China UpdatePublished by MAC on 2006-04-21
21st April 2006
While Chinese President Hu Jintao is visiting the United States, focussing on the economic growth that has made the country the world's fourth largest economy, the Chinese Premier warns of the seriousness of the country's environmental problems that come with such economic growth. Even though the head of the Chinese Environmental Protection Administration admits that environmental problems will lead to social unrest, it does not stop the state persecuting environmental activists that speak out or to act on the appalling health and safety situation in the coal mining industry, perhaps because of how much some state officials have invested in it.
Chinese Premier Warns of Environmental Toll
Planet Ark (Reuters) - http://www.planetark.org/dailynewsstory.cfm?newsid=36051
20th April 2006
BEIJING - Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has said the dust storms that whipped Beijing and northern China this week were a sharp reminder of the severity of the country's environmental problems.
Wen told an environmental meeting in Beijing that China needed to intensify efforts to rein in pollution and environmental destruction, the Xinhua news agency reported.
"The succession of dust storms is a warning to us," it quoted Wen as saying on Monday. "Ecological destruction and environmental pollution are creating massive economic losses and gravely threatening people's lives and health."
Conservation group WWF warned that China was doing enormous damage to its environment for the sake of economic growth.
"China is still a developing country and the model of economic development is not sustainable," Peng Lei, WWF policy officer in China, told a news conference on Wednesday. "We are sacrificing the environment for the fast growth of the economy."
WWF said Asia-Pacific population of more than 3 billion was using resources at almost double the rate the region was able to support, and called on China to do more to lessen its impact on the environment.
"China is very important, as it is one of the global manufacturing houses of the world," added Dermot O'Gorman, WWF's chief representative in China.
A sand storm struck the Chinese capital on Monday covering homes, streets and cars in brown dust and leaving the skies murky yellow as northern China suffered the worst pollution in years.
The Chinese Central Meteorological Station estimated that the storms had enveloped one eighth of the country over recent days.
Two workers died several days ago in ferocious storms in the western province of Gansu, Xinhua said.
Strong winds overnight cleared away the dust over Beijing which is trying to clean up its environment as it prepares to host the 2008 Olympics.
But so far this year the city has recorded 56 days with blue skies -- 16 fewer than for the same time last year, Xinhua reported.
Wen said that China has met its economic targets for previous years but fallen short of pollution control goals. In 2005 the country's sulphur dioxide emissions were 27 percent higher than 2000 levels, although the government had set a goal of reducing emissions by 10 percent over that time, he said.
Wen ordered local governments to release information about energy use and pollution output every six months.
An editorial in the People's Daily -- the ruling Communist Party's chief newspaper -- on Wednesday said that despite improvement in some cities, the nation's environmental degradation "remains extremely severe."
"Problems built up over a long time have not been resolved, new ones are emerging, and environmental pollution is dramatically increasing," it said.
(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard and Reuters Television)
Pollution Fuelling Social Unrest - Chinese Official
21st April 2006
BEIJING - China's environment chief has made a rare official admission that serious water and air pollution is fuelling social tensions, protests and riots.
"The environment has become a focal issue that triggers social contradictions," Thursday's edition of the Beijing News quoted Zhou Shengxian, head of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), as saying.
"Mass incidents" -- protests and riots in the ruling Communist Party's jargon -- over environmental woes have grown at an annual rate of 29 percent in recent years, he said.
After two decades of breakneck economic growth, China has 20 of the world's 30 most polluted cities, the World Bank says. An estimated 300 million nationwide have no access to clean water.
Zhou was appointed in December after his predecessor was forced to resign over his handling of a toxic spill that poisoned the Songhua River, a source of drinking water for millions.
The degradation of the environment has increasingly galvanised citizens across the country into violent actions because of the slim chance of redress through legal channels.
Zhou did not give an exact number for the protests, but said there were 51,000 pollution "disputes" last year alone.
Thousand of villagers rioted in Zhejiang province last April, forcing the closure of 13 polluting chemical plants. About 50 policemen were injured and four protesters were later jailed.
An eastern industrial stronghold, Zhejiang was hit by at least two other mass protests in 2005, one of which also ended with the shut-down of a battery factory.
A Hong Kong newspaper reported that about 200 villagers in the southeastern province of Fujian, angered by pollution of their water supply, attacked three factories and a sewage treatment plant earlier this month.
At pains to avoid social unrest, the government has made balanced growth and greater respect for the environment a key element of a development plan for the next five years.
Zhou blamed an obsession with economic growth, slack law enforcement and "soft" laws for the serious environment risks that had resulted in 76 "sudden environment incidents" since November, or one in every two days.
Environmental Activist Sun Xiaodi Detained Again
7th April 2006
Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that Sun Xiaodi, detained for eight months last year after he attempted to petition the central government over uranium contamination in Gansu Province, has been detained again after petitioning Beijing on the issue.
Sun Xiaodi, formerly an employee of the Gansu No. 792 Uranium Mine, was originally abducted in Beijing on April 28, 2005, after being interviewed by an AFP journalist regarding his claims of serious environmental contamination from the mine. Sun had been petitioning authorities for more than 10 years about the mine, which was officially closed in 2002, but where local officials have reportedly continued mining the radioactive ore for private profit. Suns whereabouts were unknown for eight months, until he was suddenly released from Lanzhou Prison on December 27. He remained under house arrest until notified on March 12 that he would be fully released on March 20. The notice specified that Sun should not leave his village in Diebu County after his release.
Sources in China told HRIC that while still under house arrest, Sun and his former mine colleagues heard that ore was still being extracted from the No. 792 uranium mine and sold overseas on the black market at huge profit, while environmental contamination continued unabated. Following his release from house arrest, Sun set off for Beijing on March 29 with the intention of petitioning the central government once again.
Sources say that following his arrival in Beijing on March 30, Sun delivered his petition, then went on to Shenyang, Liaoning Province on April 1 to visit Liu Hua, former village head of Zhangliangbao Village, who had just been released from more than a month in detention after petitioning the central government over corruption in her village. Lius husband, former village chairman Yue Yongjin, remained in custody, and on April 4, Sun Xiaodi went to visit him at the Sujiatun District Detention Center. Sun reportedly found Yue Yongjin in an emaciated condition, being forced to work more than 10 hours a day producing artificial flowers for export to South Korea on a daily food allowance of only three steamed flour buns and allowed only two toilet breaks daily.
On that same day, Sun Xiaodi participated in a protest at Zhangliangbao Village calling for Yue Yongjins release. On April 6, public security police from the local dispatch center detained Sun, and no word has been heard of him since. Sources say that public security police had visited Suns Diebu County home several times after he went to Beijing, and it is possible that his most recent detention relates to his violation of the conditions applied to the termination of his house arrest.
HRIC condemns the renewed detention of Sun Xiaodi after he was abducted and disappeared for eight months in violation of Chinese and international law. This is the second instance in which authorities have retaliated against Suns tireless efforts to secure justice for his community through petitioning, which is his lawful right as a Chinese citizen. Although Sun allegedly violated the conditions for termination of his house arrest, he has yet to be even charged with a crime, and therefore the deprivation of his freedom of movement was unlawful. HRIC calls for Suns immediate and unconditional release.
HRIC is also alarmed at reports that Yue Yongjin is being forced to engage in prison labor while being deprived of adequate nutrition and other minimum standards for the treatment of prisoners as mandated by international law. Yue has not been convicted of any offense, and his forced labor is patently illegal under Chinese and international law. HRIC calls for the authorities to investigate allegations of illegal forced labor at the Sujiatun Detention Center and ensure that the mistreatment of Yue be stopped immediately.
Crackdown on officials' mining interest intensifies
by Xinhua Writer Wu Jing, Xinhua - http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2006-04/14/content_4425826.htm
13th April 2006
BEIJING -- Six Chinese government administrations have pledged to intensify a joint investigation into the interests of government officials in coal mines.
At a meeting of the administrations, Vice-Minister of Supervision Chen Changzhi said government and regional departments should implement government policies, govern within legal frameworks, and root out officials with stakes in coal mines.
By January 20, more than 7,000 officials, either in government or in state-owned enterprises, had disposed of their mine interests amid the nationwide crackdown. However, Chen said that some local governments had relaxed controls and failed to adequately investigate.
He called on governments and regions to intensify investigations into officials who had already reported their investments in coal mines. Administration leaders should dispose of their interests as soon as possible, and to surrender profits to the national treasury in line with regulations.
"We should focus on whether officials are participating in, turning a blind eye to or covering up illegal coal mines," Chen added.
Those who failed to report their interests, transferred them to others, concealed their interests, or continued to invest in mines, would be prosecuted with the full force of the law.
Investigating officers should encourage information from the public.
Methods to permanently enforce the ban on mine investments should be explored, Chen said.
Chen said any government body that failed to carry out its duties would be held accountable.
The government had banned officials from investing in mines in an effort to cut the disturbing number of accidents, Chen said. Corruption and land seizures for coal mine development were a severe infringement on the public's rights and interests.
The probe showed that many accidents occurred because officials with mining interests were allowing illegal and unsafe mines to operate.
The six administrations involved in the crackdown are the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the Ministry of Supervision, the Commission for Supervision and Management of State-owned Properties under the State Council, the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, the State Administration of Production Safety, and the State Administration of Coal-Mine Safety.
BEIJING, 14 abr (Xinhua) -- Seis administraciones gubernamentales chinas han prometido que intensificarán una investigación conjunta sobre los intereses de funcionarios del gobierno en minas de carbón.
En una junta de las administraciones, el viceministro de Supervisión, Chen Changzhi dijo que el gobierno y los departamentos regionales deben implementar las políticas gubernamentales, gobernar dentro de los marcos legales, y echar fuera a funcionarios que tienen intereses en minas de carbón.
Para el 20 de enero, más de 7.000 funcionarios, ya sea del gobierno o de empresas de propiedad del Estado, se habían deshecho de sus intereses mineros obligados por la creciente presión nacional.
Sin embargo, Chen dijo que algunos gobiernos locales han relajado sus controles y no han investigado adecuadamente.
Hizo un llamado a gobiernos y regiones para que intensifiquen sus investigaciones de funcionarios que ya han reportado sus inversiones en minas de carbón. Los líderes de la administración deben deshacerse de sus intereses tan pronto como sea posible, y entregar las ganancias al tesoro nacional de acuerdo con las regulaciones existentes.
"Debemos enfocar sobre si hay funcionarios que participan, si se hacen de la vista gorda o si dan un cubrimiento ilegal a las minas de carbón", agregó Chen.
Aquellos que no informaron de sus intereses, que los transfirieron a otros, que los ocultaron o que continuaron invirtiendo en minas, serán procesados y se les aplicará todo el rigor de la ley.
Los oficiales investigadores deben animar al público a que proporcione información.
Los métodos para hacer cumplir permanentemente la prohibición de invertir en minas deben ser explorados, dijo Chen. El funcionario agregó que cualquier organismo del gobierno que deje de cumplir con sus deberes será señalado responsable.
El gobierno prohibió a sus funcionarios que inviertan en minas en un esfuerzo para reducir el inquietante número de accidentes, dijo Chen. La corrupción y las confiscaciones de tierras para la explotación minera de carbón eran una grave transgresión de los derechos e intereses del público.
La pesquisa demostró que muchos accidentes ocurrían porque los funcionarios con intereses mineros estaban permitiendo la operación de minas ilegales e inseguras.