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Chinese art theft from French museum

Updated: 2015-03-08 15:33
(China Daily Europe)

Chinese art theft from French museum

A Chinese chimera in cloisonn enamel from the reign of Qianlong (1736-95) and a Tibetan mandala were among the 15 rare pieces of art stolen from the Chinese Museum at the Chateau de Fontainebleau. Gerard Blot / Rmn-Grand Palais

Chinese art theft from French museum

About 15 rare pieces of art have been stolen from the Chinese Museum of the Chateau de Fontainebleau, southeast of Paris.

They include a crown of the King of Siam, given to French Emperor Napoleon III during the king's visit to France in 1861, and a Chinese chimera in cloisonn enamel from the reign of Qianlong (1736-95) during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the French Culture Ministry said in a statement.

The ministry said the break-in before dawn on March 1 at the museum in Fontainebleau Castle was over in less than seven minutes. The thefts took place in one of the most secure parts of the castle, equipped with alarms and surveillance cameras, the ministry said.

Police are investigating.

Jean-Francois Hebert, who runs Fontainebleau Castle, said, "We think they were very determined, knew exactly what they were looking for and worked in a very professional manner."

Castle spokesman Alexis de Kermel said he could not estimate the objects' value and that they are priceless and the museum's most prized works.

Sea levels 2nd highest on record

China's sea level rose 1.6 centimeters last year, the second highest on record, according to an annual government report.

The sea level was 11.1 cm higher than the average from 1975 to 1993, according to a report released by the State Oceanic Administration on Saturday. The record figure in 2012 was 12.2 cm higher.

Since 1980, the sea in China has risen an average of 3 mm a year, much higher than the world average, the report said.

Experts said the situation was caused by global warming, and the impact last year was more evident in the West Pacific Ocean, which includes China's coastal regions.

"But the rising sea level and the impact on our territory is not as bad as people have imagined. It is far from submerging most of our coastal areas," said SOA official Qu Tanzhou.

"It poses a more serious threat to island countries. Further research is needed to learn about the global impact of rising sea levels."

More than 70 percent of the world's population lives on coastal plains and 11 of the world's 15 largest cities are on the coast or estuaries.

Cybersecurity law 'makes perfect sense'

Beijing hit back on March 3 at criticism from United States President Barack Obama over a counter-terrorism law being considered by Chinese lawmakers.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said it makes perfect sense to protect information security using the country's own legislative system.

Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said implementing the nation's first counter-terrorism law is a "very necessary" requirement to combat terrorism and information leaks.

"We oppose any kind of cyber surveillance actions using information technology advantages.

"All countries are paying the highest attention to information security nowadays, and no one is in a position to criticize other countries' moves in protecting information safety," Hua said.

She was responding to comments by Obama that China should review the law to ensure smooth economic ties with the US.

China is likely to ask domestic and overseas information technology vendors to hand over critical information, such as encryption keys, passcodes and software source codes referencing the law.

US companies, including IBM, Oracle and Microsoft, have major concerns about submitting such data to the Chinese government.

They cite the significant business value of the information and say such a move may damage company credibility for some customers in the US.

The Obama administration fears China's tightening grip on information safety will harm the interests of US technology vendors that dominate the high-end IT market in China.

Anti-graft probe to double its efforts

The anti-corruption authority swore on March 3 to more than double its efforts to expand its investigation to cover all government offices and State-owned enterprises this year.

The pledge came just one day after it was announced that 14 army generals are being investigated for corruption.

Zhao Hongzhu, deputy head of the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, also said new rules will be made by the end of June this year on disciplinary inspection, meaning investigation by special anti-graft officials.

Li Xiaohong, another senior CCDI official, said discipline inspection rounds are to be expanded and sped up in 2015. They will include up to 2,100 cities and counties, and 4,700 government offices and institutions.

Officials already covered more than 1,200 cities and counties, and 700 offices and institutions in 2013 and 2014.

The anti-corruption investigators' workload is heavy, and the CCDI is ready to improve its method and speed up its actions, Li said. These action plans were announced by CCDI in response to President Xi Jinping's recent call for comprehensive rule of law and comprehensive regulation of the Party with strict discipline.

US to lower 2015 China reinvestments

Members of the American Chamber of Commerce in South China have reduced their reinvestment budgets for this year by 9.3 percent.

Based on an annual survey by the chamber, the members cite concerns about regulatory changes, protectionist policies, transparency and unequal treatment.

The survey found that reinvestment budgets for the coming three years dropped by 16.9 percent.

This suggests "increased uncertainty in the medium term", although the companies view the Chinese market's growth trends as highly positive, according to the survey, released on March 2.

It covered 275 randomly selected member companies of the chamber. The chamber members account for nearly 40 percent of all Sino-US business, trade and investment.

Twenty-four percent of multinationals that had each budgeted to reinvest $250 million or more last year either deferred or called off their investments, the survey found.

It is the first time in 10 years that the report has been compiled that companies have recorded less reinvestment than originally budgeted.

Circuit court begins hearing first appeals

The First Circuit Court of the Supreme People's Court heard its first dispute on March 2 in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, a move designed to ease the burden on the country's top court.

The petitioner, a high-tech company, appealed to the SPC after the higher people's court in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region denied a motion asking a machinery company to bear the liability for breach of contract worth more than 300 million yuan ($48 million).

To ease the pressure on the top court, the SPC opened the country's first two circuit courts, in Shenzhen and Shenyang, Liaoning province.

The move is part of judicial reforms designed to prevent local governments from interfering in cases and to provide a more convenient service for litigants.

The number of cases the SPC handles annually went up to a record high of 14,000 last year, according to the authority.

Police in the capital break big gun case

Beijing police have cracked the most serious gun-related case in the capital in two decades.

After receiving a tip from a navy officer, police in Beijing's Yanqing county detained five suspects and seized more than 20 guns before Spring Festival, Xinhua News Agency reported on March 2.

The navy's technical team had been inspecting the county since the end of last year to ensure residents were safe during the Spring Festival, which fell on Feb 19, the report said.

An officer later received reports of suspected gunshots in a community and some residents found explosive devices, it said.

Police arrested five people after an investigation and confiscated more than 20 guns, including air guns and shotguns, as well as thousands of rounds of ammunition, the report said, adding that it was the most serious gun-related case in the city in 20 years.

Lake water cleanup a work in progress

The water quality of China's third-largest freshwater lake has greatly improved since a massive algae bloom broke out in 2007, but pollution management remains a major problem, according to environmental protection authorities.

Zhang Limin, deputy director of the General Office of Taihu Lake Water Pollution Prevention and Control in Jiangsu province, said that compared with 2013, the number of blue-green algae blooms and the algae density in the lake both dropped last year.

According to the general office, all nine water sources and the waterworks it investigated last year provided water with quality that met or exceeded the national standard. A total of 700 million tons of water was supplied to Jiangsu and neighboring provinces during the year.

In 2007, a massive outbreak of blue-green algae, which mostly resulted from the excessive runoff from agricultural fertilizers and household cleaning chemicals, threatened tap water supplies to 2 million residents in lakeside Wuxi.

Pollution at Taihu Lake has attracted much attention since then because of the lake's location, its size and the 40 million people who live within its watershed. The lake covers 2,428 square kilometers and is located in the densely populated Yangtze River Delta.

China expected to become more proactive

Continuing weakness in industrial activity is forcing the Chinese government to adopt more aggressive policies to accelerate growth and increase employment, economists said.

The weekend announcement by the People's Bank of China of a second interest rate cut in less than four months coincided with the release of the Purchasing Managers Index for February, which edged slightly upward from a 28-month low of 49.8 in January to 49.9.

Beijing may be more proactive through the first half of the year to spend more on government-led investment projects and provide more incentives to private investors and consumers, economists said.

February's PMI was still below the median of 50, an indication that the manufacturing industry is still contracting.

The output sub-index slipped to 51.4 from 51.7 in January, meaning slower production growth, while the employment sub-index dropped to 47.8 from 47.9, the lowest level since March 2013, indicating fewer new jobs were available.

Reserves expanded to protect panda habitats

China will continue its efforts to protect giant pandas by expanding nature reserves and forbidding all kinds of construction and development in their habitats and surrounding areas.

The State Forestry Administration, China's wildlife watchdog, released results of a national survey on giant pandas on Feb 28. Despite an increase in both population and habitat area, the survey said economic development remains a threat to the preservation of the rare animal.

The survey said habitat fragmentation is the major factor threatening the survival of giant pandas. Due to geographic isolation and human intervention, the wild population is fragmented into 33 isolated populations. Twenty-four of those have fewer than 100 pandas and are at high risk.

The major disturbances in the habitats of wild giant pandas include 319 hydropower plants, 1,339 kilometers of road and 268.7 kilometers of high-voltage transmission lines.

New procurement rules aim to curb corruption

A new regulation designed to prevent misconduct by those involved in government procurement took effect on March 1.

The new regulation supplements the provisions of the 2003 Government Procurement Law and is intended to ensure that procurement is carried out in a transparent manner under effective supervision, according to a statement by the State Council's Legislative Affairs Office.

The total value of government procurement exceeded 1.6 trillion yuan ($255 billion, about 230 billion euros) in 2013, up from 100 billion yuan in 2002, before the law was passed, the office said.

"Problems that have occurred in government procurement activities, such as excessive spending and the purchase of substandard products, have aroused public concern in recent years," the statement said.

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