Monthly Archives: January 2019

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China offers riot informers cash, honorary titles, chance to obtain urban residency

BEIJING, China – Informers who help identify participants in a three-day riot by migrant factory workers in southern China could be rewarded with cash, honorary titles and a chance at official urban residency status, an official announcement said.

The police notice published on the website of the Zengcheng Daily newspaper indicates authorities are having trouble tracking down those behind the violence that broke out June 10, in which vehicles were torched, government offices ransacked and at least 25 people arrested.

Authorities are offering up to $1,500 in cash together with “outstanding migrant worker” titles and urban residency permits that allow better access to schools, subsidized housing, health care and other public services, the notice said.

“The public security departments call on the broad masses of city residents not to be incited by people with ulterior motives, but to keenly struggle against criminal lawbreakers and actively reveal the identities of these criminal lawbreakers,” said the notice, dated Saturday.

It wasn’t clear whether the offer has led to any useful information and calls to police and telephone numbers attached to the notice rang unanswered Monday.

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Yet it was a clear sign of the lack of trust between security forces and citizens at a time of growing unease over corruption, abuse of power and a worsening income divide.

The Zengcheng riot was sparked by a confrontation between security guards and a pair of migrant sidewalk vendors in Zengcheng’s Xintang township. Tensions grew over the following two days as more and more fellow migrants from the southwestern province of Sichuan rushed to the area, culminating in a night of violence on June 12.

Migrant workers usually perform the most dangerous and least desirable work in China and are widely seen as vulnerable to abuse and discrimination by authorities and local residents.

A number of apparently unrelated cases of unrest have broken out around China in recent weeks, some involving migrant workers. The government’s response has been to meet them with overwhelming force while being slow to address underlying causes.

However, such stopgap measures will grow increasingly ineffective unless fundamental tensions between citizens and the Communist government are addressed, said Liu Shanyin, who studies social unrest at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

“If these problems are not addressed, the government’s legitimacy will come into question and political and criminal forces could get involved, leading to big trouble,” Liu said.

IAEA wants to improve nuclear safety, but implementation will depend on individual states

VIENNA – The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency on Tuesday urged a worldwide safety review to prevent new nuclear disasters, but acknowledged that since the IAEA lacks enforcing authority, any improvements are only effective if countries apply them.

IAEA chief Yukiya Amano’s comments to a meeting of government ministers and other senior delegates of the 151-member IAEA, reflected the fact that most countries want any new safety measures to be voluntary – and that they work only if observed by nations with nuclear reactors.

“Even the best safety standards are useless unless they are actually implemented,” Amano said. And Ecology Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet of France – a strong opponent of outside regulation – told the meeting that “the implementation of commitment on nuclear safety depends of the willingness of each state obviously, since nuclear safety is primarily a national responsibility.”

An IAEA report compiled by international experts ahead of the Vienna conference reflected the limitations of depending on voluntary compliance. It faulted Japan for failing to implement a number of IAEA safety measures and recommendations in the years leading up to the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

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Asked outside the meeting if he would like to see the IAEA have the same authority against safety violators as it now has against nuclear proliferators – which includes referral to the U.N. Security Council – Amano said: “I do not exclude that possibility.”

But he said a sense of post-Fukushima urgency dictated action now under existing rules.

“We have to move by days, weeks, months, and I cannot wait years” – the time it would take to revise the IAEA’s mandate for the 35-nation board – he said. “We need to have a sense of urgency.”

A statement adopted by the conference also showed that the gathering was content to work on upgrading present safety practices and emergency measures without giving the IAEA an enforcing role.

It called for a commitment to “strengthening the central role of the IAEA in promoting international co-operation and in co-ordinating international efforts to strengthen global nuclear safety, in providing expertise and advice in this field and in promoting nuclear safety culture worldwide.”

Outlining a five-point plan to strengthen nuclear reactor safety, Amano called for bolstering IAEA standards and ensuring they are applied; establishing regular safety reviews of all the world’s reactors; beefing up the effectiveness of national regulatory bodies; strengthening global emergency response systems, and increasing IAEA input in responding to emergencies.

Amano also urged that the INES scale – which classifies nuclear incidents on a seven-point scale – be revamped. The March accident at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi accident was upgraded to seven – the highest on the scale – only on April 12. That was more than a month after a 9-magnitute earthquake and a devastating tsunami overwhelmed the Fukushima reactor’s cooling system and radiation started leaking into the atmosphere.

“Safety standards … in particular those pertaining to multiple severe hazards such as tsunamis and earthquakes should be reviewed,” Amano told the meeting. He proposed “IAEA international expert peer reviews” to complement national safety checks, and establishing stockpiles of emergency equipment by reactor operators to try and prevent a replay of Fukushima.

“Many countries have accepted (peer reviews) already; European countries, Japan, the United States,” he told reporters outside the meeting. “I would like to expand it, so that all nuclear power plants will see a peer review on a random basis.”

Speaking for Japan, Economics Minister Banri Kaieda pledged that his country “will take drastic measures to ensure the highest level of safety” for its reactor network.

Philippine troop clashes with communist rebels leave 7 dead, 17 wounded

MANILA, Philippines – Clashes between government troops and communist rebels have killed seven people and wounded 17, military officials said Monday.

The government and the rebels resumed talks in February to end one of Asia’s longest-running Marxist rebellions, but clashes have continued in the countryside.

Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, an army division commander, quoted field reports as saying six rebels were killed and 11 others wounded and subsequently captured in two clashes Saturday in central Negros Oriental province. A soldier was slightly wounded.

Bautista said the first clash broke out early Saturday in Pamplona township’s Banawe village. The New People’s Army rebels withdrew after a 40-minute gunfight, leaving behind their two dead and five wounded comrades.

Some 10 hours later, soldiers caught up with the fleeing guerrillas in the same village of Banawe, sparking another battle that killed four rebels and wounded six others.

Bautista said the rebel fighters were under the command of Marilyn Badayos, a guerrilla front leader arrested on Saturday in a hotel in the adjacent province Negros Occidental while recuperating from a gunshot wound sustained during a clash with troops in May.

Lt. Col. Lyndon Paniza, an army spokesman, says on the same day in southern Compostela Valley province’s Pantukan township, a soldier was killed and five others were wounded when troops on combat operation clashed with around 70 guerrillas.

Paniza said the rebels also suffered casualties, but their number was unknown.

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Asia stock markets down amid Greek bailout impasse

BANGKOK – Asian stocks were mostly lower after European finance ministers delayed a decision to extend emergency help to prevent Greece from defaulting on its debts.

Oil slipped below $92 a barrel while the dollar rose against the euro and the yen.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 0.2 per cent to 9,368.16 despite data showing Japan’s exports dropped for the third straight month in May due to massive production losses following the March 11 earthquake.

Toyota Motor Corp., the world’s No. 1 automaker, rose 0.2 per cent after it announced expansion plans aimed at ramping up production and sales in India, top business daily the Nikkei reported on its website.

South Korea’s Kospi sank 0.3 per cent to 2,027.10, although autos helped staunch the fall. Hyundai Motor Co., the country’s biggest car maker, rose 2.2 per cent after data showed the company sold more vehicles in Europe last month than any other Asian brand, Yonhap News Agency reported.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng shed 0.4 per cent to 21,614.04, with oil-related shares dropping. Sinopec, Asia’s biggest oil refiner by volume, and China National Offshore Oil Corp., known as CNOOC, were both down 0.1 per cent.

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Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was 0.5 per cent lower at 4,461.90. Benchmarks in Singapore and Indonesia were higher while those in Taiwan, New Zealand and mainland China were down.

Early Monday, Eurozone finance ministers postponed a decision on a vital installment of rescue loans needed to avoid bankruptcy next month. Greece will get the next euro12 billion of its existing euro110 billion bailout package in early July, but only if it manages to pass euro28 billion in new spending cuts and economic reforms by the end of the month, said Jean-Claude Juncker, the prime minister of Luxembourg.

“All eyes remain on Greece,” strategists at Credit Agricole CIB wrote in a research note. “News this morning that the Eurogroup’s final decision on the country’s second bailout package has been delayed until early July will result in more uncertainty filtering through markets.”

Aside from the risk that Greece poses, markets were jittery as the end of the Federal Reserve’s $600 billion bond-buying program draws near. The quantitative easing program, dubbed QE2, was intended to keep interest rates low and encourage economic growth. It ends in late June.

Another factor adding to investor uncertainty, analysts said, was whether China’s attempts to cool its runaway growth to more sustainable levels would result in severe consequences such as significant job losses.

“We are looking at some other concerns – how the end of QE2 will affect the market overall and on the China side, whether it will be a hard or soft landing,” said Lee Kok Joo, head of research at Phillip Securities in Singapore.

On Wall Street last week, the U.S. stock market eked out its first week of gains since April, helped by signs a solution to Greece’s debt problems were near.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 0.4 per cent at 12,004.36. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 0.3 per cent to 1,271.50. The technology-focused Nasdaq composite index lost 0.3 per cent to 2,616.48.

Oil prices fell below $92 a barrel as a stronger U.S. dollar made commodities priced in the greenback more expensive to investors spending foreign currencies.

Benchmark oil for July delivery was down $1.36 to $91.65 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract lost $1.94, or 2 per cent, to settle at $93.01 on Friday.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.4231 from $1.4315 in late trading Friday in New York. The dollar rose to 80.21 yen from 80.06 yen.

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AP Business Writer Kelvin Chan contributed from Hong Kong.

Miles of dikes close to overflowing as official says China at critical point in flood control

BEIJING, China – More than 40 miles (70 kilometres) of dikes are in danger of overflowing in an eastern Chinese province where floods have caused $1.2 billion in losses, authorities said Monday as the country neared a critical point in battling seasonal rains.

Heavy rains pounded Zhejiang province over the weekend, and the level of a river that passes through Lanxi city has risen sharply, said Zhao Fayuan, deputy director of the provincial flood control headquarters.

The level of Lanjiang river has now hit 110 feet (34 metres), the highest since 1966, the headquarters said.

Several sections of the dikes in Lanxi city are barely holding, Zhao said. More than 20,000 people could be affected if the dikes are breached, he was quoted as saying by the Xinhua News Agency.

The flood control headquarters advised Lanxi officials to evacuate all residents near the dikes that are at risk of overflowing, and to repair them immediately.

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Recent flooding has destroyed 600,000 acres (241,600 hectares) of farmland and caused 1,846 companies to stop production in Zhejiang, incurring 7.69 billion yuan ($1.19 billion) in direct economic losses, the flood control agency said. Of these, 3.4 billion yuan were agricultural losses. Coastal Zhejiang is one of China’s richest provinces and its economy grew 11.8 per cent last year.

Flooding in eastern and southern China this month has triggered landslides, cut power and telecommunications and left more than 180 people dead or missing. Five more people were killed Sunday and one remains missing after surging floodwaters swept them away in their southwest villages, Xinhua reported.

China’s minister for water resources said Sunday that the country was entering a crucial period for flood control as severe floods triggered by heavy rains threatened southern areas.

It is likely that more frequent and more intense downpours will continue, Chen Lei told a meeting in Beijing, Xinhua reported.

He urged local authorities to improve weather forecasting and ensure dikes, reservoirs and dams are safe.

China’s national weather agency said Monday that torrential rains will continue in southern and eastern areas for the next three days.

However, while the deadly flooding continues, a persistent drought is still plaguing five provinces in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River. It has left 630,000 people without safe drinking water and affected 11.9 million acres (4.8 million hectares) of farmland, Chen said.