Friday, September 5, 2008

Sichuan-Tibet highway reopens to traffic

The Sichuan-Tibet highway in southwest China re-opened to traffic at 11:10 a.m. on Wednesday after 94hours of repairs.

Small vehicles could travel easily on the highway, but large vehicles had to wait until the road dried, said Li Xiping, a traffic police officer in charge of the project.

Rain lashed Nyingchi Prefecture over the past two weeks, which caused a mud flow to block a river near the road linking Tibet with the neighboring Sichuan Province on Saturday.

The rising water eroded the roadbed, resulting in the collapse of a 30-meter section of the road and halting traffic.

More than 120 soldiers worked to create a new road on Tuesday, with about 50 m of the planned 100 m emergency road completed.

The rain stopped at 2 p.m. on Tuesday.

August is a particularly wet month in Tibet. Rain in the mountainous region was up 30 percent in the first half of 2008 compared with normal levels, creating risks for road use and maintenance.

Source: Xinhua

Race against winter in quake zone

The country is racing against time to rebuild homes and set up temporary shelters for many of the 1.2 million people displaced by the Panzhihua earthquake.

A senior civil affairs official yesterday said reconstruction could begin only in the middle of this month, giving little time before winter sets in.

Pang Chenmin, deputy director of the Ministry of Civil Affairs' disaster relief department, said: "We face a tight schedule to beat the winter cold."

The 6.1-magnitude quake rocked the mountainous Sichuan-Yunnan border region on August 30, killing 38 people and injuring 982. The epicenter of the quake was near Panzhihua city, about 550 km south of the May 12 Wenchuan quake's epicenter.

The area is mountainous, making transport a time-consuming affair. Hence, reaching construction material there poses a challenge, too.

But the quake-hit Sichuan-Yunnan border area is not short of food or clothes, Pang told a press conference, organized by the State Council Information Office. Instead, providing proper shelter before winter is "the problem".

About 532,000 houses, made mostly of wood and mud, were destroyed or damaged in the quake, leaving about 1.2 million people in urgent need of shelter, the ministry said.

The central and local governments have sent more than 42,000 tents and 33,000 quilts to the area. But, Pang conceded, they were not enough for winter.

"People there are facing two big problems: a proper shelter and enough quilts." He said the government was "making efforts" to help every family in the area build a permanent house.

Governments at all levels have announced preferential land policies and financial support, and people have offered donations to help them do so.

Pang advised some people to shift to relatives' houses elsewhere if they can. Those who cannot shift have to stay in community public houses.

And "in areas where rebuilding permanent houses immediately is difficult, people will have to spend the winter in cotton-padded tents, provided by the governments".

Premier Wen Jiabao has warned of a difficult winter for people in the quake-hit areas. On his fourth inspection tour of Dujiangyan and Qingchuan, which were hit by the devastating May 12 quake, Wen urged the entire society to donate winter clothes and bedding for the quake victims.

Source: China Daily

Advisors call for measures to raise migrants' salaries

Political advisors yesterday called on the government to make greater efforts to raise migrant workers' salaries and ensure they have a better standard of living.

With more than 200 million such workers in cities across China, how to better protect their rights and interests has become a crucial issue, members of the country's top political advisory body said yesterday in Beijing at a meeting on achieving more balanced development between urban and rural areas.

They also called for substantial measures to be taken to provide these workers with insurance for workplace injuries, better educational opportunities for their children and more affordable housing.

Li Zhuobin, a member of the Standing Committee of the 11th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference , said migrant workers still face employment discrimination and poor access to public services.

Citing the construction industry as an example, he said migrant workers' salaries could be two-thirds or half that of their urban counterparts.

In other cases, employers refuse to hire workers without urban permanent residence permits.

"Many employers do not pay them on time," said Li.

"In sectors that hire a large number of migrant workers, such as construction, catering and entertainment, the government should be strict on implementing the salary deposit rule," he said.

The rule, introduced in May 2004 by the former Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, requires construction companies to deposit a certain amount of money in a labor department bank account. The money is used to pay migrant workers who fail to receive their due salaries.

In addition, the training of rural workers fails to fully meet employers' requirements and the public employment service's efforts to help migrant workers find jobs are inadequate, he added.

Li suggested that preferential policies to promote employment should cover both urban and rural residents.

Source: China Daily

Man accidentally hands himself in

Zhang Tianping, whose name is on the police's most wanted list for providing technical support to an infamous software hacker, was arrested here last month, local media said yesterday.

Zhang, the boss of an IT company, went to the Chengdu police bureau accompanied by his lawyer to enquire about the penalties for intellectual property infringement, the West China Metropolis Daily reported.

"Zhang Tianping's arrest was accidental," Li Dang, a police officer said.

According to the report, Zhang and his lawyer visited the bureau on the morning of Aug 22 to ask whether or not pirating technology for a non-profitable purpose was considered a copyright infringement, Li said.

His questions brought to mind the 2003 case involving that caused ructions in the IT sector, Li said.

That year, university graduate Hong Lei launched the site that offered free downloads of Microsoft's Windows XP software, which had been modified without the firm's authorization.

Jiangsu police arrested Hong on Aug 15 after Microsoft accused him of copyright violation. Zhang's name was placed on the wanted list for providing the website with servers and other support.

Zhang was alarmed at Hong's arrest, even though his Chengdu Hongguo Science and Technology Company had not profited from the illicit downloads.

Wary of becoming involved in the case, he closed the company and disappeared.

By providing a platform for free downloads, however, Zhang's company generated hits on Tomatolei that raised its income, thus breaking the law, police said.

The website is reported to have earned more than 100,000 yuan a month from advertising.

Officers Li and Xie became suspicious when Zhang looked nervous at the mention of Tomatolei. They checked the computer and found Zhang's name on the wanted list.

Li called Jiangsu police, who were coincidentally in Chengdu searching for Zhang. The two officers then kept Zhang talking for the one hour it took Jiangsu police to arrive and arrest him.

Most computers sold on the street, and around 10 million nationwide, are installed with the modified version of Windows from Tomatolei, Su Lei, a local computer dealer said.

Source: China Daily

Community centers offer fresh hope

In 2003, Zheng Yu suffered a stroke that left her paralyzed in the right side of her body.

A year later, her father died; and the teenager was left feeling desperate and alone.

"When dad died, I thought God had taken everything away from me," Zheng, now 23, told China Daily yesterday.

"But things are so much better now," she said.

One of the reasons for her more positive outlook is that for the past year she has been a regular visitor at her local "Sweet Home" center in Beijing's Auhui community.

"I get so much love here and people are concerned about me," Zheng said.

Before she was told about the center, she rarely left her home, she said.

"I can communicate without worrying about people discriminating against me."

"It's just like being surrounded by members of my family members," she said.

The Auhui Sweet Home is just one of more than 1,400 such centers across Beijing, Zhao Chunluan, head of the Beijing Disabled Persons' Federation, told a press conference in Beijing yesterday.

Launched by Deng Pufang, Chairman of China Disabled Persons' Federation, the Sweet Home program offers extensive services to help the disabled people in rehabilitation and employment and brings cultural and physical education to needed communities to create an atmosphere of help and assistance.

About 45,000 disabled people from 18 districts and counties throughout the city have benefited from the program, which is wholly funded by the Beijing government, he said.

"By 2010, there will be a Sweet Home center in every sub-district and community," Zhao said.

As well as organizing regular social activities, such as day trips, each Sweet Home center provides its patrons with a rehabilitation program, tailored to their specific requirements, he said.

Zheng's doctor is Jiang Xiaomeng, who said she devised a special program of exercises to help the young woman regain movement in her right hand and also start her walking again.

A year in, and Zheng is delighted with the results.

"I really believe I will be able to walk and write again in the future," she said.

"She is doing a great job, we're all really proud of her," Jiang said.

Another regular at the Auhui center is 52-year-old Cui Zixin, who has suffered from polio since he was a toddler and can walk only with the aid of crutches.

Zheng is so much happier than he was a year ago, she said. "She talks more with other people now and laughs a lot," Cui said.

Zheng said that after the Paralympic Games she will try to get a job as a typist, as she can now type really fast, even if it is only with hand.

"I believe I can live like any other person and feed myself."

Source: China Daily

New Beijing court caters for physically-challenged

Disabled local Beijing resident Qi Baolin became on Tuesday the very first to experience the barrier-free facilities at the a court near the Paralympic village, which is said to be the city's first disable-friendly court.

A stroke left Qi, 59, paralyzed in his left arm and leg. He was in court to testify in the case against his former employer, Beijng Dachao Commercial Hotel, which neglected to make payments into his social security fund when he worked there from Dec 2004 to April l, 2005.

The hotel, later renamed the Beihu No.9 Commercial Hotel, claimed there was no tangible record of Qi having worked at the hotel during that period.

As both parties required further proof, the court ruled that there would be a second hearing at a later date.

The barrier-free facilities in the courtroom of the commissary court of Chaoyang District People's Court during the 40-minute hearing were a great help, Qi said.

"The facilities enabled me to concentrate entirely on the hearing," he said

The court has seats equipped with metal supports, disabled toilets and ramps.

Disable people's needs were taken into account in the court's design, Qian Yixin, head judge at the court, said. "The first- floor layout of the courtroom includes accessible barrier-free departments, such as for file registration," Qian said.

The court also provides sign language services for the deaf, and a visiting case registration service for people with limited mobility.

So far 10 deaf people have made use of the sign language services to register their cases, the official said.

Its Foreign-Interests-Related Courtroom has a 27-seat gallery installed with a three-track simultaneous interpretation system.

Almost 70 percent of Olympics-related cases, such as personal injury, property damage and labor disputes, were heard in the courtroom last month, Qian said.

Source: China Daily

Portuguese pair score a first

Portuguese athletes Carlos Manuel Lopes and Firmino Baptisia have already scored a first.

When the two visited the Silk Market on Friday, a popular shopping center for Chinese silk, artifacts, clothes, and electronics, their Labrador guide dogs were the first to be allowed into the premises.

"It was the first time I had seen such big dogs, but they were cute," Zhu Jing, a shop assistant who had attended to the visitors, said on Tuesday.

Big dogs are normally forbidden in public places especially shops and restaurants in Beijing because they could cause fear in people.

The presence of the dogs at the marketplace represents a major change as shops learn how to welcome and cater to disabled customers.

The Beijing Daily said yesterday 235 shops in the city had taken measures to provide a better shopping environment for people suffering from disabilities.

The move includes building ramps, lowering cashier counters and allowing guide dogs.

At the Silk Market, there is a special path leading to its entrance for disabled people, and 16 reserved parking spaces.

Han Yongguang, general manager of Mansion Guiyou Co Ltd, a premium department store in Beijing's embassy and business district, said all four of its outlets have been renovated, including the leveling of pavements, and training shop assistants on how to serve disabled customers.

However, he said some customers may have difficulty with the washrooms because they were built in the 1980s and would require major reconstruction.

"However, it is a good lesson. We need to change our mindset and really think about how to serve all customers, be their foreigners or Chinese," he said.

Yesterday was also the first day souvenirs of the Paralympic Games went on sale.

Gongmei Mansion on Wangfujing Street decorated its store with posters of the Paralympic Games, and focused on sale of the souvenirs.

One of its four cashier counters was specially reserved for disabled customers.

The Silk Market's Zhu said he had seen about a dozen disabled customers since Friday.

Beijing's bureau of commerce said that during the Olympic Games, Aug 8 to 24, the total average sales of 193 retailers was 190 million yuan per day, 17 percent higher than for the same period last year.

However, in spite of all the preparations, the shopping spree has yet to begin.

A security guard surnamed Zhou, stationed at Gongmei, said he only observed one customer in a wheelchair on Tuesday morning.

In the past month, the daily average number of visitors to Gongmei has been 80,000.

Source: China Daily