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For: BlufftonToday.com

The thriving economies of countries in the Asia Pacific region remain threatened by political tensions that surface every time a sticky issue comes up. Japan and South Korea ties are less than friendly, despite both being US allies. China is at loggerheads with many of its smaller neighbors over territorial disputes and its aggressive militarization of the contested islands.

With President Trump scrapping the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal done by the previous administration, it would be wise for these Asian nations to band together, not to fight a superpower, but to find alternative solutions that would be favorable for them in light of the uncertainty of US policies that affect them.

Japan and China are two of the richest countries in the world, with the former generally viewed as “old money” and the latter as “nouveau riche.” Flattering or derogatory implications aside, it cannot be denied that both are the chief entities that make this once destitute eastern region now a powerful force in the international economic landscape.

It is therefore incumbent upon these countries’ leaders to rethink their differences and find ways to improve their relations. Achieving respectful politeness will pave the way for productive dialogues that will protect their solid global standing and safeguard the fiscal and defense forces’ stability not only for themselves but also for the other emerging Asian economies. Other than China’s military belligerence, the delusional leader of rogue nation North Korea is proceeding with his nuclearization goals, causing global agitation. Tokyo’s Abe Shinzo wields more influence in fixing the strained ties with China, his country being a long-time major US ally and a seemingly unsinkable force. But it won’t be an easy job for Abe, with the sitting US president flip-flopping on his views of Beijing’s Xi Jinping and giving the Japanese Prime Minister a politically induced headache.

Historical accounts allege that the fight for regional supremacy between the two countries already existed 1,500 years ago. China had the upper hand in geographical dimensions but Japan’s innovative progress in the 19th century and its victories in the Japan-Qing War in 1895 and over Russia in 1905 solidified its superiority over its Goliath-size neighbor. The Sino-Japanese bond was on friendlier footing in the mid-1970s to the ‘80s but events in the following decade cropped up that led to tensions that have not abated since then. 


In the 1990s, nationalistic Japanese historians revised school textbooks to cast the nation in a better light and instill patriotism in the minds of the young children. Among the revisions were the downplaying of the crimes committed by the Japanese Imperial Army against its enemies in World War ll, including China, and the purported sanitization of the events that occurred in the Rape of Nanking in 1937. The number of people killed in that massacre has never been factually established and various counts put them between 40,000 and 300,000.

A thorny issue that has hounded the two countries is China’s insistence that Japan apologize for its WWll atrocities through financial compensation. But a book by author June Dreyer mentions an incontestable fact – 70 percent of Japanese aid in the 1980s went to China. The never-ending demand for apologies now does not solicit sympathy from the Japanese but has the opposite effect of annoying them.

Adding to the tensions is the continuing dispute between Tokyo and Beijing of ownership of the Senkaku Islands, or Diaoyu Islands as China calls them. The United States had given back control of the islands to Japan under the Okinawa Reversion Agreement. China, however, does not honor the agreement, insisting that the islands belongs to them. The long-held animosity escalated in 2012 when Japan purchased the set if islands from a private individual for more than 2 billion yen.

An accord that is mutually acceptable can put to rest these contentious issues if leaders Abe and Xi are open to rebuilding the damaged lines of communication. Further, Japan’s prime minister should nurture its relations with the new US administration and maintain the cordial ties it had with the previous resident of the White House. Pres. Trump’s vacillating moods now has him favoring Pres. Xi, and Abe must be careful not to offend him. Japan needs Washington and Beijing for economic and security soundness.

Image source Flickr

For its part, China should keep in mind that its current economic strength cannot continue if it repeatedly provokes other nations with its combative and hostile behavior. It should learn to respect the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration denying its rights to the Spratly Islands in favor of the Philippines. Despite the court’s ruling in July 2016, China continued building artificial reefs and a military airfield on the contested land. and ignored several countries’ requests to abide by the legal decision.

Earlier this year, three China Coast Guard ships entered the waters around Senkaku Islands, which is the subject of a Japan-China territorial dispute. The move came days after US Secretary of State James Mattis paid a visit to Japan and reaffirmed its government’s support for Japan’s claim.

Notwithstanding the recent chill in relations, Abe and Xi have vowed to resume communication and restore healthy ties when the two met on the sidelines at the G20 summit in Hamburg earlier this month.

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Donald Trump has questioned whether the United States should continue its “One China” policy.

The 1979 policy has respected China’s stance on Taiwan, which it sees as a breakaway province.

However, the president-elect said that without concessions from Beijing on trade and other issues, he did not see why that should continue.

The US relations with China became strained when Donald Trump took a phone call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.

Donald Trump went on to post a series of tweets criticizing China for its exchange rate policy and its operations in the South China Sea.

Image source Flickr

Image source Flickr

Speaking in an interview with Fox News broadcast on December 11, Donald Trump said: “I don’t know why we have to be bound by a One China policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade.”

He also said China was not co-operating with the United States on its handling of its currency, on North Korea, or on tensions in the South China Sea.

In the same interview, Donald Trump said he “doesn’t believe” a CIA assessment that Russian hackers tried to sway the presidential election in his favor.

Donald Trump’s decision to take a phone call from the Taiwanese president earlier this month was a break with US diplomatic tradition and prompted a formal protest from China.

No US president or president-elect had spoken directly to a Taiwanese leader for decades.

In the Fox interview, Donald Trump said it was not up to Beijing to decide whether he should take a call from Taiwan’s leader.

“I don’t want China dictating to me and this was a call put into me,” he said.

“It was a very nice call. Short. And why should some other nation be able to say I can’t take a call?

“I think it actually would’ve been very disrespectful, to be honest with you, not taking it.”

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Beijing has become the new capital of billionaires after overtaking New York’s long-time position.

The Chinese capital has been named the city with the highest number of billionaires for the first time, a new report by China-based research firm Hurun says.

A total of 100 billionaires are now living in Beijing, compared with 95 in New York, the report says.

Shanghai, China’s center of commerce, comes in fifth place.

Hurun, which tracks wealth in China, has released an annual Global Rich List for the past five years measuring billionaires’ wealth in US dollars.

The private research firm, which also publishes luxury magazines, uses a mixture of information from publicly traded companies plus interviews to compile its data.

Photo Wikipedia

Photo Wikipedia

Other companies such as Forbes and Bloomberg use different methodology and arrive at different conclusions.

Hurun found that Beijing had welcomed 32 new billionaires since 2015, allowing it to vault past New York which it calculated only saw four new billionaires.

Moscow was in third place with 66 billionaires, according to Hurun.

Overall, China has overtaken the US as the country with the highest number of billionaires. However, the top 10 billionaires in Hurun’s list is still dominated by Americans.

China has 568 billionaires after gaining 90 new ones, compared with the US which has 535.

China’s billionaires boast a combined net worth of $1.4 trillion, which is similar to the GDP of Australia.

Hurun’s chairman Rupert Hoogewerf noted that the growth in China’s wealthy took place despite an economic slowdown and stock market instability.

He told the AP that it could be due to Chinese market regulators allowing a flood of new share issues after holding back Initial Public Offerings for several years.

Hurun found that the richest man in China is still Wang Jianlin, with an estimated worth of $26 billion.

However, Wang Janlin he has not cracked the top 10 billionaires in Hurun’s list, which is dominated by Americans.

The list is topped by Bill Gates with a net worth of $80 billion, followed by Warren Buffett with $68 billion.

In third place is Spanish fashion tycoon Amancio Ortega with a net worth of $64 billion.

Hurun’s report found that overall there are now 2,188 billionaires in the world, a new record.

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A Beijing court has commuted the suspended death sentence of Bo Xilai’s wife, Gu Kailai, to life in prison.

The court said Gu Kailai showed repentance and “did not commit any crimes” in jail.

Gu Kailai was sentenced in 2012 for murdering British businessman Neil Heywood.

Disgraced former Politburo member Bo Xilai was jailed for life in 2013 for corruption and abuse of power. The cases were China’s biggest political scandal in years.

“The aforementioned criminal has recently certainly shown repentance,” the court said, adding that Gu Kailai had practiced “thought, culture and technical study.”

The statement was dated December 11 but released only on December 14.Gu Kailai death sentence commuted

The document also said that Gu Kailai had “obeyed discipline”, and “completed labor tasks in a timely manner”. As a result she was “eligible for the legal conditions for a commutation”.

Correspondents say with good behavior suspended death sentences are usually commuted to life in prison in China.

Gu Kailai’s case was one among several public notices soliciting public objections to reduced sentences.

The other two were former electronics tycoon Huang Guangyu, who was convicted of bribery; and Liu Zhijun, former railways minister who was previously given a suspended death sentence for taking bribes and was partly blamed for a fatal bullet train crash in 2011.

Public consultation for Huang Guangyu closes on December 15.

The notices for both Gu Kailai and Liu Zhijun were published on the Supreme People’s Court website last month, but were only reported by local media on December 14, several weeks after the end of the consultation period.

The cases were reported shortly after the trial opened of one of China’s leading human rights lawyers, Pu Zhiqiang, in Beijing. That trial attracted considerable international attention, particularly after plainclothes security officials aggressively manhandled journalists, diplomats and protesters gathered outside the court.

Gu Kailai’s case sparked the series of events which brought down her high-flying husband.

Bo Xilai was removed as Communist Party boss of the important metropolis of Chongqing in south-western China, and from the Politburo, which makes key party decisions, in 2012.

During his trial, Bo Xilai claimed that Gu Kailai – who testified against him – had gone insane.

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Jaycee Chan, the 31-year-old son of martial arts star Jackie Chan, has been arrested on drug-related charges, Chinese state media say.

Actor Jaycee Chan and Taiwanese movie star Kai Ko, 23, were detained last Thursday, Beijing police said in a statement on their official microblog.

Police said both men tested positive for marijuana, with more than 100 grams of the drug found at Jaycee Chan’s home.

Their arrest comes amid an ongoing crackdown on drugs which has already netted several celebrity figures.

Gao Hu, 40, who appeared in the 2011 Zhang Yimou film The Flowers of War, was detained earlier this month for possession of marijuana and methamphetamines, state media said.

In June, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for “forceful measures” to tackle illegal drug use.

A government anti-drug advisor told the Associated Press news agency that Chinese celebrities were being targeted because of the “huge influence” their behavior had on “their large numbers of fans”.

Jackie Chan’s son, Jaycee, has been arrested in Beijing on drug-related charges

Jackie Chan’s son, Jaycee, has been arrested in Beijing on drug-related charges (photo Getty Images)

Beijing Municipal Anti-Drug Office deputy director Jin Zhihai however, said that police were not specifically targeting celebrities.

“If there is an increased crackdown on drugs, the number of celebrity offenders will also rise,” he told the Beijing Times on August 14.

Last week, 42 artist management agencies in Beijing signed an agreement with police pledging not to recruit celebrities with reported drug use problems.

Jaycee Chan, whose father Jackie was named an official “Narcotics Control Ambassador” by Chinese police in 2009, had been put under “criminal detention” for the suspected crime of “providing a shelter for others to abuse drugs”, Beijing police said.

If convicted, Jaycee Chan faces a maximum prison term of three years.

Kai Ko, a Taiwanese actor and singer, won the best new actor award in 2011 at the Golden Horse film awards – known as the Oscars of the Chinese-language film industry. He also won a Chinese Film Media award for his role in the movie You Are the Apple of My Eye.

Accused of consuming drugs, Kai Ko had received a two-week detention term, his management company Star Ritz Productions said.

“I feel very regretful, very sorry to all the people who support me. I’ve been a very bad example, I’ve made a very big mistake,” Kai Ko said in an interview broadcast on Chinese state television on August 19.

Beijing police also said two other people, a 36-year-old assistant and a 33-year-old suspected dealer, were detained in the incident.

Jaycee Chan’s management company M’Stones International apologized on his behaf for the “social impact” caused and said they would “supervise his rehabilitation and help him return to the right path”.

Jackie Chan’s publicist told the Associated Press that he had travelled to Beijing to deal with his son’s arrest.

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US Secretary of State John Kerry played a musician’s guitar following a lunch at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China.

John Kerry played a musician's guitar following a lunch at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing

John Kerry played a musician’s guitar following a lunch at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing (photo tumblr)

John Kerry and Chinese Vice-PM Liu Yandong co-chaired the fifth annual US-China High-Level Consultation on People-to-People Exchange (CPE).

The CPE aims to enhance and strengthen ties between the citizens of the United States and China and has done so over the past four years in the areas of culture, education, science and technology, sports, and women’s issues. This year, the two sides agreed to add a sixth area of people-to-people exchange: health.

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China’s Tiananmen Square has been swamped by security personnel on the 25th anniversary of the Beijing massacre.

Foreign journalists were ushered away from the square and passers-by were searched and had their papers checked.

In recent weeks, the authorities have detained dozens of activists to ensure their silence on the anniversary.

The 1989 protesters wanted political reform, but the crackdown was ordered after hardliners won a power struggle within the ruling Communist Party.

Tiananmen Square has been swamped by security personnel on the 25th anniversary of the Beijing massacre

Tiananmen Square has been swamped by security personnel on the 25th anniversary of the Beijing massacre (photo AFP)

The authorities classify the 1989 protests as counter-revolutionary riots and hold no memorial.

In Hong Kong, however, thousands are expected to take part in a Tiananmen remembrance rally.

Activist groups in Taiwan are also marking the anniversary by erecting a huge image of Tiananmen Square during the crackdown.

In the weeks before this year’s anniversary, the Chinese authorities have detained lawyers, journalists and activists.

Rights group Amnesty International said in a statement that 66 people had been detained, questioned, or have gone missing.

Internet search terms related to the 1989 massacre and the protests have been blocked, and access on Google has reportedly been restricted.

The protests were the biggest rally against Communist rule since the People’s Republic was founded in 1949.

Hundreds of thousands called for democratic reforms in a peaceful demonstration largely focused on a gathering in Tiananmen Square.

After six weeks of protests, the authorities responded on June 4, 1989, with a massacre of hundreds in the streets of Beijing.

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Armed police patrol vehicles have been deployed in Beijing following three attacks at transport hubs around the country.

The 150 vehicles are tasked with “countering street terrorism and fighting severe violence”, state-run Xinhua news agency said.

Petrol purchases would also be tightened, with buyers required to register with police, reports said.

Armed police patrol vehicles have been deployed in Beijing following three attacks at transport hubs around the country

Armed police patrol vehicles have been deployed in Beijing following three attacks at transport hubs around the country

The move follows station attacks in Kunming, Urumqi and Guangzhou, and comes before the Tiananmen anniversary.

Xinhua agency said the armed police patrols would be stationed at major road junctions and manned by at least nine police officers and other assistants.

They would cover an area of 1.8 miles and would be required to respond within three minutes, Xinhua added.

Meanwhile, those buying petrol would have to explain their intentions in a move that aimed to prevent the use of gasoline “to create disturbances”, People’s Daily newspaper said.

The security upgrade comes amid heightened concern over security after the three station attacks.

March’s group knife attack in Kunming left 29 people dead and more than 100 wounded. A similar attack in Urumqi in April left three people dead and almost 80 injured.

Chinese authorities have blamed both attacks on separatists from the Muslim Uighur minority group, which lives in Xinjiang.

It is not yet clear what sparked an attack last week at Guangzhou station in which six people were hurt. One man is reported to be in custody.

In October 2013, meanwhile, five people died and dozens were injured after a car drove into a crowd near Tiananmen Square and burst into flames.

Officials said three of those who died – the occupants of the car – came from the Uighur minority group.

The Uighurs, who are ethnically Turkic Muslims, say that large-scale Han Chinese immigration into Xinjiang has eroded their traditional culture and accuse Beijing of oppressive control.

The boost in security in Beijing also comes three weeks ahead of the 25th anniversary of the crackdown on anti-government protesters at Tiananmen Square.

Several well-known activists, including journalist Gao Yu, have been detained ahead of the anniversary.

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One of the most alarming pieces of information to come out of Malaysia Airlines plane mystery is how easy it may be to use a stolen passport to board an international flight.

Two passengers using passports on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight were recorded in Interpol’s Stolen and Lost Travel Documents database, the international police organization confirmed on Sunday.

Vietnam’s navy planes have spotted possible debris of the missing Malaysia Airlines jet that disappeared almost two days ago.

Officials said it was too dark to be certain the objects were from Flight MH370, which had 239 people on board.

A multinational team is searching for wreckage and ships will try to confirm the find after dawn.

Investigators are also checking CCTV footage of two passengers who were travelling on stolen passports.

There are now 40 ships and 34 aircraft from nine different nations taking part in the search for the missing plane in the seas off Vietnam and Malaysia.

Other teams are investigating the identities of some of the people onboard.

Malaysia’s civil aviation chief, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, said five passengers booked on the flight did not board and their luggage was consequently removed.

It has also been confirmed that two passengers were travelling on stolen passports.

The passengers – travelling with Italian and Austrian passports that had been stolen in Thailand – purchased their plane tickets at the same time, and were both booked on the same onward flight from Beijing to Europe on Saturday.

Luigi Maraldi’s passport went missing in Thailand last year and was reported shortly thereafter

Luigi Maraldi’s passport went missing in Thailand last year and was reported shortly thereafter (photo EPA)

Both had purchased their tickets from China Southern Airlines, which shared the flight with Malaysia Airlines, and they had consecutive ticket numbers.

Both tickets were bought at identical prices in Thai currency, according to China’s official e-ticket verification system.

European authorities on Saturday confirmed the names and nationalities of the two stolen passports: One was an Italian-issued document bearing the name Luigi Maraldi, the other Austrian under the name Christian Kozel.

A telephone operator on a China-based KLM hotline on Sunday confirmed to Reuters “Luigi Maraldi” and “Christian Kozel” were both booked to leave Beijing on a KLM flight to Amsterdam on March 8.

“Luigi Maraldi” was then to fly to Copenhagen on KLM on March 8, and “Christian Kozel” to Frankfurt on March 8. She said the pair booked the tickets through China Southern Airlines so she had no information on where they bought them.

“Whilst it is too soon to speculate about any connection between these stolen passports and the missing plane, it is clearly of great concern that any passenger was able to board an international flight using a stolen passport listed in Interpol databases,” the Secretary General of international police agency Interpol, Ronald Noble, said in a statement.

Ronald Noble said no checks of Interpol’s database had been made for either passport between the time they were stolen and the departure of the flight, and expressed frustration that few of Interpol’s 190 member countries “systematically” search the database.

Given their travel itinerary, it’s just as possible that the misidentified flyers were drug mules as terrorists.

The passport of the Italian man was stolen last year. Austrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Weiss said the passport of the Austrian man was stolen two years ago. Both documents went missing in Thailand and were reported shortly thereafter, according to Interpol.

Passports reported lost or stolen are invalidated and, technically, can no longer be used for travel – yet individuals, including members of terrorist organizations, still manage to get across international borders with falsified travel documents.

Such documents are often obtained on the black market and put to use after a photograph swap. Investigations into the operations of terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda showed that operatives traveled with falsified travel documents.

Malaysia’s Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said all angles were being examined in the search for the what happened, but he added: “The main thing here for me and for the families concerned is that we find the aircraft.”

The passengers on the flight were of 14 different nationalities. Two-thirds were from China, while others were from elsewhere in Asia, North America and Europe.

Malaysia Airlines is the country’s national carrier, and one of Asia’s largest fleets, flying nearly 37,000 passengers daily to some 80 destinations worldwide.

Correspondents say the route between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing has become more and more popular as Malaysia and China increase trade.

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Malaysia Airlines plane that has been missing for more than 24 hours may have turned back, radar signals showed.

Rescue teams looking for the plane have now widened their search area.

Investigators are also checking CCTV footage of two passengers who are believed to have boarded the plane using stolen passports.

Flight MH370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing disappeared south of Vietnam with 239 people on board.

Air and sea rescue teams have been searching an area of the South China Sea south of Vietnam for more than 24 hours.

Malaysia’s civil aviation chief, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, told a press conference in Kuala Lumpur the search area had been expanded, to include the west coast of Malaysia.

Five passengers booked on the flight did not board, he added. Their luggage was consequently removed.

Twenty-two aircraft and 40 ships are now involved in the search, armed forces chief Gen. Zulkefli Zin said.

Malaysia Airlines plane that has been missing for more than 24 hours may have turned back, radar signals showed

Malaysia Airlines plane that has been missing for more than 24 hours may have turned back, radar signals showed

Air force chief Rodzali Daud said the investigation was now focusing on a recording of radar signals that showed there was a “possibility” the aircraft had turned back from its flight path.

Vietnamese navy ships which reached two oil slicks spotted earlier in the South China Sea found no signs of wreckage.

Malaysia’s Transport Minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, initially said at least four names on the passenger list were “suspect”.

However, he later said there were in fact only two suspect names.

Reports suggest two of the passengers listed as travelling – an Italian and an Austrian – were not actually on the flight.

They had both reportedly had their passports stolen in Thailand in recent years.

Hishammuddin Hussein said international agencies including the FBI had joined the investigation and all angles were being examined.

The passengers on the flight were of 14 different nationalities. Two-thirds were from China, while others were from elsewhere in Asia, North America and Europe.

When he was asked earlier whether terrorism was suspected as a reason for the plane’s disappearance, Malaysian PM Najib Razak said: “We are looking at all possibilities but it is too early to make any conclusive remarks.”

Malaysia Airlines plane vanished at 01:30 local time on Saturday, March 8.

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According to new reports, US officials are investigating terrorism concerns after revelations that two people apparently boarded the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner with stolen passports.

The officials told NBC News that they had found no clear link to terrorism. There are other criminal reasons, for example drug smuggling, that stolen passports might be used to board a plane.

Two names on the passenger manifest of the plane, Malaysia Flight 370, matched passports reported stolen in Thailand, one from an Italian man and the other from an Austrian man, according to foreign governments.

The news, hours after the Malaysia Airlines jet disappeared over the South China Sea with 239 people on board, significantly changed how US officials looked at the disaster. The officials said they were checking into passenger manifests and going back through intelligence.

There was still no sign of wreckage more than 24 hours after air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane, a red-eye from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing.

The aircraft vanished in relatively clear weather, without sending a distress signal, at what analysts said would have been cruising altitude. In a possible clue, Vietnamese planes spotted two oil slicks consistent with jet fuel in the water off Vietnam.

Malaysia Airlines asked the world to pray for flight MH370 missing over South China Sea

Malaysia Airlines asked the world to pray for flight MH370 missing over South China Sea

On board were 227 passengers and 12 crew. Most of the passengers were Chinese. Three were Americans – one adult and two children, according to the passenger manifest.

Search teams from Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore and China were looking for wreckage, and the US sent a naval destroyer into the South China Sea to help. The air search was called off during the night but was to resume at daylight Sunday, or early Saturday evening Eastern time.

The Italian on the passenger list was Luigi Maraldi, 37. His father, Walter Maraldi, told NBC News on Saturday that Luigi was vacationing in Thailand and had called to check in.

Walter Maraldi said his son had his passport stolen a year ago in Thailand.

In Austria, the foreign ministry confirmed that police had made contact with a citizen who was also on the passenger list, and who reported his passport stolen two years ago.

“We believe that the name and passport were used by an unidentified person to board the plane,” a spokesman for the ministry said.

It is unusual, but not unheard of, for one person to board a plane with a stolen passport. It is very rare for two people with stolen passports to board the same plane, terrorism analysts say.

Asked earlier whether terrorism was suspected in the disappearance of the jet, Malaysian PM Najib Razak said authorities were “looking at all possibilities,” The Associated Press reported.

Malaysia has not seen significant terrorist activity, and airport security there has tended to be exemplary.

The investigation will probably take some time, partly because authorities would have to find wreckage and perform forensics tests. In the crash of TWA Flight 800, in 1996, it took more than a year to rule out terrorism.

While flight data recorders and cockpit voice recorders, the so-called black boxes, can emit signals from underwater, it can be extremely difficult to find planes that disappear over the sea.

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South-East Asian states have joined forces to search the South China Sea for the Malaysia Airlines jet missing with 239 people on board.

Flight MH370 vanished at 02:40 local time Saturday after leaving Kuala Lumpur for Beijing.

The aerial search has been halted for the night but sea operations continue.

No wreckage has been reported by the airline, but Vietnamese planes reported seeing oil slicks in the sea.

The Vietnamese government said two slicks, about 9 miles long, were consistent with those that could be left by an airliner and had been detected off southern Vietnam.

However, there is no confirmation the slicks relate to the missing plane.

Distraught relatives and loved ones of those aboard are being given assistance at the airports.

Distraught relatives and loved ones of those on board of Malaysia Airlines jet are being given assistance at the airports

Distraught relatives and loved ones of those on board of Malaysia Airlines jet are being given assistance at the airports

“We are doing everything in our power to locate the plane,” Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysia Airlines chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said the focus was on helping the families of those missing. He said that 80% of the families had been contacted.

The plane reportedly went off the radar south of Vietnam.

Its last known location was off the Ca Mau peninsula although the exact position was not clear.

The Boeing B777-200 aircraft was carrying 227 passengers, including two children, and 12 crew members.

Malaysia’s military said a second wave of helicopters and ships had been dispatched after an initial search revealed nothing. The US has agreed to help with its aircraft too, Malaysian PM Najb Razak said.

Territorial disputes over the South China Sea were set aside temporarily as China dispatched two maritime rescue ships and the Philippines deployed three air force planes and three navy patrol ships.

Singapore is also involved, while Vietnam sent aircraft and ships and asked fishermen in the area to report any suspected sign of the missing plane.

“In times of emergencies like this, we have to show unity of efforts that transcends boundaries and issues,” said Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda, commander of the Philippine military’s Western Command.

The passengers were of 14 different nationalities. Among them were 152 Chinese nationals, 38 Malaysians, 12 people from Indonesia and six from Australia.

The pilot was Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, who joined Malaysia Airlines in 1981.

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A Malaysia Airlines plane vanished on a flight to Beijing, with 239 people on board.

The search is under way in waters between Malaysia and Vietnam.

Malaysia Airlines said in a statement that flight MH370 had disappeared at 02:40 local time on Saturday after leaving Kuala Lumpur.

It had been expected to land in Beijing at 06:30.

Malaysia’s transport minister said there was no information on wreckage and he urged against speculation.

“We are doing everything in our power to locate the plane. We are doing everything we can to ensure every possible angle has been addressed,” Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.

“Our hope is that the people understand we are being as transparent as we can, we are giving information as quickly as we can, but we want to make sure information has been verified.”

Malaysia Airlines chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said the focus was on helping the families of those missing. He said that 80% of the families had been contacted.

The plane went off the radar south of Vietnam, according to a statement on the Vietnamese government website.

Its last known location was off the country’s Ca Mau peninsula although the exact position was not clear, it said.

 Malaysia Airlines plane vanished on a flight to Beijing, with 239 people on board

Malaysia Airlines plane vanished on a flight to Beijing, with 239 people on board

The Boeing B777-200 aircraft was carrying 227 passengers, including two children, and 12 crew members.

A plane, two helicopters and four vessels have been dispatched by Malaysia to search the seas off its east coast in the South China Sea, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.

Vietnam also launched a search while the Philippines said it was sending three navy patrol boats and a surveillance plane, AFP adds, and China sent two ships.

The passengers were of 14 different nationalities, Jauhari Yahya said.

The pilot was Capt Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, who joined Malaysia Airlines in 1981, Jauhari Yahya said.

Friends and relatives expecting to meet passengers from the flight in Beijing were instructed to go to a nearby hotel where officials were meant to be on hand to provide support.

The Associated Press reported a woman weeping on a shuttle bus who was heard to say on a mobile phone: “They want us to go to the hotel. It cannot be good.”

The plane had been flying at an altitude of 35,000ft and the pilots had not reported any problems with the aircraft, Fuad Sharuji, Malaysian Airlines’ vice-president of operations control, told CNN.

Malaysia’s national carrier is one of Asia’s largest, flying nearly 37,000 passengers daily to some 80 destinations worldwide.

The route between Kuala Lumpur to Beijing has become more and more popular as Malaysia and China increase trade.

The Boeing 777 had not had a fatal crash in its 20-year history until an Asiana plane came down at San Francisco airport in July of last year. Three teenage girls from China died in that incident.

Boeing said in a statement posted on Twitter: “We’re closely monitoring reports on Malaysia flight MH370. Our thoughts are with everyone on board.”

Flight MH370 passengers

  • 153 Chinese including one child
  • 38 Malaysians
  • 12 Indonesians
  • 6 Australians
  • 4 Americans including one child
  • 3 French
  • Two each from New Zealand, Ukraine and Canada
  • One each from Russia, Italy, Taiwan, Netherlands and Austria

Source: Malaysia Airlines

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Beijing residents have been warned to don air masks and offices and homes to put electric air purifiers on overdrive after air pollution readings soared.

Air pollution readings on Thursday registered more than 20 times the recommended exposure levels by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau readings for PM 2.5 – air particulate smaller than 2.5 microns blamed for a range of severe respiratory ailments – registered over 500 micrograms per cubic meter. The WHO recommends no more than 25 micrograms per cubic meter.

Officials in Beijing issued a severe air warning and urged residents to wear protective masks while outdoors, and said the elderly and schoolchildren should stay indoors until conditions improved.

Beijing residents have been warned to don air masks and offices and homes to put electric air purifiers on overdrive after air pollution readings soared

Beijing residents have been warned to don air masks and offices and homes to put electric air purifiers on overdrive after air pollution readings soared

The winter months in the north of the country tend to be periods of extended bad air pollution. Biting cold forces the region’s coal-burning power plants to meet heating demands, while increased car usage and relentless construction chokes the skies with dangerous particulate.

Beijing’s topography – with hills surrounding much of this city of 20 million people – can also keep the capital immersed in dirty air unless strong winds blow it out.

Certain at-risk residents who find themselves exposed to the bad air over extended periods of time complain of watery eyes, difficulty breathing or other respiratory issues. Long-term exposure can lead to asthma, heart disease and cancer. Prolonged exposure to PM2.5 has also been tied to knocking years off people’s life expectancy.

Despite ideal conditions for poor air quality, the air warning issued Friday was just the first of 2014.

China’s cities are frequently blanketed by pollution caused by coal-burning power plants, factories, and millions of vehicles on the roads.

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US Vice-President Joe Biden has arrived in Beijing for meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.

His visit to Asia has been dominated by a row over China’s newly-declared air zone, which covers East China Sea disputed islands controlled by Japan.

Joe Biden arrived from Tokyo, where he reaffirmed the US alliance with Japan.

The vice-president attended an official welcome ceremony in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People where he met China’s Vice-President Li Yuanchao, and said China and the US should expand practical co-operation and deliver results.

On Thursday he will visit China’s leadership compound, known as Zhongnanhai.

While in Tokyo, Joe Biden said he would raise concerns over China’s new air zone “in great specificity” during meetings with China’s leaders.

Jo Biden and Xi Jinping are said to enjoy a relatively close relationship.

Joe Biden has arrived in Beijing for meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang

Joe Biden has arrived in Beijing for meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang

China announced a new Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) last month, and said aircraft flying through the zone must follow its rules, including filing flight plans.

The ADIZ covers islands claimed and controlled by Japan, and a submerged rock claimed by South Korea.

The US, Japan and South Korea have rejected China’s zone, and flown undeclared military aircraft through the ADIZ.

On Friday, China scrambled fighter jets to monitor US and Japanese planes flying in the area.

Tokyo has told its national carriers not to file flight plans with the Chinese side when transiting the zone, but on Friday the US said it expected its carriers to “operate consistent with Notams [Notices to Airmen] issued by foreign countries”.

This did not indicate “US government acceptance of China’s requirements for operating in the newly-declared ADIZ”, the state department said.

Speaking in Tokyo on Tuesday, Joe Biden said the US was “deeply concerned by the attempt to unilaterally change the status quo in the East China Sea.”

On Wednesday, Chinese state media criticized Joe Biden’s comments.

“Washington has obviously taken Japan’s side,” state-run newspaper China Daily said in an editorial.

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Chinese police have detained five suspects in connection with Monday’s deadly car crash at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, state media report.

Police have described the incident as a “violent terror attack”, the Xinhua news agency says, for first time.

All three people in the car had names from the Muslim Uighur minority in the restive western region of Xinjiang.

Two bystanders died and 38 people were injured after the vehicle crashed into a crowd and burst into flames.

The police said that what happened at Tiananmen Square was a “violent terrorist attack” which was “carefully planned and organised”, Xinhua says.

The jeep that crashed into a bridge in front of the Forbidden City was driven by a man who was with his wife and mother, police said in a statement.

All three had names from the Muslim Uighur minority in the Xinjiang region.

Chinese police have detained five suspects in connection with Monday's deadly car crash at Beijing's Tiananmen Square

Chinese police have detained five suspects in connection with Monday’s deadly car crash at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square

The three ignited petrol inside the car, they added.

Police said the vehicle they found on Monday had a container for petrol, two knives and what they describe as a flag with extremist religious slogans on it. They added that the car’s number plates were registered in Xinjiang province.

They said they also found more knives and another flag at a location in Beijing.

On Wednesday, a number of news agency reports said a police notice was being circulated among hotels in Beijing, asking information about eight suspects.

Seven have names typical of the Uighur ethnic group and the other, although seemingly from China’s majority Han ethnicity, has an address in Xinjiang, reports say.

A tourist from the Philippines and a tourist from Guangdong province were among those killed in the incident. Another 38 people were injured, including three tourists from the Philippines and one from Japan.

Police shut down the scene of the incident – at the north end of the square at an entrance to the Forbidden City – shortly after it occurred, temporarily closing a subway station and a road.

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Two suspects have been named by Beijing police after a deadly car crash in Tiananmen Square, state media report.

The vehicle crashed into a crowd and burst into flames, killing five people.

Police subsequently issued a notice to hotels in Beijing seeking information about two people from Xinjiang province, Chinese media said.

The note also described a vehicle and four number plates from Xinjiang, the scene of sporadic violent incidents.

State-run Xinhua news agency said of the five people who died on Monday, three people died inside the car and two tourists were killed. Another 38 people were injured.

Police shut down the scene of the incident – at the north end of the square at an entrance to the Forbidden City – shortly after it occurred, temporarily closing a subway station and a road.

There has been no official statement on the cause of the incident.

Five people died on Monday in Tiananmen Square car crash

Five people died on Monday in Tiananmen Square car crash

“A major case has taken place on Monday,” the police notice said, without specifying what. It named two residents from Xinjiang’s Pishan and Shanshan counties as suspects.

The notice, unconfirmed images of which have been widely circulated on Chinese social media, also asked hotels to look out for “suspicious guests” and vehicles.

China’s state-controlled Global Times said it had confirmation from the Beijing police that the notice was genuine, although police did not comment on the “major case” itself.

Zhao Fuzhou, a security official at Beijing’s Xinjiang Dasha hotel, said that police had circulated a notice to hotels searching for information about two suspects with Uighur names, AP news agency reported.

Xinjiang is home to the minority Muslim Uighur group, some of whom complain of cultural and religious repression under Beijing’s rule. There have been sporadic outbreaks of violence in Xinjiang, including both Pishan and Shanshan counties.

China says it grants the Uighurs wide-ranging freedoms.

On Monday a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said she did not know “specifics” about the incident. The country’s main state-run news agency, Xinhua, on Monday offered no reason for the incident but said police were investigating.

Tiananmen Square is a highly sensitive site due to its link to China’s 1989 pro-democracy protests, which were ended by a military crackdown.

The square is generally kept under very tight security both because of its proximity to key political institutions and so that is does not serve as a hub for protesters and petitioners, although incidents have nonetheless occurred there before.

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At least five people died and 38 others were injured after a vehicle crashed in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Chinese state media have said.

Three of those killed were inside the car and the other two were bystanders.

The square was evacuated and quickly reopened after the vehicle went into the crowd in front of the Tiananmen rostrum at midday.

Images posted online showed a vehicle in flames, amid barricades. There has been no explanation for the crash.

Other pictures on social media showed a column of smoke rising from the scene of the crash.

Three people inside the vehicle died, Beijing police said on its official microblog account, adding that one female tourist from the Philippines and a male tourist from Guangdong province had also died.

Senior leaders from both the central government and the local authorities in Beijing and the Ministry of Public Security have visited the scene, it said.

An investigation is under way and the injured have been taken to hospital, Beijing police said.

Tiananmen Square was the scene of the 1989 pro-democracy protests which were ended by a military crackdown.

At least five people died and 38 others were injured after a vehicle crashed in Tiananmen Square in Beijing

At least five people died and 38 others were injured after a vehicle crashed in Tiananmen Square in Beijing

The site is generally kept under very tight security both because of its proximity to key political institutions and so that is does not serve as a hub for protesters and petitioners.

Incidents do occur, nonetheless. In 2011, a man set himself on fire at Tiananmen Square following what officials said was a legal dispute, close to the square’s portrait of Chairman Mao.

Two years before that, three people set themselves on fire in a car at a busy intersection near Tiananmen Square over what the authorities called personal grievances.

In 2000, several members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement were arrested for protesting at the square.

Fire extinguishers are kept at the site, and have been used when protesters set themselves on fire.

Monday’s incident took place at the north end of Tiananmen Square, near an entrance to the Forbidden City.

“A driver and two passengers were killed after a jeep crashed into a crowd of people and caught fire,” Xinhua news agency said.

Citing police and emergency officials, it said police officers were among those injured by the jeep, “which crashed into a guardrail of Jinshui Bridge on the moat of the Forbidden City before bursting into flames at 12:05 pm”.

One unnamed eyewitness told AFP news agency: “I saw a car turn a bend and suddenly it was driving on the pavement, it happened fast but looked like it knocked people over.”

“I heard an explosion and saw fire. The scene was very frightening,” he added.

“There were paramilitary police who told people to get back into their cars and stop taking pictures.”

In a microblog post on its verified Sina Weibo account, the Beijing police said that “the injured people were all sent to a nearby hospital”.

“Police at the site immediately launched rescue efforts, and the fire was quickly extinguished… the situation is currently being investigated further,” the police added.

A subway station close to the square was temporarily closed at the request of police, Beijing transport authorities said. Police also closed the road near the crash.

News of the incident first appeared on social media from those who were at the scene, but it appeared that some pictures were being quickly removed.

AFP news agency said that two of its reporters were also held close to the square, with images deleted from their cameras.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, when asked whether the government believed the incident was a terror attack, said that she did not know the specifics of the case and declined further comment.

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Jazz singer Patti Austin has cancelled a concert in Beijing after suffering “a severe asthma attack”.

A statement on the singer’s website said Patti Austin was unable to perform at Forbidden City Concert Hall on Friday night “due to health problems”.

While the cause of her illness has not been confirmed, it comes at a time of growing concern over air pollution levels in the Chinese capital.

Beijing has recently announced measures to combat worsening pollution.

They include taking half of the city’s four million private cars off the roads on days when there are serious levels of pollution.

The system will be based on a vehicle’s license plate – odd numbers will be allowed on the roads one day, even numbers the next.

Patti Austin was unable to perform at Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing due to health problems

Patti Austin was unable to perform at Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing due to health problems

A statement on Patti Austin’s website said: “She was taken in an emergency to the Peking Union Medical College Hospital this morning where she has been treated for a severe asthma attack in combination with respiratory infection.

“Ms Austin is currently resting in her hotel. Her current breathing condition does not physically enable her to perform tonight.

“Ms Austin is extremely disappointed about this situation since she was very much looking forward to performing.”

The new anti-pollution system will give out four different degrees of air pollution warning – blue, yellow, amber and red.

On days when an amber warning is given, factories will stop production and work will be halted on construction and building sites.

Restaurants which offer open-air barbecues will be ordered to close temporarily, and fireworks will be banned throughout the city.

When a red warning is issued, the new car restriction measure will be implemented. Schools and kindergartens will also be closed.

The measure to restrict the number of private cars from using the road is proving to be controversial.

Critics have aired their concern that those who can afford to buy two or more cars will able to drive any day when the restriction is in force.

Beijing has almost 21 million permanent residents, according to official estimates.

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Professor Zhang Lin, who built a rock-covered roof-top villa on top of a Beijing high-rise, may have to demolish his house, reports from China say.

The villa, surrounded by rocks, trees and bushes, sits on top of a 26-storey building in Beijing’s Haidian district.

State-run China Daily says it was built without the proper permissions.

Zhang Lin’s villa, surrounded by rocks, trees and bushes, sits on top of a 26-storey building in Beijing's Haidian district

Zhang Lin’s villa, surrounded by rocks, trees and bushes, sits on top of a 26-storey building in Beijing’s Haidian district

Residents of the building have told Chinese media they fear the construction of the roof-top house has made the high-rise unsafe.

China Daily identified the owner as the head of a state-run traditional medicine chain.

Citing a statement from Haidian urban management officials, it said that government approval for the house had not been obtained and so a compulsory demolition order had been filed.

Prof. Zhang Lin had 15 days to present documents proving the structure had been approved, the paper said.

Newspaper reports said other residents in the tower block had complained that the villa had damaged pipes and the structural integrity of the building.

The rocks surrounding the sprawling villa are said to be fake but the grass and trees are real.

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The Chinese economy, world’s second-largest, has slowed and performed worse than many analysts expected in the first quarter of 2013.

Annual growth was 7.7% in Q1 2013, compared with 7.9% in Q4 2012. Analysts had forecast a figure closer to 8%.

China wants to spur growth after it hit a 13-year low in 2012.

Other key data on Monday also came in lower than market expectations, raising questions over the outlook for growth.

Industrial output rose 8.9% in March from a year earlier, much lower than analysts’ targets of 10%.

Meanwhile, fixed asset investment, a key driver of China’s growth, rose at an annual rate 20.9% in the first three months of year. Analysts had expected growth of more than 21%.

The Chinese economy, world's second-largest, has slowed and performed worse than many analysts expected in the first quarter of 2013

The Chinese economy, world’s second-largest, has slowed and performed worse than many analysts expected in the first quarter of 2013

“The Chinese economy is showing soft growth momentum in the first quarter,” said Wei Yao of Societe Generale.

“All these figures showed that the economy is in a weak recovery.”

Over the past few years, China has relied heavily on its exports and investment spending to maintain a strong pace of growth.

However, as economic growth in its key markets such as the US and Europe has slowed, and its exports have weakened, there have been calls for China to rebalance its economy.

Beijing has acknowledged this and has indicated that it wants to increase domestic demand to reduce its dependence on exports and achieve more sustainable growth.

At the same time, China has had to deal with a widening wealth gap, which has prompted fears of social unrest in the country.

There have been calls for the new leadership, which took charge in March, to work towards a more inclusive growth model.

Analysts said a slower rate of growth may actually help China, as it tries to achieve those goals.

“Given Beijing’s goal of restructuring the economy, a relatively moderate economic growth is not a bad thing in the longer term,” said Wei Yao of Societe Generale.

She added that this “could help policymakers focus more on the quality rather than speed of the economy”.

China has taken various steps over the past few months to spur growth.

China’s central bank has cut interest rates twice since June to reduce borrowing costs for businesses and consumers and increase lending.

Beijing has also approved infrastructure projects worth more than $150 billion.

Analysts said China was likely to continue to use easy monetary policies as a tool to sustain growth, and would not raise rates or look to limit access to capital.

“Certainly with this number, policy certainly would not tighten and would continue to be quite accommodative,” said Tao Wang, an economist with UBS.

However, some analysts warned against any further aggressive easing measures, adding that such measures may promote asset bubbles and overheat the economy.

“Another year of propped-up growth via state spending and a credit deluge would, we fear, push China dangerously close to proving Wen Jiabao correct – that the current economic model is <<unsustainable>>,” said Alistair Thronton, senior China economist at IHS Global Insight.

“If something is unsustainable, at some point, it won’t be sustained.”

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Chinese authorities have reported the first case of H7N9 “bird flu” in Beijing after a 7-year-old girl has been hospitalized in the capital.

The girl, whose parents are poultry traders, developed a fever, sore throat and headache on Thursday. Her condition is said to be stable.

Two people in close contact with the child were quarantined for observation but have shown no symptoms so far.

The UN had recorded 28 cases and nine deaths in China as of Wednesday.

Chinese authorities have reported the first case of H7N9 bird flu in Beijing after a 7-year-old girl has been hospitalized in the capital

Chinese authorities have reported the first case of H7N9 bird flu in Beijing after a 7-year-old girl has been hospitalized in the capital

There are no reported cases outside the country, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

China’s national disease control centre confirmed on Saturday that the girl take ill in Beijing had the H7N9 virus.

The first cases of the virus were reported in February, in eastern China.

According to the WHO, there is no evidence that the H7N9 virus is being transmitted between people, and most cases come from poultry.

International health experts have commended China on its transparency in reporting the spread of the virus, in sharp contrast to its handling of a Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003, when 8,096 people were infected worldwide and 744 died.

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China has officially opened the world’s longest high-speed rail route, linking the capital Beijing with the southern commercial hub of Guangzhou.

The first bullet train left Beijing on Wednesday morning. Trains will initially travel at 300 km/h (187 mph), more than halving travel time.

A Chinese official has described the route – parts of which were already in operation – as “one of the most technically advanced in the world”.

The 2,298 km route will have 35 stops.

They include such major cities as Wuhan and Changsha.

The previously 22-hour journey will now take less than 10 hours.

China has officially opened the world's longest high-speed rail route, linking the capital Beijing with the southern commercial hub of Guangzhou

China has officially opened the world’s longest high-speed rail route, linking the capital Beijing with the southern commercial hub of Guangzhou

The decision was taken to start the passenger service on 26 December to commemorate the birth of former Chinese leader Mao Zedong, state media said.

China is currently expanding its high-speed rail network across the vast country.

But the ambitious project has not been free from controversy.

Forty people died last summer in a crash on a rapid train line in eastern Zhejiang province and the entire high-speed scheme has been dogged with reports of corruption.

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Chinese dissident Wang Xiaoning, who was convicted of subversion charges with the help of evidence provided by Yahoo, has been released from jail.

Wang Xiaoning was freed early on Friday morning, his wife, Yu Ling, announced.

He who was detained in 2002, served his 10-year sentence in a Beijing jail.

Yahoo drew widespread criticism for providing information linking him to emails and political writings.

Chinese dissident Wang Xiaoning, who was convicted of subversion charges with the help of evidence provided by Yahoo, has been released from jail

Chinese dissident Wang Xiaoning, who was convicted of subversion charges with the help of evidence provided by Yahoo, has been released from jail

Yu Ling said her husband was in “good health and fine spirits” but was not allowed to give media interviews under the conditions of his release.

She could not comment on his experience in prison, she added.

Wang Xiaoning, a former engineer, was prosecuted after posting pro-democracy statements online calling for an end to one-party Communist rule. He was jailed for “incitement to subvert state power”.

The case raised questions about whether internet companies should co-operate with governments that repress freedom of speech.

A human rights group filed a lawsuit in the US on behalf of several plaintiffs, including Wang Xiaoning and a Chinese journalist, Shi Tao, who was also jailed for 10 years in 2005.

Yahoo later apologized and paid an undisclosed amount of compensation to the families involved.

It also told the US congress that the company had been legally obliged to provide the information.

 

Apple has decided to halt the sale of all iPhone models from its stores in China, after large crowds disrupted the launch of the iPhone 4S.

An Apple store, in the Sanlitun area of Beijing, did not open on Friday after a large crowd gathered outside in anticipation of the launch.

The crowd became unruly, throwing eggs. Scuffles broke out with police.

Apple has decided to halt the sale of all iPhone models from its stores in China, after large crowds disrupted the launch of the iPhone 4S

Apple has decided to halt the sale of all iPhone models from its stores in China, after large crowds disrupted the launch of the iPhone 4S

China is the world’s largest mobile phone market, and Apple’s second-biggest market.

The iPhone 4S, which has voice-activated functions, was being introduced through official Apple stores in China for the first time.

Apple said in a statement that it decided not to open its store at Sanlitun “due to the large crowd, and to ensure the safety of our customers and employees”.

The company also said that it was halting the sale of iPhones at all retail stores in Beijing and Shanghai “for the time being”.

However, Apple said Chinese customers can still purchase the phones either through the Apple online store or at China Unicom and other authorized sellers.

The decision came despite the fact that other stores in Beijing and Shanghai opened without incident and reported rapid sales.

Apple said all iPhone 4Ss were now sold out in stores in China.

Crowds began gathering outside of Apple stores overnight and in the early morning. Police were deployed to a number of stores to help control the crowds.

Eggs were thrown at Apple’s Sanlitun store in Beijing after it failed to open on Friday at 07:00 local time as advertised.

When it was announced that the store would not be opening, there were shouts of “open the door” and “liar”.

Customers at the Sanlitun store said they were disappointed not to be walking away with any purchases.

“I’ve been waiting here since yesterday afternoon, then this morning they say they won’t sell,” a man in his 20s told Reuters TV.

“They broke customers’ hearts.”

By about 10:00 local time in Beijing, the crowds had cleared the area in front of Apple store.

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