CHINA – POLITICS
NPC (Mar 5-14) and CPPCC (Mar 3-13)
- Media’s joint editorial calls for end to Hukou system
13 mainland newspapers published a joint editorial on Mar 1 calling for the abolishion of “hukou” or household registration system. But editors at the Economic Observer, the newspaper that initiated the joint editorial, have been punished for their bold action as other participating media confirmed a government order to remove the editorial from their websites.
Zhang Hong, the former editor of the Economic Observer was sacked accordingly. He said the idea of a joint editorial is from Guardian’s joint editorial before the Copenhagen climate conference, they chose Hukou system as the topic was because they thought this meets the people’s interests and is also the direction of government’s reform, which would make it a “safe” choice. Chang Ping, former deputy editor of Southern Metropolis Daily, said the ban on the joint editorial was mainly because the way media used was beyond the party’s control.
The strong worded editorial begins by saying “long has China suffered from the ills of the hukou system!” and “all men were created free to move”. It calls Hukou system “obsolete”, “unconstitutional” and “a violation of human rights”.
The hukou system registers every Chinese citizen according to their household origins as either town dwellers or country peasants. Nowadays it is widely seen as a source of discrimination in terms of access to services like healthcare and education. However, Premier Wen’s government work report at the NPC didn’t show it would be abolished soon.
- Election Law amendment
The parliament is to amend its Electoral Law for the fifth time. The main amendment of this time is “electing deputies to the people’s congresses based on the same population ratio in urban and rural areas”, a change from the 4:1 ratio of rural population to urban population represented by a deputy to the people’s congress that has been enacting since 1953. Rural, urban voters may get equal rights after the amendment.
- Housing prices expect to rise in coming 20 years
China’s housing minister Jiang Weixin said on a NPC press conference that in 2010 the housing market will progress at a steady pace. “My prediction is that the upward pressure on housing prices will remain great for the next 20 years because demand will be huge due to rapid urbanisation and industrialisation and because our land is limited,” he added. People’s Bank of China Deputy Governor Su Ning also said on Mar 8 that PBOC won’t issue new policies to curb housing prices. This all appears to set the tone for Wen Jiabao’s determination to tame the “wild horse” housing market during his term.
- Rising stars: Bo Xilai and Wang Yang
Bo Xilai, the party chief of Chongqing city, is one of the leaders in spotlight at this year’s NPC. In the past 6 month, Bo’s campaign against organised crime that has led to more than 3,000 arrests – including that of the leading judicial official has won him countless headlines. The party newspaper named him man of the year. Mr Bo has also encouraged a wave of nostalgia for the Mao era, which many see as less corrupt. Chongqing’s mobile phone users often receive “red text messages” of the Great Leader’s famous phrases. Bo Xilai has held many party and government offices. Ex-party leader, Jiang Zemin, is one of his supporters.
Bo’s rival in the fight for a seat in the Politbureau Standing Committee is Wang Yang. Wang is the head of Guandong government. He was a member of the Communist Youth League and is said to be President Hu Jintao’s protégé. Wang was Bo Xilai’s predecessor as Party Secretary of Chongqing. Many believe Bo Xilai’s clampdown against organized crime was born out of spite for his predecessor. But who will win in this power struggle has yet to be seen.
- Delegates say
Li Hongzhong, governor of Hubei province, was asked by a People’s Daily reporter about last year’s Deng Yujiao. His reply: “Are you really from the People’s Daily? And you ask such a question? What kind of Communist Party mouthpiece are you? Is this how you guide public opinion? What’s your name? I’m going to find your boss.”
Huang Mengfu, chairman of the All-China Federation of Industry & Commerce, on the hot-button issue of property prices: “Whether Beijing apartment prices are 20,000 yuan per square meter or 30,000 yuan, there’s basically no harm to ordinary people. If I can’t buy a place at 20,000, I still can’t buy it if the price goes up to 30,000. This really has nothing to do with ordinary people. Unless the prices go down to 3,000 per square meter, is that possible?”
Chen Huawei, an NPC delegate from Guangzhou and construction company executive, said “Property prices are not determined by us developers, but by the market. Nowadays, people complain about high home prices but no one is forcing you to buy a place in Guangzhou or Shenzhen. You can go back to your hometown to buy a home, why does it have to be Guangzhou or Shenzhen?”
Dongguan’s female migrant workers’ loves and dreams
There are 10 milllion migrant workers in Dongguan and more than half of them are women.
Southern Metropolis Daily’s series survey on Dongguan’s women migrant workers portrays the young women’s loves and dreams in this Pearl River Delta industrial city.
Polygamy. “You’ll be laughed if you only have one girlfriend,” said Xiao Lin, a boy from Sichuan. “I just have three girlfriends, it’s common, migrant workers are all like this. ‘Polygamy’ is normal, get one girl from this factory, one more from another factory. There’re so many young pretty girls in these factories, they’re all innocent and easy to hook up.” Another migrant worker Li Bing also has three girlfriends, he said after being told of each other’s existence, three girls all said they wouldn’t mind competing to be more attractive to him so they can win more love.
Guangdong Women’s Rights Protection Station’s director Liu Xiulian thinks young female migrant workers are very innocent and easily have sex with male workers. But at the end most of them choose to go back to their hometown and marry someone they know very well. The big contrast between the extremely open and conservative sides confuses Liu as well as many others.
Free brides. “There’re many girls here and you don’t need to give them bridewealth money,” said A Yi, who came to Dongguan in 2009 for a “free” bride. “It costs RMB30,000 to get a wife in my village,” A Yi said. Though he hasn’t found a job since he arrived, he’s already got a girlfriend and has been living on her salary. HR manager Wang of a big electronics factory said 80% of workers are women in his factory and many of them are ‘sponsoring’ their boyfriends, which is not considered shameful. “It’s a real issue that it’s hard for female workers to find boyfriends. The truth is men don’t need to have jobs but women need to have boyfriends.”
Unaware of contraception. From 2007 to 2009, Li Li had three abortions for two ex-boyfriends and a one-night lover. A gynaecologist working in a Dongguan clinic said more than 30% of her patients are migrant workers. Some of them can only have abortions at night because they have to work during the day. According to Southern Metropolis Daily’s survey of 200 women workers, only 22% of them use condoms for contraception and 8.5% don’t use contraception.
A Way out. Southern Metropolis Daily’s survey found that long working hours is considered the most painful aspect of those young girls’ factory life. Meanwhile, the monthly salary level is still low. 48.5% of female migrant workers’ salary is between RMB1000-2000, 26% is RMB2000-3000, 11.5% is above RMB3000. The harsh reality forces those young girls to find a way out.
Female migrant worker literature was born in Dongguan and its main exponents are Zheng Xiaoqiong, Pang Yimeng and Wu Yufeng. Poet Zheng said “Every month I saw workmates lost their fingers or nails on machine, I told myself I had to write this down. It doesn’t only belong to me, it belongs to all my workmates as well.” But when she finally won the People’s Literature award, she said in her award speech, “What’s the use of my slim weak words? They can’t even connect one broken finger.”
But not all female migrant workers are as talented or as lucky. Lured by bigger money, some of them choose to become sauna girls and live off their young bodies. Workers say, sauna girls can easily earn a factory worker’s monthly salary in a day.
China’s stability maintenance system
Nanfang Zhoumo published an article on China’s ‘stability maintenance’ system on Mar 4. Maintaining stability, or ‘wei’wen’ in Chinese, has become another Chinese characteristic. Compared to the Olympic year of 2008, in 2009 the central government put more resources into maintaining social stability. Last year’s Xinjiang riots, the Shishou hotel worker death and the National Day parade all exhibited China’s fully formed wei’wen system.
The 2008 Olympics’ wei’wen is seen as a good example. After that, the public security minister Meng Jianzhu said China should “turn the Olympic experience into a long-term system…,combine the army, the armed force and the public” to maintain social stability. In this system, security volunteers play an important role. For example, in Hebei province, about 1% of population joined the security volunteers’ team, which means there were about 788,000 Hebei volunteers worked for the Beijing Olympics’ security. In 2009, Hebei added 300,000 more volunteers to maintain stability. It’s widely expected the same voluntary security system will be used at the Guangzhou Asian Games and the Shanghai Expo.
In 2009, the key word of the government’s wei’wen work is “initiative”. The long forgotten “people’s mediation system” is again becoming popular. In Taiyuan city, 1% of the population (1.7 mln) are trained as people’s mediators. Shenzhen is also planning to recruit 17,200 people’s mediators in 2010. People’s mediators are not only responsible for mediation, more important, they’re supposed to submit information to the government in time so the wei’wen work can be done more efficiently.
With all the wei’wen deployment, the government’s budget on it is rising accordingly. Yunnan provincial government planned to double their wei’wen budget in 2010. Liaoning province spent RMB22.3 bln in 2009 on wei’wen, 15.5% up than 2008, while there was only RMB16.2 bln spent on medicare.
China’s top judge and top prosecutor both gave reports to the NPC on Mar 11, said in 2010 the justice system will focus on “national security” and “social stability”.
Corrupt official Han Feng’s diaries
The former Guangxi Tobacco Bureau Chief, Han Feng, had his diaries published and they exposed him to Chinese netizens as well as a new graft probe.
Han Feng’s brief diaries from 2007 to 2008 describe a daily life full of excessive eating and drinking, taking bribes and sexual relationships with five female colleagues. “The diaries are not groundless rumours”, said Liao Hongxiu, the head of the bureau. Han is currently under investigation.
But Chinese netizens don’t seem to be so critical, many of them say Han is not bad and should be kept on in his position. As some netizens pointed out , over the course of a whole year, Han didn’t meet his lovers that often, he needed to think for quite a while before he bought a new mobile phone and an MP4. “What an honest and upright official! Only received such little money (RMB60,000 in half a year)! Only slept with a few women!” netizen Tian Zhihua said on Tianya.cn, whose point was supported by many.
Famous writer and blogger Han Han said in a blog article, “When other officials are giving houses and cars to their mistresses, he only gave his lovers mobile phones and MP4, which shows not only he’s a good official, but also his lovers are all good women. If more officials and mistresses can be like them, China will be able to save more money to build aircraft carriers.” “Though he slept with lovers many times, he also went shopping with his wife 25 times in the due time.” “He installs computer software himself, likes digital products, photography and sports, even writes diaries in tweet-style, which shows he keeps pace with the times.” So “…Han Feng is a good official.”
At the end of this blog article, Han Han put an online survey for his readers, “What do you hope Han Feng’s end to be?” Among 197,546 voters, 96% voted for “He’s a good official, should be kept in his position.”
Yao Ming’s baby is going to be American?
Media report basketballer Yao Ming recently went back to the U.S. with his five-month pregnant wife Ye Li, which caused huge speculation among his fans as they want to know if the baby is going to be American. Yao said where the baby’s going to be born is a private matter with no need to tell the whole world.
The baby will be American if it’s born in the U.S. It can also claim Chinese citizenship as the child of Chinese nationals. But Chinese law doesn’t allow dual citizenship.
Some say it would be a betrayal of China if the baby is going to be American. But on China’s most popular online community Tianya.cn, most of the netizens say they support Yao’s baby’s possible American citizenship to simply back their idol… or they’re just being ironic: “What a correct decision, I must support.” “Coming back to China is seriously irresponsible to their child.” “Yao Ming hasn’t been brain washed.” “As my idol, Yao Ming never disappoints me.” “I will also give birth to my child in America if I can afford it.” “Yao himself should become American too.” “I admire Yao Ming’s IQ, support his decision!” “Only an idiot would pass up American citizenship.”
CHINA – ECONOMY
Soaring online video copyright prices
The new TV series Dream of the Red Chamber was sold for RMB200,000 per episode to a Beijing online media company. This set a new price record for online video’s copyright. Baidu CEO, Gong Yu, said last year, a popular movie’s online premiere was worth RMB1.8-2 mln, while the year before the price was only RMB100,000.
According to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, till Jun 2009, there were 360 mln internet users in China, among them, 222 mln watch films and TV programs online. Tudou’s chief content officer Jiang Weimin said high ranked TV series can get more than 200 mln hits a year, which means 6 people hit it every second.The expending market stimulates China’s internet video websites to spend more on getting exclusive copyright of netizens’ favorites. “Buying exclusive copyright brings more commercial income and influence of our platform,” a website’s copyright buyer said.
QQ: 100 mln users online at the same time
Mar 5 19:52:58, for the first time, QQ got 100 mln users online at the same time. This is also the first time in the world that so many internet users gathered on one site. Jiang Qiping, secretary-general of China Informatization Research Center of CASS, said the number means from now on China can say YES or NO to the game.
HONG KONG – POLITICS
Desperate mothers’ suicide
Last month, three Hong Kong mothers committed suicide with their children.
39-year-old Choi Sai-mui threw herself and her 7 year-old son off Hong Kong’s icnonic Tsing Yi Bridge on Feb 26. The mother was confirmed dead and the boy’s body hasn’t been found yet, but the police say he’s believed drowned. Local media said the divorced mother and her son used to get Comprehensive Social Security Assistance from HK government and the mother had mental disease history.
On Feb 3, a mother who was suspected to be suffering post-natal depression killed herself and her two-month-old son after falling from their 13th-floor flat in Tsuen Wan.
On Feb 8, a mother threw her four-year-old daughter from the 7th floor of a shopping mall in West Kowloon, before leaping to her death. The daughter survived after landing in netting while her mother fell straight through. The woman was said arguing with her husband about which school they could afford to send their daughter, as she wanted the daughter to go to an international school but her husband thought it’s too expensive.
The deaths shocked the city and raised questions over the pressures on young families esp. young mothers and a lack of support provided for the mentally ill. It also suggests the huge gap between rich and poor in HK which is one of the widest on the world.
According to an essay on Feb’s medical journal Pediatrics, “depression is prevalent in low-income, urban, postpartum mothers”.
Suicide rates in Hong Kong have fallen dramatically since 2003 when they easily topped the table throughout Asia.
6 pro-democracy activists arrested for liaison office protest
Six pro-democracy activists were arrested on Mar 11 for taking part in an unlawful assembly inside the compound of the central government’s liaison office on Christmas Day, according to SCMP. Five of the arrested are members of the standing committee of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China – alliance’s vice-chairman Richard Tsoi Yiu-cheong, , lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan, former legislator “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, Leung Kwok-wah and Li Yiu-kee. Koo Sze-yiu, of the April 5th Action Group, was also arrested.
Tsoi described the arrest as “political prosecution”. Lee said he’s been to many protests in the past 30 years, but this was the first time he was charged of “unlawful assembly”, which shows Hong Kong’s worsen human rights situation. Martin Lee Chu-ming, chairman of the Democratic Party said the arrest is not a decision of HK government, but an order by PRC government’s liaison office. Now it’s not Hong Kong people rule Hong Kong, everything is under Beijing’s control.