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News from China
Human rights should not be politicized: Chinese diplomat
11th March 2016

 Chinese diplomat Fu Cong stressed here on Thursday the need to depoliticize the human rights forum so as to safeguard the Human Rights Council's (HRC) integrity.

"We must maintain the credibility and authority of the international human rights mechanism and reverse the current trend to politicize human rights," he said following the release of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein's annual report.
"We should also insist on making national governments as the main driving force to mainstream human rights issues," Fu added, while urging the High Commissioner to refrain from making subjective comments which are not backed by factual evidence.
"China is a country governed by law. Fighting crime by law is our judicial sovereignty. Nobody is above the law," said Fu, who is the deputy permanent representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva and other international organizations in Switzerland.
The diplomat called out rampant prison abuse in the United Staets, especially in the Guantanamo facility, while deploring widespread gun violence and deep-rooted racism prevalent in the country.
Fu also called out large-scale eavesdropping carried out by U.S. authorities, drone attacks killing innocent civilians and the conduct of U.S. troops on foreign soil.
Referring to the issue of "comfort women" during WWII, Fu said: "We advise the United States and Japan to deeply reflect on themselves rather than interfere in the internal affairs of other states in the pretext of human rights."
The remarks were made during an interactive dialogue with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on his annual report, part of the 31st HRC session which ends on March 24.
Source: Xinhua
Xinhua Insight: China's steel industry strives to tackle overcapacity
10th March 2016

 When Zhou Jiangtao joined Ansteel Heavy Machinery Co. Ltd, he expected the life of stability and good salary traditionally guaranteed by state-owned companies.

So when the company started laying off workers in late 2015, it took a while for the 38-year-old worker to adjust.
"Factories were barely rolling because there were very few orders for steel products," Zhou said. "Some of us chose to find new jobs, some just retired in advance."
China's steel enterprises are experiencing severe economic stress as factories halt production and workers are laid off.
The Purchasing Managers' Index of the steel industry reached 49 in February, the 22nd month it stood below 50, according to the Steel Logistics Professional Committee. A reading above 50 indicates expansion, while a reading below that level signals contraction.
Sagging demand has already impacted China's steel industry. The State Council, China's Cabinet, announced earlier last month that crude steel production capacity will be slashed by 100 million tonnes to 150 million tonnes over the next five years.
The situation is so severe that the government predicts some 500,000 workers in the industry will be laid off.
In Tangshan Songting Iron & Steel Co. Ltd (TSIS), one of the country's biggest steel makers in northern Hebei Province, six huge blast furnaces sit deserted, with only a few workers looking after the quiet factories.
The company halted production in November last year, with more than 6,000 workers forced to stay idle. According to the Futures Daily, TSIS reported 474 million yuan (73 million U.S. dollars) in losses in the first nine months of 2015.
The company failed to pay 97 million yuan in electric bills, according to an article in the National Business Daily.
In Hebei's Tangshan City, the heartland of China's steel production, 14 out of 32 local steel makers reported a debt to assets ratio of at least 70 percent, according to a survey by the Tangshan Steel Association in late 2015, higher than the national average of 69.32 percent.
"A lot of steel makers will be wiped out of the market once their capital chains are broken," said Zhang Pin, a researcher with the Tangsong Steel Economic Research Institute.
Source: Xinhua
Holiday blamed for lackluster car sales
9th March 2016

 IT was a disappointing February for car sales in China, a slump that has been partly attributed to the Spring Festival falling a week earlier this year.

Deliveries of sedans, sport-utility vehicles, multi-purpose vehicles and minivans fell 3.7 percent last month from a year earlier to 1.37 million units, which were down 41.5 percent from January, the China Passenger Car Association said yesterday.

“The shopping season before the holiday was relatively short for February,” said the association. “The rather volatile stock market, real estate market and currency market at the beginning of the year also impacted car sales.”

Combined sales for January and February were up 8 percent over last year, slightly below expectations, said the association, which predicts that sales will grow 10 percent year on year in March.

Source: Shanghai Daily, March 9. 2015
Property market in big cities gets frothy amid leveraged purchase
3rd March 2016

Wang Xin was close to buying an apartment in downtown Beijing for 3.3 million yuan (500,000 U.S. dollars), but the home owner raised the price by 20,000 yuan at the last minute.Wang agreed to pay the extra money, but the deal fell through anyway. The home owner went with an estate agent, who promised to sell the apartment for 470,000 yuan more.Wang tried to persuade the owner to honor the deal, but was locked out of the realtor's office. This dramatic turn of events all happened in less than half an hour.

Similar episodes have taken place over the past month in China's big cities, most in the east, where home buyers wait outside developers' sales offices overnight to snap up new homes and home owners call prospective buyers and sales agents to raise the price by the week, days, or even hours.
The sudden buying frenzy came amid a spate of property easing measures and easy credit as authorities seek to provide an environment that will reduce housing inventories, which has dragged China's property market into a sustained correction.
Home prices jumped 52.7 percent in January from a year ago in the southern boomtown of Shenzhen, which has led the price increase of major cities last year. This was followed by a 21.4 percent rise in Shanghai, 11.3 percent in Beijing and 10 percent in Guangzhou, data from the National Bureau of Statistics shows.
"I'm so glad I bought the apartment early. The prices have risen so fast since then," said one home owner in Shenzhen. Her apartment, bought in July last year, has doubled in value.
Increased transaction volume further reduced inventories in top tier cities. Data compiled by real estate service firm E-House shows that as of February, property inventories in China's top four cities (Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen) can be sold in less than ten months. Shanghai's inventories have dipped to 7 months, down 22 percent from a year ago.
This will only increase the property market gap between top and lower tier cities. The latter are in a more urgent need of inventory slash.
In January, inventory levels in third tier cities stood at 19.4 months, E-House data shows. A reading over 15 months underscores the need to clear inventories. Some of the worst performing property markets are saddled with inventories that can last more than two years.
Authorities have cut interest rates, reduced downpayments for mortgages and removed existing home restrictions in nearly all but top tier cities in the hope of boosting sales. Unsold homes in many lower tier cities have subdued developers investment in new property development, which has weighed on industrial production, fixed asset investment and headline growth.
Increased home transactions have been backed by eased access to credit.Data from the central bank show that new yuan-denominated loans rose to a record high of 2.51 trillion yuan in January.
Analysts say that the surge could have been fueled by increased mortgages, which surged 23 percent in the fourth quarter last year.
A recent research note by Gavekal Dragonomics said that mortgages will only increase in the future as housing demands shift from middle class urbanites to lower-income rural migrants.
Though there is a limit on mortgage amounts, some real estate agencies have been providing additional leverage for people who can not find deposits
One agency provides credit up to 20 percent of their deposit without any collateral. The money was raised through peer-to-peer lending investments that promise 8 to 12 percent annualized return.
This has enabled many to purchase homes that they otherwise could not afford. The results, many in the industry say, would be the return of more speculative demand, pushing home prices to frothier levels.
"There are signs that speculative demands are back again, pushing up home prices with easy credit," said Wang Feng, a real estate analyst based in Shenzhen. "While authorities need to provide ample credit for real mortgage demand, they should be aware of any attempts to seek leverage to speculate in the property market."
Source: Xinhua

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