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Posts tagged ‘Land of the Hans’

Berlin gives celebrity welcome to 2 giant pandas from China

June 24, 2017

BERLIN (AP) — Two giant pandas — Meng Meng and Jiao Qing — received a celebrity welcome Saturday in Berlin from the German capital’s mayor and the Chinese ambassador after they safely weathered a long flight from China.

Meng Meng and Jiao Qing flew the animal equivalent of first class, getting royal treatment on their 12-hour-flight from Chengdu in southwestern China. Their entourage included a Berlin veterinarian, two Chinese zookeepers and a bunch of journalists.

“They slept a bit, munched on their bamboo and nibbled on some cookies,” veterinarian Andreas Ochs told reporters at Berlin’s Schoenefeld airport shortly after the arrival. Medication for motion sickness was not needed.

“They did just fine,” he said. The German capital is going nuts over the impossibly cute bears, who will be presented to the public at Berlin Zoo on July 6. Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese President Xi Jinping are also expected to visit the new animal stars ahead of the Group of 20 summit in Germany in early July.

“It was my personal wish to come and welcome our new residents,” Mayor Michael Mueller said. “We are delighted that Berlin has gained another fantastic attraction with these bears.” Jiao Qing, which means “darling,” is a 7-year-old male and weighs 108 kilograms (238 pounds). Female Meng Meng, which translates as “sweet dream,” is three years old and weighs 77 kilograms (169 pounds).

The pandas were taken from the airport to the zoo with police protection so they didn’t have to stop at any red lights. They also brought their own food on the plane — one metric ton of bamboo from China. Once they’ve chewed up all of that, the zoo will start importing special bamboo from the Netherlands.

The furry couple will move into a ritzy new nine-million-euro ($10 million) compound, furbished with Chinese-style pavilions, red lanterns, a climbing area and a mountain landscape. They will be the only pandas in the country, the German news agency dpa reported.

Expectations are high the two will have babies soon, even though Ochs warned that Meng Meng is not yet sexually mature. The arrival of the black-and-white bears was preceded by yearslong bilateral negotiations, since giant pandas are unique to China and sent abroad as diplomatic envoys.

“In China, pandas are regarded as a national treasure,” Chinese ambassador Shi Mingde said. “Therefore the breeding and conservation of these animals is a top priority for us.” The pandas will be on loan from China for 15 years — a deal for which the Asian country is charging 1 million euros ($1.1 million) each year, dpa reported.

Berlin’s last panda, Bao Bao, was sent in 1980 as a gift from then-Chinese leader Hua Guofeng to West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt. Bao Bao died in 2012. Berlin’s most famous zoo animal, the polar bear Knut, died of a sudden illness in 2011.

10 bodies found, scores missing in massive China landslide

June 25, 2017

MAO COUNTY, China (AP) — Rescuers recovered 10 bodies and were still searching for 93 other people on Sunday, a day after a massive landslide buried a picturesque mountain village in southwestern China.

More than 2,500 rescuers with detection devices and dogs were looking for signs of life amid the rubble of huge boulders that rained down on Xinmo village in Sichuan province early Saturday. As of Sunday afternoon, only three people — a couple and their month-old baby — had been rescued from the disaster site.

Sitting on the eastern margin of the Tibetan Plateau in Aba prefecture’s Mao County, Xinmo has in recent years become a tourism destination for its picturesque scenery of homes in lush meadows tucked between steep and rugged mountains. But after the landslide, the village was reduced to a vast area of rubble.

As heavy machines removed debris and men scoured the rubble for survivors on Sunday, relatives from nearby villages sobbed as they awaited news of their loved ones. “It was as if strong winds were blowing by, or a big truck rumbled by,” Tang Hua, a 38-year-old woman from a nearby village, told The Associated Press. “The houses were shaking, as if there were an earthquake. We rushed out and saw massive smoke. With a thundering sound, the smoke suddenly lifted. We realized it was a landslide.”

“As we ran for safety, we looked this way and saw the village flattened,” she said. Tang has relatives in Xinmo, but she said little could be done at this point. “The whole village is done for,” she said.

The landslide carried an estimated 18 million cubic meters (636 million cubic feet) of earth and rock — equivalent to more than 7,200 Olympic-sized swimming pools — when it slid down from steep mountains. Some of it fell from as high as 1.6 kilometers (1 mile).

It buried 1.6 kilometers (1 mile) of road and blocked a 2-kilometer (1.2-mile) section of a river as it completely wiped away the village, which was once home to 46 families comprising more than 100 people.

The Sichuan provincial government said Sunday that 10 bodies had been found, lowering an earlier figure of 15 that had been reported by state media. It also lowered the number of missing to 93, saying 15 people on an initial list of the missing were accounted for.

There were 142 tourists in the village around the time the landslide hit, and all were alive, said Xu Zhiwen, executive deputy governor of Aba prefecture. Three members of a family from the village were rescued five hours after the landslide struck on Saturday. Qiao Dashuai, 26, told state broadcaster China Central Television that he and his wife awoke to cries from their 1-month-old son at around 5:30 a.m.

“Just after we changed the baby’s diaper, we heard a big bang outside and the light went out,” Qiao said. “We felt that something bad was happening and immediately rushed to the door, but the door was blocked by mud and rocks.”

Qiao said his family was swept away by water as part of a mountain collapsed. He said they struggled against the water until they met medical workers who took them to a hospital. His parents and other relatives were among the missing.

A government-run news outlet said that Qiao and his wife were in stable condition on Sunday and that their infant was sent to an intensive care unit with pneumonia induced by mud inhalation. Experts on state media said the landslide was likely triggered by rain. The mountainous region has been prone to geological disasters. In May 2008, a magnitude 7.9 earthquake killed nearly 90,000 people in Wenchuan County, 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Mao County.

Scientist He Siming told the state-run Beijing News that the 2008 quake could have done structural damage to the mountains flanking Xinmo. He said the rain could have been the external cause of the landslide.

In 2014, a landslide in the same county killed 11 people when it struck a section of a highway.

Tang reported from Beijing.

Suspect identified in China kindergarten explosion; 8 killed

June 16, 2017

BEIJING (AP) — Police have identified a suspect in an explosion at the front gate of a kindergarten in eastern China that killed eight and struck as relatives gathered to pick up their children at the end of the day, local authorities said Friday.

Police were investigating the explosion as a criminal act and said they had “targeted” a suspect, according to a statement issued by authorities in the city of Xuzhou and the official Xinhua News Agency. It was unclear if the suspect was apprehended and no potential motive was provided. A witness cited by state media said a gas cylinder at a roadside food stall had caused the blast.

Two people died at the scene and six died after being taken to a hospital following the explosion at 4:50 p.m. Thursday at the Chuangxin Kindergarten in Fengxian. Initial reports said 59 were injured, but Xinhua and other media reported Friday that 65 were injured including eight who remained in critical condition.

The blast occurred before school had let out for the day and no students or teachers from the kindergarten were injured, according to a statement from local authorities. However, videos purportedly from the scene showed children — possibly relatives of the kindergartners or passers-by — among the casualties.

The videos posted by the state-run People’s Daily showed a chaotic scene outside the entrance to the school, with children and adults lying on the ground, some of them motionless and others struggling to get up off the ground. Clothing, shoes and other items were strewn on the ground beside pools of blood.

The videos showed ambulances arriving, medics wheeling people into an emergency room and medical personnel treating what appeared to be a child. Kindergartens in China have been attacked before by suspects authorities have said were mentally ill or bore grudges against their neighbors and society.

A witness identified only by the surname Shi told the state-run Global Times in the hours after the explosion that a gas cylinder at a roadside food stall had caused the blast. The force of the blast sent people flying several meters (yards) into the air, Shi was quoted as saying.

In 2010, nearly 20 children were killed in attacks on schools, prompting a response from top government officials and leading many schools to beef up security by posting guards and installing gates and other barriers. Last year, a knife-wielding assailant injured seven students outside a primary school in a northern city.

China maintains tight control over firearms and most attacks are carried out using knives, axes or homemade explosives.

Panama switches diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China

June 13, 2017

BEIJING (AP) — Panama switched diplomatic relations from Taiwan to China on Tuesday, dealing a major success to Beijing in its drive to isolate the self-governing island it claims as its own territory.

Taiwan warned that the move would further alienate the island of 23 million from the 1.37 billion Chinese living across the Taiwan Strait. In Panama, President Juan Carlos Varela announced the change, which entails breaking off formal relations with Taiwan, saying in a televised address that it represents the “correct path for our country.”

A joint statement released on Monday evening in Panama said Panama and China were recognizing each other and establishing ambassadorial-level relations the same day. “The Government of the Republic of Panama recognizes that there is but one China in the world, that the Government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China, and that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory,” the statement read.

In Taiwan, officials including President Tsai Ing-wen denounced the move as a betrayal and vowed to maintain the island’s sovereignty and international presence. “Oppression and threats are not going to help in cross-strait relations. It will on the contrary increase the discrepancy between the people” of Taiwan and China, Tsai said at a news conference.

“We will not compromise and yield under threat,” the president said. Panama had been among the largest economies to have maintained diplomatic relations with Taiwan. The island now has just 20 formal diplomatic partners, 11 of which are in Latin America and the Caribbean. The island is also excluded from the United Nations and many other multinational bodies at China’s insistence.

At the Diaoyutai state guesthouse in Beijing on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Panamanian Vice President and Foreign Minister Isabel de Saint Malo signed a joint communique establishing diplomatic relations, followed by a champagne toast.

Wang said he was sure relations between the two countries would have a “bright future.” Saint Malo said she hoped the new relationship would lead to trade, investment and tourism opportunities, in particular “exporting more goods from Panama to China.”

China and Taiwan split amid civil war in 1949 and Beijing has vowed to take control of the island by force if necessary. While the sides had maintained an undeclared diplomatic truce for much of the past decade, relations have deteriorated under Tsai, who took over Taiwan’s presidency more than a year ago but has declined to endorse China’s view that Taiwan and the mainland are part of a single Chinese nation.

The past year has seen China ratcheting up the diplomatic pressure on Taiwan, barring its representatives from attending the World Health Organization’s annual conference and other international gatherings.

Beijing cut off contacts with Taiwanese government bodies a year ago, and in recent months has also sailed an aircraft carrier strike force aground the island in a display of its growing military power.

Panama may be the first of several Taiwanese diplomatic allies to switch to China as Beijing steps up pressure on Tsai to recognize its “one China” principle, said Tang Yonghong, director of the Taiwan Economic Research Center at Xiamen University in southeastern China.

“Many Latin American countries want to have stronger ties with China for their national interests,” Tang said. Although China refused to form such ties during the previous administration of China-friendly Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, it no longer has any such qualms, Tang said.

“Now this trend could continue for a while,” Tang said. Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that in breaking ties, President Varela had ignored the friendship between their countries and the efforts that Taiwan had made to help Panama’s overall development. Panama had “submitted to the Beijing authorities for economic benefits” and “lied” to the government of Taiwan, the statement said.

Taiwan will immediately cut ties, cease all bilateral cooperation projects and pull its diplomatic staff and technical advisers out of the country, the ministry said, adding that it will not “engage in competition for money diplomacy with the Beijing authorities.”

“We express our strong protest and condemnation over the Beijing authorities luring Panama into breaking ties with us, oppressing our diplomatic space to maneuver and harming the feelings of the Taiwanese people,” the statement said.

Beijing and Taipei have long competed with each other to win diplomatic recognition, at times enticing small or poor countries to switch with the promise of millions of dollars for public works projects.

Varela had suggested the possibility of switching diplomatic recognition during his presidential campaign in 2014, for historic, economic and strategic reasons. “Both nations are betting on a more interconnected world,” Varela said in a possible allusion to Chinese economic involvement in the Panama Canal. He mentioned that it was a massive Chinese vessel that was the first to pass through the canal’s expanded locks when they opened in June 2016.

China is the second-biggest client of the Panama Canal and the leading provider of merchandise to a free-commerce zone in the Panamanian city of Colon, on the country’s Caribbean coast. The loss of Panama is intended to show Tsai that continued defiance of Beijing will harm Taiwan’s overall interests, said Zhang Baohui, director of Center for Asian Pacific Studies at Lingnan University in Hong Kong.

“Panama was one of the more significant countries that still maintained diplomatic relations with Taiwan,” Zhang said. “By taking away Panama, it once again teaches Tsai’s government the lesson that if she doesn’t accept the ‘one China’ principle … there will be consequences.

Zamorano reported from Panama City. Associated Press journalists Johnson Lai in Taipei, Taiwan, and Gerry Shih in Beijing contributed to this report.

Hong Kong shoebox, coffin homes a challenge for new leader

May 10, 2017

HONG KONG (AP) — Li Suet-wen’s dream home would have a bedroom and living room where her two children could play and study. The reality is a one-room “shoebox” cubicle, one of five partitioned out of a small apartment in an aging walkup in a working class Hong Kong neighborhood.

Into the 120-square-foot room are crammed a bunk bed, small couch, fridge, washing machine and tiny table. On one side of the door is a combined toilet and shower stall, on the other a narrow counter with a hotplate and sink. Clothes drying overhead dim light from a bare fluorescent tube. It feels like a storage unit, not a home.

Li’s 6-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter often ask, “Why do we always have to live in such small flats? Why can’t we live in a bigger place?” Li said. “I say it’s because mommy doesn’t have any money,” said Li, a single mom whose HK$4,500 ($580) a month in rent and utilities eats up almost half the HK$10,000 ($1,290) she earns at a bakery decorating cakes.

Housing costs are among this wealthy Asian financial center’s biggest problems. Some 200,000 of Hong Kong’s 7.3 million residents live in “subdivided units .” That’s up 18 percent from four years ago and includes 35,500 children 15 and under, government figures show. The figure doesn’t include many thousands more living in other “inadequate housing” such as rooftop shacks, metal cages resembling rabbit hutches and “coffin homes” made of stacked wooden bunks.

It’s a universe away from the lifestyles enjoyed by the rich living in lavish mountaintop mansions and luxury penthouses, or even those with middle-class accommodation in this former British colony. Hong Kong regularly tops global property price surveys. Rents and home prices have steadily risen and are now at or near all-time highs.

The U.S.-based consultancy Demographia has ranked it the world’s least affordable housing market for seven straight years, beating Sydney, Vancouver and 400 other cities. Median house prices are 19 times the median income.

Beijing-backed Carrie Lam, who was chosen in March to be Hong Kong’s next chief executive, has vowed to tackle the housing crisis she is inheriting from her predecessor Leung Chun-ying. Lam says that after she takes office in July she will help middle-class families afford starter homes and expand the amount of land the government makes available for development.

“As everyone knows, for some time housing has been a troubling problem for Hong Kong,” she said in her victory speech. “I have pledged to assist Hong Kongers to attain home ownership and improve their living conditions. To do so we need more usable land. The key is to reach a consensus on how to increase the supply.”

Prices have soared despite multiple rounds of government cooling measures, as money floods in from mainland China. Widening inequality helped drive mass pro-democracy protests in 2014. Young people despair of ever owning homes of their own. They lack space even to have sex, one activist lawmaker said last fall, using a coarse Cantonese slang term that caused a stir.

“If we cannot solve the housing problem, there will be more social problems,” said Sze Lai-shan, an organizer with social welfare group Society for Community Organization. “Social tensions will increase and people are (going to be) getting more annoyed with the government’s policies.”

Li says her children bicker nonstop. “They fight over this and fight over that. If there’s a day off (from school), the two of them will argue,” she said. “The bigger they get, the more crowded it gets. Sometimes there’s not even any space to step,” she said. “They don’t even have space to do their homework.”

Public housing is the best hope for most living on modest incomes. High-rise public housing estates house about 30 percent of Hong Kong’s 7 million people. If homes bought with government subsidies are included, the number rises to nearly half.

Li applied two years ago, but with 282,300 people on the waiting list the average wait is 4.7 years. Wong Tat-ming, 63, has occupied an even smaller “coffin home” for four years. He pays HK$2,400 ($310) a month for a 3-foot by 6-foot (1-meter by 2-meter) compartment crammed with his meager possessions, including a sleeping bag, small color TV and electric fan.

His bunk sits beside grimy toilets and a single sink shared by two dozen residents, including a few single women. On a per square foot basis, “it’s not cheap here either,” Wong jokes. “Would you say it’s more expensive than living in a mansion?”

Leg pain from sclerosis forced Wong to stop driving a taxi 10 years ago. He gets by on about $5,300 ($680) a month from welfare. Wong is skeptical Lam can help. “So she says she’s going to take care of these problems, but that will take at least seven to eight years,” he said.

Chan Geng-kau, who works here and there as a janitor, and his wife worry about being forced out of their hut in one of the city’s “slums in the sky” atop a terrace of a Kowloon tenement bristling with TV antennas and crisscrossed by coverhead wires.

The government plans to demolish the illegal concrete and corrugated metal huts. “If they come to clear us out, my income isn’t high, I don’t earn very much and the apartments out there are very expensive so I can’t afford it,” said Chan, 58. With his unstable income, he’s barely able to pay his HK$2,000 ($260) a month rent. “If I pay those rents, I can’t afford to eat.”

Sri Lanka refuse Chinese submarine docking: official

Colombo (AFP)

May 11, 2017

Sri Lanka refused permission for a Chinese submarine to dock at Colombo next week after a similar visit in 2014 angered regional super-power India, a top defense official said Thursday.

Chinese authorities had sought clearance for a port call at Colombo where a Chinese state-owned company operates a mega container terminal, the official said asking not to be named.

“They have asked for permission, but we have said no,” the official told AFP. “It is a very sensitive matter.” He did not elaborate.

The rejection came as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was visiting Sri Lanka as chief guest of Vesak, the island’s main Buddhist celebration making the birth, enlightenment and the passing of the Buddha.

The request for the Chinese submarine visit was for next week, after Modi’s departure on Friday evening, official sources said.

There was no immediate comment from the Chinese embassy in Colombo, but two submarine calls at the Colombo harbor in 2014 had reportedly angered India which considered it as undermining their security.

New Delhi traditionally regards its smaller neighbor as being within its sphere of influence. New Delhi is said to have been worried about Beijing’s growing influence on Colombo under the former regime of strongman president Mahinda Rajapakse.

Sri Lanka’s new President Maithripala Sirisena came to power in January 2015 promising to loosen ties with China after a decade of hefty funding by Beijing under his predecessor.

However, analysts have noted that Beijing’s influence was on the rise again as Colombo struggles to find alternative sources of much needed foreign capital.

Source: Space War.

Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Sri_Lanka_refuse_Chinese_submarine_docking_official_999.html.

DR Congo arrests 14 Chinese for wood smuggling

Lubumbashi, Dr Congo (AFP)

May 4, 2017

Fourteen Chinese people suspected of illegally exporting red wood from the Democratic Republic of Congo were arrested Thursday, local officials said.

“We have arrested Chinese people… who were cutting wood in our region,” Celestin Pande, acting governor of the Haut-Katanga region, told AFP.

Pande said 17,000 tonnes of red wood had been illegally exported to China through Zambia over four months.

“We have arrested 14 Chinese nationals with (tourist) visas, who were involved in cutting and illegally exporting red wood,” an immigration official in Haut-Katanga added, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Since the beginning of the year, a crisis linked to exotic wood exports has poisoned relations between DR Congo and neighboring Zambia.

Zambia has seized several hundred vehicles transporting padauk, a dense wood used in construction and woodworking, from DR Congo as part of investigations into exports to China.

Kinshasa has denounced the seizure, but on Thursday a delegation from the capital decided to ban the logging and exportation of red wood from Haut-Katanga.

Haut-Katanga’s forests have been devastated by illegal logging, with wood mostly used for charcoal, the main source of energy for an electricity-deprived population.

Source: Terra Daily.

Link: http://www.terradaily.com/reports/DR_Congo_arrests_14_Chinese_for_wood_smuggling_999.html.

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