Man sues government after gay organization refusal






>>  China calls on objective, balanced stance over Ukraine crisis

By Cui Wenyi

China on Thursday of February 20 called on the international community to play a constructive role to help relevant parties in Ukraine resolve disputes through consultation and dialogue.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying made the remarks when asked to comment on media reports that some leaders from the European Union (EU) condemned the Ukrainian government and considered imposing sanctions against the country.

“Different countries should mutually respect each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Hua said.

She said China hoped the international community can take an objective,balanced and impartial stance to help restore political and social stability in Ukraine.

“We are worried about the violence and feel regret about the casualties during clashes,” Hua said.

She said China called for calm and restraint among Ukraine’s different factions, and expected issues to be resolved through consultation and dialogue in the interests of the nation and the people.

U.S. State Secretary John Kerry said on Wednesday his government was considering sanctions against Ukraine in response to the violence there.

Earlier that day, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen warned Ukraine that its “ties with NATO will be seriously damaged”.

The threat of sanctions to “those who have committed acts (of violence)” was also voiced by French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

Hungary on Wednesday called on the EU to take action to halt the violence in the neighboring country.

In response, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday called on the international community to be objective and restrained when assessing the crisis, and to base their position on reliable and proven facts.





>>  China condemns Beirut attack

By Liang Linlin

China on Thursday of February 20 condemned the twin bombings that hit the Lebanese capital Beirut, which killed at least 6 people and injured 129 others.

“China strongly condemns the terrorist attacks and is firmly against all forms of terrorism,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a routine news briefing.

China supports the Lebanese side in safeguarding its peace and stability, Hua said, urging all parties to serve the same aim.

A suicide bomber on Wednesday blew up a car in the southern suburbs of Beirut, just moments before another suicide bomber riding a motorcycle set off a bomb in a crowd of people.

The attacks were later claimed by Al-Qaida-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades “in retaliation to Hezbollah and Tehran’s role in the Syrian war.”





>>  China calls for alert on Japanese political move

By Sun Yi

China on Thursday of February 20 called on neighboring countries of Japan and the international community to be on high alert after Japanese politicians backed their prime minister’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying made the appeal at a daily press briefing when commenting on Japanese politicians’ words which ignored Japan’s history of aggression.

Etsuro Honda, economic policy advisor to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, on Wednesday reportedly praised Abe’s courage to visit the war-linked shrine on December 26. Japanese Vice Prime Minister Taro Aso also said the controversial visit was a matter of course.

“Turning blind eyes to the just appeal of the international community, Japanese politicians voiced such ridiculous remarks. It again showcased that they totally have no intention to reflect on the Japanese history of aggression,” Hua said.

“They even thought that Japan’s international status cannot be lifted unless the post-war international order is changed. What sort of logic is that and what kind of information do they want to release?” Hua asked.

She said the Japanese politicians’ explanations can only help people learn about the real intention and essence of Abe’s visit to the shrine, which honors 14 World War II class-A war criminals.

“Asian neighbors (of Japan) and the international community have reason to maintain high alert on political move in Japan,” Hua said.





>>  China urges Japan to honor nonproliferation obligations

By Zhang Yi

China on Thursday of February 20 urged Japan to abide by international obligations for nuclear nonproliferation and address the supply-demand imbalance of nuclear material.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular press briefing that Japan’s stockpile of nuclear material, including weapons-grade material, is an issue of supply-demand imbalance, nuclear security and proliferation, which threaten peace and stability in the region and the world at large.

It is incompatible with Japan’s membership of the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons and International Atomic Energy Agency, Hua added.

Hua restated China’s requests for Japan to keep its promises on nuclear materials and honor its obligations to nonproliferation.





>> China, Australia hold 15th human rights dialogue

By Yang Yijun

China and Australia held their 15th round of human rights dialogue on Thursday of February 20 in Beijing.

The two sides had an in-depth exchange of views on a wide range of issues and the dialogue was positive, frank and fruitful, according to a press release of the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Both sides introduced their latest achievements in protecting and promoting human rights, the press release said, noting that China elaborated on improvements to the judicial system.

They also touched on the human rights work of the United Nations, according to the press release.

China also expressed concern on the issue of Australia’s treatment of refugees and the situation of indigenous people, it said.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodong and Deputy Secretary of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Gillian Bird co-chaired the dialogue.

The Australian delegation will also visit the State Ethnic Affairs Commission and Chinese Academy of Social Sciences as well as meet with non-governmental organizations.





>>  Chinese diplomat pushes for nuclear talks resumption

By Liao Lei

A senior Chinese diplomat is on a diplomacy mission on the Korean Peninsula to push for the resumption of nuclear talks, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said in Beijing on Thursday of February 20.

Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin has concluded his four-day stay in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and will visit the Republic of Korea (ROK) from Feb. 20 to 22, said Hua Chunying.

During the visit, Liu met with officials from the DPRK’s Foreign Ministry and representatives of the Korea Workers’ Party and DPRK Economic Development Commission.

The two sides discussed China-DPRK relations and the situation on the peninsula, Hua said.

During the meetings, Liu said that China attaches great importance to China-DPRK relations, and is willing to enhance political communication, respect to each other’s interests, expand pragmatic cooperation and promote bilateral relations.

“China insists on the goal of denuclearization on the peninsula, stands for peace and stability on it, calls for dialogue and negotiations as means for settling problems and will never allow any war or disturbance on the peninsula,” Hua quoted Liu as saying.

China supports the DPRK and ROK to improve relations, Hua said.

China expects concerned sides to work together to promote the easing of tensions on the peninsula, maintain peace and stability, and to create conditions for an early resumption of the six-party talks, Hua said quoting Liu’s statement.

The DPRK side told Liu that it is an unswerving policy for its party and government to consolidate and develop the traditional friendly and cooperative relations with China.

The DPRK is willing to work with China to promote bilateral exchanges and cooperation in various fields, Hua said.

The denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula was the last instruction of DPRK’s former leaders, including Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, and a consistent stand of the country, Hua said quoting the DPRK’s statement.

The DPRK is willing to strengthen communication with China and do its best to ease tensions and promote resumption of the six-party talks, so as to jointly safeguard peace and stability on the peninsula and in the region, Hua said.

Following his DPRK trip, Liu will meet with his ROK counterparts to discuss bilateral ties, regional issues and other issues of common concern.

Liu’s visits to the two countries are both regular exchanges between the foreign ministries, Hua said.

“As a close neighbor of the Korean Peninsula, China maintains friendly cooperative ties with both the South and the North,” Hua said.

China will strive to preserve peace and stability on the peninsula, to realize denuclearization on it and push forward the six-party talks process in its own way, Hua said.

The six-party talks between the DPRK, the ROK, the United States, China, Japan and Russia, have been suspended since late 2008.





>>  China welcomes Inter-Korea family reunions

By Wang Huihui

China is delighted family reunions between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Republic of Korea (ROK) are set to take place, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Thursday of February 20.

“We welcome and support family reunions,” Hua told a daily news briefing as more than 100 people from the ROK reunite with their long-lost relatives on Thursday in the DPRK’s resort of Mount Kumgang.

This is a right step taken by both sides, stemming from national interests, regional peace and stability, which will have a positive impact on improving DPRK-ROK ties and easing regional tensions, Hua said.

“We believe the two sides will move towards building mutual trust, reconciliation and cooperation by unleashing goodwill and continuous efforts,” Hua said.

China sincerely hopes the two sides can seize opportunities, maintain the momentum for dialogue and cooperation, and make real efforts to improve relations and ease regional tensions, the spokeswoman said.

Accompanied by 58 family members, 82 elderly people from the ROK, will reunite in Mount Kumgang with their long-lost families for the first time in six decades. There will be a second round of three-day reunions from Sunday, and 88 people from the DPRK will meet 361 ROK relatives.

Millions of Koreans have been separated from their families since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in armistice, not peace treaty. Around 22,000 Koreans living across the border met during 18 rounds of family reunions from 1985 to 2010, but many Koreans died without meeting their relatives.





>>  China sends humanitarian aid to northern Myanmar

By Li Huaiyan and Li Baojie

The Red Cross Society of China has dispatched humanitarian aid to help 10,000 displaced families in the Kachin state in northern Myanmar.

The shipment of aid, including rice, cooking oil, salt and quilts, left Kunming, capital of southwest China’s Yunnan province that borders Myanmar on Wednesday afternoon, said Sun Shuopeng, an official of the Red Cross Society of China in charge of the aid project, on Thursday.

The aid, which China offers in response to the request made by the Myanmar Red Cross Society, is expected to reach the Kachin state over the weekend.





>>  China, U.S. car buyers trust contrasting sources: survey

By Lin Jianyang

Almost one third of Chinese car buyers see consumer-driven content, such as automotive blogs or reviews, as their most trusted source of information when buying a vehicle, according to a survey by consumer insight company Kantar Worldpanel.

Car buyers in the United States are more likely to be persuaded by traditional marketing, rather than blogs, forums and social media, which are often seen by U.S. buyers as less reliable and “infiltrated” by brands, said the survey, published late on Wednesday.

This is in stark contrast to China, the world’s largest auto market, where 31 percent of buyers see consumer-driven content as their most trusted source of information, compared to just 7 percent in the U.S.

The survey titled Automotive Path to Purchase Study (TAPPS) was conducted by global research consultancy TNS.

It showed that brand-controlled sources, particularly television and press ads, are most influential in the U.S. buying process. Almost six in 10 (59 percent) of U.S. car buyers cite these as their most trusted source, compared to 43 percent in China.

Although social media still has a role to play in narrowing down choices, car manufacturers looking to build their name in the U.S. should focus their efforts first and foremost on traditional media, it suggested.

The study also showed TV advertising has the biggest effect in persuading buyers to consult other sources of information, whether that is a brand’s website, a car dealership or friends and family.

While most U.S. buyers showed an affinity to American brands — including Chevrolet and Ford — the study showed it is actually foreign brands that are most effective in linking up all their different channels to convert interest to purchase.

Honda is most effective at pulling buyers through from initial consideration to final purchase, with Toyota following close behind, according to the survey.

In both the Chinese and U.S. markets, the role of the dealer is also critical in persuading buyers to part with their cash.

Almost four in ten (38 percent) of U.S. buyers and one quarter (26 percent) of Chinese buyers cite dealers as their most reliable information source, it showed.





>>  Tanzanian FM to visit China

By Zhang Pengxiaong

Tanzanian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Bernard Kamillius Membe will visit China from Feb. 24 to 28, a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman said on Thursday.

Membe will make the official visit at the invitation of his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, Hua Chunying said at a daily news briefing.





>>  Chinese top legislator meets ROK lawmakers

By Liu Dongkai

Chinese top legislator Zhang Dejiang met a delegation of lawmakers from the Republic of Korea (ROK) in Beijing on Thursday of February 20.

The ROK delegation was led by Chung Mong-joon, a seven-term lawmaker and chairman of the world’s biggest shipyard, Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. He also heads the Korea-China legislators’ association for foreign affairs.

Zhang, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC), said the NPC and the ROK parliament have maintained close contact and fruitful cooperation since the two countries established diplomatic links in 1992.

Zhang said it was a major task for both the NPC and ROK National Assembly to continuously advance the strategic and cooperative partnership between the two countries.

He said the two sides should further deepen the traditional friendship, maintain frequent contact, consolidate public opinion for expanding bilateral ties and enhance mutual trust.

Zhang expressed hope that lawmakers of both countries could use their influence to make fresh contributions to the China-ROK friendship.

Chung and other members of the delegation said they were ready to play an even greater role in deepening bilateral cooperation in all areas.





>>  33 illegal immigrants arrested in Guangdong

By Mao Yizhu and Liang Saiyu

Thirty-three foreigners have been apprehended in southern China’s Guangdong Province, where they had gone to seek work.

According to a statement from the frontier police of Maoming city, the 33 stowaways, all from Southeast Asia and including five women, were travelling in a van on national highway No.325 when they were arrested on Wednesday afternoon.

According to a statement by one of the migrants, they decided to illegally immigrate to China when they read newspaper reports of a severe labor shortage in the province, local police announced on Thursday.

The case is under further investigation, the statement said.

A survey published on Monday showed a shortfall of 123,300 workers in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong Province. Eighty percent of the companies surveyed were concerned about returning to full production after the Spring Festival holiday.

Chinese migrant workers traditionally return to their hometowns for lunar New Year and look for new jobs after the holiday. This year, the shortage has been particularly pronounced, according to the Guangzhou Human Resource Market Service Center, which conducted the survey.





>>  National advisory body prepares for annual session

By Tian Ye

The presidium of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), China’s top political advisory body, met on Thursday to prepare for an upcoming annual session of the CPPCC National Committee.

The meeting, presided over by CPPCC National Committee Chairman Yu Zhengsheng, adopted a draft report of the Standing Committee of the CPPCC National Committee and a draft report on proposals from political advisors since the CPPCC National Committee’s previous annual session in March 2013.

Both documents are to be submitted at the upcoming annual session.

Yu called for a “simple and frugal” annual session and stressed “serious implementation” of an eight-point guideline, issued by the Communist Party of China leadership in December 2012, which urged CPC officials to resist pomp, ceremony, reduce bureaucratic visits and meetings and improve their work style.

Participants at Thursday’s meeting also deliberated and passed a draft name list of the annual session. The presidium also heard two reports respectively on the preparations of the annual session and a forthcoming meeting of the Standing Committee of the CPPCC National Committee.

A decision to strip Liu Yingxia’s membership of the CPPCC National Committee was adopted at Thursday’s meeting.

It was decided on Thursday that the upcoming annual session will reject pomp and extravagance in meeting arrangements, receptions, publicity and official car use.

Dining standards will be “strict”, the number of working staff will be reduced and commercial activities will be prohibited, according to a statement released by the presidium after Thursday’s meeting.





>>  Government to publicize administrative approval items

By Hu Longjiang, Tian Ying and Hua Chunyu

China’s central departments have been ordered to make public catalogues of their administrative approval items, in a bid to make government power more transparent.

According to a circular issued by the State Council on Thursday, all central government departments should publish their remaining administrative approval items on their official websites in the coming days, so they can be viewed by the public.

The move came amid the country’s drive to slash red tape.

The central government has cut or delegated to lower governments nearly 400 administrative approval items since the new leadership took office last March.

But how many items remain in central authorities is unknown.

The State Council, or China’s cabinet, said it will combine the catalogues into a collective publication and take stock of the total items kept for central departments after heavy slashing.

Central government departments will not be allowed to intervene the approval of items not included in the catalogues they publicized, according to the circular.

Moreover, the circular warned them not to exercise extra-catalogue administrative approvals, nor reinstate exempted items under disguise.

Some central departments had already taken action before the order. Logging on the website of the Ministry of Education, a Xinhua reporter found a catalogue listing all its 24 remaining approval items in the middle of its homepage.

Administrative approvals are an important demonstration of government rights. Fewer approvals by central government will give more power to local governments and freedom to enterprises, which is believed to contribute to the economy.

The move is aimed to let government power be exercised under the sun, said Dong Keyong, dean of the public administration and policy school of the Renmin University.

It will help “put power into the cage of regulations,” Dong said, quoting words that President Xi Jinping used in a vow to fight corruption.

He said that the approval items had long been a secret to the public and some departments even played games as they often add items under various excuses while the central government strives to exempt them.

In Thursday’s circular, government departments are also required to solicit public opinions on further reductions of such approvals and give priority to fields in which the removal of administrative approvals may have had a good impact.

Regarding one Ministry of Education’s approval item on the appraisal and selection of professors in higher learning institutions, a professor with a Beijing-based university, who refused to be named, had a word to say.

The appraisal of academic title is part of the university’s independent rights and should be decided by universities, the professor said, adding that the appraisal criterion also varies in different universities.

He held that the the ministry should collect public views on whether or not the item will be kept.

With the deepening of China’s administrative approval reform, local governments are also expected to publicize their approval item lists.

Premier Li Keqiang noted in a meeting earlier this week that China will establish a system to make all local governments’ power regarding administrative approvals transparent.

East China’s Zhejiang Province has announced that it will promote a “government power menu” system this year. Central province Anhui also asked local departments to “draw a diagram displaying the operation of power” in a pilot reform program.





>>  Zero tolerance to judicial corruption: top procurator

By Li Zhihui

China’s procurator-general Cao Jianming on Thursday pledged to fight against corruption within the procuratorial system.

There must be zero tolerance to judicial corruption and any procurators violating disciplines must be punished, said Cao, procurator-general of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, while attending a meeting on anti-graft work within the procuratorial system.

Supervision should be strengthened to ensure procuratorial power is performed according to the law and regulations, Cao said.

In January, he called on procuratorial organs to provide specific measures for the implementation of a five-year (2013-2017) plan on building a system to punish and prevent corruption, issued by the Communist Party of China Central Committee in December.





>>  Environment watchdog slams factories for obstructing inspection

By Fu Shuangqi

The Ministry of Environmental Protection on Thursday criticized several factories in central China’s Henan Province for refusing inspections.

A porcelain factory and steel plant in Zhengzhou, Henan’s provincial capital, refused to allow inspectors of environment authorities to enter their premises “using the excuse that their chief managers were not available,” said a ministry statement.

Also, staff at a carbon factory stopped inspectors from filming video evidence at the site, the statement said.

The ministry inspected about 50 possible polluters in Zhengzhou and found serious problems, the statement said.

Most construction sites in Zhengzhou, especially those of utility departments, did not adopt any measures to prevent dust pollution.

Air pollution control facilities in several local factories were either out of date or under poor management, the statement said, adding that inspectors found a number of factories emitted smelly smog and thick dust.

They also found about 20 clustering small workshops producing fireproof construction material were without any pollution control facilities and were causing serious air pollution, it said.

On the same day, the ministry issued a press release on the result of an inspection operation on Xingtai City of north China’s Hebei Province, neighboring Henan.

Dust control in the countryside and suburbs were not in place and several local factories, which should have been closed because of high pollution, were still under operation, the statement said.

Also, a large number of urban and rural residents in Xingtai were still using coal for heating and cooking, it added.

Hebei and Henan provinces are among those provinces suffering serious air pollution. Xingtai itself had the worst air quality in January, according to the ministry’s monitoring figures.

Last month, 74 major cities under ministry monitoring only recorded 37.6 percent of days with standard air quality.





>>  China’s copyright registrations hit record high

By Tian Ye and Xu Wei

Annual copyright registrations in China exceeded 1 million in 2013 and hit a record high, the National Copyright Administration of China (NCAC) said on Thursday of February 20.

More than 845,000 of the registrations were publications such as photographs and about 165,000 were software, according to a statement, which added that the number of copyright pledges surpassed 200.

China claims it is meeting its international obligations in the protection of copyrights.

In April 2013, NCAC deputy director Yan Xiaohong said the Chinese central government is performing its duties when it comes to copyright protection regarding software products, including those used by government agencies.

About 60,000 people suspected of intellectual property rights infringement were seized by police last year, amid a crackdown on the crime.

Those people came under suspicion in more than 55,000 cases with an estimated value of 173 billion yuan (about 28 billion U.S. dollars), according to the Ministry of Public Security.





>>  Chinese provincial officials removed from office

By Wang Di and Hua Chunyu

Chinese authorities confirmed on Thursday of February 20 that two provincial officials were dismissed from office for suspected serious disciplinary violations.

Vice governor of south China’s Hainan Province Ji Wenlin and vice chairman of the Shaanxi Provincial Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Zhu Zuoli were dismissed from office, said an official with the Organization Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee.

According to the official, the cases are being handled according to relevant procedures.

The news came after the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection announced earlier that the two were under investigation.





>>  Man sues government after gay organization refusal

By Zhong Qun and Xie Ying

A man in central China is suing the local government after officials refused his application to register a gay organization by replying that homosexuality is “against the construction of cultural and ideological progress.”

Xiang Xiaohan (a pseudonym), a resident of Changsha, capital of Hunan Province, filed a lawsuit against the Hunan Department of Civil Affairs (HDCA) on Wednesday of February 19, accusing authorities of defamation in their replies.

At the end of 2013, Xiang made multiple visits to Changsha’s civil affairs bureau to consult about registering a gay organization, but staff told him on each occasion that such groups “cannot be registered at the moment.”

He later filled out a form requesting the reasons for the refusal and turned it in to the HDCA, which replied that organizations should act in accordance with morals, and that gay organizations, which are “against tradition and the construction of cultural and ideological progress,” should therefore not be established.

“That statement is detrimental to the reputation of the gay community,” Xiang said, adding that the statement should be retracted and that the HDCA should issue an apology. Despite Xiang’s strong protests, the HDCA has failed to make any replies to him yet.

Xiang initiated an online campaign for same-sex rights with several friends in 2009, with group helping to organize a number of anti-discrimination activities in Changsha. But the organization has remained coy about its brick-and-mortar programs due to a lack of legal recognition, Xiang said.

The gay activist said that he hopes related departments can help facilitate registration for gay organizations in Changsha, because “the law does not specifically prohibit it.”

The local court will decide whether to put the case on file within the next seven days.

Homosexuality was removed from the Chinese Classification of Mental Disorders in 2001, after the World Health Organization did the same on May 17, 1990. However, conservative attitudes still persist in many aspects of Chinese society.

In some areas, young homosexual people are forced by their parents to receive medical treatment to try to alter their sexual orientation.





>>  Beijing regulates cabbies’ use of taxi-hailing apps

By Fang Ning and Yang Yichen

Beijing taxi drivers are now limited to using only one cab-hailing app on their smartphones to find customers, as authorities ruled the distraction is a threat to driving safety.

The Beijing transport commission’s regulation, which entered effect on Thursday, came days after China’s two Internet giants, Alibaba Group and Tencent, launched a price war to woo customers to their online payment platforms.

Alipay, the country’s largest third-party online payment platform and a subsidiary of Alibaba Group, has invested heavily in its cab-hailing app KuaiDi on a promotion of rewarding customers with payment subsidies. The move came on the heels of a similar subsidy program by cab-hailing app Didi, with investment from Tencent.

The transport commission has found that many taxi drivers are already fans of the cab-hailing apps, and are keen on checking messages to grab more cab calls.

Under the new regulation, however, each taxi is only allowed to be linked with one cab-hailing app. Cab drivers should prioritize driving safety before responding to smartphone messages.

The commission said it will team up with Beijing’s transport law enforcement corps to enforce the regulation.





>>  New mega-bridge to ease Shanghai traffic woes

By Chen Gang and Wang Jian

Construction of the world’s longest cable-stayed highway and railway bridge will get underway in east China at the end of this month, authorities said Thursday.

The bridge linking Shanghai and Nantong in Jiangsu Province is 11 kilometers long with a five kilometers span across the Yangtze River. Construction will take more than five years to complete, the transportation authority of Jiangsu said.

The project is expected to ease traffic pressure in Shanghai and Jiangsu Province and contribute to the economic development of the Yangtze River Delta and Shanghai free trade zone.





>>  Pests infest more woods in China

By Zhan Yan

Pests plagued about 180 million mu (12 million hectares) of woods in China in 2013, up 2.9 percent year on year, the State Forestry Administration said on Thursday of February 20.

It attributed the rise to global warming, extreme climate events, and a lack of capabilities to fight the pests.

The administration said it had taken various measures to fight wood-infesting insects and effectively checked the spread of pine wood nematode disease and American white moth.

Meanwhile, the administration aims to plant 90 million mu of new woods this year.





>>  231 mln holiday trips on China’s trains

By Lin Jianyang

China’s railways have sped passengers to their destinations 231 million times since this year’s “chunyun” began 35 days ago, China Railway Corporation said on Thursday of February 20.

Chunyun is the hectic travel period surrounding Spring Festival. This year, chunyun began on Jan. 16 and will end on Feb. 24.

On Wednesday, 6.65 million journeys were made on Chinese railways, and 6.7 million were expected for Thursday. The corporation plans to run 557 additional trains on Thursday to guarantee all passengers reaches their destinations.

The railway company said equipment maintenance and safety checks had been stepped up in response to the rain and snow of the last few days.

Although chunyun is nearing its end, the number of daily trips will remain high until Feb. 24 as students and workers get back to work. Migrant workers usually return to their hometowns for family reunions at New Year and return to the cities following the festivities.





>>  Economic slowdown, U.S. QE tapering frustrate strong yuan

By Zhu Shaobin

The value of the Chinese currency Renminbi, or the yuan, weakened 43 basis points to 6.1146 against the U.S. dollar on Thursday of February 20, according to the China Foreign Exchange Trading System.

It marked the third straight day the central parity rate of the yuan has fallen against the greenback. It fell 20 basis points on Tuesday and dipped another 30 points on Wednesday.

Thursday’s exchange rate also marked a lowest reading against the dollar since the beginning of the year, even though the yuan surged to a historical high of 6.093 against the U.S. currency on Jan. 14.

Analysts said the recent decline of the yuan concurred with big banks’ buying of foreign exchanges amid concerns of an economic slowdown, as investors, who used to be overly optimistic on the yuan’s appreciation, are starting to restructure strategies.

Chinese economic growth eased to 7.7 percent in 2013 compared to 7.8 percent in 2012. A report released by Xiamen University on Thursday forecast growth will further slow to 7.62 percent in 2014.

Leading economic indicators such as the purchasing managers’ index for the manufacturing sector, dropped to a six-month low of 50.5 percent in January, marking a bumpy start for the Chinese economy in 2014.

Lian Ping, chief economist at the Bank of Communications, said that China’s foreign trade looks to turn more balanced, which will put less pressure on the yuan’s appreciation. Meanwhile, the United States’ tapering of its quantitative easing also does not support the continuous and sharp gains of the yuan.

Zong Liang, an international finance researcher at Bank of China, said that capital is flowing back to developed markets from emerging markets, after the U.S. started to wind down assets purchase by 10 billion U.S. dollars each month starting in January.

Zong said that the QE tapering has led to sharper fluctuations of exchanges rates in emerging markets, and also brought about depreciation expectations of the yuan.

The Philippine’s central bank said on Saturday that the Fed’s decision resulted in a massive outflow of foreign portfolio investment from the country in January as “investors started to divert funds back to the U.S.”.

However, analysts said the tapering may also prove a valuable opportunity for China to progress reforms of the yuan’s exchange rate regime.

China’s central bank announced in mid-2010 that it would further promote the reform of the RMB (yuan) exchange rate regime and increase the flexibility of the RMB exchange rate.

The Chinese central bank also said on Wednesday that it will gradually improve the yuan exchange rate formation mechanism and widen the bands for the yuan’s floating.

In China’s foreign exchange spot market, the yuan is allowed to rise or fall by 1 percent from the central parity rate each trading day.

The central parity rate of the yuan against the U.S. dollar is based on a weighted average of prices before the opening of the market each business day.





>>  Chinese economy to slow to 7.62 pct: forecast

By Zhu Shaobin

Economic growth in China will decelerate to 7.62 percent in 2014, down from 7.7 percent in 2013, a report jointly issued by Xiamen University and the Economic Information Daily forecast on Thursday.

The forecast was based on domestic issues as well as the government’s plans to push forward reforms.

Excessive production capacities are expected to depress investment growth in the real economy, while debt pressure facing local governments will also restrain expansion of their investment, the report said.

The report forecast growth in the first quarter will decrease to 7.46 percent before peaking to 7.76 percent in the second quarter due to a recovery of exports. However, growth in the last two quarters will taper off to 7.7 percent in the fourth quarter.

The report also said that a rising yuan and increasing wage levels have taken a toll on foreign trade since last year. Meanwhile, slower income growth for both urban and rural citizens as well as the government’s crackdown on extravagance will impact consumption.

Figures from data company Markit on Thursday showed the country’s manufacturing activity has contracted for the second month in a row in February. The HSBC/Markit China flash manufacturing PMI for February dipped to a seven-month low of 48.3 from 49.5 in January.

Official data also showed the purchasing managers’ index for the manufacturing sector dropped to a six-month low of 50.5 percent in January.





>>  PMI seven-month low confounds economists

By Lin Jianyang

China’s manufacturing activity contracted for the second month in a row in February, hitting a seven-month low and dividing economic opinion.

The HSBC/Markit China flash manufacturing PMI for February dipped to 48.3 from a final reading of 49.5 in January, showing manufacturing conditions deteriorating at a moderate pace in February, said data company Markit in a statement on Thursday.

The flash reading was below the market consensus of 49.5.

According to Markit, new orders fell to 48.1 in February from January’s 50.1 and production to 49.2 from 50.8 in January. New export orders rose to 49.3 from January’s 48.4.

PMI figures above 50 percent indicate expansion and below 50 percent, contraction.

Commenting on the figure, HSBC’s chief China economist Qu Hongbin said February’s flash reading moderated as new orders and production contracted, reflecting renewed destocking.

Gathering deflationary pressures imply that underlying manufacturing growth momentum could be weakening, and Beijing policymakers may need to fine tune policy to keep growth steady in the coming year, Qu said.

Lu Ting, chief China economist with Bank of America Merrill Lynch, noted that employment had dropped further below 50. New export orders improved but remained below 50. Inventories of raw materials and finished goods both fell below 50 in February.

Lu believes the data had quite a big impact on the market and said that markets had already been hit in the day.

Both mainland and Hong Kong stock markets fell quickly following the release of the number and both closed lower on the day.

“We suggest downplaying it. The HSBC flash PMI is poor data at the beginning of the year,” Lu said in a research note.

The survey period was between Feb. 12 and Feb. 18. The first six days in February were the Chinese New Year holiday, the most important holiday in China. Many small and medium enterprises — which could be the majority of the HSBC PMI sample — did not reopen until the middle of February, hence the quality of this flash PMI could be quite low, Lu explained.

In addition, PMI data are heavily seasonally adjusted, but the seasonal adjustment is quite inaccurate due to the different timing of the New Year holidays, Lu said.

China’s monthly macro data in January and February are usually distorted by this effect, which is difficult to remove statistically due to the short sample periods and floating dates.

“At the moment, visibility of short-term growth momentum is quite low,” he said.

Macro numbers from national statistics agencies have painted a mixed picture this year. Trade and credit expansion were above market estimates and the New Year holiday sales in line with expectations, he added.

Zhang Zhiwei, chief China economist with Japan’s Nomura Securities, took a relatively pessimistic view of the reading. He flagged the downside risk on Wednesday as another economic indicator — the MNI business sentiment index — also fell.

“We reiterate our view that the recovery in China is not sustainable,” he said, adding that China’s economic growth could slow to 7.5 percent in the first quarter and further fall to 7.1 percent in the second quarter.

Zhang expected the Chinese government to loosen monetary policy in the second quarter to support growth, if the growth target for 2014 is set at 7.5 percent.





>>  China stocks close lower on Thursday

By Zhang Xu

Chinese shares closed lower on Thursday of February 20, as the latest manufacturing data hit a seven-month low.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index dipped 0.18 percent, or 3.77 points, to finish at 2,138.78. The Shenzhen Component Index lost 1.41 percent, or 111.82 points, to close at 7,842.12.

Combined turnover on the two bourses shrank to 298.1 billion yuan (48.75 billion U.S. dollars) from 304.8 billion yuan on the previous trading day.

The HSBC/Markit China flash manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) for February dipped to 48.3 from a final reading of 49.5 in January, said data company Markit in a statement.

PMI above 50 percent indicates expansion and below 50 percent, contraction.

Over 118 shares fell over 5 percent while 35 shares surged by the 10-percent daily limit on the two bourses.

Media-related stocks continued declining with Guangdong Guangzhou Daily Media Co., Ltd. down 6.85 percent to 19.71 yuan. China Television Media Ltd. fell 5.85 percent to 16.59 yuan.

The bank sector struggled after its previous strong performance. Shares of Industrial Bank, Hua Xia Bank and Ningbo Bank all lost over 2 percent.

Security companies shares also sagged when Tencent, one of China’s biggest Internet firms, partnered with Sinolink Securities and released an Internet financial product “Yong Jin Bao”, which has no brokerage fee.

Bucking the trend, oil companies ended the trading day with strong results, as 10 shares hit the daily increase limit.

Oil refiner Sinopec, one of China’s three state-owned oil companies, climbed 10 percent, the first time in the past five year, to 5.17 yuan per share. The company announced on Wednesday that it would bring in social and private capital to market and sell its oil products.





>>  PBOC urges unified clearing of OTC financial derivatives

By Zhang Xu

The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) has released notices to unify the clearing of over-the-counter (OTC) financial derivatives, according to a statement on Thursday.

The central bank requires the Shanghai Clearing House as central counter party to provide unified clearing services for all transactions of OTC financial derivatives, to control risks and secure contract fulfillment.

Meanwhile, the notices regulate that all qualified clearings of the yuan’s Interest Rate Swap (IRS) should be submitted to the Shanghai Clearing House or explained to the central bank.

The qualified IRS clearing refers to those with a time limit of no more than five years and taking seven-day fixed repo rate or Shanghai Interbank Offered Rate as a reference rate.

The PBOC’s notice was carried out on January 28.





>>  Guangdong Province registers most social financing

By Zhang Zhengfu

China’s central bank on Thursday of February 20 published regional social financing data for 2013, with Guangdong Province ranking first, followed by Beijing and Jiangsu Province.

It is the first time that the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) has published such figures for different regions.

For Guangdong, social financing, which means the amount of funding the region’s real economy receives from the financial system, reached 1.38 trillion yuan (about 227.26 billion U.S. dollars) last year, the PBOC data showed.

Social financing for Beijing and Jiangsu ranked second and third with 1.26 trillion yuan and 1.21 trillion yuan respectively, said the bank.

The central bank said the statistics, which compares financing support different regions’ real economy obtain from the financial system, would help narrow the economic growth gap and promote interaction between the real economy and the financing system.

The country’s social financing amounted to a record high 17.29 trillion yuan in 2013, up 9.7 percent from 2012, according to an earlier PBOC report.

In 2013, the six regions receiving the most financing are all east coastal regions, including Guangdong, Beijing, Jiangsu, Shandong, Zhejiang and Shanghai, which account for 37.9 percent of the country’s total social financing, the data showed.





>>  Altar relics found at China’s neolithic city ruins

By Li Laifang and Feng Guo

Chinese archaeologists have discovered altar relics at the ruins of a neolithic city, which indicate religious culture at that time.

An initial survey showed the eight-meter-high altar had a three-tiered structure with a stone base 90 meters long. Jade relics and pits for offerings as deep as three meters were found nearby, said Sun Zhouyong, deputy head of the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology on Thursday.

Excavation has not started at the altar, outside the walls of the Shimao Ruins in Shenmu County.

Archaeologists have collected some jade for further research. They excavated over 80 human skulls last year.

Shimao Ruins were discovered in 1976 , but archaeologists did conduct a a thorough survey until last year, which led to more discoveries.

The city was found to have inner and outer structures, and the walls surrounding the outer city extend over four square kilometers.

The city was built about 4,300 years ago and abandoned roughly 300 years later during the Xia Dynasty (2100-1600 BC), the first dynasty in China described in historical chronicles.





>>  China reports less food poisoning deaths in 2013

By Zuo Yuanfeng

A total of 109 persons died of food poisoning in China in 2013, a 25.3 percent decrease year-on-year, according to the National Health and Family Planning Commission.

In a statement released Thursday, the commission said the number of people suffering from food poisoning last year also reduced by 16.8 percent to 5,559, which were reported in a total of 152 food poisoning cases.

Microbiological food poisoning led to most people ill while poisonous animals and plants, including mushroom, was the cause for most of the deaths, it said.

In terms of locations, most cases and deaths occurred at home while public dining halls were where most people fell ill.

The commission called for strengthened risk evaluations and prevention, urging local food safety supervisors to intensify monitoring of canteens in schools and work units, banquets in rural areas and agricultural markets.

It also ordered more education on preventing food poisoning among the public.







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