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China: a chronological guide to recent events

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China: a chronological guide to recent events
Standard Note: SN/IA/5156 Last updated: 3 September 2009  Author: Jon Lunn, Julie Gill and Sam Jones SectionInternational Affairs and Defence Section 
   This note is a brief chronological guide to recent developments in China up to the end of July 2009. It should not be considered comprehensive or definitive.  For further background, the following library briefings are also available:  Standard Note SN/IA/5018Tibet 20 March 2009  Research Paper 08/15China’s military posture 12 February 2008  Standard Note SN/IA/4468In brief: Chinese Communist Party set to hold its National Congress 9 October 2007  Standard Note SN/IA/4389Hong Kong ten years on 9 July 2007  Standard Note SN/EP/3331The rise of the Chinese economy 8 June 2007  Standard Note SN/IA/4238China and Africa: a quick guide 24 January 2007  Standard Note SN/IA/4213Update on the human rights situation in China  Standard Note SN/IA/4198The People’s Republic of China and Taiwan: past relations, future prospects 5 December 2006  Research Paper 06/36A political and economic introduction to China 19 June 2006  Standard Note SN/IA/3908China, Russia and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation 7 February 2006  Standard Note SN/EP/3701China and liberalisation of textiles quotas 8 September 2005   
This information is provided to Members of Parliament in support of their parliamentary duties and is not intended to address the specific circumstances of any particular individual. It should not be relied upon as being up to date; the law or policies may have changed since it was last updated; and it should not be relied upon as legal or professional advice or as a substitute for it. A suitably qualified professional should be consulted if specific advice or information is required. This information is provided subject toour general terms and conditions which are available online or may be provided on request in hard copy. Authors are available to discuss the content of this briefing with Members and their staff, but not with the general public.
Chronology 31 July 2009:China’s state media report that officials are organising special tribunals to begin hearing the cases of the 1,400 people detained for involvement in the Urumqi riots on 5 July which claimed 197 lives, the majority Han Chinese beaten to death on the streets according to the Government. Overseas Uygur activists insist that the official death toll understates the number of Uygurs killed by paramilitary police and by Han in revenge attacks on the days following the initial rioting.  30 July:Over 1,000 villagers lay siege to the Zhentou township government office in Liuyang, Hunan province, after 6 were detained for demonstrating against pollution from the Xianghe chemical plant. The factory had been discharging untreated waste directly into the soil and sewage system for six years until ordered by authorities in March to halt production. The number of those suffering cadmium and indium poisoning as a result of the pollution has reached 500, according to officials.  29 July:The state news agency Xinhua reports that police have arrested a further 253 people for alleged involvement in the Urumqi riots of 5 July. More than 1,000 suspects were detained and interrogated by police on the day after the unrest, according to the same report.  In a series of interviews with state media, the Vice-President of the Supreme People’s Court declares that more leniency will be shown to those facing death sentences. The newspaper China Daily quotes Zhang Jun as saying, ‘Judicial departments should use the least number of death sentences as possible and death sentences should not be given to those having a reason for not being executed.’ The number of executions in China began falling in 2001 after Beijing was selected to host the 2008 summer Olympics, with a sharper reduction since 2007 when the country’s High Court was given the power to review all capital punishment cases. Human rights groups welcome the change but call on the Government to declassify data about executions, information which is regarded a state secret.  27 July:Economic Dialogue begins in Washington DC,The two-day Sino-US Strategic and and is scheduled to cover economic recovery, climate change, development initiatives in Africa and security challenges from North Korea to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Underlining the high-level nature of the discussions, China’s State Councillor Dai Bingguo and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chair the strategic talks with the economic talks chaired by Vice-Premier Wang Qishan and US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.  24 July:On his third visit to China since taking office, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has talks on climate change with President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi ahead of the UN Copenhagen Climate Conference in December to establish a successor to the Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2012.  23 July: China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs issues an emergency response alert after a massive landslide in a mountainous area of Sichuan province leaves 4 dead and 50 missing, all thought to be workers on a highway construction project in Kangding county.  22 July:Expressing willingness for the first time to discuss the ethnic unrest in Xinjiang with a foreign government, China’s Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs declares that Beijing is prepared to engage in dialogue on the issue if raised at the joint strategic and economic talks in Washington DC on 27 July. However, He Yafei stresses that the matter is ‘absolutely an internal affair of China’ and urges the US to ‘restrain’ America-based Uygur activist Rebiya Kadeer whom Beijing accuses of masterminding the riots, a charge strenuously denied by her.  
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China and Russia launch a five-day joint military exercise in Taonan, Jilin province, with 1,300 troops from each side participating in drills dubbed ‘Peace Mission 2009’. The exercises, which have been taking place since 2005, are sponsored by the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the six-nation security alliance comprising China, Russia and the four former soviet states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.  19 July:In a rare accounting of casualties inflicted by security forces during incidents deemed politically sensitive, Nur Beki, Governor of Xinjiang, announces that 12 of those killed in the ethnic violence in Urumqi on 5 July were shot by police. Officials now report a total of 197 people killed and 1,721 injured in the riots.  Australia’s Foreign Minister views the case against the Rio Tinto executives detained on 5 July in Shanghai on suspicion of stealing state secrets to be shifting away from espionage and towards commercial bribery charges. In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Stephen Smith says of the Chinese authorities handling the investigation, ‘It’s quite clear that they are focusing on a criminal or judicial investigation related to the 2009 iron ore negotiations. These are commercial and economic matters which, under their general definition of state secrets, are included.’  The Taipei-based China Times reports that a senior official with the Straits Exchange Foundation has disclosed that Taiwan intends to ask Beijing to open air space over the East China Sea, as a means of addressing the air traffic congestion problem between mainland China and Taiwan which has developed since direct air links were established last year. The proposition is a counter to Beijing’s proposal in early July to abolish the militarily sensitive median line in the Taiwan Strait.  17 July:Huang Yi, spokesman for China’s State Administration of Work Safety, announces that 24 people have been detained in connection with the fire in Beijing which partially destroyed the site of the new headquarters for China’s state television, costing 1 billion yuan in damages, injuring 7 people and killing a firefighter. The detentions follow police findings that the blaze was caused by illegal firework shows organised by China Central Television employees during the lunar New Year festivities.  16 July:Amid rising tensions between China and Vietnam and in the wake of a series of stand-offs between US and Chinese ships in the South China Sea, US Senator Jim Webb leads calls at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing for the US to boost its sea power. State Department official Scot Marciel tells the committee that Washington has raised concerns directly with the Chinese Government, following warnings from Beijing to US and other foreign oil companies to halt work with Vietnamese partners in the South China Sea or face commercial consequences inside China.  US Energy Secretary Steven Chu concludes his first official visit to Beijing with a memorandum of understanding with Chinese officials on joint studies for improving the energy efficiency of buildings. At the conclusion of his talks in Beijing, US Energy Secretary Gary Locke leaves for Shanghai to visit the site of the US pavilion for World Expo 2010.  15 July:The International Herald Tribune reports that prominent Chinese intellectuals and writers have signed a petition calling for the release of Uygur economist Ilham Tohti, a professor at Minzu University of China, who vanished from his home in Beijing last week and is believed to be in detention. Mr Tohti runs the website Uygur Online, a popular discussion forum for issues important to Uygurs, the Turkic-speaking ethnic group of mainly Sunni muslims who constitute the majority in Xinjiang province. On 6 July, the day after ethnic tensions between Uygurs and Han, the dominant grouping overall in China, erupted into violence in Xinjiang’s capital city Urumqi, the governor of Xinjiang accused Uygur Online of helping to instigate the riots by inflaming opinion. 
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