THE United States gave Beijing the strongest warning yet of its 'obligation' to act in the event of a mainland attack on Taiwan. While Defence Secretary William Perry refused to rule out US involvement in a military dispute across the Taiwan Strait, other senior officials told a visiting Chinese counterpart they might not be able to stand idly by. A charter plane taking German tourists home after a Caribbean holiday crashed into the sea off the Dominican Republic. The Boeing 757, which took off from Puerto Plata and was heading for Frankfurt, had 176 passengers on board including four children and 13 crew members. There were no signs that any of the 189 passengers had survived. The Bonn Transport Ministry said the jet was not insured and did not have proper authorisation for its flight to Germany. In the Philippines, tens of thousands of demonstrators protested against the new police powers as well as the rise in tax and fuel prices, bringing the country to a standstill. Drivers went on strike and thousands of people formed human barricades to challenge President Fidel Ramos. Governor Chris Patten, during an interview with Britain's Daily Telegraph, criticised Beijing's practice of talking to Hong Kong business tycoons rather than elected politicians. He said the well-off local Preparatory Committee members might have been too concerned about their own interests. China has threatened to boycott this summer's Olympic Games in Atlanta if the United States Government allows senior Taiwanese officials to attend the games. Wu Shaozu, head of China's Olympic Committee, said 'things would be much worse' than what happened in the 1994 Asian Games in Hiroshima, which China almost boycotted. Two students and two teachers from Fung Yiu King Memorial Secondary School were burnt to death last Saturday when a group of 48 pupils trekked the steep slopes of Pat Sin Leng. Six students remain in critical condition in the Intensive Care Unit at the Prince of Wales Hospital. Local Preparatory Committee members say possible plans to allow the panel's chairman to pick Selection Committee members should be circumscribed. They said it should be up to all members to veto or add nominees to the body, which will select the first chief executive. Irish premier John Bruton slammed Britain Prime Minister John Major's handling of the Ulster peace process as both governments grappled with the political fallout from the recent IRA bomb attack on London. A Consumer Council proposal to impose price controls on Towngas, which supplies gas for cooking food and heating water to some 1.1 million households, was rejected by the Hong Kong Government. Legislators have expressed disappointment at the Government's reluctance to introduce regulatory controls on Towngas charges. The Communist Party in China has circulated a new international document giving top priority to eradicating agents of instability in the post-Deng Xiaoping era. The move coincides with the decision to hold the sixth plenum after the Lunar New Year. The Arts Department Council has admitted that it would be powerless to act against unreasonable censorship of cultural activities after 1997. The statutory body on arts development announced its first five-year plan recently. The $1 billion strategic plan, aimed to give everyone a chance to take part in the arts, has been heralded as the most significant cultural policy statement made in Hong Kong.