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9 April 2004

• Beijing Rebukes Chen Shui-bian for Recent Disturbances
• Graft Fighters Free to Monitor Top Officials
• China Develops New Pilot Model of Poverty Reduction

Beijing Rebukes Chen Shui-bian for Recent Disturbances

In the first press conference by the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) since the March 20 Taiwan presidential election, a spokesman delivered a vitriolic attack on Chen Shui-bian, blaming him for the "chaos" on the island and tension across the Taiwan Strait: "He has disturbed Taiwan's society, hurt cross-strait relations and posed a direct threat to the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region."

Beijing claims that the mass protests on the island and the failure of the referendum held alongside the presidential election proved that Mr. Chen's platform of defending Taiwan against the mainland did not represent mainstream opinion. Beijing also stated that it would not tolerate any moves towards independence for Taiwan, and the desire for a successful 2008 Olympic Games would not stop it from acting against the island. "No one should underestimate China's resolve to achieve unification" for which Beijing was ready to "pay any price", a TAO spokesman said.

In Taipei, the vice-chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), Chen Ming-tong, expressed regret over the mainland’s bellicose statements. "We deeply regret that Chinese authorities have again defamed and criticized President Chen without grounds," Mr. Chen said. "Chinese authorities' emotional attitude has been the main reason why cross-strait relations have been unable to develop stably."

Beijing has also criticized a plan by Taiwan to fingerprint visitors from the mainland. A Taiwanese official said the plan, due to take effect in mid-April, had been postponed because Taiwan's Immigration Bureau had not acquired the necessary equipment. Under the proposed plan, all mainland Chinese are to be fingerprinted when applying for family reunions and temporary or permanent stays in Taiwan.

The Taiwan Affairs Office claims that the new measures are designed to discriminate against people from the mainland. A TAO official noted that "the mainland has always encouraged the exchange of visits by people from both sides and has given a warm welcome to Taiwan compatriots who come to the mainland for conducting business, sightseeing or taking up residence."

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Graft Fighters Free to Monitor Top Officials

The Communist Party of China (CPC) has instituted new measures that greatly enhance the central state’s ability to detect and eliminate bureaucratic corruption. Rather than reporting to their local superiors, officials of the Discipline Inspection Commission may now report their findings directly to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection in Beijing.

A branch of the Discipline Inspection Commission exists in every government agency at the central, provincial, and township levels of government to investigate officials suspected of corruption. Before the new measure was introduced, Commission officials had to report to the senior party cadres within their departments. These senior cadre were often connected to the people under investigation, and could use their influence over the investigator’s future career to terminate an unwanted investigation. As a result, Commission officials were extremely reluctant to launch disciplinary investigations of senior cadres.

Explaining the new measure, Wu Guanzheng, chief of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, said it was intended to strengthen the party's supervision of cadres, "especially those in positions of importance". The move shows the party intends to reform and improve its discipline and inspection mechanisms, he said.

The new policy comes after a two-year trial reform in government departments in seven sectors, including the ministries of Health, Commerce and Labor, and Social Welfare, was deemed a success. In January the Communist Party adopted the first regulation on internal supervision since it was founded in 1921, reflecting its determination to combat corruption. A renewed anti-corruption drive last year saw 12 provincial-level party officials punished.

Wang Puqu, the executive dean of Peking University's school of government, said he believed the structural changes would have a positive effect. "These changes adjust the power structure to achieve a check and balance on the powers of local officials," the professor said. "It is a shift to vertical supervision which will tighten the central leadership’s power of supervision, and will reduce the powers of the sectors' party committees."

But the commission's direct control only covers government bodies and does not extend to provincial and municipal party committees. The CPC charter states that provincial discipline commissions are answerable only to provincial party committees. And as one expert points out: "If the Central Commission directly controls all the local disciplinary branches, who is supervising the Central Commission?"

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China Develops New Pilot Model of Poverty Reduction

More and more local farmers are benefiting from a pilot model of poverty alleviation that provides government-sponsored training for rural citizens and helps them relocate to urban areas to work in the secondary and tertiary industries. According to official information, Quzhou city kicked off its pilot poverty reduction campaign last year. The campaign targets farmers who were not improving their lives from farming activities.

Fang Ju'e, a 43-year-old rural women, said during a recent interview with the New China News Agency that she has worked as a housekeeper in the nearby city of Wenzhou, and now can earn about 700 yuan (about 84.64 US dollars). "I realized I could also contribute to my family economically like the male family members do, which makes me very proud of myself," Fang said, hoping that her monthly income could increase to 1,000 yuan after finishing the second phase of education on housekeeping.

Liu Xiao, an 20-year-old rural girl, is similarly ambitious. She said she would like to be a driver in the city. "I know cities badly need drivers like me, so I'm very confident of finding a good job in a city with a monthly salary ranging from 800 to 1,500 yuan, which is close to the average monthly income of the urban resident," Liu said.

Farmers have free choice in their training content, and after they finish all the training programs and qualify from the examinations, the local government would also help them to find job vacancies in cities, said Cai Qi, a Quzhou municipal official.

The latest official statistics showed that housekeepers and security guards from Quzhou’s underdeveloped rural areas are increasingly popular in nearby cities like Hangzhou, Ningbo and Wenzhou. By the end of 2003, 135,000 local farmers had received training from these programs. As a result of the training programs, the average regional income reached 3,980 yuan, up 10.71 percent over that of the previous year.

Zhang Youyun, a senior consultant with the International Labor Organization, said that the key to the success of the pilot model is based on the correct evaluation of local conditions. He noted that the Quzhou government has realized local farmers are impoverished because of their lack of skill and education.

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