Archive for the ‘lunar New Year’ Category

Famous Vietnamese dissident dies

February 9, 2008
By Nga Pham
BBC News, Hanoi

One of Vietnam’s best-known dissidents, Hoang Minh Chinh, has died at the age of 85 after a long illness.

Hoang Minh Chinh

Chinh was one of the last of the older generation of activists

His family said he passed away peacefully on the first day of the Lunar New Year.

Hoang Minh Chinh was once a leading figure in the ruling Communist Party, holding several senior positions.

But he became disillusioned with the communist ideology, and began calling for more democracy. He spent many years in jail and under house arrest.


Born in 1922 in Nam Ha province, he joined the revolution in 1937.

He held a number of high positions in the Vietnamese government, including vice-minister of education, vice-director of the Nguyen Ai Quoc Communist Party School and director of the Marxist-Leninist Philosophy Institute.

He was considered one of the great ideologists of the regime until the 1960s, when he began criticising some of the ruling party’s decisions.

He was jailed for being a member of the so-called “anti-party revisionist campaign”.

During the last decade of his life, Mr Chinh was actively involved in the democratic movement in Vietnam, and restarted the Vietnam Democratic Party two years ago.

In 2005, in an unprecedented move, the Vietnamese government allowed him to go to the United States to receive treatment for pancreatic cancer.

During the trip, he appeared before a congressional committee to speak about the situation inside Vietnam, and called for greater pressure on the Vietnamese government.

The speech prompted an aggressive campaign against him in the Vietnamese media, but Mr Chinh was still allowed back into the country.

In 2006 he took part in the establishment of the largest democratic campaign to date, Bloc 8406.

But his past attachment to the communist ideology somewhat alienated him from the younger generation of activists, who wanted a clean break from the past.

Mr Chinh’s health worsened last year.

He was suffering from numerous illnesses and was in and out of hospital for most of the year.

Britain boosts Mandarin in schools as China’s power grows

February 7, 2008

LONDON (AFP) – Teenagers in England will be able to study for a new national qualification in Mandarin, reflecting the growing importance of China as a global power, an exam board announced Thursday.

Students aged 15 and 16 will get the chance to study the subject for their GCSE exams, which all young people in the country have to sit, from next year, the Assessments and Qualifications Alliance said.

The board said it was making the announcement to coincide with the start of Lunar New Year.

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High school students leave a school in London. Teenagers in ...
High school students leave a school in London. Teenagers in England will be able to study for a new national qualification in Mandarin, reflecting the growing importance of China as a global power, an exam board announced Thursday.(AFP/File/Carl de Souza)

Lunar New Year gets off to Olympic start in China

February 7, 2008

BEIJING (AFP) – Drum rolls and dragon dances set off Lunar New Year celebrations here Wednesday as revellers welcomed an Olympic-themed Year of the Rat.

Children dressed as the Olympic mascots, known as the five fuwa, ...
Children dressed as the Olympic mascots, known as the five fuwa, cheer during Spring Festival celebrations on the eve of the Lunar New Year in Beijing.
(AFP/Frederic J Brown) 
Millions will throng parks across the country to enjoy the food and fun during the holiday season and in Beijing, the host of the 2008 Olympics, there was an added dimension at Long Tan Park.The park’s temple fair was chosen by Olympic organisers to showcase the Games and bring the Olympics closer to the people.
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Wicked winter weather tests China

February 6, 2008
By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN, Associated Press Writer 

BEIJING – China tackled its snow crisis with a striking — and uniquely Chinese — display of communist mass mobilization, propaganda and state control.

But for the host of the summer Olympic Games, the weather blitz also laid bare its weaknesses, stretching its transport and energy systems to the limit.

Still, the crisis has wound down just in time for the Lunar New Year holiday, and illustrates the strengths of a one-party system struggling to manage an ever more complex society.

“The essential thing is that the central government has very substantial mobilization powers,” said Joseph Cheng, chairman of the City University of Hong Kong’s Contemporary China Research Center. “Once it sets its priorities, it can really act.”

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China: Muscle Moves Mountains of Snow, Ice

China, Vietnam: State Run Media Paint a Rosey Picture, Ignore Abuse of Populations

“Year of The Rat” Means Good Eating!

February 6, 2008

SUPHANBURI, THAILAND (AP) — As Chinese prepare for Year of the Rat celebrations, roadside entrepreneurs in Thailand are serving rodent meat, uncooked or ready to eat, and customers are snapping it up for 150 baht (US$4.82) a kilogram.
Nguyen Kim Hung cooks a rat at his home in Dinh Bang Village, ... 

These rats are the kind found in rice fields, not the filthy garbage-can-marauders familiar to city-dwellers.

“It’s tastier than other meats — nothing can compete with rat meat,” said Sala Prompim, a roadside seller of the delicacy who says the hip and liver are the best cuts.

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Taiwan smells a rat

Grill The Elephant! It’s Time for Tet!

I Have Eaten A Pack of Dogs and a Flock of Crow But “Hold the Penis”

The Tet New Year, Cuisine, China and Vietnam

How about a nice hot bowl of horse meat and noodle during the Super Bowl?

China: Muscle Moves Mountains of Snow, Ice

February 6, 2008

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom

China is now doing what China does best: hurling thousands and even tens of thousands of people at a problem to ensure resolution.

Some of the work is simple and backbreaking: moving tons of snow and ice from roads, airports and train stations.

Soldiers clear ice and snow in Shanghai. The impact on China's ...
Soldiers clear snow and ice at Shanghai’s airport.
(AFP/Mark Ralston)

Convoys of trucks miles long move from coal storage and mining centers to the power plants in desperate need of fuel.

In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, a convoy ...
In this photo released by China’s Xinhua News Agency, a convoy of trucks carrying coal heads to provinces hard-hit by snow and ice storms to increase coal supply and bring back power there from Erdos, north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Monday, Feb. 4, 2008. The worst snowfall in decades beginning early January paralyzed cities in a part of the country.
(AP Photo/Xinhua, Li Xin)

A horde of electrical power repairmen has descended upon power lines felled by heavy ice.

Yet in some areas, the power has not yet been restored since it was lost 12 days ago.

And to add psychic pressure to those tasked with restoring services, today is the eve of day one of the Chinese Lunar New Year celebration.

“It doesn’t feel like the New Year at all,” said Shi Ying of the central city of Chenzhou. “It should be happy but instead it’s scary.”

A snow covered village is seen near Chenzhou in China's southern ...
A snow covered village is seen near Chenzhou in China’s southern Hunan province Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2008. Cold, exhausted residents stood in long lines for water and gasoline Tuesday as the central Chinese city of Chenzhou entered the 12th day of a blackout sparked by the worst winter storms in more than half a century.
(AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

In many regions, there is no TV or radio, and residents have no information about when utilities might be restored.

And on Tuesday, the U.S. Ambassador to China donated 150,000 U.S. dollars to China for disasters relief in snow stricken areas.

The U.S. ambassador to China Clark T. Randt, on behalf of the U.S. government, presented the donation to the Red Cross Society of China (RCSC).

Japan will give 57 million yen worth of emergency aid, including blankets and power generators, for snow-plagued China in response to Beijing’s requests, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

Chief Engineer Gu Junyuan of the State Electricity Regulatory Commission said electricity was restored to parts of Chenzhou on Monday evening, but the power failed again after just three hours.

“Since time is running out, our task is still an arduous one,” Gu told reporters in Beijing. He said workers would be hard pressed to restore power by Thursday, the Chinese New Year.

A motorcyclist passes a snow-covered region in Pingshi, in southern ...
A motorcyclist passes a snow-covered region in Pingshi, in southern China’s Guangdong province, more than 300 km (186 miles) north of Guangzhou, China, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2008. Workers rushed to restore power Tuesday to regions of China hard-hit by snow and ice storms, in a struggle that state media said has already cost the lives of 11 electricians.
(AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Anita Chang of the Associated Press reported that cold, exhausted residents stood in long lines for water and gasoline. One woman did laundry on the sidewalk using a plastic basin and water from a fire hydrant, the sleeves of her bulky coat rolled up to the elbows. Others washed vegetables in front of shuttered storefronts.

“It is extremely cold and inconvenient. I haven’t had a shower for about 10 days,” said a Chenzhou travel agent who gave only her surname, Hong.

Prices of food, candles and charcoal briquettes used for heating and cooking have shot up — quadrupling in some cases — due to shortages, residents said.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are completely gone in many areas which now rely upon canned food.

Temperatures in Chenzhou hovered around 34 degrees, and were expected to dip below freezing Thursday.

Hunan and neighboring Hubei province have registered some of the coldest temperatures on record in the past month. On Monday, the government meteorological bureau said the provinces had recorded the longest run of days with an average temperature of freezing or below in a century.

And the Meteorological Bureau admitted that China was completely unprepared for this inclement weather which has long been predicted.

In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, soldiers ...
In this photo released by China’s Xinhua News Agency, soldiers climb the Jinggang Mountains in east China’s Jiangxi Province on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2008 as they are mobilized to fix power transmission lines damaged by heavy snow storms. The loss of power brought electric trains to a standstill, stranding more than 5 million holiday travelers.
(AP Photo/Xinhua, Dai Qingming)

Severe winter weather began pounding central and southern China last month, and the normally temperate regions were woefully unprepared for ice and snow.

Supplies of coal, which China uses to generate 70 percent of its electricity, dwindled amid transport bottlenecks.

Many trains run on electric power supplied from overhead. These overhead power lines were felled by ice.

The loss of power brought trains to a standstill, stranding more than 5 million holiday travelers. Official estimates have put losses to agriculture and the economy at $7.5 billion.

China’s leaders have made repeated trips to affected regions, reassuring residents and stranded travelers that the government was doing its best.

The government has mobilized over one million army troops and militia members. In one scene shown on state TV, dozens of troops slowly removed thick ice from a stretch of highway by hacking at it with pickaxes.

Accompanying the effort was a fulsome propaganda campaign emphasizing unity, overcoming hardship and pride in the motherland. All media in China is controlled by the communist government.

“The great Chinese people will never be vanquished by any disaster,” President and Communist Party leader Hu Jintao said at a Chinese New Year celebration in Beijing.

Despite the slow pace of repairs in Chenzhou, a transit hub with an urban population of more than 1 million and another 3 million in the surrounding countryside, the situation appeared to be improving elsewhere. A man was stampeded to death by a surging transit crowd last week.

Highways were being cleared of ice and train service was restored, allowing tens of millions of migrant workers to complete holiday journeys home.

Power had been restored to 27 of the 50 cities and counties affected, the electricity commission said. Nationwide, power was flowing again along 130 of 170 transmission cables affected.

The official Xinhua News Agency said 11 electricians had died while working to restore power. It wasn’t clear if they were included in the official death toll of 60 people killed in accidents and building collapses blamed on the storms.

Sun sets at the snow covered field Monday Feb.4, 2008 near Suzhou, ...
 ***************************Sun sets at the snow covered field Monday Feb.4, 2008 near Suzhou, China. China’s main north-south national freeway reopened Monday after weeks of snow and ice storms that have throttled transport and disrupted supplies of food and fuel during the country’s peak holiday season.
(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)


From The People’s Daily:

Electricity has come back to most of the Chinese regions hit by the worst winter storms in five decades, but people in eight counties are likely to spend their Lunar New Year’s Eve in darkness, the government said Tuesday.

China has so far managed to resume full or partial power service in 148 of the 170 counties and cities blacked out by the snowstorms, the national disaster relief headquarters under the State Council said in a statement.

But power service is not expected to be resumed by 6 p.m. Wednesday, in eight counties, including Guiyang, Jiahe in Hunan Province, Zixi, Lichuan, Yihuang and Le’an in Jiangxi province, Pingtang in Guizhou province and Ziyuan in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

Spring Festival, the most important traditional Chinese festival, falls on Thursday this year. But Wednesday evening, the Lunar New Year’s Eve, is the most cherished hour for family reunion.

By 6:00 p.m. Monday, 6,785, or 49 percent of the power transmission lines paralyzed by the snowstorm have resumed operation after repair, according to the statement.

Stockpiles of power station coal reached 24.06 million tons on Sunday, up 2.99 million tons from the low level on Jan. 28, Tan Rongyao, supervisor of the State Electricity Regulatory Commission(SERC), said Tuesday.

The increasing power coal reserves have helped to cut the shortfall in power generating nationwide to 12.26 million kilowatts from 39.97 million kilowatts, according to the SERC.

The coal shortage, however, meant that only 36.23 million kilowatts of power generating capacity was available on Tuesday, 990,000 kilowatts less than a day ago.

The worst-hit provinces of Guizhou, Hunan and Jiangxi have restored 53 percent, 53 percent, and 60 percent respectively of their normal electrical loads by repairing power transmission wires paralyzed by blizzards and a deep freeze, Tan added.

“It shows the efforts to guarantee coal and power supply have yielded initial results,” Zhou Dabing, general manager of the leading power producer China Guodian Corporation, said.

The severe weather has stranded million of passengers eager to go back home for the Lunar New Year, the most important traditional festival in China, and caused blackouts in a large swathe of the country’s southern, central and eastern regions.

The snow havoc also has so far killed more than 80 people, toppled 300,000 homes, damaged 90 million hectares of crops, and resulted in direct economic losses of about 80 billion yuan (11 billion U.S. dollars) in 19 provinces and regions, according to the Red Cross Society of China.

China’s rail, highway and air transport systems are returning gradually to normal as the snowstorm eases, but millions of people are still being left in the cold and dark.

Chenzhou, a city hardest-hit by the snowstorm in the central province of Hunan, was not expected to get electricity supplies restored soon. Its four million residents have been left without electricity and tap water for 11 days.

The State Council ordered local government to step up precautions against potential geological disasters, environmental pollution, public health incidents, and transport accidents in thewake of the disastrous weather.

Meanwhile, Chinese vice-premier Hui Liangyu paid a visit to the central meteorological station Tuesday, where he urged all meteorological services to closely monitor the weather and improve their forecasts to guide disaster prevention and relief efforts.
Source: Xinhua

Lunar (Chinese) New Year Begins

February 4, 2008

Chinese New Year focuses on the remembrance of ancestors, family unity, hospitality, honor, happiness, good luck and wealth in the New Year.

The New Year begins on Thursday, February 7, 2008. 

Peach blossom, as seen here in Hanoi, is a popular decorative ...
Peach blossom, as seen here in Hanoi, is a popular decorative item during the Lunar New Year festival. Luxury villas, flatscreen TVs and mobile phones will all go up in smoke this Tet lunar New Year as newly affluent Vietnamese burn paper models of the latest mod-cons for their dead relatives(AFP/Hoang Dinh Nam)

This year, 2008 marks the “Year of the Rat” on the Chinese calendar, one of 12 animal names recycled every 12 years. Legend has it that those born in each animal year have some of that animal’s personality. Rats are said to be the most industrious, hard working and successful, and are often leaders, pioneers and conquerors. Famous people born in the Year of the Rat include George Washington, Shakespeare, Mozart and actors Samuel Jackson and Scarlett Johansson.

Chinese New Year lasts for 15 days until the Lantern Festival, which falls on February 21 this year. This year is also known as “Wu Zhi,” its formal name in the Stem-Branch system; 2008 is year nine in the 60-year naming cycle. The current year is Year 4705 by the Chinese calendar.

Practices for the new year vary depending upon which part of China you are from. Northern China celebrates the New Year with families making boiled dumplings together, symbolic of staying together, warm and full in the New Year. Southern China feasts on sticky rice rolled in balls, with a special stuffing  inside.

“Both in the North and in the South, the theme is the same even though the food may vary,” says Lisa Fan, photographer for the Asian Community Service Center in Vienna, Virginia.

“Harmony and union is what the meal means. One thing you must have at the meal is a whole fish, and some of the fish must be left on the plate to represent savings and prosperity for next year.”

Traditions include wearing new clothes and shoes, hanging red lanterns and banners with words of good fortune around doors — to bring good blessings and ward off evil — and cleaning the house thoroughly before festivities. No cleaning is permitted during festivities as that may sweep away good luck.

Another tradition is using the lotus flower as decoration.

“The lotus flower represents high moral standards. It grows in dirty mud but symbolizes purity and high moral standards,” says Tiny Tang, vice-president of the Asian Community Service Center. “This is a time to fully respect our parents and remember our ancestors. We follow good values which are meaningful for people. It is a reminder of our tradition.”

Tran thi Bay, right, makes banh chung, traditional Vietnamese ...
Tran thi Bay, right, makes banh chung, traditional Vietnamese food for New Year, in her house in Hanoi, Vietnam, Saturday, Feb. 2, 2008. Bay’s daughter Dinh Tran Bich Hop, left, and her grand children, back, help. Banh chung consists of three layers, sticky rice, green beans and pork, in a square shape wrapped in dong leaves. The Luna New Year of the Rat begins on Feb.7 (AP Photo/Chitose Suzuki)

The Tet New Year, Cuisine, China and Vietnam

Grill The Elephant! It’s Time for Tet!

How about a nice hot bowl of horse meat and noodle during the Super Bowl?

An Epicure’s Guide to the Tet New Year: Close Your Eyes, Dig in and Don’t Ask!

I Have Eaten A Pack of Dogs and a Flock of Crow but “Hold the Penis”

Taiwan smells a rat

Taiwan Inflation Probably Accelerated on Lunar New Year Demand

February 4, 2008

By Tim Culpan

Feb. 5 (Bloomberg) — Taiwan’s inflation rate probably accelerated for the first time in three months in January as food prices increased ahead of the annual Lunar New Year holiday.

Prices gained 3.60 percent from a year earlier after rising 3.34 percent in December, according to the median estimate of 17 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. The report will be released at about 4 p.m. today in Taipei.

A resurgence in inflation from higher food costs, which make up a quarter of the price index, may prompt the central bank to raise interest rates when it meets next month. Central bank Governor Perng Fai-nan said in December that borrowing costs need to be raised “preemptively” to curb inflation.

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China warns worst not over in weather crisis

February 2, 2008

GUANGZHOU, China (AFP) – China warned Saturday the worst was not over in its national weather crisis as desperate holiday travellers jammed transport hubs and others endured bitter winter storms without power or water.
Passengers walk past a row of Chinese soldiers near the railway ... 
Passengers walk past a row of Chinese soldiers near the railway station, in China’s southern city of Guangzhou, on February 2. China warned the worst was not over in its national weather crisis as desperate crowds trying to get home jammed transport hubs and others braved the frigid cold without power or water.
(AFP/Liu Jin) 

Bracing for still more foul weather and an accelerating travel rush, China has doubled the number of troops and paramilitary forces aiding winter storm relief efforts to more than a million, state media reported.

The worst winter in decades has caused massive transport bottlenecks and power outages across wide areas in the lead-up to next week’s Lunar New Year, China’s biggest annual holiday.

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China advises millions to abandon travel plans

January 31, 2008

BEIJING, China (CNN) — China has taken the step of asking millions of migrant workers to forego their annual Lunar New Year trip home, saying the worst winter weather in 50 years is expected to pummel the country for at least another three days.

Trucks are trapped at the Yunmeihua Exit on the Beijing-Zhuhai Highway in south China’s Guangdong province.

“For the sake of their safety, and relieving the stress on transport, I advise migrant workers to stay in the cities where they work,” Zheng Guogang, chief of the China Meteorological Administration, told the state newspaper, China Daily.

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