Hong Kong marks handover anniversary(CNN-online)

HONG KONG, China (AP) -- Hong Kong's red flag was raised into a cloudy blue sky Sunday as the former British colony marked the 10th anniversary of its hand-over to China and bid farewell to a rocky decade of financial woes, disease outbreaks and economic recovery.
Children hold up Chinese and Hong Kong flags on Sunday at a parade in Hong Kong.

The next 10 years could be just as challenging for the bustling city on southern China's coast. Hong Kong will likely grapple with democratic reform and face growing competition from other Asian cities threatening its position as a global business capital.

"The competition ahead is fierce. We are not only competing with neighboring cities, but with cities around the world," said Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang, a bow tie-wearing veteran civil servant who was sworn in Sunday for a second term.

A few hundred people stood near Hong Kong's harbor to watch the ceremony attended by dignitaries. The crowd erupted with cheers when four helicopters carrying Hong Kong and Chinese flags flew over the area.

"We're here to celebrate Hong Kong's birthday," said 12-year-old Jenny Kwok.

An hour later, Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang and his Cabinet were sworn in for a new term. Tsang, a bow tie-wearing veteran civil servant, got the blessings of Chinese leader Hu Jintao, making his first presidential trip to the city.

Tsang gave a speech that repeated his pledge to create a more democratic system. He said his administration would produce a green paper that would map out the "model for democratic elections."

The Chinese president spoke after Tsang and praised the city for meeting the past decade's challenges. He also said Hong Kong's "democracy is growing in an orderly way," but he didn't clearly state when he thought the city should have full democracy.

Hu planned to leave Hong Kong before pro-democracy groups hold an annual street protest in the afternoon. Although the city has one of Asia's most prosperous and well-educated societies, Hong Kongers still can't directly elect their leader and entire legislature.

Tsang was selected by an 800-seat election committee dominated by Beijing loyalists. Only half of the 60-seat legislature is directly elected, and the other members are picked by professional and special interest groups.

Although Beijing has promised that Hong Kong will eventually get full democracy, the Communist leadership has yet to say when it will happen. The British also denied the city full democracy during their 156 years of ruling the territory on China's southern coast.

Since Hong Kong returned to China, the city has been governed under a "one country, two systems" formula. The arrangement has allowed the territory to keep its capitalist economy, British-style legal system, free press and civil liberties.
For the most part, Beijing has honored its promise to let Hong Kong enjoy a wide-degree of autonomy. But critics say the media commonly practice self censorship, and Chinese officials indulge in behind-the-scenes meddling.

In many ways, Hong Kong has grown closer to the motherland -- which has been vital in helping the city recover from the Asian financial crisis that erupted one day after the 1997 hand-over.

Hong Kong has become tightly linked to the mainland's galloping economy and has positioned itself as a key entry point to the Chinese market. Hong Kong companies are heavily invested in southern China's booming Pearl River Delta region, employing more than 10 million factory workers.

China has also given Hong Kong's economy a big boost by allowing more mainlanders to visit the city. Hong Kong's hotels, shopping malls and restaurants have become addicted to the big-spending tourists. Last month, about 1.2 mainlanders visited, a 16 percent increase from the same period last year, the Tourism Board said.
The tourists helped pull the economy out of recession caused by the 2003 outbreak of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome. The disease killed 299 people here and devastated the tourism industry.

Although the mainland makes a great partner in many ways, it's also a fierce competitor.

The red-hot stock market in Shanghai is competing with Hong Kong for Chinese companies seeking new stock listings. And Shanghai's port surpassed Hong Kong's this year as the world's second busiest behind Singapore. Another port in Shenzhen is expected to overtake Hong Kong next year.

Still, Hong Kong is famous for reinventing itself and meeting challenges. It may have to rely on those talents more than ever in the next 10 years.


Mystery room discovered at China's terra cotta tomb(CNN-online)

BEIJING, China (AP) -- Chinese researchers say they have found a strange pyramid-shaped chamber while surveying the massive underground tomb of China's first emperor and theorize it was built as a passageway for his soul.
Thousands of terra cotta warriors were discovered more than 20 years ago near the ancient capital of Xi'an.

Remote sensing equipment has revealed what appears to be a 100-foot-high room above Emperor Qin Shihuang's tomb near the ancient capital of Xi'an in Shaanxi province, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Sunday.
The room has not been excavated. Diagrams of the chamber are based on data gathered over five years, starting in 2002, using radar and other remote sensing technologies, the news agency said.
Archaeologist Liu Qingzhu of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences was quoted as saying the room is unlike any ever found in a Chinese tomb.

"Qin himself was very unusual, so it's not unexpected that his tomb should also be unique," Liu told the news agency.
Archaeologists theorize that because the room was built on top of Qin's mausoleum and seems to have ladder-like steps leading up, it was intended as a passageway for his spirit, Xinhua said.

Qin, who ruled from 221-210 B.C., is credited with starting construction of the Great Wall and commissioning an army of terra cotta soldiers to guard his tomb.

Thousands of the terra cotta warriors were discovered more than 20 years ago by peasants from a local commune who were sinking wells



http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/ ... ised-its-might.html
China earthquake: How China mobilised its mightBy Richard Spencer, Beijing Correspondent
                Last Updated: 6:38PM BST 28/05/2008

The soldiers came over the hilltop like something out of Chairman Mao’s   propaganda movies. They charged in perfect time towards me down the   rough-hewn path, faces earnest with the desire to serve the people,   following the platoon leader’s huge Red Flag fluttering high in the breeze.                                                        This troop was not alone. There is something almost historic in the army’s   mobilisation to create order from the Sichuan earthquake’s chaos.

Approaching 130,000 men and women were involved in clearing roads, rescuing   survivors and treating the injured in MASH-type field tents set out on river   banks just days after the earthquake struck.
The result was an unprecedented wave of positive coverage for the Chinese   government’s efforts both from the international media and from foreign   leaders, more used in this Olympic year to giving homilies to the politburo   on human rights and Tibet.

                                Indeed it is hard not to be impressed. As I walked near the devastated town of   Yingxiu I watched as the troop unpacked their shovels and started digging a   pathway across the mountainside.
The previous evening when watching a similar scene I reflected on how   hopelessly inadequate this hands-to-the-tiller approach seemed to the task:   elsewhere huge boulders lay in piles several times my height.
I was reminded of the Chinese legend about the foolish (but heroic) old man   who promised to move a mountain by digging at it with his hands, saying that   if he failed, his children could finish the job for him. How useful was this   stretch of path, I thought, and how long would it take to complete when   thousands of survivors were in dire need of water and food in the villages   upstream?
But I saw the path taking shape, and, as I took a boat downstream, I saw   diggers and cranes previously held up by landslides miles away move slowly   up the broken road. Two army officers who offered me a lift up to a nearby   town said that work was progressing fast - Yingxiu might even be accessible   by nightfall, they said.
Could the world really be growing to love the People’s Liberation Army, the   massive force that swept Mao Tse-tung to power in 1949 - and had its   greatest moment of international fame 40 years later when it swept the   People themselves before it and liberated Tiananmen Square for the Communist   Party?
Well, when those army officers offered me the lift, a gesture that would have   been unheard of for a journalist a few years ago unless they were arresting   him, it was hard not to smile affectionately.
What has changed?
It is certainly easy to say that the Communist Party is slowly becoming more   receptive to the outside world and the way it does things, and that as a   result it is becoming more successful at home.
It is clearly better at disaster relief than, say Burma, another notionally   communist regime, and that should hardly surprise us. China is better at   most things than Burma, which is why its economy is so much more successful.
Although China has been reluctant to accept international rescue teams, this   does not mean it is not open to their ideas. It is striking how many Chinese   groups are now set up along the lines of those in the west, from which the   government is as happy as its hundreds of thousands of overseas students to   learn.
Yang Jie, a local government official and Party cadre from Mianzhu county,   told me how she had, on instructions, put together an emergency reaction   team four years ago. As with any such group, it consisted of local doctors,   firemen and officials who trained together regularly, most recently last   month, for just such an eventuality. The death rate in her area was   substantially lower as a result, she believed.
Others say that the internet and the government’s enforced co-operation with   the international media, along with its own energetic, sometimes   boundary-pushing journalists, are starting to make it realise the advantages   of accountability. Reform is coming through China’s 50 million bloggers,   runs the argument.
The SARS crisis five years ago was a telling moment: even though it was   followed by a tightening of the domestic press who had run critical accounts   of how the government covered up the crisis for too long, it was clear that   the Party was taken aback. It was a genuine humiliation that the West and   its media had accused it of lying, and been proved right.
Since then, as disaster has followed disaster - China is a big country where   many people live on the brink, and die in horrible numbers in mining   accidents, bus crashes, floods and landslides - the exhortations from the   top to be more honest get louder.
There is some truth to all of this, though it must be accompanied by a warning   that all change in China can be reversed rapidly, particularly if an   economic downturn or some new perceived injustice from abroad causes uproar.
But it is only partially true: even staunch anti-communists must admit that   China has notched up successes in recent decades that are not solely   attributable to economic liberalisation. Its literacy rates are deeply   impressive for a country still profoundly poor in places: I glanced through   an abandoned notebook at Yingxiu’s abandoned secondary school. It was packed   full of perfectly neat characters, in hand-writing that would put most   British schoolchildren’s to shame. And this is a small town in the poor   rural highlands.
Likewise, the strength of will that has driven serviceable roads into the   deepest parts of the country predate the showy transport feats of the last   few years: the railway to Tibet, the high-speed line, the world’s fastest,   in Shanghai - both, by the way, defiantly unprofitable and heavily   subsidised.
Could it be that some authoritarian regimes do indeed get the trains to run on   time, in defiance of all we have learned about the incompetence and economic   ill consequences of central state planning?
I don’t think so. Communism has been a disaster in China as elsewhere: no   recent triumphs, or rapid response teams, will compensate for the centrally   planned famine that killed 30 million people in the late 1950s. Command and   control built the dams in central China that collapsed in the 1970s, with   worrying contemporary echoes in recent weeks, disasters the full extent of   which took three decades to come to light.
I read one genuine answer to this conundrum in a fascinating article in the   China Economic Quarterly. It made the point that what communism has been   unable to replace - and has, in fact, built upon - is a long tradition that   is neither western-style democracy nor inspired by the Soviet Union. That   is, it has created a political system that is based on the paternalistic   mobilisation of an entrenched bureaucracy.
And this is what this disaster really reminded me of: records from the times   of the emperors - at least, the good ones - of officials being dispatched to   rebuild dikes on the Yellow River, or alleviate some disaster. What is   always clear is that the officials have to look both ways at once, to win   promotion from the emperor by doing his best to look after the people.
It is neither cynical nor unduly sycophantic to the system to say that   officials and officers in Sichuan know that an earthquake can only win   sympathy - and, if they handle it well, promotion. There is nothing to be   gained from trying to cover up the destruction of so many school buildings.   This terrible aspect of what has happened is surely the result of   institutional failure or corruption somewhere down the line, and is   therefore news worthy of suppression, but the grief of the parents of   China’s single children is containable by no Party censor.
But this still leaves the question of whether this bureaucratic approach,   where those in charge are accountable to those above but not below, is   really flexible enough in this modern, plural age. It can respond to   misfortunes, but can it act to avert future ones, to say nothing of   preventing the political disasters that have so often afflicted this country?
The investigation into this earthquake will be a test. Will officials who   built collapsible schools really be jailed? Will future plans be open to   advance inspection? In recent years we have seen promises to punish corrupt   officials turn into real punishments for their accusers.
To know what has really changed, we will have to wait and see how the state   reassures the bereaved parents of Sichuan that they have not suffered in   vain.