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---"Focused Coverage Informed Perspectives"---
Mon, Dec 15, 1997 edition
Asia's Economics
Asean members agree to form trading block; in China, labour problems . . .

Also in this edition . . .

1: China: two stories on labour problems and solutions
2: Wang Dan kept in dark about Wei's release
3: Pretoria sells plant to China, ending self-sufficiency in nuke fuel
4: in Tibet, affirmative action
5: foot-and-mouth epidemic contained, but outbreaks still possible
6: after victory DPP begins to show its divisions
7: Wei says he will go to Taiwan
8: Taiwan ranks third for most profitable place to invest
9: declining against US dollar makes Taiwan currency competitive
10: stricter checks for 'bird flu' planned in Hongkong
11: stricter checks for 'bird flu' planned in Hongkong
12: news links for China, Taiwan and 'China town'


Asean: members agree to liberalize trade and establish foundatio
(source: Associated Press) The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has agreed to liberalize trade in services among its nine members and set up a foundation designed to help people help themselves.

Copies of the agreements, which are to be signed by top ASEAN officials at their three-day summit, which opened Sunday, were obtained by the Associated Press. The protocol on services, to take effect no later than March 31, is based on negotiations that followed a framework agreement signed at the ASEAN summit in Bangkok two years ago. It sets out a schedule for specific commitments that each member country will undertake in extending preferential treatment in services to other countries in the region on a most favored-nation basis.

The new ASEAN Foundation, to be based in Jakarta, Indonesia, will promote human resources development to enable the region's 500 million residents "to realize their full potential and capacity to contribute to progress," the memorandum of understanding says.

See also

  • NYT: ( News of Rescue Plan Lifts Stock Prices in Korea )

  • NYT: ( Thailand Economic Crash Crushes Working Poor ) ( Call for global action on Asian currency crisis )

  • SCMP: ( Mainland backs region trade drive )

  • SCMP: ( Qian stresses economic stability)

    Society: two stories on labour problems and solutions
    ( Guangdong limits sackings ) Guangdong province, adjacent to Hongkong, has issued new labour regulations : under the new regulations, men aged 45 years or older and with at least 20 years tenure at a firm can not be laid off; women aged 40 or older receive the same protection. Also, employees with at least ten years at a firm and within five years of retirement are also protected. As the South China Morning Post reports,

    • Employees who negotiate with bosses on behalf of other workers can no longer be sacked, neither can spouses of workers already laid off by the same firm.

    • Enterprises would have to get approval from authorities if the dismissal of protected workers was "imperative". In the six months following dismissal, firms would have to give priority to ex-employees if vacancies appeared.

    ( Protest plea sparks factory probe ) An interesting news piece in today's South China Morning Post tells of a group of workers who applied to their local Public Security Bureau for permission to hold a one-off protest at a factory run by Xining Corp in Beijing's Chaoyang district. The PSB declined their request.

      "Their request was rejected and a report said public security officers were pressuring the workers to cancel the protest.

      "The factory produces non-weapons military goods and employs about 1,000 workers.

      "The workers' application included a clear indication of the protest's goals - to renegotiate dismissal procedures and settlements. The protest was scheduled for December 28.

      "The 30 workers are requesting that the factory reconsider its practice of dismissing workers in their late-30s just before they qualify for traditional benefits and salary allocated to retired staff. They also want the company to increase the standing one-time severance payment of 10,000 yuan (HK$9,350), saying that this amount is unsatisfactory."

    The paper also notes, the PSB' declined to issue the workers permission just a few weeks after President Jiang has reaffirmed China's constitutional commitments for permitting workers the freedom to assemble and protest.

    Political prisoners: Wang Dan kept in dark about Wei's release
    (source: Agence France-Presse) Authorities kept mainland China's "top" political prisoner, Wang Dan, in the dark about the release of prominent dissident Wei Jingsheng, his mother said on Sunday after visiting her son in prison. Wang Dan's health is also worsening, Wang Lingyun told AFP. She said the 27-year-old activist only learned that Wei had been freed when told by family members on Saturday---nearly four weeks after the elder dissident, considered the father of communist China's democracy movement, was granted medical parole and immediately put on a plane for the United States. "His reaction was very calm," Wang Lingyun said.

    Nuclear: Pretoria sells plant to China, ending self-sufficiency in nuke fuel
    (source: Associated Press) South Africa's Atomic Energy Commission sold a nuclear technology plant to mainland China without the knowledge of top government and foreign affairs officials, a newspaper report said Sunday.

    The sale of the plant was discovered by accident during a raid by immigration officials at the Pelindaba nuclear complex near Pretoria, where they found mainland Chinese technicians without proper work permits dismantling the plant, according to Johannesburg's Sunday Independent newspaper.

    The plant produces zirconium tubing that sheaths fuel for nuclear reactors. Without the plant, South Africa will have to import the tubing for its nuclear power production at Koberg near Cape Town, the newspaper said. South Africa has the world's fifth-largest uranium reserves, according to an official government publication.

    AEC's executive general manager for Pelindaba, Lawrence Heslop, was quoted by the Independence as confirming the sale. Heslop said the dismantling of the plant would end South Africa's self-sufficiency in nuclear power production.

    The agreement to sell the plant was finalized in February, three months before President Nelson Mandela announced that South Africa would break diplomatic ties with Taiwan. Formal diplomatic relations with the Republic of China are expected to begin before Dec. 31.

    The sale of the plant was approved by Penuell Manduna, Minister of Mineral and Energy Affairs, the Independence reported. But the Department of Foreign Affairs, which issued business visas to the 40 mainland Chinese technicians in Beijing, was not aware of their presence in Pelindaba until last week's raid, the newspaper quoted Foreign Affairs spokesman Pieter Swanepoel as saying.

    Tibet: affirmative action
    ( Cadres wield power behind scenes in Tibet ) An analysis by London-based Tibet Information Network reveals what some have always suspected: despite Beijing's pronouncements and rosy pictures of economic development in Tibet, much of the real political power apparently resides in the hands of ethnic Chinese. Beijing claims 82 percent of top government posts in the autonomous region are filled by Tibetans. But the study says 64 percent of top positions are in fact staffed by ethnic Chinese.

    • They still controlled most regional posts and high-level administrative positions, according to the new directory of leaders in Tibet, which lists 1,200 officials.

    • Ethnic Chinese cadres dominated the military and police and were in charge of economic policies, it said.

    • They may also be replacing Tibetans in the countryside as part of efforts to develop links between Tibet and other parts of the


    The study also notes that while high-ranking ceremonial posts are filled by Tibetans, ethnic Chinese deputies tend to exact real power. In 62 of 72 counties ethnic Chinese were listed as deputy heads, the report states. Only 6 per cent were women, a figure contravening Beijing's 82 per cent.


    Agriculture: foot-and-mouth epidemic contained, but outbreaks still possible
    (12/12/97) The latest foot-and-mouth epidemic has been contained, but sporadic outbreaks are likely to hit the island's swine population, government officials said last Thursday.

    Chen Wu-hsiung, commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Forestry, said the confirmed cases in Chupei, Taichung and Kaohsiung will not trigger a massive disturbance and there is no need for panic in the wake of the resurging animal plague.

    Although most of the island's hogs were vaccinated after last March, Chen warned of recurring incidents in the near future if pig farmers lose track of the date of their pigs' last vaccination, which is effective for only six months.

    Peng Tso-kuei, chairman of the Council of Agriculture, demanded local authorities to keep close tabs on the incident and urged the media not to mislead the public by publishing file photos from last March. The director of Kaohsiung County's Bureau of Agriculture, Li Chih-jung, said 80 percent of the county's swine need a second shot of the vaccine to prevent another outbreak.

    However, Fang Ching-chuan, secretary-general of the ROC Pig Farming Development Association, called for a slaughter of the country's pig population because the industry is too fragile to be dealt with another blow. Starting in mid-December, all the pigs will bear a golden tag after receiving inoculations, and those without the tags will be banned from pork markets, agriculture authorities said.

    Pork markets islandwide felt the shock wave triggered by the epidemic reports, with wholesale prices significantly lower than previous days, media reports said. The pork prices, picking up its momentum only recently after the disease broke out nine months ago, are hovering around NT$2,000-NT$3,000 per hundred kilograms.

    See also Mon, Mar 24, 1997 edition for background information on this story.

    DPP: after victory party begins to show its divisions
    (12/12/97) Hardly two weeks after the Democratic Progressive Party swept the Nov. 29 local elections, the DPP yesterday appeared to be on the verge of an internal quarrel that could break the fragile alliance between the party's two biggest factions.

    The dispute, sparked by differences over mainland and economic policy platforms, could eventually result in DPP Chairman Hsu Hsin-liang's ouster and a re-shuffle of personnel at the party's central headquarters, observers said. If or when the chips fall, Taipei Mayor Chen Shui-bian appeared to be in the best position to pick up the pieces and assume the DPP's helm as he prepares for a possible presidential bid in the year 2000.

    Riddled with factional conflict ever since its 1986 foundation, the DPP has traditionally held together through complex arrangements and trade-offs between the party's two biggest groupings-the "Formosa" faction and the "New Tide" faction. The Formosa faction, the DPP's largest factional grouping of which Hsu is a member, has tended to be less active in seeking Taiwan's independence and more moderate toward business. The smaller New Tide faction, presently led by lawmaker Hung Chi-chang, has tended to advocate a more left-of-center policy, protesting businesses accused of pollution and actively backing the cause of independence.

    Last year, internal squabbles over the party's pro-independence line prompted the DPP's most radical independence activists to split off and form the Taiwan Independence Party. Traditionally, the two factions have bargained with each other whenever the party selects a new chairman. Usually the chairman-designate's faction guarantees policy changes or seats on the elite policy-making Central Standing Committee in exchange for the rival faction's votes in the chairman election.

    As part of the largest arrangement, Hsu, a Formosa member, appointed Chiou I-jen, a New Tide member, to the DPP's number-two position, party secretary-general. Hsu, serving his second stint as DPP chairman, had appeared set to lead the party through next December's legislative elections after the DPP's impressive victory last month. But yesterday, New Tide faction leader Hung Chi-chang said his faction would not back Hsu in his bid to keep the chairmanship when the issue comes up for a vote in May. The faction would support Mayor Chen to be the next chairman, Hung said. Chen, leader of the Justice Alliance faction, appeared to be the best compromise candidate between the party's two big factions.

    The party's latest squabble erupted on Thursday after Hsu Hsin-liang, who was continuing a visit to the United States, made remarks hinting that the DPP wouldn't pursue independence if it became the ruling party. Hsu and his close ally, Department of Information Director Sisy Chen, also made statements on the controversial Taichung chemical plant investment by Germany-based Bayer Group that contradicted with positions outlined by Secretary-General Chiou in Taipei. Chiou has said the party's central headquarters would support DPP Taichung County Commissioner-elect Liao Yung-lai, a New Tide member, who wants to hold a public referendum to decide whether the plant should be built. But Hsu and Chen have said other methods, such as public hearings, should be used in place of a referendum.

    See also

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    Wei Jingsheng: Wei says he will go to Taiwan
    (12/12/97) After a breakfast meeting with Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Hsu Hsin-liang in Washington Wednesday morning, mainland Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng agreed to visit Taiwan, the Central News Agency reported on Thursday.

    Wei, who spent over an hour exchanging opinions with Hsu, agreed to visit Taiwan after Hsu invited him, but a specific date had yet to be worked out, the CNA dispatch said. The two exchanged opinions on the democracy movement in mainland China, but avoided discussion of sensitive issues including DPP's support for Taiwan independence, it said. Wei told Hsu that even though they had never met, he had heard much about Hsu, so meeting him was like seeing an old friend, CNA said.

    Hsu replied by praising Wei's courage in going to prison for his belief. The meeting was arranged at a Washington-area restaurant, the CNA report said.

    Risk: Taiwan ranks third for most profitable place to invest
    (source: Central News Agency and the China Post) (12/12/97) Taiwan has retained its position as the world's third most profitable place to invest in for the next one to five years, according to the Business Risk Service (BERI).

    In the BERI's latest ranking, the ROC remained tied with Japan for the third spot with the same score of 76. In its November report, the US-based risk consultancy ranked profit opportunities for the world's 50 major countries for next year and the next five years.

    Switzerland remained in the top spot with a score of 82 (same as the previous rank and score in July). Singapore also retained its second position in the new rating with the same score of 78. The ratings of other countries in Southeast Asia dipped because the financial crisis sparked by the free fall of the Thai baht in early July has resulted in the plunge of the baht, Indonesian rupiah and Malaysian ringgit, which shed between 30 percent and 50 percent of their value against the U.S. dollar. The Singapore dollar fell by 12.7 percent in that period.

    BERI gave Malaysia a score of 57, down from 59 in its previous report in July. Its rating slipped one notch to 19th. Indonesia's score dropped from 46 to 44, and its rank fell from 34th to 39th. Thailand's score dipped three points to 47, and it slipped from 28th to 29th spot. The Philippines also dropped to 39th spot, tied with Indonesia, from 37th with a score of 42.

    Currency: declining against US dollar makes Taiwan currency competitive
    (source: Bridge News) (12/12/97) The New Taiwan dollar is at a 10-year competitive high against the currencies of 17 major trading partners, according to a study by the government's economic planning agency, the Council for Economic Planning and Development (CEPD).

    The CEPD's weighted index of the real NT dollar exchange rate shows it at a level of 85.82, compared with a base level of 100 in 1992, an official in the CEPD's Economic Research Department said. The index includes currencies such as the Hong Kong dollar, the German mark and sterling, but is weighted towards the major trading currencies, the U.S. dollar and the Japanese yen.

    "Although the NT dollar has not fallen as far as some of its key competitors in Southeast Asia and South Korea against the U.S. dollar, it has become more competitive because of the decline against the U.S. dollar," the official said. She said the index shows the NT dollar now at a 10-year high in terms of competitiveness, but at this stage the impact of the lower currencies of export competitor nations is not clear.


    Health: stricter checks for 'bird flu' planned in Hongkong
    (source: Agence France-Presse) Hong Kong officials are planning for stricter checks on imported poultry and a major chicken market cleanup as fears grew over an outbreak of "bird flu" in humans. A government spokesman said Sunday that chicken wholesalers at the Cheung Sha Wan market in Kowloon would Monday close for a three-day sterilization process to try to restore public confidence in poultry.

    The market, along with another at Sai Wan on Hong Kong island, handles more than half the chickens imported from mainland China. "It's to give confidence back to the people," one market wholesaler said. "We hope sales will revive after the overhaul."

    See also SCMP: ( Fears force changes to menus ) SCMP: ( Concerned flood casualty wards ) SCMP: ( Chicken deaths tripled, claims poultry seller )



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    ©1997 Matthew Sinclair-Day
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