Thursday, July 28, 2011
Saturday, July 23, 2011
At least 16 die in train plunge after crash
|Staff Reporter |
Updated on Jul 24, 2011
At least 16 people were killed yesterday when a high-speed train ran into another in Zhejiang province in the worst accident to date on China's high-speed railway network.
Six carriages plunged off a bridge. As well as those killed, at least 89 people were injured. The crash happened between Taizhou and Wenzhou at 8.34pm.
Citing Shanghai railway bureau sources, China National Radio said a train travelling from the provincial capital Hangzhou to Fuzhou ran into the other train, which had been brought to a halt by a lightning strike.
Two coaches of the train from Hangzhou and four coaches of the stalled train were derailed.
Photos posted by internet users on theShanghai Times Sino microblog showed some of the derailed coaches resting upside down and badly damaged.
Friday, July 8, 2011
Ex-official warns of crackdown risks
|Reuters in Beijing |
Updated on Jul 08, 2011
The most senior Chinese official jailed over the 1989 Tiananmen protests warned the Chinese government on Friday that its sustained crackdown on dissent will only bring more instability.
In an interview with reporters on Friday, Bao Tong, the most trusted aide to purged Communist Party chief Zhao Ziyang and now an outspoken critic of the government, said he believes Chinese leaders are filled with insecurity about the country's social order.
China's Communist Party has muzzled dissent since February, secretly detaining dozens of lawyers and activists, worried that uprisings across the Arab world could inspire challenges to its one-party rule ahead of a leadership succession late next year.
"A government that snatches the legitimate rights of the ordinary people, I think this kind of government will never be stable," said Bao, 79. He was jailed for seven years for his opposition to the government decision to send in troops to crush the pro-democracy demonstrations, and remains under close watch by security officers around his home in the west of Beijing.
"I think the measures they have taken are wrong. It will backfire on what they want to achieve."
The transition is due to start late next year, when Vice President Xi Jinping is likely to take over from President Hu Jintao.
Bao was once a political high-flyer, and as secretary to the party's all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee held a rank equivalent to a cabinet minister.
Bao said it was imperative that Hu and Premier Wen Jiabao "create the conditions" for future leaders, which means "not creating problems".
"What they're doing now is only increasing the obstacles," he said. "On the approach that they are taking now, on what kind of consequences it will mean for the future, I think it will cause more trouble for the new leaders."
"If they start implementing democracy and the rule of law, it'll be much easier for the incoming leaders. There'll be less risks and less resistant forces."
Bao was harsh on Hu, whose government he says has reneged on its promises of democratic reform, and for its treatment of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, who was jailed in 2009 for 11 years for subversion.
"He's telling the world that China's laws don't count. Only I, Hu Jintao, matter. That's why I say I'm thoroughly disappointed in Hu Jintao," said the healthy and alert Bao, sitting in front of a picture of his former boss Zhao.
Zhao died in 2005 after more than 15 years under house arrest.
Bao was more sympathetic to Wen and applauded the premier's recent calls for democracy and human rights, most recently last month in London. .
"One thing I haven't figured out is what the motive of his comments are," Bao said. "Is it just for the sake of speech or is he really prepared to take action on what he has said?"
"I hope he is prepared to do what he says. But he has not much time left, if he doesn't act quickly, people will say in the future that he's worked for 10 years and all he achieved was just empty talk for a decade, with nothing to show for it," he said. "That will be a pity."
Bao said he had high hopes for Vice President Xi.
Xi is the son of reformist former vice premier and parliament vice-chairman Xi Zhongxun, making him a "princeling" â" one of the privileged sons and daughters of China's incumbent, retired or late leaders.
"I hope he will make a difference. I hope he will not be ... a second Hu Jintao. He should be Xi Zhongxun's son, have his own mind and know that his own father has worked a lifetime for the ordinary people, and that his father suffered."
"I hope he remembers his father's experiences and not betray his father. Of course ... as a friend of his father's, I'll also put more pressure on him."
"The world's greatest politicians were made because of pressure from the people," said Bao. "An emperor that has no pressure will definitely be corrupt."
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Beijing denies rumour of Jiang's death
TV report of China leader's death fuels political rumour mill
|Reuters in Beijing|
Updated on Jul 07, 2011
Chinese state media denied rumours on Thursday that former president Jiang Zemin had died after a Hong Kong television station said he had, sparking a wave of speculation about a leadership transition due next year.
"Recent reports of some overseas media organisations about Jiang Zemin's death from illness are pure rumour," Xinhua news agency quoted "authoritative sources" as saying.
Jiang, 84, is in poor health. Three sources with ties to China's leadership told Reuters that he is in intensive care in Beijing at the No 301 military hospital after suffering a heart attack.
In the opaque world of Chinese politics, the health of a leader is fodder for rumours about how the balance of power is shifting at the highest levels of the government.
Current President Hu Jintao retires from office from late next year in a sweeping leadership overhaul, and the rumours about Jiang's health underscore the uncertainties around this.
Hong Kong's Asia Television interrupted its main newscast on Wednesday evening to announce solemnly that Jiang had died, and followed with a brief profile. It kept up the news for several hours on a ticker and then said it would air a special report on Jiang's life late in the evening.
It later cancelled the report, and withdrew the ticker after failing to get official confirmation.
Meanwhile, the Shandong News website in northeast China posted a black banner with white characters, saying "Our Respectable Comrade Jiang Zemin Is Immortal". The site was no longer accessible on Thursday.
Searches on a popular Chinese micro-blogging site with terms ranging from "Jiang Zemin" to the Yangtze River [Jiang's surname means "river"], are blocked, a sign that China's censors are concerned about public debate about his health.
Premature reports about the demise of Chinese leaders are hardly new. In the 1990s, Hong Kong and Japanese media reported several times that paramount leader Deng Xiaoping had died.
Jiang Zemin's passing â" on the surface at least â" would likely have limited impact on the direction of China's politics and economic development.
He retired long ago, handing over the Communist Party's top job to Hu in 2002 and his other posts over the next two years. Hu and Premier Wen Jiabao have since led the country on a decade-long charge that saw it grow from an economy the size of Britain to one that has surpassed Japan.
But the prospect of Jiang's passing would add a breeze of uncertainty to a transition that is widely thought to hand power from Hu to a new generation led by Xi Jinping, currently vice president. That would take place at the 18th Communist Party Congress expected sometime in the autumn of next year.
Xi, anointed as Hu's heir apparent at the congress in 2007, was considered acceptable to both the Hu and Jiang camps.
But in China, the death of a senior leader can be cause for worry, and even spell disaster, for proteges and allies who are no longer protected.
Hu would no longer have Jiang acting as a counterweight to his influence over the future make up of the next leadership.
"New leaders are selected by old leaders," Zheng Yongnian, professor of Chinese politics at the National University of Singapore. "He's one of the important selectorate. After he passes away, other current leaders will become more influential."
He could also settle scores or take down other rivals with links to Jiang, if necessary.
Past leaders can have considerable clout in China. Deng wielded power as paramount leader despite having given up all his posts except the honourary chairman of the Chinese bridge association.
Jiang consolidated his own grip on power after Deng died in 1997. By the time Jiang retired his last post â" as head of the military commission â" in 2004, he had already stacked the Politburo with his people.
"Front and back, left and right, up and down. No matter where Hu looks, there is a Jiang man," said one source at the time the leadership line-up was announced back in 2002.
In Jiang's case, there are quite a few allies still in place in the leadership who might now have cause for concern, should Hu assert himself.
"If he dies, the situation becomes very delicate," said one source with ties to leadership circles who requested anonymity given the sensitivity of the subject.
Among the Jiang allies still in senior posts are: Wu Bangguo, parliament chief and the second ranking person in the nine-member Politburo Standing Committee; Jia Qinglin, who heads a parliamentary advisory body and is ranked fourth; and Li Changchun, who oversees propaganda and ideology and is ranked fifth.
How exactly it will play it out, is unclear. With the Party Congress only about 15 months away, Hu's window to further consolidate his grip on power is considerably shorter than Jiang had as he prepared to step down.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Boy killed as subway escalator reverses
Thirty injured in Beijing; malfunction blamed on cost-cutting use of shopping-mall model
Updated on Jul 06, 2011
A 13-year old boy died and 30 were injured when an escalator suddenly reversed direction at a station on Beijing Subway's Line 4 yesterday morning. Two people remain in critical condition.
Witnesses said the escalator malfunctioned at the Beijing Zoo Station at about 9.30am. "When we were about to reach exit A, we heard a 'kahk' and the ascending escalator suddenly reversed," a tourist from Heilongjiang told Beijing News from hospital. "Nobody was able to stand. We all fell together.
"My daughter was found underneath [the victims]. Now she can't move."
Zhang Lexiang , an escalator engineer and deputy general secretary of China Elevator Association, said he was not surprised by the accident. He said his association had received many reports about similar incidents in recent years, most frequently at public transport hubs such as subway stations.
He said manufacturers had been improving the safety of escalators for decades, with computers and digital sensors making reversals almost impossible.
To save money, however, subway lines on the mainland bought cheap, light-duty escalators designed for shopping malls.
Such escalators cost a third of the price of a heavy-duty escalator, Zhang said, but using them in a public transport hub could be fatal. The burden of heavy passenger loads for long hours would not only shorten the life span of electric motors and transmission systems, but breach the design limits of safety mechanisms.
Zhang said all developed countries mandated the use of heavy-duty escalators in public transport hubs. Hong Kong, for instance, requires specifications many times higher than the mainland.
"The mainland produces more than 95 per cent of the world's escalators," Zhang said. "We sell most heavy-duty models overseas. [But] we can't find a single buyer in the mainland's public sector."
In December, an escalator at Guomao station on Shenzhen's Metro reversed, injuring 24 passengers.
Line 4 is operated by Beijing MTR Corporation, a joint venture formed by Beijing Infrastructure Investment, Beijing Capital Group and Hong Kong's MTR Corporation.
Beijing MTR declined to confirm that the escalator had reversed.
The escalator was manufactured by US-based Otis. A spokesman at the company's China headquarters, in Tianjin , said it had launched an investigation.
The MTR Corp, which holds a 49 per cent stake in the Beijing Subway joint venture, said the escalator involved in the accident was owned by a company under the Beijing municipal government.
"The escalator, though inside the subway, is rented out by the company to the subway," an MTR spokesman said. It was maintained by Otis, he said.
Additional reporting by Martin Wong