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Week of January 4th, 2002

Week of January 4, 2002

The U.S. and China This Week

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INTERNATIONAL: China States Support for Pakistan

SUMMARY: In less than ten days after his previous state visit to Beijing, Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf stopped over in China again while in route to a South Asia summit in Nepal. During his short visit, he met with Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji, where according to Pakistan's spokesman, was assured of China's "principled and everlasting support for Islamabad."

An official Pakistani statement also claimed that Premier Zhu "expressed his apprehension at the potentially volatile situation that has arisen due to the assembling of Indian forces close to the Pakistani border" and "appreciated the restraint exercised by Pakistan."

During the previous state visit when President Musharraf met with China's President Jiang Zemin, both countries agreed to strengthen their already tight relations. Musharraf stressed that Sino-Pakistan ties remained strong despite his country's participation in Washington's war on terror. Furthermore, with tensions rising between India and with the mutual build up of forces along their common borders, Pakistan believes Masharraf's stopover in China shows that Pakistan has the support of China. Beijing has called on the two nuclear rivals to show restraint.


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DOMESTIC: Numbers of Dead Disputed in Fireworks Blast

SUMMARY: Villagers in Huangmao, in China's Jiangxi province say more people died in the blasts at a local fireworks factory than the Beijing authorities are reporting. The incident occurred December 30 at the Panda Export Fireworks Company, when a worker accidentally put too much firepower into firecrackers he was packing, triggering a series of explosions, the official Xinhua News Agency said. The factory was owned by a Hong Kong businessman. The semi-official China News Service said January 1 that 20 bodies had been recovered and that more than 10,000 people living near the factory had been evacuated for their safety. A local Chinese journalist said more than 10 children in a nearby school were hurt in the rush to vacate the premises.

According to state media, the plant was functioning at full capacity with as many as 200 laborers when the explosions occurred. But on January 3, the China News Service concurred with Xinhua's figures of 14 dead and 61 wounded in the incident. The Beijing Evening News also gave those figures even though a day before it had said 34 bodies had been found. Since a fatal tin mine incident in southwestern China last summer, state media have been under orders to use Xinhua's casualty figures in such incidents.

"The local officials refuse to give us a figure," said a reporter in Liuyang city, Hunan province, 60 km (37 miles) from Huangmao. "But the villagers have a sense of justice. They say the figures are higher than official reports," he told Reuters.

The incident occurred in the same county, Wanzai, where an explosion at a school killed at least 42 individuals, mainly children, in March 2001. Villagers called for the Beijing government to investigate the latest incident, and officials from the State Economic and Trade Commission visited the scene, a newspaper editor in Liuyang maintained. Villagers reported January 1 that at least 10 tonnes of explosives were being stored in an underground cave near the factory. However, the newspaper editor said that though the site of the explosion was still cordoned off on January 3, it was safe.

Earlier this week, Chinese Vice Premier Wu Bangguo was quoted by state media as maintaining that better work safety was a key goal of Beijing in 2002 and that factories producing explosives and firecrackers would be closed if they did not have a license


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DOMESTIC: Catholic Bishop Mourned By Thousands

SUMMARY:(Reuters) 1/3/02 - Thousands defied a police ban on Wednesday to attend the funeral in China of the man recognized by the Vatican, though not the Chinese government, as the bishop of Beijing, a religious news agency said. Monsignor Mattia Pei Shangde, a Catholic priest who spent time in labor camps, died of kidney failure last week at a hospital in Zhangjiakou, a city near Beijing, at the age of 83.

Up to 3,000 people attended his funeral in Zhangjiakou, Fides, the news agency of the Vatican's missionary arm, reported. Fides said police had banned those not residing in the village from attending the funeral. Police also tried to limit access by patrolling access routes, it said, preventing thousands more from paying their respects. Pei had been under house arrest for illegal religious practices.

China broke off relations with the Vatican half a century ago and the state-sanctioned Catholic church does not recognize the Pope's authority. But many, like Pei, remained loyal to Rome. Pei, who was ordained a priest in 1948, spent a decade in labor camps after the government broke with the Vatican.


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The U.S. and China This Week
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