- Local governmrnt debt fuels China forced evictions rise - Amnesty
- Venezuela's Chavez names Maduro vice-president
- Beauty treatment kills Hong Kong woman, three ill
Posted: 10 Oct 2012 07:56 PM PDT
BEIJING (Reuters) - Forced evictions in China, a major source of social discontent, have risen significantly in the past two years as local officials and property developers colluded to seize and sell land to pay off government debt, Amnesty International said on Thursday.
Property disputes in a country where the government legally owns all land are often violent and have led to growing social instability, one of the challenges facing a new generation of Chinese leaders, led by Vice-President Xi Jinping.
Amnesty's 85-page report, compiled between February 2010 and January 2012, said violence exerted on residents resulted in deaths, imprisonment and self-immolations.
"Potentially, millions of people in the country are at risk of these illegal forced evictions and indeed protests about forced evictions are the single biggest issue of populist discontent in the country," Nicola Duckworth, Amnesty's senior director of research, told Reuters.
"So it's a huge issue, it's been going on for many, many years, we feel it's rising in scale now and it's really time to put an end to it."
Land sales by local governments soared as officials scrambled to raise the capital needed to hit ambitious targets for infrastructure building set by Beijing in a 4 trillion yuan economic stimulus plan, launched late in 2008 as the global financial crisis raged.
Frenzied speculative activity inflated a real estate bubble that resulted in local governments racking up debts of 10.7 trillion yuan (1 trillion pounds) by the end of 2010 as they also borrowed to build, compelling them to sell yet more land to pay back loans.
Beijing launched a campaign in 2010 to restrict speculative sales and development. There is some evidence of those restrictions working as total land area bought by developers fell 16.2 percent in the first eight months of 2012 versus 2011, with revenues down 7.6 percent in the same period.
China also unveiled new rules in 2011 to outlaw violent forced eviction, promising fair prices to the dispossessed.
Amnesty said it welcomed the regulations, but added they fell short of the standards it would like to see and applied only to urban residents.
Of 40 forced evictions Amnesty examined, nine culminated in the deaths of people protesting or resisting eviction.
A 70-year-old woman, Wang Cuiyan, was buried alive by an excavator in March 2010 when a crew of about 30 to 40 workers came to demolish her house in Wuhan city in central Hubei province, the report said.
Rights groups have repeatedly criticised the government for not doing enough to prevent forced evictions, especially when people are made to make way for large-scale events like the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the Shanghai World Expo in 2010.
(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Additional reporting by Nick Edwards in Beijing and Stefanie McIntyre in Hong Kong; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)
Copyright © 2012 Reuters
Posted: 10 Oct 2012 07:52 PM PDT
CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez named Foreign Minister and former bus driver Nicolas Maduro as his new vice president on Wednesday in a Cabinet shake-up following his comfortable re-election.
Maduro, 49, replaces Elias Jaua, who will run for the governorship of Miranda state against defeated presidential candidate Henrique Capriles in the South American OPEC member's December gubernatorial elections.
An ex-union leader on the public bus service and foreign minister since 2006, Maduro has long been seen as a possible successor to Chavez along with several other senior allies.
He was frequently at his side in the most critical moments of Chavez's year of cancer treatment since mid-2011.
The possibility of a recurrence of the disease hangs over Chavez despite a surprisingly vigorous campaign before his convincing 11-point win on Sunday.
Should Chavez's cancer reappear and force him out of office within the first four years of his six-year term, the vice president would serve temporarily as president before a new election. If Chavez left office in the final two years, the vice president would serve out the rest of the term. Chavez, 58, has ruled Venezuela since 1999.
"I don't recommend anyone for the vice president's job," Chavez joked, naming Maduro during the formal proclamation of his presidential win by Venezuela's election board.
"Putting up with me is not easy!"
The affable Maduro's working-class background gives him more appeal than other officials among Chavez's supporters. He was elected in 2000 to parliament, where his combative defence of Chavez's socialism turned him into a favoured protÃ©gÃ©.
"He was a bus driver. How they mock him, the bourgeoisie," said Chavez, who depicts his socialist government as a protector of the masses against an evil capitalist elite.
In other changes, Interior Minister Tareck el Aissami, Presidential Office Minister Erika Farias and Indigenous Peoples' Minister Nicia Maldonada all left the Cabinet to fight for state governorships, the ruling Socialist Party said.
Replacements were not named.
'BACK ON MY FEET'
Capriles, the energetic Miranda state governor, said he had put Sunday's loss behind him and urged opposition supporters to rally once more for December's gubernatorial elections as a way of putting a brake on Chavez's power across Venezuela.
"I'm back on my feet. ... The tears have dried up," Capriles, who won 44 percent of the vote compared with 55 percent for Chavez, told a three-hour news conference late on Tuesday.
A business-friendly lawyer and career politician widely seen as the opposition's best leader of the Chavez era, Capriles, 40, plans to run for re-election in Miranda.
Having beaten a heavyweight Chavez ally for that post in 2008, Capriles will now take on another senior loyalist, Jaua, in the highest-profile race of the December 16 elections.
Members of the opposition coalition control seven of 23 states, and they hope to increase that number in December.
But Chavez's candidates will gain momentum from his re-election victory, especially as he won in all but two states.
In the campaign, Chavez never referred to Capriles by name. He savaged his rival daily as a "pig," "loser," "sycophant," "fascist," "nothing" and "candidate of the ultra-right."
Yet the president appeared impressed by Capriles' quick acknowledgement of defeat and telephoned him on Monday.
"I took the telephone and thought, 'Gosh, let's see which of the nicknames he's going to use.' At last he called me by my surname," Capriles said with a smile.
"I told him, 'Mr. President, with all due respect, I hope we are not going to continue hearing insults and derogatory terms.' ... . He told me I had made a great effort, and that I should get some rest, and that I had pushed him hard."
Having won the most votes against Chavez of the past four presidential elections and galvanized the once-fractured opposition, Capriles looks like it's obvious head right now.
But there is no guarantee he will retain that status.
Other ambitious opposition leaders of his generation, like Zulia Governor Pablo Perez and former Caracas District Mayor Leopoldo Lopez, may be sizing up their own chances at a 2018 presidential bid.
Capriles, who has avoided mentioning Chavez's recent battles with two cancerous tumours beyond wishing him good health and a long life, has dropped plenty of hints that he plans to remain the opposition's driving force.
"I am going to continue going around Venezuela. There are lots of places I was unable to visit," he said of his gruelling campaign of hundreds of visits to villages, towns and cities.
"I left my heart on the road, and I'll do it again. ... No one is unbeatable."
(Additional reporting by Eyanir Chinea and Enrique Andres Pretel; Editing by Peter Cooney)
Copyright © 2012 Reuters
Posted: 10 Oct 2012 07:39 PM PDT
HONG KONG (Reuters) - A 46-year-old woman has died in Hong Kong and three others are fighting for their lives following a beauty parlour treatment that involves blood transfusion, highlighting a lack of regulation in the city's cosmetic industry.
The cases have prompted an investigation by police and medical authorities, and renewed calls by health experts for tighter regulation of Hong Kong's beauty industry.
"Yes, the woman aged 46 died (Wednesday morning) of septic shock," a government spokeswoman said. Three others, aged 56, 59 and 60, were in hospital with the eldest in critical condition.
Septic shock is normally caused by bacterial infection and can result in respiratory and organ failure, even death.
The four had recently undergone a complicated blood transfusion procedure at the DR beauty chain, according to government statements, in a treatment that was meant to boost their immune system and appearance.
The women paid around HK$50,000 (4000 pounds) for the procedure, which experts say is at best an experimental treatment for cancer patients and which has not shown to have any aesthetic application so far.
DR said in a statement on Wednesday that the procedures were carried out by a doctor who was not employed by the parlour.
The procedure required their blood to be taken to isolate and culture certain types of immune cells. These "cytokine-induced killer cells" were then injected back into the women together with their own blood plasma.
The four quickly fell ill with fever, dizziness and diarrhoea. In an earlier blood sample taken from the woman who died, health officials found Mycobacterium abscessus, a superbug that is notoriously difficult to kill.
Although the direct cause of the woman's death has yet to be confirmed, experts say it is likely to have been bacterial infection.
"They now have to find out where the bacterial contamination occurred in this whole process. Did it happen when the blood was drawn, during the culture process or when it was reinjected back into the body?" said William Chui, president of the Society of Hospital Pharmacists in Hong Kong.
The cases raise fresh questions on how governments in many places in Asia regulate doctors' conduct and sale of medicines, but exercise little or no control over what goes on in beauty parlours or what goes into "healthcare" products.
In Singapore in 2002, 15 women developed liver problems and one died after consuming Chinese-made slimming pills that were later found to contain two undeclared ingredients. One of the patents, an actress, survived only after a liver transplant.
Felice Lieh Mak, a leading medical expert in Hong Kong and former chairman of the Medical Council, said: "We hope that this tragedy will result in some attempt at making a legislation, or at least work towards legislating and defining what medical treatment is."
(Additional reporting by Christina Lo; Editing by)
Copyright © 2012 Reuters
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