News & Reports 2011-04-10

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Broadcasting Time: 07:00-08:00, GMT+08:00, 2011-04-10

Hello and Welcome to News and Reports on China Radio International.

In This Edition

The UN marks the eighth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad to the US-led coalition by calling on Iraq's leadership to address the legitimate demands of protesters for jobs and welfare.

US President Barack Obama and congressional leaders forge a last-minute budget cut compromise to avert the first federal government shutdown in 15 years.

European finance ministers meet in Budapest on finding a rescue loan for Portugal, defend painful austerity measures as a necessary means to defeat the region's crippling debt crisis.

A gunman opened fire at a crowded shopping mall outside Amsterdam, leaving at least seven people dead and 15 others wounded.

Hot Issue Reports

The UN Envoy Warns Iraqi Leaders to Address the Legitimate Demands of Protesters
The UN envoy to Iraq has warned the country's leaders that they must address the legitimate demands of protesters for jobs, services and accountability.

Ad Melkert made the remark on the eighth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad to the US-led coalition.

He told the U.N. Security Council that this would be no easy task for the Iraqi government.

"The people of Iraq are now demanding the dividends that were promised by their leaders. At the core of the protests that have been taking place across Iraq since 25 February of this year, are legitimate concerns around better employment opportunities, the delivery of basic services and accountability. Unless these demands are addressed, the political and democratic gains made thus far may seem hollow to many ordinary Iraqis."

According to the U.N., 78 percent of the Iraqi population is under 35 years old, and the young constitute over 50 percent of the total unemployment rate, about one million people.

Eight years on from the removal of Saddam Hussein, many Iraqis are tired of waiting for the country to turn the corner towards prosperity.

The next few months could prove to be critical as the country tries to stand on its own two feet without the influence of Washington.

Meanwhile visiting Iraq on the eve of the anniversary, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates urged the Iraqi government to decide whether it wants to extend the U.S. presence beyond 31 December.

"I think there is interest in having a continuing presence but the politics or such we'll just have to wait and see because the initiative has to ultimately come from the Iraqis."

Shortly before Gates spoke, Iraqi forces stormed an Iranian exile camp and both sides reported casualties in the raid.

Gates said some military assistance would be given to the people at the camp.

"We've obviously been monitoring the situation in Camp Ashraf and Diyala. I urge the Iraqi government to show restraint and live up to their commitment to the residents of Ashraf in accordance with Iraqi law and their international obligations. We have a nearby presence, and I was just told we maybe rendering some medical assistance, but that's about the extent of it at this point."

The U.S. now has about 47,000 troops in Iraq, and they will begin leaving in large numbers in late summer or early fall.

Parties Reach Last-minute Deal to Avoid Shutdown
US President Barack Obama and congressional leaders forged a last-minute agreement late on Friday night on a deal to cut about 38 billion US dollars in spending and avert the first federal government shutdown in 15 years.

Obama hailed the deal as "the biggest annual spending cut in history".

"This agreement between Democrats and Republicans on behalf of all Americans is on a budget that invests in our future while making the largest annual spending cut in our history."

Republican House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said that over the next decade it would cut government spending by 500 billion US Dollars.

"This has been a lot of discussion and a long fight, but we fought to keep government spending down because it really will, in fact, help create a better environment for job creators in our country."

The agreement was announced less than an hour before government funding was due to run out.

The shutdown would have closed national parks and other popular services, though the military would have stayed on duty and other essential efforts such as air traffic control would have continued.

Obama had warned that a government shutdown would damage the economy's recovery by putting government employees out of work.

The political stakes of a shutdown were huge ahead of next year's presidential and congressional elections.

The deal came together after six gruelling weeks and an outbreak of budget brinkmanship over the past few days as the two sides sought to squeeze every advantage in private talks.

ASEAN Finance Ministers' Meeting Ends with 3 Outcomes
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, also known as ASEAN, has concluded its finance ministers' meeting, achieving closer cooperation between the member countries and Japan, South Korea and China as well as the Asian Development Bank.

The meeting resulted in three outcomes, namely measures to protect bond markets, the creation of infrastructure funds, and the establishment of a financial surveillance agency.

The results were in line with remarks by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono who officially opened the meeting on Friday in Indonesia's Bali Province.

The Indonesian president said ASEAN could become a new economic force as the world has been taking the region's economy into account in the last few years.

"ASEAN needs to be more cohesive and competitive to maintain its role as a driver for East Asia-wide regionalism and architecture."

The ASEAN plus Japan, South Korea and China as well as the Asian Development Bank agreed to prepare mutual funds to secure a private bond market.

The bond market, known as the Credit Guarantee and Investment Facility, is valued at 700 million U.S. dollars.

A new financial surveillance agency to be called the ASEAN Plus 3 Macroeconomic Research Office is also expected to be established.

Meanwhile, an infrastructure fund, worth 450 to 480 million U.S. dollars will be introduced later this year to finance infrastructure projects in the region.

Finance Ministers Arrive for More Talks on Portugal Bailout
European finance ministers arrived in Budapest for a second day of talks on Saturday on finding a rescue loan for Portugal, as they defended painful austerity measures as a necessary means to defeat the region's crippling debt crisis.

Spanish Finance Minister Elena Salgado expressed her opinion.

"We are going to do the exercise of the stress test on the whole of our financial system, and I think that with the measures that we have been taking of re-capitalising our system, they will pass the stress test."

In recent months, Spain's Socialist government launched new austerity measures to get a grip on the country's large budget deficit.

Even though unemployment remains at around 20 percent, the cuts appear to have succeeded at re-establishing some market confidence in the Spanish economy.

Salgado's counterparts also tried to convince voters concerned over their pensions and job security that new measures to improve the competitiveness of their economies did not constitute an attack on Europe's social model.

On Friday, EU finance ministers agreed to grant financial help to Portugal once the debt-ridden country has signed on to a radical overhaul of its economy.

Similar bailouts for Greece and Ireland last year have sparked voter outrage as well as questions over how the deep spending cuts will affect those countries' ability to grow again.

High-tech and Cultural Cooperation Highlight Jia Qinglin's Australia Visit
Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference or CPPCC, Jia Qinglin was in Brisbane on Saturday during his official visit to Australia.

He met with leaders from the business, technology and education sectors there, in a move to boost comprehensive Sino-Australia cooperation.

China's Bao Steel Group has worked with four Australian universities to establish research centers, with a focus on top-notch new materials technologies, new energy and cuts in greenhouse gases emissions.

Paul Greenfield, principal of Queensland University, one of the four partners, highly praises this initiative.

"The research program between our two sides has risen up to the most challenging tasks, including the development of clean energy and sustainable utilization of resources."

Another highlight of Jia Qinglin's visit was the cultural cooperation. Griffith University will host Australia's first Tourism Confucius Institute at the Gold Coast Campus. Jia appreciates the progress made at a cultural level.

"We set up Confucius Institute overseas to enhance Chinese teaching, deepen cultural exchanges between China and others and boost mutual communication and understanding between Chinese people and others."

Australia is the second stop of Jia's three-nation tour, which will also take him to Samoa. Jia visited Myanmar earlier.

7 Killed, 15 Wounded in Mall Shooting in Netherlands
A gunman opened fire at a crowded shopping mall outside Amsterdam, leaving at least seven people dead and 15 others wounded.

The attacker was among the dead after fatally shooting himself at the Ridderhof mall in Alphen aan den Rijn, a suburb area near Amsterdam.

Marine Spruit, an eyewitness said she was shopping at a drug store when she heard bangs and people in the store hid behind shelves.

"We heard the shooting getting further away, and panic started and kids were screaming. He was walking back and forward. Then we thought we'd have a look and there were two people lying dead near the entrance and one woman was still alive. We wanted to help but he came back and started shooting again and we locked the door again."

Investigators have not yet released the name or age of the gunman, but official sources said he was a native Dutchman from Alphen who has a criminal record.

Queen Beatrix and Prime Minister Mark Rutte issued statements saying they were shocked and sympathized with the victims and their families.

Gun permits are difficult to obtain, but illegal automatic weapons and ammunition are frequently seized during drug busts in Netherlands.

In 1999, four students and a teacher were hurt in a school shooting and in 2004, a teacher was shot dead by a student.

Soldiers Sweep the Tahrir Square to Clear Protesters in Egypt
The Tahrir Square in Egypt was filled with shattered glass, stones and debris after protestors and police violently clashed, setting several vehicles on fire.

The soldiers swept into the square around at early morning, beating protesters with clubs and fired into the air in the pre-dawn raid.

Armed with sticks and other makeshift weapons, the protesters vowed not to leave.

"In the morning, we saw a huge number of army troops marching towards Tahrir Square and surrounded Tahrir Square from all directions and even they had troops over the bridge. I went to talk to an army officer who told me that all of us should leave because of the curfew. And I told him that they have to meet our demands so that we can leave and after this they attacked us and gun fire was heard and people were beaten."

The clashes came hours after hundreds of thousands massed in Tahrir Square in one of the biggest protests in weeks, demanding that the military prosecute ousted president Hosni Mubarak and his family for alleged corruption.

State television cited the Health Ministry saying one person had been killed and 71 wounded.

The military issued a statement afterward blaming "outlaws" for rioting and violating the country's morning curfew, and asserted that no one was harmed or arrested.

Ant and Pro-government Protesters Gather for Rival Demonstrations in Yemen
Hundreds of thousands of Yemenis converged in the capital for rival demonstrations, with some demanding the president's ouster and others showing their support for Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Addressing supporters in Sabaeen Square, President Ali Abdullah Saleh rejected a mediation offer from the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council.

"Our strength stems from the strength of our great people, men and women. We don't get our legitimacy from any other party. Not from Qatar nor from anyone else. This is rejected, rejected, rejected. This is blatant interference in Yemeni affairs."

The Gulf Cooperation Council earlier called on Ali Abdullah Saleh to hand over power to his deputy in return for immunity from prosecution for him and his family.

In Sabaeen Square, lines of tents belonging to the anti-government protesters stretched down the street.

The protesters chanted in unison calling for Saleh to step down while waving flags and banners.

Police and army units were deployed in Sanaa to prevent any friction between the two sides.

More than 120 people have been killed since protests calling for the removal of Saleh began in February.

Protesting Workers Clash with Police for 3rd Consecutive Day in Bolivia
Miners, health workers and teachers clashed with police for the third day in Bolivia's capital La Paz as they continued their protests over pay.

Some miners set off dynamite, as police tried to disperse crowds with tear gas and jets of water, and cordoned off the presidential palace.

There were no reports of any injuries.

Communications Minister Ivan Canelas says the government is willing to talk, but strikers must abandon violence.

"There is good willingness to hold talks and (create a) dialogue through the ministers in the area. We believe the workers all have the right to protest but not to generate violence. This situation has caused discontent among the population because of the fear caused by miners throwing dynamite."

The demonstrators want an increase in the minimum wage and have rejected President Evo Morales' offer of a 10-percent rise.

Instead, they are demanding a salary 10 times Bolivia's current minimum salary.

All Presidential Candidates Finish Campaigns ahead of Sunday's Election in Peru
Four presidential candidates in Peru have all finished their final campaigning ahead of Sunday's elections.

The latest opinion poll indicates that 30 percent of voters prefer former army officer Ollanta Humala.

But Humala is expected to fall far short of the simple majority needed for an outright win and avoid a June runoff.

Keiko Fujimori, daughter of imprisoned former President Alberto Fujimori, has a slight advantage over Alejandro Toledo, Peru's president from 2001 to 2006, and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who served as economy and prime minister under Toledo.

During her rally, Fujimori reminded her supporters about her father.

"I tell you that the great part of the recognition and the trust that you have in me is in gratitude for the work and the accomplishments of the best president of Peru, Alberto Fujimori."

For his part, ex-president Alejandro Toledo said he was the candidate who was thinking about the future of Peru's children.

"Peru today needs something different, and tonight I come here to share what is in my mind and in my heart, looking at the future of our children."

Kuczynski, who appears to be in the worst position, made clear that he was not giving up on the race.

The remarkable political volatility of the Andean nation has made Sunday's presidential elections the most unpredictable in decades.

No first-round candidate is expected to get the simple majority required for an outright victory.

China Daily: Gov't Must Balance Economic Growth with Lifting Poor out of Poverty

The government plans to raise the nation's poverty line this year to an annual income of 1,500 yuan from 1,200 yuan, according to the officials from the China Association of Poverty Alleviation and Development.

It is believed that the move would lead to a dramatic rise in the number of poor people in the country. But doing so will highlight another issuethat the plight of this group of people should have been recognized earlier.

An editorial in "China Daily" says the country's official poverty line has not kept pace with inflation. Subsequently, increase in the prices of many essential goods has not been adequately captured in the official poverty line threshold amount.

The editorial further notes that the number of poor in the country has always been controversial given that the poverty line has been defined in a different manner by the Chinese government and international organizations. China's poverty estimates are based on income rather than expenditure data, which typically show a greater degree of poverty. But as the poverty line is lower, the number of people said to be living in poverty is less.

The editorial says that according to the United Nations' poverty-line standard of one dollar per person each day, China still has 150 million people living below the poverty line. With such a large number of poor, the government needs to ask itself how it can balance and harmonize its economic growth with the well-being of its people.

Premier Wen Jiabao has set a goal to "basically eradicate poverty" by 2020. He pledged to place the country's have-nots at the heart of the government's development goals for the next five years. The paper says the government needs to do its bit to fight poverty. This is a war that we can't afford to lose.


Ordinary People Do Not Buy the Self-promotion of Chinese Officials

A movie video depicting good deeds of a local party official in Hebei Province has caused a buzz on the Internet. Many video reviewers believe it is just a self-promotion stunt by the official. In response, the government at the county level disputes that this video is made by ordinary people out of respect for the official, and not on purpose by the government itself.

Wang Yanling, commentator for the Yangtse Evening Post says in today's society, it is rare to see such blatant efforts to personally praise any official. More people have realised that officials are just members of this modern society, not superior to others. Ordinary people pay taxes and provide officials with a platform to execute the task of governance. It is their responsibility to do a good job, nothing to be complimented about. Otherwise, officials should be removed for their negligence and misconduct.

Actually, it is anything but new to see such obvious efforts to praise and glorify officials. However, most people in China today do not buy this at all. Without giving it second thoughts, bystanders challenge the truth of such compliments and tend to treat kind words as faked for self-promotion.

Zhi Ling, commentator for China Youth Daily, explains the reasons behind such reactions amongst the majority of ordinary people. The root cause is that for too long, people do not have freedom to voice their opposite opinions or criticism. Some who ventured to do so have been caught or punished in one way or another. Therefore, people gradually do not take complimentary words for officials seriously.

Zhi Ling points out that compliments are nonsense without the freedom of criticism. The credibility of a compliment is somewhat tested by the degree of freedom to voice criticism. Only an environment with freedom of speech could produce true evaluation and comments. Otherwise, those efforts to praise someone are just counterproductive.