China Informed: a news service focused on China, Taiwan and Hong Kong

| Current edition | Previous edition | News Index | Contents |

Previous issue | Next issue

---"Focused Coverage Informed Perspectives"---
Wed, Jan 14, 1998 edition
Siew in Manila
surprise visit sparks stern message from Beijing

Also in this edition . . .

1: Siew meets with Ramos, sparking protest from Beijing
2: Siew says, 'I met friends that I wished to meet in the Philippines and talked what I wished to talk'
3: Beijing reacts to Siew's trip
4: Dole will provide advise on improving Taipei's image
5: party leader praises Lee for engineering political reforms during critical period
6: ill woman sprays acid on high school students, injures 19
7: heavy snow hampers relief effort and brings further misery to thousands
8: 400,000 without water after chemical spill in Grand Canal
9: growth in township and village enterprises slows, poses new problems to planners
10: mainland looks to housing market to start new round of growth
11: importance of Taiwan revealed in government reshuffle
12: defying order to leave, dissident takes shots at government's contradictions
13: analysts predict crisis will lead to devaluation of renminbi
14: (Op-ed) Burma: 'Honoring Those Who Fought For Freedom' by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
15: (Op-ed) 'Mandela, I see as no one special anymore' by Ms TKG
16: influenza claims fifth victim
17: results of efforts to boost voter registration are dissapointing
18: Check Lap kok grand opening rolled back to July
19: Hongkong authority monitors NT and Singapore dollars for speculation


Philippines: Siew meets with Ramos, sparking protest from Beijing
Philippine President Fidel Ramos met with ROC Premier Vincent Siew during a brief visit here in a move that sparked a sharp protest from Beijing but which Manila denied was a violation of its "one-China" policy, a senior official said Tuesday.

Finance Secretary Roberto de Ocampo told reporters the meeting took place over dinner Monday at Ramos' official residence on Arlegui street across the Malacanang presidential palace. Asked about how long was the meeting, de Ocampo said: "A couple of hours over dinner in Arlegui at 6 p.m." Siew arrived in Manila on Monday to join a Taiwan business delegation which arrived on Sunday. Ramos denied earlier Tuesday that he had had any official contacts with Siew. A presidential aide, who asked not to be named, said the president scolded the finance chief for confirming the meeting.

"Taiwan PM Siew came here for an ADB (Asian Development Bank) meeting. Siew yesterday declined to comment on questions concerning his foreign visit plan for the sake of "national interests." He said exposure of the plan would be inappropriate" until the time is ripe." He affirmed the nation's foreign policy is an "all-round" one. "Our foreign policy today covers all regardless of whether it is multi-lateral or bilateral, remote or neighboring. We must not give up any possibility," he said.

He said Taipei would seek further economic cooperation with neighboring Southeast Asian nations despite the absence of formal ties.

Philippines: Siew says, 'I met friends that I wished to meet in the Philippines and talked what I wished to talk'
Premier Vincent Siew yesterday said he had met "people that he wanted to meet" during his whirlwind Philippines trip.

"I met friends that I wished to meet in the Philippines and talked what I wished to talk," Siew told an outdoor news briefing held at the Executive Yuan on his return here yesterday morning.

Siew described the two-day trip, during which he met Philippines President Fidel Ramos and Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Mitsuo Sato, as fruitful. The visit triggered strong protests from Beijing. The Philippines, which denied the Siew-Ramos meeting on Monday, admitted after Siew's departure yesterday that the two leaders had met.

But Siew would not confirm if he had met President Ramos on grounds that there was an understanding between Taipei and non-ally country that the visit should be kept secret. Siew said the early exposure of the visit had caused trouble to the host country and led to itinerary changes.

The premier said the main purpose of his Philippines trip was to exchange views with President Sato of the ADB, of which the Republic of China is a member, on the on-going financial crisis which is plaguing most Asian countries. However, Siew said he had talked nothing about matters concerning financial aids during the trip, adding that the major concern was the economic and financial situation and investment prospects for Taiwan businessmen.

Siew said the ADB was very impressed by Taiwan's economic development and the counter-measures that it had taken to cope with the problem and praised the ROC for its concern over the problem. He said the ROC's opinions on and understanding of the crisis were rather close to those of the ADB. In addition, both sides had talked about Taipei's participation in the regional financial mechanism, he said. Siew suggested that the financial crisis could be tackled through bilateral cooperation under a regional framework such as the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum or ADB.

Siew's surprise appearance in the Philippines was his first foreign visit since he took office in September 1997. It came just one week after Vice President Lien Chan's "holiday diplomacy" trip to Singapore. Local reports suggested that Siew was planning to visit Malaysia and Indonesia later this week.

Philippines: Beijing reacts to Siew's trip
( Opposition stressed to Filipino officials ) China's foreign Ministry said it would oppose any official contact between Taiwan and a country which has diplomatic ties with the mainland. The announcement came today in reference to a trip by Taiwan's Vincent Siew is in Manila on what Beijing fears to be a trip designed to leverage Taiwan's economic wealth during a time of economic crisis.

Bob Dole: Dole will provide advise on improving Taipei's image
(source: The Washington Post) Former Republican presidential candidate Robert J. Dole has registered to work as a foreign agent to help Taipei improve its relations with Congress and the administration, prompting complaints from Democratic critics who say the arrangement violates the terms of Dole's loan agreement with House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., not to lobby.

Dole and his law firm, Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson and Hand, signed up last week to represent the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States, Taipei's unofficial embassy here. The deal, first reported by Legal Times, will bring the firm a monthly retainer of US$30,000. The filing marks the first time that the former Senate majority leader has registered as a foreign agent.

In securing approval from the House Ethics Committee to borrow US$150,000 from Dole to help pay off his US$300,000 ethics penalty, Gingrich said he would replace the Dole arrangement with a bank loan if Dole ever became a registered lobbyist. Dole's law firm said Monday that his work for Taiwan would not jeopardize the loan arrangement because Dole would not actually lobby on Taiwan's behalf. Rather, said Verner Liipfert partner John Merrigan, Dole would provide "strategic advice and counseling."

He said Dole's planned work for Taiwan triggered a requirement that he register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which covers people who advise foreign government on political strategies even if they don't directly contact lawmakers or the administration. In contrast, the Lobby Disclosure Act, the law governing other lobbyists, is triggered only when the lobbyist has two or more contacts with congressional or executive branch officials.

Reps. James V. Hansen, R-Utah, and Howard L. Berman, D-Calif., the chairman and ranking member of the House ethics committee, appeared sympathetic to that interpretation. "Registration under the Foreign Agents Registration Act in and of itself does not indicate whether lobbying of Congress will be undertaken," they said in a statement. "The committee is in the process of ascertaining whether such activities are intended."

Dole's law firm Monday filed an amended statement making clear he would not engage in any lobbying. But Democratic Whip David E. Bonior (Mich.) said "this situation poses serious questions about the speaker's compliance" with the restrictions placed on the loan by the ethics panel, and called on the committee to investigate.

Taipei, which already has a large stable of lobbyists here, decided to hire Dole and the firm following a Dole trip there in May. Merrigan said Dole "has been very reluctant" to register as a foreign agent but finally decided to do so because he had been a supporter of Taiwan throughout his legislative career.

Gingrich spokeswoman Christina Martin said Gingrich "will do whatever the ethics committee instructs him to do as relates to the loan" if it has any concerns about Dole's work for Taiwan. Gingrich already had repaid US$50,000 and the arrangement provides that he can't tap into the Dole loan until next January.

DPP: party leader praises Lee for engineering political reforms during critical period
(source: The China Post) Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Hsu Hsin-liang yesterday praised President Lee Teng-hui as the critical engineer behind Taiwan's political reforms over the past decade.

In an interview with the China Times Express, Hsu said Lee's personal contribution was unquestionable throughout the process of Taiwan's transition from an autocracy dominated by a single political party to a full-fledged democracy.

Without Lee's personal will, the reforms ranging from the amnesty for former opposition movement activities to the implementation of popular presidential election would not have been achieved, Hsu said.

The opposition party leader has kept close contact with Lee and showed his support for Lee's reform programs since Hsu took office as DPP chairman in 1996. "It is never in the nation's interests if the president bungles his job, and neither does the DPP necessarily benefit from that," Hsu said.

The cooperation between Hsu and Lee started with the National Development Conference held in December 1996 which paved the way for constitutional reforms in mid-1997. The reforms, which were based on an understanding reached between both parties after a private meeting between Lee and Hsu, finalized a series of changes to the central and local government systems. Hsu said he was very impressed by Lee's courage and firm resolve in prompting the reforms.

Hsu said that in the face of strong opposition against the plan to downsize the Taiwan Provincial Government, Lee once had planned to give up the effort. He said Lee finally decided to continue with the reforms after the DPP promised to give full support to the plans.

Crime: ill woman sprays acid on high school students, injures 19
A mentally ill woman assaulted 19 Taipei senior high school students and one pedestrian yesterday afternoon in front of the school by spraying them with sulfuric acid before being arrested, police said.

The severely injured pedestrian and students of the Taipei First Girls' Senior High School were rushed to the nearby National Taiwan University Hospital. They were treated for second and third degree burns at the hospital, doctor said. The 48-year-old suspect was identified as Ho Mei-neng, who lived alone in Sanchung, Taipei County, police said. The incident occurred at around 4:10 p.m. in front of the gate of the city's most famous high school, just as hundreds of students were leaving the campus. The campus sits right within the shadow of downtown Taipei's Presidential Office.

An eye-witness told reporters that the middle-aged woman was waiting under a traffic light with a large bucket of sulfuric acid. The woman then used a ladle to spray the students with the erosive chemicals, she added. Without realizing the liquid was acid, the girls started screaming and running back to the school's security office for help as soon as the acid started eating through their shirts, pants, book bags and exposed skin. A school official soon captured the woman, who remained standing at the scene after spraying acid all over the girls. She was handed over to policemen within minutes, police said.

A total of 19 students and a young man, surnamed Wu, were sent to the hospital, where they were immediately treated for second and third degree burns. The director of the hospital's emergency center said early yesterday evening that the attack had resulted in serious injuries on limbs of five of the victims, while the faces and necks of two others had been severely injured. The doctor said full recovery from the acid injuries might take months or even a year.


Earthquake aftermath: heavy snow hampers relief effort and brings further misery to thousands
(source: Agence France-Presse) Heavy snowfall on Tuesday brought further misery to tens of thousands of villagers left homeless by a powerful earthquake in Hebei province northwest of Beijing, the Xinhua news agency reported.

The snow "posed difficulties to transport of disaster relief materials to Zhangbei and Shangyi counties," the hardest hit by Saturday's temblor, which killed 50 and destroyed or seriously damaged 70,000 houses, the official agency reported. Relief workers and army troops have been rushing to deliver food, tents, blankets and other supplies to the worst-hit areas.

The snow will create more problems for survivors trying to recover from the devastation. Despite the coldest temperatures of the winter, many villagers have been ordered to stay out of their damaged homes indefinitely because of the continued threat of after-shocks. Daytime temperatures have hovered around minus 10 degrees Celsius (four degrees Fahrenheit), falling as low as minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus four Fahrenheit) at night. Xinhua said the mercury is expected to drop another five to eight degrees by Sunday.

Charity groups in Hong Kong, meanwhile, launched a drive to raise funds from private citizens and have requested that the territory's government released more than 17 million Hong Kong dollars (US$2.19 million) from its disaster relief fund to help the earthquake victims.

The government has yet to decide how much it will contribute, but a spokesman said applications for the public funds would be processed as soon as possible. A 12-member medical team from the Red Cross is to be dispatched to the disaster scene, a spokesman for Red Cross said. The Red Cross has also appealed for US$6.24 million from the government fund to help 18,000 people-five percent of those affected-by providing them with coats and blankets.

See also China Daily ( Snowfall slowing relief efforts in affected areas )

Environment: 400,000 without water after chemical spill in Grand Canal
(source: Agence France-Presse) Some 400,000 people in eastern mainland China may be without water for almost three weeks after a chemical spill in the Grand Canal, the world's longest man-made waterway, the China Daily reported Tuesday.

Industrial waste was tipped into the canal on Jan. 3 and about 40 kilometers (24 miles) of the waterway have been polluted, the English-language daily said. The Grand Canal is the main source of water supply for the town of Xuzhou in Jiangsu province and its 400,000 residents. Fire engines have been requisitioned to supply water, but several large firms have had to shut down.

An official at the environmental protection department in Xuzhou said there was a severe lack of water which could last another "10 days for the canal to finish purifying itself." The two paper mills had been shut down and "other sources of industrial pollutions are under investigation," the paper said.

The Grand Canal finished in 605 A.D. during the Sui dynasty originally stretched for 1,800 kilometers (1,100 miles) between Beijing in the north and Guangzhou in the south but is mostly silted up today. Late last month, senior parliamentarian Wang Bingqian said soil erosion and population in mainland China's rivers were threatening a severe water shortage.

Industry: growth in township and village enterprises slows, poses new problems to planners
( Industry steps up output ) While industrial output in China registered a small increase over 1996 levels, township and village enterprises showed a marked decrease in output, reports the China Daily. These local enterprise have been the motor of China's economy. As the paper reports, "Last year, added value output made by the collective firms -- with township enterprises as the backbone -- was 613.2 billion yuan (US$74 billion). The growth rate was 11.7 per cent, compared with 17.7 per cent growth in 1996, the report said. The slowdown has affected the overall economic performance of the country, officials said.

All in all, industrial output in the state-owned sector grew by 7.1 per cent.

Housing: mainland looks to housing market to start new round of growth
( Housing sector expected to spark economic growth ) The front page of today's China Daily is running a story on the China's housing sector as a catalyst for a new round of economic growth. The article quotes Hou Jie,, minister of construction, who announced that new starts in the housing sector have picked up after a two year slump. "Residential housing consumption has picked up after two years' stagnation and lingering," Hou said. Of the total commercial residential houses sold during the January-November period in 1997, more than 58 per cent were purchased by individuals, rising 27.7 per cent from the previous year," Hou said.

As part of broader reform measures the government has been piloting various schemes in major urban centers, including Shanghai and Chongqing, which make affordable mortgages and other financing available for purchasing housing units.

Fujian: importance of Taiwan revealed in government reshuffle
( Taiwan takes priority in promotions ) The South China Morning Post reports that officials with expertise in Taiwan affairs have taken up prominent positions in Fujian's government. The move came during the province's People's Congress in which three mayors from coastal cities were elected to be vice-governors. Governor He Guoqiang retained his post, as did the chairman of the Congress's Standing Committee, Yuan Qitong.

The four newly elected vice-governors are:

  • Zhu Yayan, Executive Vice-Mayor of Xiamen

  • Qiu Guangzhong is the former party secretary of Quanzhou

  • "Wang Yifu , originally from Tainan and a research fellow of the Fujian Institute of Social Sciences, is chairman of the Taiwan Democratic Self-Government League of Fujian, one of the mainland's eight democratic parties. His promotion to the leadership apparently reflected the importance Fujian attached to Taiwan affairs."

  • Zhang Jiakun was promoted to Executive Vice-Governor and has charge over export and foreign investment.

    In a speech Governor He emphasized the need for development of economic development plans and did not emphasis cross-strait relations, reports the paper. Nevertheless, the governor spoke of the need to develop the west coast and to maintain social stability, reports the paper.

    Meanwhile . . . ( SCMP Internet Edition ) "Fuzhou last year reported more than 70,000 workers laid off, but 50,000 of them were either assigned new jobs or reinstated," reports the South China Morning Post.

    Dissidents: defying order to leave, dissident takes shots at government's contradictions
    ( Activist defies police order to leave for US ) Last week Beijing ordered Qin Yongmin, a political dissident at large, to apply immediately for a passport and leave for exile in the United States, reports the "SCMP," but Mr Qin has refused. The order was delivered through a friend of Qin, but in a public letter to the Public Security Ministry Mr Qin, 44, declined the order, writing: "The Chinese police no longer busy themselves with public security. They busy themselves with assuring that one-party rule continues. I refuse to leave under the pretext of public security," Mr Qin said yesterday.

    Mr Qin explained he had applied for a passport in 1995 but was declined for reasons of 'state security,' reports the paper. "This time, in the name of national security, they are telling me to leave. The right to ask for a passport or not is the inalienable right of each Chinese citizen, guaranteed by the constitution.

    "I prefer to still risk my own safety or even my life to defend trade union freedom," he said in the letter.

    Meanwhile ( Cadres 'want democracy' ) Wei Jingsheng is in France where he urged the government to pressure " "the oppressors within the Chinese leadership to allow more Chinese to be freed and for human rights guarantees to be set in place," he said. "That does not mean it should practise the same policies as the United States vis-a-vis Cuba."

    Mr Wei claimed that 'democracy' was the goal of most people in China, including those in the government.

    Asia's economics: analysts predict crisis will lead to devaluation of renminbi
    (source: Agence France-Presse) The Asian financial crisis will slow mainland China's growth this year, and could ultimately lead to a devaluation of the renminbi yuan, despite official pledges to the contrary, analysts said.

    While no economists predict an immediate devaluation of the currency within the next one to three months, the outlook beyond that is murkier. Government affiliated economists have already cut forecasts of mainland China's economic growth to as low as six percent, from the 8.8 percent growth it saw in 1997.

    "The key will be to watch China's exports," said Friedrich Wu, chief economist at the Development Bank of Singapore. "If exports drop precipitously over the next few months, the pressure will be there to engineer a depreciation of the yuan." "But I think the Chinese authorities are likely to wait for a few months, to see the export figures for this year, before making any more."

    In fact, the yuan's value has already been discounted about five percent in the offshore "grey market" trading of non-deliverable yuan forwards, dealers said. About 30 to 50 banks participate in this market, based mostly in Singapore and Hong Kong, said an observer in Singapore. Since Beijing tightly controls inflows and outflows of yuan, it doesn't sanction offshore trading in its currency.

    Foreign companies seeking to hedge their exposure to the currency arrange two-way trades, through banks, to bet on the value of the yuan at a future date. No yuan actually trades hands. Instead, any difference in the value of the yuan at the future date is paid for in foreign currency, usually U.S. dollars. The official value of the yuan is set by the Beijing government at about 8.28 to the greenback. Borrowing costs have already risen for mainland firms seeking foreign capital, due to the crisis.


Burma: (14/1/98) ( Burma: 'Honoring Those Who Fought For Freedom' by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi) This month will mark Burma's Golden anniversary of her independence from British colonial rule. In a letter published by the Mainichi Daily in Japan, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi takes stock of this fifty year period, noting the sobering irony that Burma's citizens enjoyed more freedoms under colonialism than they do under the present regime.

See also

  • ( BurmaSong Home Page )
  • ( About Aung San Suu Kyi )

    South Africa: (5/1/98) ( China Informed Op-Ed: 'Mandela, I see as no one special anymore' by Ms TKG) Ms TKG writes on Nelson Mandela, whose government switched formal recognition from Taiwan to the PRC. The author laments Mr Mandela's failure to maintain moral and ethical coherence---to maintaining one's integrity---in discharging the affairs of government. . . . .


    Bird Flu: influenza claims fifth victim
    ( Bird flu claims fifth victim ) "Bird flu has claimed its fifth victim - a 34-year-old woman who died in Queen Elizabeth Hospital without health officials detecting she had the killer virus. . . ."

    Voing: results of efforts to boost voter registration are dissapointing
    ( SCMP Internet Edition ) "Efforts to boost voter registration for some functional constituency seats in the first Legislative Council elections appear to have been futile. With registration closing tomorrow, figures from the Registration and Electoral Office show the five sectors had enrolled less than a third of eligible voters. . . . "

    Airport: Check Lap kok grand opening rolled back to July
    (source: Agence France-Presse) Hong Kong's new airport will open in July, instead of the originally scheduled April opening, to wait for a new railway link to go into service, a government official said Tuesday.

    The government has decided to open the new airport at Chek Lap Kok on outlying Lantau island on July 6 to await the completion of all facilities including the airport railway and air cargo terminal, said Financial Secretary Donald Tsang. The airport railway, constructed and to be operated by the Mass Transit Railway Corp., will be completed and operational by the end of June, Tsang said, adding that the delay necessitated the revision to the airport's opening.

    See also ( Handover day favoured for airport opening )

    Currency: Hongkong authority monitors NT and Singapore dollars for speculation
    (source: Bridge News) The Hong Kong government is monitoring the New Taiwan dollar and the Singapore dollar to see if speculators will target those currencies once they have finished with the Indonesian rupiah, the Chinese- language Hong Kong Economic Times said today, quoting an unnamed senior government official.

    The official said the New Taiwan dollar may be the next target of speculation, and the government is monitoring the situation closely, but added that Hong Kong remains confident it can fight off speculators.

    On one hand, the paper said, the official said Hong Kong does not have the kind of political and economic problems that impinge on growth in certain other economies in the region. On the other, the government has learned from the strong attack on the Hong Kong dollar in October 1997, and views its management of early January volatility as having been an improvement on October, noting that banks here, too, also positioned themselves well for a resultant rise in Hong Kong interbank offered rates.

    The official said the government is examining speculators with an eye to gauging their weaknesses, which will be targeted when the Hong Kong government next defends the Hong Kong dollar, the paper reported. He said that Hong Kong's high interbank rates represent in part an "Asian premium" due to volatility elsewhere in the region. A reluctance by banks to lend out long-term money has also been behind the higher rates he said, the paper reported. The high rates will hurt speculators, he said.

    The official said the Hong Kong government is still not very optimistic about the outlook for Asian currency markets, with the crisis in the region not yet over.


    • China Daily ( More growth in telecom traffic seen this year ) "China's posts and telecommunications sector is projected to grow by 28 per cent this year, in terms of traffic volume, an important index for the industry, according to a spokesman for the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications. . . ."
    • China

    • China Daily ( Removing price controls not final goal ) "ALTHOUGH the country has stopped setting nationwide prices for most commodities over the past decade, China still has a long way to go to set up a genuine market economic system, said a noted economist recently in the Economic Information Daily. . . . "


    Provisional Legislature


    Previous issue | Next issue

    China Informed

    a news service focused on China, Taiwan and Hong Kong
    ©1997 Matthew Sinclair-Day
    China Informed is seeking articles for publication. Write to for more information.