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Chinese protesters report a massacre (9 December 2005)

China says keeping Russia informed on toxic slick (1 December 2005)

China says boy tests positive for bird flu (16 November 2005)

China 'wants peace and democracy' (9 November 2005)

China contemplates change (13 October 2005)

Accused China smuggler clings to status in Canada (15 September 2005)

Chinese protesters report a massacre (9 December 2005)

Residents of a fishing village near Hong Kong said that as many as 20 people had been killed by the paramilitary police in an unusually violent clash that marked an escalation in the widespread social protests that have roiled the Chinese countryside.

Villagers said that as many as 50 other residents remain unaccounted for since the shooting that occurred this week as villagers staged a protest over government land appropriations. It is the largest known use of force by security forces against ordinary citizens since the killings around Tiananmen Square in 1989. That death toll remains unknown, but is estimated to be in the hundreds.
The violence began after dark in the town of Dongzhou on Tuesday evening. Terrified residents said their hamlet has remained occupied by thousands of security forces, who have blocked off all access roads and are reportedly arresting residents who attempt to leave the area after the heavily armed assault.
"From about 7 p.m. the police started firing tear gas into the crowd, but this failed to scare people," said a resident who gave his name only as Li and claimed to have been at the scene, where a relative of his was killed.
"Later, we heard more than 10 explosions, and thought they were just detonators, so nobody was scared. At about 8 p.m. they started using guns, shooting bullets into the ground, but not really targeting anybody.
"Finally, at about 10 p.m. they started killing people."
The use of live ammunition to put down a protest is almost unheard of in China, where the authorities have come to rely on rapid deployment of huge numbers of security forces, tear gas, water cannons and other nonlethal measures.
But the Chinese authorities have become increasingly nervous in recent months over the proliferation of demonstrations across the countryside, particularly in heavily industrialized eastern provinces like Guangdong, Zhejiang and Jiansu. By the government's tally there were 74,000 riots or other significant public disturbances in 2004, a big jump from previous years.
The villagers in Dongzhou said their dispute with the authorities had begun with a conflict over plans by a power company to build a coal-fired generator in their area, which they feared would cause heavy pollution. Farmers said they had not been compensated for the use of the land for the plant.
Others said plans to reclaim land by filling in a local bay as part of the power plant project were unacceptable because people have made their livelihoods there as fishermen for generations. Already, villagers complained, work crews have been blasting a nearby mountainside for rubble for the landfill.
A small group of villagers was delegated to complain to the authorities about the plant in July, but they were arrested, infuriating other residents and encouraging others to join the protest movement.
On Dec. 6, while villagers were mounting a sit-in demonstration, the police made a number of arrests, bringing people out into the streets, where they managed to detain several officers. In response, hundreds of law enforcement agents were rushed to the scene.
Everybody, young and old, "went out to watch," said one man who claimed his cousin had been killed by a police officer's bullet in the forehead. "We didn't expect they were so evil. The farmers had no means to resist them."
Early reports from the village said the police opened fire only after villagers began throwing homemade bombs and other missiles, but villagers reached by telephone on Friday denied this, saying that a few farmers had launched ordinary fireworks at the police as part of their protest.
"Those were not bombs, they were fireworks, the kind that fly up into the sky," said one witness reached by telephone. "The organizers didn't have any money, so someone bought fireworks and placed them there. At the moment the trouble started many of the demonstrators were holding them, and of those who held fireworks, almost everyone was killed."
Other witnesses estimated that 10 people were killed immediately in the first volley of automatic gunfire. "I live not far from the scene, and I was running as fast as I could," said one witness, who declined to give his name.
"I dragged one of the people they killed, a man in his 30s who was shot in his chest. Initially I thought he might survive, because he was still breathing, but he was panting heavily, and as soon as I pulled him aside, he died."
The witness said that he, too, had come under fire when the police saw him going to the aid of the dying man. The Chinese government has yet to issue a statement about the incident, nor has it been reported in the state media.
Reached by telephone, an official in the city of Shanwei, which has jurisdiction over the village, said, "Yes, there was an incident, but we don't know the details." The official said an official announcement would be made Saturday.
Villagers said that in addition to the regular security forces, the authorities had enlisted thugs from local organized crime groups. "They had knives and sticks in their hands, and they were two or three layers thick, lining the road," one man said.
Like the Dongzhou incident itself, most of the thousands of riots and public disturbances recorded in China this year have involved environmental, property rights and land use issues. Among other problems, in trying to come to grips with the growing rural unrest, the Chinese government is wrestling with a yawning gap in incomes between farmers and urban dwellers, and rampant corruption in local government, where unaccountable officials deal away communal property rights, often for their own profit.
Finally, mobile telephone technology has made it easier for people in rural China to organize, communicating news to one another by short messages, and increasingly allowing them to stay in touch with members of nongovernmental organizations in big cities.
Residents said that after the demonstration was suppressed a senior Communist Party official came to the hamlet from nearby Shanwei and addressed residents with a megaphone.
"Shanwei and Dongzhou are still good friends," the official said. "We're not here against you. We are here to make the construction of the Red Sea Bay better.
Later, the official reportedly told visitors, "all of the families who have people who died must send a representative to the police for a solution."
On Friday, a group of 100 or so bereaved villagers gathered at a bridge leading into the town, briefly blocking access to security forces, hoisting a white banner whose black-ink characters read: "The dead suffered a wrong. Uphold justice." International Herald Tribune

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China says keeping Russia informed on toxic slick (1 December 2005)

China is working with Russia to mitigate the effects of a toxic spill in a river flowing toward the border, but a foreign ministry spokesman said on Thursday there had been no discussion of compensation.

Water monitoring devices and 150 tonnes of activated carbon were sent to Russia on Wednesday, spokesman Qin Gang said, adding foreign ministry and environmental officials on both sides of the border were sharing information and had set up hot lines.

"We have reported in a timely manner to Russia the water quality and the results of our observations," Qin told a regular news briefing.

"We will proceed from the principle and spirit of friendly cooperation and keep close cooperation with the Russian side to minimise the possible impact of pollution on the Russian side," he said.

An explosion at a chemical plant in northeastern China in November poured 100 tonnes of cancer-causing benzene compounds into the Songhua River near the city of Harbin.

Officials shut off the water in Harbin, a city of 9 million, in response. The 80-km (50-mile) slick has since passed the city but is heading northeast through Heilongjiang province toward the Russian border.

Qin said China had not offered Russia compensation for the environmental disaster.

"As far as I know the two sides have not yet entered into a discussion of this nature," he said.

On Thursday the slick had passed through the Heilongjiang counties of Mulan and Tonghe, but local officials said both areas relied on underground water sources, not the river, for their supply and water there had not been cut off.

Cold weather that froze parts of the river was slowing its flow, Xinhua news agency reported, adding areas downstream were being supplied with monitoring equipment in preparation for the arrival of the slick. Reuters

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China says boy tests positive for bird flu (16 November 2005)

A senior Chinese official says H5N1 antibodies have been detected in a nine-year-old boy in Hunan province, the first admission of a human bird flu infection in China, the South China Morning Post reported on Wednesday.

China's Health Ministry could not immediately confirm the report.

The semi-official China News Service, quoting Qi Xiaoqiu, director of the Ministry of Health's department of disease control, said the government was waiting for the results of a joint investigation with the World Health Organisation before confirming whether the boy was the first human case of avian influenza in the country.

But the China News Service did not say which strain of bird flu the boy had tested positive for.

"During the early stage, antibodies were not found, but now the boy is positive to antibody tests," the news service quoted Qi as saying. The comments also were reported by Hong Kong's South China Morning Post newspaper.

"We are waiting for the advice of the WHO. The WHO has a set of procedures to confirm a case and it usually takes two laboratories to confirm."

He Junyao and his 12-year-old sister fell ill last month and were treated for pneumonia symptoms. The boy was discharged from hospital last weekend but his sister died.

Chinese officials said initial tests showed she had tested negative for bird flu.

The WHO is sending a team this week to the southern province of Hunan to investigate the cases, which China later said could not be ruled out as bird flu. The children lived close to the site of a poultry outbreak.

The H5N1 virus has killed more than 60 people elsewhere in Asia since 2003 and is endemic is poultry flocks in many parts of the region. Almost all of those who died had been in close contact with infected birds.

Health experts fear millions could be killed around the world if the virus mutates to the point where it could spread easily from person to person.

Battling to control several outbreaks of the H5N1 virus, China vowed on Tuesday to vaccinate its entire stock of 14 billion poultry, with the government footing the bill, as it scrambles to prevent more outbreaks.

It gave no timetable for the inoculation campaign.

China is also probing a possible human infection in a northeastern province, the World Health Organisation said on Monday. Reuters

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China 'wants peace and democracy' (9 November 2005)

China is ready to strengthen efforts for a "harmonious world of lasting peace", President Hu Jintao has said.

China wanted "improved democracy", he said in a Buckingham Palace banquet speech in front of PM Tony Blair on the first day of his three-day UK visit.

The Queen, in her speech, said China's growth brought "difficult challenges".

Behind railings outside the palace, human rights protesters continued demonstrations that started earlier in the day during a state procession.

Mr Hu said China's development would offer opportunities for "win-win co-operation" with the UK and other countries.

"We are working hard to build, in the first 20 years of this century, a moderately prosperous society, featuring a more developed economy, improved democracy, advanced science and education, a more prosperous culture, greater social harmony and higher living standards for the entire 1.3 billion people," he said.

He said the world was "undergoing profound changes" and China, the UK and other influential countries had their part to play in safeguarding world peace.

"We stand ready to work with the UK to strengthen mutual trust, expand exchanges and co-operation and make joint efforts for the well-being of the two peoples and a harmonious world of lasting peace and common prosperity," he said.

'Attention and admiration'

The Queen said in her speech that as well as bringing difficult challenges, China's growth also brought with it "great opportunities".

"It is now almost 20 years since I visited China. Since then China's development has caught the world's attention and admiration.

"It matters to all of us what kind of country China's people will build, what role they will play in the world of the 21st Century and how this will be perceived by others."

She praised the country's involvement in the discussions earlier this year on poverty relief in Africa.

But Amnesty International UK director Kate Allen told BBC Two's Newsnight those who thought things were changing in China were wrong.

She said: "The human rights situation has not improved. There are literally hundreds of thousands of people in prison.

"It is a regime that executes 10,000 people each year. In the factories and in the industries 140,000 people die in work-related accidents.

"Life is treated appallingly cheaply and human rights have no place."

Outside Buckingham Palace on Tuesday night, police kept watch as demonstrators chanted "free Tibet" and waved placards in a peaceful protest.

Earlier, Mr Hu and his wife were greeted by hundreds of human rights protesters and Chinese government supporters who lined the Mall.

As the state procession made its way up the Mall, the Queen looked out on protesters against Chinese rule in Tibet who started chanting loudly and waving banners.

As the state coach passed, Mr Hu waved enthusiastically to his own supporters who were collected on the opposite side of the road to the protest.

'Renounce position'

Alison Reynolds, director of the Free Tibet Campaign, said she was glad Mr Hu would have seen the Tibetan flag, which is banned in China and Tibet.

Referring to a meeting between the British prime minister and the Chinese president on Wednesday she said: "The message we want Tony Blair to deliver tomorrow is that Hu Jintao should meet the Dalai Lama."

The president was formerly party chief in Tibet where he declared martial law over protests by separatists.

Last week he urged the Dalai Lama to "renounce his Tibetan independence proposition".

During their stay, the presidential couple will visit an exhibition of Chinese art at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.

The president and his wife are also due to fly to Germany and Spain for state visits there.

US President George Bush is due to visit Beijing later in the year. BBC

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China contemplates change (13 October 2005)

As China forecasts another year of GDP growth above 9% and America�s treasury secretary tries again to persuade Beijing to revalue the yuan, China's government does seem to be preparing to change its approach to economic growth. However, its main concern is not American policymakers but China's poor

ONE could practically hear the teeth gnashing and the garments being rent in Washington and Brussels. On Tuesday October 11th, China�s planning agency announced that GDP had grown at an annual rate of 9.4% in the first nine months of 2005, causing it to raise its forecast for the full year to 9.2%, from 8.8%. The agency also predicted a record trade surplus of $79 billion for this year, more than twice last year�s, even though the export growth rate has slowed somewhat. With workers in the West already up in arms about low-wage competition from China, news that the peril to the east is growing even faster than expected is the last thing politicians in the developed world wanted to hear.

In recent months, those politicians have been battling assiduously to keep China�s good fortune from spilling too far into their domestic markets. The European Union has only recently resolved the �Bra Wars� contretemps, in which Chinese-made clothes piled up at European customs points thanks to import quotas imposed at the beginning of the summer, and retailers facing empty shelves howled for relief. The United States, too, has been pressuring China over textiles. This week, as John Snow, the American treasury secretary, visited Beijing, negotiators sought to reach an agreement on Chinese textiles. American manufacturers have been pushing for the kind of comprehensive quota agreement that the EU reached with China. But on Thursday, the American negotiators reported that they had once again failed to reach a deal on the touchy issue.

Americans are also pressuring China because of its currency, which some on Capitol Hill claim is undervalued against the dollar by as much as 40%. This makes China�s goods irresistibly attractive to American consumers, who have been on a buying binge thanks to low interest rates (in turn helped by China�s stockpiling of US Treasuries), running down savings and taking on debt to finance their spending. Figures released on Thursday showed that surging shipments of clothing and textiles pushed America's imports from China to a record $22.4 billion in August.

Mr Snow is using his visit to press the case for a looser currency peg. Though China revalued the yuan in July, pegging it to a basket of currencies rather than only the dollar, it has moved only a couple of percentage points against the American currency, far too little to hold back the flood of imports into the United States. On Tuesday, Mr Snow said that while he applauds steps towards a more liberal currency regime, America wanted to encourage China to �move forward� on the issue. Speaking to reporters on Thursday, China's finance minister, Jin Renqing, rebuffed Mr Snow's demands: �Using revaluation of the renminbi [yuan] to resolve global imbalances, particularly the imbalances of certain countries, is impossible and also unnecessary,� he said.

Mr Snow is treading reasonably cautiously for now. He said last week that he did not want to threaten China with trade sanctions over the issue, and the Treasury has delayed its bi-annual report, which will contain its assessment of China�s currency situation, until this week�s meetings are concluded. But many in Congress are pushing for bolder action. Last week Chuck Schumer, a New York senator, told Mr Snow that he would expect the report to label China a �currency manipulator� unless the yuan is allowed to fluctuate more. Mr Schumer is also co-sponsoring a bill to slap tariffs of 27.5% on Chinese imports unless China revalues, which has substantial support in Congress. The growing protectionist sentiment among America�s legislators has had little obvious effect on the Chinese, who continue to resist fiercely any appearance of caving in to American demands.

This is not the first time the Chinese have stood their ground. In the late 1990s, many saw the yuan as overvalued. But China resisted pressure to devalue in order to avoid exacerbating the Asian financial crisis. It is also worth noting that while China does benefit in some ways from an undervalued currency now, it has opened its markets to a greater extent than some other Asian countries during rapid, export-led development.

Addressing inequality

Nonetheless, China�s leaders may finally be readying themselves for a change in the mercantilist, growth-at-any-cost model that has prevailed for decades. The Communist Party leaders� annual meeting on economic policy ended on Tuesday with word of a strategic shift: from now on, there will be more emphasis on redressing the inequality and social disruption that market reforms have left in their wake.

The most immediate worry for China�s leaders is social unrest. Last year, the government documented more than 70,000 demonstrations, attended by some 3m protesters. The government is caught in a bind. It needs the export sector to continue booming, in order to absorb surplus labour from the countryside and moribund state-owned companies. But it is aware that the rapid growth of recent years has opened fractures that could grow even wider.

If China can heal some of those rifts with a greater focus on rescuing those left behind by the new prosperity, this may in turn take some of the pressure off the government to subsidise export workers through currency management. It may also help China to develop domestic demand that can take up the slack when America�s appetite for cheap goods falters, as it inevitably must given the paucity of its national savings.

But though details are sketchy, it seems improbable that China�s move towards more balanced economic growth will be anything like the kind of radical leap that foreign observers would like. There are some brands of wealth redistribution that would make foreign investors very jittery, such as higher taxes. Hu Jintao, China�s president, is still consolidating power; even if he had a radical vision of a China less dependent on the cravings of the American consumer, it would have to wait until his command of the party was firmer. More importantly, it would have to wait until Chinese consumers became sufficiently confident in the social safety-net and the provision of affordable health care and education that they were willing to save less and spend more. But where is the money for pensions and the like going to come from?

And though the rising tide of China�s economy undoubtedly has the power to lift all boats, there are worrying rigidities in the system, caused by the under-development of its financial system and the fact that economic reform has not been accompanied by political reform. Officials rightly fret that further economic changes could undermine the stability of the party�s rule. Amid all the talk of addressing the wealth gap, the party�s plenum reiterated a commitment to rapid growth by restating a goal of raising China�s GDP to double its 2000 level by 2010. As long as China�s expansion remains export-driven, western politicians may just have to learn to live with a new and unpredictable economic power. The Economist

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Accused China smuggler clings to status in Canada (15 September 2005)

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - A Chinese man, accused of being a smuggling kingpin, cannot be deported to China yet, his lawyer said on Thursday, despite media reports that Chinese police have come to Canada as part of the extradition process.

David Matas said the Chinese media reports may be an attempt to show that China is actively pursuing Lai Changxing, who has been called that country's most wanted fugitive. Lai, currently jailed in Vancouver, is trying to remain in Canada, seeking political asylum.

Chinese President Hu Jintao is scheduled to visit Vancouver on Friday and Saturday as the final stop of a North American tour. He has already made a stop in Ottawa.

Lai cannot be removed from Canada as long as immigration officials are considering his request for an assessment of whether his family is at risk if they return to China, Matas said.

Lai filed for the risk assessment after Canada's Supreme Court this month refused to hear an appeal of court rulings that denied his request for political refugee status.

He denies allegations that he masterminded an operation that smuggled billions of dollars into China in the mid 1990s. He says the charges are politically motivated and that he will not receive a fair trial if he is sent home.

Lai was living with his wife and children under house arrest in Vancouver until early August, when he was put in jail for violating the terms of his curfew. A detention hearing is scheduled for September 22.

The Canadian government has supported China's claim that the charges against Lai are not politically motivated. It has also received a pledge from Beijing that he will not be executed if convicted of the criminal charges.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said he could not confirm the reports that Chinese police had gone to Vancouver, and would not say whether the issue had been raised in Hu's visit to Canada.

"The two sides have agreed to continue to strengthen cooperation in various areas including law enforcement," Qin said.

Ottawa was embarrassed several years ago when it was discovered that Chinese investigators had secretly visited Lai in Canada in a bid to persuade him to return voluntarily. Lai filed for political asylum after the visit. Reuters

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