Entries in Beijing (10)


Toxic Pollution Engulfs China; State TV Warns Residents to Stay Inside

Getty/George Doyle/Thinkstock(BEIJING, China) -- China is grappling with a wave of toxic pollution that has engulfed the country.

In Beijing, the US Embassy monitoring index recorded a level of 755 or “beyond index.” According to the World Health Organization, anything over 300 triggers an emergency warning.

An acrid smoke and thick smog filled Beijing…at times visibility was down to a few hundred feet. It was just one of dozens of cities to be hit this weekend.

China’s rapid growth, an explosion in car ownership and poor environmental standards are blamed for the bad air. The government has long downplayed the issue but this weekend even state TV warned residents across the country to stay inside.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Hillary Clinton Makes Likely Last Trip to China as Secretary of State

SAUL LOEB/AFP/GettyImages(BEIJING) -- In what she described as very likely her last trip to China as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton met with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Beijing Wednesday to mend fences in a somewhat battered U.S.-China relationship.

In the past year, the two countries have engaged in tense diplomatic negotiations over blind dissidents, trade regulations, disputed territories and human rights abuse.

Widely criticized in state-run media in the lead up to the visit, Clinton nonetheless described relations as being “on a strong and solid base.”  The two countries, she said, “literally consult almost on a daily basis.”

Among the talking points for Clinton’s visit is the issue of China’s territorial disputes with its Asian neighbors.  Recent tension over small but potentially energy-rich islands in the South China Sea has pitted China against ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The U.S. is pressing for China to resolve its issues multi-laterally. China is insisting on working bi-laterally. The general consensus is that bi-lateral negotiations give China the upper hand. Some say that could come back to haunt China, as the smaller Asian countries involved gravitate toward the U.S. for support.

Clinton clearly stated that the “U.S. does not take a position on territorial claims.”  However, she added that the U.S. has an interest in the “freedom of navigation and…we do believe it is everyone’s interest that [China and ASEAN] work together towards a shared goal on a code of conduct.”

Despite the Global Times headline, “Hillary, a Figure Who Deeply Exacerbates U.S.-China Mutual Distrust,” Clinton’s take would be quite the opposite.  She said that the two countries have been able to “explore areas of agreement and disagreement in a very open manner.”   

Clinton had been scheduled to meet with Hu’s likely successor, Xi Jingping.  At the last minute, the meeting was cancelled.  No official reason was given for the change in plans.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Xi is suffering from a bad back. He cancelled meetings with other high level officials from Singapore and Russia. Xi did send Clinton his wishes for a “productive meeting” via his foreign minister.

Clinton will continue her tour through Asia for the rest of the week.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Doubt Grows in Beijing as Thousands Struggle to Rebuild After Floods

ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images(BEIJING) -- On the outskirts of Beijing, thousands have found themselves suddenly homeless after the city’s worst storm in over 60 years hit this weekend.

In some areas, a wall of water 17 feet high swept through buildings, engulfed automobiles and collapsed roads, leaving behind an unrecognizable trail of thick red mud and rubble.  The official estimates of over $1.6 billion in damages and 1.9 million people affected have caused many to doubt the government’s ability to prepare for and respond to natural disasters.

The 10-hour downpour was deadly: according to the official announcement, 37 people died by drowning, collapsing houses, electrocution, and a lightning strike.  Still, many online bloggers have expressed doubts and anger about the government count, estimating a significantly higher death toll.

“So the statistics says 170,000 livestock dead,” wrote one blogger.  “I don’t understand: if they can count the number of dead animals, why can’t they count the number of dead people?”

Other bloggers are in disbelief that floods could cause such catastrophic damage in the capital city, which spent tens of billions of dollars modernizing infrastructure ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Another blog user wrote, “A rain storm can bring so much damage to Beijing.  With the super-fast development of our city, infrastructure like drainage facilities is way behind pace.  Zillions was invested to build tall buildings, but many lives were taken away just by the rain.  Without a good foundation, the city will collapse.”

The village of Beicheying in Beijing’s Fangshan District was one of the most devastated areas, where a record 18 inches of rain fell during the storm.  When ABC News visited on Wednesday, four days after the flooding, the neighborhood was still unrecognizable to locals, who used straw brooms to sweep out the water in their homes as bulldozers scooped up pile after pile of street debris.  Emergency crews have repurposed an elementary school as a refugee area, where residents lined up for food and water rations amidst lines of tents.

In this hard-hit village, everyone is trying to rationalize the damage.  Many attribute it to the fact that there is only one sewer pipe to serve the entire area.  One official asserted that the village’s position at the foot of a mountain range predestined the flooding.

While the efforts of the rescue teams have not gone unnoticed, villagers like a factory owner, who gave his name as Mr. Fung, are already concerned about the long-term.  Fung, whose factory was destroyed in the flood, worries about falling into bankruptcy without government assistance.

“I don’t know whether or not the government cares.  So far they haven’t done anything.  They lost millions, and we have a really small factory, so I don’t know if anyone is going to help us,” he said.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Chinese Authorities Employing 'Two Fly' Rule for Public Bathrooms

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BEIJING) -- In an effort to boost the level of hygiene in Beijing's public restrooms, Chinese health officials have instituted a rule that only permits two flies, or only two users, in any public toilet.

The BBC reports the cleanliness rules also seek to regulate the emptying of trash bins and even monitor and improve bathroom odor.  The standards are meant to improve the conditions in bathrooms most frequented by tourists, which in many cases are sorely lacking to say the least.

What's not known is how the "two fly" policy and the other regulations will be monitored or enforced.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Cheng Guangcheng Seeking Medical Treatment in Hospital

STR/AFP/GettyImages(BEIJING) -- Cheng Guangcheng, the blind human rights activist who escaped house arrest and was widely believed to be under the protection of the United States Embassy in Beijing, is seeking medical treatment at Chaoyang hospital in Beijing and has reunited with his family, according to a senior U.S. official.

Sources tell ABC News that U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke, Legal Advisor to the Department of State Harold Koh and Assistant Secretary of State for Asian and Pacific Asian Affairs Kurt Campbell escorted Chen to the hospital where was reunited with his wife, Yuan Weijing, and their two small children. It is not known how long Chen will remain at the hospital. U.S. officials will continue to be able to meet with him while he is there.

China is demanding an apology from the U.S. for allowing Chen to enter the embassy. U.S. officials continued to decline to comment on his whereabouts until Wednesday, but in a statement the Chinese Foreign Ministry has said that Chen spent six days at the U.S. embassy and left of his own volition.

The unexpected diplomatic crisis has arisen at a sensitive time. The news of Chen's whereabouts came just hours after Secretary of State Hilary Clinton arrived in Beijing to attend the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. Top level officials on both sides have been locked in intense meetings on the fate of Mr. Chen for days.

The U.S. has long called for human rights reform in China, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton singling Chen out by name in the past.

Topics expected to be addressed at the SED meetings include nuclear proliferation in Iran and North Korea, currency evaluation and international trade—key issues on which the U.S. is seeking more significant Chinese support. The Republican administration is also accusing the U.S. of being "soft" on China, further complicating finding a resolution on Chen's future.

Dissident sources emphasize that Chen does not want to leave China for the U.S. and has never sought asylum. Hu Jia, a friend and fellow activist, told ABC News the Chen firmly believes that staying in China is critical to his fight against corruption and injustice. Chen only entered the U.S. Embassy, Hu said, because his supporters believed the police were aware he was in Beijing and they could no longer keep him safe.

Outside Chaoyang hospital, Jian Tianyong, a human rights lawyer who has worked with Chen in the past, told ABC News that he received a phone call from Chen once he had arrived at the hospital. Jian said that Chen is still in poor health and has been in need of medical attention for several years.

Chen first came to international attention in 2005 for exposing the abortions and forced sterilizations of women in China's rural communities as part of the country's One Child Policy. In 2006, he was sentenced to more than four years in prison for likely trumped up charges of disturbing public disorder.

Upon his release he was placed under extrajudicial house arrest at his home in Dongshigu. On Sunday April 22, Chen made a daring escape from what he has described in videos released online as a brutal house arrest in Shandong Province.

The whereabouts of He Peirong, the young activist who drove Chen to Beijing, remains unknown. Sources in the dissident community say she was last heard from on Friday April 27 and is believed to be in police custody.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


US and North Korea to Resume Direct Talks in Beijing

Ryan McVay/Digital Vision(WASHINGTON) -- The United States will be holding its first direct talks with North Korea since Kim Jong Un came to power in December, the State Department announced Monday.  The talks will be geared towards re-starting the Six Party Talks intended to get North Korea to de-nuclearize.

State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters Monday that Special Representative for North Korea Policy Glyn Davies will meet with North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan, in Beijing on February 23.

Nuland said of the talks in Beijing, “we’ve been very clear with what will be necessary ” from North Korea, adding, “[the] question is whether they are prepared to respond to what we are looking for in order to get back to talks.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


China Launches High Speed Rail Linking Beijing and Shanghai

AFP, Getty Images, Agence France-Presse(BEIJING) -- It's now possible to travel from Beijing to Shanghai (1,318 km) in less than five hours. That's with high speed trains which made their debut Thursday.

The $33 billion track, which moves an average speed of 300  km/h, is expected to transport 80 million passengers a year.

China officials say they hope the train will help allievate overcrowding on the country's transport system.

The country plans to continue building its high speed rail system.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Journalists, Not Revolution at Sunday's 'Jasmine' Protests

Photo Courtesy - PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images(BEIJING) -- Western journalists were perhaps the largest part of a "jasmine revolution" protest Sunday afternoon in Beijing.

After an anonymous online group called for the protests in 23 cities across China, Western journalists congregated at the designated meeting point in Beijing: a McDonald's restaurant on Wangfujing.

Though the media seemed to account for much of those present, security forces were ready, setting up a makeshift checkpoint and trying to block access, but with limited success.

On the street, police hurried journalists and tourists along as "street sweepers" chased loiterers with brooms to keep them moving. At 2 p.m., the designated protest time, people were locked into the McDonald's and surrounding stores. Several news crews were also reportedly detained at a local police station.

The anonymous organizers criticize China's government as "fascist with a corrupt political system and degrading judicial system" where "officials and their offspring enjoy the monopoly of various resources." The group complains of sky-rocketing property prices, lack of opportunities for ordinary Chinese, a widening wealth gap and a lack of civil rights.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


China Activists Detained After Calls for 'Jasmine Revolution'

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(BEIJING) -- The anonymous group that called for Sunday's "jasmine revolution" in China has issued another online statement demanding the release of activists who have been "put under house arrest or detained without due legal process" in the wake of the abortive protests.

The group urged people to participate in continued protests, with information on the venue and timing to be released Wednesday.

In the declaration, they criticize China's government as "fascist with a corrupt political system and degrading judicial system" where "officials and their offspring enjoy the monopoly of various resources." The group complains of sky-rocketing property prices, lack of opportunities for ordinary Chinese, a widening wealth gap and a lack of civil rights.

At a press conference Tuesday the foreign ministry refused to comment on the calls for a "jasmine revolution," saying only that most Chinese people want stability and that "this is something that no person or force can shake."

In the northern city of Harbin, a lawyer for a Chinese Internet user who goes by the name of Miao Xiao, said that his client had been charged with "inciting subversion of state power" for spreading information about the jasmine revolution. He is in police custody.

In Shanghai, human rights activist Feng Zhenghu, told ABC News police had come to his house on Sunday afternoon after he posted photographs of the protests on Twitter.

Chinese police were out in full force on Sunday after anonymous calls for a "jasmine revolution," borrowed from the name of Tunisia's revolt, went out online. The message first went up on a U.S.-based Chinese language website, which is blocked in China, and quickly spread to microblogs and social networking sites. It called on people to protest in 13 cities and chant, "we want food, we want work, we want housing, we want fairness."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


China Reels from Inflation, Soaring Cost of Food

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(BEIJING, China) – As inflation skyrockets, Chinese officials are trying to deal with the soaring cost of food, reports China Daily.

China has seen a 10.1-percent rise in food prices from October 2009, with an 18-percent rise in the cost of vegetables over the same period. In some provinces, the cost of vegetables has soared as much as 30 percent.
The increased prices are forcing even the world’s largest companies to raise prices. McDonalds has said they will add up to the equivalent of 15 cents to menu items due to the “rising cost of raw materials.”

The State Council has announced a series of measures to keep costs down. Among them are $3.3 million that Beijing is set to spend on subsidies to low income families.

The measures, however, could have little influence according to economists who believe that China must deal with the fundamental issues of artificially low interest rates and low currency.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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