Saturday, September 20, 2008

Chinese President urges CPC members to learn from latest security incidents

Chinese President Hu Jintao on Friday urged all the members of the Communist Party of China to put people's interests first and learn the bitter lessons from the latest security incidents.

Addressing the opening ceremony of a seminar for the country's ministerial-level leaders in Beijing, Hu, also the General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee, said that the major accidents on work and food safety which occurred in some places of the country this year had incurred severe losses of people's lives and property.

These accidents had indicated that some leaders lacked a sense of responsibility and had a loose governance, he said.

These accidents also showed some of the leaders paid no attention to people's problems and complaints and were insensitiveto the problems which threats people's life security, said Hu.

Chinese President Hu Jintao on Friday addresses the opening ceremony of a seminar for the country's ministerial-level leaders in Beijing.
He urged all the leaders to fully understand the serious consequences of the accidents and learn the bitter lessons from the accidents.

Those accidents reminded us once again that only by solving the problems emerged from the Party leaders ... and putting people's interests first, could the Party better lead the people towards the building of a well-off society, Hu said.

The President also urged more efforts from the leaders to realize and safeguard the fundamental interests of the people.

Leaders should strive hard to do practical and good things for the people and ensure that people benefits from the country's developing economy, he noted.

More efforts should be made to mobilize people to be involved in the cause of the country's scientific development, and leaders should collect people's ideas and listen to their opinions in the process, he said.


China's Cabinet urges efforts to save babies stricken with tainted milk powder

China's State Council, or Cabinet, on Friday urges all-out efforts to save babies stricken with tainted baby milk powder, orders to check all dairy products and rectify the dairy industry in an all-round manner.

Medical authorities should provide free examination and treatment for infants who have developed kidney stones after drinking tainted milk, and screening efforts should be beefed up in the countryside and remote areas, according to a circular issued by the State Council.

The medical expenses would be temporarily covered by local finance, and later be compensated by the enterprises which were found responsible, read the circular.

The circular also ordered quality supervision authorities to have an all-round check on the dairy products and asked enterprises to recall all the tainted products.

"Local authorities should rectify the dairy industry so as to bring a fundamental change to the dairy market and products." it said.

The State Council then urged efforts to ensure sufficient domestic milk supply and vowed to punish enterprises, monitoring departments and government leaders held accountable for the scandal.

Baby formula tainted with the chemical melamine, which makes the protein content of the milk appearing higher than it actually is, has so far killed four babies and left more than 6,200 infants to develop kidney stones.

Dairy giant Sanlu based in the northern Hebei provincial capital of Shijiazhuang was the first company exposed in the scandal.


Euro-China Forum ends with calls for further dialogue

The Seventh Euro-China Forum ended Friday in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, as participants called for further dialogue and cooperation between China and Europe.

In the three-day forum entitled "Silk Road of the 21st century," nearly 200 politicians, academicians, economists from Europe and Asia discussed Sino-Europe relations and economic cooperation.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said China has made great achievements in its economic development and "Ukraine is willing to learn China's successful experiences and strengthen exchanges and cooperation with China."

China has just successfully hosted the 2008 Olympic Games and its scale and level was impressive, the president said in a message to the forum.

Addressing the forum, former French Prime Minister Laurent Fabius said that apart from economic cooperation, the Europeans and Chinese should enhance their cultural exchanges to know each other even better.

"The economic and trade relations is the core of the Europe- China cooperation. We, Europeans and Chinese, should seize every opportunity to smoothen out potential frictions and to bridge the gap between the intensification of our commercial relationship and the weakness of our intellectual exchanges. In this respect, the Euro-China Forum plays a crucial part. And its influence keeps growing." he said.

Fabius also noted that Europe in the past called China "a sleeping giant" and the giant is now waking up.

"The success of the Beijing Olympic Games showed China's vigor and enthusiasm," he said.

Chinese ambassador to Ukraine Zhou Li said that Ukraine is an important country in Europe and the Chinese government attaches great importance to developing relations with Ukraine and Europe.

The bilateral economic and trade relations between China and Ukraine have developed steadily in recent years, he said.

"I believe the friendly cooperative relations between China and Ukraine will see a more brilliant future thanks to bilateral joint efforts," Zhou Li said.

The non-governmental forum was initiated by China Europe International Business School to foster unofficial exchanges between the two sides of the Eurasian continent. The forum was first held in 2002 in Barcelona, Spain.


Official: Sino-Bangladesh relations boosted through Bangladesh gov't head's visit

The recent visit of Chief Adviser of the Bangladesh caretaker government Fakhruddin Ahmed to China has boosted bilateral ties between the two friendly countries, a senior official said here on Friday.

The Foreign Adviser Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury of the government said this Friday in a press statement of the foreign ministry.

He said the chief adviser held official talks with China's President Hu Jintao, Vice President Xi Jinping, and Premier Wen Jiabao.

The discussions underscored the fact that Bangladesh-China relations were "time-tested" and "all-weather," and that they symbolized a "comprehensive partnership for cooperation," he said.

The foreign adviser said some new potential areas for cooperation also came up, including the construction of future seventh and eighth friendship bridges, collaboration on nuclear power technology and on the production of hybrid seeds for expanding agricultural production.

The two sides also discussed a future road linking Bangladesh and China through Myanmar.

"The visit most certainly strengthened the ties that bind our two Asian and developing countries. China is important for us, as Bangladesh is for China," said the foreign adviser.

"I have every confidence that all governments to follow will bear this in mind, and that close ties with China will be an eternal pillar of Bangladesh's foreign policy," he said.  


Turkmenistan-China natual gas pipeline to go into operation on schedule

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has said the pipeline designed to transport Turkmenistan's natural gas to China would go into operation as scheduled, according to news reports from Ashgabat Friday.

Berdymukhamedov made the remarks Thursday when inspecting the pipeline project, Turkmenistan's state news agency reported.

Turkmenistan and China, with their leaders in closer contacts over the past years, have expressed their willingness to broaden mutually-beneficial cooperation, especially in the energy field, he said.

The pipeline will bring substantial economic benefits for the two countries, as well as the whole region, the president added.

In June, China and Turkmenistan jointly launched the pipeline project. The pipeline, starting from Turkmenistan's Amu-darya River region, passing through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan and winding its way to east and south China, has a designed length of some 10,000 km.

Upon its completion, the pipeline will have an annual transmission capacity of 40 billion cubic meters which will last for 30 years.


PLA to cement cooperative ties with Thai military

China is willing to work with Thailand to strengthen substantive cooperation in all fields and promote bilateral friendship between the two nations and militaries, according to Defense Minister Liang Guanglie here Saturday.

He made the remarks when meeting with visiting Permanent Secretary of the Thai Ministry of Defense Winai Phattiyakul, a guest of China's State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense.

Liang spoke highly of the Sino-Thai relations, saying the two countries have maintained close coordination in regional and international affairs and achieved fruitful results from the substantial cooperation between the People's Liberation Army and the Thai armed forces.

"We would like to keep intense contact and cooperation with the Thai side so as to bring up friendly ties between the two countries and militaries to a new height."

Winai added the Thai and Chinese armed forces have cooperated smoothly in various fields in the past.

"Thailand values the friendly relations with China and hopes to push forward the relations together."

In July, special forces from the two countries held a joint anti-terrorism training exercise in northern Thailand's Chiang Mai Province, aiming to cement cooperation in non-traditional security areas and safeguard regional peace and stability.

In July 2007, the two countries held their first joint training in south China's Guangdong Province. It was the first such training China had held with another country.


South China city unveils world's largest sci-tech museum

China's better-off southern city of Guangzhou on Friday night unveiled a sci-tech museum, the largest of its kind in the world.

With a floor area larger than Beijing's Tian'anmen Square, the steel-structured main building of the Guangdong Science Center features a blooming kapok flower.

The museum seats on Xiaoguwei Island, known as the university town of Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong Province.

To be officially opened to the public on Sept. 27, the center offers eight exhibition areas, four science cinemas, two open laboratories and a digital "family experience" hall.

Outside the main building, there is an 80,000-square-meter artificial lake for water-theme exhibitions and an outdoor sciencesquare.

The museum cost 1.9 billion yuan , all on government funding, to have been built over five years, said Zhang Ming, deputy head of the Guangdong science and technology bureau at the center's unveiling ceremony Friday night.

He said the center would demonstrate China's newest fruits on science and technology. Among 400 items of such exhibits in the center, more than half would be on their debut show.

He said the outdoor area of the non-profit science center would be ticket-free.

Zhang added the provincial government hoped that the center would become an attraction for the promotion of new science and technology and a venue for academic exchanges.

Visitors to the interactive science center can also experience simulated earthquake and typhoon environments, or a satellite launch process, and play with a robot.


FEATURE: Disabled Chinese artists aspire to global fame

An electrical accident left HuangYangguang armless, but dancing changed his life.

The 31-year-old was born in a mountain village in south China'sGuangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and lost his arms at five. As he grew up, he learned to write, paint, ride a bicycle and plant fruit trees with his legs, believing he could live as normal as others did.

Now his life is more than normal. As a lead dancer in the China Disabled People's Performing Art Troupe, he has a tight schedule and global aspiration.

"My dream used to be feeding my parents, two younger brother and sister on my own," said Huang, sitting relaxed in a chair backstage at the Beijing Poly Theatre following a show. "Now my dream is to bring joy to as many people as possible around the world."

On Thursday, Huang flew from Beijing to Japan. His companions were singers who couldn't see, actors who couldn't hear and a wheelchair soprano.

Having shone during the Paralympic opening and closing ceremonies, the troupe aspired to even bigger success on world stage, both commercially and artistically.

At the National Stadium, also known as the Bird's Nest, on Sept. 6, the spotlight was on the 100-strong deaf dancers who performed ballet with an amputee girl from the May 12 earthquake. At the Paralympic closing ceremony on Wednesday night, a deaf-mutegirl "talked" the flame to extinguish in sign language.

Other leading lights from the troupe included a pianist, a singer and a flutist, all who had lost their sight but blew away the audience with their performances.

In Japan, 28 shows await them in Tokyo, Osaka and 16 other cities. They are followed by a two-week U.S. tour to Los Angeles and San Francisco, among other cities, beginning Oct. 2. Planned destinations after Oct. 22 included Portugal, Morocco, Algeria and the United Arab Emirates.

For those places the troupe won't have enough time to visit, a documentary named after their ongoing show, "My Dream," was slated for a global premier in April. The movie was invested by the troupe itself and was in the running for next year's Academy Awards for best documentary feature.

"My dream is to bring our special art to every corner of the world," Tai Lihua, head of the 153-member troupe, told Xinhua in sign language. "That dream will never end."


In "My Dream," Huang's dance presents a picture of rural life in his hometown with exuberance and joy. He skillfully carried two buckets with a pole on his shoulders, holds a ladle between the toes of one foot, while standing on the other. He also spun a straw hat on his head to celebrate harvest. Nothing sad.

The same vigor was conveyed by other programs of the show, which was updated for the fifth time for the Beijing Olympics and Paralympic occasions and put on in Beijing during the respective Games.

In the two-hour show, two hearing-impaired actors performed Peking Opera while their blind companions played music and voiced the dialogue. A group of blind dancers paid tribute to spring. A band without music books plays, despite its members being unable to see.

"Communication and cooperation between our members is natural, "Tai said. "Of course it's more difficult for us than for others, but everyone here has been used to his or her environment. That's the way we live, so we try harder."

The 32-year-old Tai lost her hearing from excessive medicine injections during a bout of fever at age two. She had to count from one to eight in her head more than 1,000 times to complete a dance without messing the rhythms.

The dancer overcame her disability, making a hit out of her performances at such top-class venues as New York's Carnegie Hall and Milan's La Scala Theater.

She first "heard" music at the age of seven, when she had a rhythmic class at a primary school for deaf-mutes.

"When I felt the drum beats passed on to my feet through the wood floor, I was startled. It was a happiness I had never experienced." Since then, she had never looked back on her dancing journey.

Like Tai, all members of the troupe had to fully realize their potential and turn to some special means to fulfill artistic achievement.

In a dance celebrating spring, blind boys and girls wearing sunglasses kept themselves in a neat line helped by a rope tied totheir waists. Arm in arm, they put together green plastic patches to form a patch of grassland and smiled while sniffing the grass.

"It was very difficult as sight-impaired people had no sense ofimages and usually made vocal performances," said an ex-official with the China Disabled Persons' Federation , which was in charge of the troupe.

"The choreographer came up with the idea as we wanted to give our audience something special, something that nobody would think was possible," she said.

To give the blind dancers a basic idea of body movement, the teacher made a pose first and then let them feel the position of her arms and legs.

"Many blind kids didn't even know what a smile is," said the official, who had been working closely with the troupe since its establishment and spoke on condition of anonymity. Like Tai, the troupe authorities always called the members "kids" in affection.

Some could only make awkward expressions or simply laugh when told to smile, she said. The teacher had to use hands to fix a smile on their faces and asked them to remember the muscle movement.

Their work paid off. The elegant, bright smiles were infectiousand always enlivened audiences.


Huang was recruited by the troupe in 2001 when he took part in a national arts contest for the disabled and won a prize. Before that, his inspiring story had drawn media attention and aroused the interest of a local official in charge of cultural affairs. Helater choreographed a dance for him to showcase the armless man's special talent.

Like Huang, most of the troupe's members were picked from special schools or national art competitions, or recommended by local disabled people's federations, Tai said.

They were selected according to their artistic talent or enthusiasm despite few having received professional training before, she said.

"After they entered the troupe, we found good college tutors and famed artists to teach them. We must ensure a sound, professional foundation for our art."


At first, the troupe was just a provisional organization after its 1987 founding when more than 30 disabled teenagers were allowed to take part in the First China Art Festival in Beijing. Their performance moved a large audience and the troupe was formed.

"Authorities of the CDPF fought for that opportunity at the festival," the troupe official recalled. "They thought those children needed a stage. Many of them loved singing and dancing and could do it well despite disabilities."

However, in the first 14 years, the troupe only existed when big activities were held; members were temporarily called up from schools and other places to enhance several programs.

"The troupe was totally at an amateur level at the time, kind of self-entertaining," the official said.

A turning point emerged in 2001 when the troupe was invited by the CASI Foundation for Children to perform in six U.S. states. Officials deemed it necessary to put on a professional show and started to formalize its organization, training and choreographing the members collectively.

"It was a huge success and gave us enormous confidence," said the official. "We realized we were not only the same as other people, but we could also become artists."

The troupe decided to reject government funding and sell tickets for a living in 2002, eager to prove their artistic value and to get more money for innovation and improvement.

They persevered through tough times when nobody would watch their shows, even when tickets were offered free.

"Some companies said they would rather give us money than take our tickets, as they thought performances by disabled persons would just make people sad," the official sad.

Their reputation, however, was gradually built as the troupe's name was passed by word of mouth. "We expanded the market step by step. We put in a lot of efforts in advertisements too."

In 2004, the troupe put on a memorable dance performance in the eight-minute Beijing segment of the Athens Paralympic closing ceremony. It featured 21 deaf artists in ornate golden costumes moving their arms in breathtaking synchronicity in tribute to an eastern Bodhisattva of compassion, guided by sign-language teachers.

It was a pivotal moment for the troupe. The show overwhelmed millions at home and abroad and gave a boost to national pride as the Greek media commented the program rescued the whole ceremony.

Video clips of their performance were posted on YouTube. "Impressive, I never knew disabled people and performing arts work together," was one comment in English on the website. "Who would have guessed the best dance performance I've ever seen would be done by deaf dancers," said another.

With success, the troupe's pockets swelled to the point where it had enough money to set up a 1 million U.S. dollar charity fund last year.

"I feel more valued here and I earn much more than I did back home," Huang said.

The official said there used to be dissent over whether it was necessary for the group to achieve a professional standard, as some argued the fact that the disabled could perform would be enough to attract attention, the official said.

"The authorities finally reached this conclusion: the sympathy for disabilities is temporary, but the power of art is eternal."


Coal mine accident traps over 30 miners in NE China, five confirmed dead

Rescuers found the bodies of five workers, who were among more than 30 miners trapped in a coal mine accident early Saturday morning in Hegang City, northeast China's Heilongjiang Province.

Rescuers said a fire suddenly broke out under the mine shaft at around 4 a.m., when 44 miners were working underground.

About a dozen miners managed to escape and told rescuers that more than 30 miners might be trapped in the mine.

The cause of the fire was not immediately known.

The mine is owned by the Fuhua Mining Co. Ltd., a privately-owned business.


Shanghai has age-old problem

Shanghai, like many major cities around the world, is entering a gray area.

About a third population with local residency would be aged 60 or above in 2020, while families in the city were getting smaller and with fewer children, the Shanghai Population and Family Planning Commission said Friday.

Shanghai is China's most populous city, with 18.58 million residents in 2007. There were 6.6 million migrants in the city, including the 4.99 million staying in the city for more than six months.

The city saw an annual increase of 300,000 residents between 1990 and 2007, mainly due to the migrant influx.

About 20.8 percent of local residents were 60 or older in 2007. In 2020, 34 percent of local residency will enter that bracket.

At present, 3.05 million families have only one child, accounting for 61.06 percent of the total number of families. The percentage is 39.09 higher than the national average.

"Shanghai has an unbalanced population structure," said Xie Lingli, commission director. "However, the family-planning policy really cut an estimated 7 million people, effectively enhancing local economic development and easing pressure on the environment."

According to Xie, the city had an improper population distribution.

"Over half of people, which is about 9.76 million, live in downtown areas covering only a tenth of the local area," she said. "Overcrowding results in busy traffic, rising living costs and poor environmental quality."

Officials said the city would work out plans to control population in line with the local economy and resources, study urban-development strategy and infrastructure under the increasing population, ensure better population distribution in urban and rural areas, perfect population management and the public service system and establish an alarm system on urban-population safety.


Police say 5 killed, 3 seriously injured in bus accident in east China

A bus veered off road and rolled over early Saturday morning in an expressway section near Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang Province, killing five passengers and leaving three others seriously injured, according to the local police.

The 43-seat passenger bus en route from Hangzhou to Ningbo in Zhejiang had 42 people on board. It veered and hit the traffic fence, leaving a 30-meter-long nick, at the 27 km site of the expressway from Hangzhou.

Police said they found large quantities of rawhide scattered on the road, which might have caused the accident and four other minor traffic accidents on the section.

Police have caught the rawhide truck for investigation.

All the injured are out of danger in hospital.

The bus was operated by a transport company registered in east China's Anhui Province.


Expo road work in fast lane in Shanghai

Nineteen of 25 Pudong road reconstruction and development projects associated with the Shanghai 2010 World Expo have begun, and the others will be kicked off by the beginning of next year, the Standing Committee of the Pudong New Area People's Congress said Friday.

Pudong has brought its investment in the 96-kilometer road projects to about 40.8 billion yuan from the planning budget of 11.3 billion yuan.

The rise in expenditures was caused by inflation, which affected labor and construction material costs, and an increase in compensation to relocated households.

Nearly all of the families and 88 percent of the companies involved in the road reconstruction and development program have signed contracts with the government to make way for the Expo.

Major road development projects that include reconstruction of the Inner and Middle Ring Roads and Pudong Avenue have begun.

Meanwhile, Pudong New Area government has simplified its approval procedures to speed construction. The government abolished 210 administrative charges to promote its service and improve efficiency.

In other Expo developments, Slovenia will use its pavilion at the Shanghai 2010 World Expo to demonstrate how it integrates its wide range of people and cultures, an official from the central European nation said yesterday.

Slovenia shares a border with Croatia, Hungary, Austria and Italy, and many people from those countries visit or live in Slovenia, noted Sasa Layic, the country's commissioner general for the World Expo.

Solvenia's pavilion will be themed "integration of diversity," playing up the country's scenery. Slovenia is known for its forests, mountains and plains, and with proper management, these elements make for a beautiful country, Layic said.


Three officials punished for fatal mine accident in north China province

Three officials including the mayor of Linfen, north China's Shanxi Province, were punished by the provincial organization department of the Communist Party of China on Saturday for a fatal mine accident that killed 262 people.

The department's meeting on Saturday decided to suspend the work of Linfen's Communist Party chief Xia Zhengui, and proposed to dismiss the mayor Liu Zhijie and vice mayor Zhou Jie.

The meeting also nominated Luo Qingyu, deputy secretary-general of the Shanxi provincial government, as a candidate for the mayor.

The reshuffle of government posts have to be approved by the local legislative body.

Three officials punished for fatal mine accident in north China province

TAIYUAN, Sept. 20 -- Three officials including the mayor of Linfen, north China's Shanxi Province, were punished by the provincial organization department of the Communist Party of China on Saturday for a fatal mine accident that killed 262 people.

The department's meeting on Saturday decided to suspend the work of Linfen's Communist Party chief Xia Zhengui, and proposed to dismiss the mayor Liu Zhijie and vice mayor Zhou Jie.

The meeting also nominated Luo Qingyu, deputy secretary-general of the Shanxi provincial government, as a candidate for the mayor.

The reshuffle of government posts have to be approved by the local legislative body.


China satellite base suspends tourism during spacecraft launch

Jiuquan, host city of the Shenzhou-7 spacecraft launch in northwest China's Gansu Province, suspended all tourist activities in the area to observe the upcoming spacecraft launch.

The desert launch base, 210 km away from the city's downtown, became a popular destination among space fans after the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center announced on Sept. 8 that the manned Shenzhou-7 spacecraft would be launched at an appropriate time between Sept. 25 and 30.

A Jiuquan Tourism Board official surnamed Wu confirmed on Saturday travel agencies had been ordered to stop organizing tours to the launch base. The exact date ending the travel ban would be announced after the launch.

"The tourist board will see to travel agencies to refund customers' advance payments on such tours," he said.

A Jiuquan Longteng Travel Agency Service employee said the company had stopped its adverts promoting satellite launch travel.

"All the organized tour groups to the launch center have been called off in line with the government's requirement," she said.

A woman surnamed Ma with the Jiuquan International Travel Service said the agency had received many calls about spacecraft launching tours.

"Many people were disappointed when they found out travel to the spacecraft launch base wasn't allowed."

The tourist agencies said "space tours" in Jiuquan had become popular in recent years. The market response to the Shenzhou-7 spacecraft launch was even hotter than before.


Association head: China food industry booms, safety to enhance

China's food industry sales volume was expected to hit 4 trillion yuan this year, said Wang Wenzhe, China National Food Industry Association chairman.

He made the remark here at the Sixth China Food Safety Annual Meeting on Saturday, saying the sales volume totaled 2.28 trillion yuan in the first seven months, an increase of 34.6 percent over the same period last year.

Figures show 98.4 percent of the country's food passed quality inspection and tests in the first half. The result was based on a survey covering 3,813 kinds of food produced by 3,288 enterprises.

The pass rate was 4 percentage points higher over that of the same period last year, and 9 percentage points higher than in 2006.

He acknowledged current quality of food was far from satisfying consumer expectations. Excessive pesticide residue and food additives were included among the problems.

Wang suggested the country improve its food quality and safety supervision system, call back disqualified products in time, and punish those who break regulations and risk public safety.

The country's food safety has been a tough issue, suffering sometimes from consumer complaints. The latest incident was the tainted milk scandal. More than 6,200 infants had developed kidney stones after drinking baby formula tainted with the hazardous chemical melamine.

By Friday, 3,215 tonnes of milk powder had been removed from retail outlets nationwide.

The case is currently under investigation.


China Construction Bank has $191.4 mln of Lehman Bros. exposures

China Construction Bank Corporation said on Friday it held 191.4 million U.S. dollars in bonds issued by failed U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers.

The lender had 141.4 million U.S. dollars in senior bonds and 50 million U.S. dollars in subordinated bonds. The amount accounted for 0.019 percent of its total assets and 0.29 percent of its net assets through June.

"CCB will continue to closely monitor developments of relevant events, prudently assess potential losses, make sufficient provision for impairment losses and protect the bank's legal rights," said the bank in a statement.

The Lehman Brothers bankruptcy would not cause a significant impact on CCB's financial situation, the bank said.


IBM and Volvo plan to set up trade unions in China

Software giant IBM and Swedish automaker Volvo are among the latest batch of Fortune 500 companies doing business in China that plan to set up trade unions in the country, a senior union official said on Friday.

Yang Honglin, head of the grassroots organizations and capacity building department of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, said at a press conference: "Fortune Global 500 firms have been our focus in the formation of trade unions among foreign-funded enterprises."

Less than half of the Fortune 500 subsidiaries in China have established trade unions, compared with more than 73 percent for all foreign-funded firms in China, he said.

To rectify the situation, the top trade union launched a three-month national campaign in June. Sony, Canon, FedEx, Intel and Toyota have set up unions since then, Yang said.
IBM and Volvo are among those that are planning to set up trade unions, he told China Daily.

Currently, 483 of the Fortune 500 firms run business in China, with 336 setting up headquarters here and about 10,000 having subsidiary operations.

China made a breakthrough in setting up trade unions among Fortune 500 firms in 2006, when retailing giant Wal-Mart, which did not have unions anywhere in the world, began setting them up.

Zhang Jianguo, director of the top trade union's department of collective contracts, said more than 50,000 workers at Wal-Mart's 108 chains in China have now signed collective contracts with their employers through their trade unions.

The contracts introduce annual wage negotiations and state the minimum wage offered by the firms should be higher than the local monthly minimum rate. The contracts also include other agreements on working hours, paid vacations, social security and training.


Bank of China to buy into Rothschild venture

The Bank of China is to buy a 20-percent stake in La Compagnie Financiere Edmond de Rothschild for 236 million euros .

Compagnie Financiere Edmond de Rothschild, the French fund-management unit of privately-held bank LCF Rothschild Group, and Beijing-based Bank of China are to begin an asset-management and private-banking venture to sell Rothschild's financial products through the Chinese lender's 10,800 branches, Bloomberg News said.

"Chinese banks are performing in a marvelous way in the current maelstrom that is shaking the global finance," Compagnie Financiere Edmond de Rothschild Chairman Michel Cicurel said at a press conference in Paris.

"Bank of China is perfectly positioned to accompany China's growing middle class" as the lender has more than 20 million accounts of individuals with at least 100,000 dollars, he said.

Compagnie Financiere Edmond de Rothschild "had no need for cash" as it completed the deal, Cicurel said.

Bank of China is buying a 10 percent stake from Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec, a Canadian pension fund, and the rest will be new shares.

Benjamin de Rothschild, chairman of the supervisory board, will keep a 75 percent stake in LCF Edmond de Rothschild and Bank of China will be the second-largest shareholder in the asset-management company.

The firm managed 29.6 billion euros in assets at the end of 2007.

Zhu Min, vice governor of Bank of China, and Michel Cicurel, CEO of La Compagine Financiere Edmond de Rothschild Banque, attend the signing ceremony in Paris, Sept. 18, 2007. Bank of China is to take a 20 percent stake in the private bank to become its second largest stockholder
Bank of China "expects that the transaction will provide a reasonable return on investment," the Chinese lender said in a statement to Hong Kong's stock exchange.

"The bank can further explore opportunities in European and other emerging markets."

Bank of China Vice President Zhu Min also said the company wasn't ready to acquire a major United States investment bank.

While "very volatile markets present opportunities to buy others, I don't think we have the capability to do that today," Zhu told reporters in Paris.

The bank is still looking at its domestic market for expansion, he said.

Compagnie Financiere Edmond de Rothschild, which started operations in Shanghai two years ago, is one of the latest international fund managers to start operations in the country to tap growing personal incomes and sovereign wealth funds.


China central bank suggests rural financial service improvement

China should further upgrade its rural financial service system to bolster economic development in such areas and improve the lives of farmers, said a People's Bank of China report released late on Friday.

The central bank's "China rural financial service report" suggested the government provide more low-cost financial services in rural areas, improve the credit-risk management mechanism and encourage innovation in financial products.

"Although the rural economy has developed quickly these years, financial services still fall far behind those in urban regions. Simpler and low-cost financial services are needed and necessary," it said.

Financial organs at all levels were suggested to provide simpler procedures in major financial services, including deposit, loan, remittance, insurance, futures and stocks, in a bid to reduce business costs and make services more easier to realize.

Efforts should also be made to lower the market-access threshold in rural financial markets. This included less restrictions on risk management supervision and a lower capital adequacy ratio standard to encourage more financial institutions and networks to enter such markets, the report said without elaborating.

By the end of 2007, China had 124,000 county-level financial institutions involving a total deposit of 9 trillion yuan . This accounted for 23.4 percent of the total deposit volume nationwide. However, 2,868 villages and towns were currently without financial outlets.

Local governments were suggested to provide micro-credit financial organs with a good reputation and credit record a top priority when introducing them into rural markets, the report said.

The central bank also suggested rural financial institutions remove the loan interest cap. "We encourage lenders in rural areas to increase interest rates in a proper way when extending loans to farmers and agricultural-related industries. This will make lenders more profitable, and help ensure sufficient capital supply."

By the end of 2007, the country had extended 6 trillion yuan in rural-related loans. The figure accounted for 22 percent of the nation's total loan volume.


WHO says Electronic cigarette not nicotine replacement therapy

The electronic cigarette is not a legitimate therapy for smokers trying to quit contrary to what some marketers imply in their advertisements, the World Health Organization said on Friday.

"The electronic cigarette is not a proven nicotine replacement therapy," said Dr Ala Alwan, WHO's assistant director-general for noncommunicable diseases and mental health.

"WHO has no scientific evidence to confirm the product's safety and efficacy. Its marketers should immediately remove from their web sites and other informational materials any suggestion that WHO considers it to be a safe and effective smoking cessation aid," Alwan said in a statement.

The typical electronic cigarette is made of stainless steel, has a chamber for storing liquid nicotine in various concentrations, is powered by a rechargeable battery and resembles a real cigarette.

Users puff on it as they would a real cigarette, but they do not light it, and it produces no smoke. Rather, it produces a fine, heated mist, which is absorbed into the lungs.

Developed in China in 2004, the electronic cigarette is sold there and in numerous other countries, including Brazil, Canada, Finland, Israel, Lebanon, the Netherlands, Sweden, Turkey and Britain.

Marketers of the electronic cigarette typically describe it as a means to help smokers break their addictions to tobacco.

Some have even gone so far as to imply that WHO views it as a legitimate nicotine replacement therapy like nicotine gum, lozenges and patches, according to the WHO statement.

But WHO knows of no evidentiary basis for the marketers' claim that the electronic cigarette helps people quit smoking, the statement said.

"If the marketers of the electronic cigarette want to help smokers quit, then they need to conduct clinical studies and toxicity analyses and operate within the proper regulatory framework," said Douglas Bettcher, head of WHO's Tobacco Free Initiative.


NZ Food Safety Authority checks milk products in Asian supermarkets

Milk products sold in Asian supermarkets in New Zealand were being tested for the contamination which has killed four Chinese babies and put thousands of others in hospital.

The New Zealand Food Safety Authority said it was testing dairy and milk products for melamine, the additive which was put into Chinese milk products, the New Zealand Herald daily reported on Saturday.

Food safety inspectors began taking random samples on Thursday night from Asian supermarkets.

The authority initially focused on infant formula, said deputy chief executive Sandra Daly.

"We have primarily been testing infant formulas because they are at the high risk, but we are now looking to identify other dairy products which may also be affected," she told the paper.

She said New Zealand did not import infant formula directly from China, but imported very small amounts of dairy products such as milk, milk powder and cheese. The checks were a precautionary measure.

She said there was no reason to recall any products the authority had tested.


Shenzhou VII installed on carrier rocket, set for liftoff

The Shenzhou VII spacecraft and its carrier rocket were assembled on Thursday evening, the latest step toward the launch of China's third manned space mission.

Drinking water , food, traditional Chinese medicine and other materials were put onboard the ship on Friday, as it prepares to be transferred to the launch pad.

Shenzhou VII is scheduled to lift off at 9:10 p.m. on Thursday - weather permitting - at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on the border of Gansu province and the Inner Mongolia autonomous region.

Members of the technical group for the Long March 2F rocket attend a farewell ceremony in China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology in Bejing, China, July 19, 2008. The Long March 2F rocket designed to carry China's third manned spacecraft into space will be sent to Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China's Gansu province in a few days.
Due to security and confidentiality concerns, all tourist programs to the center or otherwise related with witnessing Shenzhou VII's liftoff have been called to a halt by the Jiuquan tourism bureau.

This is the first time domestic tourist groups have been discouraged from visiting the center.

Some travel agencies have said there are still ways to sneak into the oasis community "through inside sources" for a one-day tour on Thursday that costs 380 yuan .

An illustration of spacewalk. China is to launch its third manned space mission, Shenzhou VII, later this month and one Chinese astronaut will conduct spacewalk during the mission.
The city's tourism bureau, however, said the agencies may fail to deliver, in which case it will force them to compensate all visitors involved.

Jiuquan has reaped considerable economic benefits from the launch center, an indispensable part of China's ambitious space program. Agency-organized day trips to the center, which include tours to the launch pad, astronauts' apartments and a martyr's cemetery, have sold well.

A blind spot on most maps, the center is a mysterious, self-contained community built in 1958 in the vast Gobi Desert to lead China's space endeavors.

The launch center witnessed the successes of Dongfanghong-I, China's first satellite, in 1970, and first manned space mission Shenzhou V in 2003.


Liu Xiang to seek further treatment in U.S. in October

World 110m hurdle champion Liu Xiang will go to the US next month to decide whether he needs surgery on his right foot, Titan Sports Weekly reported on Friday.

Liu pulled out of the first round of the 110m hurdles at the Beijing Olympic Games last month, citing a recurrence of the chronic inflammation in his Achilles' tendon.

Domestic experts have suggested that Liu undergo surgery, supposed to be the quickest and most effective solution.

However, Liu's coach Sun Haiping and other Chinese doctors prefer safer physical treatment, such as massage and Chinese traditional medicine.

Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang waves to media upon his arrival at a welcome reception for the 2008 Shanghai Golden Grand Prix track and field event in Shanghai, China, Sept. 19, 2008. The grand prix will be held on Saturday.
The two sides came to an agreement which will see Liu Xiang going to the US, where they will decide on the therapeutic schedule.

Liu enjoyed the Mid-autumn festival holiday with his family in Shanghai. His father revealed that the star hurdler is still unhappy about his role in the Olympics, but hopes to return stronger than ever.