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December 25. 2009
China Sentences Dissident to 11 Years for Subversion

By LORETTA CHAO

BEIJING -- A Chinese court sentenced Liu Xiaobo, China's most prominent dissident, to 11 years in prison for criticizing the government, a verdict that suggests the numerous other activists who have been detained in the past year may also face harsher punishment as Beijing moves to tighten already strict limits on dissent.

The Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People's Court announced on Christmas Day its ruling that Mr. Liu was guilty of "inciting subversion of state power." The 53 year-old scholar spent more than a year in detention before his Wednesday trial that lasted less than three hours.

Ding Xikui, one of Mr. Liu's attorneys, said Mr. Liu plans to appeal the decision. "There were some flaws in the procedures of the trial," he said, but he declined to comment further. Appeals on sensitive political charges almost never succeed in China where political directives often supercede the written law.

Mr. Liu has vocally pushed for democratic reforms since the 1980s, and was a participant in the 1989 protests on Tiananmen Square in Beijing. He was detained by authorities last year shortly after he helped write Charter 08, a call for sweeping legal and political change, which hundreds of other scholars also signed. The letter, which has since attracted thousands of signatures of Chinese citizens, is seen as one of the boldest challenges to Communist Party rule in recent memory.

The verdict, especially coming on such a significant holiday in much of the world, is a stark rebuke to the outcry from foreign rights activists and governments over Mr. Liu's case -- and especially to the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, who just last month on his first visit to China pressed Beijing to respect "universal" human rights such as free expression. U.S. officials have repeatedly raised the Liu case with Chinese officials, and Washington was quick to criticized the verdict Friday.

At the court Friday morning, U.S. Embassy First Secretary Greg May said, "We are deeply concerned by the sentence…Persecution of individuals for the peaceful expression of political views is inconsistent with internationally recognized norms of human rights." Mr. May repeated his call for the government to release Mr. Liu "immediately," and to "respect the rights of all Chinese citizens to peacefully express their political views."

The sentence was also another strong message for the many activists within China, including human rights lawyers who have received warnings by authorities against taking on political cases, some of whom cannot practice law because the government did not approve their license renewals this year. It also serves as a warning to people like Zhao Lianhai, who was formally arrested last week, after a lengthy detention, for organizing families affected by a tainted-milk scandal last year that sickened at least tens of thousands of children.

"The fact is that Liu Xiaobo is neither a subversive nor a criminal and the severity of the verdict against him suggests that the Chinese government is ready and willing to take an unyieldingly harsh line against human rights activists in the year ahead," said Phelim Kine, an Asia researcher with New York-based Human Rights Watch.

"The show trial of Liu Xiaobo by the Chinese authorities is a scandal ... We call on President Hu Jintao to reverse this injustice and to release Liu and the scores of other Chinese who have been imprisoned for simply speaking their minds," said Kwame Anthony Appiah, president of the PEN American Center, the U.S. chapter of an international nongovernment writers association that advocates freedom of expression. Mr. Liu is a member of the organization.

Chinese officials couldn't be reached for comment. But China's state-run Xinhua news agency reported that a statement from the court said it strictly followed the legal procedures in this case and fully protected Mr. Liu's litigation rights. Xinhua said the court statement said the trial was "open to the public," but when diplomats and foreign journalists requested entry, they were declined.

The brevity of the proceedings led many to believe the trial was just a formality. "The premise of the trial was very wrong. How can you judge people only for their words?" said Mr. Liu's wife, Liu Xia.

According to Chinese law, the crime of inciting others "by spreading rumors or slander or any other means to subvert the State power or overthrow the socialist system shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment," and "ringleaders" of such activities are sentenced to "no less than five years." Mr. Liu's lawyers said the maximum sentence for such crimes is 15 years.

Mr. Liu's supporters say his sentence is especially severe given that he did not advocate the removal of the Communist Party from power. "The verdict is both a personal insult and tragedy for Liu Xiaobo, who has done nothing more than advocate rights and freedoms articulated in China's own constitution," Mr. Kine said.

December 23, 2009
China tells climate change "hijack" critics to honor obligations

BEIJING, Dec. 22 (Xinhua) -- Some developed countries that had failed to honor their commitments to tackle climate change are unqualified to criticize developing nations, a Chinese official said Tuesday.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu made the remarks at a regular press briefing in response to a reporter's question on the accusation of China's "hijacking" of the Copenhagen climate conference.

British Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband published an article in The Guardian newspaper on Dec. 20, saying China tried to "hijack" the Copenhagen climate conference.

Jiang said China had made arduous efforts to push forward the progress of the Copenhagen conference and adopted a series of active measures and policies in dealing with climate change.

China was second to none in terms of its attitude, intensity of actions and the achievements in addressing the issue, Jiang said.

China's voluntary emissions cut target had no strings attached and was not linked with the targets of any other country.

Taking their attitude on climate change talks into account, some developed countries that had failed to fulfill their obligations should reflect on their own conduct, Jiang said.

She said China expected all parties to take the Copenhagen conference as a new starting point, build further consensus, enhance cooperation and fulfill their own commitments, so as to complete the negotiations of the Bali Roadmap and promote a continuous progress of the international climate change cooperation.
November 15, 2009
China’s Role as U.S. Lender Alters Dynamics for Obama
By HELENE COOPER, MICHAEL WINES and DAVID E. SANGER

When President Obama visits China for the first time on Sunday, he will, in many ways, be assuming the role of profligate spender coming to pay his respects to his banker.

That stark fact — China is the largest foreign lender to the United States — has changed the core of the relationship between the United States and the only country with a reasonable chance of challenging its status as the world’s sole superpower.

The result: unlike his immediate predecessors, who publicly pushed and prodded China to follow the Western model and become more open politically and economically, Mr. Obama will be spending less time exhorting Beijing and more time reassuring it.

In a July meeting, Chinese officials asked their American counterparts detailed questions about the health care legislation making its way through Congress. The president’s budget director, Peter R. Orszag, answered most of their questions. But the Chinese were not particularly interested in the public option or universal care for all Americans.

“They wanted to know, in painstaking detail, how the health care plan would affect the deficit,” one participant in the conversation recalled. Chinese officials expect that they will help finance whatever Congress and the White House settle on, mostly through buying Treasury debt, and like any banker, they wanted evidence that the United States had a plan to pay them back.

Mr. Obama has struck a mollifying note with China. He pointedly singled out the emerging dynamic at play between the United States and China during a wide-ranging speech in Tokyo on Saturday that was meant to outline a new American relationship with Asia.

“The United States does not seek to contain China,” Mr. Obama said. “On the contrary, the rise of a strong, prosperous China can be a source of strength for the community of nations.”

Books: Was Mao Really A Monster? You can get it here, an afterthought.

November 13, 2009
Warm Welcome Awaits President Hu Jintao

By Tham Choy Lin

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 7 (Bernama) -- When President Hu Jintao flies in from the late autumn cold of Beijing to kickoff a two-day visit here Tuesday, he will be embraced by more than the tropical warmth.

Hu will be the first Chinese head of state to visit Malaysia in 15 years, although he was here as deputy president in 2002, a year before he became president.

The visit, enroute to Hu attending the APEC Summit in Singapore, goes deeper than the symbolism of the 35th anniversary of Malaysia-China diplomatic ties.

Amid the global recession, China is emerging as a crucial trade partner for Malaysia with the two sides taking advantage of tariff cuts from the Asean-China Free Trade Agreement that will come to fruition by next year.

China has become Malaysia's biggest trading partner this year, surpassing Singapore, the United States and Japan.

Between January and September, bilateral trade reached RM89 billion, accounting for nearly 13 per cent of Malaysia's total trade during the period, according to Malaysian official trade figures.

Chinese visionary leader Deng Xiaoping, credited with establishing China's "open door" policy and economic reform, was here as vice-premier in 1978, President Yang Shangkun in 1990 and 1992, Premier Li Peng in 1992, President Jiang Zemin in 1994, Premier Zhu Rongji in 1999 and Premier Wen Jiabao in 2005.

During his April 2002 visit, Hu took a detour north of Malaysia to Penang island and visited a two-storey shophouse that was a base for China nationalist Sun Yat Seng in raising funds to overthrow the last imperial dynasty that led to the founding of China as a republic.

This time, Hu will take a short drive south of the Malaysian capital for another patch of Chinese history in the historic state of Melaka where the seeds of relations between China and the Malay peninsula were sown.

China's revered mariner, Admiral Zheng He, first set foot in Melaka in 1405 and in all, he stopped there in five of his seven voyages and is believed to have set up warehouses to supply his voyages and store goods gathered from his journeys.

July 10, 2009
Important notice: GeoCities is closing.

Dear Yahoo! GeoCities customer,

We're writing to let you know that Yahoo! GeoCities, our free web site building service and community, is closing on October 26, 2009.

On October 26, 2009, your GeoCities site will no longer appear on the Web, and you will no longer be able to access your GeoCities account and files.

Best regards,

The Yahoo! GeoCities team

June 19, 2009
TVB8 is now running 北京之路 – 解密開幕式 Behind-the-Scene Story of 2008 Olympic Opening Ceremony.
April 24, 2009
Yahoo to close GeoCities this year

Yahoo Inc. said Thursday that it would shut down its GeoCities free Web-hosting service after paying about $3 billion for the unit in 1999.

Yahoo pointed GeoCities users to its paid Web-hosting service. The company will give users more details on saving GeoCities' data later this year.

U.S. visitors to GeoCities dropped 25% to 12 million in March from the year-ago period, according to research firm ComScore Inc. in Reston, Va.

April 9, 2009
China unveils health-care reform guidelines
April 6, 2009
Xinhua

China Monday unveiled a blueprint for health-care over the next decade, kicking off a much-anticipated reform to fix the ailing medical system and to ensure fair and affordable health services for all 1.3 billion citizens.

The core principle of the reform is to provide basic health care as a "public service" to the people, which requires much more government funding and supervision.

The reform is aimed at "solving pressing problems that have caused strong complaints from the public," the document said, referring to long-standing criticism that medical services are difficult to access and increasingly unaffordable.

Many factors were blamed for causing problems - huge development gap between cities and rural areas, low government funding, weak health-care facilities at grassroots level, and increasing disease burdens - despite the country's effort to double the average life expectancy over the past 60 years.

Soaring medical bills further strained China's social security network, already burdened by expensive education, fast population ageing and unemployment. This forces many ordinary Chinese to save money, instead of spending, as precautionary measures.

After the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, governments covered more than 90 percent of medical expenses for urban residents, while rural people enjoyed simple but essentially free health care.

But when China began its economic reforms in the early 1980s, the system was dismantled as the country attempted to switch to a market-oriented health care system.

Due to low government funding, doctors at state-run hospitals were forced to "generate" incomes for the hospitals through prescribing highly-profitable, sometimes unnecessary drugs and treatment. In many places this could account for 90 percent of a hospital's income.

Soaring fees plunged many into poverty and made medical services less affordable to ordinary citizens.

Statistics from the Ministry of Health show that the personal spending on medical services has doubled from 21.2 percent in 1980to 45.2 percent in 2007, while the government funding dropped to 20.3 percent from 36.2 percent in 1980.

Health care reform could be prescription for employment

March 31, 2009
China's Peasants Abandon Cities as 20 Million Jobs Disappear
March 30, 2009
by Andrew Fone

CHENGDU, China - To see the Chinese countryside in the western Sichuan Province in spring is a chance to behold some truly spectacular scenery. The yellow flowers in the fields blaze across the landscape and farmers turn the earth by hand.

But the beauty belies the hard life of China's peasants.

Some 800 million people live much the way they have for centuries, with few of the amenities of modern life. Just 10 months ago, Sichuan Province was hit by a massive 8.0 magnitude earthquake that left 70,000 people dead, 18,000 missing and millions homeless.

Knowing that the eyes of the world were watching and that its response would be judged by its own people, the Chinese government pledged a $150 billion reconstruction effort.

....

Life in China's rural areas has never been easy. The average person in Sichuan Province earns only about $400 a year, so with the promise of well-paying factory jobs people have left by the hundreds of thousands and headed for China's booming cities. In the best of times factory workers could make five times what they could toiling in the fields of their small villages.

But for many, these are the worst of times. As a result of the global financial crisis, demand for Chinese-made goods has declined and within the last year an estimated 70,000 factories and businesses have closed, leaving 20 million "migrant workers" without jobs.

"Times are tough," said Li Yuan Zhen, who used to work at a garment factory in Guangdong Province earning about $150 a month.

"Since the company went bankrupt there is no work," she said. Hundreds of thousands of workers from Sichuan are in a similar position and have been forced to return to their rural homes with no prospect of work anytime soon.

Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong believed that if the party lost the support of the peasants it would lose control of China. Mindful of that, the government had set a goal of 8 percent growth this year, fearing less would cause such high unemployment it would result in mass civil unrest.

That hasn't happened yet, but after two decades of economic growth, the global downturn is seen as the most serious test for the ruling Communist party in a generation.

Back home to clean air, nature and another century of sustainable lifestye.

Related: Agriculture in China, Rural Tax, Village Elections

Guangdong resumes week-long May Day holiday

Editor:Sharon Lee
Source:Xinhua

GUANGZHOU - China's southern Guangdong province will resume the week-long May Day holiday this year in a bid to revive the economy, local officials said Wednesday.

In 2007, China cut the May Day holiday from seven to three days to ease overcrowded travel.

The holiday in Guangdong will fall on May 1-7. Two days will be paid leave and local residents will have to work over the weekend of May 9-10.

Guangdong is the country's first province to resume the week-long holiday.

Liu Xiaojie, deputy secretary-general of the provincial government, said the move would help encourage travel and spur domestic demand.

The local economy in export-oriented Guangdong has been hit hard by reduced global demand for its goods.

Update: Banned by Beijing: Guangdong’s Holiday Plan, Seeking a golden spur for lagging economy

China's rural migrant workers top 225 million

BEIJING, March 25 (Xinhua) -- China, the world largest agriculture country in terms of farming population, has 225.42 million rural migrant workers as of 2008, according to statistic from the National Statistics Bureau (NBS) on Wednesday.

Among all the migrant workers, 62.3 percent or 140.41 million were working outside their home county, while the other 37.7 percent or, 85.01 million, worked in their hometowns.

Migrant workers from the central areas accounted for 37.6 percent of the 140.41 million ones. Other 32.7 percent and 29.7 percent were from the western and eastern regions, respectively.

The NBS said 70 million migrant workers went back to hometowns before February. Currently, 56 million have returned to the cities, 45 million have found jobs, and the other 11 million are still unemployed.

The statistics are based on a survey conducted by NBS, involving 68,000 rural households from 7,100 villages in 31 provinces.

March 17, 2009
China Worried After Lending 'Huge Amount' to U.S. -Dexter Roberts

"We have lent a huge amount of money to the United States," Wen said at a press conference in Beijing's Great Hall of the People. "I am a little bit worried. I request the U.S. to maintain its good credit, to honor its promises, and to guarantee the safety of China's assets."

Think of it as bad investment and cut the losses.

Obama soothes China on US debt -AFP

"By continuing to support American Treasury instruments the Chinese are recognizing our interconnection. We are truly going to rise or fall together," Clinton said.

Domestic critics have charged that, as a developing country, China should be investing at home instead of subsidizing the world's richest country, or else diversifying into other foreign assets.

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