ChinaLeaks: Chinese elite’s offshore accounts exposed in unprecedented leak


Wong Kwong-yu, founder and chairman of the GOME chain, is one of the prominent entrepreneurs mentioned in the ICIJ report. Photo: Oliver Tsang

Wong Kwong-yu, founder and chairman of the GOME chain, is one of the prominent entrepreneurs mentioned in the ICIJ report. Photo: Oliver Tsang

Family members of Deng Xiaoping and Xi Jinping, along with Tencent billionaire and China’s richest woman, are among 20,000 people in Hong Kong, the mainland and Taiwan whose offshore holdings have been exposed

Relatives of at least five current and former members of China’s top leadership have been exposed as holders of offshore accounts, as part of a revelatory report by investigative journalists.

The leak, part of a package of 2.5 million files obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, points to nearly 22,000 offshore clients with addresses in mainland China and Hong Kong and 16,000 offshore clients from Taiwan.

The ownership of secret offshore accounts does not imply any illegal conduct, but the obscurity of such accounts makes auditing a very difficult task at best.

Deng Jiagui, brother-in-law of China’s President Xi Jinping, as well as Wen Yunsong and Wen Ruchun, two children of former premier Wen Jiabao, appear to hold offshore accounts, according to the ICIJ.

Other prominent names on the Cook Islands or British Virgin Islands accounts include relatives of Deng Xiaoping, former president Hu Jintao and former premier Li Peng.

The report also mentions some of China’s most prominent entrepreneurs, including China’s richest woman, Yang Huiyan, the majority shareholder of property developer Country Garden Holdings; China’s richest man Pony Ma Huateng, founder of internet giant Tencent; and real estate billionaire Zhang Xin, who founded Soho China.

It also includes names of officials who have been implicated in the ongoing graft investigation against China’s former security czar Zhou Yongkang, the nation’s highest-profile probe in recent history.

Many mainland companies have long resorted to using offshore subsidiaries to sell products at low prices in an effort to avoid taxes.

The subsidiaries can, in such structures, resell the products at higher prices without the oversight of Chinese tax authorities and then repatriate the profits, without the fiscal burden to China, or opt to keep them abroad, avoiding China’s restrictive regime on cash outflows.

Around US$400 billion have been brought back to China through trade invoicing since 2006, the Washington-based think tank Global Financial Integrity estimated in a report released earlier this month.

The ICIJ report claimed it discovered evidence “that many Chinese companies and individuals have used offshore entities to engage in illicit or illegal behaviour”, citing offshore accounts by former officials of the now-dissolved Ministry of Railways and state-run shipping giant Cosco who have received jail sentences for graft in recent years.

It is unclear who leaked the documents, which the ICIJ said came from two companies that help set up offshore accounts: Portcullis TrustNet in Singapore and Commonwealth Trust Limited in the British Virgin Islands. The number of companies TrustNet established for clients in greater China more than tripled from 1,500 to 4,800 between 2003 and 2007, ICIJ said.

In April, the group of journalists released a first batch of files, which already pinpointed some account holders in Hong Kong, but the consortium seems to have kept most of its China-related findings under wraps until Wednesday.

The ICIJ said it would announce more details on its findings in the coming days.

Source: SCMP “ChinaLeaks: Chinese elite’s offshore accounts exposed in unprecedented leak”


Ex China premier Wen Jiabao states innocence in letter to Hong Kong columnist


Former premier Wen Jiabao with columnist Ng Hong-mun

Former premier Wen Jiabao with columnist Ng Hong-mun

Former premier Wen Jiabao has insisted on his innocence and integrity in a letter to a Hong Kong newspaper columnist in a bid to contain damage from claims that his extended family accumulated massive wealth during his tenure at the top.

“I have never been involved and would not get involved in one single deal of abusing my power for personal gain because no such gains whatsoever could shake my convictions,” Wen said in the letter to Ng Hong-mun, a former deputy to the National People’s Congress, on December 27.

Ng, a veteran columnist, revealed his communication with Wen in an article in Ming Pao yesterday.

The former premier remains under a cloud after The New York Times reported in October 2012 that his family and a web of relatives accumulated US$2.7 billion of hidden assets during his leadership.

Wen stepped down as a member of the Standing Committee of the Communist Party’s Politburo in November 2012 and retired as premier in March last year.

“I want to walk the last journey in this world well. I came to this world with bare hands and I want to leave this world clean,” Wen wrote in the letter.

Pressure has been mounting on the former premier to come clean as another former member of the Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang , is reportedly under investigation for corruption.

Rumours that an announcement about Zhou’s downfall is imminent have been rife in recent weeks.

Dozens of his former aides and associates are under investigation for graft, including Jiang Jiemin , Zhou’s former aide who last served as the director of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission.

Zhang Lifan, a Beijing-based political analyst, said Wen had good reason to be concerned amid a widening of the anti-graft campaign launched by the party’s general secretary, President Xi Jinping , more than a year ago.

“The media allegations were not necessarily something that came from nothing, and they could be seized upon by Wen’s opponents in a power struggle,” Zhang said.

Wen’s family has not followed through with a lawsuit against The New York Times as they had threatened soon after the report was published.

Zhang said that Wen’s letter was another attempt to clear his name. “He’s afraid of becoming a subject of discussion in history and associated with corruption, so he will continue to fight the allegations for the rest of his life,” he said.

Ng said he befriended the former premier via his writings and that he was invited to Beijing in April in 2011 for a meeting and a banquet with Wen. He said Wen wrote him the letter in response to a newspaper article he wrote about Wen’s book, Wen Jiabao on Education, published in October last year.

Ng did not say whether he had sought Wen’s approval to reveal the letter.

He said in the Ming Pao article that the letter could have been prompted by the Times article, which Ng dismissed as part of a campaign against the reformist former premier.

Source: SCMP “Ex China premier Wen Jiabao states innocence in letter to Hong Kong columnist”


Smithfield, China’s largest takeover target in US so far


Smithfield ham slices are on sale at the Taste of Smithfield restaurant and gourmet market in Smithfield, Virginia May 30, 2013.  Credit: REUTERS/Rich-Joseph Facun

Smithfield ham slices are on sale at the Taste of Smithfield restaurant and gourmet market in Smithfield, Virginia May 30, 2013.
Credit: REUTERS/Rich-Joseph Facun

In three decades, Wan Long has turned Shuanghui International Holdings from a small, loss-making meat processor into China’s largest, and is making his country’s biggest takeover of a U.S. company – the $4.7 billion acquisition of Smithfield Foods Inc (SFD.N), the world’s leading pork producer.

Along the way, the tough negotiating Wan, who also sits on the National People’s Congress, China’s legislature, has had the backing of Goldman Sachs (GS.N), Singapore state investor Temasek Holdings TEM.UL and Wen Yunsong, or Winston Wen, son of former Premier Wen Jiabao, among others.

Wan, who is dubbed ‘China’s Chief Butcher’, and Shuanghui’s connection to Winston Wen gives the firm direct access to power brokers and key decision makers in Beijing through a powerful princeling stakeholder.

The ties with Wen are through private equity firm New Horizon, which holds its stake in Shuanghui through two investment vehicles, according to a 2012 research report from China Investment Capital Corp.

While Wen stepped away from day-to-day operations at New Horizon three years ago – he left to work for China Aerospace Science & Technology Corp, and last year became chairman of China Satellite Communications Corp, according to media reports – he remains involved in the fund and derives income from its investments, people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

Shuanghui’s acquisition of Virginia-based Smithfield Foods will face scrutiny by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a government panel that assesses national security risks. At least one member of Congress has said the deal raises alarms about food safety. Shuanghui was forced to recall its Shineway brand meat products from store shelves in China two years ago amid fears that some of it contained a banned feed additive.

BRANDS, KNOW-HOW

Political scrutiny and cheaper pork supplies apart – average live hog prices in China are around a third higher than in the United States – much of the appeal for Shuanghui will be in Smithfield’s technology, quality savvy and packaged meat business.

The U.S. company owns well-known grocery store meat brands such as Eckrich, Armour and Farmland, which are likely to prove popular with Chinese consumers who consider foreign brands safer than many home-grown products.

“Shuanghui’s expansion faces problems in developing its upstream (breeding) sector in accordance with food safety requirements,” said Liu Xiaofeng, an analyst with China Minzu Securities.

Shuanghui, which controls Shenzhen-listed Henan Shuanghui Investment & Development Co (000895.SZ), China’s largest meat processor, is one of China’s few integrated meat producers, with farm-to-fork operations – but it only raises 400,000 of its own hogs a year, a fraction of the 11 million it needs, Liu said. This means the company, which has more than 61,000 employees, relies heavily on private breeders in a country where overcrowding on farms is commonplace, raising the risk of spreading disease.

Overcrowding on farms around Shanghai was the underlying factor that led to some 16,000 rotting pig carcasses floating down the Huangpu river earlier this year, according to official documents and interviews with local farmers.

QUALITY STAMP

Shuanghui would likely be keen to obtain Smithfield’s expertise in developing breeding farms that would help the Chinese firm establish a domestic product chain. It would also benefit from the U.S. company’s quality control.

“Smithfield has very strong know-how on producing pork and bringing products to market in a very sophisticated market,” said Michael Boddington, managing director of Asian Agribusiness Consulting.

A recent report on the U.S. Meat Export Federation website about training seminars at large Chinese meat processors, including Shuanghui, noted some participants were unfamiliar with the proper use and handling of frozen raw materials.

“In some instances, we found that while the processing equipment was very modern, there was room for improvement in terms of maintenance and sanitation,” it said.

Based in the city of Luohe in the central Henan province, Shuanghui was set up by the local government in 1958. Wan was appointed as head of the firm in 1984 and steered it through a restructuring and a successful initial public offering in 1998.

After the local government sold its stake in 2006, Shuanghui transformed itself into its current complex corporate structure.

Shuanghui International is an offshore entity registered in Hong Kong, and is 5.2 percent invested by Goldman Sachs’ main investing arm and 33.7 percent-held by funds associated with China-focused private equity firm CDH. New Horizon holds 4.2 percent, and Temasek 2.8 percent.

Source: Reuters “With big-name backers, Chinese firm eyes Smithfield’s know-how, brands”


Unrequited Love: On North Korea-US and Sino-North Korean relations


A woman stands in a gift shop in central Rason city, part of the special economic zone northeast of Pyongyang, in this August 30, 2011 file photo.  Credit: REUTERS/Carlos Barria/Files

A woman stands in a gift shop in central Rason city, part of the special economic zone northeast of Pyongyang, in this August 30, 2011 file photo.
Credit: REUTERS/Carlos Barria/Files

“While the dropping flowers pine for love, the heartless brook babbles on.” It is a well-known Chinese saying that was often used in Chinese old fictions when describing the failure of a lovely girl in pursuing a heartless boy.

In my post “CHINA’S GREATER ASIA CO-PROSPERITY SPHERE” January 29, 2012 at https://tiananmenstremendousachievements.wordpress.com, I said that China wants to set a North Korea model as an example of the benefit in cooperation with China in order to establish a greater Asia co-prosperity sphere centered on China.

Kim Jong-un, the young North Korean leader who has received his education in the West, thinks that relying on the US must be a better alternative. His bellicose rhetoric now is but aimed at having direct talks with the US, but “while the dropping flowers pine for love, the heartless brook babbles on.” The US seems to have no interest whatever in having North Korea as its dependency.

China, however, earnestly wants to set a North Korean model by helping it become prosperous, but its love seems also unrequited as described in the above-mentioned Chinese saying.

Reuters gives a vivid description of the so far unrequited love in its article titled “Insight: China’s freeway to North Korea: A road to nowhere”:

A new stretch of China’s G12 expressway arcs toward the northernmost tip of North Korea, connecting one of the world’s most vibrant economies to probably its most stagnant. It is a symbol of China’s long-term goal of building economic ties with its unpredictable neighbor.

But the thin traffic along a highway lined with fallow fields in China’s Jilin province, two years after it was finished, shows how far there is to go and why plans for high-speed rail links to Chinese cities along the border look misplaced.

The problem for Beijing is twofold: getting Pyongyang to buy into the idea of economic reform and the reluctance of Chinese businessmen to venture into one of the world’s riskiest investment destinations.

While China is frustrated with Pyongyang over its threats to wage war on South Korea and the United States, its efforts to build economic links with North Korea from places like Jilin help explain why Beijing is unlikely to crack down hard on the reclusive state.

Since then-Premier Wen Jiabao went to North Korea in 2009 – just months after Pyongyang’s second nuclear test – China has sought to stabilize the Korean peninsula by stepping up its effort to steer the North toward economic reform. China is not about to give up that goal even though it’s under U.S. pressure to get tough after North Korea’s third nuclear test, on February 12.

“It’s not even shepherding anymore. It’s more of just inundating North Korea with all of these influences from the Chinese side where the idea is to essentially corrupt them, show them what it tastes like to make money,” said John Park, a North Korea expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Harvard Kennedy School.

WEN’S VISIT A CATALYST

Chinese investment in North Korea was paltry before Wen’s visit, according to researchers.

Recent statistics are hard to find, but his trip breathed life into two economic zones: one at Rason, 50 km (30 miles) inside the North Korean border, opposite Jilin, and the other near the Chinese city of Dandong, further south in Liaoning province. Some factories and farms are operational in Rason. The zone near Dandong is still being built.

Wen’s trip opened the door to mining deals and allowed China to help expand the small port at the North Korean city of Rajin, the northernmost ice-free port in the region. His visit also paved the way for more North Korean state trading firms to do business in China, Park said.

Annual two-way trade is estimated at around $6 billion, making China the North’s biggest trade partner.

After Wen’s trip, then North Korean leader Kim Jong-il visited China three times before his death in December 2011. Among the places he saw was a flat-screen TV maker, an industrialized farm and a high-tech research and development center. Current ruler Kim Jong-un, the elder Kim’s son, has not visited China since taking power.

But doing business with North Korea is frustrating, even for those in Jilin’s ethnic Korean prefecture of Yanbian, where many residents speak Korean and have links to the North.

The owner of a car company in Yanji, the region’s main city, would love to see truckloads of his vehicles head along the G12 and into North Korea. In an advertisement, the firm is billed almost exclusively as an exporter, but the reality is different.

“Most of our business is in China now,” said the company owner, who declined to be identified because he was concerned it would make it even harder to work with North Korea.

The manager of a Yanji Korean trade association who sells food packaging bags to North Korea also said it was difficult.

“We are doing less and less business with them now,” he said.

While China has halted some overland tourism into North Korea in the wake of the recent tensions, businessmen in Yanbian said most curbs came from North Korea.

“Their demands are higher and higher. Visas are difficult to get, crossing the border is difficult and they limit the things that can go across,” said the trade association manager, who also declined to be identified.

Some Chinese firms were also starting to lose confidence in investing in the Rason zone, said an official at the Jilin government who had knowledge of the matter. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said last year the zone would get $3 billion in investment from Beijing.

JILIN’S KOREAN SPEAKERS WORK IN SOUTH KOREA, NOT NORTH

While decades of market reforms sparked an economic boom in China’s coastal regions, the dismantling of many state firms as part of those measures took a toll on northeastern provinces such as Jilin and Liaoning.

China has embarked on a program to revitalize its rustbelt northeast, but some economists say a turnaround will partly rely on when Jilin and Liaoning can tap the potential mineral wealth and cheap labor of North Korea.

That, in turn, depends on Pyongyang.

“For the relatively impoverished North Korean government, China’s northeasterly drive ought to represent a golden opportunity,” Adam Cathcart and Christopher Green, editors of SinoNK.com, a website that specializes in ties between North Korea and China, wrote in an article this month.

“However, the response to date has been a complex mix of enthusiasm, investment and retrenchment, fear, and paranoia, abject confusion and even a certain strategic ambivalence.”

China shares a 1,400 km (870 mile) border with North Korea, roughly two-thirds of which belongs to Jilin. More than a million ethnic Koreans live in the province. The government hopes they can one day act as a bridge with North Korea but has instead exported Korean-speaking labor to work in South Korean factories since the early 1990s.

Jilin accounts for 28 percent of Chinese investment in the North, with 34 percent from Liaoning.

Experts say one of Beijing’s top objectives in hosting Kim Jong-il multiple times from 2000 to the time he died was clear: to showcase the fruits of China’s economic reforms.

Indeed, a source with ties to both Pyongyang and Beijing told Reuters last July that the North was gearing up to experiment with agricultural and economic reforms. However, nothing was announced and then North Korea conducted a long-range missile test in December and its third nuclear test in February, prompting fresh U.N. sanctions.

A pro-Pyongyang newspaper last week said North Korea, which has suffered chronic food shortages, had a surge in agricultural production due to a new pay-based incentive system for farmers last year.

The World Food Programme, which has an office in Pyongyang, said it was not aware of any changes in agricultural policy.

LUXURY CARS AND FANCY WATCHES

Across the border, it’s hard to gauge the impact of deepened economic ties with China.

A child nutrition survey in 2012 carried out by North Korea with U.N. assistance showed results in North Hamgyong province, which abuts Jilin, that appeared better in some cases than in South Hamgyong, next to Pyongyang. The usual assumption is that North Koreans live better the closer they are to Pyongyang.

Marcus Noland, senior fellow at the Washington-based Peterson Institute for International Economics, said that might suggest an impact from increased interaction with China. There was also talk of a building boom in Chongjin, North Hamgyong’s capital and the country’s third biggest city, he said.

“The economic integration with China is proceeding,” said Noland, an expert on North Korea’s economy.

“If it really appears that the Chinese are having an impact up in North Hamgyong I think that will probably spur some sort of internal debate, though probably not a very public one, about what should North Korea’s relationship to China be.”

One recent Chinese visitor who has done business in Chongjin said well-connected North Koreans preferred to ride in Mercedes Benz cars, wore fancy watches and spent hundreds of dollars on mobile phone bills each month.

Park said the North Korean elite were finding ways to tap into China’s economic might.

“If you look at the most senior members of the North Korean regime they are really engaged in business and commerce. You have a situation where, in a way, the elites in North Korea are now trying to leverage their positions of power to monetize them,” he said.

END OF THE ROAD

After the Chinese border city of Hunchun, the four-lane G12 expressway narrows into a smaller road leading to the Quanhe border crossing.

On the other side of the Tumen River that divides the two countries, the dirt road from the Rason economic zone to China was finally paved last summer. Chinese state media called it a big step in Rason’s development.

Jin Qiangyi, director of the Center for North and South Korean Studies at Yanbian University, said he believed the two-lane rural road was originally slated to be a highway. Its downgrade reflected uncertainty about the ability of companies to transport enough cargo to make it economical.

“From the economic angle I don’t think there are many people very enthusiastically investing in North Korea. There’s too much risk,” said Jin.

Still, China’s leaders have little choice but to stick with the economic integration strategy, Jin said, even as North Korea pushes up tensions on the Korean peninsula to their highest in decades.

Work is even under way on multi-billion dollar projects to extend bullet train lines to Dandong and Hunchun. The Dandong link is slated for completion in 2015.

“You can’t say they’ve failed yet,” Jin said. “But they haven’t succeeded.”

Source: Reuters “Insight: China’s freeway to North Korea: A road to nowhere”


Exclusive: Princeling-backed firm eyes $500 million China buyout fund – sources


Nepoch Capital, a new private equity firm founded by the son of a former member of China’s politburo, has launched the first ‘princeling’ fundraising since the new government took power last month vowing to clamp down on cronyism and nepotism.
China’s so-called princelings, the sons and daughters of the country’s elite, have a long association with private equity funds, and their investments – and sometimes bumper profits from a swift exit from lucrative initial public offerings – have drawn accusations of favoritism and corruption.

The view that princelings have the inside track on investments through their families’ political connections is often what attracts investors, industry executives say.

He Jintao, the son of He Guoqiang, who used to be in charge of Communist Party discipline, has quickly raised $200 million from investors despite a tough fundraising climate, and is expected to reach a target of as much as $500 million by the mid-year, two people with knowledge of the plans told Reuters.

The success of He’s fundraising may put Beijing in an awkward position, so soon after Xi Jinping took over as China’s new president pledging to tackle widespread corruption within government. The behavior and wealth of the nation’s princelings came to symbolize that corruption.

Four of the best-known funds with a history of high-level princeling involvement have raised a combined $10.4 billion for investments, according to Thomson Reuters and Preqin data.

Their ranks include Liu Lefei, CEO of CITIC Private Equity Funds Management and the son of politburo standing committee member Liu Yunshan; Winston Wen, co-founder of New Horizon Capital and the son of former premier Wen Jiabao; and Jiang Mianheng, a board member at New Margin Venture Capital in the 1990s and son of former China President Jiang Zemin.

INSIDE TRACK

Despite Xi’s drive for more austere government and a clean-up of official excesses such as lavish banquets that fuelled social resentment, the Nepoch launch shows that princelings are still pursuing business interests, attracting investors through their political ties.

“It’s getting harder to make money in Asia, and you need someone with an inside track,” said one investor in China private equity funds, explaining the strong interest in Nepoch.

Skeptics question whether it’s realistic to expect the government to root out endemic Communist Party favors. They see princelings remaining active, though maybe less in plain view.

“They will eventually find some way to find more distant relatives or find more subtle ways to control these economic resources,” said Ho-fung Hung, associate professor of sociology at Johns Hopkins University and author of “China and the Transformation of Global Capitalism”.

Hung believes the opaque nature of private equity makes it more of a safe haven for princelings. “If you say Wen Jiabao’s family has connections to the gem and diamond industry, people immediately understand what that is and how it makes money,” he told Reuters in a telephone interview. “Most people don’t understand how private equity works. That’s why it’s under the radar and people’s reaction won’t be that strong.”

Even if Nepoch’s founder operates entirely outside his father’s circle, the connection between the fund and He Guoqiang’s former position as head of China’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection – responsible for stamping out corruption among government officials – is unavoidable.

“In this market, everyone is looking for distinguishing factors. You could say this distinguishes the fund,” said the private equity fund investor.

RESTRICTED INVESTMENT

Investors in private equity funds usually meet the fund’s founders to discuss investment strategies before they commit money. At Nepoch, investors only get to meet He Jintao after they have agreed to invest, said one of the people familiar with the matter.

Nepoch has already made two investments, including one in the technology, media and telecommunications sector, which is a restricted area for foreign investors, said the people with knowledge of the plans. They declined to name the investments.

Duncan Zheng, a former principal at European buyout firm Triton Partners, is a co-founder with He, the people said, declining to be identified as they are not authorized to talk to the media.

Nepoch, He and Zheng did not respond to phone calls and messages seeking comment for this article.

Returns from China private equity have proved disappointing, and fundraising more than halved last year to $23.4 billion, according to Asia Venture Capital Journal data

Source: Reuters “Exclusive: Princeling-backed firm eyes $500 million China buyout fund – sources”


China-Laos High-Speed Railway Link Meets Fierce Western Opposition


According to Ming Pao’s exclusive report, Indochina has become an emerging hot spot for investment as Southeast Asian countries hope to establish an economic commonwealth by 2015.

In 2006, about 20 Asian countries signed an agreement on an Asian railway network. China-Laos high-speed railway will be part of the network.

For China the railway connection to Indochina will facilitate closer relations with Southeast Asia that will benefit both sides. Trade between them amounts to $370 billion and is expected to rise to $500 billion by 2015.

Moreover, China signed a cooperation agreement with Laos and Thailand for the construction of a high-speed railway connecting China, Laos and Thailand, which is of great strategic significance for China. It will enable China to go to the Indian Ocean through Indochina without passing through the Strait of Malacca so that China can have access to resources in Middle East and Africa even if the Strait was blocked by the US.

Out of jealousy at China’s rise, Western media fiercely opposed China’s loan to the project of the railway linking Laos with China’s Kunming, alleging that the railway is detrimental to environment due to the construction rubbish along the railway and that the cost of borrowing is too huge.

In fact, China lends the loan at a low interest rate for a long term of 30 years and Laos is to repay the loan by its mineral and agricultural products.

New York Times quotes an anonymous expert and advisor to UNDP as saying that the terms of the loan are too harsh and will threaten Lao’s macroeconomic stability. It moreover quotes an anonymous Asian diplomat as alleging that both Asian Development Bank and World Bank have expressed their worries over the project and that the IMF has warned Laos that it must be prudent.

Well-known rating agency Moody, however, gives a positive comment, saying that it will be a win-win project.

For Laos, the railway is certainly a very important route to the sea as it has no coastline. Laos expects it will receive $95 million from railway transport in the first year while the net profit from the railway transport will amount to $16.39 billion in 50 years.

High officials in Laos government are mostly former members of Pathet Lao who fought against the US along with North Vietnam in the past. They all do not like the US. However, in order to restrain China, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton visited Laos last July in an attempt to draw Laos to its side.

In fact, the Sino-Laos high-speed railway project has encountered impedance now. When Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao attended the Asian-European summit last November, he was unable to attend the ground-breaking ceremony for the railway scheduled then due to the delay caused by the impedance.

In contrast, the project of the high-speed railway linking Laos with Vietnam that Malaysia’s Giant Consolidated invests $5 billion in, met little Western opposition. An agreement on it was entered into during the summit.

Source: Hong Kong’s Ming Pao


Nineteen children among 46 dead in China landslide


SCMP carries Agence France Presse report from Beijing: A desperate search for three people missing in a landslide in southwestern China ended on Saturday when their bodies were pulled from the mud, taking the final death toll to 46 – many of them children.

“Authorities in Yunnan province said that the last three bodies were recovered on Saturday morning after a night of frantic efforts by more than 1,000 rescue workers to locate the final missing residents of the remote village of Gaopo.

“Xinhua said those buried included 27 adults and 19 children.

“Two other people were hospitalised after the landslide struck on Friday morning, engulfing 16 homes, bringing a thunderous crash and throwing up thick clouds of dust, the official Xinhua news agency said.

“Rescuers toiled into the night, braving bitter wind and freezing temperatures, using lamps and specialised detection devices in the hope of locating the missing, Xinhua said.

“Soldiers, police, firefighters and mine rescue workers joined the search operation, using 20 excavators and trucks, it added.”

“Xinhua said that the landslide had been triggered by 10 days of non-stop rain and snow, according to initial geologists’ reports.”

“The Communist Party’s top leaders Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, along with Premier Wen Jiabao, ordered ‘all-out efforts to rescue victims’, Xinhua said.”

“Yunnan province, which borders Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, is a relatively poor part of China where rural houses are often cheaply constructed.

“Gaopo is in Zhenxiong county, in the northeast of Yunnan, a temperate province known for its tobacco industry and for being the home of Pu’er tea.”

For details, please visit SCMP website at:

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/1126337/nineteen-children-among-46-dead-china-landslide