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Epidemic Spreads, Local Cover-ups Complicate the Situation

The Ministry of Health is investigating the reported death of five young children in Shandong’s Heze City, where the real situation of the epidemic may have been covered up.

Since January 1, 2009, 42,000 Chinese have been infected with the contagious hand- foot-and-mouth disease, according to the Ministry of Health.

The disease spreads every year, but it struck earlier this year in all provinces except Tibet.  This year the epidemic hit the hardest in Henan and Shandong.  More than 94% of the patients are children under the age of 5.  20 people have reportedly died.

Source: BBC Chinese, March 28, 2009

Government Corruption High, Even in a Bad Economy

A salesperson at a high-end restaurant in Zhengzhou City, Henan Province, told the reporter that, not including drinks, a standard meal for costs at least 300 to 400 yuan for one person and 3,000 to 5,000 yuan for a typical group.  He said, “Our business is good. The economic crisis has not impacted us in any way.” Most customers have a high social status, and many are party and government officials.

Government vehicles are widely known to be used privately China.  A driver who works for the Zhengzhou Municipal Authorities Affairs department reported that only about one third of their use is for government business; one third is for private use; the rest is for their own private businesses.

It one example in Shanxi’s Jincheng City, 66 government vehicles were sighted at high-end entertainment facilities. Many had license plates belonging to government agencies or the county-level people’s congress. Nine were police vehicles.

The State Secretary for The Prevention of Corruption, Ma Wen, said, “We have repeatedly emphasized this problem of ‘dining’ at the government’s expense.  Despite arrests, the overall result is not satisfactory. Chinese people have a tradition of inviting friends and colleagues to restaurants. A number of cadres take dining on public funds for granted.

Despite the economy going downhill, corrupt government officials always find ways to keep themselves well fed and entertained, and the taxpayers get to pay for everything. 

Source: China News, March 30, 2009

BBC’s Field Visit to China’s Economy

According to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the Chinese economy is facing a major test. China recently released that exports dropped by 25% in February.

BBC business editor Robert Peston recently visited China’s coastal regions.  According to his observations, the southern provinces, unlike Shanghai where the situation is still holding up, are near desperate.  Many factories have shutdown; unemployment is rising. Due to reduced export demand, some companies have relocated to lower operating costs.

Southern China, as Peston sees it, has already fallen into a serious economic recession.  However, official figures still provide an optimistic picture, stating that the economy is just taking a slower pace.


BBC Chinese  March 20, 2009

Government Waste/Corruption Documented

China’s Transition Institute (Zhuan Zhixing), a think tank like NGO for socio-economic transformation published a 2008 Handbook of Citizen’s Tax Rights. The book lists sources of government waste:

"There are about four million government vehicles in China that cost the government an annual 200 billion Chinese Yuan (30 billion USD) to operate; however, only about one third of the use is for official business."

"Rough estimates say the government spends at least 200 billion Yuan on dining costs each year, which is equivalent to the cost of the Three Gorges Damn Project."

"In the past year travel overseas for government officials on fact finding/training trips has continued for many locations. At present China’s officials spend more than 300 billion Yuan (44 billion USD) on travel abroad."

"Waste from political building projects–a number of local governments went into debt building ultra-luxurious public squares, theaters, gyms, airports, golf courses, etc. A poor county government in one province spent 70 million Yuan (10 million USD) on a government building, which is equivalent to one third of that county’s yearly income."

2008 Handbook of Citizen’s Tax Rights