solution provider”. “Today we can almost accomplish everything that a company needs and that’s the way we want to be positioned,” he said. “The key to all of that is who is our partner, who is the management of a particular company, people we feel we can trust and do business with. If their companies are reasonable companies, then we will be very happy to be in a minority position to work with them. “The question I personally always like to ask a management is, ‘What do you want, and what do you expect from us?’ If it is just to provide the capital, we may not be the right partner.” While China and India remained the hottest destinations for investment, Kravis said Japanese firms, known for their bureaucracy, had become more receptive to investment ideas.

China California team up on climate (By Chen Jia in San Francisco Xie Zhenhua, vice-minister of the National Development and Reform Commission of China, and California Governor Jerry Brown signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Friday in San Francisco. An agreement to share expertise and resources to reduce CO2 In a move to strengthen cooperation on lowering carbon dioxide emissions, China's top climate negotiator and California's Governor signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Friday in San Francisco. The first-of-its-kind agreement between the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) of China and a US state clarifies "areas of cooperation", as well as "forms of cooperation" and "implementation". "Neither China nor the US is exempt from disasters caused by extreme weather," Xie Zhenhua, vice-minister of the NDRC, said before the signing ceremony on Friday. NDRC oversees China's efforts to address climate change and much of the government's economic strategy. In the past ten years, around 76,000 people have lost their lives because of weather-related disasters in China and there has been 4.7 trillion yuan in economic losses as well. The Chinese government has attached great importance to climate change issues and is working very hard to integrate economic development and people's living standards with environmental protection and climate change measures, Xie said. Since the 11th Five Year Plan, Chinese Government has taken a series of very effective measures which include further transforming the industrial structure, enhancing energy efficiency and saving more energy, developing new energy, and increasing capability to adapt climate change. Xie said that China has successfully achieved the target of reducing energy consumption from 2006-2012 by 23.6 percent, and CO2 emissions by 1.8 billion tons. He said both China and US are taking very decisive actions to address climate change. "We can see that in California," Xie said, "and you are taking a lead in this regard." China, CA team up on climate - "I see the partnership between provinces in China, and the state of California as a catalyst and as a lever to change policies in the US and ultimately change policies throughout the world," California Governor Jerry Brown said. "The fact that the National Development and Reform Commission of the People's Republic of China is entering into an agreement with one of the fifty states reflects the important position of California not only in the economy, but in science, technology and climate change initiatives," he said. Under the two-year commitment of the MOU, China and the US would share information and experiences regarding policies and programs to strengthen low carbon development across economic sectors; share policy design of carbon emissions trading programs; and invite the other party to advise on program and policy design and rule-making processes that it developed. It also includes exchanges and temporary assignments of personnel from one of the parties to the other; cooperative research on clean and efficient energy technologies, including developing shared research, development and deployment projects.

Hong Kong*:  Sept 17 2013

Insults fly among protesters outside C.Y. Leung meeting (By Tanna Chong, Emily Tsang and Tony Cheung) Noise level and tempers rise as rival political groups clash near venue - Wong Ho-ming (left), of the League of Social Democrats, confronts a member of the Voice of Loving Hong Kong. The inside of Tang Shiu Kin Victoria Government Secondary School in Wan Chai provided a few moments of peace for Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying yesterday, as clashes, loud music and vulgar language rang out as he entered the venue for his third town hall meeting. Leung said order among people attending his series of meet-the-people sessions "had been improving", but stand-offs took place non-stop outside yesterday's venue. Inside, Leung told the audience: "This is a process of democratisation. A democratic lifestyle is as important as a democratic system." He added: "The three sessions were more and more orderly … we cannot allow any uncivilised way of expression." But outside about 400 Leung supporters and opponents engaged in a shouting match and jostling prior to the arrival of Leung and his ministers. Pro-Beijing group Sounds of Silence was the noisiest group in the protest zone, playing patriotic music at high volume. Police said there were no arrests. While swearing and chants such as "scum" were heard from both camps, in one extreme instance supporters of pro-Beijing group Voice of Loving Hong Kong were heard calling Erica Yuen Mi-ming, chairwoman of the radical pan-democratic party People Power, a "prostitute". Anti-Leung protesters had queued overnight for two nights outside Leighton Hill Community Hall in Causeway Bay to secure tickets for the event. All but one, the League of Social Democrats' Lui Yuk-lin, obtained a seat after being handed cards in exchange for tickets yesterday morning. The rest of the 300 seats were snapped up by government supporters. Lui was carried away bodily by security guards after she held up placards in the audience. "I was carried away although I did not chant any slogan," Lui said after throwing joss papers outside the hall. One participant in a "Standing Man"-style protest - in which people wore white and stood silently - was involved in a stand-off with a protester from Voice of Loving Hong Kong. He then stood outside the back door of the school before being removed by police. The deputy police commander of Wan Chai district, Mak Chin-ho, said: "Most people expressed their view in a peaceful way, only some were radical, such as those who threw things towards the chief executive's car when he arrived."

Hong Kong does not need British support on reform: Leung snubs UK offer (By Tony Cheung and Tanna Chong) Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said Hong Kong does not need British support on political reform and warned that foreign intervention could backfire in the process of overhauling the electoral system. The strong statement came a day after Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor rebuffed British Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire, who wrote in the South China Morning Post on Friday that on electoral reform, it was important for Hongkongers to be given a "genuine choice". Swire offered support for a "smooth resolution" to the question of universal suffrage. After a meet-the-public session in Wan Chai yesterday, Leung said "Hong Kong doesn't need the British [or] any other foreign government's support". Leung, a former secretary general of the Basic Law Consultative Committee, said that "electing the chief executive by universal suffrage is an ultimate goal stated in the Basic Law". "The term 'universal suffrage' didn't appear in the [1984 Sino-British] Joint Declaration," which only stated that the chief executive would be appointed by Beijing "on the basis of the results of elections or consultations to be held locally", he said, citing the agreement on the city's future. "So [it] is a matter [only for] the people [of Hong Kong], the SAR government, and the National People's Congress. It has nothing to do with the British or any foreign government. "For any foreign official who wants to participate or intervene, the past experience is very clear - it will only do the opposite for Hong Kong's political reform, including the people they wanted to support or influence," he said. Leung also reiterated that the administration remained determined to achieve universal suffrage in 2017 in accordance with the Basic Law and that there was still time for public consultation. During the session, Leung, housing minister Anthony Cheung Bing-leung and welfare minister Matthew Cheung Kin-chung responded to 15 questions on issues including housing, the environment and elderly care. In his opening remarks, Leung dismissed a pan-democrat call for a review of the one- way permit scheme, which allows 150 mainlanders a day to reunite with their families, and which has been blamed for pushing up the city's property prices. Leung said that even if Hong Kong shut its doors to new immigrants, there were still about 230,000 people waiting for a public home, "so the key is to find land to build houses, not just public housing, but also private ones". He added that the government would review the use of land plots "one by one", including abandoned ones and golf courses in the New Territories, while seeking to reclaim land. Environment undersecretary Christine Loh Kung-wai revealed the government was planning to set up environmental protection centres for each of the city's 18 districts to support social enterprises focused on environmental protection and waste reduction.

 China*:  Sept 17 2013

USA favourite destination for big spending Chinese travellers (By Anna Healy Fenton Chinese tourists take a break after shopping in Tokyo's posh Ginza district. It’s official. The mainland Chinese have now overtaken the Americans and the Germans as the world’s biggest travel spenders. They spent US$102 billion (HK$791 billion) on international tourism in 2012, 40 per cent up on 2011, according to the UN World Tourism Organisation. This is down to the Chinese getting richer, the government allowing more of them to travel and more overseas countries grating them easier or visa-free access. They are also now the world’s largest outbound tourism market, according to the China Tourism Academy overtaking Germany and the US, with Chinese citizens making 83 million overseas trips in 2012, which will rise to 200 million by 2020. The Chinese government is doing its bit, building 70 new airports by 2015 and expanding the existing 100 airports. The number of long haul flights to China increases all the time – you can now fly Chengdu to London direct with BA – and low cost carrier activity is ramping up. Wish list versus reality - All this according to’s Chinese International Travel Monitor 2013, which among other interesting details mentions that the average household annual income of the Chinese who travel is RMB109,922 (HK$138,390), compared to the average family income of RMB 49,920 (HK$62,848.5). But a quarter of travellers are much less wealthy, with annual incomes of less than RMB 70,000 (HK$88,129) per year. Whatever the purpose Chinese tend to go away for one to two weeks, 1.6 weeks for leisure, 1.7 weeks for business, and 1.8 weeks when visiting friends. Two-thirds now head off alone or with family, not in a tour group. There’s a big difference between where they say they want to go and where they actually go. The wish list one to 10 is Australia, France, New Zealand, USA, Switzerland, Singapore, Hong Kong Taiwan, UK and Canada. In reality they mostly stick close to home. From one to 10 they actually visit: USA, Hong Kong, Thailand, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, Italy, France and Australia. When they go abroad, 76 per cent say sightseeing is their priority, 65 per cent also rate dining very highly and surprisingly, only 51 per cent say shopping is a big draw. Only 5 per cent said they were interested in sport and gambling when travelling. Younger travellers, under 35, say they are interested in eating when overseas. Chinese travellers book online - When it comes to booking their travel, half book direct with the hotel, not through an agent, 29 per cent book online and 19 per cent reserve rooms by phone. Only 36 per cent use a travel agent, and of those14 per cent are online travel agents. According to the China Internet Network, the Mainland has internet penetration of 42 per cent. - Quite a few are last minute bookers - one in five book the week before they go. And 62 per cent overall book up to 30 days before travel. A third book 31-90 days before they go and 7 per cent book longer than 91 days. They research a lot, but a third fall back on recommendations from family and friends, with online travel and review sites the source for 29 per cent. A third of younger travellers use social media for travel tips. Big spenders - According to Chinese travellers are fifth in the list of big spenders, splashing out on average RMB 1,069 (HK$1,346) per room night and much more in many places such as New Zealand where they spend more than any other nationality. In Switzerland they are fourth highest on the big spender list. When it comes to star rating, 52 per cent choose three or four stars and nine per cent opt for five stars or all inclusive resorts. Only 18 per cent want to go down market with back packing or B and B. Chinese prefer hotel meals - The vast majority - 94 per cent - like to eat in the hotel, and a hotel’s restaurant is its highly rated priority, with 52 per cent saying they spend the bulk of their spending money in the hotel restaurant, followed by room service. Drinking is less important with only 9 per cent listing the bar as the area where they spend most when overseas, their highest level of spending. Listen up HSBC and UnionPay - Six out of 10 Chinese travellers said the ability to accept Chinese payment methods – Unionpay and Alipay - was the single most important thing affecting their hotel choice. And a quarter of Chinese travellers feel this is the area needs improving most. I wonder how many of them have been stuck with a useless UnionPay ATM card overseas. 

Censorship has spurred writers, says Nobel Prize winner Mo Yan (By SCMP) Nobel Prize winner tells Post that authors have been motivated to challenge taboos and reveals standpoint on social issues and price of fame - Nobel Prize winner Mo Yan has revealed in an exclusive interview with the South China Morning Post that he believes censorship has motivated authors to write about topics seen as taboo. The novelist, who won the literature prize almost a year ago, sparked controversy before the awards ceremony in Stockholm by saying mainland censorship was a "necessary evil". The decision of the Nobel Committee to award the prize to Mo Yan - a long-time Communist Party member and vice-chairman of the party-aligned Chinese Writers' Association - also raised eyebrows among critics of China, who saw him as a writer "inside the system". However, the 58-year-old told the Post in a three-hour interview at his new apartment on the outskirts of Beijing: "Censorship gives writers motivation to challenge these forbidden zones." Mo Yan, who started writing in the 1980s, said: "The 1980s was a golden period for literature that I miss so much. At that time, there were many taboos which writers liked to challenge. Their excitement inspired creativity and imagination. "But I'm not saying that these taboos gave rise to good works of literature. As a matter of fact, I never meant to say anything like that. I'm just giving you a true picture of that period." He added: "I don't think a writer should shun social problems. On the other hand, I also don't believe a writer's responsibility is to write about grave and complicated social issues." He said each individual writer should have the freedom to decide what to write and what subjects they could handle best. This year's Nobel Prize winners will be announced next month and Mo Yan said the attention he has received since winning had "disturbed his peaceful life". But he sees this as the price he must pay for his fame. He said: "I have received all sorts of requests. I feel so distraught. I really want to satisfy all the requests, but I am unable to do so." He added: "There is no free lunch in the world. I won the Nobel Prize and now enjoy the fame. I have to pay the cost. This is fair to me." Mo Yan is the first Chinese citizen to win the literature prize. Gao Xingjian, who is a Chinese-born dissident with French citizenship, won the Nobel prize in 2000, but his books are banned on the mainland. Another Chinese Nobel laureate, Liu Xiaobo, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, is serving an 11-year prison sentence in Liaoning. During the interview, Mo Yan talked about Hong Kong and his respect for local authors' work. He said: "Hong Kong is … a highly civilised place. But as a person who has lived in the countryside for many years, I felt depressed walking in narrow alleys between high-rises without being able to see the sky."

Chinese designer graces stage at London fashion show (By Xinhua/China Daily) Chinese fashion designer He Ping receives applauses and acclaims at the London Fashion Week show on Sept 13, 2013. Chinese young fashion designer He Ping received applauses and acclaims on Friday at the London Fashion Week show, impressing the audience with her unique style of a dark romance and exposing her love for architecture. At the catwalk show on Friday night, He Ping presented a collection embodied with the permanent white and dark color with modern twist. In a monochromatic color palette, tough leather is juxtaposed with broderie anglaise details to create an elegant resistance. The London-based fashion designer described her collection as "desirable to men and respected by women."
She said that her collection's signature style derives from her love of architecture, with the structured silhouettes combining with eye-catching details form the collection's aesthetic. Employing contradictory concepts, He Ping's Spring/Summer 2014 collection sees soft and strong, elegant and powerful elements blended in subtle, neutral hues. Designing for women, she said that her clothing truly empowers and flatters. The 33-year-old fashion designer created her ready to wear label Ping He in 2011, with the support from Harvey Nichols' CEO Joseph Wan and former Chairman of the BFC Harold Tillman. He Ping's creativity and vision were honed in through her work for fashion houses such as Alexander McQueen and previous appearances at London and Paris fashion week came when He Ping was entrusted with designing Aftershock's couture collection "Aftershock Gold".

Xi's Central Asia trip aimed at common development, all-win cooperation (By Xinhua) Chinese President Xi Jinping's just-concluded trip to four Central Asian nations has contributed to upgrading relations between China and these countries on a full scale, said analysts and media organizations in various countries. Xi paid state visits to Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan from September 3 to 13, and attended a summit of the Group of 20 (G20) in St. Petersburg, Russia, and a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Xi's participation in the two summits is of great significance in lifting China's position in global economic governance and promoting the sound and stable development of the SCO, said analysts. REGIONAL COOPERATION - An article published on Rossiyskaya Gazeta said the 12-year-old SCO has been faithful to its original intention of safeguarding regional security and fighting the "three evil forces" of terrorism, separatism and extremism. Meanwhile, the organization provided a wider space for pragmatic cooperation among members states, promoted trade and economic development as well as cooperation in legislation, technology, culture and humanities, the report said. The SCO has various observers and dialogue partners such as Mongolia, Iran, India and Pakistan. The organization represents nearly half of the global population, it said. Another Russian newspaper Vzglyad said the SCO, which groups Russia, China and four Central Asian countries, has an increasingly important role in regional and international politics. The revitalization of these countries will help better safeguard peace and promote civility and common prosperity. Sergi Ivanovich, an official at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Russia, said Xi's proposal to establish an SCO development bank and an SCO special account is very necessary as they would provide a good financing platform from which SCO member states can get aid when they meet natural disasters and financial crisis. He saw the bank as an effective mechanism to ensure economic development and national security of SCO member countries. Turkish political scientist Ramiz Meshedihasanli echoed Ivanovich's viewpoint, saying Xi's proposal was of practical significance as it is imperative to establish an effective mechanism of financing for large multilateral cooperative projects. He also believed that SCO cooperation should go beyond trade. Kubanychbek Tabaldiyev, director of Kyrgyzstan's National Information Agency Kabar, noted that Xi stressed pragmatic cooperation among SCO member states in transportation, energy and agriculture. As the regional bloc covers a vast area, conducting cooperation in the above-mentioned areas will improve SCO members' ability to deal with crises, Tabaldiyev said. Akram Zaki, former Pakistani ambassador to China, said: "It (SCO) was a child in the start of the century but after one decade now we may call it a young mechanism with a promising prospect to boost common security and development in the Eurasia region." "China has pushed economic development and trade as the new priorities for the SCO. China certainly has deployed aid, investment, and infrastructure projects that further its economic expansion through the SCO. At the forum of SCO, China presents a model of development," he said. GLOBAL GOVERNANCE - At the G20 summit, Xi called on major countries to adopt responsible macroeconomic policies and improve global economic governance to maintain and promote the openness of the world economy. Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, said China has followed a principle of balance and win-win results in its cooperation with its partners. Xi's proposal at the G20 summit was constructive and has been praised by related parties, he said. Macharia Munene, a lecturer on International Relations at the Nairobi-based United States International University, noted that Xi called for efforts to maintain a free, open and non-discriminatory multilateral trade system, to improve global investment rules, and to allocate resources more efficiently by encouraging rational flow of capital. China's stance is of great significance in solving issues facing developing countries, said Munene. Hailing Xi's remarks as important and comforting, Mohammed Saqib, secretary general of India-China Economic and Cultural Council, said Xi's suggestion is essential for the G20 to boost trade and investment as well as financial security in the region. "I think the G20 is a very important platform, lacking leadership. China should be more proactive in the G20," he added. Evaldo Alves, a professor with the Brazilian Getulio Vargas Foundation, said China and other BRICS countries demanded at the G20 summit that developed countries shoulder faithfully their responsibilities for the global economy. The relevant requirements of emerging economies were reflected in the final statement of the summit, he noted. GOOD NEIGHBORLY RELATIONS - Xi's visits opened a new chapter in China's relations with the four Central Asian countries. His proposal to build a Silk Road economic belt was welcomed by relevant countries. The Kazakhstanskaya Pravda newspaper commented that cooperation between Kazakhstan and China is comprehensive and balanced, and that the meeting between the two countries' leaders marked a milestone for cooperation. It quoted Serik Sultangali, general director of KazTransGas company, as saying that the China-Kazakhstan gas pipeline is a link in the great Silk Road economic belt and that the pipeline will bring pragmatic benefits for his country. Jakov Berger, chief researcher of the Far East Institute of the Russian Academy of Science, said Xi's visits set a positive tone for China's relationships with the four nations and strengthened cooperation in the fight against the "three evil forces." The "three evil forces" pose threat to all countries. Therefore, Xi's visits have strengthened security cooperation between China and Central Asia countries, which will boost security and stability in the region, Berger added. Xi's visit to Kyrgyzstan showed that the new Chinese leadership will continue to develop mutually beneficial cooperation with Kyrgyzstan under the new situation, said Tabaldiyev, director of Kyrgyzstan's National Information Agency Kabar. The visit reassured that bilateral trade and economic relations will be promoted to a new level, he added. Uzbekistan's official news agency commented that both Uzbekistan and China cherish political, economic and cultural cooperation, and have common ideas on various international and regional affairs, including the fight against the "three evil forces." The Neutral Turkmenistan Newspaper said the meeting between the two countries' leaders helped consolidate the achievements of cooperation and lifted bilateral ties to a new height. Turkmenistan is proud of its relationship with China, and sees the ties as an important factor to guarantee stability and development in Eurasia, it said. French daily Le Figaro spoke highly of Xi's idea of Silk Road economic belt. Infrastructure construction in the region may create a market that covers 3 billion people, it said.

Hong Kong*:  Sept 16 2013

Hong Kong schools woo cross-border pupils in battle to survive (By Jennifer Ngo in Shenzhen Falling birth rates putting heads under pressure, but distance proving a deterrent for parents - Cross-border students face an hours-long commute to and from school each day. Hong Kong schools worried that falling pupil numbers will force them to close are courting children across the border in a bid to avoid the axe. The move comes despite the children facing an hours-long commute to and from school each day - something that puts off many parents. Schools in North district, where commuting is easier, have little trouble filling their classrooms and even struggle to accommodate pupils from nearby Shenzhen. But with Hong Kong's low birth rate leading to falling enrolments, those elsewhere without enough pupils face closure. Yesterday schools in old urban areas further south such as Pokfulam and Chai Wan - at the far western and eastern ends of Hong Kong Island - were chasing potential entrants in Shenzhen. The schools are among more than 20 Hong Kong kindergartens, primary and secondary schools attending a three-day exhibition in the border city this weekend to promote themselves to parents with Hong Kong-born children living on the mainland. The fall in pupil numbers will affect secondary schools the most in the next few years. "We are here mainly to do publicity and promotion work," said Anna Hung Wing-chee, headmistress of Caritas Chai Wan Marden Foundation Secondary School. Schools in Pokfulam, Chai Wan, Tseung Kwan O and Sham Shui Po are taking part in the event, at Shenzhen's Luohu railway station, for the first time this year. "Of course we'd welcome [cross-border pupils]. It would help our enrolment numbers," Hung said. The school, in Eastern district, has no cross-border pupils at present, but half of its pupils are recent mainland migrants. Hung said the school would be willing to provide school bus services and even weekend classes in Shenzhen. Tsang Kwok-yung, headmaster of the Yan Chai Hospital Lan Chi Pat Memorial Secondary School in Tseung Kwan O, said: "We are willing to provide more support for cross-border pupils." His school - around 90 minutes from the border - currently has no cross-border students. Kwok said that, as distance was a problem, he was attending the exhibition in an attempt to connect with potential immigrants who may move to Hong Kong in the coming years. "Schools across Hong Kong are having problems getting enough student enrolment," said Tsang. "This is something we will continually need to deal with." However, parents seemed reluctant to enrol their children in schools far from the border. One mother said Mong Kok was the farthest she was prepared to go. Another, who wants her 12-year-old son to attend a secondary school in Hong Kong teaching in English next year, said she preferred schools within five MTR stops of the border. "If the school was quite far away, I'd consider renting an apartment nearby," she said. About 20,000 cross-border pupils - children born in Hong Kong to mainland parents or from local families currently living on the mainland - currently cross the border every day to attend the city's public schools.

 China*:  Sept 16 2013

United States urges China and Japan to ease tensions in island dispute (By Teddy Ng and Wu Nan) Envoy Daniel Russel says a dispute over the Diaoyus could affect global economic growth - The United States has called on China and Japan to exercise restraint and act responsibly to avoid having the escalating tensions over their territorial dispute affect global economic growth. The comment from Daniel Russel, US assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, came just after the Chinese military told Washington not to support Japan over the disputed Diaoyu Islands, known as the Senkakus in Japan. Russel, wrapping up his meetings in Beijing with diplomats and Lieutenant General Wang Guanzhong - the People's Liberation Army's deputy chief of general staff - said it was in the world's interest for tensions between Tokyo and Beijing to cool. "The global economy is too fragile and the world's interest in economic growth and stability is too strong for the world's second- and third-largest economy to remain at odds," Russel said at a press briefing. "We hope leaders on all sides will exercise restraint and sensitivity and will consistently pursue diplomatic, friendly moves to manage disputes or resolve outstanding issues," he said. Aircraft and ships from Japan and China have conducted rival maritime activities in the vicinity of the islands in recent months, raising fears of conflict, one that could perhaps be sparked by an accident. Russel said that while the US did not take sides on sovereignty issues, it was not "neutral on matters of responsible behaviour at the sea". "It is of great concern to the US, as it is to all countries that rely on maritime corridors, that there is any risk of an incident that could lead to a crisis or lead to an escalation," he said. Washington hoped that the engagement of President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of the G20 summit in St Petersburg earlier this month would bear fruit, he added. "It is certainly my hope that both countries remain committed to their policy of mutual and beneficial partnership and act on the basis of their existing bilateral commitments," he said. Russel also discussed North Korean nuclear issues and the Syrian crisis. China and the US say it is unacceptable for Pyongyang to pursue nuclear weapons.

Chinese scientist helps find oil (By Chen Jia in San Francisco An international team of scientists has created a tool to precisely pinpoint where petroleum and gas reserves have accumulated beneath the earth. One of the team members is a Chinese geologist from the University of California-Davis. "The major focus of my research in the past has been on fundamental science with little real world relevance," Yin Qingzhu, UC-Davis geology professor, told China Daily on Thursday. "But this particular topic was different." The tool is a new index that provides a better understanding of how oil travels from where it was formed to where it has collected, he said. The index, described in a study published in the journal Scientific Reports, could aid in the discovery of new oil resources and also help reduce the environmental impact of accessing those resources. "It should result in fewer incidents of failed drilling, which should reduce unnecessary environmental disturbance," he said. Yin is a graduate of Peking University with a bachelor's degree in geology. He got his master's degree from the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences and his PhD from the Max-Planck-Institute and Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. He worked at Harvard for eight years before going to UC-Davis as a professor in 2005. With further research, Yin said, his index could also be used to trace pollutants caused by oil spills and guide environmental mitigation in such cases. Generations and generations of people have been trying different tools, he said. The problem was these tools have not been good indicators of the distance oil travels and there are a lot of variables, depending on the oil source, he said. "In this study, we teased out the facts," he said, "and created a model. Then we applied it to the real world and found it works really beautifully." There are two types of petroleum migration: Primary migration refers to the movement of oil out of the rocks where it is formed. Secondary migration is the movement of this oil to the rock formation reservoir where it collects. According to the study's authors, secondary petroleum migration in many basins around the world is poorly understood and yet information about this process is the most important data for petroleum exploration. The scientists tested the index at the Xifeng Oilfield in Inner Mongolia, as well as the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin, which contains one of the world's largest reserves of petroleum and natural gas, according to a recent press release from UC-Davis. The study was led by Zhang Liuping at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. Funding came from China Sci-Tech Project of National Importance, China National Major Science 973 Projects, State Key Laboratory of Lithospheric Evolution, and Sinopec Sci-Tech Project. "Wherever my research interests and curiosity take me," Yin said, "I find we have lots of talented Chinese scientists making progressive impacts in the world arena of science." 

Hong Kong*:  Sept 15 2013

Luxury flat outlook gloomy as auction disappoints (By Yvonne Liu New World Development's construction site at Sha Tin. A luxury residential site in Sha Tin up for tender attracted fewer than expected bidders yesterday. A Sha Tin luxury residential site up for tender yesterday attracted fewer than expected bidders due to weakening sentiment in the sector. Despite being the last residential plot to be released for tender in Sha Tin's Kau To district, the site attracted just eight bids - one fewer than a tender in the area held at the end of last month. "I'm not optimistic about the tender's result. I thought more developers would be willing to join the bidding as the previous site was sold at a low price," said Vincent Cheung Kiu-cho, national director of Greater China at property consultancy Cushman & Wakefield. The government has released eight sites for sale since 2011. Once developed, the sites could provide a total of 1,600 to 1,900 luxury flats from 2014 to 2016. "Developers will now be worried about the outlook for sales of luxury flats due to the plentiful new supply coming on to the market in a short period, as well as the competition that will come from the luxury project in Tai Po's Pak Shek Kok," Cheung said. An adjacent site to the one up for tender this week was sold to Chun Wo Development for HK$2.71 billion, or HK$8,382 per square foot on September 4. That price was at the lower end of market expectations, and surveyors cut their forecasts for the new Kau To site after the earlier poor tender result from about HK$3.15 billion or HK$9,000 per square foot, to a range of HK$2.62 billion to HK$2.8 billion, or HK$7,500 to HK$8,010 per square foot. A consortium of New World Development and CSI Properties, Wheelock Properties, Sino Land, Cheung Kong, and K Wah International were among the bidders. Meanwhile, a smaller residential site at Sik On Street in Wan Chai attracted 15 bidders due to the lower overall investment cost. Sino Land, Metallurgical Corp of China, HKR International, Emperor International and Hopewell Holdings were among the bidders, and surveyors estimate the 2,239 square foot site could sell for up to HK$110 million. Tenders for the two sites close on Friday.

Asia most at risk since Lehman collapse, says ex-trader (By Nick Edwards Trader-turned-author fingers region as most susceptible to crisis amid surge in interbank lending rates, jump in default protection costs - Asia will be where the next international financial crisis explodes and stress levels in the region's banking system are already at their highest since the collapse of Lehman Brothers triggered a global market meltdown five years ago. A measure of 21 key risk indicators covering everything from investor complacency to bank-to-bank trust shows systemic risk is on the rise, says Lawrence McDonald, a former Lehman trader turned independent risk consultant whose 2008 book about his experiences and the bank's final days turned him into a best-selling author. Crises metamorphosise and the next one for sure is going to be in Asia. My big worry is that something happens and it affects Japan, because Japan has zero room for error. "All of these indicators in Asia are extremely elevated," McDonald told the South China Morning Post in a telephone interview from his base in New York, to which he had just returned after a 16-nation speaking tour on the risks that still stalk the global financial system. Lehman's collapse, five years ago today, and its subsequent filing for bankruptcy protection, triggered the worst maelstrom in markets since 1929's Wall Street Crash and set off a chain reaction debt crisis in Europe that is still rippling across the continent. McDonald's unique "Bear Traps" risk index captures a range of warning signs that he says were ignored at the time of Lehman, but which correlate with the financial stress that can set off crises. A spike in interbank borrowing costs and rising costs of protecting against default at some of the region's biggest banks are the ones that speak loudest to him. "Put simply, banks are pulling back on trust," McDonald said. "Capitalism doesn't work without it." Interbank borrowing costs have jumped higher around Asia in recent months. Global investors have been spooked by a lock-up in bank liquidity in the mainland induced in June by the People's Bank of China, the central bank. And they have intensified scrutiny of Asian economies where budget balances and current accounts are most stretched, sending currencies like the Indian rupee and Indonesian rupiah tumbling. They are classic signs of a contagion effect that, if it takes hold, could set off a crisis that drags in economies one by one, as it did in Asia's 1997-1998 crisis. While the broad economic fundamentals of the region are much different now with fewer currencies pegged directly to the US dollar, far greater foreign exchange reserve buffers and less investment funded by overseas borrowings, a problem in one country could spill over into another if investors get spooked. "Crises metamorphosise and the next one for sure is going to be in Asia," said McDonald, who is working on another book. "My big worry is that something happens and it affects Japan, because Japan has zero room for error," he added. The Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has launched a controversial programme of monetary and fiscal stimulus and structural reform to lift the world's third-biggest economy out of two decades of decline, leaving analysts nervous about the risk of an inflationary spike and surging borrowing costs if it fails.

 China*:  Sept 15 2013

PLA warns US over backing Japan in Diaoyus row (By Reuters in Beijing) PLA cautions visiting American envoy against backing Japan in East China Sea territorial spat - US envoy James Miller is greeted by Major General Wang Guanzhong in Beijing this week. The PLA told the United States this week not to support Japan, nor let it do as it pleased, over the disputed Diaoyus in the East China Sea, the defence ministry said yesterday. Major General Wang Guanzhong, deputy chief of general staff of the People's Liberation Army, said during scheduled talks with US counterparts in Beijing that China was determined to defend its territory, but had all along exercised restraint. "This issue should not become a problem between China and the United States, and China hopes that the United States does not become a third party in this issue," the ministry quoted Wang as telling the US undersecretary of defence for policy, James Miller. "The United States should maintain a consistent stance and policy, not send wrong signals nor support and connive with the relevant country to do as they please," Wang said. He said China hoped the US would handle the issue appropriately to ensure it did not affect mutual strategic trust. The ministry cited Miller as saying in response that the US did not take a position on the sovereignty issue of the Diaoyu Islands, known as the Senkakus in Japan. He called for all sides to exercise restraint and supported China to use diplomatic means to resolve the matter. Wang said military relations were a "weak link" in Sino-US mutual strategic trust, and called on Washington to understand China's goal in an objective manner. He also urged Washington to respect Beijing's interests in Taiwan. "China will definitely not make any concession regarding Taiwan," Wang reportedly told Miller. "The US should, bearing in mind the overall interest of the Sino-US relationship, review its policies towards Taiwan to ensure the stable development of military ties between the two nations under the existing international strategic landscape, and changes in Sino-US ties and cross-straits relations." Aircraft and ships from Japan and China have played cat-and-mouse in the vicinity of the islands in recent months, raising fears of conflict, perhaps sparked by an accident.

Alibaba sales 'to exceed entire US e-commerce' (By Shen Jingting) Sales of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd's e-commerce business are expected to surpass those of the total retail e-commerce market in the United States by year-end, Alibaba's chairman said on Friday. Jack Ma made the forecast during his first public appearance after retiring from the chief executive officer's position on May 10. In addition, Ma said, Alibaba has a near-term target. "Alibaba hopes to exceed Wal-Mart to become the world's biggest e-commerce retail company by 2015," Ma told reporters in Beijing as Alibaba signed a strategic cooperation agreement with China Telecom Corp Ltd. He added that Alibaba aims to be an innovative company just as Wal-Mart was in the last century, when the United States-based company essentially created the business-to-consumer retail model.

Beijing backs truce bid in Syria (By Wu Jiao in Bishkek and Li Xiaokun in Beijing) President Xi Jinping and his Russian and Central Asian counterparts attend a photocall at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on Friday. Regional group supports China and Russia in opposing military intervention - China supports Russia's proposal that Syria hand over its chemical weapons to international control for their eventual destruction, President Xi Jinping said on Friday. An observer said the endorsement of Russia's idea by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization on Friday proves that Moscow and Beijing's stance of objecting to military intervention on the Syrian issue has won regional support. Xi said at the 13th summit of the SCO in Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital, "Beijing supports the international community in seeking a ceasefire and an end to violence and in mediating dialogue and negotiations." Russia's last-minute initiative led US President Barack Obama to back away from planned military strikes in response to a chemical attack that allegedly left hundreds dead last month. On Thursday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad confirmed for the first time that his country plans to relinquish its chemical arms. Xi asked both sides in the Syrian conflict to find a political solution. Beijing backs truce bid in Syria - He said China is ready to enhance communication and coordination through the UN Security Council, and will continue its unremitting efforts to bring about a political settlement. Leaders at the SCO summit endorsed the idea of placing Syria's chemical weapons under international control and gradually destroying them. They also called for an immediate end to the violence, the start of inclusive political dialogue as soon as possible and for an international conference to be convened. Chen Yurong, a senior researcher at the China Institute of International Studies, said: "China and Russia have long held consistent stances on the Syria issue. They object to the use of armed force and outside intervention, and insist on respect of a country's sovereignty and the UN's leading role. "We can see that Russia and China's stance has won widespread support." At the SCO summit, the leaders also vowed to jointly fight terrorism, extremism and separatism, as well as drug smuggling and transnational organized crime. Li Wei, director of the Institute of Security and Arms Control Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International relations, said the SCO is crucial for China's national security, because the most direct terrorist threat to China, "East Turkistan" forces, is spreading in the region. Chen said security cooperation has always been the highest priority at SCO summits. "The organization was originally established to protect stability in Central Asia. Now, the region is facing complex security challenges, including the impact from continuing turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa and the aftermath of US troops withdrawing from Afghanistan, which will be completed in 2014." Terrorists have been increasingly active recently and have joined "East Turkistan" forces in causing a series of incidents in Central Asia and China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. Chen said there is a risk of further political turmoil in Afghanistan after 2014, which may have a direct impact on Central Asia. Afghanistan-based terrorist groups might also penetrate Central Asia, while the drug problem in Afghanistan is also likely to get out of control and affect other nations in the region. Chen said the SCO will promote reconciliation among various political powers in Afghanistan and introduce the country to multilateral programs under the SCO framework to help with its economic development. Sun Zhuangzhi, an expert in Central Asian studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that of the six countries bordering Afghanistan, three are SCO members, while two are SCO observers. "Even Afghanistan itself is an SCO observer." The SCO was founded in 2001 in Shanghai by China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Iran, Afghanistan, India, Mongolia and Pakistan have the status of SCO observers. On Friday, Xi also suggested carrying forward the spirit of the Silk Road. In a speech in Kazakhstan on Sunday, he proposed establishing a Silk Road Economic Belt, similar to the original, ancient Silk Road, to improve cooperation between China and countries in Europe and Asia.

Faye Wong and Li Yapeng shock fans with divorce (By China Daily) Li Yapeng wipes Faye Wong's mouth at a charity activity in Beijng on Sept 1, 2012. Chinese legendary singer Faye Wong and actor Li Yapeng have ended their eight-year marriage, CCTV said on Friday, as the now ex-couple made a splash on the micro blog site of Sina Weibo. "This is what we have got now. I am all OK and please take care," Wong posted at around 7:30 pm on Friday on Weibo, confirming the divorce news. Li also delivered a statement, saying Wong is set to be a legend while what he wants is just a family. The two will share the custody of their 7-year-old daughter Li Yan. They were independent in financial management and will not be involved in any wealth division, Li added. The celebrity couple filed for divorce in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, where Li was born, said sources close to Li. The story is far from end, with reports that Wong, a pious Buddhist, planned to become a nun, Taiwan-based Sanlih E-Television reported. The news came as shock to Internet users, many of whom said they didn't read any signs before and they will not believe in love again. The couple tied the knot in 2005 despite doubts that the A-lister Wong could overshadow Li. The couple always made joint public appearances to publicize their Smile Angel Foundation dedicated to helping children who suffer from cleft palate just as their daughter Li Yan did.

Hong Kong*:  Sept 14 2013

Former child star Fung Bo-bo planned to retire, but her fans changed her mind (By Yvonne Teh Former child star Fung Bo-bo was set to retire, but a chance encounter with some ageing fans made her reconsider - Child actress Petrina Fung Bo-bo played the male and the female twin in 1962's Little Twin Actresses. For a supposedly retired actress - she hasn't appeared in a film since Ann Hui On-wah's All About Love in 2010 - 60-year-old Petrina Fung Bo-bo seems to have a very hectic schedule. During a recent visit to Hong Kong, the Malaysia-based Fung managed to squeeze in a number of engagements in town and on the mainland, some public talks, and an appearance at the Heritage Museum, where her long-time friend, fashion designer Eddie Lau Pui-kai, is having a retrospective exhibition. Fung was also here to attend the opening ceremony of Merry-Go-Movies Star Kids, an exhibition on former child stars currently on show at the Hong Kong Film Archive. Running until November 3, the show features detailed texts, photos, video interviews, and footage of 12 popular child actors and actresses of the 1950s and '60s, including Michael Lai Siu-tin, Shek Sau and Tsui Siu-ming. Fung is the ultimate prodigy, according to the exhibition. "By far the most well-known and prolific child actor in the history of Hong Kong cinema, the iconic figure had her first screen appearance at the young age of two and a half years old, and then formally took up a role at [age] five. By [the time she was] 14 years old, she had already participated in more than 120 titles," say the exhibition notes. Eight of Fung's early films have been selected for Merry Go Movies Star Kids including Love vs Love (aka Little Sweetheart), a 1956 comedy directed by her father, actor-director Fung Fung. It was her first feature. Understandably, memories of her big screen debut are hazy: "I was only an extra sitting down to eat my cake, or whatever," she says with a laugh, eyes twinkling. Referred to as the Shirley Temple of the East by the local media, and dubbed The Queen by her peers in her heyday, Fung went on to become a popular - and versatile - young actress, as shown in Little Twin Actresses, a 1962 film in which she played six different roles. Fung says she also has fond memories of Lung To's 1961 film, The Prodigious Child and Her Loyal Dog, produced by the Tao Yuen Motion Picture Development Company. "I made a number of meaningful movies with them, because the producers were educators themselves in real life. So they only produced educational movies for the kids of that era," she recalls. "I would love to watch it again. I never saw it again after making it," she says of that drama. "I remember I liked the director very much. He used to tell me stories that I loved." When she was 16 years old, Fung decided she'd had enough of acting. She had already appeared in more than a century's worth of films, and she wanted the life that many other children led. So "I ran away from my family - secretly! And then I flew to England". She had never formally attended a school in Hong Kong (she had a tutor who taught her at the studio), and was rejected by more than 40 schools in Britain before managing to enrol in a design course. After returning to Hong Kong in 1976, she found employment with fashion designer Eddie Lau. But in 1986, Fung heard the siren call of the film industry and returned to the silver screen - in My Family, a comedy in which her middle-class mother character turns her family's world upside down, after she decides to become an actress. While she made many roles her own as a child, some film buffs know her best for her award-winning performances in Jeff Lau Chun-wai's 92 Legendary La Rose Noire (1992) and Derek Yee Tung-sing's C'est la Vie, Mon Cheri (1993). Both roles have a special place in her heart. In the case of the 1992 comedy, that's primarily because the titular character "is in fact my own character", Fung says. Rose Noire is portrayed as ridiculously forgetful woman - perhaps an ironic reflection of what was going on in her real life. An operation in the intervening years caused Fung problems with her memory for a time. "I was afraid that I could not remember my lines, and as actresses, we have to remember our lines. So every thought that passed through my mind, I wrote it down. And that's why in that movie, there's the line, 'Since I still can remember, I will write it down'," she says. The Borneo-born actress now makes her home in Penang (with her Malaysian architect husband, Yoong Siew Chuen), a place that was originally set for her retirement. But she recently became aware that she still has many dedicated fans, and that changed her way of looking at life. Earlier this year, 640 elderly fans - among them a 63-year-old woman and her 92-year-old mother - turned up for a church event in Kuala Lumpur because they knew Fung would be there. Fung was moved to tears by the event, and cried again while recounting the story. "I realised what my father told me when I was a kid: 'Your Papa could not afford to love you as I would have liked to have loved you as a child. But you do your best, make your movies, and in the future, the audience will repay the love that Papa could not give to you'," she says. "And for so many years, I did not feel this love - until that day when I saw [those fans] turn up, and they still remembered me and loved me so much. And from that day onwards, I appreciate what happened, and I really enjoy every day, every bit that I do to make people happy." So fans, ageing and otherwise, can relax, as it looks like she won't be hanging up her boots just yet. She is even scheduled to appear in two new Hong Kong films. It looks like that planned retirement may have to wait.

Former ICAC chief Timothy Tong criticised for breaching spending rules (By Joshua But and Samuel Chan) Independent report on Timothy Tong's lavish entertainment reveals 42 instances of misconduct - Current ICAC chief Simon Peh Yun-lu answers questions after the release of an independent report into his predecessor Timothy Tong’s lavish spending. A probe into overspending by ex-ICAC chief Timothy Tong Hin-ming found rule breaches on 42 occasions in his five-year reign. The findings were revealed by an independent review committee set up to investigate Tong's use of public money while head of the graft-busting agency. Two of the breaches are the subject of a criminal inquiry. The report brought a call from Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying for the Independent Commission Against Corruption to seriously follow up on the report's recommendations. Both Leung and the current commissioner, Simon Peh Yun-lu, distanced the ICAC from Tong, saying most officers "conducted themselves with discipline". Peh said: "I wish to point out that some of the non-compliances mentioned in the report were the personal decisions of [an] individual officer and in no way represent the values of ICAC officers." The 81-page report detailed Tong's lavish spending on official entertainment, gifts and duty visits. But it also criticised the agency's community relations department for failing to comply with the rules. Some sections of the report were obliterated "pending conclusion of relevant criminal investigation or prosecution". The allegations of Tong's extravagant spending on receptions and gifts to mainland officials were not shown in the report. But the report pointed out that Tong was the first commissioner to introduce the practice of serving mao-tai, a Chinese hard liquor, at official events hosted by the ICAC. "The committee supports the current commissioner's decision to ban the serving of hard liquor," the report read. The four-member committee headed by Executive Council member Chow Chung-kong studied 899 events and receptions hosted by the ICAC between 2007 and last year. It also looked into HK$1.3 million of gifts and 413 duty visits that incurred a total expenditure of HK$12.6 million. For the 206 meals hosted by Tong and charged under the heading of official entertainment, 77 - or 37 per cent - exceeded the spending ceiling. Only 2 per cent of the 460 meals hosted by other ICAC officers overspent. The rules state that expenditure per person should not exceed HK$300 for lunch or HK$400 for dinner, unless it can be properly justified. In the report, Tong was also criticised for "excessive non-official activities" on two duty visits to the mainland in 2009 and 2010, to which the community relations department added sightseeing trips to Lijiang and Leshan . For another four duty visits, Tong ordered the flight tickets before obtaining the chief executive's approval. Other non-compliances included two officers who went to a meeting in Brazil and upgraded their seats to business class without approval, costing HK$186,000. The report found Tong handed out a considerable number of gifts and "some were expensive". That, it said, went against the ICAC's policy to "limit to the minimum the exchange of gifts on official occasions". Tong did not respond to the committee's findings yesterday. Leung refused to comment about any possible punishment of Tong. He said the government would wait until the ICAC concluded a graft complaint inquiry before deciding the next step. Peh, who is heading the criminal investigation against Tong, said the probe was making "normal progress". He said new monitoring measures, such as a computerised system for entertainment claims and an extension of an internal audit to all ICAC staff, would be implemented. Tong could be condemned again when the Legislative Council Public Accounts Committee announces its report next month. Another select committee established to investigate the case may also invite him to give evidence later this year. Civic Party lawmaker Dennis Kwok said while the report further revealed Tong's misconduct, it had failed to conduct an in-depth probe of the consequences for the ICAC. Full report: Report of the Independent Review Committee on ICAC’s Regulatory Systems and Procedures for Handling Official Entertainment, Gifts and Duty Visits.

Ex-prosecutor Kevin Zervos appointed to High Court (By Lai Ying-kit Kevin Zervos, former director of public prosecutions, starts his new job as a High Court judge on Monday. Former director of public prosecutions Kevin Zervos has been appointed as a judge in the Court of First Instance of the High Court, the judiciary announced on Friday. Zervos, who left the Department of Justice on September 8, will take up his new post on Monday. As Zervos was the director of public prosecutions, he will not deal with any criminal trials, appeals or civil cases involving the government for six months. The appointment was made by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying on the recommendation of the Judicial Officers Recommendation Commission. The Australia-born Zervos first joined the then Attorney General’s Chambers of Hong Kong as a crown counsel in 1992. He was promoted to senior crown counsel in 1993, to deputy principal government counsel in 1999, and to principal government counsel in 2008. He took up the post of director of public prosecutions in 2011.

 China*:  Sept 14 2013

Operational aircraft carrier a few years away: admiral (By Reuters in Washington) During a US visit Wu Shengli, chief of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, revealed the Liaoning, China's first aircraft carrier, will be used principally for training and testing - China’s navy is using its first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, for training and testing and will decide on an operational carrier to commission for the fleet after a few years evaluation, admiral Wu Shengli said on Thursday. The chief of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, on a military-to-military visit with his US counterpart, told reporters at the Washington Navy Yard that Chinese sailors would carry out “very heavy” training over the next two or three years as they assess the carrier. “After the training and experimentation we will have a final evaluation on the development of the aircraft carrier for the PLA navy,” said Shengli, whose delegation included the commander of the Liaoning and the first pilot to land a plane on its flight deck. The Chinese carrier was built on the shell of a Soviet-era vessel Beijing purchased from Ukraine. The PLA has revamped the ship, which was formally commissioned in September last year. Flight operations began two months later. The launch is been seen as a symbol of Beijing’s ambition for greater global influence and another sign of its rapid military build-up. US officials have downplayed the importance of the carrier, noting it takes years to learn to effectively integrate aircraft into naval fleet operations. Senior Captain Zhang Zheng, commander of the Liaoning, said the carrier was smaller than US aircraft carriers and had a ‘ski jump’-style ramp at the end of its longest runway. “We have around 36 airplanes operating on board our ship,” he told reporters. “And we are still practicing and doing tests and experiments for the equipment and systems.” Wu, Zhang and Captain Dai Ming Meng, the pilot who first landed on the carrier, visited several American ships in California earlier this week, including the carrier USS Carl Vinson, where they met with their counterparts. “We talked in great detail in San Diego with our aviation people and admiral Wu’s aviation people,” said admiral Jonathan Greenert, the US chief of naval operations, who was Wu’s host. “It was great and inspiring to see two professionals talk about a common challenge – aviation from an aircraft carrier.” Wu received a ceremonial 19-gun salute at the Washington Navy Yard, the US Navy’s oldest shore establishment, during his formal welcoming ceremony on Thursday. He and his delegation visited the Pentagon later for further discussions. The visit was part of stepped-up efforts to improve military-to-military ties between the United States and China following a break in 2009 due to US military sales to Taiwan. More than 40 visits, exchanges and engagements are planned for this year, up from 20 last year. China is due to participate for the first time next summer in the US-sponsored Rim of the Pacific exercises, the world’s largest maritime warfare exercise. With the United States shifting its focus on the Asia-Pacific after a dozen years of war in Afghanistan and the Middle East, the two navies are increasingly facing each other in hot spots in the region. They hope to build-up a mutual understanding that can help avert confrontations in the future. Greenert said recently that Wu and other Chinese military leaders want to “move on to a consistency of dialogue” and “get away from miscalculation”. “He has a challenge of a growing navy and an assignment ... to operate in the South China Sea,” Greenert told the American Enterprise Institute think tank last week. “They know we’re going to be there too ... so he wants to get away from miscalculation and preclude ... a scenario that they just wish they hadn’t gotten themselves into.”

China military tells US not to encourage Japan over isles (By Reuters in Beijing) US Under Secretary of Defence for Policy James Miller (left) attends a meeting with Major General Wang Guanzhong (right) deputy chief of general staff of the People's Liberation Army in Beijing, on Monday. US Under Secretary of Defence for Policy James Miller (left) attends a meeting with Major General Wang Guanzhong (right) deputy chief of general staff of the People's Liberation Army in Beijing, on Monday. China’s military told the United States this week not to support Japan, nor let it do as it pleased, over a group of disputed islands in the East China Sea, the Chinese Defence Ministry said on Friday. Ties between the world’s second- and third-biggest economies have been strained over the uninhabited islands, controlled by Japan but claimed by both countries. The isles are known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China. A year ago on Wednesday, the Japanese government bought three of the islands from a private owner, inflaming anger, and setting off big anti-Japan protests, in China. Aircraft and ships from the two countries have played cat-and-mouse in the vicinity of the islands ever since, raising fears of conflict, perhaps sparked by an accident. Wang Guanzhong, Deputy Chief of General Staff of China’s People’s Liberation Army, said during scheduled talks with US counterparts in Beijing that China was determined to defend its territory, but had all along exercised restraint. “This issue should not become a problem between China and the United States, and China hopes that the United States does not become a third party in this issue,” the Defence Ministry quoted Wang as telling US Under Secretary of Defence for Policy James Miller. “The United States should maintain a consistent stance and policy, not send wrong signals nor support and connive with the relevant country to do as they please,” Wang added. He said China hoped the United States would handle the issue appropriately to ensure it did not affect mutual strategic trust. The ministry cited Miller as saying in response that the United States did not take a position on the sovereignty issue, called for all sides to exercise restraint and supported China to use diplomatic means to resolve the matter. China has long harboured suspicions about US interest in the dispute as the US-Japan security treaty commits the United States to intervene in defence of Japan if there is an attack on Japanese-administered territory. The United States also has a hefty military presence in Japan, including on the southern island of Okinawa, which is close to the disputed islands.

Chinese navy chief cruises into DC (By Chen Weihua in Washington Admiral Wei Gang, chief of staff of China's North Sea Fleet and commander of a Chinese navy fleet visiting Hawaii, waves goodbye to his US counterparts in Pearl Harbor on Monday, after three Chinese navy ships and 680 crew members conducted a search-and-rescue drill with the US navy on the day. With a 19 gun salute and naval honor guard, Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy's commander-in-chief Wu Shengli was welcomed on Thursday morning to the Washington Navy Yard by his US counterpart Jonathan Greenert. The national anthems of both China and the United States were played in the oldest onshore establishment of the US Navy, now a ceremonial and administrative center for the Navy and home base for Chief of Naval Operations Greenert. Wu, who started his US trip on Sunday, said the US attaches great important to his visit and has made elaborate arrangements and provided a warm reception, all of which have made his trip a great success. Greenert, who assumed his current post in 2011, expressed a hope for expanded cooperation between the two navies. "The purpose of this visit here this week has been to continue military-to-military relations, and, involving our mature relationship, look for great opportunities to share common interests and move ahead in our cooperation," said Greenert, who has been invited to visit China next year. Wu brought along with him to Washington commanding officer Zhang Zheng of China's first aircraft carrier Liaoning and Dai Mingmeng, the first pilot to complete a tail-hook landing on the carrier. Wu talked to his US counterpart about the future development of China's aircraft carriers. He told the media on Thursday that the Chinese navy has displayed a high-degree of transparency to the US adding that there were two reasons why he brought the two aircraft carrier officers along on the trip. "One is for them to have a close look at the US Navy. And the other is for friends from the US Navy to get to know them up close. Isn't that transparency?" said Wu. It was Wu's second trip to the US since 2007. Earlier this week, he visited the San Diego-based Pacific Fleet units, including Nimitz class supercarrier USS Carl Vinson, and Los Angeles-class submarine USS Jefferson City in port as well as Freedom class littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth at sea and the US Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. While Wu travels in the US, a PLA Navy fleet joined the US Navy on Monday in search-and-rescue exercises off Hawaii. The two navies sent out four ships, three helicopters and more than 1,000 officials and sailors. The three participating Chinese ships, Qingdao, a luhu-class destroyer, Linyi, a Jiangkai-class frigate, and Hongzehu, a Fuqing-class fleet oiler, were carrying a helicopter and 680 officers and sailors. The US side dispatched guided missile cruiser USS Lake Erie, an SH-60 Seahawk helicopter and a UH60 Blackhawk helicopter. It was the first such port visit by the Chinese navy since 2006, when Qingdao and Hongzehu stopped at Pearl Harbor and San Diego for communications drills and search-and-rescue exercises. The joint drill in Hawaii also came less than two weeks after Chinese destroyer Harbin and auxiliary replenishment oiler Weishanhu joined the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason for joint two-day anti-piracy exercises in the Gulf of Aden. The two navies also held a joint anti-piracy exercise off Somalia in 2012. The Marine Corps Times reported that Greenert stressed the importance of having the Asia-Pacific region's two most powerful fleets working together in such relief efforts, and in combating smuggling and piracy. "We need a systematic set of protocols with respect to the freedom of navigation that exists out there," Greenert said. "What we want to do is get a consistent code of conduct, such as how do we talk to each other when we come across each other out there." More attention-grabbing bilateral military cooperation will take place next year when the Chinese navy participates in the biennial 2014 Rim of the Pacific exercise, the world's largest naval drill, for the first time. During his trip to China last September, then US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta extended the invitation to the Chinese for the drill, to be participated in by more than 20 nations. "We want [China's] participation in RIMPAC to be as successful as possible, and a building block to future cooperation," Greenert was quoted as saying on the US Department of Navy website. Also on Monday, a US delegation led by Undersecretary of Defense for Policy James Miller was in Beijing with a Chinese delegation led by Wang Guanzhong, deputy chief of the PLA General Staff for the 14th annual Defense Consultative Talks. Both Miller and Wang stressed the accomplishments that the US-China military-to-military relationship has achieved thus far this year. They discussed how to sustain positive momentum in building a constructive military relationship and advance a new model of military-to-military relations for the future, according to a Pentagon press release. Bilateral military exchanges have been on the rise in the past two years. But US Congressional laws still restrict the types of cooperation that are deemed as helping increase the PLA's combat capability. Senior Chinese military officials have described the laws as a hindrance to bilateral ties.

US moves against China firms criticized (By Zheng Yangpeng in Dalian, Liaoning) Banker says blocking Sany, Huawei Technologies 'totally groundless' A decision in the United States to block Sany Group Ltd's involvement in a wind farm project was "foolish" and blurred the whole picture of a general open US attitude toward Chinese investment, a top Chinese banker said at the Summer Davos. Li Ruogu, chairman of the Export-Import Bank of China, a State policy bank, said the US move was "totally foolish" and its justification of the move citing "national security" was totally "groundless". Participants chat during a break at the Summer Davos in Dalian, Liaoning province, on Thursday. Francisco J. Sanchez, US undersecretary of commerce for international trade, said the US is open to Chinese investment. China's direct investment in the US grew 123.5 percent to $4 billion in 2012. Sany is a major Chinese private-sector maker of heavy equipment. "The case, as well as the Huawei case, is so typical. I don't know why the US government made such a foolish decision. Isolated cases have made an issue that should not be a ‘problem' into a ‘problem'," he said. Ralls Corp, which is incorporated in Delaware and operates out of Peachtree City, Georgia, is privately owned by two Chinese nationals — Duan Dawei, chief financial officer of Sany Group, and Wu Jialiang, a Sany vice-president and general manager of subsidiary Sany Electric Co. Ralls had sought to build or acquire US wind farms where Sany's turbines could be used. One of those farms was in Oregon, near restricted airspace above a US military base. US President Barack Obama decided to block the project. Another private company Huawei Technologies Ltd, was barred from access to the US market, also over national security concerns. The two cases, both of which took place in late 2012, generated widespread media coverage and heated debate in China, exacerbating the perception that the US market is persistently closed to Chinese investment. But Francisco J. Sanchez, US undersecretary of commerce for international trade, a panelist in the Davos discussion in Dalian, dismissed the claim that the US is not open to Chinese investment. He said that 98 percent of foreign countries' outbound direct investment into the US requires no government review, and the vast majority of investments that are reviewed are ultimately approved. "This (review) is not unique to China. It applies to (companies) all over the world who hope to invest in or acquire technologies that we deem as related to national security," said Sanchez. "I want to make it very clear that the United States welcomes Chinese investment," he said. The two cases did obscure the overall robust picture of Chinese investment in the US. In 2012, the Chinese mainland's ODI in the US grew 123.5 percent to hit $4 billion. At that point, the US became the second-largest ODI destination after Hong Kong, according to a Chinese government report. By the end of 2012, cumulative investment from the Chinese mainland in the US was $17 billion. Ma Weihua, chairman of Wing Lung Bank and former chairman of China Merchants Bank, said most Chinese companies are not prepared to "go global", as shown in the high percentage of failures in ODI. In 2010, more than 10 percent of Chinese outbound investments failed, one of the highest rates in the world. More than 20 percent had lost money, he said. "Many Chinese companies do not have a clear strategy in terms of going abroad. Some just go abroad because they think they are big enough. And the low-price strategy they generally apply abroad could easily provoke local repulsion," Ma said. Li, the banker, pointed out that Chinese executives abroad have very limited integration with local cultures: They tend to work and live in an isolated environment in foreign markets and seldom communicate with locals. They are particularly weak at language skills. "Throughout my intensive travel experience in Africa, my personal feeling is that Chinese culture hardly resonates with these developing nations," he added. Michael Andrew, global chairman of KPMG International, a global auditing corporation, said the firm's survey of Chinese clients showed that a few years ago, 86 percent of Chinese companies that had outbound investment were State-owned enterprises. Their investment was overwhelmingly concentrated in energy and infrastructure. But now more investors are targeting areas such as food, technology and services.

Hong Kong*:  Sept 13 2013

Heung Yee Kuk leader backs idea of country park flats (By Olga Wong and Gary Cheung) Lau Wong-fat urges review of protected areas, saying homes could be built on less ecologically sensitive land to ease city's housing shortage - Heung Yee Kuk chairman Lau Wong-fat rejected the rezoning of land reserved for indigenous villagers to build homes. Rural strongman Lau Wong-fat has suggested flats could be built in certain areas of country parks to ease the housing shortage. He called for a review of the size of the parks, but rejected a suggestion that land allocated to indigenous villagers be rezoned to boost the supply of homes. There's no universal standard for setting the size of country parks. It would depend on the local context to decide its proportion - Lau, chairman of the Heung Yee Kuk, said a review would help the government strike a balance between protecting the countryside and addressing the soaring demand for flats. He also said private land inside parks should be released to build more flats. "There's no universal standard for setting the size of country parks. It would depend on the local context to decide its proportion," Lau said yesterday. His comments came two days after Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po floated the controversial idea of building flats in country parks, which was seen as a radical departure from the chief executive's pledge during his election campaign to protect parks from development. Lau echoed Chan's view that flats could be considered in ecologically less sensitive areas of the parks. "For land [in parks] that is worth protecting, the government should specify them and compensate the owners if they are privately owned." But he rejected outright the idea of allowing the rezoning of village land reserved for indigenous villagers to build homes. He said: "The government has plenty of land. How come it is eyeing privately owned land?" And he expressed disappointment at the administration's failure to meet demand for homes from indigenous villagers, comparing it to the scramble to find land for urban dwellers. Henderson Land chairman Lee Shau-kee agreed that country parks could be downsized. He said reducing the parks by one per cent could provide land to house more than 100,000 people. But such ideas were criticised by ex-officials, including former planning director Peter Pun Kwok-shing and former Observatory director Lam Chiu-ying. "The way we decided a country park's boundary is not science or derived from calculations," Pun said. "But I won't say it's arbitrary. We consulted the Agricultural, Fisheries and Conservation Department and other experts." Factors taken into account included the need to protect water catchments, trees and animals, and preservation of the topography. "We need a study to justify why we need to redraw the boundaries," he said. Lam, who helped Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying formulate the environmental policies in his election manifesto, likened the idea of building flats in country parks to a cancer cell. "If you give away 100 square feet now, later you will ask for 100 square feet more. Ultimately, it will destroy the original aim of having country parks, which is to enable the public to enjoy nature." Green areas, including woodland, wetland, barren land and country parks, make up 70 per cent of the city's land. Country parks alone make up 40 per cent. The new administration has relaxed its planning rules to allow flats encroaching upon green belts and open space.

Iconic hotel’s longest serving employee still on the job (By Annemarie Evans) Johnny Chung Kam-hung mixing drinks at the Peninsula Hotel back in 2004. He’s the longest serving employee at the Peninsula Hotel, having worked at the former railway hotel for a mere 56 years. Johnny Chung Kam-hung began as a trainee bus boy at 14 and now at 70 he has no imminent plans for retirement. The Peninsula, itself only 15 years older than Chung, marks its 85th anniversary this year. For Chung, the hotel has not only been his workplace, but his life-long family. “My Dad was the lobby captain at the Peninsula,” says Chung, seated in The Bar, where he works as senior bartender on the hotel’s first floor. “He worked here for eight years. When he passed away from lung cancer because the hotel is very family orientated they offered me a position as a bus boy trainee. I was 14. My mother was very proud that I had a job in a hotel, as they were not easy to come by. My brother worked at the Miramar Hotel. “I started working here in 1957 and I remember walking into the lobby on my first day and I was so nervous.” Chung began his long career at the Peninsula as a messenger boy, delivering messages, letters and magazines to different departments within the hotel premises. “After three months, I was transferred to the lobby bar as a bus boy. Every morning, I would clean the bar tables. Most of my job was cleaning at the time. I would wear a white Chinese style top and black trousers.” Chung also remembers trying to improve his English in those early years, studying in 1962 for three months at the Yaumatei YMCA, but a fellow worker at the Peninsula told him to read the South China Morning Post - the small news items - and that’s how he says he enlarged his vocabulary. “I would read ‘yesterday there was a jewellery robbery in a shop’ and when and where and I learned from the short and simple news items,” he said. Born in Mong Kok, Chung has lived in Peninsula accommodation throughout his career in staff quarters. He recalls how at one time 200 staff members lived in the dormitory but now there are only two, including Chung. He also remembers the rickshaws outside the Peninsula, when the roads were a good deal quieter, and it cost 50 cents to be taken by rickshaw to the Star Ferry terminal. Things were tougher in past decades, says Chung. “Handwashing the clothes, for example. In the past we didn’t have the hi-tech washing machines. Today if a person asks to have his shirt washed, we can return it in one day but we couldn’t do that in the past. It was also harder work in the kitchen - the dim sum now we might have a mixing machine but previously it was all by hand, more labour intensive.” He recalls how there was no air-conditioning until the 1960s, instead ceiling fans were used, and the carpet was only laid down in the lobby during the winter season. Over the years Chung has met a number of famous actors and singers. “Patti Page, she was very pretty and Paul Anka was a gentleman. I didn’t meet Frank Sinatra, you know, the guy who sang My Way, but the room boy said he gave HK$100 tips and HK$100 went a long way in those days.” Chung had been working for a just a few months at the Peninsula in 1957 and was at the lobby cocktail bar. One evening around 5pm a man was sitting at the bar and requested a screwdriver. Not knowing ht this was a bar drink, Chung dutifully headed off, returning with the metal tool. “And he said: ‘No, screwdriver! The cocktail! Vodka and fresh orange juice, then stir it and add a garnish.’ I was very nervous. I made the drink from his instructions and then I passed it to him. He didn’t say anything. After three minutes he took a sip. He told me it was perfect. He then wrote the ingredients down for me. Vodka and fresh orange juice. After he left, a waiter came over and said to me: ‘Do you know who that was?’ And I said I didn’t. And he said: ‘That was Clark Gable.’” When the David Lean-directed Bridge on the River Kwai was filmed and later released in 1957, Chung met two of the lead actors, William Holden and Jack Hawkins. “You know the film with the bamboo bridge,” said Chung, humming the signature tune from the film. “The English won in the film. Their drinks were very simple, just whisky and water.” Hong Kong has changed greatly over the past half century. Chung was saddened when the Hong Kong Hilton and Furama were pulled down. Both those hotels and the Mandarin Oriental, which opened in 1963, asked him to come and work for them. “But I didn’t want to,” says Chung. “They even offered me a higher salary but the Peninsula is my home.” As Chung began preparing for his evening clientele, he said there are two key things to remember in his role. “You must remember the guest’s name and what he drinks.”

 China*:  Sept 13 2013

Confucius makes comeback at Chinese tables (By Agence France-Presse in Qufu) Chef Wang Xinglan with other chefs who specialise in Confucius cuisine with some of her dishes at a restaurant in Jinan, Shandong province. A Confucius cuisine edible calligraphy set dish. Confucius cuisine dishes are displayed at a restaurant in Jinan, Shandong province. Revered for centuries but reviled in recent decades, Confucius is making a comeback in China – and on its dinner plates. “Confucius cuisine” is a fine-dining trend that reflects how the ruling Communist party – which long saw the sage as a reactionary force – has drafted him into its modern campaign to boost what President Xi Jinping has called China’s “cultural soft power”. One of the few ancient Chinese names to have global recognition, the philosopher highlights bonds with overseas Chinese and other Asian nations, and his moniker has been adopted for more than 300 language-teaching “Confucius Institutes” in 90 countries. The authorities are “going back and finding certain elements that existed before the 20th century” and “exploiting Confucius as a brand”, says Thomas Wilson, a professor at Hamilton College in New York. Among restaurants in Qufu in the eastern province of Shandong – where the philosopher known in Chinese as Kong Zi lived from 551 BC to 479 BC – the cuisine is an edible symbol of the way the writer has been reworked. “Book of Odes and Book of Rites Ginkos”, a dense, mildly sweet dessert named after two Confucius classics, is a yellow pea flour “book” topped with nuts and drizzled with honey. In another dish, radishes carved into exquisite trees reflect his saying that “food can never be too fine and cooking never too delicate”. The philosopher’s teachings of hierarchy, order and deference had deep resonance in the feudal societies of China and the region. Tens of generations of his descendants lived at the sprawling Confucius Residence complex in Qufu, enjoying close ties with a succession of emperors, along with ever bigger land grants and hereditary titles. They regularly feted all manner of dignitaries with elaborate banquets, over time developing an exquisite cuisine, say the chefs promoting it today. But that privileged world disappeared in the 20th century, as Japan invaded the country and the Communists won the civil war. Many Confucius descendants – then in the 77th generation – abandoned Qufu and fled to Taiwan. After taking power the Communists savaged Confucianism, and during the tumultuous 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, Red Guard youths incited by Mao Zedong destroyed Confucian temples along with other symbols of the past, and targeted Confucian chefs for abuse. With trained chefs having fled mainland China or passed away, piecing together exactly what Confucius cuisine entailed has proved difficult. “The Cultural Revolution cut off nearly four generations,” laments Wang Xinglan, who was commissioned by the commerce ministry to rediscover Confucius cuisine in the 1980s and now heads the Shandong Cuisine Research Association. Today’s dishes supposedly draw from those developed over the centuries at the residence in Qufu, but that leaves plenty of room for interpretation among enterprising restaurateurs. “Some people want to use the label, but they simply don’t understand the dishes, the culture, the history – so they can’t make the food,” says Wang. A couple running Confucian Home-Cooking – one of many hole-in-the-walls in Qufu advertising authentic traditional dishes – serves Confucius Residence Tofu for 30 yuan (HK$38) and egg soup for five yuan. Their version of “Book of Odes and Book of Rites Ginkgos” amounts to a pile of the yellow nuts ringed by tomato slices, which the husband takes just a few minutes to whip up before sitting back down to stuff chopsticks into plastic sleeves. On the wall hangs a C rating from the sanitation bureau. Meanwhile down the street the luxury Shangri-La hotel – where dishes run as high as 680 yuan – boasts an artistic Confucius feast reimagining “Book of Odes and Book of Rites Ginkgos” as a snow pear carved with the word “poetry”. The dessert is topped with a slowly stewed date, lotus seed and ginkgo nut and drizzled with caramel sauce and osmanthus honey. The hotel’s Confucius Mansion’s Eight Treasures soup includes sea cucumber, abalone, fish maw and other delicacies. In another dish prawns are cocooned in hand-pulled fried vermicelli and plated like a modern sculpture. Professor Wilson points out that “the first motive for reviving any of these things is to make money. “The so-called Confucius cuisine is part of the opening up of the tourist industry in China,” he says. A Qufu resident surnamed Li, 45, passing by the lush hotel grounds, dismisses what she considers a ploy for free-spending tourists. “They take a carrot and carve it into something pretty. But it doesn’t taste good, it only looks good,” she says. “It’s for people with money.”

China backs Syria pledge to renounce chemical weapons (By Agence France-Presse in Beijing) Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government has pledged to give up its arsenal of chemical weapons and sign the UN treaty banning chemical arms. China on Wednesday welcomed Syria’s promise to renounce chemical weapons and give up its nerve gas arsenal, as fears of a US-led strike against Bashar al-Assad’s regime receded. US President Barack Obama postponed his threat to carry out punitive missile strikes against Syria after the regime said on Tuesday it would sign the UN treaty banning chemical arms. “We welcome the recent statements by the Syrian government,” foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a regular press briefing in Beijing. “We hope all relevant sides can grasp this opportunity to solve the Syria problem through diplomatic and political means,” he added. Damascus has seized on a plan by its ally Moscow for its chemical weapons to be taken under international control, dissipating the momentum for US-led strikes. Washington accuses Assad’s forces of using chemical weapons to kill 1,429 people last month, and had been looking to build international support for punitive action. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called on Damascus to “place the chemical weapons under international control and then have them destroyed” – a move which was welcomed by Beijing on Tuesday. China is a veto-wielding permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, and over the course of the Syrian conflict it has joined with Russia, a fellow veto-holder, to block resolutions supported by Washington and its allies. Beijing has regularly called for a “political solution” to the crisis in Syria.

China billionaires pass 300 as richest get richer (By Agence France-Presse in Beijing) Wang Jianlin, Lei Jun and Zong Qinghou. The number of dollar billionaires in mainland China has passed 300 for the first time, an annual ranking of wealth in the world’s second-largest economy showed on Wednesday. The Hurun Report, a luxury magazine publisher, named property tycoon Wang Jianlin as China’s new richest person, saying he had more than doubled his worth to US$22 billion. There were a total of 315 dollar billionaires in the country, it said, up 64 from a year ago. The average fortune of the top 1,000 stood at US$1.04 billion – more than double their US$440 million during the global financial crisis five years ago. But some were dogged by scandal. Three of last year’s 10 richest people in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan, have been detained amid a corruption crackdown in the province. Two others on the list are in prison, while Xu Ming, who joined this year at No 676 with US$490 million, was a key witness against Bo Xilai last month in China’s biggest political corruption trial in decades. According to court transcripts, Xu said he gave the former senior politician 21 million yuan (US$3.4 million) in bribes, including purchasing a villa in the French resort of Cannes for Bo’s wife. Real estate businesswoman and recent divorcee Wu Yajun fell from No 8 to No 22 and her wealth dropped nearly a quarter to US$4.6 billion after she gave her ex-husband US$3 billion – propelling him into the Top 50 in his own right. Hurun called the transaction “the most expensive divorce settlement from a wife to her husband”. Inclusion on the Hurun rich list can be a mixed blessing, according to Oliver Rui, professor of finance and accounting at the China Europe International Business School in Beijing. Market values of companies controlled by those on the rich list drop “significantly” in the three years following their appearance, he said in a research paper. “Furthermore, due to public pressure, the government tends to scrutinise the rich list entrepreneurs and their affiliated companies more closely.” Among businesspeople on the list, 16.95 per cent were subsequently “charged, investigated or arrested”, compared to 6.84 per cent among those who were not included, he found. “Investors in China regard entrepreneurs being included on the Rich List as bad news,” he said. Real estate was the biggest source of ultra-rich fortunes this year’s list, led by Wang, whose conglomerate Wanda Group recently also acquired the US cinema chain AMC Entertainment and a luxury British yacht builder. But Lei Jun of mobile phone maker Xiaomi rose the fastest in the rankings this year after his worth shot up seven-fold to US$2.6 billion. Wang was also named as China’s richest man by Forbes magazine earlier this week, which estimated his wealth at US$14 billion.

Hong Kong*:  Sept 12 2013

CSL seeks to keep edge by doubling download speeds (By Sophie Yu With network spending a priority, Hong Kong's biggest mobile operator shows off technology that enables a theoretical peak rate of 300Mb a second - CSL's chief technology officer Christian Daigneault (left) and chief executive Phil Mottram explain the planned high-speed service yesterday. CSL, the largest wireless network operator in Hong Kong, with brands including 1010 and one2free, yesterday showcased a new high-speed service with theoretical peak download speeds of up to 300 megabits a second - double its current best. Chief executive Phil Mottram said he expected the new high-speed mobile service, called LTE Advanced 300, would be put in place across its network in Hong Kong in the next three to four months. CSL, a subsidiary of Australian telecommunications giant Telstra, launched LTE CAT 4 commercially in Hong Kong in May, with a theoretical web download throughput of 150Mb a second. The standard speed of 4G networks is up to 100Mb a second, while the fastest 3G networks run at 42Mb a second. "If you think of the network as a highway, we have the widest roads of any operator in Hong Kong," Mottram said. He said LTE-A300 would offer customers web speeds that none of the company's competitors could match. "They basically can't," he said. "They don't have enough spectrum unless they buy more spectrum." CSL said the highest speed offered by a competitor in Hong Kong was, in theory, 225 megabits a second. "We have invested huge amounts in ensuring that we are leading the way to greater speeds and stability by building out the network capacity and leading-edge 4G LTE capabilities," Mottram said. CSL's capital expenditure in the fiscal year that ended in June was HK$922 million and Mottram said it was likely to be similar this fiscal year, with most of the money spent on network development. He said the pricing of LTE-A300 should be the same as the current packages offered by CSL. "Essentially what most of our customers are buying nowadays is a data package," he said. "We are just allowing them to get the data faster." CSL's chief technology officer Christian Daigneault said the new technology would be tested in CSL laboratories over the next few months and that new devices supporting LTE-A300 would be available next year. "Our network will be mature at that time," he said. CSL saw subscriber numbers in Hong Kong grow 12 per cent in the past fiscal year to 3.9 million. It was the world's first mobile carrier to launch a dual-band 4G network, in November 2010, and has multiple service brands, including the premium 1010, the mass-market one2free and New World Mobility. The Hong Kong government has started a consultation about the renewal of 3G spectrum licences, with the four existing licensees, including CSL, expressing their opposition to any changes. The licences are due for renewal in 2016 and the government has said it may seize a third of the 3G spectrum currently operated by the four carriers and re-auction it. Mottram said he did not think the move would bring any new entrants into the market. "I don't think the number of telecoms players in the market will change at all as a result of that," he said. 

Window closing on Alibaba IPO in Hong Kong this year (By Ray Chan Industry experts say internet giant has missed chance to list in New York, while regulatory stand-off over partnership structure is stalling Hong Kong float - Mainland internet giant Alibaba Group has missed its window to sell shares in a New York initial public offering this year and may have only a matter of weeks left before the same happens in Hong Kong, financial industry experts told the South China Morning Post. The timeline of regulatory requirements in both jurisdictions has ramped up the pressure for Alibaba to reach an accord on a listing with the authorities in Hong Kong if it wants to get a deal done this year, financial sector sources say. Talks with Hong Kong regulators have been stalled by a stand-off over the firm's desire to retain a partnership structure that the authorities fear could give too much voting power to company executives at the expense of ordinary shareholders. Fresh details of the controversial partnership programme emerged yesterday in an e-mail sent to Alibaba staff yesterday by company founder Jack Ma Yun, a copy of which was obtained by the Post. The firm wants to be allowed to maintain a partnership structure to nominate a majority of board candidates, on whom shareholders would then be able to vote. Regulators say that gives partners more rights than ordinary shareholders, effectively creating a dual shareholding structure not allowed for new listings in Hong Kong. The stalemate has led to speculation that Alibaba would switch to New York where dual share structures are allowed. Edward Au, a partner at Deloitte specialising in Hong Kong and China listings, said that would take "at least four months", including about one month to harmonise the accounting regime the firm uses with US listing rules. "The deal may even be forced to go public in the second quarter of next year in Hong Kong if it doesn't get done this year," Au said. That view was echoed by Paul Lau, a capital markets partner at KPMG China. Alibaba would likely need to file an A1 application, a formal step to apply for a listing, to Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing by the end of this month at the latest if it wanted a Hong Kong listing this year, Lau said. Any later and the application would be subject to new sponsor regulations which come into effect on October 1, obliging firms to allow at least a two-month period between the date of a listing sponsor's formal appointment and a listing application, Lau said. That would put a share sale firmly in the dead zone in the final weeks of the year where investment bankers hate to have to sell stock. "We've not hired underwriters nor selected a location," a spokesman for Alibaba told the Post, declining further comment. Delaying into next year could put a big dent into the potential HK$100 billion analysts estimate Alibaba could raise if the deal comes to market this year, given the pent-up demand among fund managers after a lack of major new offerings this year. If Alibaba joins the swelling pipeline of deals for early next year, it risks coming to market as an expected jump in global interest rates fuelled by an anticipated scaling back of the US Federal Reserve's quantitative easing programme jolts stock market valuations, money managers say. Sources close to Alibaba insist the firm is not working towards a particular listing timetable and that management is "not nervous about a ticking clock".

 China*:  Sept 12 2013

Joint military exercise between key regions tests war capability (By Minnie Chan The Nanjing and Guangzhou commands, fierce rivals, are the only ones to have seen combat since the late 1950s. An exercise involving more than 40,000 People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers from the Nanjing and Guangzhou commands demonstrates that President Xi Jinping, chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), has overcome the traditional rivalry between these powerful military regions, experts say. The Mission Action 2013 drill aims to test the combat capabilities of the regions' land and air forces in joint operations. The Nanjing and Guangzhou commands are the only two among the seven military regions to have been involved in actual combat, against Taiwan and Vietnam, since the late 1950s. Half of the eight incumbent CMC members are from the Nanjing and Guangzhou regions. They are Fang Fenghui, Zhang Yang, Zhao Keshi and Ma Xiaotian. Macau-based military observer Antony Wong Dong said that of the PLA's seven military regions, Nanjing and Guangzhou are the last two to work together face to face. "Battle achievements have made the Nanjing and Guangzhou commands into two powerful forces that have suffered from overwhelming sectarianism and bureaucratism," Wong said, adding that Xi's predecessor, Hu Jintao had started to solve these problems. "After years of efforts, it seems likely that Xi has successfully convinced generals of the two military regions to listen to him." The PLA Daily said the two military commands were expected to manoeuvre more than 30,000 kilometres by road, rail, sea and air to test their capabilities in a real war situation. The army would also test the co-ordination of different army units and organise co-operation between military and civilian forces. Shanghai-based military expert Ni Lexiong said it was significant for soldiers from Nanjing and Guangzhou to work together. Both military regions have been designed to support each other in the event of attack by Taiwan or Vietnam, he said. Beijing-based military commentator Xu Guangyu said there were a series of military exercises for air and naval forces, and now it was the turn of the land forces to show their muscle. Another PLA drill to encourage co-operation among different commands and dubbed kuayue [Chinese for "stride"] was launched in 2009, with 50,000 heavily armoured troops from four military regions testing the army's long-distance mobility.

Companies moving out of central business districts to save money (By Peggy Sito Rising rents and wages, and expansion, drive relocation of businesses, including Fortune 500 firms, to cheaper, less central offices - Rising rents and wage costs on the mainland are driving more big businesses to move out of city centre offices. The wave of decentralisation, fuelled also by normal business expansion, has prompted more developers to build commercial projects in second- and third-tier cities. Among the high-profile businesses moving from core to non-core, or even less mature sub-markets, are many Fortune 500 firms, says property consultancy Cushman & Wakefield. The latest example is hi-tech United States manufacturing firm Honeywell, which has relocated its Beijing office from the Eagle Run Plaza in the Liangmahe submarket of the capital to the relatively new C&W Industrial Park in the Jiuxianqiao submarket, located on the city's northeastern edge. The new office building spans nearly 15,000 square metres and has allowed Honeywell to consolidate all of its Beijing employees into one location. Fellow US global giant Nike last year announced a long-term partnership with Tishman Speyer to strategically relocate its greater China headquarters to The Springs, a development located in northeast Shanghai, in the first quarter of next year. A spokesman for another US hi-tech company, Eaton, said expansion and growth needs were the main reasons for the company to move to a business park in Shanghai, where its Asia-Pacific headquarter office is now located. "As Eaton's businesses continue to grow, new investments are being made in new facilities to support the increasing demand generated in the Chinese market," the spokesman added. Eaton's Asia-Pacific regional headquarters is in the International Business Park of Changning district in Shanghai. The company bought the first building, which occupies a total gross floor area of approximately 10,000 square metres, in 2009, and expanded two years later with the purchase of an additional 6,000 square metres. Sunny Zhang, head of China research for Cushman & Wakefield, said rising rents were a primary force driving the decentralisation trend in office selection. Many leases signed during the financial crisis - when rents were much lower - were coming to the end of their terms, he said. Since then China's economy has gradually recovered, with office rents picking up in tandem to surpass previous historic highs. By the second quarter of this year, office rents in Shanghai were up 43 per cent from the financial crisis in 2008; in Beijing, they were 138 per cent higher. As lease terms neared expiry, fast-growing occupancy costs would naturally be seen as a strain on companies' finances, according to Cushman & Wakefield. "Companies engaged in consulting, IT, research and development, and various kinds of business processes, are all interested in moving a portion of their staff to decentralised office locations. This is especially the case in Beijing and Shanghai because downtown rents are so high," said Andrew Ness, head of research at DTZ. The trend has lured more developers to build large office projects in decentralised areas. For example, Singapore developer Mapletree is building a 5 billion yuan (HK$6.28 billion) office development with a total gross floor area of 297,000 square metres in the Minhang district of Shanghai. "Office decentralisation is a natural trend for any city undergoing urbanisation, and given China's sustained economic growth and continued urbanisation, the scarcity of land, the high cost of renovating old buildings, increasing office rents in the CBD area, and the rapid expansion needs of multinational companies the process will continue in the near future," said Quek Kwang Meng, regional chief executive of China and India for Mapletree Investments. With more multinational companies choosing to relocate their China headquarters operations to Shanghai, the demand for premium-grade office space in the core CBD area will continue to increase as a result. "Concurrently the demand for decentralised grade-A office space will also grow as these companies seek alternative office space for cost savings, office upgrading, expansion or consolidation, and even for self-use purchase needs, said Quek. Although more developers have arrived in recent years, with supply growing fast in Shanghai, grade-A rents will continue to rise under the weight of increased demand for space, Quek added.

Hong Kong*:  Sept 11 2013

Guangdong studying a free-trade zone to include Hong Kong and Macau (By Tanna Chong, Ng Kang-chung and Gary Cheung) [Shanghai Free-trade Zone is the first Hong Kong-like free trade area in mainland China. The plan was first announced by the government in July and it was personally endorsed by Premier Li Keqiang who said he wanted to make the zone a snapshot of how China can upgrade its economic structure. Other mainland cities and provinces including Tianjin and Guangdong have also lobbied Beijing for such approvals. The Shanghai FTZ will first span 28.78 square kilometres in the city's Pudong New Area, including the Waigaoqiao duty-free zone and Yangshan port and it is believed it may eventually expand to cover the entire Pudong district which covers 1,210.4 sq km of land.] Guangdong authorities are studying a plan to create a free-trade zone covering parts of the province, Hong Kong and Macau. Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang addresses the 9th High-Level Forum on Pan-Pearl River Delta Regional Co-operation and Development in Guiyang. Guangdong authorities are studying a plan to create a free-trade zone covering parts of the province, Hong Kong and Macau. The idea, floated by provincial party secretary Hu Chunhua at a Pan Pearl Delta forum yesterday, came two weeks after Shanghai won State Council approval to set up the mainland's first free-trade zone. It is the first time a leader of Hu's stature has raised the idea of forming a free-trade zone spanning Guangdong's borders with the two special administrative regions, adding weight to the proposal. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said he had discussed the idea with Hu and was also looking into it. "I have met Mr Hu to discuss [the free-trade zone], but it is still in its infancy," he said in Guiyang , Guizhou province, where the forum was held. No concrete details were offered yesterday about how the free-trade zone should be formed, how it would operate or what its role would be. But among the initial ideas was a plan to bundle the new zone with three existing special development zones in Guangdong, according to some mainland media reports. Those zones - earmarked as pilot free-trade zones - are Qianhai in Shenzhen, Hengqin Island off Zhuhai , and Nansha in Guangzhou. If formed, the new zone would cover more than 1,000 square kilometres, making it much bigger than Shanghai's 28.78 sq km zone. The revelation of the plan by Hu, a member of the Politburo, came as Vice-Premier Wang Yang called for closer co-operation between the Pearl River Delta region economies. "In the wake of the rapid rise of the other places on the mainland, the [region] is bound to be taken over if it cannot keep moving forward," Wang, a former Guangdong party secretary, said. Leung said the plan was part of moves towards more opening up of the mainland economy. "The mainland's opening-up policy is to encourage reforms by opening up more, which can in turn encourage further opening up by introducing further reforms," Leung said. Ding Li , an economist at the Guangdong Academy of Social Science, believed more innovative measures would be tried in the free-trade zone covering Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau than in Shanghai's. "The central government may apply some rules of Hong Kong and Macau to Guangdong," he said. "The formation of a cross-border free-trade zone could provide a strong hinterland for the offshore yuan business in Hong Kong, such as allowing easier investment of offshore yuan back to the mainland." The official China Daily reported last week that Guangdong officials had been asked to apply "immediately" to the central government for approval to begin forming the zone. It would include the three special development zones in the province as well as the economic development zone in Guangzhou's airport area. Shanghai is preparing to launch its free-trade zone, touted by state media as an area for major experiments in financial reform, commodities trading and logistics services. Free-trade zones have also been proposed by other cities, including Tianjin and Xiamen.

 China*:  Sept 11 2013

Nation vaults to world's 3rd-largest investor (By Li Jiabao) Rise in foreign direct investment largely driven by domestic firms - Even as global outward foreign direct investment contracted last year, China set records in this area, becoming the world's third-largest investor, a government report said on Monday. China's outbound FDI rose 17.6 percent year-on-year in 2012 to a record high of $87.8 billion, according to the 2012 Statistical Bulletin of China's Outward Foreign Direct Investment, which was released by the Ministry of Commerce, the National Bureau of Statistics and the State Administration of Foreign Exchange. The report was released during the 17th China International Fair for Investment and Trade, held in Xiamen, Fujian province, which began on Sunday and closes on Wednesday. Global ODI slid 17 percent last year, amid uncertainties confronting the world economy. China's increase made the nation the world's third-largest investor last year after the United States and Japan, for the first time since the country began to release the data a decade ago. China was the world's sixth-largest investor in 2011, with an outward FDI flow of $74.65 billion, according to last year's report. "The Chinese government introduced measures to encourage outbound direct investment in pursuit of the ‘going abroad' strategy, and the country's outward FDI maintained robust growth in recent years," said Zhou Zhencheng, commercial counselor of the department of outward investment and economic cooperation of the Ministry of Commerce. Huo Jianguo, president of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, a think tank of the ministry, said that the surge in outward FDI was mainly driven by domestic enterprises eager to tap overseas markets and profit from using global resources. "Debt crises and slowing growth in developed economies opened up great opportunities for Chinese enterprises to invest abroad, and the renminbi's appreciation helped the process," Huo said. The nation's non-financial ODI went up 13.3 percent last year to $77.73 billion, accounting for 88.5 percent of the total. Financial ODI surged 65.9 percent to $10.07 billion, according to the bulletin. Flows to the US jumped 123.5 percent to $4.05 billion, making the nation the second-largest destination for China's ODI. Total ODI to developed economies, at about $13.51 billion, was virtually flat year-on-year at $13.42 billion, according to the bulletin. Hong Kong received 58.4 percent — $51.24 billion — of the mainland's ODI. The city, with its well-developed services in finance, accounting and consulting, serves as a gateway for domestic enterprises to explore international markets, according to Victoria Tang, associate director-general of Invest Hong Kong, a body under the special administrative region's government charged with promoting investment. Outward FDI to the British Virgin Islands and Cayman Islands, where Chinese investors set up businesses to bypass investment restrictions in developed economies, slid 72.5 percent to $3.07 billion in 2012. Developed economies where growth has been weak since the 2008 financial crisis have welcomed ODI from China, which has huge foreign-exchange reserves and cash-rich enterprises, Zhou said. "The fast increase of China's outward FDI also showed that the country's manufacturing is significantly gaining international competitiveness. "Further, the country is eager to establish transnational cooperation through mergers and acquisitions in international markets," Huo added. In 2012, Chinese enterprises completed 457 outward M&A transactions valued at $43.4 billion. Those were record highs for both numbers and value. These M&As covered 10 sectors, including mining, electricity, culture, manufacturing and transportation. China's ODI grew 41.6 percent annually between 2002 and 2012. The government has set a goal of increasing ODI at an average annual rate of 17 percent through 2015, when it is forecast to reach $150 billion. The full-year figure this year "is likely to see China's outward investment grow more than 15 percent", Zhou said. He added that the robust growth will be maintained in the near future, in view of the country's economic restructuring and the move by its industries to shed excess capital and invest their cash. As of the end of 2012, China's total outstanding ODI was $531.94 billion, the 13th-largest in the world, said the report. The amount was small compared with the US outward FDI stock of $5.19 trillion and the United Kingdom's $1.8 trillion, the report said, because "China's outbound direct investment took off rather late". Chinese investors have established about 22,000 overseas enterprises in 179 countries and regions, "and about 79.2 percent of them made profits or maintained a balance", Zhou said. He added that Chinese enterprises are facing rising risks and challenges, including political unrest in Africa and Southeast Asia. Other challenges include increasing competition from developed economies and restrictions in those markets.

Hong Kong*:  Sept 10 2013

Octopus takes mobile step to winning more customers (By Kanis Li Dominant operator of electronic payment system seeks to beat competition by allowing purchases to be settled through the handphone - Sunny Cheung, the chief executive of Octopus, says it will be convenient and cool to be able to use the mobile phone to settle daily transactions. Making purchases with a smartphone is gaining a foothold in Hong Kong, and it has changed the habits of Sunny Cheung Yiu-tong, a die-hard fan of smart cards. Cheung, the chief executive of Octopus Group, sometimes leaves his Octopus card at home, using his mobile phone to make payments instead. Octopus Cards, which runs the city's earliest and dominant contactless smart card system, says competition from banks in payment technology is intense but it fights to maintain its pioneering advantage by providing a variety of ways to pay, such as Octopus watches instead of cards, and now by flashing the mobile. HSBC and Hang Seng Bank have launched services using near-field communication (NFC) technology to allow holders of credit cards to pay for transactions with smartphones linked with the card accounts. Users pay by flashing their NFC-ready smartphones on a card reader, similar to using Octopus cards. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority has said it aims to facilitate the development of NFC mobile payment services in Hong Kong, following the United States, Britain, France, Japan and South Korea, which are planning or launching such services. "When I don't want to carry a bag or a wallet with me, I usually pay using the mobile phone," Cheung, who has more than 10 Octopus cards, told the South China Morning Post. To understand the competitive landscape in the contactless payment market, Cheung said, he and his colleagues familiarised themselves with the NFC services banks were providing. "After we tried their services, we could tell what the advantages of these new services were and think of ways to do better than them," he said. Banks are partners as well as competitors with Octopus Cards, said Cheung, a veteran banker who worked for Visa, DBS Bank and Citibank before he joined Octopus in 2011. The firm, in which MTR Corp is the largest shareholder, has partnered Citibank, China Construction Bank (Asia), Dah Sing Bank and DBS in issuing co-branded cards that combine the functions of a credit card and an Octopus card. "If we just viewed banks as our competitors, the customers would find it less convenient because they might have to carry two cards," Cheung said. By the fourth quarter of this year, smartphones will be able to perform the functions of an Octopus card. They will be able to support transactions with a limit of HK$1,000, higher than the cap of HK$500 for NFC services at HSBC and Hang Seng, the only banks that have launched such services so far. A limited number of merchants have set up NFC readers in their shops. The number of outlets with MasterCard PayPass terminals, used for Hang Seng's NFC services, has increased to 3,000 from 1,000 in June. The Octopus phone user will need to install in the smartphone a special SIM card that allows the phone to function as an Octopus card. Certain Sony and Samsung models might be the first smartphones capable of the new service, the firm said earlier this year. Cheung said it would be "cool" to be able to use the mobile phone to settle daily transactions. The Octopus system handles more than 12 million transactions valued at more than HK$130 million each day. More than 22 million cards were in circulation at the end of last year, up 12.6 per cent from 2011. Each Hongkonger has an average of three Octopus cards. The company is talking to various parties to expand the use of the cards, such as paying tunnel fees. "We are not concerned about what will become the mainstream electronic payment method, but we hope to provide as many choices to customers as we can," Cheung said.

Housing groups at loggerheads over open space plan for singles under 60 (By Olga Wong Authority says plan to build public rental flats for singles aged under 60 on open space at existing estates is feasible, but Society rejects proposal - The Housing Authority and the Housing Society disagree on the feasibility of a controversial proposal to build extra blocks of public rental flats on open space at estates to meet growing demand from single people under the age of 60. The authority, which has assessed the plan, says it is feasible, but the society has rejected it. The idea, raised last week as part of the city's long-term housing strategy, was floated to address the rising demand for homes from single people without lengthening the queue for family and elderly applicants. But a spokesman for the society said it preferred to redevelop whole estates rather than adding blocks. "For these old estates, it will be more desirable to redevelop the whole estate to improve the living environment," he said. On television yesterday, Secretary for Transport and Housing Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said: "We're taking this step to satisfy demand." He said the Housing Authority, the biggest provider of public flats, had assessed the plan and found it feasible. Long-term Housing Strategy Steering Committee members Eddie Hui Chi-man and Michael Choi Ngai-min conceded members were divided on the proposal as some were worried that it would making living conditions worse for residents by taking away their open space and recreational facilities. "The government would have to ensure the addition would not violate any planning rules. It's only a conceptual idea," Hui said, adding redevelopment would improve the living environment as a whole but would take more than 10 years. Hui said some families could also move into the new blocks to avoid negatively labelling single residents. "The views were divided. But we agreed that public views can be sought on it," said Choi, who expected the Housing Authority to take the lead. Close to half the applicants in the queue for public flats are non-elderly. There were 115,600 of them in June, an increase of about 30 per cent from last year. Family applicants are guaranteed to receive an offer of a public rental flat within three years - and elderly people within two - but single people under 60 are not given any pledge. Of 22,000 flats available for allocation each year, only 2,000 are reserved for single people under 60. They often have to wait for five years or even longer. According to the consultation paper on long-term housing strategy, now under a three-month public consultation, the government recommends adding a block or two of rental flats in existing public estates where the plot ratio - the permitted development density - has not reached its limit. It suggested giving priority to those aged over 40. A merit of the proposal is that it would not significantly prolong the waiting time of family and elderly applicants. As of June, there were 17,800 single applicants aged 40 to 49 and 12,200 aged over 50. The authority declined to reveal which public rental estates had not maximised their development density, but the Housing Society said six out of its 20 rental estates still had room for more development. They are Ming Wah Dai Ha in Shau Kei Wan; Yue Kwong Chuen in Aberdeen; Healthy Village (phase three) in North Point; Chun Seen Mei Chuen in Kowloon City; Kwun Tong Garden Estate; and Lok Man Sun Chuen in To Kwa Wan.

Development secretary Paul Chan floats idea for country park flats (By Lo Wei and Stuart Lau) As city sets 10-year housing target amid acute land shortage, minister says the possibility of developing park spaces should be discussed - The development minister has floated the idea of building flats on land in country parks, questioning whether such a controversial option was "untouchable and unmentionable". The remarks by Paul Chan Mo-po are a radical departure from Leung Chun-ying's pledge when he was running for election as chief executive that country parks "should be protected from development as far as possible", a vow he shared in an interview with the South China Morning Post almost two years ago. Laws stipulate that country parks are designated for the purposes of nature conservation, countryside recreation and outdoor education. Chan's suggestion came after the committee devising a long-term housing strategy for Hong Kong last week unveiled a proposal to build 470,000 flats in the next 10 years, a target criticised as unattainable given the limited land supply. Chan wrote on his blog yesterday that society should discuss and explore the possibility of developing country parks - an idea he said had recently been raised in various seminars - as more land would be needed to reach the housing target.

 China*:  Sept 10 2013

China's top admiral visits United States (By Chen Weihua in Washington and Li Xiaokun in Beijing) China's top naval official left Beijing for a visit to the United States on Sunday, a move experts described as part of the "rare, determined and intensive efforts" by Beijing and Washington in recent months to improve military ties. The trip coincides with a joint China-US naval drill, involving three Chinese warships, scheduled on Monday in waters off Hawaii. Wu Shengli, commander-in-chief of the People's Liberation Army navy, will pay an official visit at the invitation of Chief of US Naval Operations Admiral Jon Greenert, the Chinese navy said in a news release on Sunday. His tour comes three weeks after Minister of National Defense Chang Wanquan visited the US. "During the visit, Wu Shengli will meet leaders of the US navy and discuss issues including building up a new type of China-US naval relations and constructively pushing up relations between Chinese and US navies," said the document. Wu will also visit US naval and marine units, it said. Meanwhile, speaking at Washington-based think tank American Enterprise Institute on Thursday morning, Greenert said he is looking forward to meeting Wu as "we continue our mil-to-mil relationship, evolving and maturing that relationship". Niu Jun, professor at the School of International Studies of Peking University, said: "I have spent years studying China-US relations. It is very rare to see the determined efforts made by both sides, after the two new administrations took office, to improve the relations." "And progress in military ties is the most eye-catching and symbolic part in bilateral relations. That is partially because it is the sphere with most problems," Niu said. Shortly before Wu's arrival, three Chinese navy ships pulled into Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on Friday for a search-and-rescue exercise with the US navy. The three ships — destroyer Qingdao, frigate Linyi, and fleet oiler Hongzehu — carry a helicopter and 680 officers and sailors. They were greeted in Hawaii with a lion dance from a children's group. The drill is scheduled on Monday with USS Lake Erie in waters off Waikiki and Diamond Head. "This port visit is part of the US navy's ongoing efforts to maximize opportunities for developing relationships with foreign navies as a tool to build trust, encourage multilateral cooperation, enhance transparency, and avoid miscalculation in the Pacific," the US Navy said in a news release. It was the first such port visit by the Chinese navy in the past seven years, since Qingdao and Hongzehu stopped at Pearl Harbor and San Diego for communications drills and search-and-rescue exercises off the coasts.

Hong Kong*:  Sept 9 2013

Flats at The Rise in Kwai Chung selling out fast despite HKMA warning (By Tiffany Ap Buyers snatched up 70 per cent of new flats put up for sale at The Rise in Kwai Chung. Buyers snatched up 70 per cent of new flats put up for sale at a Kwai Chung complex yesterday - despite a warning from the Monetary Authority 24 hours earlier and government measures to cool the property market. By 7pm more than 200 flats at The Rise had been sold, said Justin Chiu Kwok-hung, chief executive of developer Cheung Kong. "In the first hour, 52 units were sold," said Chiu, adding he was very satisfied with the day's proceedings. By 10am, a line of prospective buyers stretched from Hung Hom MTR station to the Fortune Metropolis mall where the sale was taking place. The Rise has 402 two- and three-bedroom flats, the former with an average gross floor area of 660 square feet and the latter 900 square feet. It will also have a swimming pool, spa, gym and playroom. On Friday, Monetary Authority chief executive Norman Chan Tak-lam warned that the tapering off of quantitative easing by the United States Federal Reserve would see capital "inevitably" flow out of the city, impacting the city's property market. Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said in a Commercial Radio programme that the government would not withdraw the extra stamp duties imposed on foreign buyers and speculators. He said the measures were designed to target high property prices and to avoid a housing bubble, which would have a major impact on the city's economy. Last week, Cheung Kong announced a series of sweeteners for The Rise, including offering a 10 per cent discount for buyers who signed up to be club members and made their purchase with a cash payment plan.

Yahoo complied with requests for data on 800-plus Hong Kong users (By Lana Lam None of law enforcers' demands for personal details were refused in first half of this year - Hong Kong's law enforcement agencies demanded the personal details of more than 800 Yahoo users between January and June, and the internet giant complied with all the requests. That compared to one request to Facebook in the same period. Information technology sector lawmaker Charles Mok expressed surprised at the Yahoo figure. "The number is quite high," he said. Yahoo's head lawyer, Ron Bell, said the company assessed requests according to the legal requirements of each jurisdiction. "We regularly push back against improper requests for user data, including fighting requests that are unclear, improper, overbroad or unlawful," Bell said. The figures were revealed in Yahoo's first global transparency report on Friday, and come amid growing concerns over cybersurveillance after former CIA analyst and US government contractor Edward Snowden exposed secret online spying efforts by the US National Security Agency. Yahoo's report covers 17 regions. The US topped the list with 12,444 requests, followed by Germany (4,295), Italy (2,637) Taiwan (1,942), France (1,855) and the UK (1,709). Hong Kong came in eighth, with officials asking for data 849 times - a daily average of five requests. Most were linked to criminal probes. Of the requests in Hong Kong, 64 per cent resulted in Yahoo disclosing personal information known as "non-content data". This covers basic subscriber information, such as an alternate e-mail address, name, location, billing information and e-mail headers, for example the sender, receiver and date. In five cases, Yahoo disclosed content, such as words in an e-mail or instant message, photos on Flickr or uploaded files. Mok said: "My guess is they are related to auctions and online transactions with investigations … on the sale of counterfeit goods like handbags." While most requests come from police and customs officials, Mok said transparency reports should specify the department seeking the data. He called on internet service providers to compile similar reports. Yahoo Hong Kong - which has an estimated four million unique users - said the transparency figures would be updated every six months. Last year, Microsoft received 1,041 requests from the Hong Kong government for data, of which it complied with all but three, and Google 447 requests, of which it rejected two-thirds.

 China*:  Sept 9 2013

China’s economy back on track as August exports accelerate (By Associated Press in Beijing) China’s August export growth accelerated, adding to signs of a gradual recovery for the world’s second-largest economy, while import growth weakened. China’s August export growth accelerated, adding to signs of a gradual recovery for the world’s second-largest economy, while import growth weakened. Exports rose 7.2 per cent to $190.7 billion (HK$1.48 trillion), accelerating from July’s 5.1 per cent growth, customs data showed Sunday. Imports rose 7 per cent to $162.1 billion (HK$1.26 trillion), but that was down from July’s 10.9 per cent. Stronger sales of Chinese goods abroad are a positive sign for communist leaders who want to avoid job losses in export-driven manufacturing. China’s economic growth fell to a two-decade low of 7.5 per cent in the second quarter but the latest industrial data suggest the slowdown might be leveling out. Communist leaders have tried to perk up growth with higher spending on railway construction and tax cuts for small businesses. But they have resisted appeals for more stimulus, saying they want to focus instead on reforms to make the economy more efficient and productive. “The combination of steady growth and muted inflation provides a good environment for the authorities to push forward long-term structural reforms,” said UBS economist Tao Wang in a report last week. Chinese leaders are expected to announce a reform package after a Communist Party meeting in November but are rumoured to be locked in heated debates over the details. Much of China’s slowdown over the past three years is due not to global economic malaise, but to communist leaders’ efforts to shift the basis of growth from exports and investment to more self-sustaining domestic consumption. Beijing has tightened controls to cool a construction and investment boom. But consumer spending is rising more slowly than planned, which has left the country more dependent on exports than Chinese leaders want. Manufacturing activity expanded in August but export orders declined due to weak US and European demand. Factory output, construction and auto sales also have improved in recent months. August’s deceleration in export growth might indicate a hiccup in domestic demand. But July’s imports were far above private sector forecasts, boosting the average for the two months. The International Monetary Fund and private sector forecasters have cut their China growth forecast for this year but to a still robust level of 7.5 to 8 per cent. That would be China’s weakest performance since the early 1990s but is ahead of low single-digit growth forecast for the United States, Europe and Japan. “How strong and how long the recovery will last will depend on the US recovery and general global environment,” said Tao.

Chinese naval vessels in rare visit to Hawaii for exercises with US (By Associated Press in Pearl Harbour) Three naval vessels with hundreds of PLA sailors to take part in search and rescue exercise with US counterparts to foster familiarity - Three PLA Navy ships carrying hundreds of sailors arrived in Hawaii on Friday to join a search and rescue exercise with the US Navy during a rare visit intended to foster familiarity. The guided missile destroyer Qingdao, a frigate and a supply ship were welcomed with performances by lion dancers and a children's hula group. The ships carrying 680 officers and sailors will participate in the exercise tomorrow with the USS Lake Erie in waters off Waikiki and Diamond Head. The exercise was an important way for the two navies to share information about operations, so they do not misinterpret movements and potentially start a conflict, said Brad Glosserman, executive director of the Pacific Forum at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. "There are lots of places where our vessels could end up in proximity, and we want to make very sure that when that happens we have the best possible understanding of what the other side is doing and why," he said. The visit comes as Beijing continues to be wary about Washington's strategic "rebalance" towards Asia, in which the navy is basing a majority of its ships in the Pacific and boosting ties with long-time allies such as Australia and Japan. China sees the moves as an effort to counter its expanding military and contain its growing economic and political influence. Chinese ships last visited the US in 2006, when the Qingdao and the Hongzehu stopped in Pearl Harbour and San Diego for communications drills, and search and rescue exercises off those coasts. The two nations last held a joint drill last year during an anti-piracy exercise off Somalia. The People's Liberation Army said the drills build on a June commitment by President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama to strengthen ties. The navy said the visit was part of its continuing effort to develop relationships with foreign navies to build trust, encourage co-operation, enhance transparency and avoid miscalculation. Rear Admiral Rick Williams, commander of US Navy Region Hawaii and the Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific, said the two navies were showing their commitment to a stable world by working together for the next several days. "We are linked with you together in history, and we will be linked together in the future," Williams said about China. Rear Admiral Wei Gang, chief of staff, North Sea Fleet and head of the delegation, said there had been steady progress in Sino-US relations. "This time, I, together with all the officers and the men of the task group, entrusted by our Chinese government and the people, sailed all the way across the broad Pacific and brought here to our American friends the friendly feelings of the Chinese people and the People's Liberation Army," Wei said. During the drills, sailors would practice turning ships at sea, conduct searches and rescues, and send small boats back and forth between ships, Williams said. US and Chinese helicopters will also work together. Over the weekend, sailors will play basketball and soccer, attend receptions, and visit the USS Arizona Memorial and the decommissioned battleship Missouri, from the second world war.

China's submersible Jiaolong on scientific research voyage - China's manned submersible Jiaolong and its support ship the Xiangyanghong-09 are on a scientific research voyage.

China's exports rise 7.2 pct in August - China's exports rose 7.2 percent year on year to 190.61 billion U.S. dollars in August, according to customs figures released on Sunday. Manufacturing sees hefty rebound in Aug. China to ensure quality, steady growth.

Hong Kong*:  Sept 8 2013

Hotel plan for home on Peak approved (By Olga Wong Developer gets nod to turn century-old house into upscale accommodation even as district councillors prepare a motion of objection - Developer Crown Empire spent HK$384 million last year on buying the property, proposed for grade-two historic status. The Town Planning Board has given the green light for the conversion of a 97-year-old residence on The Peak into a boutique hotel, despite strong opposition from the district council. The board said the main reasons it approved the project yesterday were that the owner was taking the initiative to protect the historic residence at 27 Lugard Road, and that the developer had proposed ways of compensating for additional traffic on the narrow road, a popular hiking trail. "It is clear that an owner could tear it down any time despite its proposed grade-two historic status," a board spokesman said. "Under existing policy, the city is relying heavily on owners' initiative to save heritage buildings." The spokesman said traffic restrictions proposed by the developer would be written into the transport permit to be obtained by the hotel in the future. "Members believed the future traffic would be more or less the same as the current situation." The approval went ahead as members of the Central and Western District Council were preparing to move a motion objecting to the project next month. Fourteen councillors made a joint statement against the project last month, with more than 100 signatures collected from the public. According to land and company documents, the four-storey residence was acquired by developer Crown Empire for HK$384 million in September last year. The company is held by British Virgin Island-registered Ashley Pacific, which also holds the Butterfly Hotel and Serviced Apartment Group. The group is controlled by director Yau Tang-tit, brother of Chief Executive Office director Edward Yau Tang-wah. Under the proposal, the house will be converted into a maximum 17 guest rooms, an exhibition space on the ground floor and five car park spaces. To address concerns about traffic on the 1.8 metre-wide road, the developer proposed using small electric cars and tricycles to carry goods and passengers, with no more than two trips an hour on weekdays and non-public holidays. On Saturdays, no passenger trips will be made between 11am to 1pm, and 2pm to 4pm. On Sundays, the restricted hours will stretch between 9am to 12pm and 1pm to 6pm. There will be no goods trips from 10am to 6pm on Sundays and public holidays. District councillor Joseph Chan Ho-lim disagreed that the traffic flow on the road - now used mainly by hikers and residents' vehicles - would be little changed, and criticised the board for favouring the developer. "The updated project details were only made available to the public a day before the meeting," he said. The Planning Department said it had done its best to make public the paper and additional documents submitted by the developer as early as possible. The developer is required by the board to submit a conservation-management plan before conversion, with quarterly tree-monitoring reports to the satisfaction of the Planning Department. It should also provide free monthly guided tours and prominently display an information panel for the building.

 China*:  Sept 8 2013

Shuanghui, Smithfield merger deal passes US review (By Xinhua) Smithfield ham slices are on sale at the Taste of Smithfield restaurant and gourmet market in Smithfield, Virginia in this file photo taken May 30, 2013. Smithfield Foods Inc, the US pork producer that has agreed to a $4.7 billion buyout by China's Shuanghui International Holdings, reported a 36 percent fall in quarterly profit, hurt by lower exports to key international markets such as Japan, China and Russia. Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd. and Smithfield Foods announced Friday evening that they received clearance on their proposed transaction from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). The transaction remained subject to Smithfield shareholder approval and other customary closing conditions. Smithfield's shareholders are scheduled to vote on the transaction at a special shareholders meeting on September 24, 2013. "This transaction will create a leading global animal protein enterprise," said Shuanghui International's CEO Zhijun Yang. Smithfield is a 13 billion dollars global food company and the world's largest pork processor and hog producer, while Shuanghui is China's largest meat processor. Yang said "Shuanghui International and Smithfield have a long and consistent track record of providing customers around the world with high-quality food, and we look forward to moving ahead together as one company." Shuanghui and Smithfield expected the transaction to close shortly thereafter. The merger deal, agreed in May, is worth 34 dollars a share, or 4.7 billion dollars. Adding the debt Shuanghui will take on, the deal's overall value went to 7.1 billion dollars. It is the biggest Chinese takeover of a US company once completed. After the two companies consummate the transaction, Smithfield will continue to operate under its existing brand names as a wholly owned subsidiary of Shuanghui International.

Hong Kong*:  Sept 7 2013

Hong Kong cyclist Sarah Lee wins gold at China National Games (By Chan Kin-wa in Shenyang Cycling continued its winning tradition at the China National Games as Sarah Lee Wai-sze won the first gold medal for the Hong Kong team in Shenyang today. The 26-year-old achieved a perfect record in all three rounds of the keirin, winning from the heats to the final. It was her second major success in a multi-sport games after capturing a bronze medal in the same discipline at the London Olympics last summer. “I did not want to let people down after a disappointing competition in the sprint,” said Lee of her sixth-place finish on Thursday. “The training preparation was really hard and even though my coach said it did not matter if I won or not, I know from the bottom of his heart he wants me to win it. “I was very happy when I crossed the finishing line in London, but it was only a bronze medal. This time I won. I am the champion.” Lee said the quality in Shenyang was of Olympic standard as many of the competitors had achieved a time of 11 to 11.7 seconds for 200 metres, a prerequisite for sprinting events. Coach Shen Jinkang said Lee stayed calm in the final and that’s why she beat her rivals, including Zhong Tianshi, the 200m world record-holder, and Guo Shuang, the silver medallist at the London Games. “She was able to occupy the best line for sprinting after doing the same in the semi-finals, which means she has become a very mature cyclist,” said Shen. “She always wants to do better and fears no one. The defeat in the sprint also pushed her to work harder in the keirin.” Li Xuemei of Hebei was second, while Liu Lili of Shandong and favourite Guo finished joint third. Zhong was fifth. Hong Kong has won a gold medal in cycling at every National Games since its first participation in 1997 after the reunification with the mainland.

HKMA warns against complacency over Chinese trade zone (By Agence France-Presse in Hong Kong) Hong Kong’s de-facto central bank warned Friday that the city must not “sit on its laurels” if it wants to remain a global financial centre after plans for China’s first free trade zone were revealed. Draft proposals for the free trade zone (FTZ) in Shanghai, seen by AFP, showed that the zone goes beyond greater liberalisation of trade to take in investment and financial services -- including free currency convertibility. “It is no good for Hong Kong to sit on its laurels and just hope or pray that other financial centres do not or cannot catch up,” Hong Kong Monetary Authority chief executive Norman Chan told a financial summit in the city. “There is no room for complacency,” he added. When asked by AFP if he feared Shanghai could surpass Hong Kong as a financial hub, Chan defended its powerhouse status. “Hong Kong is already a world-class financial centre and has a leading edge in the offshore renminbi (yuan) business,” he said. “It is important that we continue to upgrade our platform in facilitating renminbi businesses and we will be able to maintain a competitive edge over time.” As pro-democracy campaigners in Hong Kong push for universal suffrage by 2017 and anti-Beijing sentiment increases, Chan said the city’s economy was “well positioned” to withstand political tensions. “We have taken sufficient measures to enhance the risk management of the banking system, our banks are well positioned and well prepared to withstand future shocks, from whatever source,” he said. Chan underlined the crucial importance of financial market infrastructure to a city’s economic success. The draft free trade zone plan for Shanghai, revealed exclusively by AFP on Thursday, said the new zone would support the establishment of foreign and joint venture banks and welcome privately funded financial institutions. At present, China’s banking sector is overwhelmingly dominated by state-run institutions. Hong Kong returned to China in 1997, when it was handed over by Britain, but maintains a semi-autonomous status with its own legal and financial systems.

 China*:  Sept 7 2013

Shanghai's visa-free policy lifts tourism (By Wang Zhenghua) Shanghai authorities said the city's policy allowing citizens from 45 nations to stay up to 72 hours in the city without a visa has noticeably boosted tourism. But business insiders said a lot more can be done to bring more transit passengers to the city amid an overall drop in inbound visitors this year. Tourists admire the skyline in Shanghai, which allows foreigners to visit for up to 72 hours without a visa. Since the new policy was implemented in January, some 8,300 foreign transit passengers have made use of the policy, according to the city's border inspection department. According to figures provided by the border inspection departments at the city's Hongqiao and Pudong airports, the number of passengers benefiting from the policy has continued to rise since the beginning of this year, when tourists from countries including the United States, Japan, France and Australia were permitted a 72-hour visa-free stay if they hold third-country visas and plane tickets. By Sept 1, around 8,300 foreigners had benefited from the policy, the inspection departments said. In August alone, about 1,300 air passengers took advantage of the scheme — the most in a single month and a 95.2 percent rise from January. US citizens made the most use of the policy, with 1,200 making three-day visa-free stays in Shanghai in the first eight months. More than 670 tourists from European countries that have frequent exchanges with China, including Germany, France and the United Kingdom, also benefited from the policy during the period. Shanghai is also trying to consolidate its status as a global hot spot by allowing visitors arriving by passenger liners to spend three days in the city without a visa. Pending approval from the central government, the city plans to extend the policy to cruise terminals, and set up duty-free stores and tax-refund outlets there. But tourism experts said on Thursday that the rise in transit passengers is lower than they expected. "There could be more (passengers attracted to the city by this policy)," said Zhao Huanyan, senior researcher at the Tourism Research Institute under the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. He said the number of transit passengers is dragged down by the overall drop of inbound tourists. Although the specific figure for Shanghai is unavailable, Beijing tourism authorities say the number of overseas tourists across the nation fell by 4.2 percent year-on-year in the first six months of 2013, partly caused by a stronger yuan and a weak global economy. Among them, the number of foreigners dropped 7.1 percent during the period. Tourism authorities did not do their best to promote the 72-hour visa-free policy, Zhao said. "An important job in many foreign countries tourism departments is to promote inbound tourism. But in our country, it is apparently not so, and there is much room for improvement," he added. Some travel agencies in Shanghai also said they did not see their business increase through the policy. "I have said many times that most of those who seek to benefit from the policy are business travelers, and they are not our target customers," Yuan Zukang, a manager in charge of inbound travel at the China International Travel Service in Shanghai, said on Thursday. "Most of them are passengers staying for business purposes for a very short term," he said. Some high-end hotels said they benefited from the surge of transit visitors, but their performance is overshadowed by a drop of occupancy rate caused by the ban on the lavish lifestyles of officials and the oversupply of hotel rooms. A recent poll by Hotelsolution, a consulting company focusing on the hotel and real estate industries, shows that the occupancy rate at Shanghai's four- and five-star hotels dropped from 10 to 20 percent in the first half of this year, while their revenue from catering services shrank by up to 40 percent. Beijing, another city that introduced the 72-hour visa-free policy from Jan 1, has also not had the expected effect and vowed to step up its promotion. The weak global economy has deterred many potential travelers from Japan and South Korea, with tourist arrivals from Japan falling by 54.5 percent and from South Korea by 22.3 percent in the first six months. Now four cities, Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Chengdu, employ the 72-hour visa-free policy. Transit passengers arriving at Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport are allowed to stay in the Guangdong provincial capital for three days without a visa and to visit anywhere in the province during their trips. Kunming, capital of Yunnan province, plans to be the fifth. Yunnan Airport Group said last month that it and Yunnan's provincial tourism development commission planned to apply for 72-hour visa-free stays for international passengers at the Kunming Changshui International Airport in the second half of this year.

Giant rubber duck comes to life in Beijing (By Xinhua/China Daily) An inflated Rubber Duck by Dutch conceptual artist Florentijn Hofman is seen floating on a lake at the venue of the 9th China International Garden Expo in Beijing, September 6, 2013. 

Renminbi moves into the top 10 (By Amy He in New York) When a currency gets hot, people rush to get a hold of it: expert. For the first time, the Chinese renminbi has become one of the top 10 most-traded currencies and its climb has been due to growth in offshore trading, according to a survey by the Bank for International Settlements. The renminbi was the 9th most-actively traded currency this year in BIS's latest survey, jumping from 17th in 2010 and 20th in 2007. The currency accounted for a 2.2 percent share of global foreign-exchange volumes, according to the report. It placed just above the New Zealand dollar and the renminbi's entrance into the top 10 pushed the Hong Kong dollar and Swedish krona to spots 13 and 11, respectively. The US dollar continues to be the dominant global currency, accounting for 87 percent of global-trading volumes, increasing 2 percentage points since 2010. The US dollar is followed by the euro at 33.4 percent and the yen at 23 percent of global-trading volumes. The BIS survey done in April reported that the renminbi "saw the most significant rise in market share among major emerging market currencies," with the currency's turnover increasing from $34 billion to $120 billion. "The role of the renminbi in global FX trading surged, in line with increased efforts to internationalize the Chinese currency," said the BIS, which sees an average of $5.3 trillion in daily global currencies trading. The ability to settle cross-border trade transactions with the renminbi is leading to tremendous growth in just a few years since the People's Bank of China and the State Administration of Foreign Exchange first allowed renminbi trade settlements.

Hong Kong*:  Sept 6 2013

PayPal protection to drive Hong Kong merchant sales to new markets (By Bien Perez PayPal's James Mirfin announces the new security measures at the company's Wan Chai office yesterday. PayPal, the world's leading online-payments service provider, expects to help Hong Kong and mainland merchants generate new business opportunities from cross-border trade by providing them with its new "Seller Protection" policy from next month. "From October 11, we're going to protect merchants from unauthorised transactions and from items not being received by buyers," James Mirfin, PayPal's manager for Hong Kong, Korea and Taiwan, said yesterday. Mirfin said many businesses selling on the web were forced to dedicate a huge amount of time and money to tackling fraudulent transactions. Californian-based PayPal, which has about 1 million online merchant users across the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan, said it was adding the additional layer of security at no extra cost to sellers. They would not need to subscribe and there would be no cap on the amount of goods covered against fraud by PayPal buyers in any country. "We want Hong Kong and mainland merchants to grow by helping them lower the risk associated with entering new markets," Mirfin said. Seller Protection will be available next month to PayPal merchants in Australia, New Zealand, mainland China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. The policy was initially launched in North America more than a decade ago and then in Europe. Alipay, the most widely used online-payment platform on the mainland, has implemented its own version of seller protection since 2004. Digital World International, a Hong Kong-based seller of cameras on eBay and its own websites for more than four years, expects the new PayPal policy will help drive its growth. Chief executive Cornel Ung said: "For a long time we've been eyeing opportunities for expansion in different countries, but it always seemed so risky due to the high fraud rates in certain markets." Data from PayPal, which has 132 million active accounts in 193 markets and 25 currencies, shows that the five fastest-growing export markets for Hong Kong online merchants in the past 12 months were the Philippines, Argentina, South Korea, Sweden and Russia. The top categories in cross-border trade last year for those merchants included electronics and telecommunications; toys and hobbies, and clothing, accessories and shoes. 

City retains edge for business, says InvestHK (By Darren Wee Promotions agency expects to woo a record number of firms despite slowdown on mainland - InvestHK, the government agency tasked with attracting foreign investors, has completed 3,000 projects that have brought HK$79 billion to the city since its establishment in 2000. Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Gregory So Kam-leung said the companies supported by InvestHK had created 34,000 jobs in their first year of operation or expansion, and each project was "a strong vote of confidence in Hong Kong as Asia's leading business capital". Last year, the mainland was the largest source of investors, with 62 completed projects. Director-General of Investment Promotion Simon Galpin said the economic slowdown across the border had not affected investment in Hong Kong. "We're on track to have a record number of mainland companies using Hong Kong as their platform to go global [this year], so there's no indication of a slowdown in terms of companies coming to Hong Kong at all," he said. Galpin said 7,250 foreign companies were operating in Hong Kong last year and a further 700 were considering or planning to invest here, adding that he was confident InvestHK would reach its target of helping 330 companies set up or expand this year. He said more companies were relocating their global headquarters to the city, such as General Electric and Nissan's Infiniti brand, while retailers were increasingly choosing Hong Kong for global sourcing and e-commerce operations. ASB Biodiesel, the operator of a plant that converts waste oil into biodiesel, was the 3,000th, and first Bahraini company to work with InvestHK. Its chief executive, Anthony Dixon, said US$165 million had been invested in its plant in Tseung Kwan O Industrial Estate. Dixon said it would come on stream next month and produce 100,000 tonnes of biodiesel a year, helping to avoid 257,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year. ASB Biodiesel collects waste cooking oil from restaurants. Dixon said there had been strong interest in the finished product. "In three years, I'm confident I'll be telling you that 99 per cent of our product will be used here," he said.

 China*:  Sept 6 2013

Obama to lobby Xi Jinping for support on military intervention in Syria (By Teddy Ng and Agencies in Moscow) Backing for military strike likely to be raised in bilateral meeting on sidelines of G20 summit - President Barack Obama is expected to lobby his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to support military strikes against Syria during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of a G20 summit. Observers said Beijing was likely to continue to side with Russia to oppose military intervention in response to allegations that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against his people. But they expected Xi to soften the rejection to avoid hurting recent personal ties with Obama, who he met in California in June at an informal summit. "Beijing may tell Washington that it may support a strike against Syria if the US got clear proof that chemical weapons have been used by the Syrian government," said Jia Qingguo, a professor at Peking University. The announcement of a Xi-Obama meeting, which was made by the White House yesterday, came as Obama won the backing of US House Speaker John Boehner, the top Republican in Congress, and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi for military intervention in Syria. Arriving in Stockholm for a two-day visit, Obama said the world had set "a red line" for Syria and the international community's credibility was at stake if it did not take action. "I didn't set a red line. The world set a red line," Obama said, referring to international rules banning the use of chemical weapons. The only other G20 leader Obama is scheduled to meet on the sidelines is French President Francois Hollande, who is seeking a coalition of European nations to back a military response. China, a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council, has said it opposed the use of chemical weapons, but Foreign Minister Wang Yi said a political resolution was the only way out because outside military interference without UN approval would exacerbate turmoil. Russian President Vladimir Putin said the Kremlin would not rule out allowing a military operation against Syria if evidence showed that Damascus carried out a chemical weapons attack. But he insisted that any operation without UN approval would be unsanctioned aggression. Deputy Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao said leaders of various nations, including Obama, want to discuss global economic development and challenges with Xi.

Xi, Putin meeting to focus on 'mega projects' (By Fu Jing - China Daily) President Xi Jinping will meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin for the second time in six months and the two are likely to discuss cooperation in large-scale projects, a senior Chinese diplomat said. "Xi is scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and their talks may focus on cooperating on ‘mega projects' between China and Russia and on further strategic coordination at international and regional levels," Chinese Ambassador to Russia Li Hui said in an interview before Xi's arrival in St. Petersburg on Wednesday for the G20 summit. The two are expected to exchange views on proposed US strikes on Syria, following Washington's claim that the Syrian government used chemical weapons on its own people. Putin has previously voiced opposition to the US stance and China has been urging the US to present evidence of chemical attacks. Li said Xi's meeting with Putin, the second in six months, strongly illustrates the strategic importance of the China-Russia relationship. He used a Chinese saying to describe the two meetings: "Sowing in spring and harvesting in autumn". "Presidents Xi and Putin reached parcels of shared understanding during Xi's first state visit to Russia in early spring. Now it is time for the two leaders to summarize the progress made during that previous visit," Li said. Russia was the first country Xi visited shortly after being elected president at the annual National People's Congress in March. "China and Russia recognize each other as their most important strategic partners, and they have their soundest relations in history so far," Li said. He said the two leaders will be determined to expand on their political partnership into new areas to achieve common development and prosperity. Li said he expected they would launch more big projects, but did not give details. China and Russia have already initiated large-scale projects in oil and natural gas transportation with a pipeline from Russia to China. This summer, both countries were struck by devastating floods, but it is still not clear whether they will undertake mega projects for flood prevention. "The two have huge potential to tap into economic cooperation, built on their close political partnership, and China is willing to expand investment in Russia, especially in mega projects." Li said mega projects may help realize the goal of expanding bilateral trade volume to $100 billion in 2015 and $200 billion in 2020. China's investment in Russia in the first quarter of this year surged to $2.23 billion from $740 million in all of 2012, according to Russian statistics.

Hong Kong*:  Sept 5 2013


Cross-border chaos as children face 4-hour journey to Hong Kong schools (By Shirley Zhao Jams at checkpoints on first day of term mean trip to school for some weary pupils takes 4 hours - "Will it always be like this?" sighed Sun Yuk-hom, more than an hour late for school on the first day of term yesterday after a 4-1/2-hour journey. The six-year-old rose at 5am at his home in Longhua, Shenzhen, to get ready. But despite his early start he did not reach his school in Tai Po until almost 9.30am after delays at the heavily congested Man Kam To border crossing. "I got up so early but now I'm late," he said. "I'll wake up early every day from now." His story was typical of many of the 16,000 pupils - 3,000 more than last year - who crossed the border to attend Hong Kong schools. Many were late because of chaos at the crossings, which were jammed with buses ferrying the children to school. Their plight brought a call for government action to seek ways to ease the journey and reduce the stress on the children. The driver of Sun's bus - which took 29 pupils to Lam Tsuen Public Wong Fook Luen Memorial School - said there were about 20 nanny buses at Man Kam To, three times the number last year. Ho Man-keung said it took him an hour to pass through the Shenzhen side because only one bus lane was open. "There were never so many students crossing Man Kam To," he said. "Maybe the border control officers in Shenzhen didn't expect this either and were quite ill-prepared. The Hong Kong side was much better." It took him 25 minutes to cross the Hong Kong side. The International Social Service sent out workers to check five of the six crossings and found pupils, parents, carers and school staff had been there since 6am. Cheung Yuk-ching, director of the organisation's cross-boundary service programme, said it was chaotic at most crossings, with parents separated from their crying children, carers identifying pupils and school staff waiting anxiously. "Futian and Shenzhen Bay were especially bad," she said. "There was wave after wave of nanny buses." She said the government should seek ways to improve the situation and provide after-school support. Schools are under pressure from an influx of children born in Hong Kong to mainland parents as well as the children of local families living across the border. Another pupil at Sun's school, 10-year-old Xu Haiyu, was up at 5.30am and got on a bus that took 33 pupils through the Futian crossing. They were 10 minutes late for the 8.15am assembly. It then took her three hours to get home to Futian at about 3.30 pm - ending a 10-hour odyssey. "She looks very tired every day," said Xu's mother, Hong Sixia. "She'll fall asleep immediately after she hits the bed in the evenings at about 8.30pm." Teacher Chiu Pui-fan said they tended to miss most of the first class - starting at 8.30am - in the first month of every school year because it took time for parents, buses and in-bus caretakers to adapt to the schedule. "Last year, a parent of a cross-border child told me he had nightmares every night," said Chiu. "He didn't get enough sleep and had few friends because he didn't know much Cantonese." The school has taken about 20 new cross-border children this year in addition to the 60 previously enrolled. Another bus taking almost 30 pupils to Yan Chai Hospital Choi Hin To Primary School in Tai Po via Futian was also late, and the children missed the school's back-to-school ceremony. Education minister Eddie Ng Hak-kim, who visited a school in Tai Po, said the cross-border pupils' journey was generally safe and smooth. Undersecretary Kevin Yeung Yun-hung visited three border crossings. 

Developers may pitch in to build public flats in Hong Kong (By Olga Wong Measures under discussion include rent control and units for singles - Developers are likely to be enlisted to hasten the supply of affordable public flats, according to a government report to be released for public consultation this month. For the first time since 2002, the private sector may resume its role in the construction of subsidised flats, advisers on long-term housing have proposed. Other controversial measures up for public discussion include rent control, issuing licences for subdivided flats and creating new units in the open space of existing public estates for single applicants, the advisers say. A member of the long-term housing strategy steering committee tried to dispel fears that participating developers might cut corners. "The government can impose more stringent requirements on the design and building quality and ask developers to follow the rules," Professor Eddie Hui Chi-man said. Hui cited Aldrich Garden in Shau Kei Wan and Kornhill Gardens in Quarry Bay as good examples of units produced under a now-defunct scheme that had invited private companies to build subsidised flats. "It would be difficult for the Housing Authority to increase the supply significantly on its own," Hui said. The Private Sector Participation Scheme was introduced in 1977 to fast-track housing construction, but it ended in 2002 when the government halted the sales of subsidised flats. Although subsidised flats were again put on the market under the new administration this year, the scheme was not revived, partly because of long-running public perceptions of government favouritism towards developers. Committee members say the government is determined to speed up housing supply and may put the scheme to use again, with an improved system through better flat design and stronger monitoring. The government would set the prices of flats and developers will get the land to build on. Private developers could build subsidised flats about 30 per cent cheaper than the government and buyers were willing to pay 20 per cent more for the properties, an academic said, citing University of Hong Kong research. It is understood that the government's target for the next 10 years remains at 470,000 new homes - public housing for rent and sale as well as private flats - the figure announced by Secretary for Transport and Housing Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung last month. The city targets 20,000 public and 20,000 private homes in its current annual supply. Former lawmaker Lee Wing-tat, who runs concern group Land Watch, said the new target was too conservative and might not reduce the waiting time for a home. "It is disappointing if the government can only provide a few thousand more each year. It should have identified much more land for new flats," he said. 

 China*:  Sept 5  2013

Xi arrives in Turkmenistan on first leg of Central Asia tour (By Agence France-Presse in Ashgabat) President Xi Jinping arrived in Turkmenistan on Tuesday on the first leg of a four-nation tour of ex-Soviet Central Asia aimed at further increasing China’s influence in the region. Xi was to hold talks with Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov before heading on Wednesday to inspect the vast Galkynysh gas field in the south of the country that is being jointly developed with China’s state energy company. China is eagerly eyeing the vast oil and gas resources of ex-Soviet Central Asia for its fast growing domestic economy and is also clearly keen to assert its political influence in a strategic region which for decades was dominated by Moscow. “Relations which for long have been marked by friendship and fruitful cooperation have received a new impulse in the last years,” the Turkmen foreign ministry said in a statement ahead of the visit. Xi and Berdymukhamedov are to open a new complex of industrial buildings at the Galkynysh gas field that is estimated to have 26 trillion cubic metres of gas. Turkmenistan, which is already exporting gas to China via a pipeline whose first stage was completed in 2009, is also being courted by the European Union and Russia for its energy resources. “The bilateral talks will be a new step on the path towards a further dynamic development of dialogue based on principles of equality, mutual trust and respect of each other’s interests,” Turkmen state media quoted Berdymukhamedov as saying. After visiting Turkmenistan, Xi is expected to briefly leave Central Asia to attend the G20 summit in Saint Petersburg on Thursday and Friday. After the G20, Xi is then expected to head to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. In Kyrgyzstan, he is set to attend a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation where he will again encounter Russian President Vladimir Putin and have the chance of a first meeting with new Iranian President Hassan Rowhani.

Jiang Jiemin removed from office: authority (By Xinhua News China) Jiang Jiemin, head of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) of the State Council, and deputy secretary of the SASAC committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), has been removed from office because of suspected serious disciplinary violations. Xinhua learnt the information Tuesday from the Organization Department of the CPC Central Committee. Jiang is being probed for "grave discipline violations", a term that generally refers to corruption, according to a statement by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the Communist Party of China's graft-fighting watchdog. The duties of SASAC include supervising and managing State-owned assets, guiding and pushing forward the reform and restructuring of State-owned enterprises, and appointing and removing top executives of supervised enterprises, according to the SASAC website. Experts said the recent concentrated probes on officials and executives related to the energy sector show the country's stepped-up crackdown on corruption in State-owned monopoly industries. No details were given about the probe.

Mainland rich go to Taiwan for checkups (By Shan Juan) Taiwan is luring well-off tourists from the mainland with quality health examinations and management packages. Ever since Taiwan authorities launched a 15-day health/medical tourism permit for mainlanders last year, more than 30,000 people have traveled under the initiative, mainly for high-end physical checkups, cosmetic surgery or anti-aging therapies, according to the Taiwan External Trade Development Council. The policy, issued last year, was aimed at broadening the island's health tourism market by attracting more customers from the mainland. Currently, residents of 26 major cities on the mainland can travel to the island on an individual basis, while medical tourists can be from anywhere. Hung Tzu-Jen, general manager of the Shin Kong Medical Club of Taiwan, one of the 39 authorized medical institutions to receive such tourists, said on Friday that it has received about 3,000 since the new rule was implemented. Most were rich male entrepreneurs aged 45 to 55 from Jiangsu, Hebei and Fujian provinces, he said. The hospital focuses on early screenings for cancer and cardiovascular diseases, which have become top killers across the country. According to Hung, each customer spends 7,500 yuan ($1,230) on average for packages based on individual situations and needs. Apart from advanced equipment, "quality services, a custom-oriented approach, the highlighting of preventive care and health management, as well as promotion are the real competitive advantages," he said. One of their customers from Jiangsu said that instead of a medicine odor, the hospital gave off a pleasant coffee smell. Another customer, surnamed Liu, who went to the hospital for a health checkup package for women, said the jelly the B-scan doctor applied on her belly was warm, an unexpected and human-oriented service, as on the mainland the jelly is usually cold and feels uncomfortable. The package, mainly about early breast cancer screening, costs about 5,400 yuan, she said. Despite the rising trend, health checkup tourists from the mainland account for only 5 percent of the total at the center, Hung said. "There must be a major increase in the future," he said. International studies showed that usually about 3 percent of a developing country's rich population considers international health tourism, Hung said. "That figure should be at least 60 million in the case of mainland, which might be our potential clients," he said. He urged Taiwan authorities to boost the efforts by actively promoting the "Taiwan healthcare" brand.

China on Syria: Follow the rules (By Zhang Yuwei in New York China is "seriously concerned" about any unilateral military action against Syria, said a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman on Monday, responding to the most recent decision by US President Barack Obama to seek Congressional approval to conduct military strikes against Syria. "Any action by the international community should respect the rules of the UN charter and basic rules of international relations," Hong Lei said, adding that taking actions should avoid further complicating the Syrian issue and avoid bringing more disaster to the Middle East. Hong said the US has explained to China its evidence relating to the use of chemical weapons in Syria. The White House released a four-page report last Friday on the Syrian government's alleged use of chemical weapons on Aug 21, saying at least 1,429 civilians were killed by it. "China is firmly opposed to the use of chemical weapons by any party in Syria and expresses serious concerns about preparations by relevant countries for unilateral military action," said Hong. Obama's bid to seek Congressional support to issue military action on the Bashar al-Assad regime was echoed Monday by Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham after a meeting at the White House. But the President's decision has drawn concern from experts. "President Obama's decision to seek authorization from Congress represents a risky strategy," said Vanessa Neumann, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. "On the one hand, he is seeking to buffer himself from criticism from the American people that he is getting them into yet a third Middle Eastern war without their consent," said Neumann. "If there is blowback from the intervention, Congress will share part of the blame." Hong said that no side should rush to pre-judge the results of an investigation by UN chemical weapons experts in Syria, and that a "political solution is the only practical way" to solve the issue. China said it supports the United Nations Secretariat in carrying out an independent, objective and professional investigation on the alleged use of chemical weapons in accordance with relevant UN resolutions. On Saturday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with UN disarmament chief Angela Kane who just returned from Damascus for briefings on the chemical weapons investigation and the latest developments on the ground in Syria. The UN investigation team - which arrived on Aug 24 in Damascus - conducted a wide range of fact-finding activities pertaining to the Aug 21 incident in the Ghouta area of Syria. The inspection team, led by Swedish scientist ke Sellstrm, is now in The Hague's headquarters of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which assisted the probe with the UN World Health Organization. In a phone conversation with Ban on Sunday, Sellstrm briefed Ban on how to expedite the process of analyzing the samples in accordance with established international standards and regulations, according to a UN press release. Ban will brief the 10 non-permanent members of the Council on the latest developments Tuesday morning. Kane will also brief UN member states that wrote to Ban requesting the investigation. Last week, the British Parliament voted against military action against Syria while France - one of the five permanent members on the UN Security Council - and Turkey expressed support for the intervention. Just a day after Obama vowed to issue a military intervention in Syria seeking Congressional approval (which won't happen before Sept 9 when Congress returns from the recess), US Secretary of State John Kerry said the administration was confident of getting approval. "We don't contemplate that the Congress is going to vote no," Kerry said, adding that the President had right to take action "no matter what Congress does". Neumann, who also heads Asymmetrica, a New York-based consultancy in strategies to disrupt transnational threats to global security, said while an early intervention in Syria might have served US interests in the region, "an intervention at this point will do little to serve US interests". "Getting rid of Assad, however, does little for the civil war that will continue to rage as it evolves into a second stage confrontation between Sunni and Shia, as led by Al Qaeda and Hezbollah," said Neumann. "And for that, there is little that the US can do, as US involvement will not only have little effect on that confrontation, it might even bring Al Qaeda and Hezbollah together to battle the United States," she added.

Hong Kong*:  Sept 4 2013

University graduate, 22, is people’s choice for Miss Hong Kong 2013 (South China Morning Post) From left to right, first runner-up Sisley Choi, champion Grace Chan and second runner-up Moon Lau. Grace Chan-hoi lam is the people’s choice for Miss Hong Kong this year. The 22-year-old university graduate beat hundreds of hopefuls to win the pageant held at TVB City on Sunday. Grace, who says she enjoys singing, cooking, reading and playing the piano, hopes to become a television variety host and successful artist. First runner-up in the competition was Sisley Choi and second runner-up Moon Lau. This year's competition went without a hitch, but 2012's pageant was mired in scandal amid allegations its online voting system had been hacked. Millions of votes were recorded during the contest but the winner, 24-year-old Carat Cheung, was chosen by the five judges on stage after the widely advertised internet-based system broke down. PricewaterhouseCoopers were appointed as auditors and later found no evidence of malicious hacking. However, the investigation found that the number of votes registered "far exceeded" the system's capacity in the hour leading to its collapse.

New World sees strong response at launch of flat sales at Park Signature, Yuen Long (By Peggy Sito and Bien Perez) New World's sales event attracted many buyers. Flats at the biggest development to come to market since rules on their sale were toughened this year sold briskly yesterday. Aided by an aggressive pricing strategy, New World Development sold 82 per cent of the 238 flats that were on offer at Park Signature in Yuen Long yesterday. The flats put on sale were a fraction of the 1,620 in the development. Adrian Cheng Chi-kong, New World's executive director and joint general manager, said a second batch of flats would be offered for sale last night. The company did not say how many flats the batch would comprise. The first batch put on sale ranged from studios to four-bedroom flats, with an average price of HK$8,336 per square foot of saleable area. Franky Li, a senior marketing executive in his late 20s, said he bought a 302 sq ft flat at Park Signature for about HK$2.7 million. "I am attracted by the small lump-sum cost. That is my main reason for buying," Li said. The minimum HK$2.5 million price for a flat at Park Signature is lower than that at two other new residential projects in Yuen Long, Henderson Land Development's The Reach and New World's The Woodsville. New World said most of the buyers yesterday purchased the flats for their own use. Four buyers needed to pay a 15 per cent additional stamp duty, called buyer's stamp duty, which is levied on property purchases by non-permanent-resident and corporate buyers. More than half the buyers were from the northwest New Territories. Three were from the mainland. Thomas Lam, the head of research at property consultant Knight Frank, said Park Signature attracted many first-time buyers. "The sales are not bad, mainly because the lump-sum price is low," Lam said. "I believe new large-scale projects with a similarly [aggressive pricing] position would raise competition between developers." Developers are set to put more than 6,000 new flats on sale in Yuen Long and Tseung Kwan O in the next two years. Property transactions slowed down after the government implemented measures to curb soaring prices of flats. The Residential Properties (First-hand Sales) Ordinance, which took effect in April, requires developers to observe greater transparency in their sales procedures. Louis Chan Wing-kit, the managing director for residential sales at Centaline Property Agency, said developers might have to offer more discounts to draw buyers. "Developers will have to undercut secondary-market prices to speed up sales," he said. Meanwhile, lawmaker Abraham Razack said he would table amendments to the buyer's stamp duty when the Legislative Council resumes sitting.

Hong Kong's poverty rate halved if housing subsidies are counted, study finds (By Jennifer Ngo But welfare advocates say public housing should not be part of income calculations - Ho Hei-wah, Director, Society For Community Organization (SoCO). The number of poor in Hong Kong drops by almost half - from 1.29 million to 690,000 - if public housing subsidies are counted as part of a family's income, a study found. The figures will be presented at the launch of Hong Kong's official poverty line later this month. But experts warned against using public housing as a means of "lifting" people out of poverty, and they fear the government might use such figures to downplay the plight of the poor. Preliminary figures were unveiled in a closed-door meeting of the Commission on Poverty last month, where a report translated public housing into government subsidies by estimating the market worth of public flats and subtracting the rent paid by tenants, said a source familiar with the government figures. Ho Hei-wah, director of the Society for Community Organisation, a group that helps the underprivileged, said the report should be used for reference only. Ho said treating public housing as a subsidy and counting it as income should not be used to calculate the poverty line. Oxfam Hong Kong's director, Stephen Fisher, said the charity was also opposed to treating public housing as a subsidy. "In real life, if the poor couldn't obtain public housing, they would be renting much worse and much smaller places." Fisher said if a public housing flat in Tin Shui Wai rented for HK$1,000, but a private flat in the area cost HK$6,000, the government would assume the difference of HK$5,000 as a subsidy given to the tenant. Such a calculation halves the number of poor, but Fisher said it would not be a true reflection of poverty. Hong Kong will establish two poverty lines. The first will be set at half of median household income after taxes but before welfare payments are counted. The number of people living in poverty under this line is 1.29 million. The second line will be set at half the city's median household income, after taxes, but counting welfare payouts like the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance and disability allowance as income. The number of people living in poverty falls to just over 1 million in this calculation. Leung Cho-bun, professor of social welfare at the University of Hong Kong, said such lines were only for reference; what mattered most were effective policies to tackle poverty. "It's about having a better view of the target groups," he said. Apart from the official line, the other calculations would help in identifying the demographics of people at risk, he added. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying is likely to release details at a summit on September 28.

 China*:  Sept 4  2013

Li Na enters next round at U.S. Open - Li Na of China reacts during press conference after women's singles 4th round match against Jelena Jankovic of Serbia at the 2013 U.S. Open tennis championships.

A Long March-4C carrier rocket carrying the Yaogan XVII remote-sensing satellite blasts off from the launch pad at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan, northwest China's Gansu Province, Sept. 2, 2013. The satellite will be used to conduct scientific experiments, carry out land surveys, monitor crop yields and aid in reducing and preventing natural disasters. 

Visas for China get simplified (By Chen Jia in San Francisco Life may just have gotten a bit simpler for Americans planning a trip to China, after a new set of visa categories took effect on Sunday. "The new categories aim to streamline management while facilitating applications," said Wu Yi, head of the visa office at the Chinese consulate in San Francisco. "In recent years, we have seen a blockbuster increase in the number of Americans applying for China visas with more and more diversified purposes," he said. On Thursday, the consulate held a brief meeting for local travel agents and Chinese American community leaders to explain the latest changes to Chinese visas. Wu said that his office would place as high a value on a "serving spirit" as on "management responsibility" in implementing the new regulations. To that end, he explained, they would accept both old and new visa application forms throughout the transitional period. The Exit and Entry Administration Law of China, was adopted on June 30, 2012, and came into force July1, 2013. Laws and regulations covering foreigners applying for visas to China include four new visa categories that came into effect Sept 1. The prominent additions include a new "Q" category visa for Americans who visit their Chinese family members in China. "The Q visa holders will find their staying period in China could be more than 180 days and the visa might be valid up to five years," Wu said. Overseas experts who enrolled in China's national "1,000-Talent Program" would have a new "R" category visa as of Sept 1. That program aims to recruit talented professionals worldwide to help China achieve its goal of becoming more innovation-oriented. "I think the new visa regulations will make it easier for applicants to determine the correct visa to apply for," said Steven Hopkins, managing director of Travel Document Systems, a San Francisco-based company that helps travelers get expedited visa and passport processing. "The influx of Americans traveling to China helps encourage more Chinese to visit the US," he said. Rebecca Davis, an associate at G3 Visas & Passports Inc, said that her company processes more visa applications for China than for any other country in the world. "Over the years, we have seen a steady increase in the number of US citizens visiting China for business and tourism," she said. "We anticipate processing 20 percent more Chinese visas in 2013 than 2012." She pointed out the biggest change in the new visa application form is that applicants must now list the days that they will stay in each hotel or residence in China. "It is very convenient that all the Chinese consulates in the US will now use the same application form. Previously, the consulate in New York had a different form, and we had problems with travelers filling out the wrong application," she said. "It is also helpful that, with the addition of a few extra questions to the visa application, the need for the supplemental application for non-US citizens and applicants for work or student visas has been eliminated. Now all applicants only have to fill out one form."

Hong Kong*:  Sept 3  2013

ATV executive director James Shing resigns (By Vivienne Chow ATV executive director James Shing Pan-yu, who was described by the Communications Authority as unfit to control the station, resigned on Saturday, two days ahead of the deadline set by the authority for his removal. ATV announced the resignation on Sunday, one day after it received documents signed by Shing stating that he had resigned from the position he has held for more than three years. Only last week Shing hinted he would resign saying he was "willing to sacrifice himself for ATV". On August 23, the Communications Authority released a report on its investigation of ATV, concluding that Shing had breached the station's licensing terms by allowing investor Wong Ching to exercise de facto control over ATV. Wong and Shing are relatives. The Authority imposed a penalty of HK$1 million on ATV and ordered Shing to resign as executive director as he was no longer a “fit and proper person” as described in the Broadcasting Ordinance. Last week, commerce minister Greg So Kam-leung hammered Shing, calling him unfit for any of role at ATV and said Shing should quit all roles at the station before the Monday deadline. However, the Companies Registry as of Sunday shows that Shing remains on ATV's board of directors. ATV has yet returned calls or comment on whether Shing has also resigned from the board of directors. The broadcaster said that Shing’s executive director position has been taken over by Louie King-bun, who was appointed to the board of directors on August 23. Shing did not return calls for a comment on his resignation.

 China*:  Sept 3  2013

Games start is grand, without grandstanding (By Sun Xiaochen in Shenyang The opening ceremony of the 12th Chinese National Games is held in Shenyang, the capital of Northeast China's Liaoning province, Aug 31, 2013. China's National Games has slimmed down to a leaner form this year. The opening ceremony and event settings of the 12th staging of the country's "mini Olympics" shows a more frugal approach to the quadrennial event. Many of the 60,000 spectators at the Olympic Center Stadium in Liaoning province's capital Shenyang cheered for not only the Games' start but also for the more economical style as President Xi Jinping announced the Games' official launch on Saturday afternoon. It is the first time in 26 years the opening ceremony has been staged in the daytime - a move made to save on lighting and fireworks. The opening and closing ceremonies' total budget is 9 million yuan ($1.47 million) - 10 percent of the previous Games'. Mass calisthenics performances replaced the extravagant shows enhanced with special effects that came before 12 children lit the cauldron. "It's quite simple yet a great and economical way to kick off the event," said bank manager Yang Wannian, who brought his son to the ceremony. "I don't think it'll make the Games any less exciting." 

Hong Kong*:  Sept 2  2013

Followers farewell Hong Kong's 'White Dragon King’ in Thailand (By Vivienne Chow and Ada Lee in Pattaya) Funeral ceremony for famous showbiz prophet planned in Pattaya on Sunday - Spirat Chitvisad, wife of White Dragon King (Right) pays her respects to the "White Dragon King" Chow Yam-nam in Thailand. "White Dragon King" Chau Yum-nam ( middle, holding candle ) performs a blessing ceremony for the film, Infernal Affairs III, at the Majestic Hotel in Nathan Road back in August 2003. He was known as “White Dragon King” in the Chinese media, Hong Kong's favourite showbiz prophet who could see through the future and had the power to lead struggling actors to a bright future. But to some of his followers, the late Chau Yum-nam was a great master who taught them how to be a good person with his words of wisdom. “With a kind heart, success will come.” Lum Chun-yip pointed to the calligraphy hung in the VIP room at the Shun Tak Centre branch of Lan Fong Yuen, the famed Central dai pai dong that created “silk-stocking” milk tea. It was one of master Chau’s teachings. “My memories of Si Fu [master Chau] was not of a god, or anything supernatural like what the media describes,” said Lum, who now manages the business founded by his father Lum Muk-ho in the 1950s. “What Si Fu taught me was pretty much the same as what my parents said, but one often doesn’t like to listen to parents.” The 48-year-old Lum, who followed Chau for more than 20 years, recalled his master taught him to respect his parents, have a good heart, a good temper, keep things in order and tidy and maintain good interpersonal relationship. "I'm very grateful for his teachings over the years," said Lum. Chau was reportedly born to Chinese parents near Pattaya and worked as an electrician and perhaps a bicycle salesman. He allegedly had the vision of the spirit of great white dragon - White Dragon King - when he was 13. He built a temple when he was 28 following the dragon’s order, after surviving a fatal car accident, so that he could become the deity’s portal to earthlings. It was understood that he made some money in the stock market, married and had four daughters. He passed away at home on August 17. He was 76. The funeral ceremony will be held on Sunday. “People often call him White Dragon King, but Si Fu is Si Fu,” Lum said, in an attempt to correct the misunderstanding. He said Chau was White Dragon King only when he was working at the altar, that he could channel the deity to give blessings to followers and help those who needed help. He never asked for money in return. Chau’s desire to help people made him showbiz’s favourite prophet. Among his notable followers included the Infernal Affairs gang – investor and now tourism chief Peter Lam Kin-ngok, director Andrew Lau Wai-keung, Andy Lau Tak-wah and Tony Leung Chiu-wai, all had followed him for decades. Lam admitted it was the master who suggested he change the Chinese title of Infernal Affairs from Mo Gan Heng Tse to Mo Gan Doh. And the film was a big hit. Award-winning actress Shu Qi was also reportedly a faithful follower. At Saturday’s chanting ceremony, family and followers, including film directors Andrew Lau Wai-keung and Wong Jing, chanted for Chau in the White Dragon Temple in Pattaya. The eldest grandson of Chau, who is attending university in the United States was also seen. Hundreds of journalists from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Thailand were in the temple to cover the chanting. Hong Kong followers including businessman Albert Yeung Sau-shing and actor Timmy Hung Tin-ming had sent wreaths and banners to the temple.The celebrity effect has attracted not only more followers from all over Asia, but also the entertainment press to dramatise the master’s stories. One included Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing, who asked to see the master two weeks before he jumped from the Mandarin Oriental hotel, but the master reportedly refused, allegedly citing he could not help Cheung. While Tony Leung was reportedly one of the master’s favourites, visit from his wife Carina Lau Ka-ling was allegedly declined by the master. Lum did not like the entertainment press’ dramatisation, but he did not deny Chau had abilities beyond ordinary humans. He said when he was working as a car salesman and visited the temple for the first time with his colleagues, a man asked him if his father was born in the year of tiger, his mother year of pig and he had six siblings. “I was wandering outside and my colleagues were inside the temple. I thought my colleagues tricked me,” said Lum. It turned out the inquisitive man was the master, who later on gave him advice on how to run his business, and even cutting his hair, which he thought has improved his energy. Lum said he visited the master on the 15th day of Lunar New Year, on Dragon Boat Festival as it was the master’s birthday, and the end of August which was a regular gathering with white-clad followers at White Dragon King temple near Pattaya. Free meals were offered to those who queued up to see the master. Some followers shared similar experiences. Michelle Wong, a 32-year-old accountant, followed family friends to see the master. She said she didn’t get to speak to the master for the first two years, which was supposedly a good thing as he only spoke to those in trouble. On the third year, Wong recalled, the master spotted her from afar and asked to go up front. Then the master said to her: “You have done what you could to appease your mother, but she still doesn’t treat you the way you want. If she continues to hurt you, you should ask her if upsetting you would make her feel better. If she said yes, then let it be. You respect your mother by tolerating her.” “I burst into tears,” said Wong, who’s been troubled by a poor relationship with her mother. “Now I just try my best to tolerate my mother.” “Master wasn’t [Peter] Chan Chun-chung who asked people to dig a few holes. He gave you advice, and you could choose whether you wanted to listen. But I respected him a lot,” Wong said. 

 China*:  Sept 2  2013

China to raise subsidies for clean power generation (By Reuters in Beijing) A labourer paints part of a windmill at a wind power equipment factory in Gansu. China plans to raise subsidies for cleaner forms of electricity from September 25. China will raise subsidies for cleaner forms of electricity from September 25, the state planning agency said on Friday, in a move that could help thermal power plants meet the country’s tough new air pollution standards. China’s power plants have lobbied the government for more subsidies, saying they cannot afford to install new equipment to cut emissions because fixed power prices do not allow them to pass on the cost to consumers. The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said in a notice posted on its website that it would raise subsidies for electricity generated by renewable sources to 0.015 yuan per kilowatt hour (KWh) from 0.008 yuan. It will also raise subsidies for thermal power plants that have installed equipment designed to cut nitrogen oxide emissions and particulate matter to mandatory levels, providing 0.01 yuan per KWh, up from 0.008 yuan at present. Solar power subsidies will also be increased, it said. China’s National Energy Administration (NEA), a unit of the NDRC, launched an investigation earlier this month into the efforts by the country’s power plants to install new equipment to control pollution. The investigation came after the Ministry of Environmental Protection accused several power firms of covering up the extent of their pollution by manipulating data or tampering with mandatory sensors and control equipment, allowing them to qualify for subsidies.

Hong Kong*:  Sept 1  2013

US diplomat’s comments on Hong Kong politics ‘upset’ Beijing, says report (By Tony Cheung Report says Hart's pan-democrat poll remark and meetings with politicians led to warning - The new US consul general in Hong Kong was warned to steer clear of the city's political debate because Beijing was "extremely upset" by his remark that pan-democrats should be allowed to run for chief executive, a state-run newspaper says. The Global Times ran a commentary on its website yesterday quoting "a source close to the central government" as saying Beijing was also upset about Clifford Hart's frequent meetings with local politicians. A spokesman for the US consulate declined to confirm yesterday whether Hart had ever made a suggestion about pan-democrats' participation in the 2017 election. But he said Hart's meetings with government, business and political leaders "are the standard practice of diplomatic representatives of nations around the world … and they are important for building relationships, exchanging views, and opening lines of communication". The commentary came three days after Song Zhe, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' commissioner in Hong Kong, met Hart and told him that US personnel in Hong Kong should "refuse to do anything that would hurt Hong Kong's prosperity and stability and the overall interests of China-US relations". This was seen as a warning after New People's Party chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said Hart had told her "he hoped that people from different backgrounds can run for the election in 2017" - echoing pan-democrats' call for a fair nomination system. Veteran China watcher Johnny Lau Yui-siu agreed that Hart's veiled support for the pan-democrats could have touched nerves in Beijing. He said Beijing might think that by showing its authority, it could "scare [Hart] off". "But what the US has been doing is really common in international relations - to stand on moral high ground and call for democracy as a universal value," he said. "So instead of hitting back, it would be wiser for Beijing to engage with the moderate democrats, and make friends with them instead of pushing them towards the US." Hart has met two of the three biggest pan-democratic parties - the Democratic Party and Labour Party. The pro-establishment Liberal Party and Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong are expected to meet him next month. Lau said Beijing might also be concerned about the US consulate's high-profile Facebook page. Last Saturday, Hart's office uploaded a picture of Martin Luther King with the question "what is your dream?" The post drew more than 650 comments in four days, including 450 that said "independence of Hong Kong". 

University ‘hotels’ may face bookings clampdown (By Shirley Zhao and Johnny Tam) Questions arise over legality of independent bookings of university guest house rooms, despite the practice being common abroad - The Chinese University's Yali Guest House is open to guests with referrals from departments and university members. A spokesman at the residence office said it had stopped accepting all outside reservations since May apart from bookings referred by departments. He said the university was currently reviewing its accommodation reservations policy. According to the Hotel and Guest house Accommodation Ordinance, property owners are operating a hotel or a guest house if they provide sleeping accommodation for a fee to anyone on their premises. They must obtain a licence before offering accommodation for periods of less than 28 consecutive days. The Home Affairs Department said operating an unlicensed hotel or guest house was a criminal offence and that an offender could be fined up to HK$200,000 and jailed for two years, plus a fine of HK$20,000 for each day during which the offence continued. But whether or not any particular case had breached the ordinance was subject to individual circumstances, it said. Lawyer Vitus Leung Wing-hang said that if the guests were really related to the referrers, the practice might not be a breach of the ordinance. But he added that it was easy for anyone to ask a random university member for a reference to get around the rule. "If anyone can ask for such a favour, it'll be like a hotel," said Leung. The Chinese University's Yali Guest house, which provides 36 rooms, has also been accommodating outside guests. On its website, rooms are priced from HK$490 to HK$650 a night. The university said the guest house was set up to provide non-profit accommodation for visitors on official exchanges, and that reservations could only be made with referrals by the departments concerned, although other university members could also book rooms. The University of Hong Kong said its Robert Black College, which has 60 rooms, accepted only bookings referred by university members, except for guest house staff. The guest house's website shows referrers can be students, alumni or staff. A spokesman said the institution received about 200 visiting scholars every day, so there would not be many rooms left for other guests. He said halls and residential colleges may also accept a small number of visitors not joining in any university activity over the summer. "This is a popular practice in universities around the world," he said. It was formerly disclosed that Baptist University's NTT International House reserved 30 per cent of its 164 rooms for outsiders referred by staff, students or alumni. The university has since changed its policy to accept reservations only from those referred by its departments. Education sector legislator Ip Kin-yuen said universities had had summer accommodation arrangements for a long time, but that visitors referred guests and not outsiders. He said institutions should make it clear in their reservation policies that the residence halls or guest houses were not for the public and that their managers should follow the rules strictly when processing applications and check-ins. The University of Science and Technology and Lingnan University both said all reservations for their rooms must be made through departments or offices that issue invitations. 

Bakeries step up as mooncake sales hit hard (By Xu Donghuan Mid-Autumn Festival promotions mean mooncakes, big business and fierce competition for bakeries. This year, the competition will be even harder - as the new administration under Xi Jinping continues to push its frugality campaign, leading to a loss of big orders. It also means bakeries are being more creative and cost-conscious to win over new customers. Mid-Autumn Festival promotions mean mooncakes, big business and fierce competition for bakeries. This year, the competition will be even harder - as the new administration under Xi Jinping continues to push its frugality campaign, leading to a loss of big orders. It also means bakeries are being more creative and cost-conscious to win over new customers. In Beijing, Daoxiangcun, a 120-year-old bakery, launched its first mooncakes on August 7. This is the beginning of autumn in the lunar calendar and in line with tradition. This year the bakery is offering 32 varieties of mooncake filling. Alongside traditional ones such as egg yolk, sweet bean paste and lotus seed paste, the bakery is also putting some more contemporary cakes on its shelves - Chinese yam, blueberry and sweet potato. It has also prepared miniature mooncakes with strawberry, coffee, prunes and beef. Chinese companies could order several thousand boxes. Now they are not allowed - But the bakery's biggest innovation this year is the launch of a new, so-called Beijing-style, mooncake, with a much thicker crust and far less filling than its Cantonese counterpart. Cost-conscious customers will be happy to know the bakery is moving away from fancy and expensive gift boxes to simple wrapping. Quanjude, the famous Peking duck restaurant, has been roasting poultry for nearly 150 years. Despite being a relative newcomer to the mooncake business, it has already found support for its unique varieties. Its most popular ones are filled with roast duck meat with fragrant Chinese onion or with five different nuts. Other fillings include bean paste with blueberry and lotus seed paste with hazelnut. Its gift packages cost no more than 200 yuan (HK$250), significantly less per order since the government's campaign. (The mooncakes will not be available at the Quanjude branch in Tsim Sha Tsui.) Most of Beijing's luxury hotels offer premium mooncakes. Sofitel Wanda Beijing has seven packages this season, many featuring a blend of Chinese and Western design and flavours. They include four tea flavoured offerings, one with the famous Yunnan Pu'er, a set of eight cakes filled with stuffings as diverse as rye with coffee paste and organic rice, as well as a cartoon box for children, which contains seven small mooncakes with sweeter fillings of fruit and cream cheese. Their most interesting offer is the ornate Opera Box, containing six mooncakes with light, fruit cream fillings. The top of the box is a wooden frame with a print of a French painting, which can be kept once the cakes are finished. Inside the box are six smaller, printed containers. "What we want to achieve here is to mix Chinese tradition with a French touch," says Thomas Jouan, from Sofitel Wanda Beijing. He says all the five-star hotels in Beijing have been hit hard by the government's frugality campaign. "We lost a lot of big customers. Before, some Chinese companies could order several thousand boxes. Now they are not allowed to spend money at five-star hotels," he says. "This year will be tough. Everybody in the hotel is a salesman for the mooncakes, including our general manager."

Closure order for To Kwa Wan tenement granted (By Lai Ying-kit The building at 51 Kai Ming Street in To Kwa Wan, which the Buildings Department says is structurally unsafe, has been ordered closed. The building at 51 Kai Ming Street in To Kwa Wan, which the Buildings Department says is structurally unsafe, has been ordered closed. The Buildings Department obtained a court order to close an unsafe tenement block in To Kwa Wan on Friday, but residents and shop owners at 51 Kai Ming Street are refusing to move out. The residents said they would not move out because a transit centre, arranged by the Housing Department, in Tuen Mun where they are suppose to move to was too far away from town. They are now meeting to discuss what course of action they may take. The Buildings Department wants to take concrete samples from the building and immediately reinforce its main structure and flat balconies, which have been declared structurally unsafe. Part of the street near the building was closed off by the police on Friday morning to make way for a possible forced eviction. Buildings Department officers posted a notice on a board saying that residents could return home to pick up their belongings on Saturday and Sunday. Earlier in District Court, lawyers for the Buildings Department said it had told residents in 2010 that the building needed to be investigated for safety reasons, but the residents had ignored the department’s request until two months ago due to the lack of funds needed to hire consultants and the absence of an owners’ corporation. In June, the department commissioned a consultant to inspect the building and found the conditions of the balconies were so poor they were unsuitable for living, the lawyers told the court. The safety of old tenement buildings in the city has become an increasingly serious concern even since a 55-year-old block in To Kwa Wan collapsed and killed four people in 2010. 

 China*:  Sept 1  2013

Paris has edge over London on visa policy for Chinese tourists (By Gonzalo Toca Rey and Toh Han Shih) Chinese tourists on the River Thames in London. "Let's be perfectly clear, this is a competition with London, this is a battle between cities." So said François Navarro, the Ile-de-France regional tourist authority's spokesman, to a British newspaper. And this time he is looking to avoid a Waterloo: Paris draws one million Chinese tourists annually, 10 times more than London. Julie Chappell, marketing director at London & Partners, the official promotional organisation for the British capital, acknowledges the charm of Paris, but adds "according to the latest Globe Shopper City Index, it is London that is the best city for shopping in Europe". Thus, Chappell elaborates, it's no wonder that the Chinese tourists spent "£140 million (HK$1.68 billion) just in 2012". They appreciate "our world-class attractions and hotels with Chinese cuisine, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the Westfield Stratford City shopping complex with Chinese-speaking concierges and the UK's largest casino". Walpole, a leading British luxury industry association, and others covet Paris' success, and are lobbying the UK government to ease visa restrictions for many Chinese visitors. Currently, a mainland Chinese tourist can travel through most of Europe with a visa obtained to enter France, but will need a separate one to enter the UK. "Getting a UK visa is not only cumbersome - another expense - but also not very convenient because it's valid for just one country," warns Jens Thraenhart, co-founder of Dragon Trail, a digital marketing agency which targets affluent Chinese consumers. Comite Colbert, the French rival of Walpole, has focused on a charm offensive in China since 2003. It has organised events including the Year of China in France and the Year of France in China, as well as holding a luxury exhibition in Shanghai and a festival in Hong Kong. The competition between Paris and London is also felt at street level. The London Luxury Quarter, a platform of 42 central London streets, is trying hard to reach out to wealthy Chinese by arranging press trips, taking visitors to their best spots and reinforcing its presence on weibo. London Luxury Quarter is offering Chinese tourists private tours of high-end shops that hold royal warrants, such as Penhaligon's and Fortnum & Mason, where a three-hour tour costs £365 for up to five guests, said Mark Henderson, chairman of London Luxury Quarter. Hotels and shops in the London Luxury Quarter now have Putonghua-speaking staff to cater for Chinese customers, Henderson said. "Bond Street will shortly be launching tailored guides for international visitors. These will soon be available in simplified Chinese for guests from China." Meanwhile, Paris' Tourism Board has launched a 'City Shopping Passport' and published a guide reminding Parisians that the luxury spending of the Chinese is crucial and that "a simple smile and hello in their language will satisfy them" and how "sensitive" they are to fine food and wine. And Parisian police have promised to deploy more officers to protect tourists against pickpockets after dozens of Chinese visitors suffered robberies this year.

Li avenges US Open defeat by Robson to reach last 16 (By Agence France-Presse in New York)  Li Na celebrates a point over Laura Robson during their third-round tie at the US Open in New York. Chinese fifth seed Li Na advanced to the fourth round of the US Open on Friday, smacking 11 aces in a 6-2, 7-5 victory over British teen Laura Robson. Li avenged a third-round loss to Robson last year’s tournament and will next face either Japanese qualifier Kurumi Nara or Serbian ninth seed Jelena Jankovic for a berth in the quarter-finals. “I was really happy how I was hitting on the court,” Li said. “And I thought I served really well.” Connecting on 65 per cent of her first serves and winning all nine points when she came to the net, the 2011 French Open winner took control early and kept it most of the match. Li said that even her coach, former Justine Henin mentor Carlos Rodriguez, would have to say he liked her effort, even though she said he would have a different message for her during practice. “He would think I can come even more to the net,” she said. Li broke Robson to open the match and again in the fifth game on her way to capturing the first set after 29 minutes, aided by 15 Robson unforced errors. Robson broke for a 2-0 lead in the second set when Li sent a forehand wide but Li broke back in the fifth and again in the penultimate game for a victory that came after 81 minutes when Li swatted a second-serve ace. Robson, 19, failed to match her best Slam showings, which came last year when she made the last 16 by beating Li and in July at Wimbledon. In New York, she was the first British woman to be seeded at a Grand Slam since Jo Durie at the 1987 Australian Open. Li, 31, seeks her eighth career crown and second of the year after a home-soil title at Shenzhen. “I’m still young,” Li said. “I can do even more hard work.”

London and Paris compete to woo wealthy Chinese tourists (By Gonzalo Toca Rey) In battle of two cities, Paris draws way more of the mainland Chinese tourists shopping for luxury goods, but London is preferred for property - A shopper at a French fashion store in London's New Bond Street. Wealthy Chinese visitors are no mere hunters of brands but gatherers of luxury experience, a challenge for stores whether in London or Paris. London and Paris have been rivals for as long as anyone can remember. But there is a new front in the age-old conflict between western Europe's richest and chicest capitals: the hearts, minds and - most importantly - the wallets of Chinese tourists. The battle is fought out in a flurry of Chanel handbags and Burberry gloves - and the winner gains something much more valuable than mere prestige. French and British luxury firms are putting aside any concerns they have about the perceived lack of sophistication of Chinese tourists, not least because they account for "a third of their total sales in Europe", according to Yuval Atsmon, a partner at consultancy McKinsey in London, who previously worked in China. The main target for both capitals is the 11 per cent of Chinese tourists who, according to recent research by Hurun Report and ILTM Asia, take at least three overseas trips per year and spend more than US$10,000 on each holiday - excluding the cost of flights. Chinese spending in the West End of London was up 50 per cent in May last year on the year before, according to Jones Lang LaSalle research. At London's Heathrow Airport, Chinese shoppers account for less than 1 per cent of total traffic, yet are responsible for nearly a quarter of all sales of luxury goods, according to UK government data. The British capital has long experience of rolling out the red carper to mega-rich foreigners - making it a favourite for everyone from the oil-rich Arabs of the 1970s to the Russian oligarchs of more modern times. Boutique travel agency Hurlingham specialises in tailoring London visits for wealthy tourists, including Chinese officials. Managing director Andrew Barker says visitors will be met with a luxurious Mercedes-Benz limousine at the airport and enjoy private visits to top museums before settling down to exclusive fashion shows featuring "five to six well-known promising designers" as they settle back, sip champagne and decide what to buy. Among the first ports of call for most Chinese visitors is Harrods, the eminent Knightsbridge department store that has served royalty and nobility since 1834. "It appeals to their need to display status through a typically baroque British approach to luxury," says Susana Campuzano, director of the IE Business School's luxury programme and founder of the consulting firm Luxury Advise. However, they show little in common with the ostentatious, big-spending characters of Kevin Kwan's hit novel Crazy Rich Asians. In fact, Barker notes: "They are direct, price-sensitive consumers." A favourite with many of Barker's customers is Bicester Village, an outlet an hour's drive from London offering high-end clothing and accessories from brands such as Burberry or Bottega Veneta for one-fifth of the price in China. But try as it might, London's exclusive hotels, world-class shoemakers and fine, gourmet cuisine just aren't enough to compete with French savoir faire in the Chinese market. "Luxury was born in France," as Campuzano puts it. For Claudia D'Arpizio, a director responsible for luxury brands at consultancy Bain & Company, affluent Chinese love to surround themselves with "the best of the West" - and prefer to do so by experiencing the brands in the countries they come from. "They have also come to appreciate the expertise, service advice and sophistication of the staff at exclusive boutiques in Europe, who are better trained to explain to their clients the history of the brand," Atsmon says. The last five years have seen China's wealthy evolve from hunters of big brands to gatherers, who like to experience luxury. Campuzano says that means Chinese consumers now demand to know not just about the brand, but about the high standards involved in the design and crafting of its products. "Store salespeople should spend time with these clients explaining to them all they need to know in the more intimate environment of a private room, because if you rush them, you'll lose them all," Campazano warns. But how can London and Paris storeholders identify a wealthy Chinese customer who is eager to listen and has the deep pockets needed to buy? Campuzano, who advises luxury shops and department stores, underscores that "their staffs are skilled to sound potential clients out with appropriate questions before ushering them into a private VIP room". However, asking smart questions is not enough. High-end firms are busy digitising information on their best clients, which they could use to sound a red alert when a super-rich lady from Shanghai passes through the doors of one of their stores in Europe. Brands such as Chanel or Louis Vuitton have also partnered with top hotels in order to make them lead deep-pocketed visitors straight to their lavish shop windows. One area where Chinese would prefer to spend their money in London, rather than Paris, is in the housing market. London accounted for 80 per cent of all Chinese property investment in Europe over the past five years, according to a report by LaSalle and Real Capital Analytics. Buying prime property is sometimes used as a fast track to get a visa: the UK grants residency permits to Chinese owners with over 20 million yuan (HK$25 million) in net assets in the nation, provided that they also borrow 10 million yuan from a local bank. Hurlingham's Barker says he is more open to introducing Chinese clients to sellers of exclusive properties than a French agent might be. "They will find London's luxury far more accommodating than that of Paris," he says. Additional reporting by Toh Han Shih. 

Zhou Yongkang corruption probe likely to be ‘one-off’ (South China Morning Post) While inquiry into ex-security tsar has broken agreement protecting top officials, further moves against senior leaders are unlikely, say analysts - Zhou Yongkang with Xi Jinping at the NPC in March. The corruption probe into former public security tsar Zhou Yongkang will not lead to investigations of other top party leaders, even though it has broken a long-standing agreement protecting the most powerful officials from scrutiny, political analysts said. The move against Zhou - one of the nine members of the Politburo Standing Committee under former president Hu Jintao - was endorsed after intense discussion during the party's key annual meeting at Beidaihe in Hebei. The investigation of Zhou, first reported by the South China Morning Post yesterday, would represent the first time a current or former member of the Politburo's supreme Standing Committee has been probed for economic crimes. "If we apply the same criteria, even more senior officials should be investigated," said Li Xigen, an associate professor at the City University of Hong Kong. "But I don't believe the authorities are willing or able to launch another investigation of this scale." Other analysts agreed Zhou's case was a one-off. They said Zhou was being probed because he had become politically vulnerable and the signs of corruption were too strong to ignore. Zhang Lifan , a historian and political commentator, said: "From a [broader] political perspective, investigating Zhou will bring an end to the tacit agreement not to investigate a Politburo Standing Committee member [for corruption]. "This case will set an important precedent. There won't be any untouchable in the future political struggles." Some Standing Committee members have been purged and even prosecuted - especially during the Cultural Revolution - but their cases were related to ideology or management failings, not corruption. Zhang Ming , a professor of political science at Renmin University, said that top party leaders agreed not to initiate criminal investigations against each other after the Cultural Revolution. The move was designed to restore political stability and bring the warring factions back under a single banner. "This [case], if it is true, would break this tradition," Zhang said. "The future political struggle will become more intense." The probe of Zhou is bound to raise people's expectations about what could be in store for other top leaders facing questions about the sources of their family's wealth. The New York Times reported last year that the family of the then premier, Wen Jiabao , had accumulated a vast hidden fortune, a claim the Wen family has denied through lawyers. Jia Qinglin - who once ranked fourth in the power hierarchy - has been dogged by questions about corruption that happened under his watch as party secretary of Fujian . President Xi Jinping , who pledged to clean up corruption when he came to power, needs to score a big and early victory to galvanise his campaign. "Different camps must have their own reasons for bringing down Zhou," said Steve Tsang, head of the China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham. "But one common ground shared by everyone is how much Zhou is disliked and how he lost respect among his colleagues - retired or sitting. I can see why Xi [Jinping] finds him an easy target," Tsang said. Tsang said even former president Jiang Zemin - the political patron of Zhou - wanted to distance himself from the unpopular security chief. He added: "[Jiang] does not want to be weakened by the Zhou case. He can take the moral high ground and let Zhou go. There is not a single compelling reason for him to defend Zhou." With another key Zhou ally, disgraced former Politburo member Bo Xilai , being tried for corruption last week, Zhou was left in the no-man's land of Chinese politics. "[By investigating Zhou], Xi will firmly establish himself as a powerful leader, not just a 'first among equals' like Hu Jintao," he said. A professor in Shanghai, who declined to be named, said: "Investigating Zhou is in line with Xi's character and his upbringing as a princeling" - referring to the president's confidence in his mandate to rule. Sources and analysts all said a case like this would take months to prepare and probably started well before the trial of Bo. But they said Beijing would not publicise Zhou's case with Bo's trial only just completed. "They will have to wait until Bo's case is firmly behind us, otherwise the political impact will be too great," said the professor in Shanghai. Tsang said Beijing needed to carefully evaluate all the possible reactions and would announce it only when it has the full confidence that everything will be under control. "To bring Zhou down as the biggest tiger, it would have to be a public affair. To maximise the impact, this [announcement] would be timed for a later date, after the public have fully taken on board the effect of Bo's trial," he said. Regardless of Zhou's fate, the probe will have wider implications. The Shanghai professor said: "It will trigger public anger over the injustice and wrongdoings in China's legal and law enforcement sector [which Zhou controlled for a decade]. It may trigger a bigger [than expected] reaction from the public."

New trademark law to curb infringements (By Xinhua) China's legislature on Friday passed a new trademark law to crack down on infringements and ensure a fair market for trademark holders. After three readings over the past two years, the revised law was passed at the bimonthly session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature. The new law raised the compensation ceiling for a trademark infringement to 3 million yuan ($500,000), six times the previous limit. The revision was based on comments from lawmakers, experts and representatives of businesses and trademark agencies from China and abroad, said Wang Qing, an official with the the Legal Affairs Commission of the NPC Standing Committee. The new law added that trademark agencies are not allowed to accept entrustment if they know or should know that their clients are conducting a malicious registration or infringing on the trademark rights of others. Agencies violating the law will face fines and a bad credit record filed by industrial and commercial authorities. Those involved in serious cases will have their businesses suspended. The new law also offers protection for renowned trademarks, giving owners the right to ban others from registering their trademarks or using similar ones -- even if such brand names are not registered. But the words "renowned trademark" shall not be used in promotions or advertising. The draft also changed clauses regarding the examination period of applications for trademark registration to make it more efficient. China adopted its Trademark Law in 1982 and made amendments in 1993 and 2001. As of June this year, China held the world's largest number of registered trademarks and valid trademark registrations, at 8.17 million and 6.8 million respectively, according to latest official statistics.

Chinese Films in the US: Not a full house (By Wang Jun and Liu Yiyi) A poster in the lobby of AMC Atlantic Times Square Theater in Los Angeles advertises the Chinese-language movie The Grandmaster. More movies from China are released, but they aren't attracting Westerners, causing box-office receipts to tumble, report Wang Jun and Liu Yiyi from Los Angeles. Walk through the lobby of AMC Atlantic Times Square Theater in Los Angeles on a Friday night and you may wonder whether you are in China. Huge posters of Chinese movies are on the walls and at least one of its 14 theaters is full of young Chinese adults watching Chinese movies recently released on the big screen in China, such as The Rooftop, Tiny Times, Drug War and The Grandmaster. "This situation is hard to be imagined even three years ago," said Robert Lundberg, vice-president of China Lion Entertainment, a leading Chinese film distributor in the US. "There were only two or three Chinese movies released a year in certain locations three years ago. But now, there is always at least one Chinese-language film in theaters." Ironically, that audience is one of the major challenges facing movies made in China: There aren't Westerners there and it's causing box-office receipts to suffer. According to the statistics from EntGroup, revenue from Chinese films in the US fell to 860 Million yuan (about $140 million) in 2011 from about $200 million in 2010. International revenue for Chinese films declined to about $170 million in 2012 from about $330 million in 2011, according to Silver Paper: Report on International Spread of Chinese Movies 2012. "The audience was very different dating back to the '90s from today's Chinese movies," said Stanley Rosen, professor of political science at the University of Southern California. "Most of the audience for the films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon were Americans, but for the movies today, very few Westerners go to see them. The main audiences of today's Chinese films are Chinese in the US, mainly Chinese students. The market for Chinese films became very limited outside the Chinese community. The Chinese films today are played only in a very limited number of theaters and last for a very short time." According to Box Office Mojo, in the US Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was played in 2,027 theaters and Miramax's popular Chinese film Hero was played in 2,175 theaters. While two recent Chinese films Lost in Thailand and So Young were played in only 35 and three theaters respectively. 

Hong Kong*:  Aug 31  2013

K Wah International gloomy about Hong Kong property as it reports profit slump (By Yvonne Liu Firm says first-half sales fell 16pc to HK$3.31b and warns that city's home prices could fall 20pc because of government's cooling measures - K Wah International forecasts Hong Kong property prices to fall 10 per cent to 20 per cent if the government keeps its cooling measures in place. "Property prices will drop," the firm's chairman, Lui Che-woo, said yesterday while announcing half-year earnings that included a 16 per cent drop in revenue. "The government's cooling measures are aimed at lowering prices so that people can buy their own flats. But the cost of construction is rising. We hope the government releases more sites for sale, in order to lower land costs. It would help us to offset the impact of rising development costs." The company said its net profit plunged 69 per cent to HK$888 million in the first half as sales dropped to HK$3.31 billion. Executive director Alexander Lui Yiu-wah said he expected the luxury residential market to be "quiet" over the next two years. K Wah generated HK$3.1 billion from contracted sales in the first half, of which some HK$1.8 billion were booked in the period. The company plans to increase its investment property portfolio from 120,000 square metres to 200,000 sq m over the next three to five years. "Most of our luxury projects were released to the market in 2012 and only special flats are left," said Paddy Lui Wai-yu, another executive director. "The sites we bought recently are aimed at end-users. They could meet the market's needs." The firm will keep some of the flats at The Palace and Grand Summit, two residential projects in Shanghai, to develop into serviced apartments. The serviced apartment plan has a total floor area of 50,000 square metres. "We are aiming at generating higher recurring income by reserving parts of the properties in prime locations," she added. One of the firm's major investment properties is K Wah Centre in Shanghai. "Most of our luxury flats were sold last year. That caused the contribution from Hong Kong properties to drop this year. But we hope to launch a mass residential project in Tseung Kwan O and a luxury project at Grampian Road next year," Alexander Lui said, adding that the Tseung Kwan O project would have 400 to 500 flats. The developer plans to start selling flats in a new luxury project in Tai Po in the second half of the year. Paddy Lui said the company was optimistic about the mainland market for the second half. "Property sales have been strong, better than expected. We hope the growth can offset the impact of cooling measures on Hong Kong property sales." The company declared an interim dividend of five HK cents a share, the same as last year. Shares in K Wah International edged up 0.55 per cent to close at HK$3.66 yesterday. The Hang Seng Index rose 0.8 per cent.

Commerce ministry targets investment teams sent to Hong Kong, Macau (By Daniel Ren The Ministry of Commerce has pledged to rein in extravagance by local government delegations sent to Hong Kong and Macau to drum up investment, following a highly critical article about such trips in People's Daily. Yao Jian, a ministry spokesman, told a press conference that Beijing was aware of the overblown nature of business delegations visiting Hong Kong and Macau, pointing out that some local governments had overstated the number of participants and the value of deals signed during their promotional activities. They were desperate to get a big number of foreign businesspeople attending the events and re-signed agreements which had previously been sealed to shore up the total transaction value - "They were desperate to get a big number of foreign businesspeople attending the events and re-signed agreements which had previously been sealed to shore up the total transaction value," Yao said, according to a statement on the ministry's website. "The phenomenon reflects a severe level of artificiality and extravagance." He added that the ministry would do its utmost to avoid wasting public funds. His remarks followed the flagship newspaper's harsh criticism on Monday of investment delegations travelling to Hong Kong. This was the first time that a Communist Party mouthpiece had fired a salvo at such investment-promotion practices. People'sDaily also said anti-graft officials would investigate and punish those who outrageously wasted money on trips, because their behaviour tainted the government's image. Over the past three decades, Beijing has encouraged local governments to look outward to attract foreign investment. Foreign direct investment is a key economic indicator used to gauge officials' performance, and dozens of delegations from local governments flock to Hong Kong every year to seek such investments. Yao admitted that the delegations played a positive role in spurring the nation's economic growth and creating jobs. But he added: "As superficiality and lavish spending characterised such investment promotion activities, it is necessary to enhance oversight of the practices." The People's Daily article and the remarks by Yao were fresh signs that the central leadership is stepping up efforts to cut down on extravagance. Previously, investment junkets were believed to be immune from the campaign against official extravagance. The People's Daily said business delegations stayed in five-star hotels and invited businessmen to expensive restaurants, spending as much as 1,000 yuan (HK$1,260) per head for a breakfast meeting. It is also an open secret that government officials on these delegations snap up luxury items for their own use during the trips. Yao said the ministry was drawing up guidelines governing investment delegations that would require local governments to focus on foreign-funded projects to ensure that funds were used properly.

It’s true, Hong Kong’s a better place to live than five years ago, report says (By Jennifer Ngo Hong Kong appears to have become a better place to live compared to five years ago, an international think tank says in its annual report on 140 cities. Worldwide, the city is ranked 31st in the latest "liveability" ratings - up 10 places from 2008, despite the world becoming a less habitable place in general, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) said. Hong Kong scored full marks for education, compared with 83.3 out of 100 for Singapore, which was up two places to 52. However, City University economist Chan Yan-chong sounded a note of caution, pointing out that the report reflected only the opinions of English speakers. Each of the 140 cities rated were given a score out of 100 for each category, based on the judgment of the EIU's in-house analysts and in-city contributors. That meant the rankings relied on the perceptions of the unit's own analysts instead of being survey-based, Chan said. EIU economist Edward Bell said the ranking "is geared towards the challenges for somebody not from that city to live there; what they would be anticipating and looking forward to if they move there". He added: "Ratings reflect specific improvements in the quality [of living], or the deterioration in other cities." The report considered more than 30 factors broadly grouped under stability, health care, culture and environment, education and infrastructure. Melbourne, Australia, ranked first, with Vienna second and Vancouver third. Hong Kong scored higher than Singapore in four of the five categories. The city scored 92 for overall liveability, while Singapore scored 88.7. "There is no objectivity [when comparing cities]; it always depends on who you ask," Chan said. Both places scored 87.5 for health care. Chan said Singapore's health care had been developed as an industry, so basic medical services and hospital beds were much more expensive than Hong Kong, which had one of the cheapest public medical services in the world. Chan said pupils in Singapore were known for good exam grades; however, they were under more pressure than those in Hong Kong as they had four public exams - two in primary school and two in secondary school - before they even entered university.

Chinese shoppers set to become world leaders online (Reuters in Shanghai) China’s e-commerce market is expected to leapfrog that of the United States this year to become the world’s largest by total customer spending, management consultancy firm Bain & Company says, and could account for half of all Chinese retail spending within a decade. The change in shopping habits comes as almost half of the country’s 1.3 billion population now have direct access to the internet, and of that number nearly 80 per cent own smart phones or tablets. China’s e-commerce market has grown at an average rate of 71 per cent from 2009 to last year, versus 13 per cent in America, and its total size is expected to reach 3.3 trillion yuan (HK$4.18 trillion) by 2015, Bain & Company said in a report released on Wednesday. Total spending by Chinese consumers on online shopping reached US$212.4 billion last year, compared to US$228.7 billion in the US, the report said. Chinese companies with retail outlets have had to realign their sales strategies to compete with online rivals who threaten to undercut them in an increasingly competitive market long dominated by e-commerce company Alibaba Group, and others like 360Buy Jingdong. “It’s a massive change. It just means you need to be on the web, whether you like it or not,” said Serge Hoffmann, a partner at Bain and co-author of the report. “Whether you’re an online player or an offline player, you need to have a meaningful, credible presence on the web.” While still a small portion of total revenues, the growth of online sales is far outpacing offline sales growth. Haier Electronics Group, which operates an online stall on Alibaba’s business-to-consumer site, saw its e-commerce revenue jump almost 500 per cent to 633 million yuan, or two per cent of its total revenue, in the first half of this year, from 106 million yuan in the same period last year. Its total revenue grew 10.2 per cent. Suning Commerce Group saw its e-commerce business rise to 10.6 billion yuan in the first half of this year, an increase of 101 per cent on the same period last year. Soon retail companies may have to take a leap of faith, shutting their bricks and mortar outlets to reduce overhead costs and hope that customers will turn to their online stores, said Nicholas Studholme-Wilson, a senior analyst at Sun Hung Kai Financial in Hong Kong. Alibaba, whose Taobao customer-to-customer website is the world’s 10th most visited according to web monitor Alexa, predicts e-commerce will account for half of all Chinese retail spending in 10 years, from six per cent now. “Proliferation of smart devices mean everybody is connected at all times, that’s one of the key drivers for this,” said Studholme-Wilson. “Another problem you’ve got in China is that retail is so damn expensive. Land costs and labour costs are all really hurting margins. Whereas it’s actually very easy to set up a shop on Tmall and your costs are massively reduced,” he said. Infrastructure obstacles. Logistics, however, pose a major obstacle to e-commerce development, and Alibaba is now working with Chinese logistics firms to improve nationwide infrastructure and delivery networks, said Shih. Gome Electrical Appliances, whose online revenue now accounts for five to six per cent of its total earnings of 27 billion yuan, is changing its retail strategy to accommodate the new wave of online customers. The firm closed a total of 35 stores in the first half of this year, said Helen Song, a spokeswoman for Gome. Now the company plans to continue moving away from its physical business to better supply China’s rapidly changing consumer habits.

Tycoon Li Ka-shing still paying down HKU's medical school donation (By Lai Ying-kit Hong Kong’s richest man Li Ka-shing is still paying down the HK$1 billion donation he promised to the University of Hong Kong’s medical school eight years ago, the institution’s vice chancellor said on Wednesday. HKU’s medical faculty in 2005 was renamed as the Li Ka-shing Faculty of Medicine in recognition of the property tycoon’s promised donation. Speaking at a media session during the university’s inauguration ceremony, vice chancellor Tsui Lap-chee said the university had not yet received the entire donation, which was being paid in instalments. Tsui declined to reveal how much Li had already paid, saying this was part of an agreement with the businessman. “Mr Li has not renegaded on his promise with us and has continuously donated to us,” Tsui said. Legislator Kwok Ka-ki, a HKU medical school alumnus who had opposed the renaming medical school, said he was shocked to learn the university had not received the full donation after eight years. He said in doing so Li had disappointed other alumni and teachers. Li, 85, ranks as the eighth richest person on the 2013 Forbes’ world billionaires list with an estimated wealth of US$31 billion (HK$241.8 billion). 

US diplomat warned to avoid Hong Kong's political reform debate (By Tony Cheung Beijing’s top diplomat in Hong Kong warned the American consul general to stay out of the city’s debate on constitutional development and refrain from doing anything that could harm Sino-US relations. Song Zhe, the commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong, made the remarks on Tuesday less than a month after the new United States Consul General Clifford Hart said that he looked forward to Hongkongers’ move toward “genuine democratic suffrage”. The Chinese commissioner’s office reported on its website on Tuesday that during a meeting with Hart on the same day, Song briefed him on “the successful implementation of the ‘one country, two systems’ policy in Hong Kong and stated the central government’s position on relevant issues.” “Song emphasised that the development of the political system in Hong Kong is an internal affair. Foreign governments and officials should not interfere. The Chinese side is firmly against the interference in Hong Kong’s affairs by any outside forces that disregard the Basic Law and the relevant decisions made by the standing committee of the National People’s Congress. “[Song] hoped that US representatives and personnel in Hong Kong respect the ‘one country, two systems’ [framework and] … refuse to use any excuses to conduct undue activities … that would hurt Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability, and the overall interests of China-US relations.” This is the third time in four months that the foreign ministry’s representative has hit back at the United States’ most senior diplomat in the city. On May 16 and July 19, a spokesman from Song’s office said that no foreign government or official should “make reckless comments" about constitutional development here. This came after Hart’s predecessor Stephen Young said preparations to engage all parties in discussions on electoral reform should begin as early as possible. Hart, a Putonghua-speaking diplomat with 30 years’ experience, including five postings in China, arrived in Hong Kong last month to replace Young, who left the post in June. In his arrival statement on July 31, Hart said he felt honoured to “be here for the next phase of Hong Kong’s democratic development and progress towards genuine universal suffrage under the ‘one country, two systems' framework”. On Wednesday, in response to Song’s statements, a spokesman for the US consulate said that the United States’ long-standing policy toward Hong Kong was unchanged. “[We] look forward to Hong Kong’s continued progress toward genuine universal suffrage … in accordance with the Basic Law … and the aspirations of the Hong Kong people,” he said. One of the new consul general’s top priorities is expected to involve the rebuilding of trust between US legal authorities and Hong Kong law enforcement officials following the strains that developed over the departure of whistle-blower Edward Snowden from Hong Kong in June. Snowden was allowed to leave the city despite Washington’s request that he be detained on espionage charges and extradited back to the US.


US diplomat warned to avoid Hong Kong's political reform debate (By Tony Cheung Beijing’s top diplomat in Hong Kong warned the American consul general to stay out of the city’s debate on constitutional development and refrain from doing anything that could harm Sino-US relations. Song Zhe, the commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong, made the remarks on Tuesday less than a month after the new United States Consul General Clifford Hart said that he looked forward to Hongkongers’ move toward “genuine democratic suffrage”. The Chinese commissioner’s office reported on its website on Tuesday that during a meeting with Hart on the same day, Song briefed him on “the successful implementation of the ‘one country, two systems’ policy in Hong Kong and stated the central government’s position on relevant issues.” “Song emphasised that the development of the political system in Hong Kong is an internal affair. Foreign governments and officials should not interfere. The Chinese side is firmly against the interference in Hong Kong’s affairs by any outside forces that disregard the Basic Law and the relevant decisions made by the standing committee of the National People’s Congress. “[Song] hoped that US representatives and personnel in Hong Kong respect the ‘one country, two systems’ [framework and] … refuse to use any excuses to conduct undue activities … that would hurt Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability, and the overall interests of China-US relations.” This is the third time in four months that the foreign ministry’s representative has hit back at the United States’ most senior diplomat in the city. On May 16 and July 19, a spokesman from Song’s office said that no foreign government or official should “make reckless comments" about constitutional development here. This came after Hart’s predecessor Stephen Young said preparations to engage all parties in discussions on electoral reform should begin as early as possible. Hart, a Putonghua-speaking diplomat with 30 years’ experience, including five postings in China, arrived in Hong Kong last month to replace Young, who left the post in June. In his arrival statement on July 31, Hart said he felt honoured to “be here for the next phase of Hong Kong’s democratic development and progress towards genuine universal suffrage under the ‘one country, two systems' framework”. On Wednesday, in response to Song’s statements, a spokesman for the US consulate said that the United States’ long-standing policy toward Hong Kong was unchanged. “[We] look forward to Hong Kong’s continued progress toward genuine universal suffrage … in accordance with the Basic Law … and the aspirations of the Hong Kong people,” he said. One of the new consul general’s top priorities is expected to involve the rebuilding of trust between US legal authorities and Hong Kong law enforcement officials following the strains that developed over the departure of whistle-blower Edward Snowden from Hong Kong in June. Snowden was allowed to leave the city despite Washington’s request that he be detained on espionage charges and extradited back to the US.

Hong Kong ‘drug mule’ held at Beijing airport in record cocaine seizure (By Patrick Boehler Customs seized 24.6kg of cocaine headed for Hong Kong - A 63-year old man has been detained in Beijing in what authorities have called one of the most brazen attempts to smuggle drugs through the Chinese capital’s airport and into Hong Kong. Police say the Hong Kong resident, identified only by his last name Huang, or "Wong" in Cantonese, attempted to smuggle 24.6kg of cocaine from Brazil to Hong Kong on Tuesday last week, according to a report in the Beijing Times this Thursday. The report said it was the largest amount of cocaine ever seized by customs officers at the airport. The Hongkonger, who identified himself as a gem trader, said he had been offered HK$30,000 and free flights by a friend for bringing two suitcases from Brazil. He told police he did not know he was transporting narcotics, according to the report. The man had left Brazil’s largest city, Sao Paolo, for the Spanish capital Madrid, where he transferred to a flight to the Chinese capital. He was supposed to continue his journey to Hong Kong from Beijing. His capture comes after a series of large drug busts at Chek Lap Kok airport in Hong Kong. Over the last weeks, at least six people have been arrested for attempting to smuggle large amounts of narcotics into the city. On August 13, a 35-year-old Hong Kong traveller and a 22-year-old Russian woman were separately arrested by Hong Kong police for smuggling a total of 60kg of cocaine from Brazil. Both had used the same route Wong had intended using. Transit luggage is generally not inspected at Beijing’s main airport, the deputy head of the airport’s customs office, Sun Minghui, told the Times. Earlier drug busts had alerted Beijing customs to the smuggling route, he said, and allowed them to focus on passengers coming from Latin American destinations. If prosecuted and convicted, Wong could face the death penality. Hong Kong’s maximum penalty for drug trafficking is life imprisonment and a fine of up to HK$5 million. The amount of narcotics smuggled into Hong Kong has increased considerably since 2011. Last year, customs seized narcotics worth HK$1.02 billion, an increase of 413 per cent compared to the previous year, according to statistics by the Customs and Excise Department.

 China*:  Aug 31  2013

Zheng says ‘sorry’ for ousting Venus from US Open (By Associated Press in New York) Chinese defeats seven-time grand slam winner in a contest lasting just over three hours, the fifth-longest women's match at US Open since 1970 - "I'm sorry guys," China's Zheng Jie told the Flushing Meadows crowd after stunning home favourite Venus Williams - and perhaps ending the two-time champion's US Open career. Zheng dumped out the seven-time grand slam winner 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (7-5) after an epic match lasting just over three hours, tied for the fifth-longest women's match since 1970 at the tournament. At 33, and slowed down in the past couple of years by an auto-immune disease that saps energy, and hampered much of this season by a bad back, Williams was asked what the future holds for her at the US Open. In one breath, Williams brushed aside the unspoken reference to retirement, saying: "I definitely want to come back for the atmosphere." And in the next, she added: "I mean, next year's Open is so far away right now." Defeat to the 56th-ranked Zheng was the third year in a row that Williams is out after two rounds. "If I didn't think I had anything in the tank, I wouldn't be here," said Williams, who was ranked No 1 in 2002 and is currently 60th. "I feel like I do, and that's why I'm here." The American acquitted herself well for stretches, erasing deficits over and over again, until she simply ran out of solutions against Zheng. "I just kept trying to fight today," Williams said. The third set alone lasted 1½ hours. "I was like, 'Wow, this is a marathon'," Williams said. Near the finish line, she faltered. On the final two points, Williams missed a volley, then a return. She wound up with 44 unforced errors in all, half on forehands, in part because Zheng kept scrambling along the baseline to get to balls and block them back, making Williams hit extra shots. During her on-court interview, Zheng addressed the partisan crowd that was raucously pulling for Williams in Louis Armstrong Stadium, apologising then adding: "She is a very good player but I wanted to win also." Every point Williams won, it seemed, drew clapping and screaming from on-their-feet spectators. "I love that. I wish I could play some more for that," Williams said. "I want to come back here just for that, at this point." Zheng led 4-1 in the tiebreaker, before Williams made one last stand. But at 5-5, Williams put a backhand volley into the net as she lost her footing. "I should have made the shot," Williams said. "I was just rushing." That gave Zheng her first match point, and Williams' backhand return missed, ending her stay in the singles draw as Zheng jumped for joy in triumph. "Today is a tough match for me. Unbelievable I can beat her," Zheng said. "The second set I lost my concentration and she played so great. The final set we were fighting each other. I think this is very good for me and will help me for the next match." Zheng now plays Spanish 18th seed Carla Suarez Navarro. Williams hasn't been ranked in the top 10 in 2½ years. The last time she made it beyond the third round at a major tournament was a fourth-round appearance at Wimbledon in 2011. At the 2011 US Open, Williams withdrew before her second-round match, announcing she had Sjogren's syndrome, an illness that causes joint pain and fatigue. "I feel like it's definitely affected my game, but I'm working on it," she added. "I'm a fighter."

China snubs Philippine president over visit to Nanning expo (By Raissa Robles in Manila and Teddy Ng) President urged to visit China at more conducive time; trade minister to go instead - China has asked Philippine President Benigno Aquino to postpone a visit next week for the opening of a trade fair, Manila said yesterday, an unprecedented snub by Beijing as relations sour over territorial disputes in the South China Sea. "China's request was for the president to visit China at a more conducive time," Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez told the South China Morning Post in reply to whether Aquino had been specifically asked to drop his China visit. Hernandez said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi relayed the request to Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario on Wednesday night, hours after President Aquino himself announced his trip to Nanning to head the delegation to the China-Asean Expo, where the Philippines is this year's "country of honour". Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo will represent the president at the September 3-6 event, said Hernandez, who was among Asean foreign ministers in Beijing for a meeting with the Chinese foreign minister. China's Foreign Ministry told Reuters it had never invited Aquino in the first place. In a statement to the Post, the Foreign Ministry added: "The Philippines should work with China to remove difficulties and disturbances, and make concrete efforts for resuming the healthy and stable development of the Sino-Philippine relationship." Hernandez said: "The president has decided not to proceed to CAEXPO taking into consideration China's request … On the part of the Philippines, we will continue to abide by our principled position that bilateral relations can advance despite differences." The president announced his China trip at the start of a speech at his office in Malacanang Palace. "I will leave at 5am, I will return at 5pm [because] we don't want to overstay our welcome there," he said. Du Jifeng , an expert in Southeast Asian affairs at the Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said it was rare for Beijing to reject visits by foreign leaders. "It indicates that Beijing is increasingly frustrated with Manila," Du said. Professor Su Hao , of China Foreign Affairs University, said: "Beijing gave a high reception to Aquino two years ago, and the two nations signed many deals. But Aquino put up tough rhetoric against China as soon as he was back home."

Visa issues for foreigners resolved in new policy (By CAO YIN) Foreigners' original visas will remain valid when they intend to extend their stay in China starting in September, Beijing's exit-entry administration said on Thursday. Currently, if foreign nationals want to prolong their stays in the country, their original visas, whether expired or not, must be canceled, according to the administration under the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau. "It was inconvenient and became the main target of most foreigners' complaints," said Chen Yan, a police officer who processes foreigners' visas. That problem will be resolved when a revised regulation on exit-entry management for foreigners takes effect on Sept 1. Under the regulation, if foreigners apply to lengthen their stay in the country with unexpired visas, they can apply for a stay-time extension, "which means they can continue to use the old visas," she explained. "The original visas will remain valid, and the original entry time will not be affected," she said. Also, foreigners should submit their passports and be given a receipt as they apply for extensions, changes and replacements of residence visas. Exit-entry administrations will hand their cases within 15 working days. The administration will print foreigners' photos on the receipt, helping other departments confirm applicants' identities. "The receipt will remain valid while police officers process the application," she said. Chen added that enforcement of the new policy may be similar across the country, but the workload in big cities will increase. But she said that where the receipt can be used and its effectiveness need further review, "since the matter not only concerns exit-entry administrations, but also other ministries, such as transportation departments," she said. Henry Manner, a citizen of Finland who runs a business in Tianjin, said he doesn't think the coming regulation will create much inconvenience for him. "Everyone knows, the faster the better. But if you make plans in advance, it won't affect you much," he said. To better solve foreign applicants' issues, the administration in the capital has provided weekly training sessions since July, said Liu Xiaozheng, an office worker at the authority's foreign visa department. "We have posted changes in the coming regulation in English on electronic screens of our administration's hall, and dispatched more police officers to do consultant services," she said. In addition, the administration's official micro blog will be online starting Sept 1 on Sina Weibo, China's equivalent to Twitter, giving explanations of the new policy and answering questions from foreigners, said Yang Yang, an employee of the administration. Three police officers, who can interact with netizens in English, will be responsible for maintaining the micro blog, called Beijing Exit-Entry Police, from 9 am to 6 pm on weekdays, she said. "I hope the micro blog will feature various languages in the near future so more foreign applicants can be served," she added.

China will not ‘shy away’ from South China Sea row, says foreign minister (By Agence France-Presse in Beijing) Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi addresses the opening session of the Asean-China Foreign Ministers meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on Thursday. Beijing will “not shy away from problems” in disputed Asian waters, its foreign minister said on Thursday at a meeting between China and Southeast Asian countries. China claims nearly all the South China Sea, even waters approaching the coasts of neighbouring countries, several of them members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), and has been increasingly assertive in promoting its claims. The sea is strategically important, with several vital shipping routes passing through it, and is believed to be rich in resources. At a meeting with Asean foreign ministers in the Chinese capital, Wang Yi said: “We did not shy away from problems that exist. “Currently the South China Sea situation is stable and when we look at other places in world, we should dearly cherish it.” Asean has been trying for more than a decade to secure agreement from China on a legally binding code of conduct. China has refused to upgrade a 2002 “declaration of conduct” into a legally binding code, wary of giving any concessions that may weaken its claim and preferring instead to negotiate individually with each country. Further meetings on the issue are planned for next month and in December. Thai Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said Asean looked forward to “constructive and substantive” discussions with China.

China warns against Syria attacks as US and Britain debate air strikes (By Agencies in Beijing) China says military intervention in the crisis would only worsen turmoil in Middle East - Chinese state media warned the West against strikes on Syria on Thursday as momentum mounted for President Bashar al-Assad’s regime to be punished over an alleged chemical weapons attack. In an editorial headed “No excuse for strikes”, the state-run China Daily said the US and its Western allies were “acting as judge, jury and executioner”. “Any military intervention into Syria would have dire consequences for regional security and violate the norms governing international relations,” it said, adding such a move “will only exacerbate the crisis and could have unforeseen and unwelcome consequences”. Making a comparison with the war in Iraq, it said the international community should not allow “itself to be led by the nose by US intelligence, which after all was responsible for claiming Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction”. The foreign ministry has advised any Chinese citizens in Syria to leave as soon as possible, and recent media reports from China's First Financial Daily have revealed that Chinese entrepreneurs and businessmen working in Syria have begun pulling out of the country. A spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Syria surnamed Feng told First Financial Daily reporters that major Chinese-funded enterprises remaining in Syria were few, and most would "soon withdaw or reduce staff". In New York, Britain pushed the other four veto-holding members of the UN Security Council to authorise military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to protect Syrian civilians - a move certain to be blocked by Russia and, probably, China. The meeting ended without a decision. President Barack Obama said on Wednesday he had not yet signed off on a plan to strike Syria, although his administration is working with allies including the UK and France, which also have aircraft and ships armed with cruise missiles, to reach agreement on limited action against Syria after concluding that Assad's regime used chemical weapons against civilians. Political uproar in London, meanwhile, cast doubt on whether Britain will join American military action to punish President Bashar al-Assad’s regime for a chemical weapons attack, should the response take place before next week. China is a veto-wielding permanent member of the UN Security Council, but the US has already said a proposed UN resolution that could have given an assault a legal foundation was going nowhere, blaming Russia. The United States and its allies say a UN veto would not stop them. Western diplomats called the proposed resolution a manoeuvre to isolate Moscow and rally a coalition behind air strikes. In an unsigned commentary, the Global Times, which is close to the ruling Communist Party, added that Washington lacked “a clear political end goal”. “Citing ‘moral obscenity’ as an excuse to gear up for military action seems rash and hasty,” it said. If strikes do take place, it added that “it is necessary for Russia and Iran to consider providing direct military aid” to Assad’s government. Beijing has called for a “cautious” approach to the crisis, with Foreign Minister Wang Yi backing a UN investigation to “find out the truth as soon as possible”. All parties “should avoid interfering in the investigation work or prejudging the results of the probes”, he told the official Xinhua news agency Wednesday. Beijing has said that it opposes intervention in other countries’ internal affairs and has previously attempted to block moves leading to military action in overseas conflict. China’s foreign minister urged restraint in the growing tensions over Syria, saying any military intervention in the crisis would only worsen turmoil in the Middle East. President Barack Obama vowed on Wednesday that the Syrian government would face “international consequences” for last week’s deadly chemical attack, but made clear any military response would be limited to avoid dragging the United States into another war in the Middle East. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said military action would not help, but also repeated that China opposed anyone using chemical weapons. “A political resolution has, from the very beginning, been the only way out for the Syrian issue,” Wang said in a statement on the ministry’s website. There should be no rush to prejudge the findings of a UN team currently in Syria to investigate the claims chemical weapons were used. “China calls on all sides to exercise restraint and remain calm,” Wang said. Moscow and Beijing have both vetoed previous Western efforts to impose UN penalties on Assad, although China has been keen to show it is not taking sides and has urged the Syrian government to talk to the opposition.

Chinese passengers anger airline staff by refusing to hand over in-flight tableware (By Chris Luo Media said a group of Chinese tourists attempted to keep the steel tableware provided by airline crew when they were on an airplane. In the latest controversy involving Chinese tourists - a group of mainland travellers have upset Singapore Airlines staff by refusing to hand over 30 sets of stainless steel tableware during a recent flight, Chinese media reported. It was only after repeated warnings from a tour guide that these passengers agreed to hand them back to flight attendants. The Chinese passengers were on a tour of Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand. While onboard the Singapore Airlines flight, they had intended to keep the stainless steel knives and forks provided during a meal, the Qianjiang Evening News reported on Tuesday. The report cited a tourist guide - but did not say exactly when the incident occurred. It said the tourists were mainly from a small town in Zhejiang province. The flight attendants told the tourists the stainless steel tableware could not be kept because it was going to be re-used - unlike plastic disposable items. But the tourists refused to hand them over. The tourists explained that relatives who had flown with Singapore Airlines in the past told them they could keep the tableware, the report said. The astonished flight attendants then asked a Chinese tour guide for help. The affair finally ended when the guide told the tourists they were hurting China’s image abroad. “Stop hurting the reputation of Chinese people,’’ he said. The travellers then handed back the tableware, the report said. The incident follows a number of reports this year on bad behaviour overseas by Chinese travellers. This includes a widely reported incident where a Chinese boy carved his name on a 3,000-year old precious relic during a trip to Egypt. This prompted China’s deputy-premier Wang Yang to state publicly that Chinese tourists should improve their behaviour overseas. He said such bad behaviour included Chinese tourists speaking loudly in public, carving characters on ancient relics, and disobeying pedestrian traffic signs. Last year, US shopping website LivingSocial sponsored a poll which ranked the Chinese at second place, after Americans, as the “world’s worst tourists”. Some 15 per cent of respondents said Chinese tourists were the most obnoxious in the world.

Hong Kong*:  Aug 30  2013

Fanny Law opposes arbitrary screening for chief executive race in 2017 (By Gary Cheung Executive councillor Fanny Law would like to see three candidates running for chief executive in 2017 under ‘one man, one vote’ system - Chief executive candidates who hold different views to Beijing should not be arbitrarily screened out of the election, an adviser to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying says. Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun, an executive councillor who was director of Leung's transitional office after he was elected last year, said she favoured a three-horse race when the "one man, one vote" system is introduced for the 2017 election. She told the South China Morning Post: "It would be practically impossible to screen out some candidates arbitrarily." In March, the chairman of the National People's Congress Law Committee, Qiao Xiaoyang , said the chief executive must not be confrontational towards the central government. Pan-democrats saw Qiao's comment as the clearest hint yet that a screening mechanism would be set up to bar candidates deemed unacceptable to Beijing from running in 2017. Law said many pan-democratic politicians were not confrontational towards Beijing. She said the nominating committee should assess the calibre of candidates based on criteria such as competence, public acceptance and ties with Beijing, before short-listing candidates for a one man, one vote ballot. Candidates should pledge allegiance to Beijing when they sought nominations for the race, she said. Last week, fellow executive councillor Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee told the Post that dividends brought by universal suffrage, such as a stronger mandate for the chief executive, would be lost if the electoral or nominating method was rigged to rule out certain candidates. Article 45 of the Basic Law calls for a "broadly representative" nominating committee to propose chief executive candidates for election "in accordance with democratic procedures". Law said she preferred having three candidates put forward by the nominating committee. "If there are more than three, it would be difficult for voters to understand their platforms," she said. Law agreed that Civic Party legislator Ronny Tong Ka-wah's proposal to let voters rank their choices for a leader, instead of picking the winner via a simple majority, was a feasible option. Under such a system, voters rank the candidates in order of preference. The person who secures more than half the votes wins; otherwise, the one with the fewest ballots is eliminated. The votes from the eliminated candidate are then added to the voters' second choices. This allocation process continues until one person receives more than half the votes. "It can guarantee the election of the most acceptable candidate," Law said. She agreed with a proposal to set up a platform comprising representatives from various sectors, similar to the Basic Law Consultative Committee in the 1980s, to forge consensus on political reform before the start of a public consultation.

Man sentenced to five weeks in jail after trying to intimidate police 男子試圖恐嚇香港警察被判入獄五週 (By Stuart Lau South China Morning Post) Gary Cheung Man-yui was sentenced in Tuen Mun Court on Tuesday for resisting a police officer acting in the execution of his duty. A construction worker who assembled a crowd in an effort to outnumber police officers looking into possible triad activities has been jailed for five weeks for resisting a police officer acting in the execution of his duty. The magistrate, while sentencing Gary Cheung Man-yui, who had a previous record of claiming to be a triad member – called for the public to respect the police. “Everybody ought to show respect for law enforcement officers,” Deputy Magistrate Tsoi Shun-cheong said in Tuen Mun Court on Tuesday. “No one is allowed to provoke or obstruct officers during their legitimate execution of duties. “If the legitimate execution of duties [by police officers] is subject to obstruction, the social peace and the lives and property of citizens would be at stake.” Tsoi’s plea comes amid an increasingly sharp split in public opinion over police practices. Earlier, Cheung, 28, had pleaded not guilty to one count of resisting a police officer acting in the execution of his duty. His conviction on the count on Tuesday marked his twelfth conviction, all part of a ciminal record that includes assault on a police officer, robbery and claiming to be a member of a triad society. The latest offence took place in February at 6am in Yuen Long, when Cheung refused to co-operate with two plain-clothes officers who suspected him and eight teenagers – one holding a 60cm-long knife – of ill intent. Cheung made a phone call to assemble a bigger crowd, forced the officers into car lanes and shouted using foul language, the court heard. He softened his tone only when armed police reinforcements arrived. Defence lawyers said Cheung was under the influence of alcohol and suffered “a sudden loss of control”. He was “reckless” and “remorseful”, the court heard in a background report. In June, co-defendant Lee Man-tai was sentenced to two months in jail after he pleaded guilty to two counts of assaulting police. He admitted pushing an officer in the chest and punching his arm, while attacking another in the face and lips. Lee swore at a magistrate, who immediately jailed him for one month, a sentence that was waived when he apologised.

Wharf profit slips 27pc despite visiting Rubber Duck (By SCMP Staffs) Wharf says the visiting giant Rubber Duck installation created ‘a media frenzy’. A giant rubber duck lifted pedestrian traffic at Harbour City, but wasn’t enough to stem a 27 per cent fall in interim net profit to HK$17.2 billion at The Wharf, which blamed the lower earnings on a fall in gains from property revaluations and a lack of one-off accounting gains. “The giant rubber duck float on Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour, together with installations of rubber duck displays, attracted phenomenal foot traffic from locals and tourists alike, and created an international media frenzy,” the group said in a filing. Revenue at Harbour City, a major beneficiary from the increased foot traffic generated from the Rubber Duck, rose 15 per cent to HK$3.51 billion during the six months to June 30, and operating profit rose 12 per cent to HK$4.21 billion. But the group also said total revenue fell 18 per cent to HK$14.9 billion, which was “principally due to lower recognition of property sales both in Hong Kong and the mainland, but partly compensated by the double-digit increase in investment property revenue.” The company, whose activities span property, hotels, transport and warehousing, said revenue from its Hong Kong investment property portfolio rose 10 per cent to HK$4.82 billion, underpinned by robust retail sales and stable office rental reversions, particularly in areas like Harbour City and Times Square. In China, rental revenue was up 12 per cent to HK$536 million, benefiting from rising revenues from Shanghai Wheelock Square and Chengdu Times Outlet although renovations at Shanghai Times Square caused a temporary loss of revenue. Its hotel revenue rose by six per cent to HK$689 million, sustained by higher room rates, although its Gateway Hotel operation was also affected by renovation work. Logistics revenue rose three per cent to HK$1.56 billion, largely reflecting higher throughput in Hong Kong and in China by Modern Terminals, where the slowdown among major western markets acted as a brake on revenue. Global trade flows “continued to be blighted by the ongoing weakness of the United States and European economies”, the group said and Modern Terminals’ consolidated revenue increased to HK$1.50 billion but operating profit fell by 20 per cent to HK$456 million, it said, adding that this was largely due to one-off costs in Hong Kong caused by Kwai Tsing labour unrest. On a geographical basis, its total Hong Kong revenue fell 16.9 per cent to HK$8.68 billion, and China revenue was down 20.6 per cent to HK$6.19 billion. Its operating profit in Hong Kong fell 16.1 per cent to HK$4.90 billion, and its China operating profit slipped 51.3 per cent to HK$1.16 billion.

Career first, children later: Taiwanese women put their eggs on ice (By Reuters in Hsinchu) Women in Taiwan are increasingly opting to freeze their eggs at fertility clinics as they postpone marriage and motherhood - An employee extracts eggs in a lab at the e-Stork Reproductive Centre in Hsinchu. Caught between traditional expectations and career pressures, working women in Taiwan are increasingly opting to freeze their eggs at fertility clinics as they postpone marriage and motherhood. Women play a big part in Taiwan’s workforce, trailing only New Zealand and Australia for female employment among 14 countries in Asia, a recent report by MasterCard showed. A slowdown in the economy has made job security an even more pressing priority. That has been a factor in pushing the East Asian country’s average marriage age to 30 these days from 24 in the 1980s and in driving the interest in egg freezing. “I was not sure when my ovaries would start degenerating but I was sure that I would probably marry late and I was sure that I wanted to become a mother,” said Linn Kuo, 34, who chose to freeze her eggs three years ago. Kuo, a manager at Cisco System Taiwan, has a well-paid job that allows her to work from home. While her career has had a smooth trajectory, Kuo said she has not been as lucky in her love-life. After her mother died, she realised the importance of having the support of children in later life. “I already had my conclusion,” she said. “So I did some research and decided to freeze my eggs.” Lai Hsing-hua, the clinic director at e-Stork Reproduction Centre in the city of Hsinchu, said he realised the need for egg-freezing services when many patients asked for egg donors after a late marriage. “We thought if they had frozen their eggs earlier, maybe they wouldn’t need to use donated eggs,” he said. “That’s why we combined in-vitro fertilisation with the idea of prevention - prevent them from using others’ eggs after their fertility has deteriorated.” The clinic now gets more than 100 phone calls a month asking about egg freezing. Five years ago, it did just 20 of the procedures. It handled more than 70 cases in 2011, more than 50 last year and already more than 40 in the first six months of this year. The technology has matured and the embryo now has a high survival rate with egg freezing, Lai said. The service costs around 80,000 Taiwan dollars (HK$20,710) and the whole process of retrieving the egg takes about 20 minutes. Chen Fen-ling, a professor of social work at National Taipei University, said societal pressures were causing women to delay marrying and starting a family. “Married women are like candles burning at both ends,” she said. “We say that women work two jobs. They make money with a daytime job but, when they go back home, they take care of their children and parents-in-law. This pressure often makes women hesitate when making the decision about marriage.” Those realities about career, marriage and motherhood are reflected in a woefully low birthrate. Taiwan is tied with Hong Kong in third-last place globally in terms of the average number of children born per woman, just above Macau and Singapore, the CIA World Factbook says.

Hospital chief defends suspension of top surgeon (By Lai Ying-kit Dr Fung Hong, chief executive of Prince of Wales Hospital. A hospital chief on Tuesday defended the decision to suspend a veteran heart surgeon over concerns about his operating technique, saying the hospital could not afford to risk the health of any new patients. Dr Fung Hong, chief executive of Prince of Wales Hospital, said 11 serious complications occurred in patients on whom Professor Yu Cheuk-man operated last year. The operations were all considered high-risk. Four of the 11 patients eventually died, Fung told local radio. The 11 cases in a row with technical problems made us really worried. “The 11 cases in a row with technical problems made us really worried,” he said. “We couldn’t afford to see [more such cases],” Fung said. Fung also said Yu, a former head of cardiology of the hospital, had not fully trained for two types of high-risk operations he performed, but instead approved himself to perform them. Yu has 23 years of experience and is also assistant dean of Chinese University’s faculty of medicine. Fung said Yu’s suspension came after seven other doctors in an unprecedented move complained about the standard of operations performed by Yu. He rejected their claims saying they were part of a “power struggle” among doctors. But “there are real concerns about his operations,” Fung said. An investigation is being carried out by local and foreign experts who will look into Yu’s operational standards and work records, including surgical data. Yu earlier said the handling of the complaints levelled against him deviated severely from usual hospital and international practice, and it was improper to suspend him before any investigation was completed. He said the mortality rate of his patients cited earlier by the hospital was misleading.

Mainland firms snap up Hong Kong assets (By Oswald Chan Hong Kong has seen an expansion of investment and acquisitions in sectors such as retail, property and banking, reports Oswald Chan. While some Hong Kong-based blue-chip companies are selling their local business assets, a spate of mainland enterprises are expanding into the city's retail, property and banking sectors in search of business diversification. Mainland-based retail and beer conglomerate China Resources Enterprise Ltd confirmed it has submitted a bid for ParknShop, tycoon Li Ka-shing's Hong Kong supermarket chain, at a "reasonable price". CRE said it may partner with United Kingdom-based Tesco PLC on the purchase. Mainland-based retail and beer conglomerate China Resources Enterprise Ltd confirmed at a July 21 news conference that it has submitted a bid for tycoon Li Ka-shing's Hong Kong supermarket chain at a "reasonable price". CRE Chief Financial Officer Frank Lai added that CRE may partner with United Kingdom-based grocery chain Tesco PLC to bid for Hutchison Whampoa's ParknShop supermarket chain. CRE said that it may raise debt and does not rule out selling "non-core" assets to fund the ParknShop purchase. The sale of the local supermarket grocery chain will fetch an estimated $3 billion to $4 billion. In the property sector, mainland property developers have become more aggressive when bidding for land parcels in Hong Kong since 2012. China Overseas Land and Investment Ltd successfully grabbed two land parcels in the Kai Tak region, whereas the Hong Kong government specified that property developers can sell the residential flats built on those two parcels only to Hong Kong permanent residents. Mainland flagship property developer China Vanke Co, in cooperation with Hong Kong blue-chip developer New World Development, also successfully bid for a land parcel in Tsuen Wan early this year. Vanke said that its interests in the Tsuen Wan parcel will be injected into its locally listed subsidiary, Vanke Property Overseas. In the banking sector, mainland business conglomerate Yuexiu Property Co Ltd was reported as one of the bidders for the Hong Kong-based Chong Hing Bank. The mainland companies are seizing the opportunities to "go out" since the financial crisis of 2008. Externally, developed and developing economies have a huge demand for overseas capital, making overseas enterprises more receptive to Chinese acquisitions. Internally, the need to acquire markets, resources, technologies and brands as well as to slash costs require Chinese enterprises to "go out" on a larger scale. However, the overseas expansion trajectory is never easy. External challenges stem from rising overseas investment protectionism and increasing global investment market risks. Internal challenges emerge from mainland enterprises' scarcity of international management experience, inadequate assessment of the global investment environment, and a lack of international talent. Due to the numerous obstacles the mainland faces when expanding overseas, mainland companies may now find Hong Kong to be an attractive springboard. According to China CITIC Bank International Ltd, Hong Kong plays the irreplaceable role of providing a bridge for "going out" Chinese firms. This is because Hong Kong practices a high degree of openness and freedom in its investment policies, and has low capital controls, low taxes and a wealth of professional-services talent. "The mainland enterprises should further leverage off this bridging role of Hong Kong for their large-scale ‘going-out'," China CITIC Bank International Chief Economist Liao Qun said. "Meanwhile, Hong Kong should enhance its role as the bridge, steer clear of negative elements that are unfavorable to the city's economic development, and become more open, free and efficient," Liao added. Daniel Poon, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council's principal economist, also was optimistic about the benefit of Hong Kong to mainland businesses. "With elegant historical juxtaposition, Hong Kong has moved from being solely a gateway for foreign investment in China to also being a springboard for China's investment in the rest of the world," he said. Many foreign investment enterprises are still large State-owned enterprises from the mainland, but the number of private enterprises is steadily increasing. The Hong Kong government said the mainland was the most important source of direct investment in Hong Kong. The majority of the stock of investment was related to service industries, including investment and holding, real estate, professional and business services; banking; and import/export, wholesale and retail trades. The HKTDC figure shows that the mainland's cumulative investment in Hong Kong amounted to $261.5 billion at the end of 2011, accounting for 61.6 percent of the mainland's total outward FDI. Because of the international business environment of Hong Kong, the city is a highly attractive market for foreign direct investment. Hong Kong's global FDI inflows ranked third in 2012 ($75 billion), after the United States ($167.6 billion) and the Chinese mainland ($121.1 billion), according to the UNCTAD World Investment Report 2013. The mainland is poised for further overseas business expansion in the future as the country's enterprises still have a huge appetite for overseas technology, management skills and brand acquisitions. According to China CITIC Bank International, the mainland's outbound FDI will have a compound annual growth rate of over 20 percent in the next five years, subsequently reaching more than $200 billion in 2017.

 China*:  Aug 30  2013

The Bo Xilai playbook (By Richard Harris) Richard Harris says Bo Xilai's performance in court was that of a consummate politician who understood attack was his best defence, and gave his all to discredit testimony against him - The Bo Xilai trial saw the most effective public defence by a politician of his actions since US president Bill Clinton faced a grand jury over the Monica Lewinsky scandal, casually sipping a diet Coke. Bo, like Clinton a highly experienced and intelligent politician, used every trick in the book, being alternately charming, selfish and ruthless - all basic lessons from the Senior Politician's Manual 101. Whether Bo is innocent or guilty is irrelevant; his spirited defence is a lesson in how to get out of a scrape, one that worked for elder statesman Clinton. The transcript details from the Jinan court may have been edited but they show enough of the raw politics to impress Machiavelli, if not a grand jury. The first rule of politics is that attack is the best form of defence; discredit the opposition. The prime prosecution evidence against Bo appeared to be witness-based and by attacking their independence and credibility, Bo sought to embarrass a lazy prosecution. He said the testimony of his wife, Gu Kailai, was "comical and ridiculous", described her as "mentally unstable", and questioned the "word of a convicted murderer". Xu Ming, a businessman close to him in Liaoning and who was alleged to have provided the family with gifts and foreign trips, was cross-examined by Bo himself. The court transcript described it as "confrontational" and Bo distanced himself, reasonably well, from most of the gifts, including a US$3.2 million French villa allegedly given to his family. Bo dismissed the testimony of Wang Zhenggang, a high official in the Liaoning provincial government, as "contradictory and irrational". The now wheelchair-bound Wang Lijun, his former police chief who was very close to Gu and the man who ran to the US consulate for cover when the Neil Haywood "suicide" turned out to be murder, was described as an "abominable liar", "two-faced" and "a man without morals". But the best invective was reserved for his lifelong friend Tang Xiaolin, who was described in such un-court-like language as a "crazy dog" and an "ugly person who sold his soul". A key politician's rule is to create distance between oneself and the guilty parties. Politicians are good at cosying up to success stories, such as sportsmen or astronauts and even better at distancing themselves from losers. So Bo testified that he had rarely met his wife since 2007. He admitted to an affair around 1999, after which Gu spent a lot of time abroad. He also claimed that Gu's business activities were not known to him, saying that Xu was "not his friend but hers". Separating two allies through the "divide and rule" tactic is another defence strategy to confuse witness evidence. Bo admitted slapping police chief Wang (Wang's testimony was that he was punched hard) because he was supportive of Gu and thought Wang was setting her up. Taking on an element of righteous anger is a good way of collecting sympathy for oneself at the expense of others. Perhaps the fundamental tool in the politician's armour is the ability to say, "I don't know". Former US senator Howard Baker defined this politician's rule during the investigation of the Watergate break-in as, "what did he know and when did he know it". There are several reports that Bo did not allow mobile phones around him, which encourages claims of ignorance; former president Richard Nixon, by contrast, recorded his conversations and was unable to deny some conversations. Bo used this tactic as a blanket defence against the family's apparent wealth by testifying that "Gu Kailai's income situation was very good", the implication being that she didn't need him. She had five law firm branch offices, and scholarships covering their son's education. "What reason did I have to worry about them enduring any hardship?" The amnesia defence of "I can't remember" is another oft-used weapon in the politician's arsenal and was used by Bo, who claimed in court that he didn't recall anything about his son, Bo Guagua's , US$130,000 African trip, which was allegedly covered by Xu. Bo also couldn't remember the gifts or much about the French villa. A good politician is respectful of authority. Attack must be balanced with an element of self-reflection or contrition. Providing generous compliments, or playing to the gallery, allows for a useful break in the tension. More than once, Bo complimented the prosecution, while in the same breath saying that he had no case to answer. Bo mentioned early in the trial the good physical treatment he had been given by investigators of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. He admitted "mistakes", on behalf of protecting his family, but said that he had done nothing criminal. He tugged at the heartstrings by saying that he was under mental pressure regarding his confessions - after having been offered "incentives". Good politicians praise those in authority, while attacking and passing the blame on to the vulnerable or already discredited. In politics, the heady mixture of power and money is attractive to many. But because of that, one is surrounded by enemies. Conflicts of interest and lapses of judgment leave politicians exposed to blackmail and accusations of abuse of power. Bo used his exceptional ability to take on the court with a shrewd knowledge of the tactics open to a politician on the defensive. His spirited defence shows an experienced politician at the top of his intellectual powers, albeit at the bottom of his political ones. Illuminating and entertaining as it was, it is unlikely to sway the judges. Richard Harris is chief executive of Port Shelter Investment Management and a former UK Conservative Party candidate, 1996-97.

Top party meeting called as Bo Xilai trial ends (By Teddy Ng Politburo's announcement of Central Committee meeting in November comes day after conclusion of dramatic Bo Xilai hearing - The Communist Party announced yesterday it will hold a keynote meeting in November to discuss deepening reforms, a day after wrapping up the trial against disgraced former Politburo member Bo Xilai. The decision to hold the third plenary session of the party's Central Committee in November was made at a Politburo meeting chaired by party general secretary Xi Jinping. During the meeting, party leaders vowed to further combat corruption and called for unity both inside and outside the party to push ahead with reforms. The third plenum is likely to indicate the new leadership's economic agenda for the next decade amid slowing growth. It will also give an indication of Xi's ability to make his mark on party policy. A statement issued after the Politburo meeting said deeper reforms were necessary to tackle the challenges facing the country and for sustainable economic development. It called for a thorough understanding of the difficulties of implementing reforms. Xi intends to end the heavy reliance on exports, credit and investment and move towards more consumer-driven growth. A statement released after the meeting said: "The reform and opening up can only be continued. It will never end." The third plenum of each party session has often been considered a major turning point in modern political history. The most famous such session was in 1978, when the second generation of leaders, led by Deng Xiaoping, turned against Maoist doctrine and made a commitment to market-oriented economic reform that eventually transformed the nation into the world's second largest economy. Deng Yuwen, a former deputy editor with Study Times, a key publication run by the Central Party School, said: "With the conclusion of the trial against Bo, the party leaders believe they should move ahead and tackle other important issues." But Deng said the plenary session was usually held in October. Postponing it to November may indicate that party leaders had still not reached consensus on key issues. The Politburo meeting approved a five-year plan to stamp out corruption and vowed that the campaign was an important political mission of the party. "Corruption is still very common, and the soil for breeding corruption is still here," the post-meeting statement said, adding that all cadres - regardless of rank - would be targeted. The meeting also approved a document on the reform of local governments and was briefed on preparations for a pilot free-trade zone in Shanghai. Former Chongqing party secretary Bo was charged with corruption and abuse of power at his sensational trial, which ended on Monday.

China sees no basis for talks with Japan over islands dispute (By Reuters in Beijing) A Japan Coast Guard boat and vessel sail as one of the disputed islands is pictured in the background, in the East China Sea. China sees no reason to conduct talks with Japan over their dispute about ownership of a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, Chinese deputy foreign minister Li Baodong said on Tuesday. Li said Japan’s call for high-level talks was not genuine, but merely grandstanding. “A meeting between leaders is not simply for the sake of shaking hands and taking pictures, but to resolve problems,” said Li, speaking to reporters ahead of President Xi Jinping’s attendance at the G20 summit next week. “If Japan wants to arrange a meeting to resolve problems, they should stop with the empty talk and doing stuff for show.” Relations between the world’s second- and third-largest economies have been strained for months, largely because of the spat over the islands, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is keen to improve relations and has called for high-level dialogue with China, although he has rejected any conditions on talks and China has shown no inclination to even want talks. Moves by certain Japanese politicians to deny the country’s wartime past also do not help, he added. “Under these conditions, how can we organise the kind of leaders summit that Japan wants?” Li said. China reacted with fury earlier this month after Japan’s Abe sent an offering to a shrine for war dead, which also honours war criminals, while cabinet members visited it in person. China suffered under Japanese rule, with parts of the country occupied from the 1930s. Japanese leaders have apologised in the past but many in China doubt the sincerity of the apologies, partly because of contradictory remarks by politicians. “What Japan has to do now is show vision and courage, properly face up to history and take a proper attitude and real actions to get rid of the obstacles which exist for the healthy development of bilateral ties,” Li said.

China joins world anti-tax fraud effort (By Zhang Yuwei in New York China will sign the tax assistance convention with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on Tuesday, becoming the last of the Group of 20 economies to join the major international tax convention. Chinese tax chief Wang Jun is scheduled to sign the convention in Paris on Tuesday, and it will become effective after three full calendar months following the day of ratification. The convention - entitled Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters - provides a framework for administrative cooperation between more than 50 developed and developing countries in assessing and collecting taxes, with a focus on preventing tax avoidance and evasion. China's joining the group in ratifying the convention means the world's second-largest economy will participate "in global efforts to combat tax avoidance and evasion by cooperating with other states in the assessment and collection of taxes", according to OECD. Once the convention is in force in respect to China, the Chinese tax authorities will be able to ask their counterparts from the signatory countries for use of their records and vice versa. Steven Zhang, managing director at Fund Tax Services LLC in New York, said China's joining the group is "part of a global trend". "China's accession to the convention would increase the efficiency of Chinese tax authorities in combating potential tax avoidance and evasion by foreigners and foreign companies," said Zhang. Tax avoidance was also a priority set by global leaders, including the leaders from the G20 economies, to address the causes of the 2008 financial crisis and to help fight corruption - one of the major issues China's new leadership has shown resolve and confidence to tackle. Tax evasion and avoidance will be one of the main topics under discussion at the G20 summit in St Petersburg on Sept 5-6. "Governments worldwide are introducing legislation and standards to require taxpayers to provide greater transparency in their tax reporting and are stepping up cooperation in fighting tax avoidance across different jurisdictions," said Zhang. "Mounting pressure from governments and regulators has put management of global tax risk at the forefront of business and investment decisions," he added. Global Financial Integrity, a Washington-based non-profit research and advocacy organization, said the Chinese economy hemorrhaged $3.79 trillion in illicit financial outflows from 2000 through 2011. Of the roughly $2.83 trillion that flowed illicitly out of China from 2005 to 2011, they said, $595.8 billion wound up as cash deposits or financial assets - such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and derivatives -in tax havens. Figures released by China's State Administration of Taxation last month showed that anti-tax evasion efforts by the Chinese government generated an additional income of some $5.7 billion last year, nearly 30 times the amount in 2008. The convention was jointly developed by the OECD and the Council of Europe in 1988. In 2009, the agreement was updated to bring it into line with international standards on the exchange of information for tax purposes, and to open it for countries that were not members of the OECD or the Council of Europe to sign up for. More than 50 countries have either become signatories or have stated their intention to do so since the amendment of the convention.

 *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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