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News Briefs

An Overview of What’s Happening in China.

Russia Faults a Chinese Company for Polluting the Songhua River

[CNA, August 23, 2006] The Niushikou River, a branch of the Songhua River along the Sino-Russian border, was recently polluted by industrial wastes, according to a Russian TV network. The benzene effluent polluted five kilometers (3.1 miles) of the river. A chemical plant in Jilin City was responsible for the accidental discharge of industrial wastes, according to official confirmation.

Surge in Demand for DNA Paternity Tests Among Hong Kong Men with Mainland Wives

[CNA, August 24, 2006] As more and more Hong Kong men marry women from its northern neighbor, problems are also on the rise. Companies that specialize in using DNA to verify biological children have reportedly disclosed that the number of cases of fathers demanding such tests for their China-born children has been steadily increasing. The test results in 2005 verified that about 40 percent of the children tested were not biologically related to their Hong Kong fathers. Zhong Jianhua, assistant professor at the Department of Applied Social Sciences, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, pointed out that the number of these kinds of tests has risen exponentially in Hong Kong. As China’s social structure rapidly changes, the attitude toward marriage among Chinese women is more "open" than those in developed cities in many Western countries. Increase in the divorce rate and out-of-wedlock children, together with distrust between married couples, has resulted in the surge in the number of paternity tests.

Bribery in Business Has Become a Hidden "Rule of the Game" in China

[China Youth Daily, August 21, 2006] According to a recent survey conducted jointly by the Research Institute for International Laws of Economy at Nankai University and the Editorial Committee of "Forum for Government and Party Officials in China" at Central Party School, 94 percent of those surveyed believe that it is common business practice in China to pay commissions, give away gifts, and invite people for dinners. Sixty percent of them lack confidence in the anti-bribery campaign in China’s business world. The main reason for the lack of confidence is their distrust of law-enforcement personnel and authorities. The survey shows that businesses that affect people the most, especially those that involve government intervention, have the most serious problems with bribery. In particular, construction projects and their subcontracting, transfer of land, the trade of state-owned assets, the procurement of drugs and medical equipment, and government procurement all scored 7 (out of 10) points in terms of the degree of bribery.

A Farmer Attempts Suicide in Tiananmen Square to Protest Land Seizure

[Ming Pao Daily, August 11, 2006] Faced with land seizure by the local authorities in Changsha City, Hunan Province, a farmer representing the victims of the land seizures filed many complaints and appealed many times to the local authorities. After failing to resolve the issue, the farmer went to Tiananmen Square on August 6 and tried to commit suicide by stabbing himself in the abdomen. He was found and sent to a hospital but remains in critical condition. The protest letter he left behind states that, as an elected representative for the villagers, he had been appealing for months to various authorities for relief from the land seizures. Not only did his appeal fall on deaf ears, but the police also pursued and tried to capture him. "Only by staining Tiananmen Square with my blood and committing suicide can I offer my apology to my villagers and respected elders," he said in his letter.

Chinese Hospitals Greatly Underreport Death Rate

[The Epoch Times, August 18, 2006] According to a recently published report by the Chinese authorities, one-third of all deaths are not reported to the state monitoring system, while one-fifth of the deaths have never been reported to any organization. Even for the deaths that are reported, the number of deaths is often in error or reported long after the fact. In addition, one-fourth of the deaths are categorized as heart or lung failures.

Beijing Prohibits Foreign TV Programs

[The Epoch Times, August 15, 2006] Beijing authorities held a conference on August 12, calling for a month-long campaign to crack down on the proliferation of foreign satellite TV broadcasts in Beijing. In particular, the key components in manufacturing, sales, and installation of satellite TV equipment will be tightly controlled, and violators will be severely punished. The National Radio and TV Broadcasting Bureau gave orders that, beginning September 1, 2006, all foreign cartoons and their related programming be banned between 5:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.

Dell Allegedly Made False Claims in Advertisements in China

[The Epoch Times, August 13, 2006] Dell, the largest personal computer maker in the world, is being sued in China for its alleged false advertising. Some consumers believe that the CPUs used in Dell’s Inspiron 640M notebook computers are inconsistent with what Dell advertised. Dell may face legal rulings and lose its opportunity to gain market shares to compete with Lenovo. China boasts the world’s second largest PC market.

Acknowledging its mistake, Dell’s spokesman in Beijing argued that the discrepancy is the result of the lack of timely updates to its advertisements after replacing its CPUs in some of its notebook computers.

Private Debt Collection Agencies Emerging in China

[CNA, August 12, 2006] As the success rate for collecting debts by legal means decreases in China, private debt collection agencies that use unconventional means are starting to emerge. Some of them have already been registered officially, while others are staying underground. Employees of these companies reportedly terrify the debtors by wearing strange clothes and/or talking and acting weirdly. In addition, they use unconventional means to harass the debtors while staying within the legal limits. As a Chinese lawyer indicated, this phenomenon exists because of the lack of personal bankruptcy laws in China, which results in debtors believing that not paying their debts will not affect their lives or businesses at all. As a result, they would rather squander their money than pay their debts, while their creditors have lost confidence in the authority of the legal system and therefore turn to the collection agencies to collect debts by "marginally legal means."

Scholar Proposes "Two Children and Late Child-Birth" Policy to Overcome China’s Aging Population Problem

[The Epoch Times, August 13,2006] At the publication ceremony for his new book, China’s Population and Its Economic Development in the 21st Century, Hu Angang, director of the Center for China Study at Tsinghua University, argued that, with its low birth rate and low death rate, China has entered the era of an aging population. His new book suggests that the government implement a smooth transition policy of "Two Children and Late Child-Birth" between 2006 and 2010 to battle the aging population problem.

WHO Confirms Present Bird Flu Originated in China

[WHO, August 9, 2006] WHO confirmed on August 9 that the first patient with H5N1 bird flu came from China instead of Vietnam as was previously thought. As a result, it has corrected the pertinent information on its website. WHO previously stated that the case of bird flu infection in Vietnam in December 2003 was the first such case in history, whereas China’s first patient dated October 2005 in Hunan Province. After re-examination by Chinese medical experts, it was confirmed that the patient reported to have died from SARS in November 2003 in Beijing was actually infected with the H5N1 virus.

Taxi Drivers in Hubei Province Strike

[VOA, August 8, 2006] Demanding that the government crack down on unlicensed taxi businesses, over 200 taxi drivers in Shuizhou City, Hubei Province, held a strike on August 7, in front of the municipal building. Despite negotiations with authorities, the official response was that it was impossible to eliminate all underground taxis and that evidence was required to crack down on underground taxi businesses. Dissatisfied with the official response, the angry strikers threw stones at the municipal building. Two representatives of the drivers were arrested.

China to Explore the Chunxiao Oil and Gas Field

[The Liberty Times, August 6, 2006] On August 4, CNOOC announced on its official website that the "Chunxiao Oil and Gas Field Project has entered a period of full-scale exploration and production." Following the announcement, Japan expressed great concerns. A Japanese official indicated that if the quoted announcement is true, Japan will issue a formal protest and it will retaliate by allowing Teikokou Oil to explore the oil and gas fields along the sea borders of Japan and China. As analysts have pointed out, as China enters the Eastern Sea in the name of oil exploration while Japan has expressed its desire to explore oil along the Japan-China sea borderlines to slow China down, the focus of the two countries may not be merely on oil. China’s goal is more likely to expand its military footprint as well as its political might.

Teachers in Hubei Province Protest

[The Epoch Times, August 1, 2006] On December 23, 2005, over 100 teacher representatives from dozens of townships in the Zengdu District of Shuizhou City, Hubei Province, went to the district government to protest. On July 31, 2006, at least 200 teachers from the same townships again went to the Shuizhou City municipal building to appeal. In their official letter of protest, the teachers noted that, although the provincial government issued an annual quota of 500 "local teachers" to be converted to "government teachers" between 1996 and 1998, Shuizhou City authorities did not convert a single civil teacher during those three years [Editor’s note: The latter can enjoy retirement and other benefits that a government worker is entitled to, whereas the former is treated as a substitute teacher although he or she does the same job.]. Instead, many teachers were laid off. So far, the authorities have maintained their hardline position despite the teachers’ protest.

Rabies Spreading in Beijing

[Ming Pao News Net, August 5, 2006] Following the widespread rabies infections earlier in Liaoning and Yunnan Provinces, the number of rabies cases in Beijing is rising every month. From January to June, 69,332 people were infected with rabies. According to a study by the Beijing Health Bureau, the widespread occurrence of rabies infections is due to the hot weather, causing more people to wear less, stay outside their homes more, and walk their dogs more.

China’s Bad Debts Abroad Total US$100 Billion

[Chinese News Services (Hong Kong), August 3, 2006] China’s bad debts from exports total US$30 billion on an annual basis, and it has accumulated US$100 billion in bad debts abroad. According to official media, as of August 3, over 50 percent of China’s companies have delayed their payments. "More and more Chinese businesses are troubled by bad debts abroad. The amount of bad debt has been growing, and so has the risk. Bad debts are multiplied quickly," it says. Studies indicate that 5 percent of China’s export businesses incur bad debts, far exceeding the percentages for European countries, the United States, and many Asian-Pacific countries. The data from China’s National Information Center also shows that among the overdue bills for international trades, 65 percent are overdue for more than six months.

Former Beijing Deputy Mayor Escorted to Xinjiang for Investigation

[Sing Tao Daily, August 2, 2006] Liu Zhihua, the former deputy mayor of Beijing Municipality, and Jin Yan, who is the associate commander general of the Beijing Olympic Games, have been escorted to Xinjiang Province to be isolated and investigated by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. Liu Zhihua was removed from his position on June 1, 2006, because of his alleged corruption and "dissolute life." Liu used to be in charge of urban construction and planning and the construction projects for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

The Largest Private School North of the Yangtze River Closed

[CNA, August 2, 2006] Double Moon Garden (Shuangyue Yuan) School of Linxin City, Shangdong Province, the largest private school in northern China, announced its closure on June 29. This is the second closure of a large private school in China since Nanyang Education Group, the "Carrier of China’s Private Education," collapsed earlier. Zhou Guangjun, director of Luozuang District Education Bureau in Linxin City and representing the operational body of Double Moon Garden School, explained that the main reason for the school’s closure was due to the sudden withdrawal of the "Education Reserve" by students’ parents, which made it impossible for the school’s operators to cover all its debts. The "Education Reserve" is a popular fundraising method that has been adopted in China since 1993. It collects a fee from the family of each student, ranging from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands yuan (thousands to tens of thousands of U.S. dollars). After paying the fee up front, the parents do not have to pay tuition or room and board for each school year. With the reserve, the school authorities build facilities or invest in other assets. When a student graduates, the school refunds the principal of the original payment by using its interest profits or newly collected reserve funds.

Price Hike for Consumer Products in Guangzhou Exceeds That of Beijing and Shanghai for the First Time

[Asian Times, August 5, 2006] Along with the rise in cost of natural resources over the past year, the consumer price index in Guangzhou shows no signs of decline. Increases in the rates of electricity, gas, transportation, and food all exceed that of Beijing and Shanghai. According to the Research Center for Social Information Surveys, among farmers, the unemployed, and the low income, over half of the people surveyed said they could not afford the price increases in Guangzhou, while most residents feel the (negative) impact of the price increases on their living standard. Almost half of the consumers say they will reduce their purchases.

Abuses of China’s Government Fund To the Tune of US$3.7 Billion

[Xinhuanet, July 30, 2006] In the first half of this year alone, US$3.7 billion in government funds was stolen, abused, or wasted, report the government auditors. China’s State Auditing Administration reportedly charged 252 people for their involvement in abusing government funds. Ninety-eight percent of the people charged have been turned over to law-enforcement or other judicial organizations. The State Auditing Administration said that its main focus in the second half of the year would be to audit the corruption and waste in the agricultural and other rural organizations.

Bank of China Freezes North Korea Accounts

[The Epoch Times, July 26, 2006] Beijing’s North Korea policy has undergone some subtle adjustments after North Korea’s test missile launches. Citing North Korea’s money-laundering and counterfeiting of U.S. dollars, lately China has frozen North Korea’s assets in Chiyu Banking Corporation Limited, a subsidiary of the Bank of China—China’s second largest bank. This is China’s first economic sanction against North Korea.

According to a July 26 Voice of America report, China has allowed three North Korean refugees who forced their way into the U.S. Consulate in Shenyang to seek political asylum status in the United States. Media reports say that this was the first time that China allowed North Koreans to leave for the United States directly without going through a third country.

Three-Fourths of Chinese Studying Overseas Don’t Return

[Radio Free Asia, July 15, 2006] Distinguished scholar Zhang Feng wrote in the blue book China Human Resource Development Report No. 3 that China’s current high-level human resources suffer from severe "brain drain." If the situation continues, it will damage China’s overall human resources and economic security. In the 25 years from 1978 to 2002, China sent 580,000 students and scholars overseas, but only 150,000 have returned.

In the blue book, the author commented that China lacks capable doctoral degree advisors. The data shows that two-thirds of advisors for doctoral candidates in China also supervise master’s candidates, and that each advisor on the average has 5.77 doctoral students under supervision. This number is much higher than the international average of two to three Ph.D. students per advisor.

Seventy Percent of Chinese Intellectuals Risk Death from Overwork

[Radio Free Asia, July 16, 2006] In the recently published China Human Resource Blue Book 2006 edition, death from overwork has become a cloud over the head of Chinese intellectuals. Quoting the 2006 China Human Resource Blue Book published by the China Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing Legal Evening News said that 70 percent of Chinese intellectuals are at risk of death from overwork. Their average life span has declined to 53-54 from the previous 58-59.