China Digest, February 12, 2013
Toll waiver hits air travel
Travel agencies in Jiangsu say their business has suffered after the central government waived highway tolls during the Lunar New Year holiday. Xinhua reports the tourism industry said the policy had reduced the cost of driving by 30 to 40 per cent, encouraging many travellers to drive instead of booking flights and tours.
Boost for private firms
The province's private businesses recorded bigger increases in international trade last year than their state-owned counterparts, with imports and exports from the private sector up more than 30 per cent to US$145 billion, Xinhua reports.
Dalian lights up for holiday
Electricity consumption in Dalian reached a record high of more than 2,300 megawatts an hour on Saturday, as many buildings were lit up to celebrate the Lunar New Year, Dalian Daily reports. The power consumption, nearly 3 per cent higher than the previous peak, resulted in more than 1,500 utility workers being put on standby in case of a blackout.
Union hands out cash
The provincial branch of the All China Federation of Trade Unions distributed more than 200 million yuan (HK$246 million) to 200,000 families of low-income workers last week, ahead of the Lunar New Year, the Liaoning Daily reports.
Truck destroys bridge
Police were searching yesterday for the driver of an overloaded truck who fled after causing a concrete bridge to collapse on Sunday in Hongsibao district, Wuzhong, the Ningxia Daily reports. Authorities said the bridge, 20 metres long, had a capacity of 55 tonnes, but the truck weighed 150 tonnes.
Vegetable prices soar
The province's monthly consumer price index rose more than 3 per cent in January due to a sharp rise in food prices, with some vegetables costing 50 per cent more due to a lack of supply, the Ningxia Daily reports. The average price of industrial goods, however, dropped 0.4 per cent.
Illegal mines raided
Since launching a four-month campaign in December against illegal coal mining, the provincial government has sent thousands of inspectors to arrest unlicensed miners at remote coal deposits on the Tibetan plateau, the Qinghai Daily reports. Authorities say it is difficult to stop people entering large coal reserves in the winter, as government checkpoints can be easily avoided by driving across frozen wetlands.
Union fights for wages
Ahead of the Lunar New Year, the provincial trade union helped more than 60,000 migrant workers collect about 260 million yuan in unpaid wages from their efforts to rebuild Yushu prefecture after a devastating earthquake in 2010, Xinhua reports. Some of the workers also hadn't been compensated for serious injuries.
Anger over working child
A video showing a two-year-old girl helping her parents, who are sanitation workers, clean up firework debris in Xian on Sunday sparked heated discussion online, China News Service reports. The toddler's father said they always brought her to work, because they couldn't find a kindergarten in the city that would accept children of migrant workers.
Smog shuts down Xian
Traffic authorities in Xian shut down nearly all highways into and out of the city on Sunday because of heavy smog that reduced visibility to as little as a few metres, China News Service reports. The local government has also advised residents to stay at home and spend more time with their families on the holiday.
Steel upgrade pays off
With its sales increasing by more than 10 per cent to 140 billion yuan last year, the Taiyuan Iron and Steel Group grew rapidly while the rest of the nation's steel industry struggled to survive, Shanxi Daily reports. The company said it had upgraded production lines by utilising the best technology available, allowing them to obtain business their competitors couldn't.
Fireworks add to smog
Smoke generated by fireworks helped increase the level of harmful PM2.5 particles in Taiyuan's air to 865 micrograms per cubic metre on Sunday morning, or more than 30 times the health standard set by the World Health Organisation, Shanxi Television reports.
Illegal fireworks seized
More than 100 officials with the autonomous region's safety supervision bureau confiscated over 3,000 packages of counterfeit fireworks last week during inspection of firework retailers, Xinjiang Daily reports. Nearly 900 merchants were also fined for fire risks discovered in their storage facilities.
Region asks for more aid
The regional government has allocated 18 billion yuan for 100 infrastructure projects this year to improve living standards, the Xinjiang Daily reports. However, local authorities say funds are still insufficient, and they are seeking an undisclosed amount from the central government.
Police defend birdlife
Kunming officials banned fireworks on the banks of Lake Dian during the Lunar New Year holiday to protect wild birds, with 100 police officers deployed to enforce the ban, China News Service reports.
Temple cuts pollution
To reduce air pollution, the largest Buddhist temple in Kunming banned the use of incense and candles, and gave worshippers free smoke-free alternatives, the Kunming Daily reports. Monks at the Yuantong Temple say smoke generated by traditional offerings was not only hazardous to lungs but also damaged walls and sculptures.
Panic over housing prices
Most real estate agents in Hangzhou cancelled their holiday plans amid panic buying by many families that have lost confidence in the government's ability to control housing prices, the Qianjiang Evening News reports. The agents said residents believed that housing prices would increase considerably in the coming weeks and months.
Boost for Hangzhou
Major tourism attractions in Hangzhou received more than 740,000 visitors on Sunday, or 20 per cent more than on the first day of the Lunar New Year last year, Today Morning Express reports.