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---"Focused Coverage Informed Perspectives"---Mon, Dec 22, 1997 edition Bayer Pulls from Deal
cites impasse with local government
Also in this edition . . .
1: dissident Yang calls for exoneration of fellow political prisoner
2: Portuguese colony takes 'sofly-sofly' approach to handover
3: as new year approaches local governments ordered to curb crime
4: despite Bayer's withdrawal, investment is strong
5: government shoots for 6.7 percent growth
6: university students see Mayor Chen as presidential material
7: eight more weather satellites to go up
8: Hongkong government says deadly strain of influenza not a problem
9: holiday fun curbed with cannabis bust
10: News links galore---China, Taiwan, Hongkong and Asia...
Zhao Ziyang: dissident Yang calls for exoneration of fellow political prisoner
(source: Agence France-Presse)
Veteran mainland Chinese dissident Yang Qinheng called for the exoneration and release of disgraced communist party chief Zhao Ziyang on Friday in an open letter to President Jiang Zemin.
Zhao, 78, was dismissed as the communist party secretary-general for sympathizing with the 1989 student-led Tiananmen Square demonstrations, which shook the Communist Party's grip on power. He was last seen in public on May 19 of that year pleading with demonstrators in the square to go home.
Human rights groups reported communist Chinese authorities tightened Zhao's house arrest during the 15th Communist party Congress in September, when Jiang consolidated his position as supreme leader.
In a list of "political demands," Yang also called for a review of the 1989 protests and reparations to be given to the families of victims of the bloody June 4 crackdown that crushed the protests. Yang also called for the release of all political prisoners, including prominent dissident and 1989 student leader Wang Dan, as well as for the signing of the U.N. treaty on civil and political rights. Bejing signed the Covenant on Social, Cultural and Economic Rights in September but has yet to sign its sister human rights treaty.
Yang has been jailed twice for his activism, which dates back to the 1978-79 Democracy Wall movement. He spent two years in prison after being found guilty of "counter-revolutionary propaganda" in 1983.
Macao: Portuguese colony takes 'sofly-sofly' approach to handover
(source: Reuters) The Portuguese enclave of Macao is showing reluctance over its impending return to the motherland, mainland China, as the countdown hits exactly two years on Saturday.
A number of issues remain unsettled and Beijing has demanded that talks speed up. Han Zhaokang, chief representative of the mainland Chinese side of the ROC-Portuguese Joint Liaison Group handling transitional matters called recently for the group to speed up its work. "We should have a strong sense of historic responsibility in facing and resolving the large number of complicated issues," said Han. Talks on issues like the transfer of archives and assets and the pension of retired civil servants, have "either just started, or never been touched, or been stalemated," said Han.
But unlike the stormy handover Beijing went through with Hong Kong, marked by constant arguments and a virtual boycott by mainland Chinese figures of the last governor Chris Patten, here things seem to be smoother. Mainland China and Portugal have pledged a smooth handover with no visible rows.
Macao does not have the same level of democracy as was present in Hong Kong, which saw its elected legislature scrapped the moment the British colony returned to Beijing on July 1. Aslo relations between Lisbon and Beijing over the handover have been noticeably better than between London and Beijing.
The civil service, the official languages and the laws are the three sectors where Macao has been perceived as dragging its feet a little. Some feel that Macao may be taking too much of a gamble with its softly-softly approach to the handover. The fundamentals are the same. Macao, like Hong Kong, has been promised a virtually unchanged way of life for 50 years after communist China resumes power. Residents in Macao seem to accept the future.
Security: as new year approaches local governments ordered to curb crime
Communist Chinese authorities on Friday ordered local governments to step up public safety checks and crack down on crime, corruption and extravagance in the run up to next month's lunar new year celebrations.
A decree by the Communist Party and the State Council, or Cabinet, urged all government departments to step up measures to ensure public order and traffic safety during the holiday, which falls on Jan. 28. Celebrations of Spring Festival, often called "Chinese New Year" outside mainland China, have in recent years been marred by fireworks explosions, apartment fires and traffic accidents. The decree, published in the official People's Daily newspaper, warned local officials to expect greater incidence of hooliganism, drug abuse, prostitution, price gouging and theft.
Investment: Bayer pulls out of project, cites impasse with government
Bayer Taiwan announced yesterday it has decided to suspend a project to build a chemical plant in central Taiwan, saying that it will pursue contingency plans to build the plant in the United States.
Bayer Taiwan chairman Horst Mueck said in a press conference that "we are deeply disappointed that our intensive efforts to convince the Taiwanese authorities of the benefits of this project have not met with success." Mueck said after 24 months of intense negotiations on the Bayer investment project in Taiwan, the talks on the project would be suspended. "The contingency plans prepared for our plant site in Baytown, Texas, USA, will now be pursued," Mueck said.
Bayer Taiwan spokesman Chen Chia-chung said it meant the company wanted to terminate the project to build a plant producing the TDI chemical in the Taichung Harbor zone. "Despite the fact that all applicable contracts and the environmental impact assessment have been finalized, the Taiwan Provincial Assembly has chosen not to review the project or to set a clear time frame for the finalization of the approval process," Mueck said.
The provincial council decided on Thursday to shelve to the next screening of the application from Bayer to lease a provincial government-owned lot in the Taichung Harbor zone as a base for the planned chemical plant. The decision of the provincial council pushed Bayer Taiwan into a point of no retreat since it had announced earlier that day it would withdraw its investment project in Taiwan if the provincial council did not approve its land lease application the next day, the last day of the session.
Mueck said the suspension of the talks on the TDI investment project only means the company will cease taking more efforts on the project and he said Bayer Taiwan will continue its operations on the island. As to whether there is any chance for the revival of the project, Mueck stressed it will be up to the mother company in Germany.
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Investment: despite Bayer's withdrawal, investment is strong
(source: Associated Press)
Despite German chemical maker Bayer AG's cancellation of a huge investment, foreign companies will pump about NT$50 million (US$1.5 billion) into projects in Taiwan next year, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said Sunday.
Bayer's announcement Friday that it was dropping plans to build a NT$49 billion (US$1.48 billion) chemical plant sent shock waves through the business community. But U.S., French, Swiss and German companies plan to take advantage of the island's secure domestic environment, robust economy and advantageous government policies with up to 11 large investments, the ministry said. It did not release the names of companies planning to invest or specify types of investment, saying they would remain confidential until agreements were signed.
Foreign investment in Taiwan grew 83.2 percent in the first 10 months of 1997, reaching NT$3.4 billion (US$100 million), the ministry said. That compares to NT$1.9 billion (US$57 million) in the same period last year, and NT$1.8 billion (US$54 million) in the first 10 months of 1995. Financial markets in Taiwan have experienced a rollercoaster year, but the island's economy has largely avoided the regional economic crisis.
However, Bayer dropped plans for a plant in central Taichung County following 18 months of delays and the newly elected county commissioner's decision to subject the plant to a public referendum. Opponents claimed the plant threatened Taiwan with economic calamity. It would have made toluene di-isocyanate, or TDI, a polyurethane component used in elastic fibers and coatings. But Bayer said the plant would be one of the most high-tech and least polluting of its type. The company said it spent millions on two environmental impact assessment studies, and soothed fears among residents with a series of public hearings about the project.
American and European trade groups here warned the holding of a referendum as an additional hurdle to investment would seriously harm foreign investor confidence in the island.
Planning: government shoots for 6.7 percent growth
After listening to a briefing by the Council of Economic Planning and Development (CEPD) and after discussion by other Cabinet members, Taiwan Premier Vincent Siew on Thursday approved a gross domestic product (GDP) growth target for 1998 of 6.7 percent, a CEPD official said yesterday. Siew reportedly said a target of 6.7 percent, which would be about the same the 1997 target of 6.72 percent, is an achievable goal.
The GDP target sets the foundation for the country's 1998 national development plan. The CEPD suggested an economic growth target of 6.4 percent to 6.7 percent for annual growth in the consumer price index at 3.03 percent. CEPD targets for key economic indicators differ from actual forecasts as they are objectives that government agencies are expected to help Taiwan realize via formulated policies.
Survey: university students see Mayor Chen as presidential material
Taipei Mayor Chen Shui-bian is seen by among university students in Taiwan as the most ideal candidate for the 2000 presidential election, according to a survey made public on Sunday.
The poll, conducted by the National Cultural Congress, found that Mayor Chen, a member of the Democratic Progressive Party, won a 35.1 percent support rating as the nation's next president. He was followed by Taiwan Governor James Soong, a member of the Kuomintang, who received 25.7 percent, and former Justice Minister Ma Ying-jeou, another KMT member, who got 11 percent. The combined support rating for the three surpassed 70 percent.
Others named by the university students as ideal presidential candidates in descending order of popularity were former New Party Legislator Wang Chien-shien, ruling Kuomintang Secretary-General John Chang, the DPP's candidate in the 1996 presidential election, Peng Ming-min, current ROC President Lee Teng-hui, Premier Vincent Siew, Kaohsiung Mayor Wu Den-yih, Vice President Lien Chan and former DPP Legislator Frank Hsieh.
Ma of the KMT is seen as the most popular candidate for vice president among 1,087 university students interviewed around the island, with a support rating of 22.9 percent, while Taipei Mayor Chen garnered 12.3 percent support for that office, Hsieh obtained 9.2 percent and Soong won nine percent. Hsieh ran for vice president in 1996 as Peng Ming-min's running mate.
The other favorite vice presidential candidates were John Chang, senior presidential adviser Wo Poh-hsiung, Kaohsiung Mayor Wu Den-yih, Academia Sinica President Yuan T. Lee, DPP Publicity Department Director Sisy Chen and Premier Siew. Sisy Chen was the only female to appear on the list of top candidates for either president or vice president.
Space: eight more weather satellites to go up
The government will send up eight research satellites by the early 2000s to study climate changes, a space program official said Sunday.
"Under the ROCSAT-3 program, a total of eight low-altitude satellites will be lifted into the orbit in the early 2000s to study the earth's ionosphere and other climate changes which are still unknown," an official at the National Space Program Office (NSPO) told AFP. "Using remote control technology, they would also provide short-term climate forecast data on the island," the official said.
The eight satellites will be designed and assembled here with U.S. technological assistance, the official said, adding that details would be finalized next year. Tsay Ching-yen, vice chairman of the National Science Council, put the program's cost at around NT$3 billion (US$93.75 million).
Taiwan's first satellite, ROCSAT-1, will undergo a series of rigorous tests before being shipped to Florida for launch in late 1998 or early 1999. The U.S.-based Lockheed-Marietta Corp. was awarded the US$19-million contract to launch the satellite designed by U.S. company TRW, Inc. for scientific research. Taiwan will also have a resource application satellite, exploring oil and mineral resources, in operation early next century under the ROCSAT-2 program.
Bird flu: government says deadly strain of influenza not a problem
(source: Reuters) Hong Kong told the world on Friday there was no widespread danger from a "bird flu" that has killed two people and said the territory was safe for tourists.
The government issued the notice as a top international flu expert arrived to help battle the virus, and people dumped their pets out of fear the animals might pass the flu bug to children.
The authorities launched the global distribution of a fact sheet spelling out details of the "bird flu" problem, stressing that it was just a cluster of cases and not a major outbreak. It said the symptoms were similar to other influenzas and that the chances of catching it were remote if people avoided playing with birds and washed their hands properly. The notice made clear there was no proof yet that the H5N1 virus was being passed from human to human.
Until the Hong Kong scare, the bug had only been found in birds, mainly chickens, and may have been passed from chickens to humans in the handful of cases now being investigated. The fact sheet was issued as Dr. Daniel Lavanchy, head of the Geneva based World Health Organization's (WHO) flu program, arrived to help head off a possible epidemic.
Three people in the territory, including a three-year-old, have died and seven others have been confirmed as being infected.
Drugs: holiday fun curbed with cannabis bust
(source: Agence France-Presse) Hong Kong authorities have made their biggest cannabis bust of the year, seizing 300 kilos (600 pounds) destined for teenage party-goers over Christmas, customs officers said on Sunday.
The cannabis, estimated to have a street value of HK$15 million (US$1.94 million), was found in a flat on Saturday. Two men were arrested. The cannabis was smuggled into Hong Kong in plastic bags. It came from Cambodia via mainland China.
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Asia and misc. . . .
Korea Herald ( 12-23-97 : Kim Dae-jung Says He will Allow Layoffs to Avoid Insolvency ) Korea Herald ( 12-23-97 : Ex-Presidents Chun Doo Hwan, Roh Tae-woo Released from Prison ) Korea Herald ( 12-23-97 : Financial Markets Mired in Post-Election Doldrums ) Korea Herald ( 12-23-97 : Speculation Rampant over Lipton's Visit to Seoul ) SCMP ( HSI slump set to continue ) SCMP ( Reserves to drop slightly as rates fall below 10pc ) SBN ( Samsung waits for Won recovery before expanding new Austin fab, 12/19/97 ) NYT ( Okinawan Voters Oppose Planned U.S. Military Base ) Earth Times( The Earth Times/POPULATION: Troubled times for once-dynamic family-planning unit. By Jack Freeman ) Bangkok Post ( Bangkok Post Dec 23, 1997 - 7% growth seen if govt helps traders Shipments for year could reach $60bn ) Bangkok Post ( Bangkok Post Dec 23, 1997 - Peso puts economy to the test Manila was looking as if it was finally strong enough to shrug off the direction of the IMF after 35 years, until the peso started its freefall. ) Bangkok Post ( Bangkok Post Dec 23, 1997 - Screening panel to be streamlined Emphasis will be long-term plans ) Bangkok Post ( Bangkok Post Dec 23, 1997 - Shake-up to boost confidence in FBCB Board bosses to go to protect Citibank deal )