Jan 07

China Watch Blog has learnt that the US Senate has approved Janet Yellen’s nomination to head the US Federal Reserve by a vote of 56 to 26, something which comes as no surprise as the financial industry was abuzz with this news since last year. She’s the first woman to lead the US central bank in its century-long history.

Ms Yellen has long focused on fighting unemployment and backed the Federal Reserve’s recent efforts to spur the economy with low interest rates and huge bond purchases.

She will begin her four-year term on February 1, replacing Ben Bernanke, who’s held the job for eight years. Janet Yellen has been Fed vice chair since 2010.

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Oct 17

China Watch Blog has learnt China’s 400 richest people became US$150 billion wealthier this year, Forbes magazine said Wednesday, despite a slowdown in the world’s second largest economy.

The vast increase – an average of almost $400 million each – highlights the growing inequality between the superrich and the millions who still live in poverty.

“The rich are getting richer,” Forbes Shanghai bureau chief Russell Flannery told a news conference as the magazine unveiled its annual China rich list.

Wang Jianlin, head of property giant Wanda Group and buyer of US cinema chain AMC Entertainment, topped the list with a net worth of $14.1 billion.

Last year’s leader, beverage tycoon Zong Qinghou, slipped to second place in the Forbes list, even though his wealth increased 12 percent to $11.2 billion.

Robin Li, founder of China’s homegrown search engine Baidu, dropped to third but his wealth jumped 37 percent from last year to $11.1 billion.

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Oct 09

China Watch Blog has learnt that the number of US-dollar millionaires in Hong Kong has hit 100,000 – up nine percent from last year, a report says.

They include over 1,100 with wealth topping US$50 million, while the richest 500 are each worth more than US$100 million.

Credit Suisse — which produced the findings — says the number of millionaires is expected to rise by 68 percent from the present level to exceed 160,000 by 2018.

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Oct 09

China Watch Blog has learnt that China has sacked a village official Ma Linxiang over spending 1.6 million yuan (US$260,000) on a three-day wedding described as an “extravagant waste” for his son.

State media reports Ma Linxiang, a deputy village chief from the Beijing suburb of Qingheying, hosted the estimated 250-table wedding at a Beijing convention centre during the week-long National Day holiday last week.

Mr Ma told the Beijing News that the wedding was hosted by both families, and that he “couldn’t stop” the bride’s family from splurging on the venue, as well as a troupe of performers that included two celebrities famous for their own lavish wedding.
He described the bride’s family as wealthy business people from the eastern province of Jiangsu.

Mr Ma said he only paid for the two days of festivities in his village that cost 200,000 yuan, and that he received a fraction of that back in gifts.

Wedding guests are traditionally expected to give newly-weds red envelopes full of cash known as “hong bao”, which are often used to defray the costs of the wedding, but can also be used to illegally funnel cash or as a channel for bribes.

A branch of the ruling Communist Party’s anti-graft watchdog fired Mr Ma for waste and discipline violations, adding that while it had not found any abuse of public funds, it was investigating.

President Xi Jinping has sought to address growing public anger at the illegal or unethical behaviour of party officials, especially those with flamboyant lifestyles which they could not possibly afford on low government salaries.

Mr Ma insisted he was well aware of Xi’s anti-graft campaign.
“I know the strictures and that we should not have done what we did, but the in-laws were determined, and I could not dissuade them,” he said.

“I accept the criticism and investigation from the party.”
Since taking charge of the Communist Party late last year and the reins of state in March, President Xi Jinping has called corruption a threat to the party’s survival and vowed to go after powerful “tigers” as well as lowly “flies”.

Among the “tigers”, ousted senior politician Bo Xilai was jailed for life last month after he was found guilty of corruption, taking bribes and abuse of power.

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Aug 27

China Watch Blog reports that Shenzhen has more millionaires than any other city in the Pearl River Delta (PRD) region, according to the 2013 Hurun Rich List released Friday.

NewsGD.com reported that it’s the first time that Hurun Research Institute has compiled a list of the richest individuals in the PRD. A total of 152 people made the list, with 73 residing in Shenzhen and 40 in Guangzhou.

Of the 73 richest people living in Shenzhen, 22 were among the world’s 500 richest individuals, according to Hurun, which also revealed that there were 8,000 people in the PRD with personal wealth of 100 million yuan (US$16 million) and 130,000 people with personal wealth of 10 million yuan.

Xu Jiayin, owner of Evergrande Real Estate, topped the PRD rich list with a personal fortune of 48 billion yuan. Xu was followed by Ma Huateng of Tencent, a leading Internet company, with 47 billion yuan; and by the family of Yang Huiyan, with 43 billion yuan. The Yang family owns Country Gardens, a real estate development.

The wealthiest people in the PRD amassed their wealth mainly from the real estate industry (24 percent), manufacturing industry (15 percent) and IT industry (9 percent). Other industries that contributed to local personal fortunes were social services, retail, finance and investment, resources and pharmaceutical.

The richest people on the annual national list made their fortune mainly from the manufacturing industry (21 percent) and real estate industry (20 percent).

On the global list, the 1,453 richest people in the world were mainly engaged in the industries of real estate, telecom, media, technology and investment.

On the 2013 Hurun Philanthropy List, released by the Hurun Research Institute in April, Guangdong Province boasted the largest number of the most-generous Chinese individuals, measured by the value of their cash or cash-equivalent donations.

“This might have something to do with people’s spiritual pursuits and lifestyles in Guangdong. Most rich people in the province made their fortune much earlier and have learned to be grateful,” said Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman and chief researcher of the Hurun Report.

Guangdong’s PRD also boasted the largest number of the wealthiest females in the country.

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Jun 05

China Watch Blog has learnt that a New York federal judge long accused of bias against Ecuadorian rainforest residents over a $19B pollution case is continuing to allow Chevron to “systematically harass” two victims of its toxic pollution and their long-time New York lawyer, according to new motions filed in recent days.

The lawyer, Steven R. Donziger, asked Judge Lewis A. Kaplan to grant a three-month stay to prevent the case from degenerating into a “mockery” where unrepresented defendants are fighting hundreds of Chevron lawyers and are barred by the court from mounting a basic defense using evidence of Chevron’s pollution and corrupt acts in Ecuador.

“This is an extraordinary situation where the evidence suggests that a federal judge is allowing a major oil company to crush its critics by denying them a defense and overwhelming them with abusive legal tactics to drive up their costs, making it virtually impossible for them to obtain counsel,” said Donziger.

“Judge Kaplan is now allowing Chevron to pursue litigation over litigation over litigation,” said Donziger. “It’s unprecedented and offensive.”

In the motion seeking the stay, Donziger outlined for Judge Kaplan how he is now litigating alone (pro se) against at least 114 lawyers from Chevron’s lead outside firm in a case with millions of pages of discovery documents, a privilege log that is 15,000 pages long, and close to 1,200 docket entries. Chevron also disclosed that it has well over 100 private investigators working on the case, some of who have conducted secret surveillance of the plaintiffs and their lawyers to intimidate them, said Donziger.

Despite the request for a stay, Judge Kaplan is allowing 14 depositions in three weeks, with the first starting tomorrow and the last – of Chevron’s CEO, John Watson – scheduled for June 27.

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Apr 26

China Watch Blog has learnt that Oil painter Zhou Chunya tops the Hurun Art List with sales of his auctioned works hitting US$75 million in 2012, according to a report.
Zhou, 58, is the youngest artist ever to top the list compiled by Hurun Report Inc based in Shanghai.

Zhou Chunya, oil painter

The value of Zhou’s work has more than doubled from last year when he ranked eighth, according to the report, best known for its annual Hurun China Rich List.

As many as 222 of Zhou’s paintings were sold in 2012. The most expensive one was a 1994 piece with stones as its theme, which was auctioned for 29.9 million yuan, XInhua reported.

Oil Painter Zeng Fanzhi, 49, came in second with US$73 million in sales last year.
Renowned Chinese ink painter and calligrapher Fan Zeng, 75, took third place with US$69 million in sales at public auctions last year.

The total turnover of the top 100 list fell 21 percent from last year to US$1.2 billion. The threshold for artists making the top 100 fell 11 percent from last year to US$2.4 million.

The average age of the artists is 66, three years older than last year. The youngest is 37-year-old Chinese ink painter and calligrapher Ren Zhong, whose work ranked 51st with US$7 million in sales in 2012.

The list also includes six female artists, more than any previous year, including 91-year-old Chen Peiqiu who had an annual turnover of US$22.4 million last year and is ranked 11th.

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Apr 22

China Watch Blog reports that an industrial park Party boss in Jiangsu Province got fired yesterday after he was seen kneeing on a dining table and apologizing to angry people who caught him and other government officials at a lavish banquet.

Zhang Aihua, the Party secretary of Binjiang Industrial Zone in Taizhou City, and at least 30 officials were caught having expensive dishes and liquors in the park’s reception center last Friday, China News Service reported.

There were four tables piled with high-end cigarettes, premium liquors, and rare dishes. A whistleblower estimated that each table would cost at least 10,000 yuan (US$1,612), the report said.

The whistleblower notified local residents who besieged the officials in the banquet room and condemned them for corruption. To seek retreat, Zhang knelt on the table and said with a loudspeaker: “I am wrong. Please forgive me. You can ask me to do anything if you let us go.”

The scene was videotaped on a mobile phone and posted on the Internet, attracting many hits.

Taizhou authorities held a meeting on Sunday night after the video went viral and decided to strip Zhang of his position, the report said.

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Apr 17

China Watch Blog has learnt that Cheung Kong Holdings chairman Li Ka-shing, has net worth of US$31 billion, topping the Forbes’ Chinese Rich List for 15 straight years.

He was followed by Henderson Land’s chairman Lee Shau-kee with US$20.3 billion, and Sun Hung Kai Properties’s co-chair Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong and Raymond Kwok Ping-luen with US20 billion.

Cheng Yu-tung of New World Development took the fourth place.

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Mar 22

China Watch Blog reports that a woman flaunted a wad of renminbi notes to show her wealth, after her request to buy a grave for her dog was rejected by a cemetery.

“I have money!! If you think it is not enough, I can pay you more. It’s really simple, all I want to do is buy a grave in your cemetery for my dog,” a rich woman was quoted as saying to the principal of Ningbo’s Jiufeng Cemetery on March 18 by a Ningbo website.

According to reports, the lady, surnamed Li, went to the cemetery in her BMW. After her request to buy a grave in the cemetery for her pet dog was turned down by Mr. Wang, the principal of the Jiufeng Cemetery, she angrily threw a large sum of money on the desk.

“It is not just a matter of money. The cemetery was built to benefit people and your pet dog should be buried or cremated in strict accordance with the Animal Epidemic Prevention Law.” Mr. Wang explained patiently.

According to relevant departments, the Ministry of Civil Affairs has emphasized the strengthening of the public cemetery construction management to protect and improve the meeting of the basic requirements. Mr. Wang won the praise of his leaders rather than their criticism after the incident.

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