MAC: Mines and Communities

Updates on mining in China

Published by MAC on 2005-10-26

Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin (CLB) has demanded the immediate release of a journalist, arrested for publicising last month's attack by police on a nonviolent demonstration at the Chongqing Steel Plant, which reportedly left two women workers dead. Meanwhile, after failing to take over Noranda last year, Chinese investors are eagerly seeking stakes in Saskatchewan's natural resources

CLB Calls for Immediate Release of Internet Writer Detained for Publicizing Recent Mass Protests by Chongqing Steel Workers

China Labour Bulletin Press Release No. 9 (2005-10-27)

A former textile-company employee turned businessman who posted online reports about a recent series of protest demonstrations by steel workers in Chongqing has disappeared and is believed to be in police custody.

Shi Xiaoyu was taken away by police from his home in Shaoxing, Zhejiang province, on 20 October, according to China Rights Defenders and the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). The rights groups said Chongqing police traveled to his home in Zhejiang on 19 October and detained him, confiscating his computer and other materials the next day.

The 50-year-old internet commentator had been posting information online about the Chongqing steel workers' protests, which began in August this year. The workers were demanding that the company, which used to be one of China's top 500 industrial companies but was recently declared bankrupt, should pay them 2,000 yuan each in severance payment for their loss of employment. The Chongqing police cracked down violently on the workers' demonstration on 7 October, reportedly causing the deaths of two women protestors. In addition, 24 demonstrating workers were injured and three of their leaders were detained the same day. (For further information on the Chongqing steel workers' protests, see CLB's report of 14 October: Two Women Reportedly Killed, and Three Workers' Leaders Detained, During Police Crackdown on Mass Protest at Chongqing Steel Plant)

"Instead of simply 'shooting the messenger' by detaining Shi Xiaoyu for publicizing the police violence at the Chongqing Steel Plant, the Chinese authorities should instead be actively investigating reports that two innocent women died as a result of the police crackdown on the workers' protest," said CLB's director Han Dongfang. "Shi is not a dissident, and he was not even criticizing government policies. He was merely informing the Chinese public about a major case of labour unrest in his hometown," he added. "The authorities should be encouraging such public-spirited activity, not suppressing it."

China Labour Bulletin calls on the Chongqing police to release Shi Xiaoyu immediately and to cease participating in the official cover-up of the violent police crackdown on 7 October in Chongqing against peacefully demonstrating steel workers.

Saskatchewan says China itching to acquire oil, uranium assets

By GEOFFREY YORK, Toronto Globe and Mail

October 26 2005

BEIJING -- Chinese investors, including state-owned companies, are strongly interested in acquiring ownership stakes in Saskatchewan oil fields and uranium mines, Premier Lorne Calvert says.

With its oil consumption continuing to soar, China has been increasingly anxious to develop a reliable new chain of energy supplies, including foreign oil sources and an expanded domestic nuclear industry. Saskatchewan could be a vital source of supplies for both of these sectors, according to provincial leaders who held two days of meetings with senior Chinese officials in Beijing this week.

Mr. Calvert yesterday reached agreement with the chairman of China National Petroleum Corp., the biggest Chinese state-owned oil producer, to set up a high-level working group to pave the way for Chinese investment in the Saskatchewan oil patch as quickly as possible. The goal is "to take our conversations to tangible action," the Premier said in an interview in Beijing last night.

CNPC is keen to invest in the heavy oil sector in Saskatchewan, he said. "They are demonstrating some real interest. They floated some ideas for the actual purchase of [oil field] properties that they would develop themselves. They gave every indication that it's on their option list. And they mentioned the possibility of joint ventures with Canadian players."

Officials from CNPC have already visited Saskatchewan three times in the past 12 months, showing their strong interest in the province. A subsidiary of the Chinese company has contributed $500,000 to a $2-million research fund at a Regina-based research centre to study oil recovery techniques.

But one Canadian prize seems to have escaped the grasp of these Chinese investors, at least for now. Despite persistent rumours, there's no sign that Husky Energy Inc. -- the Calgary-based oil company with major assets in Saskatchewan -- will be sold to a state-owned Chinese company, Mr. Calvert said.

The Saskatchewan Premier, in the midst of an Asia tour, held lengthy talks this weekend with Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, who controls Husky. With oil prices rising, Mr. Li seems eager to retain and perhaps expand Husky's interests in Canada, the Premier said.

Chinese state companies, including China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. (Sinopec) and PetroChina, are often rumoured to be potential suitors for Husky, and media reports last year suggested that Mr. Li was discussing a possible sale to a Chinese company, although Husky officials denied it.

China's nuclear industry, meanwhile, has a strong appetite for possible investments in Saskatchewan uranium mines, according to Eric Cline, the Saskatchewan Minister of Industry and Resources.

He said the Chinese are beginning to realize that Saskatchewan's uranium is much richer than the uranium in Australia, its main rival. Some Chinese investors have already visited the head office and mining sites of Cameco Corp., the province's main uranium producer.

"As they become aware of the resource in Saskatchewan, I think they're more and more interested," Mr. Cline said.

"We're at an exploratory level, but the level of interest is indicated by the level of officials we're speaking to. The meetings we're having are at a very high level. Certainly they're looking very seriously at Saskatchewan as a source of uranium. They would be a stable long-term customer for us, because they're going to have a lot of nuclear energy."

China is also a major customer for two of Saskatchewan's biggest commodities: grain and potash. Chinese demand for both is likely to increase because of the growing affluence of Chinese urban consumers and their rising appetite for more expensive food products, Mr. Calvert said.

Chinese consumers are buying more products such as pasta and beer, for example, which helps creates a market for Saskatchewan's durum wheat and malting barley, he said. Saskatchewan potash, meanwhile, helps China grow its own variations of these crops.

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